Face the Music In the latest issue of PC Magazine, columnist John Dvorak tells the music industry to grow up. "[L]et's stop lecturing people about legality and morality. Students in particular are not moral reprobates, nor are they fools. They are pragmatists, and they stretch the rules along with their budgets. This is a crowd that worships the fake ID and is taught to question authority. So you're going to lecture them about copyrights? Give up. Rethink your business model. The problem will be solved."
R-E-S-P-E-C-T Steven Den Beste made merry hay a few days about Jacksonianism, and how Jacksonians -- including the Bush administration -- take umbrage at German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's rhetorical disrespect of the United States. Respect, though, is a two way street, and plenty on the outside of the Bush administration – in America and elsewhere -- haven't felt much of it from the White House lately.
Dwight Meredith covered much of this ground in a post yesterday, and I want to expand on it later. But think for a second -- how have we treated the Germans lately? With a brushoff of the support they provided under the North Atlantic Treaty after Sept. 11, except for some special forces; with a barrage of criticism after the government, following German law, declined to pass evidence regarding Zacarias Moussaoui to U.S. prosecutors seeking the death penalty; with contempt from some conservative quarters for its military capability; and with a flick of the hand to some treaties that a majority of Germans care a great deal about, including the Kyoto climate change agreement and treaties on nuclear testing and biological warfare. And when the Germans carped, Bush and company couldn't be bothered to care -- just as they didn't care, until recent weeks, what Germany or most other European allies had to say about going to war against Iraq. So tell me, who's seen the brunt of disrespect here -- Germany, or the United States?
That pales beside the stories you could tell about recent debate in this country. After Sept. 11, in those days of unity, fellowship, and liking arm-in-arm to sing "God Bless America," Democrats stood foursquare with the rest of the country as we prepared to beat Al Qaeda back into the caves from whence it came. But what's happened since? The adminstration trotted out a stimulus package built around a huge package of retroactive cuts in the corporate alternative minimum tax, in an attempt to sneak a treasured campaign goal into an ostensible response to terrorism. Bush's attorney general told the Capitol that questions about the Patriot Act "aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies and pause to America's friends." Karl Rove, senior advisor to the president for policy and strategy, drafted a PowerPoint presentation that urged Republicans to "focus on war" as a campaign wedge issue. And this week, we heard the President tell a crowd “the Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people.” When Senate majority leader Tom Daschle condemned the statement, the president’s spokesman asked “everybody concerned to take a deep breath, to stop finger-pointing and to work well together.”
Does any of that carry the ring of respect?
Jacksonians don’t forgive, Den Beste says. Perhaps that’s right -- and that bodes ill for Bush. After all its slights, great and small, the White House somehow expects blithe respect from overseas for its policies on Iraq, and Democratic respect for administration views on Iraq and homeland security. The German public just responded with a one-fingered salute. That might only have been the first, unless Bush learns to try doling out some respect of his own.
The restatement of the United States' fundamental defense doctrine issued by the Bush administration last week -- substituting preemption of potential threats for containment of aggression -- is probably the most dramatic and far-reaching change in national security policy in a half-century.
But it is also part of a pattern of radical revisionism in basic governmental philosophy and structure engineered by President Bush, who is quietly rewriting the classic definition of conservatism.
The word, as this president uses it, has little or nothing to do with the traditional conservative inclination to preserve the status quo. Instead, it suggests a very bold and risk-taking readiness to reexamine, revise and restate basic tenets of government. It is a pattern that now pervades Bush's economic, social and foreign policy and makes this, in some respects, a truly radical government.
Consider economics. The centerpiece of Bush's policy is his belief in the efficacy of tax cuts under any and all circumstances. It was hardly novel for a Republican president to push for lower tax rates early in his term, as Bush did last year. And the budget surpluses then accumulating caused opposition Democrats to agree that revenue reductions, slightly smaller in scope, were appropriate.
What is different is Bush's insistence that tax cutting should continue, even with the return of budget deficits and even with the prospect of staggering, long-term additional spending on the military, homeland defense and the war on terrorism. Facing deficits in his second year, Ronald Reagan acquiesced in Congress's rollback of some 1981 tax cuts. In a similar situation in his second year, the president's father made the same concession to a Democratic Congress. This President Bush has broken the pattern.
Consider education. The hallmark of conservative thinking has been the insistence on local control of schools. Bush has pushed through the largest expansion of the federal role in education of any president since Lyndon Johnson, not just in dollars but in standards of performance and measures of achievement, backed by real sanctions.
