uggabugga





Saturday, March 06, 2004

I have an obligation:

On ABC national news, Bush was shown reacting to the criticism of the campaign ads that included footage of a casket being carried by firemen. Bush was shown saying:
"I will continue to speak about the effects of 9/11 on our country and my presidency. I will continue to mourn the loss of life on that day, but I'll never forget the lessons."
And then the reporter said that "The president went so far as to call it his obligation to the victims of 9/11" but the network did not broadcast that part of Bush's statement. However, earlier that evening on a local ABC affiliate, Bush was shown saying:
"I have an obligation to those who died. I have an obligation to those who were heroic in their attempts to rescue. And I won't forget that obligation."
NOTE: 150k .wav file of both statement by Bush is here.

UPDATE: In Sunday's New York Times article, there was no mention of the "obligation" statements by Bush.


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In case you missed it:

We removed a set of images from our post below, and replaced it with this:
WE GET LETTERS:
please remove the photos

The photos of people jumping are awful. Please, I agree with your point, but the images are just too, too disturbing.


OUR RESPONSE:
I shall remove the photos as you request. But first, I would like to say why they were put up. I consider those images to be the most powerful and terrifying of all from the day of the attack. Why? Because some people decided, in a matter of a half-hour or so, to kill themselves. What was going through their minds at the time must have been awful. And looking down and deciding to jump is frankly, something I cannot imagine.

Because Bush decided to make political points out of dead bodies (though I read that the image in the ad was actually of actors and props made up to look like they were from Ground Zero), I decided to put the ultimate imagry of the pain and suffering with Bush's campaign theme (Steady leadership in times of change).

I debated whether to put those images up, and consulted with a number of people on the subject. The feeling was that it was extremely strong, but justified in light of what Bush did with his ads.

I apologize for causing upset with my readers, and will take down the images.


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Word counts:

We read the stories about Martha Stewart with attention to the number of times Merrill Lynch was mentioned. Why? Because when it comes to many of the Wall Street scandals, Merrill is often part of the picture, as you can see here (click on image for full-size).



In any event, here is how many times the following newspapers mentioned Merrill Lynch in their lead story about Martha Stewart:
New York Times2
Washington Post1
Los Angeles Times2


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Friday, March 05, 2004

Outrage:
  • You are a soldier in the Iowa National Guard.
  • You take a drug test.
  • You get shipped to Iraq.
  • You work in units that provide medical treatment and supply convoys, and have been the target of insurgents' attacks.
  • When you return, you are informed that you FAILED the drug test, and may be dishonorably discharged.
(More at Democratic Veteran. Story at TheIowaChannel.com)


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Jobs - where are they?

No doubt, you've heard about the tepid job growth in February:
U.S. employers added a paltry 21,000 workers to their payrolls last month, according to a surprisingly weak government report on Friday that appeared certain to weigh on President Bush as he seeks re-election.
But did you know this? (from the same story)
The report also showed job creation in December and January was weaker than previously thought, adding to the gloomy tone of the report. The department revised lower its count of jobs gains in January to 97,000 from 112,000 and for December to just 8,000 from 16,000.
That's an average of 42,000 for each of the three months. If that rate holds (42k/mo), there will be a half-million net new jobs in 2004. Not a whole lot.

Oddly though, that the unemployment rate is steady at 5.6%

UPDATE: There is this, from another news article:
The number of unemployed workers in the United States who have exhausted regular jobless benefits without qualifying for more was expected to reach a record 760,000 by the end of last month, and that number could swell to more than 1 million by midyear, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
And let's not forget that the Republicans in Congress declined to extend the unemployment benefits recently.


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De gustibus non est disputandum*:

Sept. 11 Families Outraged by Bush Campaign Ad   - excerpts:
Families who lost relatives in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks voiced outrage on Thursday at President Bush's first ads of his re-election campaign that use images of the devastated World Trade Center to portray him as the right leader for tumultuous times.



Long time Bush adviser Karen Hughes defended the four commercials -- which began running on Thursday in at least 16 important battleground states -- as "tastefully done."

Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt said the campaign will not withdraw the ads. "There is no bigger issue in this country than who is better prepared to deal with the realities that 9/11 created for this country."
Tastefully done? Why such restraint? After all, we're constantly being reminded that we are in a war (with a self-described "war president"). Why not go all out and push the envelope? Like this ...
WE GET LETTERS:
please remove the photos

The photos of people jumping are awful. Please, I agree with your point, but the images are just too, too disturbing.


OUR RESPONSE:
I shall remove the photos as you request. But first, I would like to say why they were put up. I consider those images to be the most powerful and terrifying of all from the day of the attack. Why? Because some people decided, in a matter of a half-hour or so, to kill themselves. What was going through their minds at the time must have been awful. And looking down and deciding to jump is frankly, something I cannot imagine.

Because Bush decided to make political points out of dead bodies (though I read that the image in the ad was actually of actors and props made up to look like they were from Ground Zero), I decided to put the ultimate imagry of the pain and suffering with Bush's campaign theme (Steady leadership in times of change).

