Welcome to the Green[e]house — Some Rights Reserved Following the lead of Tim Jarrett, I updated the weblog tonight with a Creative Commons license. Healthy discourse depends on the presence of an open and accessible public domain — so consider this my token effort to help the public domain stay that way.
Taking Stock It's been a slow day here at the Green[e]house — I tweaked the Northern Arc web site today and managed to crank out a press release, but I feel like my vim and vigor went vamoose over the holidays without telling me. Can anyone find my motivation, please?
Actually, a lot of this has to do with the fact that I don't have to report into an office for work right now; I just wash myself up, down my cereal, and get to typing or calling. Yeah, I know, plenty of people would kill for that situation, but the work-from home thing has always left me cold. Camraderie doesn't transmit well through a computer, for one thing, and as for banter -- well, I don't have an in-home water cooler.
I wound down at the League of Conservation Voters a week after the election — seeing as how our campaigns were done with, that made sense. This week, though, I need to start ramping up for the General Assembly, where I'll be working on getting a few bills passed. I'll be working for a group of technology companies and a coalition of environmental organizations. I'm pretty psyched about that — sure I'm lobbying, but I get to lobby for the good guys.
'Course, doing that well would require reading my briefing books enough to know the details frontwards and backwards, which I'm not even close to having done yet. Lucky for me, though, the legislature has cut me some slack; when it convenes on the Jan. 13, it plans to go right back home for the month while the members move into their new offices. Part of me wants to get started already — I haven't had a good political workout in two months, people, let's go! — but I'm smart enough to know that having the extra time to prepare is a good thing.
So now, the trick is snapping out of a couple of months of bad habits and getting back in shape. I gained a few pounds over the holidays, so some exercise to get literally into shape might be a good place to start. The only question is whether I'll start right now — after all, I've got all that apple pie to finish . . .
Unilateralism and the Pyongyang Problem David Adesnik of OxBlog on the Korea mess:
[Josh] Marshall . . alleg[es] that Bush's failure has to be publicized because it has been "inexcusably ignored in the American press." . . . Admittedly, Marshall promises "more details soon", instead of just closing with his observation that "[t]ough talk sounds great until your opponent calls your bluff and everybody sees there's nothing behind the trash talk. Then you look foolish." Still, I find it extremely ironic that Marshall is now denouncing the administration for its weakness when just yesterday he was denouncing it for its dangerous unilateralism.
If there's an irony here, I don't see it. Marshall actually made the legitimate point that unilateralism often leads to weakness. Read this excerpt from his Dec. 30 post, and decide for yourself:
One of the most important rules of foreign policy is not to let yourself get pushed around. An even more important rule, though, is not to make threats or issue ultimatums that you either can't or won't follow through on. That not only makes you look weak. It also makes you into an object of contempt. That's just what the administration has done in this case.
Adesnik also chided a few liberal commentators for "their total unwillingness — or perhaps inability — to suggest an alternative" to Bush's approach. "[I]f there aren't any answers," he asks, "why spend so much time criticizing the President?"
Why? Because at times, constructive criticism adds up to explaining that a nettlesome problem should never have become a problem at all.
Bush swaggered into the White House in 2001 and made quick work of dismissing South Korean president Kim Dae Jung's policy of engagement — but then let his policy team dawdle for two years over what policy to adopt next. The result? Some bluster over Pyongyang's membership in the axis of evil — and not much else.
Two years later, we can see an outcome, and it's hardly in doubt. The Bush administration:
discarded the Clinton policy of engagement;
opted for saber-rattling instead;
landed itself in a crisis; and
swung right back toward negotiation.
What, exactly, have we learned now that we didn't already know? With the North bridling with missiles and artillery trained on two of our most important trading partners, a military solution to the Pyongyang problem is a fool's errand, worth pursuing only as a last resort. Clinton knew that, and chose engagement in order to make the problem go away for a while. Bush knew it as well — yet he opted for a get-tough approach, which that Pyongyang knew we could never back with force. The North called us on it. Now we're saddled with the problem again. What was the point?
