Apr 04

E2A: The Electronic Second Amendment

EARLY DRAFT: Obviously unfinished. Feedback welcome…

EFF, E2A, and You: The Electronic Second Amendment.

What guarantees your access to the world beyond your browser?

In world of physical media and flesh-and-blood people, the second amendment protects the first, protects itself, and protects most of the rest of the bill of rights, as well as the constitution itself.

Conservatives are typically supporters of a freedom-based interpretation of the second amendment, and enjoy pointing out that if armament goes, speech will soon follow.

How unseemly then, that the online equivalent of the second amendment has become the preserve of scruffy hippies, while conservatives, almost by default, hold ground bounded on the high side by the impassable mountains of censorship, while the low side ends in the high grass of tumultuous discourse, somewhere short of the wild, impenetrable jungles of lawlessness and anarchy.

(awfully purple…)

So if we look at the necessary interpretations to bring the first two amendments online, so to speak, the First amendment is easy:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of publishing; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

A distinction I make here is in initially interpreting “the press” in the same manner as “speech”; that is as a faculty for communication wich is possessed by people. This shifts the emphasis of the original phrase from “freedom of the people to speak, and of media entities to publish” into the more rights-based “freedom of the people to speak and to publish”, which may not be the dominant interpretation, but one which it must be hard to argue with. Certainly the founding fathers did not mean to allow only media entities the freedom to publish when many of those men were themselves publishing tracts to influence the nature of society. It is therefore no stretch to render “the press” as “publishing”, meaning that it is both a right and an ability equal with speech, possessed by all.
This also goes some of the distance toward resolving arguments about whether any such things as “group rights” exist, or if the Bill of Rights applies (as I say) fundamentally only to individuals, whereas group rights may fairly be extended only from those individual rights.
With that in mind, let us look earlier in the First Amendment, to the famed Establishment Clause.
At issue is whether the word “establishment” is construed either as its n1 meaning (the first listed definition as a noun) which refers to the act of creating or sanctioning a thing, and is based upon the verb; or as its n2 meaning which is a thing that has been created, and is through and through a noun. A lesser issue is the meaning of “respecting”, which we will take to mean regarding, rather than paying admiration to, a given thing.
n1: …make no law creating or sanctioning a religion…
n2: …make no law regarding an existing body of religion…
I say that the Amendment intends the first of these. Obviously, I must be in the majority, or else tax breaks for establishments of religion would be unconstitutional on their face.
It is therefore not true that the government can make no law with respect to religion. It is true that the government can neither promote nor restrict a particular religion. NOR, I say, may it promote or restrict religion as a whole.
Note that the Amendment does not protect merely the exercise of religion; it protects the free exercise of religion. That means one-hundred percent, and any law which would restrict the practitioners of a particular religion to only ninety-nine percent of that freedom is on its face unconstitutional. This is quite clear, and it is the law of the land. Note also that the right not to be offended by the freedoms of others does not exist.
It sould therefore be a simple matter to reverse the depredations of the ACLU upon the freedoms of Americans, yet instead conservatives are getting mugged again and again. Why?
Let us look at the Second Amendment for a case study in turning freedoms into tyranny.

(individual rights, militias… the big three often mis-interpreted, mis-quited, and mal-cited decisions…)

FULL CIRCLE: The first amendment concerns information. THe second concerns power, in particular, power over information. Crypto technology is the online equivalent of bearing arms. coding and codebreaking, encryption and decryption–these are the handguns and long arms of the internet, and they are as much your birthright as the Bill of Rights.

OTHER NOTES to GORE? Gatekeepers–There are no gatekeepers, because there are no gates. There are no gates because there is no fence. There is no fence because there is a First Amendment. There is still a First Amendment because there is a Second Amendment.

EOF

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Mar 30

Five

What’s the difference between Al Gore and the Unabomber? The Unabomber knows he’s not the President.

EARLY WORKING DRAFT

Some of you may remember the “Al Gore / Unabomber Test”, which is no longer available at several sites. Please send a link if you find it. Short of that, I’ll simply sum it up like this: there were six quotes from Al Gore’s book Earth In The Balance, and six from “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski’s Manifesto. The task set before you was to determine from which tract the eco-freak quote was pulled. I failed miserably. So did everybody else. The meaningful statistical difference between average real score and random answers score was nothing.

Why do I bring this up now? Eco-Freak Al Gore has gotten his face back in the news again, and this time the media is listening, because this time, he is talking about the media.

According to Former Senator and failed Presidential Candidate Al Gore, on the eve of the nation’s decision to invade Iraq, Senator Robert D. Byrd, (D-WV) stood on the Senate floor and asked, “Why is this chamber empty? Why are these halls silent?” Well, I wanted to see that quote in its context. Had the indestructible Senator and former Klan Kleagle simply wandered onto the floor of the Senate late one night, alone? I googled that entire quote. Nothing.

I googled this: “Why is this chamber empty?” and got six results, all of which referred to Gore’s supposed quote of Byrd in Gore’s 06 October speech. I googled this: “Why are these halls silent?” and was rewarded with seven results, all of which referenced the same Gore speech, except for two. One was Al Gore speaking at the 17 September Plenary Luncheon Session of the Clinton Global Initiative Inaugural Meeting. The other was Al Gore giving the opening remarks at, oddly enough, the 15 April Gore Center Open House.

It appears that the Senator from West Virginia never said that. Perhaps there is a record of this, but Google is unaware of it. My own charms pale. It did occur to me, however, that perhaps the Senator has a habit of saying these things upon opening any door. Entering his bathroom, the Senator flips on the light and thunders, “Why are these chambers empty?” Upon opening the refrigerator, he peers forlorny at the half-stick of butter and asks, “Why are these halls silent?”

PerhapsMr. Gore has fabricated the source. At best, he has misrepresented the facts. How interesting, then, that he takes TV Media to task for its misrepresentations and falsehoods. He gave a speech at something called the WeMedia Conference to the effect that our Republic requires a healthy exchange of ideas to function as intended by the framers of the Constitution, but that broadcast media is inherently incapable of supporting this exchange. This is due to the centralized control of the broadcast media by rich people who do not want their own views shouted down by mere plebes. So despite decades of television, print media is still where democracy functions. Fair enough. In the “prepared” version of Gore’s speech on October 6th as “reported” by the AP, which simply cribbed the Gore press release, misspellings and all, he establishes his position that the print media is the cornerstone of our democracy.

Mr. Gore cited three requirements for this “Marketplace of Ideas”:
First, that it is freely accessible to all, for both listening and being heard.
Second, that the relative merit of ideas be established through an open market mechanism, wherein good ideas receive attention and grow more popular, whereas bad ideas are ignored and wither to ignominy.
Third, that all participants understand their “unspoken duty to search for general agreement”.
So Mr. Gore feels that the free, unencumbered exchange of ideas is critical to maintaining a genuine democracy. Hear, hear! I could not agree more.
Web logs (“blogs”) are widely read, and freely authored and contributed to by any person with an opinion and some motivation. There is a neo-luddite argument that “blogging” takes specialized technical knowledge, but we can dispense with that argument by pointing out that a printing press requires far more specialized knowledge, and far more funding to operate.

Mr. Gore says, “Inexpensive metal printing presses were almost everywhere in America”. Really? To the same extent that internet-connected PCs are currently everywhere in America? Of course not. Besides which, a printing press generates a finite number of copies, which must be physically held to be read. So his idyllic days of the printing press actually provided less opportunity to publish and fewer chances to read the public voice.

Al Gore has described the internet application of blogging perfectly in his treatise of printed matter as a necessary condition for real democracy. He does not address the internet or the current fact-on-the-ground functioning marketplace of ideas directly. Instead, he correctly points out that television is the dominant medium, that it is a one-way conduit, and that it is unfit, by way of incapability, of supporting a participatory national discourse. However, having simply and quickly pointed out the shortcomings of television, he then fights this straw man for thousands of words. He wants to prop up this unsuitable mode of discourse by applying little band-aids of submitted video and internet-powered reviews of programs. Later, he reaches over to science for an explanation of why fixing television is the proper course. Without giving away the farm just yet, it rests upon the habitual Clinton/Gore/Clinton assumption that they know better than we do what is best for us. I call this their First Controlling Theme–more on that later.
________________________________________

We return now to his egalitarian model of free press access for all, and his rejection of the big-money control over public discourse:
So, unlike the marketplace of ideas that emerged in the wake of the printing press, there is virtually no exchange of ideas at all in television’s domain. My partner Joel Hyatt and I are trying to change that – at least where Current TV is concerned. Perhaps not coincidentally, we are the only independently owned news and information network in all of American television.
It is important to note that the absence of a two-way conversation in American television also means that there is no “meritocracy of ideas” on television. To the extent that there is a “marketplace” of any kind for ideas on television, it is a rigged market, an oligopoly, with imposing barriers to entry that exclude the average citizen.
That doesn’t sound very egalitarian, does it? He is going to fight the power of the rich who control television networks by…being rich and controlling a television network? Perhaps this is why he doesn’t simply throw his lot in with the bloggers: he is in financial competition with “the internet”, as he is a newly-entrenched member of the broadcast media.

There is, however, one form of broadcast media which is fairly egalitarian, which is democratic enough to sustain the Republic, and that is radio. Talk radio. Why the difference? Allow me to speculate. Anybody can contribute to talk radio by calling in just as anybody can contribute to public access TV. The big difference is this–people are accustomed to speaking into electronic devices such as telephones, and can do so in a manner which does not send the audience shrieking to change channels. 99% of talk radio is in fact done over the telephone. From a production standpoint, I’ll wager that it is much easier to maintain a given level of quality on talk radio than on public access TV. I don’t want to sound cruel, but public access TV has always made me long for silence. So public access TV chases away viewers, whereas talk radio attracts listeners as well as phone participants. Therefore radio, through talk tadio, can function as the medium of exchange in a marketplace of ideas a way the television, even through public access, cannot. And it does, swimmingly.
You would therefore be justified in anticipating Mr. Gore’s eager support of radio unfettered by controlling regulation and such shibboleths as “equal time” provisions. Sadly, you would be mistaken. Mr. Gore instead says:
One early American student of the medium wrote that if control of radio were concentrated in the hands of a few, “no nation can be free.”
As a result of these fears, safeguards were enacted in the U.S. — including the Public Interest Standard, the Equal Time Provision, and the Fairness Doctrine – though a half century later, in 1987, they were effectively repealed. And then immediately afterwards, Rush Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the airwaves.