I debated whether to put those images up, and consulted with a number of people on the subject. The feeling was that it was extremely strong, but justified in light of what Bush did with his ads.

I apologize for causing upset with my readers, and will take down the images.
Seriously though, a quick review of message posts (on Yahoo associated with this story) showed something we haven't seen in a long time - vocal support for Bush. For most of 2004, posts had been uniformly hostile to Bush (economy, WMD, etc.). But invoking 9/11 appears to help the president - at least in the short term and with a subset of the electorate. Looks like 2004 will be a really dirty campaign.

* - In matters of taste, there is no cause for argument.


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Thursday, March 04, 2004

uggabugga - a modern day Nostradamus?

Okay, we're tooting our own horn today (Toot! Toot!). Back in December of 2002, we posted the following diagram about the Democratic party's quest for a nominee. Looks like we got it right. (Well, mostly right: Kerry vs. Edwards, Dean fade, Lieberman/Gephardt no traction, Rove play war card.     And a few wrong: Dean money problems, Biden a factor.)




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A taste of his own medicine:
March 4, 2004
OP-ED COLUMNIST

Small and Smaller and Smallest and Smallerest

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
BANGALORE, India
Jerry Rao wants to write the Op-Ed column in your newspaper.

Ah, you say, you've never heard of Jerry Rao, but the name sounds vaguely Indian. Anyway, you already read a newspaper for the Op-Ed columns. Well, Jerry is Indian. He lives in Bangalore. And, you may not know it, but he may already be the pundit you read in your newspaper..

"We have tied up with several small and medium-size newspapers in America," explained Mr. Rao, whose company, LpresA, has a team of Indian journalists able to do outsourced Op-Ed columns requested by newspaper editors across the U.S. All the necessary political data is entered into a database that can be viewed from India. Then an Indian journalist, trained in U.S. clich├ęs and beltway conventional wisdom, fleshes it out.

"This is happening as we speak — we are doing several thousand essays," said Mr. Rao. American pundits don't even need to be in their offices. They can be on a beach, said Mr. Rao, "and say, `Jerry, you are particularly good at doing trite, banal essays, so you could do Tom's essays." He adds, "We have taken the grunt work" so U.S. pundits can focus on twiddling their thumbs and thinking up appalling new metaphors.

Mr. Rao's ability to service U.S. newspapers this way is at the core of a business revolution that has happened over the past few years. I confess: I missed this revolution. I was totally focused on 9/11 and Iraq. But having now spent 10 days in Bangalore, India's Silicon Valley, I realize that while I was sleeping, my eyes were closed.

There has been a convergence of a variety of software applications — from e-mail, to Google, to Microsoft Office, to specially designed outsourcing programs — that, when combined with all those PC's and bandwidth, made it possible to create global "work-flow platforms."

These work-flow platforms can chop up any newspaper job - reporting, opinion writing, editing - into different functions and then, thanks to scanning and digitization, outsource each function to teams of skilled knowledge workers around the globe, based on which team can do each function with the highest skill at the lowest price. Then the project is reassembled back at headquarters into a finished product.

Thanks to this new work-flow network, pundits anywhere in the world can contribute their talents more than ever before, spurring innovation and productivity. But these same pundits will be under more pressure than ever to constantly upgrade their skills in this Darwinian environment.

So now I wonder: when they write the history of the world 20 years from now, what will they say was most important? Will it be the convergence of PC's, telecom and work-flow software into a tipping point that allowed India to become part of the global supply chain for the media, at the expense of high paying jobs like mine?



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Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Gedankenexperiment:

Imagine you have a machine that allows you to travel backwards in time. Imagine also, that you have a copy of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and a portable movie projector (it runs on batteries). From the list of entries below, indicate which ones you would go to and show the film:
  • Norwich, England in 1144
  • Blois, France in 1171
  • Lincoln, England in 1255
  • Munchener, Germany in 1285
  • Chinon, France in 1321
  • Zurich, Switzerland in 1348
  • Vienna, Austria in 1421
  • Toledo, Spain in 1501
  • Frankfurt, Germany in 1614
  • Haidamacks, Russia in 1734
  • Wurzberg, Germany in 1818
  • Odessa, Russia in 1905
  • Kielce, Poland in 1946
If you selected any entries from the list above, discuss how and why human nature changed at that time such that showing the film would not incite violence towards Jews.


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A cultural observation:

We should begin this post by putting our cards on the table: We don't like hip-hop or rap. Never have, and probably never will.

That said, we were intrigued to encounter an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times, Don't Know Why Norah Jones Is Hot? Critics of Hip-Hop Do

In it, we read: (emphasis added)
Norah Jones' "Feels Like Home" is at the top of Billboard's album chart...

For the last few years, the music business has been dogged by sluggish CD sales and preoccupied with the threat of Internet file-sharing. Now the industry has found an unlikely savior: a self-effacing 24-year-old piano-playing balladeer ...

