Monday, February 14, 2005
We read the blogs that send you into seizures so you don't have to, and find within them the stories from the Left that you should know about. Why should you be reading them? Your reasons might range from a laudible desire to understand the other guy to simply knowing your adversary. In any case, this post links to points of view that don't often make it into our own echo chamber.
Since it is our highest ambition to respect the Best of the Left, we will refrain from snarkiness except when we can't resist it, but you should feel free to fill that void in the comments section. Nominations for future installments are not only welcome, they're solicited.
A couple of disclaimers are in order. First, we blow off "hat tips" in this series, not because we don't believe in them, but because they are too much work when you're link-dumping like a banshee. Second, I do not claim to an exhaustive search of the left blogosphere. I spend most of my time in the right side because I blog for fun and reading the writing of people you agree with is a lot more fun than wading through scorn heaped on everything that you think is right and dear in the world. So if you think that I missed an important post from the left, send me an email and we'll get it in the next time.
And, no, I don't really think that lefty bloggers are "commies." I chose the name because (a) it is delightfully alliterative, (b) it is juxtaposed to the Carnival of the Capitalists, a well-known "Carnival" brand and (c) it is so dated that it is much more goofy than insulting, and I'm really not interested in offending anybody (in this post, anyway). And it seems like good marketing. Don't forget the importance of marketing.
So, here are my candidates for the best or most representative work from the left side of the blogosphere in the two weeks just past.
The Iraqi elections.
The Left had to recognize the power of the imagery and the substance of the elections in Iraq, but lefty bloggers were unwilling to give Americans any credit for what had happened. For example, in a very heavily tracked post Atrios republished an anti-hawk screed from one Charles Pierce:
You do not own their courage.
The people who stood in line Sunday did not stand in line to make Americans feel good about themselves.
You do not own their courage.
They did not stand in line to justify lies about Saddam and al-Qaeda, so you don't own their courage, Stephen Hayes. They did not stand in line to justify lies about weapons of mass destruction, or to justify the artful dodginess of Ahmad Chalabi, so you don't own their courage, Judith Miller. They did not stand in line to provide pretty pictures for vapid suits to fawn over, so you don't own their courage, Howard Fineman, and neither do you, Chris Matthews.
You do not own their courage.
They did not stand in line in order to justify the dereliction of a kept press. They did not stand in line to make right the wrongs born out of laziness, cowardice, and the easy acceptance of casual lying. They did not stand in line for anyone's grand designs. They did not stand in line to play pawns in anyone's great game, so you don't own their courage, you guys in the PNAC gallery.
You do not own their courage.
They did not stand in line to provide American dilettantes with easy rhetorical weapons, so you don't own their courage, Glenn Reynolds, with your cornpone McCarran act out of the bowels of a great university that deserves a helluva lot better than your sorry hide. They did not stand in line to be the instruments of tawdry vilification and triumphal hooting from bloghound commandos. They did not stand in line to become useful cudgels for cheap American political thuggery, so you don't own their courage, Freeper Nation.
You do not own their courage.
They did not stand in line to justify a thousand mistakes that have led to more than a thousand American bodies. They did not stand in line for the purpose of being a national hypnotic for a nation not even their own. They did not stand in line for being the last casus belli standing. They did not stand in line on behalf of people's book deals, TV spots, honorarium checks, or tinpot celebrity. They did not stand in line to be anyone's talking points.
You do not own their courage.
Martini Republic heaped scorn on the iconic expression of support for the courageous Iraqi voter:
The Republican Party and its Right Wing Blog-monkeys are determinedly attempting to usurp the courage which the Iraqi people showed in braving tremendous perils to vote Sunday, as vindication for the lies, fuck ups, deceptions and corruption which was the underpinning of Bush policy in Iraq from its inception.
$9 billion dollars missing? Purple Finger!!
Attempt to install Chalabi as Saddam-lite? Purple Finger!!
Falsehoods about Saddam's WMDs and ties to al Qaeda? Purple Finger!!
