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January 25, 2003
The Limbaugh boycott
This is about ten years overdue, but better late than never. Rush is, of course, free to call us "fascists" and "anti American" for opposing war with Iraq--but we are also free to let his advertisers know that there's no way in hell we'll be purchasing their products.
It's the magic of the free market. I'm sure Rush will understand.
One more on those Team Leaders
Just found this site, which is all over the astroturf campaigns--they've got both of the ones I've mentioned, as well as several others, and a list of the papers which have fallen for them. So here's your Team Tomorrow assignment: go look and see if your hometown paper is on one of the lists, and if they are, write them and let them know that they've been suckered by the Republicans. Again.
Afterthought: be sure to let the editors of these papers know about the Team Leader site, or the watchdog link above, so they can keep an eye out for these astroturf campaigns for themselves.
Also, several of these papers look to be repeat offenders--as a native Iowan, the Iowa City Press Citizen jumps out at me, and there seem to be a few others. You might want to make a special point of enlightening the particularly gullible editors of these papers.
And here's how it backfires...
As you may know, the Herald Courier can get pretty desperate for letters to the editor at certain times of the year. But I hope we never get this desperate.
Team Leaders, continued
Okay, we know that "Bush demonstrating genuine leadership" has turned up in letters to the editor across the country.
But wait--there's more!
This is an 'Action Item' posted to the GOP Team Leader Action Center on January 16:
-- Senate Held Hostage. Senate Democrats didnÝt listen to the American people in November. Seeking to maintain power and continue partisan politics, Democrats have again put special interests and partisanship ahead of our nation's interests and progress. One Senator said the Democrats' tactics were "tantamount to an attempted coup."
According to Google, this one has already turned up in a couple of newspapers:
Coming soon to a letters page near you, no doubt...
As I mentioned yesterday, you can sign up here to become an official GOP Team Leader. And--this is the beauty part--you will then have access to official Republican Talking Points. You'll receive personal notification of their clumsy astroturf campaigns.
I don't think the latter will last much longer, incidentally. There are too many bloggers watching out for this now. It's going to be a lot harder to pull this kind of crap from now on. Which is too bad for the Team Leaders, of course, because getting an astroturf letter published in their local paper was one way they could earn GOPoints, redeemable for actual merchandise.
I kid you not.
75 GOPoints get you a bumper sticker. 140 get you a Team Leader Video. If you reach 350, you can cash 'em in for a 12-pack insulated bag. There are PDA covers, pullovers, caps, t-shirts, all festooned with the Team Leader logo.
So, how much effort must one expend to be eligible for these nifty prizes?
The GOP Team Leader site has a number of ways users can earn points. Following is a summary of the points each action is worth:
I'm sure everybody does this to some degree (so spare me that banal observation, okay?). But this whole points-for-prizes scheme really takes it to a whole different level.
* * *
As I was composing this entry, Atrios posted this:
Let me chime in here. Aside from taking an amusing swipe at 'the other side,' let me explain why the whole astro-turf issue is a bit more than that. A lot of people have said that all political parties and interest groups regularly issue various "action alerts" including sample letters to send to various people. This is true, but most of the time the "click here to send this form letter under your name" systems are directed not at newspapers for the purposes of publication but for congressional representatives. As such, they are more like signing a petition. I've sent a few of those and I've never expected the recipients to assume it was a letter written in my own words.
(Not to mention the points-for-merchandise scheme outlined above.)
But, really, the main issue about this astroturf was that so many editors published it even though it was so obviously a piece of astro-turf. In fact, one editor communicated to one of my readers that they published it knowing full well that it was astroturf "as a courtesy" to their many GOP readers.
Darn that liberal media anyway...
January 24, 2003
Shoot the moon
Q: You've talked on a couple of occasions on philosophically perhaps the need to preemptively strike a nation -- not necessarily Iraq, just somewhere. And I'm wondering if you have a litmus test or a set of conditions that you would need to see in order to make the call for a preemptive strike? What has to be in place? Is it a nuke? Is it complicity with al Qaeda? Have you considered any of those things?