... the New York Times editorial page [offered] the interesting theory that Jones' popularity among her core audience of baby boomers reflects widespread desire for musical consolation in difficult times.

But what exactly is troubling these millions of middle-aged listeners who seek solace in the music of a woman young enough to be their daughter?

[The] answer may be found elsewhere on the pop charts. Jones' was not the only Billboard milestone last week: For only the second time in history, all of the Top 10 singles were by African American artists. More precisely: All of the songs were by hip-hop performers.

A quarter of a century after the American mainstream first encountered hip-hop's radical revision of the pop-song form - replacing sung verses and traditional instrumentation with syncopated speech and dense, machine-generated rhythms ? the genre's conquest of hit radio is complete.

... is Jones' music actually more authentic than, for instance, [R&B star] Usher's? Such thinking rests on false assumptions: that acoustic instruments are inherently more soulful than electronic ones, that whatever is on hit radio is by definition pap, that teenagers have no taste.

... today's hip-hop-dominated pop rivals the mid-1960s heyday of Motown and the Beatles.

... it is right and fitting that middle-aged fans of Jones be repelled by hip-hop. If pop history tells us anything, it is that parents and kids rarely agree about where to set the radio dial. But those tempted to cheer Jones' success as a triumph of good taste should heed another historical lesson: In matters of musical taste ? from bobby-soxers at the Paramount to Beatlemaniacs at Shea Stadium ? the kids have usually been right. When it comes to identifying the day's vital music, don't trust anyone over 30.
Some observations:
We agree that hip-hop is a radical revision of the pop-song form. And what a revision! Replacing traditional instrumentation - which is code for no melody, no harmonies, and sometimes not even a base beat.

While hip-hop is doing well in the marketplace, we are puzzled why "traditional" musical forms have left the scene. We think it's mostly due to heavy-handed marketing and corporate control which has forced music in a particular direction.

As to the claim that "today's hip-hop-dominated pop rivals the mid-1960s heyday of Motown and the Beatles" - it may rival Motown and the Beatles in terms of sales, but not in terms of universal appeal. Back in the 60's, virtually everybody liked Motown (they were on the Ed Sullivan show - a bastion of middle-American taste). The Beatles, Mommas and the Poppas, Elton John, Beach Boys, and other artists were popular with all age groups. Where can such music be found today?

The author asserts that hip-hop has been around a quarter century. That's a long time. Now ask yourself, has hip-hop been used in any significant way in advertising? Hardly. It's not been used (except in extremely diluted form) to reach a young audience. Marketing execs aren't fools. Why do you think they've given hip-hop a pass? We think it's because hip-hop is by and large, not a cheerful art form and thus not something you can use to attract consumers.

Our complaint boils down to this: What the hell happened on or about January 1, 1990?
That marked the end of the 80's New Wave (Blondie, Dire Straights, Eurhymics, Frankie Goes to Hollywood) and the beginning of grunge and rap. Since then, only occasional artists like Oasis and Coldplay - with their melodes - have made an appearance, but overall, it's been pretty miserable. One intriquing social indicator: some years back, the animated cartoons show, The Simpsons, had an episode that looked at the music scene (focusing on Smashing Pumpkins). In it, Lisa comments that the music is bleak and depressing.

In a related vein, in 1994 there was a 25 year anniversary of Woodstock, and one thing stood out at the time: it was a coarse affair. (It wasn't quite skinheads banging against each other in a muddy mosh pit, but it was close.) Why was that? We can't help but think that a cloud of trepidation descended at the time, reflecting something, but we're not sure what.


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Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Prager's inxanity:

Today, Andrew Sullivan is upset with Dennis Prager's latest commentary on Townhall.com. Why? The title is a clue:
San Francisco and Islamists: Fighting the same enemy
Sullivan excerpts a couple of paragraphs and concludes, "So now gay people - many of whom are conservative and people of faith and are fighting simply to commit to one another under the law - are the moral equivalent of Osama bin Laden. This is Jerry Falwell territory." (Of interest is Sullivan's approving link - earlier in the same day! - to Prager's essay on The Passion of the Christ: "A sage and balanced analysis. ")

But there's more. Prager does not speak only about the gay issue, but more broadly against The Left. Here, are some choice excerpts: (emphasis added)
  • America is engaged in ... a war for the preservation of the unique American creation known as Judeo-Christian civilization.

  • One enemy is ... secular extremism ... directed from home.

  • America leads the battle against ... secular nihilism and is hated ...

  • ... the Left is preoccupied first with destroying America's distinctive values -- a Judeo-Christian society (as opposed to a secular one), capitalism (as opposed to socialism), liberty (as opposed to equality) and exceptionalism (as opposed to universalism, multiculturalism and multilateralism).

  • There have been many Christian countries, and they are no longer. They have been replaced by secular countries, and they are weakening. Only American civilization remains strong, and it does so because of its unique amalgam of values rooted in Judeo-Christian morality.

  • This civilization is now fighting for its life ...    Join the fight, or it will be gone as fast as you can say "Democrat."
This is the paranoid style writ large.


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