Wait a minute! Didn’t he just say that controlled debate is no debate, and that the rough-and-tumble marketplace of ideas would sort out the good ideas from the bad, the popular from the merely populist, the sustainable from the impractical? Didn’t Al Gore just say that Government control of the media is a blow to democracy, and that people will decide for themselves what they will tolerate and what they will support?
Of course he did. So how does he get away with saying that the FCC deregulation of content in 1987 is a bad thing?

This is the last line of the Executive Summary of
Cato Policy Analysis No. 270, their look at the 1987 FCC deregulation:
Specifically, the volume of informational programming increased dramatically immediately after controls were ended–powerful evidence of the potential for regulation to have a “chilling effect” on free speech.

That’s pretty straightforward, and it is the exact point Mr. Gore made in the first two quotes. Here’s how it works: I don’t much care for Rush Limbaugh. I listen sometimes, but it gets pretty thick, so usually, do not listen. Voila! The unregulated marketplace of ideas saves the day. Of course, if you view the American people as sheep, unthinkingly led by whoever controls the media, that’s a different story, and we will return to that later his his SECOND CONTROLLING THEME.

What’s more, if you look again at his quote above, you may notice a non sequitur. Liberation of radio from the control of a few does not necesarily follow from a requirement that opposing viewpoints be granted equal time. These two things may in fact be opposed themselves! If one requires that equal time be given, then somebody must do that giving, and now we have mandated a gatekeeper. Somebody must now stand by during the exercise of free speech, stopwatch in hand, checklist of ideologies at the ready. Equal Time provisions are well-suited to a two-party system, and not to a three-party system, an n-party system, or a numberless collection of individuals with an uncategoriable array of points of view. Equal Time provisions are quite well suited to concentrating control of radio in the hands of a few.

Meanwhile, look at this:
Among the other factors damaging our public discourse in the media, the imposition by management of entertainment values on the journalism profession has resulted in scandals, fabricated sources, fictional events and the tabloidization of mainstream news. As recently stated by Dan Rather – who was, of course, forced out of his anchor job after angering the White House – television news has been “dumbed down and tarted up.”

WOW. He spins this whopper so hard that it actually comes back and hits him. He complains of “scandals, fabricated sources, fictional events and the tabloidization of mainstream news”, all of which Dan Rather is guilty of, and immediately cites Dan Rather as a victim of government meddling in the media.
I’m treating this paragraph in depth to counter the knot of untrue statements. This pack of, uh, statements is a well-constructed defense-in-depth, a loose cluster of mutually supporting half-truths and outright lies with overlapping fields of fire. A little “de-construction” is in order:

Scandals: The Dan Rather and Mary Mapes “Sixty-First Minute” Scandal certainly counts as a mainstream media scandal.
Fabricated Sources and Fictional Events: Perhaps Al Gore was thinking of Jayson Blair. But he mentioned Dan Rather, whose own scandal was all about fabricated sources and fictional events.
Tabloidization of Mainstream Media: Who has forgotten Dan Rather’s “The Fleecing of America” segment, an often sensational, tabloid view of government waste? Not I. Perhaps Al Gore.
“Forced out of his job…”: So long as this refers to “fired for embarassing the company”, I have no quarrel with it. But in the context of “…after angering the White House…” it certainly looks like “Karl Rove got rid of Dan Rather.”

In fact, one of the few things that Red state and Blue state America agree on is that they don’t trust the news media anymore.

Gee, Al, I wonder why that is.

Let’s now take a minute to collect some of the threads of this incipient argument.
First off, Al Gore professes to believe that a marketplace of ideas is the cornerstone of our democracy. I agree. He defines three key requirements for such a forum: that it be freely accessible for both speaking and listening to all comers, that the ideas in the mix are evaluated on their merit, and that everybody agrees to eventually agree, or at least try. Well, two out of three “ain’t bad”, and I’m even inclined to give him half credit for the last one. I don’t recall hearing anywhere else that some unspoken assumption or secretive general rule required all participants in the marketplace of ideas to seek a consensus.
The nice thing about a Republic is that you don’t need to generate a unanimous opinion; no consensus is required. All you need is a majority where it counts, and usually, that in turn requires a majority in a majority of places. I think that the point he wishes to make is that the participants are expected to behave in a civil fashion, but that is pretty much covered by the second requirement–if ideas rise or fall on their merits, then people are already behaving themselves pretty well.
What Mr. Gore is describing is clearly a society of basically literate, informed people. Of course, in the marketplace of ideas, those people will be informed differently** FIND THE DAMNED QUOTE about our national conversation being ruined by the evilweb!

________________________________________

Clearly, the purpose of television news is no longer to inform the American people or serve the public interest. It is to “glue eyeballs to the screen” in order to build ratings and sell advertising.
[snip]

And it really matters because the subjugation of news by entertainment seriously harms our democracy: it leads to dysfunctional journalism that fails to inform the people. And when the people are not informed, they cannot hold government accountable when it is incompetent, corrupt, or both.

One of the only avenues left for the expression of public or political ideas on television is through the purchase of advertising, usually in 30-second chunks. These short commercials are now the principal form of communication between candidates and voters. As a result, our elected officials now spend all of their time raising money to purchase these ads.

That is why the House and Senate campaign committees now search for candidates who are multi-millionaires and can buy the ads with their own personal resources. As one consequence, the halls of Congress are now filling up with the wealthy.

Just like the Founding Fathers, who were poor to a man. No wait, they were nearly rich to a man! Politics in the United States has always been a rich man’s game. As our “deferential society” has given way to an increasingly egalitarian one, the distinction and privilege of coming from the right kind of family has disappeared. What is left is the fact that money still buys things in a capitalist society, and is no longer masked by the expectation that our social beters will govern for us. I quote here from an excellent book, and one which I highly recommend that Mr. Gore read at his earliest convenience, Decision at Philadelphia by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier. And in this context, the last sentence becomes especially juicy.

Moreover, the United States in 1787 was for more rigidly stratified than it is today. It was, to use the historians’ term, a “deferential” society, in which the populace granted certain people offices and power by right of birth. In most communities there existed a small group of men who were more or less automatically elected to legislatures, judgeships, and the like. This establishment included large landowners, like Washington and Jefferson, wealthy merchants and shippers, lawyers, and in the North, ministers and theologians. There was room for bright young men to rise into it, so that there were always a few lowborn men in public office. But as often as not, the people in control of the United Staets were born to their stations and went on to college to prepare themselves for their roles.
This situation was not resented nearly to the degree that it would be today. The top people saw themselves as the natural leaders of their communities, and the plain people, in general, agreed with them. The belief was still widely held if not always expressed, that the “lower orders” were somehow different creatures from “the gentry”. The ordinary people viewed their “betters” much the same way as many Americans today look on the celebrated writer or television anchorman, as somebody somehow larger than life, wiser, possessed of a special knowledge or even insight handed down from above.

Ah, but the veneer comes away so quickly! The book was published in twenty years ago, about events two hundred years before that. The nation had clearly changed when the authors wrote. It has clearly changed since then, as well. Back in 1986, we had not had our fill of Rather, Jennings, and Brokaw. They were respected. Back then they were respectable.
Of course, I need not go into all that’s wrong with broadcast media these days–for that you may go to the Media Research Center, RatherBiased, or NewsBusters

Campaign finance reform, however well it is drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the only means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue by one means or another to dominate American politic s. And ideas will no longer mediate between wealth and power.

And what if an individual citizen, or a group of citizens wants to enter the public debate by expressing their views on television? Since they cannot simply join the conversation, some of them have resorted to raising money in order to buy 30 seconds in which to express their opinion. But they are not even allowed to do that.

Moveon.org tried to buy ads last year to express opposition to Bush’s Medicare proposal which was then being debated by Congress. They were told “issue advocacy” was not permissible. Then, one of the networks that had refused the Moveon ad began running advertisements by the White House in favor of the President’s Medicare proposal. So Moveon complained and the White House ad was temporarily removed. By temporary, I mean it was removed until the White House complained and the network immediately put the ad back on, yet still refused to present the Moveon ad.

The advertising of products, of course, is the real purpose of television. And it is difficult to overstate the extent to which modern pervasive electronic advertising has reshaped our society. In the 1950s, John Kenneth Galbraith first described the way in which advertising has altered the classical relationship by which supply and demand are balanced over time by the invisible hand of the marketplace. According to Galbraith, modern advertising campaigns were beginning to create high levels of demand for products that consumers never knew they wanted, much less needed.

The same phenomenon Galbraith noticed in the commercial marketplace is now the dominant fact of life in what used to be America’s marketplace for ideas. The inherent value or validity of political propositions put forward by candidates for office is now largely irrelevant compared to the advertising campaigns that shape the perceptions of voters.

Our democracy has been hallowed out. The opinions of the voters are, in effect, purchased, just as demand for new products is artificially created. Decades ago Walter Lippman wrote, “the manufacture of consent…was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy…but it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved enormously in technique…under the impact of propaganda, it is no longer plausible to believe in the original dogma of democracy.”

Like you, I recoil at Lippman’s cynical dismissal of America’s gift to human history. But in order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum and create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future.

Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the Rule of Reason. We must, for example, stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public’s ability to discern the truth.
I titled this post Al Gore Steps In It, and the paragraph above is where he does so with the most vigor, and it relates to his book. I confess I never actually read the book. I thumbed through it, I glanced and skimmed, I kept trying to, but I just could not. So at the risk of judging a book by a cover, I will ask the reader to indulge me as I have judged the book by its cover, the title, the cringe-worthy subtitle, the author’s name, a general sense upon skimming, and two words that have stayed with me for over a decade, “appropriate technology”.
According to Mr. Gore, we are all supposed to stop having children. Okay, we are supposed to stabilize the world’s population. It’s the same thing. Like all hard-core “environmentalists”, Al Gore wants you dead. It’s not malice; it’s just that if you were no longer here, he would be one step closer to his goal.
Also, we should cease our use of electricity. Stop that! We should each have a great stinking compost heap under the kitchen window, and ride a generator-bicycle in order to make toast. This is what he refers to as “appropriate technology”. Would you live like that?
It is at times like this that I am reminded of the proof that socialism doesn’t work–primitive cultures pass through a phase which can be described as socialism. They get over it at about the same time they start wearing simple textiles. They also use appropriate technology, but thus is just another passing phase. Nobody wants to live like that, and human history has proven that we will use violence to prevent having to live like that. So Mr. Gore wants the government to require us, to compel us to live like that. This is why the Second Amendment exists.

…stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science…an end to the cynical use of pseudo studies known to be false…

Here’s a few sentences of a review of Mr. Gore’s terrifying book from C-SPAN’S BOOKNOTES: REVIEWS :

“Gore seems to have bought into every worst case scenario that the lunatic envirocommunist movement has dreamed up. Boldly flouting every piece of real scientific evidence available to us, he accepts as a given that we face impending crises in the areas of overpopulation, food supply, global warming, water shortage, species extinction, and so on ad nauseum. Of course, he frequently contradicts the portrait he himself paints of the gravity of his litany of woes; on the one hand decrying the very possibility of climactic change, on the other pointing out that massive strides in our cultural development have often been precipitated by such changes.”

I don’t know all the answers, but along with my partner, Joel Hyatt, I am trying to work within the medium of television to recreate a multi-way conversation that includes individuals and operates according to a meritocracy of ideas. If you would like to know more, we are having a press conference on Friday morning at the Regency Hotel.

We are learning some fascinating lessons about the way decisions are made in the television industry, and it may well be that the public would be well served by some changes in law and policy to stimulate more diversity of viewpoints and a higher regard for the public interest. But we are succeeding within the marketplace by reaching out to individuals and asking them to co-create our network.

The greatest source of hope for reestablishing a vigorous and accessible marketplace for ideas is the Internet. Indeed, Current TV relies on video streaming over the Internet as the means by which individuals send us what we call viewer-created content or VC squared. We also rely on the Internet for the two-way conversation that we have every day with our viewers enabling them to participate in the decisions on programming our network.

I know that many of you attending this conference are also working on creative ways to use the Internet as a means for bringing more voices into America’s ongoing conversation. I salute you as kindred spirits and wish you every success.

I want to close with the two things I’ve learned about the Internet that are most directly relevant to the conference that you are having here today.

First, as exciting as the Internet is, it still lacks the single most powerful characteristic of the television medium; because of its packet-switching architecture, and its continued reliance on a wide variety of bandwidth connections (including the so-called “last mile” to the home), it does not support the real-time mass distribution of full-motion video.

And finally, so what if the internet, currently, does not support video as well as television. That is not an inherent property of the fact that it is packet-switched. That is an emergent property of limited bandwidth. For example, I watched Christopher Hitchens kick the manure out of George Galloway live, online, and blogged back and forth with some folks I know in realtime. I have very good bandwidth. There is no reason to think that in perhaps five years’ time, there will be no such effect, and we will look back on Mr. Gore’s remarks as quaint. Of course, one hopes his entire Television venture will be remembered as quaint, if at all, in a much shorter period of time. Well, we’ll see.

Make no mistake, full-motion video is what makes television such a powerful medium. Our brains – like the brains of all vertebrates – are hard-wired to immediately notice sudden movement in our field of vision. We not only notice, we are compelled to look. When our evolutionary predecessors gathered on the African savanna a million years ago and the leaves next to them moved, the ones who didn’t look are not our ancestors. The ones who did look passed on to us the genetic trait that neuroscientists call “the establishing reflex.” And that is the brain syndrome activated by television continuously – sometimes as frequently as once per second. That is the reason why the industry phrase, “glue eyeballs to the screen,” is actually more than a glib and idle boast. It is also a major part of the reason why Americans watch the TV screen an average of four and a half hours a day.

It is true that video streaming is becoming more common over the Internet, and true as well that cheap storage of streamed video is making it possible for many young television viewers to engage in what the industry calls “time shifting” and personalize their television watching habits. Moreover, as higher bandwidth connections continue to replace smaller information pipelines, the Internet’s capacity for carrying television will continue to dramatically improve. But in spite of these developments, it is television delivered over cable and satellite that will continue for the remainder of this decade and probably the next to be the dominant medium of communication in America’s democracy. And so long as that is the case, I truly believe that America’s democracy is at grave risk.

The final point I want to make is this: We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Worldwide Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must be prepared to fight for it because some of the same forces of corporate consolidation and control that have distorted the television marketplace have an interest in controlling the Internet marketplace as well. Far too much is at stake to ever allow that to happen.

We must ensure by all means possible that this medium of democracy’s future develops in the mold of the open and free marketplace of ideas that our Founders knew was essential to the health and survival of freedom.

IF Mr. Gore were actually committed to preserving the marketplace of ideas, he would be defending the blogosphere and the online infrastructure in general from the myriad legal and meta-market forces which threaten to bring the whole structure down. Several nations wish to take control of the root DNS system, currently administered in America. This would lead to balkanization (which may be unavoidable at some point, but that is hardly a safe assumption), and would subject the entire system to the vagaries of censorship and propoganda. Currently, China can block Chinese residents from seeing certain things, and can block us from seeing some things in China. North Korea has a complete digital embargo in place (except for a few government types, and a handful of very strange expats living there). But what they cannot do is screw up traffic between the US and, say Taiwan, or redirect all visitors at www.birkenstock.com to wvvw.b1rkenstock.com, which will then assault your machine, and turn all your ones into zeroes. Or something. But they could if they had the root DNS servers.
This is but one threat the the online marketplace of ideas. As a primairly text medium, the blogosphere is today’s Roman ForumHe should be all over this. I haven’t heard him say anything about it. Why are these halls silent?
Mr. Gore, you see, does not think you are smart enough to filter your own news from the internet. Even when discussing your television-watching habits, does he mention likes or dislikes, preferences or pet peeves? No, he goes straight to a (presumably) scientific explanation of why you, pathetic reflex-bound idiot that you are, cannot bear to look away from the flickering blue tube. No wonder he wants you dead. But your death has been difficult to engineer, so he bides his time while his CurrenTV scheme comes to fruition. You love television, says Mr. Gore, because you were made to, and you are powerless to do aught but worship at its pedestal, burning precious electricity in a most inappropriate manner. It is your God, says Al Gore, and he is its one true prophet.

Special Drive-By Mode…

” When we were attacked on Sept. 11, we knew the main reason for the attack was that Islamists hated our way of life, our virtues, our freedoms. What we never imagined was that the free press — an institution at the heart of those virtues and freedoms — would be among the first to surrender.”
Bill Bennett and Alan M. Dershowitz

We should have imagined that, or at least been able to see it coming a few years ago. After 9/11 it was clear that our freedoms are under attack, not just people and things. Food and houses are nice, but do not define our Western culture–intangibles are what separate us from medieval barbarity. Intangibles are the real targets in this war, and President Bush said exactly that very early–they hate us for our freedoms.

How interesting then that the press, which requires that very freedom to survive, cannot be bothered to exercise that freedom in its own defense. Recall that these people think the pornographer Larry Flint is a patriot of the first order, despite the fact that the only person who ever threatened Larry Flint’s life was Larry Flint. There is another war going on here, which has re-surfaced in a horrifying place. The press, as a collection of people with predominately leftward-sprinting reflexes, believe that tolerance and moderation are the right answer to any problem save ascendant conservatism. The press will not portray this conflict over the cartoons as a first amendment fight because they cannot go there. They would first have to cross the swamp of Bush Was Right, and they are not equipped for that sort of travel. To them, it will remain a culture clash to be solved through global multi-culturalism and its attendant western largesse.

To the left and its press, this is a war over tangibles–land, money, governments. We can solve the problem by appeasing (see leftist playbook) our enemies through giving up land, and certainly not taking any, by increasing foreign aid and certainly not reducing it for any reason ever, and by respecting any government hostile to our own no matter how appallingly barbaric and anti-American and certainly not defeating, overthrowing, or “assisting out of office” any hostile power. All we need to do is give in on all of these tangible scores, and sooner than you can say “Maslow”, the enemy will relent and stop cutting off our collective head.

Never mind the fact that Islam has driven a stake through Maslow’s hierarchy, and very likely removed his head, for good measure. According to Maslow, you need air, water, food, and shelter first, then love, respect, family, and friends, and finally higher things like pride, satisfaction, a purpose in life, and group motivation. In Mohammed’s hierarchy of need, all you need is God and Death, in no particular order.

Recent comments by Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello about citizenship and reciting the pledge of allegiance, respectively, illustrate a key point in the war between the American left and right.

The American left believes that America and its Constitution are mere tangibles. The country is composed of land and rivers, the document of paper and ink. To a Democrat, mere presence upon the land is sufficient to qualify for citizenship and all of its attendant rights. Perhaps a charitable summary of this view would state that “if you are here, then you are my brother”.