Ignore General Shinseki and exhibit gross incompetence in planning for occupation of Iraq? Purple Finger!!
According to the Right, the Purple Finger washes away all sins, at least all sins associated with their own mistakes, deceits, disasters and incompetence.
Social Security reform.
For weeks now, the big lefty blogs have devoted a staggering number of posts to attacking the Bush Administration's proposals for reforming Social Security (privatization known as "piratization" on Eschaton, for example). Talking Points Memo has long led the way, but since the end of January and particularly since the SOTU virtually all lefty bloggers have devoted a tremendous amount of space to Social Security. It is far and away the most important topic to the lefty 'sphere, overwhelming all else. Frankly, I wish I could work myself up to care enough to understand the issue at any level of nuance, and I certainly couldn't fight my way through hundreds of posts looking for the "best" or "most representative." Sorry. You'll have to find them yourself.
In response to righty complaints that the Democrats booed a couple of Bush's statements about Social Security, Atrios catalogued instances of Republican booing during the Clinton years and before. Jesse Taylor goes into detail.
The lefty bloggers are all over Gannongate, their takedown of the week. AMERICABlog is ground zero on the left for this story (go there and just scroll like a banshee), but it is almost as ubiquitous on the left as the Eason Jordan controversy has been on the right. AMERICABlog's Rob, for example, revels in the power of the blogosphere much as righty triumphalists have been running victory laps over Jordan.
What is the Jeff Gannon story, really? It's about the grassroots rising up, organizing, and getting into the mainstream media with the story they want talked about. It's an amazing thing to watch, really.
Think about it for a moment.
How many people have contributed pieces to this story? Think about all the research that has been done by so many people. Think about the blogs, who came together and gave that research a platform. Think about the members of Congress who picked up, ran with it, and started asking the White House for some accountability. Think about the blogs that hosted all clips of Gannon's ridiculous "questions" putting a picture to the words and telling the story.
And then what happened. The mainstream media started to at least talk about it.
The interesting difference between the two stories is that the MSM didn't pick up the Jordan controversy until after he had resigned.
It was inane watching Wolf Blitzer and Howie Kurtz take out their snuff boxes yesterday to pooh-pooh tsk-tsk the prurient zeal of lefty bloggers in pursuing this case, as if "Man Nips" Gannon/Guckert were just some vocal conservative with iffy credentials whose personal life had been pried open like a bad clam. That this imposter was able to attend White House briefings under an alias and lob softballs to the president while other reporters got blanked is worthy of investigation, yes? Particularly since it fits into the Bush administration's entire M.O. of staged events, vetted audiences, and propaganda packaged as news. Perhaps so many members of the Washington media have been impersonating reporters over the years that they're not troubled to discover an imposter in their midst. But Gannon/Guckert isn't just an imposter, a DC version of Leo DiCaprio's winsome protagonist in Catch Me If You Can, he was leading a double life and until we know the purpose of his duplicitous role (how the hell did he obtain the classified memo regarding Valerie Plame?), this story should be kept rudely alive.
August J. Pollack compares the Gannon kerfuffle to Michael Jackson's alleged pedophilia. Sort of.
Kevin Drum, meanwhile, believes he understands why conservative bloggers have the advantage in taking down journalists:
But liberals and conservatives prosper in different kinds of atmospheres. Conservatives tend to thrive on a sense of besiegement, a belief that they're surrounded on all sides by enemies seen and unseen who must be destroyed. The politics of personal destruction, brought to a fever pitch during Bill Clinton's presidency, is tremendously helpful to their cause — and always has been.
Liberalism simply doesn't thrive in this kind of atmosphere. If we fight back using the same tactics we'll win a few battles along the way — Hooray for our side! Jeff Gannon is a smut peddler! — but in the long run we're just intensifying exactly the kind of warfare that helps conservatives the most.
So sure: of course we have to fight back. But we have to fight in a way that creates an atmosphere that encourages liberalism. The politics of personal destruction isn't it, and that's why I hope the lefty blogosphere doesn't give in to it.