Astroturf (as in "fake grassroots") campaigns are nothing new. It's just that the internet makes it harder to get away with these things.
You've probably seen this story already, but if you've missed it, here's a rundown.
IF YOU DO A SEARCH on the truly marvellous Google on the phrase Bush "demonstrating genuine leadership", like the Three Bears song goes, you're in for a big surprise.
Amazing, that so many Republicans across the country were independently inspired to write nearly identical letters to the editor. Where are Mulder and Scully when you need them?
Atrios has been on this as well.
And if you go here, you can sign up to become a GOP team leader and help keep an eye on their clumsy attempts at manipulating public opinion.
Lies, damned lies, and Bush Administration statistics
ABC News looks at the Bush tax plan:
What the president said: "92 million Americans will keep an average of $1,083 more of their own money when this tax plan goes throughÍ"
Know your place! Shut your face!
These remixed propaganda posters are amazing. Click on any of them to start the slide show, but be sure that you don't have anything to do for the next twenty or thirty minutes.
This is the cover of Ann Coulter's next book.
Look, I know she's a clown. I know she's an opportunist who says outrageous things to provoke a response, draw attention to herself. But Roy Cohn was also a clown and an opportunist. The messenger may be an idiot, but it doesn't mean that the message is harmless.
But of course, we never do seem to learn from the lessons of history. They've got a word for you, if you stand up and say hey, I think we've been down this road before, and it didn't really work out so well the last time. And that word is not "thoughtful," or "concerned." That word is "alarmist." As if alarms are a bad thing. As if we should wait until the flames are consuming the first floor and the hallways are filled with smoke before we respond, because raising a hue and cry any earlier would be, well, you know. Alarmist.
(Heads up on the book via Carl of anti-Coulter. He's kind of on hiatus right now, but I think he'll be back.)
January 23, 2003
Bill Mauldin has passed away.
More about him here:
In 1945, he won his first Pulitzer Prize for newspaper cartooning, and published his first book ˇ Up Front, which reprinted dozens of Willie & Joe cartoons, accompanied by Mauldin's comments on the real-life situation his fictional characters were in. It has remained in print for decades, and even now stands as one of the most vivid and true-to-life accounts of the typical American soldier's life during World War II.
I don't know if conservatives commentators will now retroactively claim him as one of their own, but I wouldn't be surprised. Artists like Mauldin tend to get co-opted by all the wrong people. It's important to remember what he actually stood for, I think:
I spent hours in the library looking for Mauldin's 1975 cartoon on the ERA. What I discovered -- before finally discovering the cartoon itself -- was the biggest reason the Sun-Times of those days is remembered as fiercely liberal. In fact its editorial page was wishy-washy and insignificant. Mauldin, however, was an angry, ironic sharpshooter. The editorials endorsed Richard J. Daley and Richard Nixon, but nobody read the editorials. Mauldin savaged them both, and everybody read him.
January 22, 2003
Hey, him call us ignorant!
When Europeans make such criticisms, Americans assume we're envious. "They want what we've got," the thinking goes, "and if they can't get it, they're going to stop us from having it." But does everyone want what America has? Well, we like some of it but could do without the rest: among the highest rates of violent crime, economic inequality, functional illiteracy, incarceration and drug use in the developed world. President Bush recently declared that the U.S. was "the single surviving model of human progress." Maybe some Americans think this self-evident, but the rest of us see it as a clumsy arrogance born of ignorance.
--Brian Eno (!), writing in Time. (Thanks to Neil Krupnick for the pointer.)
Okay, here's the deal
They're trying something new at Salon, which I think necessitates a pre-emptive post here: rather than keeping some of their best writing walled off behind the Premium (subscriber-only) section, as they've been doing for the past year or two, they've effectively turned the entire site into a Premium section--but with a way past the wall for people who don't want to subscribe, which is to click through a multi-part ad. In other words, if you want to look at anything on Salon now, you either have to be a subscriber or you have to click through a multi-part ad once a day.
I'm sure this will annoy many of you who read my cartoon online, and if it does, I encourage you to share those feelings with the appropriate parties, which is to say, anyone but me. I'm not thrilled about this-- but, you know, it's an imperfect world. They're just trying to stay afloat. And frankly, I never liked having half the site inaccessible to most readers.