Sounds friendly enough, doesn’t it? But it means also that if you stand upon the same dirt that I do, then you are as American as I am. The problem with that point of view, the tangibility of America, is that it conflicts with this fact: America is an ideal. American is an ideology.

This is not to say that we must agree on all points, or that if you disagree with me as to tax laws or a course of action in a particular war, then you are not a “real” American. These differences of opinion constitute the engine of our Republic. If we were all required to hold the same views, then our freedoms would not exist.

Yet this is a nation founded upon and consecrated to certain precepts which we hold to be universally true, and to which we dedicate ourselves. We may only hold this to be true–dare I say self-evident–if we agree that there is more to America than land and buildings, and that there is more to being an American than simply standing upon that land.

If the left actually believed that the right to freedom of speech and press extends so short a distance that a cartoonist’s pen exceeds its reach, then they would have no problem accepting a far more reasonable proposition, that the personal freedoms which we rightfully enjoy do not include the freedom to infringe the rights of others. I paraphrase Emerson (frequently attributed to Justice Holmes) here in saying that your right to swing your fist freely must expire at the end of my nose. Emerson did not feel it necessary to add the following: You may, however, shake your fist at me while you tell me just how stupid you think I am. I do not have the right to live unbothered by your opinion; the responsibility for my coming to terms with the world around me is mine, not the world’s. Perhaps Emerson lived in a world where this was as self-evident as other more complicated matters–we are not so lucky.

Americans are born with tremendous freedoms. With rights come responsibilities, and the foremost of those responsibilities is the protection of those very rights. It is therefore unacceptable that a person can be an American and simultaneously support, or even work toward, the abolishment of the very rights and responsibilities which make us Americans. Prime Minister Howard and Mr. Costello are absolutely right in insisting that immigrants to Australia signal their willingness to actually be Australians, or at least to not destroy the very freedoms which drew them to the country in the first place. In American I would go a step further, and require it not only of immigrants, but of any who would call themselves Americans. After all, a naturalized citizen is legally and morally of the same status as an accidental one like me, whose only contribution to citizenship was luck.

Unfortunately, no American Federal official sees fit to voice this opinion regarding immigration as clearly as PM Howard has, and certainly not for lifelong citizens. This is defensible, because in a country where citizenship is a birthright, we can hardly turn around and administer a citizenship test. There is a citizenship test for immigrants as part of the naturalization process, and this is right and good. But we are not required to accept anti-Americanism as a trait welcome in America–or in Americans.

How simple to assert then, that we are not required to accept censorship and intimidation as traits welcome in our press. I am a newspapers-without-government Franklinian but recently I feel that the press is doing itself and us all such disservice that its freedom is not only being squandered, but actually working against freedom itself.

I’ll tell you straight away that I am a conservative, I am in fact a literal Card-Carrying-Republican, and the first failure of the press which comes to mind is their own reticence to declare their allegiances. I have already declared my bias, so if you decide to keep reading, you do so fully armed with the location of my headquarters (so to speak), and if you decide to dismiss my comments sight-unseen, then you commit the laziest /ad hominem/ attack possible.

I watch CNNj, which is the Japan feed of CNN International, and am simply appalled by the blazing leftist bias. If Larry King, Lou Dobbs, and Richard Roth are supposed to be the balance portion of the line-up, well CNN need not bother. Larry King’s affinity for aging Christian preachers and Reader’s Digest style testimonials does not make him a conservative any more than it does Jimmah Carter. If Lou Dobbs has a bone to pick with a Democrat, he pulled it from the ribcage of a Republican, and Richard Roth’s formerly enlightening show was cancelled at any rate.

I don’t get much news in English out here. I am therefore impelled to go out and get it online, which Dan Rather would say is

..and I must check myself to see if it is simple partisan political ire which drives my antipathy, so I review some things I don’t like about the press, or in which I feel they have let us down…

cartoons
hollywood
pallywood

…I am more convinced than before that the press is not objective, that they are actively if myopically working against our freedoms, including even freedom of the press.

Advertisers determine what will and what will not be shown on TV and to a lesser extent in newspapers, but the cartoons hit the papers where they could be hurt the most–the editor’s personal safety when combined with an ingrained lack of confidence in anything related to the military or police, and a Bush Administration-specific overarching distrust of the government as a whole.
As a righteously conservative capitalist, I have no animosity for big business other than its genetic disposition toward screwing the little guy, but its propensity to do so is less than that of any other powerful entity known to man because the little guy both produces and consumes the working fluid of capitalism–stuff.
In the Danish cartoon flap, however, I will argue completely without evidence that a major factor in the prostration of the American print press is fear of a boycott such as those organized in Saudi Arabia and other Third World dictatorships.
**** THis is the Gore media tie-in! Networks are owned by conglomerates–blogs are NOT. Which paper shut diwn comments on its blog as too hot? WAPO?) WATIMES?)

After all, where would a boycott be more effective than the world’s premiere economy? It would succeed here if a sudden consumption drop of, say, 25% is enough to cripple a company or an industry. I say that it is, and that about 25% is a reachable goal: half the people in America are democrats, who agree with the head-choppers, and perhaps half of them are forthright enough to put their money where their mouths are.

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Mar 23

A Moderate Muslim Speaks Up

This is great. I heartily recommend reading the whole thing. Here is a money quote, the penultimate paragraph:

Muslims who are never tired of blaming non-Muslims for giving a bad name to their faith should, for their own sake, look at the images of their coreligionists holding swords over the heads of innocent foreigners in Iraq. Do they not look evil? I have always wondered if the Muslims realize the impact of statements written on banners behind Islamist head choppers. What kind of Allah and the prophet would bless the acts of barbarism? Those banners proclaim that the worst kind of barbarism is being carried out in line with Islamic teachings. Why shouldn’t a non Muslim think that Islam is an evil faith when all of the fatawas (religious rulings) issued in Saudi Arabia and Egypt justify these killers and homicide bombers? Why has there been not a single fatwa that declares these barbarians infidel?

You will want to read the facts and examples he lays out in building up to this concluding challenge to the Ummah, and especially, the paragraph which follows. For those, like me, who have been carping high and low about the lack of outrage from the rumored but seldom seen “moderate” Muslim, this is a blast of fresh air from a man whose moderation needs no special punctuation.

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Feb 10

Jill Carroll COMPLICIT in her own kidnapping–APOLOGY

I Was Wrong, I Am Sorry

I have been banging the drum with a theory about Jill Carroll’s complicity. I am relieved that she is safe, heartened that she is not the type of person I thought, and quite happy to be wrong. To have been wrong, that is.

I should have given more leeway, more caution to the side of grace than I did in interpreting inconsistencies in her statements. Instead, I rushed to condemn a woman who had done nothing wrong, and to criticize an American caught in a hazardous position overseas rather than offer support.

Common sense dictates that the willingness to admit and repudiate mistakes is the “price of admission” for speaking of others in public. Apologies motivated by mechanical or procedural concerns, however, are worthless. Common decency requires that an apology be heartfelt, detailed, and conveyed as publicly, or more so, as the the offending incident.

I frankly hope that Jill Carroll and her family never see, or saw respectively, my remarks regarding Ms. Carroll. I am ashamed to have impugned the integrity of a woman in peril, far from her home, who had done me no wrong, from the comfort of my living room.

I apologize to Jill Carroll and her family.

Sincerely,

Haakon Bjoern Dahl

NOTE: Here is a link to my posted apology on LGF, where you will see that I post under my real name, and frequently mention this blog. LGF gets a lot more traffic than this blog, so I posted there first. The original post from this location has been moved down into the comments as a matter of record.

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Feb 06

Shame, you cowards! AN OPEN LETTER

This letter was mailed to am@cnn.com, the mail address for feedback to the American Morning show, after one of the co-hosts, Miles O’Brien, asked a seemingly innocuous question about the “possibility of redress” to Muslims somehow offended by “the cartoons”.

At least admit that it is FEAR which prevents you from showing the Mohammed cartoons. You have shied away from showing NOTHING else. You do not have a habit of restraint in the name of respect for potential offense. Christ in urine, check. Mary in poop, check. Burned bodies of American contractors being dragged through the streets, check!

And how can you ask about the possibility of redress?! MILES O’BRIEN, how can you read that prompter without pooping in your chair?! Won’t anybody up there on the set break the wall of fear?

Earn your pay, you “journalists”! Learn why the cartoons were penned in the first place–the Newspaper editor was ashamed that nobody in Denmark would illustrate [a children’s book about Islam] due to FEAR. So he challenged editorial cartoonists to write, well, editorial cartoons featuring Mohammed. The cartoons were a “Freedom of Navigation Exercise” (look up LIBYA, 1986, and US NAVY to find out what that means) for Free Speech.

Here’s an analogy–you wake up in the middle of the night with the sudden sensation that you are not alone in your house. You turn on a light, which enrages a big man with a honking big knife! As the knife flashes at you and you duck and dodge, do you struggle against the man, or do you ASK ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF REDRESS for turning on the light, MILES? At some point, you have to wonder why the man was in your house (which is not about immigration in this [analogy], but about the infringement upon your right to Speak Freely).

Sorry to pick on you Miles, but you happened to be the guy reading the prompter. Of course, any response from anybody at CNN who is not a PR droid would be welcome.

I live in Japan, and I would appreciate a public or private response. If you desire your response to be held confidential, just tell me–I will honor that.