Engagement only works as a stopgap measure, true. But it's a stopgap with an obvious advantage over nuclear brinksmanship. Thanks to Bush, though, we're stuck with brinksmanship — and a policy blunder that huge should mean having to say you're sorry.
President Bush drew a sharp distinction today between the nuclear standoff with North Korea and his confrontation with Iraq, saying he was certain that weapons projects in North Korea could be stopped "peacefully, through diplomacy." He said that Saddam Hussein, on the other hand, "hasn't heard the message" that he must disarm, or face military action. — "President Makes Case That North Korea Is No Iraq," The New York Times, Jan. 1, 2003.
Now, I know it's facile to set up a black-and-white dichotomy between Hussein the pliant and Kim the crazed. Iraq treats the the inspections system like a giant game of hide the ball — and North Korea, by all lights, would rather have food, bucks and oil than an A-bomb. Still, once can't help but notice a simple fact: Iraq admitted weapons inspectors a month ago, and North Korea has just thrown them out.
You know that. Quite a few Americans know that. But Bush tells us that Iraq hasn't gotten the message? What in the world possessed him to think that sounded credible?
The Bush Buzzsaw Brigade Never Sleeps While the rest of us opened presents, sang carols, shot off fireworks and made toasts with bubbly for the last week, the White House war on Terra — Earth, that is — continued apace. The scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) rang in the year by redefining dolphin-killing methods of catching tuna as "dolphin-safe." In the West Wing, meanwhile, the president issued an executive order lifting the yoke of the nation's environmental laws from an air base that, um, doesn't exist. Which raises a question: if the base doesn't exist, was there ever something to apply the laws to?
2003 Happy new year, everyone! Let's hope it's a romping good time — but even if that doesn't happen, make sure to have a little fun anyway. Speaking of which: sorry you can't enjoy the apple pies I baked today, but trust me — I'm lovin' 'em.
Dissing Demagoguery At Soundbitten, G. Beato has taken Fox commentator Bill O'Reilly to school about his constant bashing of hip-hop. It's one of the best takedowns I've read in a long time. My favorite lines:
It's true, of course, that pop culture isn't always suitable for children - but how exactly does one determine what poses a threat and what doesn't? To an untrained observer, answers can be hard to divine, but for an eagle-eyed warden of decency like O'Reilly, corrupting influences are as easy to spot as a big black skunk in a field of vanilla ice cream.
Take, for example, Britney Spears. Because her music is exclusively marketed to middle-aged men who show mad crazee luv for aspirational teen-pop, O'Reilly has no beef with her. But then take someone like Serena Wiliams. Williams is a professional tennis player, and as several federal investigations (and Ralph Nader) have shown, professional tennis mostly appeals to (though some would say "preys on") little girls without any sportswear judgement. Thus, a different standard applies: "See, now, here's Britney Spears, who I don't have too much of it, she's dressed up like a dominatrix here, but that's just rock and roll nonsense. There she is, it doesn't bother me. But Serena Williams, I come back to that, in the sense that there are a lot of little girls watching here, and they got this outfit on, and, all right, you have a 10-year-old girl, she's watching Serena, what do you say to her?"
Yeah — I can't begin to count all the little girls at church last July I heard talking about Wimbeldon.
Let me take that back -- I'm being unfair to Chris Cornell, who's as tender a frontman as they come. Or that's what he wants to be. At least I think he does -- to tell the truth, the words to "Black Hole Sun" still have me bumfuzzled.
Still, plastering his voice across what sounds for all the world like Rage-by-Numbers™ hardly gives the world a sound larger than the sum of its parts. Instead, it just rocks your radio like 1993 -- which is where, as anyone with a fleeting awareness of Bush, Silverchair, Nickelback or Creed could tell you, rock radio has been mired for the last ten years.
[In fact, some of the music comes off as even more of a throwback. Any wanna-be DJ with a copy of ProTools could transplant the vocal track from "Cochise" into "Whole Lotta Love."]
Hello, Dhali Do you know who I miss? Daljit Dhaliwal. I used to make excuses to watch her ITN newscasts every chance I could get, but now — even though she lives here in Atlanta — I hardly ever see her. Without her reading the news, my days just don't have as much zing.