I dunno. I read a lot of lefty blogs, and they seem pretty skilled at the politics of personal destruction. Indeed, the lefty blogs, probably because they are so profoundly in opposition, are at least as personal in their attacks as the righty blogs, especially if you weight by traffic (Glenn Reynolds does not have a "Wanker of the Day," for example).
Drum is much more persuasive in this post, wherein he wonders more broadly whether taking people down for fundamentally small or symbolic transgressions is the most the bloggers can aspire to.
In the wider world, throw in Trent Lott, Ward Churchill, and Jeff Gannon — and probably some others I've forgotten about — and you start to wonder: is this really the blogosphere's biggest contribution to public discourse? Collecting scalps?
Billmon compares Karl Rove to Yertle the Turtle. There's a snarky Photoshop, in case you have a sense of humor about such things.
Billmon, whose specialty is argument by juxtaposition, compares the intimidation of scientists by the Bush Administration to Lysenkoism, the ideological doctrine that characteristics acquired through the environment could be inherited. The imposition of Lysenko's theories on biologists in the old Soviet Union cut the guts out of Russian biology for two generations.
Sean Carroll takes a hard look at the neurophysics of hallucinations. Meaning, the stuff that you see when you drop acid, or that you imagine you would see if you did drop acid, is actually quite easily explained. No. Really.
Kevin Drum swallows his pride and supports Arnold's efforts to reform the process by which Congressional districts are drawn in California.
I'm in a pickle. I've been feeling guilty ever since my churlish dismissal of Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to end gerrymandering in California, and yesterday's article in the New York Times on the subject just made me feel worse. The Times reports that anti-gerrymandering efforts are gaining traction across the nation, and success in California could go a long way toward moving the cause forward. That seemed like a good opportunity for me to have a public change of heart about the whole thing.
But then I read in the LA Times this morning that the biggest opposition to Arnold's plan is coming from....Republicans....
That sucks. If I change my mind now, it looks like I'm only doing it because reform might help, not hurt, Democrats after all. Talk about partisan hackery.
Kos is, of course, raising money for the DNC now that Dean's the Chairman.
Remember, the GOP will unload on Dean. Everytime you hear the "Dean Scream" without context, consider donating. When you hear some empty head talk about the party "moving left" with Dean, consider donating. When you hear about unnamed big dollar Democratic donors whining about pulling their money out of the party, consider donating.
Pandagon's Jesse Taylor characterizes the message that conservatives have for African-Americans:
1.) You will die early. Rather than do anything about it, let's end a program tremendously helpful to you in general (partially because we also don't care about higher poverty rates, higher infant mortality rates, or higher concentrations of minority in high-risk jobs and high-crime areas) so that you don't have to suffer the indignity of not getting as much Social Security as healthier, richer white people.
2.) You are slaves on a liberal plantation. The entire body of civil rights laws in America was improperly enacted and is an affront to "states' rights". Vote Republican!
3.) Rather than deal with the issues that actually impact your lives, we're going to try to unify you around resentment of gay people. Progress!
4.) One of our major supporters, and a guy who runs one of the preeminent conservative newspapers in America, is trying to get your churches to remove their crosses and put up his cult symbols. Your Christian faith demands you be Republicans - and if that doesn't work, you're about to be a member of a cult that is part and parcel of our party anyway, so join the party!
5.) Uh, we know black people. You're black. If you don't support them, you're a white liberal racist elitist.
With that Five-Point Plan, I worry that the Democratic Party is forever lost.
The original version has links.
Screwy Hoolie revels in Howard Dean's elevation to Chairman of the Democratic National Committee:
When Howard Dean is elected Democratic National Committee Chair tomorrow, the spine transplant he began three years ago as he drove his car from town to town in New Hampshire and in Iowa will be complete. We'll just have to see if it's rejected by the recipient.
Finally, the Poor Man reflects on righty attacks on Clint Eastwood, and considers it par for the course.
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