Haakon B. Dahl

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Feb 03

Egyptian Ship Disaster



[UPDATE KEY: verified, disproven, new.
This is my off-the-cuff theory: the ship was heavily modified (see pictures), and was subsequently overloaded (conjecture). Heavy seas and high winds (various reports) contributed to the instability. The ship, probably ungainly even in a calm sea, in the bad weather was moving enough that some vehicles broke free and began sliding around, becoming a serious free weight issue (conjecture). Perhaps passengers assembled on one side of the ship for some reason (conjecture).
The ship seems to have gone down in nearly an instant, as in the first few hours, there have been no reports of an SOS call. There are reports that an SOS call was received by the crew of M/V Saint Catherine, which is owned by the same company, and was travelling the opposite direction on the same route when Al-Salam-98 went down. If there were no SOS calls received by alert stations on either side of the Red Sea, then the distress calls were probably made only on VHF Channel 16, which is limited to line-of-sight. This also constrains the time of the call–if I can determine the schedule of Saint Catherine, we can nail the point where they distress call was made to within perhaps 30NM by 10NM. At any rate, the Captain of Saint Catherine has said that he opted not to return to assist Al-Salam-98, as he believed that this would hazard his vessel and passengers, due to the danger of coming about (turning around) in such bad weather. MORE ON THIS LATER.
Also, reports have said that the ship “disappeared from radar”, and no mention has been made of the ship stopping for a length of time before disappearing. This disappearance from radar always sounded a little odd to me, and here’s why: Duba, Saudi Arabia, and Safaga, Egypt (the departure and arrival ports) are about 120 nautical miles apart, athwart the Red Sea. The voyage was scheduled for an eight hour duration, so the ship should have averaged perhaps 15 knots (nautical miles per hour). If the ship disappeared from Duba’s radar by sinking, it would have done so sooner in the journey, and if from Safaga, then later. Numerous newspaper articles cite “officials at the Maritime Control Center in Suez” as saying that the ship disappeared from radar shortly after depating. XINHUA even gives the information as “disappeared from radar screens off the Saudi Coast”. We won’t pick on their grammar here. BBC produced a graphic which shows the area about 30NM from Safaga, but cites 56NM as the distance–I will assume that the graphic is mistaken. We may also probably assume a radar station at Sharm el-Sheik, the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. The only justification I have for this is that it looks like a great place for a radar station. A straight-line route passes just over 60NM from Shram el-Sheik, so this places the location of the sinking about 60 NM from THREE radar stations. Halfway through a successful journey from Duba to Safaga, a ship will have a radar 60 miles behind at Duba, another 60 miles ahead at Safaga, and a third 60 miles off to the right, north at Sharm el-Sheik. If the ship had disappeared from radar at the time of sinking, then with height-of-eye, direction of sea swell, and other unknowns being equal, the ship whould have disappeared from three radars, manned by three different sets of operators. Three reports would have gone to the Maritime Control Center in Suez. Instead, there was only one report, from Duba, the departure port. Alarm bells would have rung, perhaps literally, and the national rescue apparatus would have swung into action, rather than waiting for the ship’s owners to meekly mention, hours later, that they had lost contact with one of their ships, and later still, suspected that the ship may have sunk. I conclude therefore, that the effective radar range (that night anyway) was somewhat less than 60NM, and that when M/V Al-Salam-98 “disappeared from radar” shortly after departure, that this was a normal occurrence, and no reports other than routine would have been sent anywhere. It seems that when the ship “disappeared from radar”, it had done so because it simply sailed beyond radar range.
Still, this is the dog that didn’t bark. While the port operators at Safaga and Duba probably do not exchange information about departures and arrivals, especially for regularly scheduled ferry runs, there must be *somebody* who was expecting that ship to show up on radar perhaps an hour before arriving at Safaga. That somebody would be the ship’s owner. While I do not expect that the owner or the CEO, or any high-level type would wake up early to double-check the early morning arrival of a daily ferry run, there must be employees of the owning company at the port of Safaga. Even if the mooring opeations are contracted to port workers, along with traffic-handling and whatever else may be needed, I find it inconceivable that there would be no company employee waiting for the ship to arrive.
Picture the scene–AT THIS POINT, I will stop to do research about the SAFAGA port.
Narrative continues below, abruptly.

This suggests that the ship was grossly overloaded to have gone down so quickly–once a critical roll angle was reached, it could have gone down in less than a minute as it filled with water, particularly if the topside modifications caused it to “snap roll” after the critical angle. As the ship seems to have been a vehicle ferry, it would have cavernous opening not far from the waterline even on the best of days. Perhaps electrical power was lost as the roll began, or the radio (or radio operator) incapacitated.
There was a fire aboard, only minutes after leaving port, but the Captain refused to return to port, and pressed on toward Egypt. This suggests to me that the lack of an SOS call may also have been ordered by the Captain, whose attitude until far too late seems to have been that the problem was under control. Another possibility is that the fire, which eventually raged out of control on the vehicle deck, destroyed the capability for radio communications, either directly, through burning power or signal wiring or equipment, or burning the space (“room”) where the radio operator would have worked, or indirectly by filling various spaces/passageways with smoke.

In the photographs above, I have identified the area which seems to be a modification (RED), adding a tremendous amount of topside weight, which reduces stability. Also, with the modification in place, a new bridge was built (B), with the old one remaining in place (A), perhaps as a lounge.

The possibility exists that neither of these pictures (as annoted) is accurate–perhaps the ship was built just the way it appears in these pictures, and the dark windows at the TOP (B) are a lounge or restaurant.

But I doubt it.

UPDATE: More pictures! From the ship’s builder, I believe. Built in 1971, the ship was rebuilt in 1991 before entering service for her new masters (1997?) on the Red Sea route.


Above: the ship as built, 1971.


Above: After 1991 Rebuild.

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Feb 02

Initial

What’s the difference between Al Gore and the Unabomber? The Unabomber knows he’s not the President.

EARLY WORKING DRAFT

Some of you may remember the “Al Gore / Unabomber Test”, which is no longer available at several sites. Please send a link if you find it. Short of that, I’ll simply sum it up like this: there were six quotes from Al Gore’s book Earth In The Balance, and six from “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski’s Manifesto. The task set before you was to determine from which tract the eco-freak quote was pulled. I failed miserably. So did everybody else. The meaningful statistical difference between average real score and random answers score was nothing.

Why do I bring this up now? Eco-Freak Al Gore has gotten his face back in the news again, and this time the media is listening, because this time, he is talking about the media.

According to Former Senator and failed Presidential Candidate Al Gore, on the eve of the nation’s decision to invade Iraq, Senator Robert D. Byrd, (D-WV) stood on the Senate floor and asked, “Why is this chamber empty? Why are these halls silent?” Well, I wanted to see that quote in its context. Had the indestructible Senator and former Klan Kleagle simply wandered onto the floor of the Senate late one night, alone? I googled that entire quote. Nothing.

I googled this: “Why is this chamber empty?” and got six results, all of which referred to Gore’s supposed quote of Byrd in Gore’s 06 October speech. I googled this: “Why are these halls silent?” and was rewarded with seven results, all of which referenced the same Gore speech, except for two. One was Al Gore speaking at the 17 September Plenary Luncheon Session of the Clinton Global Initiative Inaugural Meeting. The other was Al Gore giving the opening remarks at, oddly enough, the 15 April Gore Center Open House.

It appears that the Senator from West Virginia never said that. Perhaps there is a record of this, but Google is unaware of it. My own charms pale. It did occur to me, however, that perhaps the Senator has a habit of saying these things upon opening any door. Entering his bathroom, the Senator flips on the light and thunders, “Why are these chambers empty?” Upon opening the refrigerator, he peers forlorny at the half-stick of butter and asks, “Why are these halls silent?”

PerhapsMr. Gore has fabricated the source. At best, he has misrepresented the facts. How interesting, then, that he takes TV Media to task for its misrepresentations and falsehoods. He gave a speech at something called the WeMedia Conference to the effect that our Republic requires a healthy exchange of ideas to function as intended by the framers of the Constitution, but that broadcast media is inherently incapable of supporting this exchange. This is due to the centralized control of the broadcast media by rich people who do not want their own views shouted down by mere plebes. So despite decades of television, print media is still where democracy functions. Fair enough. In the “prepared” version of Gore’s speech on October 6th as “reported” by the AP, which simply cribbed the Gore press release, misspellings and all, he establishes his position that the print media is the cornerstone of our democracy.

Mr. Gore cited three requirements for this “Marketplace of Ideas”:

  • First, that it is freely accessible to all, for both listening and being heard.
  • Second, that the relative merit of ideas be established through an open market mechanism, wherein good ideas receive attention and grow more popular, whereas bad ideas are ignored and wither to ignominy.
  • Third, that all participants understand their “unspoken duty to search for general agreement”.

So Mr. Gore feels that the free, unencumbered exchange of ideas is critical to maintaining a genuine democracy. Hear, hear! I could not agree more.
Web logs (“blogs”) are widely read, and freely authored and contributed to by any person with an opinion and some motivation. There is a neo-luddite argument that “blogging” takes specialized technical knowledge, but we can dispense with that argument by pointing out that a printing press requires far more specialized knowledge, and far more funding to operate.

Mr. Gore says, “Inexpensive metal printing presses were almost everywhere in America”. Really? To the same extent that internet-connected PCs are currently everywhere in America? Of course not. Besides which, a printing press generates a finite number of copies, which must be physically held to be read. So his idyllic days of the printing press actually provided less opportunity to publish and fewer chances to read the public voice.

Al Gore has described the internet application of blogging perfectly in his treatise of printed matter as a necessary condition for real democracy. He does not address the internet or the current fact-on-the-ground functioning marketplace of ideas directly. Instead, he correctly points out that television is the dominant medium, that it is a one-way conduit, and that it is unfit, by way of incapability, of supporting a participatory national discourse. However, having simply and quickly pointed out the shortcomings of television, he then fights this straw man for thousands of words. He wants to prop up this unsuitable mode of discourse by applying little band-aids of submitted video and internet-powered reviews of programs. Later, he reaches over to science for an explanation of why fixing television is the proper course. Without giving away the farm just yet, it rests upon the habitual Clinton/Gore/Clinton assumption that they know better than we do what is best for us. I call this their First Controlling Theme–more on that later.