Consider social programs. Bush has backed a continuing effort to shift the line on church-state relations, bringing civil and religious authority much closer together. He proposed direct public funding of parochial schools and applauded when the Supreme Court approved the Cleveland voucher plan. He has lobbied hard for legislation that would route much more federal money aimed at meeting the needs of troubled individuals and families through churches, synagogues and mosques. For good or ill, he is trying to narrow a gap that has existed between the clergy and the government since the start of this republic.
Consider retirement security. In the face of cautions from members of his own party and strong criticism from the Democrats, Bush has kept on his agenda the proposal to change the Social Security program -- that staple of New Deal policy -- to permit individual workers far more freedom to devise their own basic pension plans, with all the potential risks and rewards such a change might entail. If Republicans regain control of Congress in this election, he almost certainly will try to make this concept law.
And now Bush has put before the world, first in his West Point speech and last week in a formal state paper, a fundamental revision of American foreign and national security policy.
That policy developed in stages, from the imperialism that marked the decades before World War I, to the isolationism that prevailed between the wars, to the bipartisan "containment" policy that evolved during the Cold War. The common characteristic of the whole 20th century was the readiness of the United States to respond to threats to its security and its reluctance to initiate conflict or issue ultimatums to anyone. When aggressors pushed forward, we pushed back -- hence Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War. But we did not start fights ourselves.
Now, with the doctrine of preemption justified by the all too real threat of terrorism, Bush is proposing to scrap that distinction. Instead, he asserts the right of the United States, as the only superpower, to judge the degree of potential danger itself -- and to take whatever action it deems necessary to eliminate that threat.
You may think any one of these changes is wise or foolish. What is remarkable is that all of them have come in so short a time from the hand of a man whose campaign seemed so bland and whose election was so narrow. Bush is redefining what it means to be a conservative.
Consumate professional that he is, Broder keeps his words even tempered. ["You may think any one of these changes is . . . foolish"? "[F]rom the hand of a man . . . whose election was so narrow"?] Read between the lines here, though, and you have to concede that the man sounds highly concerned. And that's saying something.
Gore always wrapped up that part of his '92 stump speech by saying that while the GOP had put everything upside down, the Dems were ready to turn it right side up again. You'd better believe it -- most of the Dems I know are loaded for bear. No wonder Bush wants to talk about the war instead.
Food. Mmmmmmmmmm. It's too bad that no one's come up with a smell plug-in for web browsers yet. I've found a couple of sites lately that provide the next best thing, though, and I'm loving it.
First off, let's talk about Simmer Stock, where the blogger-in-residence talks about great cookware, books, other food geeks, recipes -- you name it. Here's a post he wrote about a fish:
What do you do if you see something at the store that you've never heard of before? Buy it and cook it, damnit! Today the fish department of Bread and Circus had this fish called Opah. It's from Hawaii and the fillet in the display case looked like a cross between swordfish (it was clearly something you cut into steaks) and salmon (it had this beautiful pale rosy pink color). What does it taste like? Well, like a cross between a salmon and a swordfish, actually (sometimes appearances aren't deceiving. It was very good: pan seared and served on top of stir-fried orzo with chanterelle mushrooms and onions, and honey and soy sauce braised baby bok choy.
Damn, I wish I could order that in. With writing like that, it's no wonder this blog rates a 9.5 on Hot or Not.
Just as mouth watering: The Making of a Restaurant, written by two Chicago guys who want to start their own place, In the time, they're eating their way through one of America's culinary paradises, and they're having a jolly time telling the tale. I'm a little worried that no one's told them yet how hard setting up a restaurant can get, but if dedication counts for much, these two have nothing to worry about.
'Course, I wouldn't mind setting up a restaurant myself one day. Maybe a roadhouse. A couple of years ago in a conversation with Tim and his wife Lisa, I had an idea for a tech-geek spot up in the Dulles corridor -- I thought about calling it ".root." That was back when the tech sector was rocking, though, and that's about as over now as bellbottoms. <--sigh-->
If all this restaurant talk scares you, or you just want to cook some comfort food of your own, try 'Googlecooking' -- the new craze out of the kitchen of Meg Hourihan's mother.
Recently I've become a Google cook. What I mean is, shortly before supper time I look around for some combination of foods I've got on hand and which seem like they might go together. Then I 'google' them (an expression I heard for the first time on WXRV the other day) and browse through the results until I find a recipe that appeals to me. My tastiest success was Spicy Corn and Tomato Salad but that was partly just because the farmers' market corn was so super sweet. I can especially recommend Google cooking when you need possibilities for somewhat odd combinations, like leftover salmon and swiss chard, though in such a case the result may be more pecunious than tasteful.