But don't confuse me with Salon. This is their call, I'm just rolling with the punches here. If you have strong feelings about this one way or the other, tell them--not me. I can't emphasize this enough: I'm not interested. Any email sent to me on this issue will be deleted unread. Seriously. There's too much going on in the world right now to waste energy on something this inconsequential.
Anyway, look on the positive side--all that Premium material that's been walled off for the past few years is now accessible, and that's a Good Thing. Information wants to be free, but it also likes to pay the rent. As I say, it's an imperfect world.
(Afterthought: if clicking through the ads on Monday is really more than you can bear, you can always wait until Tuesday and read the cartoon at Working For Change.)
All the world's a stage
The White House, long known for its catchy, attention-grabbing backdrops, had designed a gigantic banner made to look like stacked boxes stamped with "MADE IN U.S.A."
January 21, 2003
My secret is out
No wonder blogging has been light lately.
(My thanks to the anonymous reader who took the time to scan this for me.)
Getting harder to ignore
Here's more on the anti war march, from the Village Voice:
WASHINGTON, D.C.ˇJust maybe the zeitgeist is beginning to shift. This week a Pew poll found that only 42 percent of Americans believe that President Bush has made the case for warˇdown from 52 percent in September. Last week, a huge Chicago local of the Teamster'sˇone of the unions that's been cosiest with the Bush White Houseˇhosted the launch of a national labor antiwar coalition. Republican business leaders raised concerns about a war with a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal. Chicago, the nation's third-largest city, joined a list of 38 city councils that have passed antiwar resolutions. And despite freezing temperatures that never topped 24 degrees, more than 100,000 demonstrators took over the streets of Washington, D.C., on Saturday in the second massive national antiwar protest in three months.
There's been a bit of a tempest in the echo chamber of the blogosphere lately regarding ANSWER. If you're among that inestimably tiny fraction of readers who give a rat's ass about this non-controversy, there are responses here and here (from progressive and libertarian perspectives, respectively). But I think this entry, from a blog called Polyglot, sums up the attitude of most of the demonstrators for whatever eeeee-vil hidden agenda the organizers may or may not have:
there were speakers, but it was hard to pay attention to them, and they didn't really seem to be saying much besides rhetoric...instead we wandered around and looked at signs, laughed at signs, checked out buttons and t-shirts for sale, and "wow"ed at people who had traveled from locales far, far away.
January 20, 2003
Down the memory hole
It's become a TV ritual: Every year in mid-January, around the time of Martin Luther King's birthday, we get perfunctory network news reports about "the slain civil rights leader."
January 19, 2003
You mean they're not real?
Numbers games, part two
As usual, it's hard to get a sense of the size of the crowd in DC yesterday from news reports. And I can't seem to find any aerial photos anywhere. But here's a shot from San Francisco, and it looks like an impressive turnout to me...
Update: Max was at the DC march and has a first-person account here. There are also several reports at Stand Down.
Been meaning to post this since a reader sent it in last week. According to this Knight Ridder poll, 83% of the American people cannot correctly answer the question, "How many of the 9-11 hijackers were Iraqi citizens?"
Interestingly--at least, according to this poll--even in the depths of such appalling ignorance, only a third of the public supports war with Iraq without UN backing. (With UN support, that number jumps to--yes--83%. )
Profiles in courage, part 938
"Governor Ryan's action was shockingly wrong," Mr. Lieberman said in an interview on Friday. "It did terrible damage to the credibility of our system of justice, and particularly for the victims."
Me, I'd think the thirteen wrongly convicted death row inmates might have done more damage to the credibility of the system. Not to mention the Chicago police officers who tortured suspects until they confessed.
But Joe Lieberman thinks it is the acknowledgement of the system's flaws which damages the credibility of the system.
I really hope this guy isn't the Democratic nominee in '04.
Another left wing wacko speaks
I can't imagine that anybody would say, We're going to war because there are 11 empty warheads, probably left over from 10 years ago. These warheads are not the nuclear weapons we've been warned about. They travel about 12 miles.
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