We return now to his egalitarian model of free press access for all, and his rejection of the big-money control over public discourse:

So, unlike the marketplace of ideas that emerged in the wake of the printing press, there is virtually no exchange of ideas at all in television’s domain. My partner Joel Hyatt and I are trying to change that – at least where Current TV is concerned. Perhaps not coincidentally, we are the only independently owned news and information network in all of American television.
It is important to note that the absence of a two-way conversation in American television also means that there is no “meritocracy of ideas” on television. To the extent that there is a “marketplace” of any kind for ideas on television, it is a rigged market, an oligopoly, with imposing barriers to entry that exclude the average citizen.

That doesn’t sound very egalitarian, does it? He is going to fight the power of the rich who control television networks by…being rich and controlling a television network? Perhaps this is why he doesn’t simply throw his lot in with the bloggers: he is in financial competition with “the internet”, as he is a newly-entrenched member of the broadcast media.

There is, however, one form of broadcast media which is fairly egalitarian, which is democratic enough to sustain the Republic, and that is radio. Talk radio. Why the difference? Allow me to speculate. Anybody can contribute to talk radio by calling in just as anybody can contribute to public access TV. The big difference is this–people are accustomed to speaking into electronic devices such as telephones, and can do so in a manner which does not send the audience shrieking to change channels. 99% of talk radio is in fact done over the telephone. From a production standpoint, I’ll wager that it is much easier to maintain a given level of quality on talk radio than on public access TV. I don’t want to sound cruel, but public access TV has always made me long for silence. So public access TV chases away viewers, whereas talk radio attracts listeners as well as phone participants. Therefore radio, through talk tadio, can function as the medium of exchange in a marketplace of ideas a way the television, even through public access, cannot. And it does, swimmingly.
You would therefore be justified in anticipating Mr. Gore’s eager support of radio unfettered by controlling regulation and such shibboleths as “equal time” provisions. Sadly, you would be mistaken. Mr. Gore instead says:

One early American student of the medium wrote that if control of radio were concentrated in the hands of a few, “no nation can be free.”
As a result of these fears, safeguards were enacted in the U.S. — including the Public Interest Standard, the Equal Time Provision, and the Fairness Doctrine – though a half century later, in 1987, they were effectively repealed. And then immediately afterwards, Rush Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the airwaves.

Wait a minute! Didn’t he just say that controlled debate is no debate, and that the rough-and-tumble marketplace of ideas would sort out the good ideas from the bad, the popular from the merely populist, the sustainable from the impractical? Didn’t Al Gore just say that Government control of the media is a blow to democracy, and that people will decide for themselves what they will tolerate and what they will support?
Of course he did. So how does he get away with saying that the FCC deregulation of content in 1987 is a bad thing?

This is the last line of the Executive Summary of
Cato Policy Analysis No. 270, their look at the 1987 FCC deregulation:

Specifically, the volume of informational programming increased dramatically immediately after controls were ended–powerful evidence of the potential for regulation to have a “chilling effect” on free speech.

That’s pretty straightforward, and it is the exact point Mr. Gore made in the first two quotes. Here’s how it works: I don’t much care for Rush Limbaugh. I listen sometimes, but it gets pretty thick, so usually, do not listen. Voila! The unregulated marketplace of ideas saves the day. Of course, if you view the American people as sheep, unthinkingly led by whoever controls the media, that’s a different story, and we will return to that later his his SECOND CONTROLLING THEME.

What’s more, if you look again at his quote above, you may notice a non sequitur. Liberation of radio from the control of a few does not necesarily follow from a requirement that opposing viewpoints be granted equal time. These two things may in fact be opposed themselves! If one requires that equal time be given, then somebody must do that giving, and now we have mandated a gatekeeper. Somebody must now stand by during the exercise of free speech, stopwatch in hand, checklist of ideologies at the ready. Equal Time provisions are well-suited to a two-party system, and not to a three-party system, an n-party system, or a numberless collection of individuals with an uncategoriable array of points of view. Equal Time provisions are quite well suited to concentrating control of radio in the hands of a few.

Meanwhile, look at this:

Among the other factors damaging our public discourse in the media, the imposition by management of entertainment values on the journalism profession has resulted in scandals, fabricated sources, fictional events and the tabloidization of mainstream news. As recently stated by Dan Rather – who was, of course, forced out of his anchor job after angering the White House – television news has been “dumbed down and tarted up.”

WOW. He spins this whopper so hard that it actually comes back and hits him. He complains of “scandals, fabricated sources, fictional events and the tabloidization of mainstream news”, all of which Dan Rather is guilty of, and immediately cites Dan Rather as a victim of government meddling in the media.
I’m treating this paragraph in depth to counter the knot of untrue statements. This pack of, uh, statements is a well-constructed defense-in-depth, a loose cluster of mutually supporting half-truths and outright lies with overlapping fields of fire. A little “de-construction” is in order:

  • Scandals: The Dan Rather and Mary Mapes “Sixty-First Minute” Scandal certainly counts as a mainstream media scandal.
  • Fabricated Sources and Fictional Events: Perhaps Al Gore was thinking of Jayson Blair. But he mentioned Dan Rather, whose own scandal was all about fabricated sources and fictional events.
  • Tabloidization of Mainstream Media: Who has forgotten Dan Rather’s “The Fleecing of America” segment, an often sensational, tabloid view of government waste? Not I. Perhaps Al Gore.
  • “Forced out of his job…”: So long as this refers to “fired for embarassing the company”, I have no quarrel with it. But in the context of “…after angering the White House…” it certainly looks like “Karl Rove got rid of Dan Rather.”

In fact, one of the few things that Red state and Blue state America agree on is that they don’t trust the news media anymore.

Gee, Al, I wonder why that is.

Let’s now take a minute to collect some of the threads of this incipient argument.
First off, Al Gore professes to believe that a marketplace of ideas is the cornerstone of our democracy. I agree. He defines three key requirements for such a forum: that it be freely accessible for both speaking and listening to all comers, that the ideas in the mix are evaluated on their merit, and that everybody agrees to eventually agree, or at least try. Well, two out of three “ain’t bad”, and I’m even inclined to give him half credit for the last one. I don’t recall hearing anywhere else that some unspoken assumption or secretive general rule required all participants in the marketplace of ideas to seek a consensus.
The nice thing about a Republic is that you don’t need to generate a unanimous opinion; no consensus is required. All you need is a majority where it counts, and usually, that in turn requires a majority in a majority of places. I think that the point he wishes to make is that the participants are expected to behave in a civil fashion, but that is pretty much covered by the second requirement–if ideas rise or fall on their merits, then people are already behaving themselves pretty well.
What Mr. Gore is describing is clearly a society of basically literate, informed people. Of course, in the marketplace of ideas, those people will be informed differently** FIND THE DAMNED QUOTE about our national conversation being ruined by the evilweb!


Clearly, the purpose of television news is no longer to inform the American people or serve the public interest. It is to “glue eyeballs to the screen” in order to build ratings and sell advertising.
[snip]

And it really matters because the subjugation of news by entertainment seriously harms our democracy: it leads to dysfunctional journalism that fails to inform the people. And when the people are not informed, they cannot hold government accountable when it is incompetent, corrupt, or both.

One of the only avenues left for the expression of public or political ideas on television is through the purchase of advertising, usually in 30-second chunks. These short commercials are now the principal form of communication between candidates and voters. As a result, our elected officials now spend all of their time raising money to purchase these ads.

That is why the House and Senate campaign committees now search for candidates who are multi-millionaires and can buy the ads with their own personal resources. As one consequence, the halls of Congress are now filling up with the wealthy.

Just like the Founding Fathers, who were poor to a man. No wait, they were nearly rich to a man! Politics in the United States has always been a rich man’s game. As our “deferential society” has given way to an increasingly egalitarian one, the distinction and privilege of coming from the right kind of family has disappeared. What is left is the fact that money still buys things in a capitalist society, and is no longer masked by the expectation that our social beters will govern for us. I quote here from an excellent book, and one which I highly recommend that Mr. Gore read at his earliest convenience, Decision at Philadelphia by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier. And in this context, the last sentence becomes especially juicy.

Moreover, the United States in 1787 was for more rigidly stratified than it is today. It was, to use the historians’ term, a “deferential” society, in which the populace granted certain people offices and power by right of birth. In most communities there existed a small group of men who were more or less automatically elected to legislatures, judgeships, and the like. This establishment included large landowners, like Washington and Jefferson, wealthy merchants and shippers, lawyers, and in the North, ministers and theologians. There was room for bright young men to rise into it, so that there were always a few lowborn men in public office. But as often as not, the people in control of the United Staets were born to their stations and went on to college to prepare themselves for their roles.
This situation was not resented nearly to the degree that it would be today. The top people saw themselves as the natural leaders of their communities, and the plain people, in general, agreed with them. The belief was still widely held if not always expressed, that the “lower orders” were somehow different creatures from “the gentry”. The ordinary people viewed their “betters” much the same way as many Americans today look on the celebrated writer or television anchorman, as somebody somehow larger than life, wiser, possessed of a special knowledge or even insight handed down from above.

Ah, but the veneer comes away so quickly! The book was published in twenty years ago, about events two hundred years before that. The nation had clearly changed when the authors wrote. It has clearly changed since then, as well. Back in 1986, we had not had our fill of Rather, Jennings, and Brokaw. They were respected. Back then they were respectable.
Of course, I need not go into all that’s wrong with broadcast media these days–for that you may go to the Media Research Center, RatherBiased, or NewsBusters

Campaign finance reform, however well it is drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the only means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue by one means or another to dominate American politic s. And ideas will no longer mediate between wealth and power.

And what if an individual citizen, or a group of citizens wants to enter the public debate by expressing their views on television? Since they cannot simply join the conversation, some of them have resorted to raising money in order to buy 30 seconds in which to express their opinion. But they are not even allowed to do that.