Guess that rules out working with the meatloaf and hummus stashed in my fridge. Still, maybe one day -- on a lark after getting back from the farmer's market, perhaps -- I'll give that a try. Cross your fingers.
Going Nowhere on a Train London fans of the Green[e]house are minding a huge gap today -- the trains aren't running. Not on the Underground, at least. Blame it on a strike. This morning, only 15 of the Tube's 600 train drivers showed up.
I feel for the commuters who had to fend for themselves -- some lined up for buses, some for taxis, and some for jam-packed trains from the suburbs. One account even described "pedestrian rage" breaking out among people who, after riding a commuter train, had to wait about an hour just to get a bus to work. The Underground set up free Thames boats, and a few smart cookies ditched it all for a bike or a pair of sneakers. Or just stayed home.
I'm with that last group. No way would have bothered commuting there today, if I could help it. In the middle of a traffic meltdown, why battle the madness when you can phone it in?
Driving Along in My Automobile Things are looking up down here in the Green[e]house, yes indeed. A couple of months back, "car trouble" meant a wheel all but falling off. Nowadays my only worries are a stuck headlight and a stuck window, both of which I've been dealing with for months. And I'll get those fixed this week. Suh-weet!
I know most folks would get exercised about a stuck window, but naaaah, I'm feeling pretty blithe. When you find out your dealer left your car outside the shop with windows open on the day of a hurricane, a few droplets here and there just don't seem so bad.
Drips and droplets are the order of the day here in Atlanta right now, where we're seeing some well-needed gray, lousy days full of mist and downpours. It all makes me feel a little like pulling on an old black t-shirt and listening to The Smiths, but complain I won't. After watching the new grass I spent weeks tending early this summer dry up like Spanish moss, I say we need any rain we can get. Georgia just wrapped up one of its driest 12-month periods ever -- the more rain, the merrier.
Later tonight I do my part for the youth of America with my LSAT prep class over at Morehouse -- but before then I think I'll slink over to the record store to check out the new releases from Beck, Steve Earle and Peter Gabriel. I can only buy two -- curse these crowded release dates! -- but with artists like these, I can pick at random and still win.
But for now, back to working on a web site I'm developing for another political project. Can't talk about it now -- maybe I'll shed light on it some other time. But trust me, it's a good one. Even if it does cut into my blogging time. =}
Senate Democrats Fell 'Healthy Forests' Initiative The Bush administration plan to stop forest fires by stopping forests has run into hard times, and might not make it through the Senate this year. Hallelujah.
The White House plan, dubbed the 'Healthy Forests Initiative,' was of a piece with the adminstration's other flashes of policy brilliance. Just as Bush wrote an energy plan with corporate giveaways and an economic plan with tax giveaways, he wrote a forest fire plan with tree giveaways. The initiative would have given loggers a fast-track through the regulatory process, including guaranteed protection from the possibility of enforcement suits under the National Environmental Policy Act. White House officials hoped that foresters, given free rein to haul more old-growth trees off federal land, might find it within themselves to clear fire-prone underbrush.
Democrats have balked, though, and say the plan would "[do] little to address the problems of tinder-like underbrush and fire-prone trees near heavily populated areas while giving loggers greater leeway to cut larger, more commercially valuable trees in remote regions that pose less of a fire hazard." Their alternative: an expansion of an existing forest-thinning plan, paired with a relaxed regulatory regime that would still let citizens sue to enforce the laws when necessary. Senate majority leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) insists on settling the impasse with a 60-senator supermajority vote -- a feat neither side looks likely to achieve anytime soon.
We need to stop forest fires, but we can do that without destroying the forests in order to save them. Let's give Daschle and company a hand.
Why I'm a Democrat Last Friday, after receiving the gift of a one-month severance, my cousin C. joined the ranks of the jobless. Once upon a time she planned to make a career at the company. She'd worked there for more than ten years.
The company? WorldCom. Her parachute? Tattered. Her stock options went underwater long ago. By now they've probably drifted into the Marianas Trench. Same with her 401(k).
Holding the parties responsible for every tick in unemployment is a fool's game. In the months since the Worldcom scandal broke, though, I've heard Republicans:
blame Bill Clinton for setting a terrible moral example for his slavish 50-year-old CEO followers;