Of course, she does live here . . . maybe I should ask my friend Catherine at CNN to set us up. [Yeah, right — like I would stand a chance. But I can dream, eh?]
"Heritage" (and Other Red Herrings) Fans of the Confererate flag can rationalize for days about its meaning, but what makes them treat their "Southern heritage" argument like an ace in the hole? In the grand sweep of the history of the South, the Confederacy hardly amounts to much:
First permanent English settlement in the South: 1607 (Jamestown, Va.).
Establishment of the Confederate States of America: 1861.
Dissolution of the Confederate States of America: 1865.
Lifespan of Confederate States of America: Four years.
Time lapsed since English settlement of the South: approximately 396 years.
Let's do the math: 4 ÷ 396 equals . . . just over one percent.
Do flag lovers consider the South so impoverished for history that its people have to pin their identity to four years out of 400? That's a strange sort of Southern pride.
There's another argument that I'm not even sure I should bother with:
"Are you going to ban the American flag, if one or two people out of 1,800 find it offensive, because it had more to do with the slave trade than any other flag, including the battle flag?" [a letter to the principal of Cherokee High School] asks.
It is an argument made by many who do not understand why some people find the Confederate battle flag deeply offensive. "The Confederate flag itself is not racist," said Rick Simpson, [the father of a Cherokee High School student]. "It was the American flag that brought slaves to this country."
For the benefit of Mr. Simpson:
The United States Constitution included a provision [Article I, § 9] that allowed the slave trade to continue until 1808 largely at the behest of Southern states that insisted on it;
Considering that colonists imported slaves into Jamestown, Va., in 1619, the bulk of the slave trade took place under the British flag;
The American government eventually went to war against slavery. The Confederacy fought to protect it.
It makes you wonder whether supporters of the Confederate flag can come up with an argument that has anything to do with logic.
2004: Another Democratic Candidate? It's heartening to hear that Bob Graham, Democratic senator from Florida, might get into the ring and fight for the party's nomination for president. His candidadicy could give the party just what it needs to win the presidency.
It's not just that having a Floridian at the head of the ticket could put New York, California, and the Sunshine state in the Democrats' column — though that's a tantalizing prospect. What's more important is the regional legitimacy that Graham would give a Democratic ticket in the South, a legitimacy in the hills and valleys of the South that John Kerry — as much as I might offend some friends by saying this — probably can't buy with all the Heinz money in the world. As much as Kerry and his advisers probably know that they need break Bush's emotional hammerlock on red state residents to have a prayer in the electoral college, he'll need a miracle to pull that off — his preppie background looms too large. His chances of faring well with a crowd at a county fair or a corn festival parade look about as good as those of Dick Cheney, say, winning over a crowd at the Apollo Theatre.
Graham stands a chance of connecting with the Zell Miller Democrats that Kerry can't reach — and his willingness to offer alternatives to Bush's foreign policy could neutralize Republican attempts to present themselves as the party against terrorism. Having Graham at the top of the ticket could also make for great chemistry when the time comes to round out the ticket. Howard Dean's ideas on healthcare for children could appeal to suburban women. Bringing Gen. Wesley Clark onboard, meanwhile, could provide Democrats with near-perfect immunity to charges of laxity on national defense.
Vice presidential talk can wait 'til later, though. For now, let's just thank goodness that the campaign is finally starting to look interesting.
[I saw the senator with his fiancée at a friend's wedding a couple of weeks back, actually. He looks great. He held court during the reception in fine spirits, and didn't appear to talk about politics much at all. He has to be looking forward to getting down to business with the independent commission on Sept. 11 — but if he wants to let his hair down for the holidays, a man can hardly begrudge him.]
Comfort and Joy I'm back! Hope you've all had a great holiday week. The highlight of mine came on a trip to Memphis, where an aunt and uncle celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary; just before dinner, Benjamin Hooks strolled in to give the invocation. It's not every day that a civil rights leader blesses your food.
To be honest, though, the guests of honor had another friend that I kind of hoped would show up: Al Green. Alas, 'twas not to be — which was all the more a shame thanks to the night's entertainment, which made me wish we'd booked Glenn Reynolds' band.