Moveon.org tried to buy ads last year to express opposition to Bush’s Medicare proposal which was then being debated by Congress. They were told “issue advocacy” was not permissible. Then, one of the networks that had refused the Moveon ad began running advertisements by the White House in favor of the President’s Medicare proposal. So Moveon complained and the White House ad was temporarily removed. By temporary, I mean it was removed until the White House complained and the network immediately put the ad back on, yet still refused to present the Moveon ad.

The advertising of products, of course, is the real purpose of television. And it is difficult to overstate the extent to which modern pervasive electronic advertising has reshaped our society. In the 1950s, John Kenneth Galbraith first described the way in which advertising has altered the classical relationship by which supply and demand are balanced over time by the invisible hand of the marketplace. According to Galbraith, modern advertising campaigns were beginning to create high levels of demand for products that consumers never knew they wanted, much less needed.

The same phenomenon Galbraith noticed in the commercial marketplace is now the dominant fact of life in what used to be America’s marketplace for ideas. The inherent value or validity of political propositions put forward by candidates for office is now largely irrelevant compared to the advertising campaigns that shape the perceptions of voters.

Our democracy has been hallowed out. The opinions of the voters are, in effect, purchased, just as demand for new products is artificially created. Decades ago Walter Lippman wrote, “the manufacture of consent…was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy…but it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved enormously in technique…under the impact of propaganda, it is no longer plausible to believe in the original dogma of democracy.”

Like you, I recoil at Lippman’s cynical dismissal of America’s gift to human history. But in order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum and create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future.

Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the Rule of Reason. We must, for example, stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public’s ability to discern the truth.

I titled this post Al Gore Steps In It, and the paragraph above is where he does so with the most vigor, and it relates to his book. I confess I never actually read the book. I thumbed through it, I glanced and skimmed, I kept trying to, but I just could not. So at the risk of judging a book by a cover, I will ask the reader to indulge me as I have judged the book by its cover, the title, the cringe-worthy subtitle, the author’s name, a general sense upon skimming, and two words that have stayed with me for over a decade, “appropriate technology”.
According to Mr. Gore, we are all supposed to stop having children. Okay, we are supposed to stabilize the world’s population. It’s the same thing. Like all hard-core “environmentalists”, Al Gore wants you dead. It’s not malice; it’s just that if you were no longer here, he would be one step closer to his goal.
Also, we should cease our use of electricity. Stop that! We should each have a great stinking compost heap under the kitchen window, and ride a generator-bicycle in order to make toast. This is what he refers to as “appropriate technology”. Would you live like that?
It is at times like this that I am reminded of the proof that socialism doesn’t work–primitive cultures pass through a phase which can be described as socialism. They get over it at about the same time they start wearing simple textiles. They also use appropriate technology, but thus is just another passing phase. Nobody wants to live like that, and human history has proven that we will use violence to prevent having to live like that. So Mr. Gore wants the government to require us, to compel us to live like that. This is why the Second Amendment exists.

…stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science…an end to the cynical use of pseudo studies known to be false…

Here’s a few sentences of a review of Mr. Gore’s terrifying book from C-SPAN’S BOOKNOTES: REVIEWS :

“Gore seems to have bought into every worst case scenario that the lunatic envirocommunist movement has dreamed up. Boldly flouting every piece of real scientific evidence available to us, he accepts as a given that we face impending crises in the areas of overpopulation, food supply, global warming, water shortage, species extinction, and so on ad nauseum. Of course, he frequently contradicts the portrait he himself paints of the gravity of his litany of woes; on the one hand decrying the very possibility of climactic change, on the other pointing out that massive strides in our cultural development have often been precipitated by such changes.”

I don’t know all the answers, but along with my partner, Joel Hyatt, I am trying to work within the medium of television to recreate a multi-way conversation that includes individuals and operates according to a meritocracy of ideas. If you would like to know more, we are having a press conference on Friday morning at the Regency Hotel.

We are learning some fascinating lessons about the way decisions are made in the television industry, and it may well be that the public would be well served by some changes in law and policy to stimulate more diversity of viewpoints and a higher regard for the public interest. But we are succeeding within the marketplace by reaching out to individuals and asking them to co-create our network.

The greatest source of hope for reestablishing a vigorous and accessible marketplace for ideas is the Internet. Indeed, Current TV relies on video streaming over the Internet as the means by which individuals send us what we call viewer-created content or VC squared. We also rely on the Internet for the two-way conversation that we have every day with our viewers enabling them to participate in the decisions on programming our network.

I know that many of you attending this conference are also working on creative ways to use the Internet as a means for bringing more voices into America’s ongoing conversation. I salute you as kindred spirits and wish you every success.

I want to close with the two things I’ve learned about the Internet that are most directly relevant to the conference that you are having here today.

First, as exciting as the Internet is, it still lacks the single most powerful characteristic of the television medium; because of its packet-switching architecture, and its continued reliance on a wide variety of bandwidth connections (including the so-called “last mile” to the home), it does not support the real-time mass distribution of full-motion video.

And finally, so what if the internet, currently, does not support video as well as television. That is not an inherent property of the fact that it is packet-switched. That is an emergent property of limited bandwidth. For example, I watched Christopher Hitchens kick the manure out of George Galloway live, online, and blogged back and forth with some folks I know in realtime. I have very good bandwidth. There is no reason to think that in perhaps five years’ time, there will be no such effect, and we will look back on Mr. Gore’s remarks as quaint. Of course, one hopes his entire Television venture will be remembered as quaint, if at all, in a much shorter period of time. Well, we’ll see.

Make no mistake, full-motion video is what makes television such a powerful medium. Our brains – like the brains of all vertebrates – are hard-wired to immediately notice sudden movement in our field of vision. We not only notice, we are compelled to look. When our evolutionary predecessors gathered on the African savanna a million years ago and the leaves next to them moved, the ones who didn’t look are not our ancestors. The ones who did look passed on to us the genetic trait that neuroscientists call “the establishing reflex.” And that is the brain syndrome activated by television continuously – sometimes as frequently as once per second. That is the reason why the industry phrase, “glue eyeballs to the screen,” is actually more than a glib and idle boast. It is also a major part of the reason why Americans watch the TV screen an average of four and a half hours a day.

It is true that video streaming is becoming more common over the Internet, and true as well that cheap storage of streamed video is making it possible for many young television viewers to engage in what the industry calls “time shifting” and personalize their television watching habits. Moreover, as higher bandwidth connections continue to replace smaller information pipelines, the Internet’s capacity for carrying television will continue to dramatically improve. But in spite of these developments, it is television delivered over cable and satellite that will continue for the remainder of this decade and probably the next to be the dominant medium of communication in America’s democracy. And so long as that is the case, I truly believe that America’s democracy is at grave risk.

The final point I want to make is this: We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Worldwide Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must be prepared to fight for it because some of the same forces of corporate consolidation and control that have distorted the television marketplace have an interest in controlling the Internet marketplace as well. Far too much is at stake to ever allow that to happen.

We must ensure by all means possible that this medium of democracy’s future develops in the mold of the open and free marketplace of ideas that our Founders knew was essential to the health and survival of freedom.

IF Mr. Gore were actually committed to preserving the marketplace of ideas, he would be defending the blogosphere and the online infrastructure in general from the myriad legal and meta-market forces which threaten to bring the whole structure down. Several nations wish to take control of the root DNS system, currently administered in America. This would lead to balkanization (which may be unavoidable at some point, but that is hardly a safe assumption), and would subject the entire system to the vagaries of censorship and propoganda. Currently, China can block Chinese residents from seeing certain things, and can block us from seeing some things in China. North Korea has a complete digital embargo in place (except for a few government types, and a handful of very strange expats living there). But what they cannot do is screw up traffic between the US and, say Taiwan, or redirect all visitors at www.birkenstock.com to wvvw.b1rkenstock.com, which will then assault your machine, and turn all your ones into zeroes. Or something. But they could if they had the root DNS servers.
This is but one threat the the online marketplace of ideas. As a primairly text medium, the blogosphere is today’s Roman ForumHe should be all over this. I haven’t heard him say anything about it. Why are these halls silent?
Mr. Gore, you see, does not think you are smart enough to filter your own news from the internet. Even when discussing your television-watching habits, does he mention likes or dislikes, preferences or pet peeves? No, he goes straight to a (presumably) scientific explanation of why you, pathetic reflex-bound idiot that you are, cannot bear to look away from the flickering blue tube. No wonder he wants you dead. But your death has been difficult to engineer, so he bides his time while his CurrenTV scheme comes to fruition. You love television, says Mr. Gore, because you were made to, and you are powerless to do aught but worship at its pedestal, burning precious electricity in a most inappropriate manner. It is your God, says Al Gore, and he is its one true prophet.

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Jan 26

A Letter from a Terrorist–"Why I will not release your infidel daughter"

The RevWatch has obtained the following letter from the unknown parties holding Jill Carroll:

Mrs. Carroll,
Thank you for your letter of Thursday, January 16th (by your calendar). I will respond point-by-point to your misguided notions about Islam, my organization and our goals, and the eventual fate of your daughter. From your letter, I quote:

My daughter Jill Carroll was taken hostage on Saturday, January 7th, in Baghdad, where she works as a reporter. Jill’s fairness in reporting and her genuine concern for the Iraqi people made her the invited and welcome guest of her many Iraqi friends. A video just released gives us hope that she’s still alive but has also shaken us about her fate. So I, her father and her sister, are appealing directly to her captors to release this young woman who has worked so hard to show the sufferings of Iraqis to the world.

Already you have shown a complete disregard for, and an offensive ignorance of, my organization’s goals. The name of my organization is of no consequence to you–we will never meet or negotiate for anything you want. Let me explain first about my own motives, and how you have already set yourself up for failure with this letter of yours.

