May 31, 2004

Quick Hits
Posted by Jon Henke

A few scattered thoughts that don't require a full post.....

*** From the Time story about Saddam's pistol - now in the White House: Non-Sequitur Alert!

The pistol's new place of residence is in the small study next to the Oval Office... [...] The study—the one where Bill Clinton held some of his infamous trysts with White House intern Monica Lewinsky...
What the...?!?!? Well, chalk one up "that Conservative media".

*** In a bit of well-deserved air-clearing, the Bush campaign gets fact-checked by the WaPo....

Three-quarters of the ads aired by Bush's campaign have been attacks on Kerry. Bush so far has aired 49,050 negative ads in the top 100 markets, or 75 percent of his advertising. Kerry has run 13,336 negative ads -- or 27 percent of his total. The figures were compiled by The Washington Post using data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group of the top 100 U.S. markets. Both campaigns said the figures are accurate.
Read the article for a more complete description of fallacious Bush campaign statements about Kerry.

I would contend, however, that the negative ad disparity (B:75% - K:27%) between the two candidates is not a function of their respective levels of character, but of the strategic requirements of the campaign. As an incumbent President, Bush is already a well-known quantity....Kerry, far less so. Kerry is a "blank slate", and his image has yet to be defined. As a result, both Kerry and Bush are in a race to define "Candidate Kerry" to the electorate. So, we're going to see a lot about Kerry, from both camps. If their situation were reversed, the negative ad rates would be reversed.

*** Bob Somerby....

“It has always been easy to make fun of Al Gore,” Bob Herbert says in this morning’s column. Why has it been so easy? Herbert doesn’t try to say. But after praising Gore’s “extraordinary” speech about Iraq–the one in which he showed so much “passion”–Herbert did a bit of dreaming. “Those who disagree with Mr. Gore should challenge him on his facts,” the scribe says. But no such challenge will ever occur. Indeed, many who “disagree” with Gore have decided to clown once again.
Somerby goes off - appropriately, I think - on pundits who made ill-informed analyses about the Gore speech. Unfortunately, he wrote that "no such challenge [about the facts] will ever occur", performing an error of which he accuses the press corps, choosing only the data which supports his supposition and leaving out that which does not.

No such challenge will occur? I beg to differ, Mr Somerby. I could go on, but you get the idea. Presumably - and understandably - Mr Somerby would rather deal with the ill-informed analysis than the substantive analysis. It certainly provides an easier target. But he's off by miles when he writes that no substantive challenge "will ever occur".

*** Cori Dauber...

The study by a U of I college student finding 23 rationales for war with Iraq used by the administration -- all before the war -- made it's way around the blogosphere once before, but now it's in a WaPo column, so it will get far wider circulation.
I think a great many people don't understand that there really were - and still are - multiple rationales for war. WMD, terrorism, humanitarian, etc ad nasueum. In fact, some of the strongest rationales - democratization - had to be downplayed, for purely pragmatic diplomatic reasons.

The administration highlighted WMDs for what they called "bureaucratic reasons" - i.e., they had to put something front and center - but that does not obviate other rationales. Prior to the war, Karl Rove explained that it was important not to settle on one single rationale for war, precisely because there were a wide variety of people who, for a variety of different reasons, supported the war. Settling on one rationale would exclude nations and supporters who supported the war for one of the many other legitimate reasons.

Of course, that left the administration wide open to silly charges of "shifting rationales for war". Politics is hard, you know?

*** It's not often I find much from Atrios to praise, but this letter about the consequences of homophobia and anti-gay rhetoric is note-perfect. It should be required reading for the religious right.



The letter about "the consequences of homophobia" is indeed powerful. Some other people consider me to be in "the religious right" (though I consider myself to be neither "religious" nor "right") and I did learn some things from the letter. However, much of the letter is off-target because Mrs. Underwood (the writer) seems to accuse *everyone* opposed to the modern homosex agenda of being hateful.

Her first paragraph mentions only a few people, the "cruel and misguided people," but that's not her audience. She states the audience in her second paragraph: everyone who sent letters to "the Valley News concerning the homosexual menace in Vermont." She then calls all of those people "cruel and ignorant" and guilty of all sorts of evildoing.

I accept her point that some of the anti-homosex commentators go overboard and should be rebuked. But she is clearly wrong that everyone against the homosex agenda, even if limited to those who write to one newspaper, is as extreme.

If Mrs. Underwood decried the hatefulness of a few, that would be true and informative. But her letter as it is applies its own venom far too broadly. Here is another lesson I learned from her letter: someone writing about hate and extremism is too easily tempted to fall into the same errors. I thank Mrs. Underwood for this lesson, as well as the others she meant to communicate.

Posted by: Rory Daulton at May 31, 2004 12:56 PM

I will not take remotely seriously anyone who uses the word "homophobia", because that thing is a gruesome mangling of concepts, at best, and that's only when it's not a flat-out lie.


Posted by: Billy Beck at May 31, 2004 06:03 PM

In response to both of you: I'd agree wholeheartedly that the term "homophobia" is thrown about too often, and perhaps the author of the letter paints with too broad a brush.

Parsing aside, though, I think the point she was trying to communicate is a valuable one.

Certainly one does not have to be in favor of gay marriage - or many other specific issues - to believe that the sort of treatment she describes is despicable.

Posted by: Jon Henke at May 31, 2004 08:21 PM

Maybe common knowledge-- maybe not.

Sommerby roomed with Gore in college (along with..... Tommy Lee Jones)

I worked a few weekends doing standup with Bob in at the Bethesda Holiday Inn (yes, yes, great venue--[UGH]).
He was a good guy but a very staunch supporter of his former roommate.

Just a tidbit of background for you when considering the Gore analysis.

Posted by: Ed at May 31, 2004 09:57 PM

A phobia is a fear, by definition ... and I won't go into the equally mis-aimed homo part other than to say that homophobia clearly is being afraid of those like you ...

And if I have several reasons to want to date someone, that must mean they are all lies, as the U of I student thinks.

He/she must be lonely ...

Posted by: Sagi at May 31, 2004 10:05 PM

Early draft of Al Gore's speech revealed!

click here

Posted by: justin @ RSR at June 1, 2004 08:00 AM

Yes, it is too simplistic to equate 'homophobia' with being against the legalization of gay marriage.

The letter fails on that aspect, but there were some powerful statements.

Posted by: Athena at June 1, 2004 04:14 PM

Teach me to post before getting completely caught up....I replied to later post on 6/1 and cited this article, as it threw the Clinton bit in there just to titalate and possibly disparage.

Posted by: stega at June 1, 2004 07:33 PM

Jon writes:

"What the...?!?!? Well, chalk one up "that Conservative media"."

Sorry, but your response made me shake my head. Finding evidence of any conservative bias in the mainstream media is akin to finding a needle in *several* haystacks.

I wish you luck in finding a few more of these gross examples of that "conservative" bias.

While we're on the subject, check out

Posted by: Mark at June 1, 2004 10:03 PM

It's all about selection bias, Mark. It depends on what you're looking for. In this particular case, that was a case of, at least, a non-sequitur anti-Clinton attack.

Mostly, I'm disinterested in claims that there is a monolithic media bias, though I readily concede there is a plethora of anecdotal media bias.

Posted by: Jon Henke at June 2, 2004 06:17 AM