I do not give a camel’s tick for the alleged reporting done for or against Iraqis. I am not an Iraqi, I do not have much in common with them, and frankly I find them to be contemptible. I feel no compunctions about blowing up a school bus full of Iraqi children if it will further my goals, so do not bother me with your concerns for your child! The will of Allah will always be done, and no Iraqi or American will change that fact.

Furthermore, the suffering of Iraqis is actually a boon to my organization. Iraqi people who vote in peace, who shop in safety, and who sleep without nightmares of violence are no help to me. Those are the ones who have sold themselves into slavery, and turned away from the Path of Allah. No, it is the terrified, the insecure, the angry and indignant who are the true believers, either as cause or effect. Just as you cannot squeeze blood from a stone, I cannot motivate people who are happy. But I can squeeze blood from people, and I assure you, I could motivate even a stone, such is the degree of unhappiness I can cause.

Jill has always shown the highest respect for the Iraqi people and their customs. We hope that her captors will show Jill the same respect in return. Taking vengeance on my innocent daughter, who loves Iraq and its people, will not create justice.

Still, you harp on this theme of respect and love for Iraq and its hapless, overly passive citizenry. Let us be direct here: I can tell that you do not like your President, and feel that he is a devil. This is a point of view you and I probably share, but, and this is the critical point, for completely different reasons. I hate your president (may he die), I hate you, and I hate your daughter too. I hate all you Americans and I do not care for whom you vote. VOTING IS HARAAM! It is a violation, indeed, it is the absolute cancellation of the law of Allah for you to vote. Voting is the creation of earthly laws, and the Holy Koran is quite clear about this: There Is Only God’s Law.

It is not in my power to take vengeance, and neither is it in me to create justice. If you had a moral aspect to your depraved being, you would know that these powers are reserved exclusively to Allah, and certainly are not delegated down to such an unworthy servant as myself. I try to forgive you for your failing, to the extent that I can, because you are ignorant and evil, but it only winds up changing the emotion I might feel as I behead you. I would still remove your head from your body for the Glory of God.

So your celebrations of voting Iraqis and your own elections are of no concern to me or my organization, except to cause us an unbending resolve to destroy your sinful system, and to abolish your democracy (Haraam), your culture of entertainment (Haraam), your filthy and unavoidable empire of free sex (Haraam), consequence-free living, cohabitation, consortment of the sexes, public indecency–ALL HARAAM!

Your letter continues:

To her captors, I say that Jill’s welfare depends upon you, and so we call upon you to ensure that Jill is returned safely to her family, who needs her and loves her. Jill’s father, sister and I ask and encourage the persons holding our daughter to work with Jill to find a way to contact us with the honorable intent of discussing her release.

Well. Nice try. Perhaps you think you are dealing with an idiot who has never read a book or learned a tactic. Your obvious attempts to make me “identify with” you and your daughter, to “personify” her to me, and to perhaps cause the strings of my heart to change my actions are worse than useless. Do not presume to tell me the power I have.

Your daughter will be released when the exact conditions I have laid out are met, and even then it is only a possibility. If my conditions are not met, it is an impossibility. Do not attempt to placate me by calling the cowardly action of negotiation “honorable”. It would not be honorable for me. It would not be honorable for you.

We are enemies, you and I, and I have power, and you do not. Shut up. In the name of the ALmighty Allah, shut your mouth.


NOTICE from Haakon B. Dahl, RevWatch–This “letter” is an attempt to illustrate the difference between us and the terrorists we are fighting in Iraq. If you are not sure who I mean by “us”, perhaps you would be more comfortable reading something else–you will not like much of what I have to say here. Although I have written this in the voice of a fictional terrorist, I do not believe that I have written fiction. I believe that this is the point of view held by the evil men who are holding Jill Carroll, and that all the entreaties in the world from her parents and other westerners will do nothing to aid her release.
I typically eschew disclaimers, but if this post becomes popular, I want it known from the beginning exactly what I am saying. Some people do need explanations.

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Jan 19

A Letter to the Editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader

Here’s a nasty little cartoon:

I didn’t like it. In fact, I didn’t like it a lot, so I wrote the Editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader a letter.

Sir,
The cartoon you printed on 17NOV was not a political commentary; it was vandalism, appreciated only by the same crowd who think that religious symbols covered in urine and dung somehow constitute art.
You should be ashamed for having printed such puerile filth, and poorly drawn filth at that. If you insist on sinking to this level, it could at least have some talent behind it.
Yes, I am a Republican. No, I would not find value in sick jokes which tear and strain to link Democrat policies with cannibalism and the grisly practices (live beheading) of our enemy. If you doubt that al-Zarqawi and his minions are your personal enemy, I suggest you travel there and ask him yourself. And if you go, please take that disgusting cartoonist with you. He can interpret for you. He speaks their language.
Sincerely,
Haakon B. Dahl, LT USNR
Yokosuka, Japan

Note that I wrote that letter to the EDITOR of the paper, not to the cartoonist. What happened then? I received an answer from the cartoonist himself, who is presumably not also the Editor in such an auspicious paper as the Lexington Herald-Leader.[SEE UPDATE BELOW] I therefore consider this correspondance to have been made public. Accordingly, this is the “letter” I received from the cartoonist via e-mail:

sorry you didn’t like the cartoon….i don’t really understand your angry response…it seemed like a run-of-the-mill anti-cheney toon to me….everyone has their opinion…..thnx for your service and happy holidays!
joel pett

I didn’t write to the cartoonist, I wrote to the Editor. I expected that my letter would be printed, responded to, or summarily ignored, and I confess that the last option is the one I most expected. I did not expect my criticism of (an employee? a contractor?) to simply be forwarded to that person for disposition. I ask the reader, Does your business work like that? Why not?
I did not expect the cartoonist to be able to “really understand” my “angry response”. That’s why I didn’t write to the cartoonist. I can tell by the quality and content of the cartoon itself that the cartoonist will not understand the point I am making, or he would never have penned that foul little cartoon!
No, I wrote to the Editor of the paper in the same fashion in which one may complain to the manager of restaurant where one has been insulted by a wayward employee. Because the “author” did not attempt to write in English, I will not criticize his grammar, and while I may or may not appreciate the sentiment he attempts to express in his last “sentence”, depending on just what the sentiment is, I find it hard to accept his thnx for my service. Really, I don’t wish to seem ingracious in accepting thnx, but what is the correct response? ur wlkm? I just can’t do it.
So assuming that “thnx” means “thank you” in this case, as opposed to the sound one might make when afflicted with congestion, I find that to be the one “sentence” with which I do not take issue. Would you say that the first sounds less than true? That the second is manifestly obvious? That the third is disingenuous? That is, if the cartoon is “run-of-the-mill”, does the cartoonist expect to get paid for it? In the fourth sentence, he tries to be mealy-mouthed, but fails even in this as his grammar is not up to the task.
And that’s it. I have not re-addressed my initial complaint; that has gone ignored in the original letter. And I have posted the cartoon here without permission; I do not fear a letter from their lawyers, but rather would welcome such a thing–any response not written with a crayon would be better than what I have gotten to date. Besides, I assert that this is Fair Use.
If I had wanted to engage in this sort of note-passing, I would have written to the cartoonist. Furthermore, I would have sent him a crudely drawn picture rather than go to all the trouble of writing an actual letter. I cannot bring myself to communicate in little ellipsis-separated snippets, completely devoid of any capitalization. Perhaps we all speak like this from time to time, and it is certainly not a matter of life and death whether or not some prescriptive grammar is followed. What has me so exercised is the utter and surpassing laziness, not even thinly veiled behind a form letter. This is laziness on parade, a militant apathy. And do not forget, this is the response garnered by a letter to the Editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

thnx 4 nthng.

UPDATE: Thanks to LGF reader and blogger J.D. , I learned that Mr. Joel Pett is indeed “on the editorial board” of this paper. My earlier qualms about private correspondance, however, are gone. This was a letter to the Editor, obviously for publication. I intended that my letter be published; I intended any response to be published. This is the way of letters to the Editor–nothing has changed. A paper’s refusal to print criticism or its own weak-kneed response does not make the criticism or response private correspondance.

But what of Mr. Pett and the paper? Is this the best cartoon the paper could come up with? Is the Lexington Herald-Leader a little tight for cash, and has it asked an editor to fill in as a cartoonist? Editorial cartoons are the sort of thing many people would like to do, even for free. One need not suddenly add it to the job description of an obviously overworked and hurried Editor–look what happens to the quality!

So Mr. Joel Pett writes the editorials (?), prioritizes the news to be printed (?) and also pens the cartoons? Is he a man of such talent that more than three hundred people pay to read his writing, share his priorities, and chuckle at his vandalism? He must be an imposing figure. We shall try to find pictures of this man. Stay tuned.

Michelle Malkin has posteda Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post from no less than the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who are not happy with a different cartoon. I will run a side-by-side of the responses when the WaPo responds.

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Jan 19

Commitments vs. Commitment

Walter Cronkite says we should have abandoned Iraq when a hurricane knocked out NOLA… He says it would have provided a perfect excuse. I beg to differ. He advocates running away from a commitment.

This would change the nature of all of our international commitments: “The United States hereby commits to come to the aid of any country signatory to this pact against aggression and other forms of tyranny–unless in case of rain, in which case we will only play home games.”

A commitment is something you must do. Capital letter-C “Commitment” is what guarantees you will do it. A commitment is something you can point to on paper, and is something which can be counted, whereas Commitment is found within the hearts of trustworthy people, and cannot be measured by number or degree. Commitment is either present or absent, true or false. Commitments can be altered, but Commitment cannot.

Thanks to our Unlce Walter, I have learned that I can sum up the difference between the American Right and the American Left in one word, indeed, one letter:

Liberals have commitments.
Conservatives have Commitment.

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