Category: Politics

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Secretaries Don’t E-Mail

In March 2004, I appeared on PBS Newshour to discuss the European Union’s antitrust case against Microsoft. But I was by no means star of the night. The news show featured an interview face-off between Jim Lehrer and U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. I sat in another area of the same studio watching the Secretary answer Jim’s questions—well, sidestep many of them. The Defense Secretary struck me as out of touch, a sense I got more seeing him live than I ever have on television.

But even I underestimated just how out of touch is Donald Rumsfeld. Today, Newsweek columnist Mark Hosenball writes about the Karina hearings: “Congressional investigations of government responses to Hurricane Katrina have revealed that two of the nation’s key crisis managers, the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security, do not use e-mail”.

Uh, yeah. 

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This is Your Brain on Politics

Last night I fumed on about closed-minded evolutionists and creationists, neither of which is probably right but both think their position is absolute truth. Maybe science has an explanation for them in their good friends the politicians.

LiveScience.com today reports on a new study to be released about how politicians think. Researchers from Emory University MRI-scanned politicians’ brains while presenting them information about the “their preferred candidate prior to the 2004 Presidential election”. The results were surprising, or maybe not, depending on pre-conceptions about politicians. 

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I Don't See the Justification

Yesterday’s SouthCoastToday.com story about a student’s investigation by the Department of Homeland Security is breath stopping. Apparently, the “senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung’s tome on Communism called The Little Red Book“. I have to admit that Mao’s communist manifesto wouldn’t be on my reading list, but like this kid I probably would want it for research on a college paper about communism.

Cold War is over, right? The war on terror is against Muslim extremists. Right? Last I checked, Muslim extremism doesn’t have much in common with atheistic communism. So why is a kid filling out a university library book request on communism, “leaving his name, address, phone number, and Social Security number” getting “visited at his parents’ home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security?” And I have to ask: The Feds are monitoring library book requests now? 

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The Wrong Gulf

On Sunday, I gassed up my 1989 Volvo 740 for $2.69 a gallon–the good stuff–and moaned about high prices. Yesterday a friend IMed and told me to gas up before prices jumped 40 cents a gallon. Too late, $3.19 when my wife got the pumps. She paid more today, $3.49 a gallon, or a delightful 80-cent increase in just two days.

I predict the situation will get a lot worse. New Orleans is now the equivalent of a Biblical epic—disaster that will keep on going. The death, the destruction, the economic impact will be like another 9-11, except as an Act of God (Why should he get the blame, anyway?) rather than act of terrorism. Few weeks back, I blogged about the housing bubble. Katrina, that vicious bitch, put a hole in the bubble, I think. 

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The Lost Generation

In a today’s New York Times column, Nicholas Kristof writes about Baby Boomers as the “Greediest Generation.” I couldn’t agree more, although I long have called them the “Lost Generation.”

“When boomer blood raged with hormones, we staged the sexual revolution and popularized the Pill,” he writes. “Now, with those hormones fading, we’ve popularized Viagra.” He warns of how the Boomer population’s looking for handouts as the young has turned to demanding them still as they grow older: “Our slogan has gone from ‘free love’ to ‘free blood pressure medicine.'”

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An Encouraging Development

A story in today’s New York Times pictures a U.S. soldier unloading bottled water in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. The U.S. $350 million aid commitment and rallying of local resources—in this case the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln—is an encouraging improvement over the earlier U.S. “stingy” commitment to aid.

I’m too young to remember the America of World War II; it’s all just history to me. But goodwill went a long way in Europe and Asia, even turning enemies like Germany and Japan into allies following the war. 

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The Times is Right

In October, I slammed the New York Times for leading off a story about the Bush-Kerry debate with a political ad for Kerry. That was bad form. Good form: Yesterday’s gripping analysis about U.S. aid in the wake of the devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean. With respect to U.S. aid response, the story’s headline makes the point: “It’s About Aid, and an Image.” I agree, and I contend that the country’s response so far has been slow and, yes, stingy.

Even viewed from the most selfish perspective possible, public relations, the Bush Administration missed an important opportunity in the hours following the horrific disaster, which, I might add, based on the number of missing Americans, might have a death toll close to the Twin Towers disaster. 

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The Raw and the Raw

Oh the stinging raw emotions rumple through offices along the Northeast and West Coast. The Kerry crowd is none too happy about Tuesday’s election results. I talk to lots of really angry people, during the course of a work day. My advice: Drive the speed limit (to avoid road rage), stay out bars (to avoid a table aside the head), and read a trashy novel (to separate from all the post-election anxiety).

Me, I’m ambivalent. I live in the metro-D.C. area and just don’t take politics too seriously. Besides, I didn’t much like either candidate. I’m also pretty emotionless about the election. In the end, I just wanted a winner, whichever candidate that turned out to be. 

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If It Looks Like Bias, Walks Like Bias, Is It Bias?

Oh PLEASE! What is the New York Times doing? This morning, I clicked on a story by reporter Todd Purdum headlined, “Best Defense: More Offense”; I had been reading different stories around the Web about the second presidential debate. Before I could get to the story, a banner ad touting John Kerry’s success in the debate filled a separate page; the Democratic National Committee had paid for the ad.

Now as a former journalist, I do know something about boundaries between editorial and advertising content. In print, placement of an ad next to a related news story is a big no-no. Reputable newspapers or magazines would never place, say, an ad about Microsoft Windows in the same spread—or two-page layout—as a positive review of the product. In politics, this rule is typically more strictly followed in the United States. In broadcast journalism, the now defunct “Fairness Doctrine” helped ensure political fair play. 

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Law and Disorder

Good thing I was interested in live TV last night rather than using the DVR. Disappointing would have been the recording. I turned off the TV about half way through the first of two “Law and Order” episodes, disgusted how one-sidedly political the show has become. Naively, I had hoped for respite with the cast change. No such luck.

Episode one sought to put alleged Iraqi prisoner abuses on trial. The timing and context had to be deliberate given the election year. As if we hadn’t watched or read enough already about the prisoners’ treatment for it to be repackaged as entertainment. Geez. I tuned into episode two during the last 20 minutes, which made nonsense out of people devastated by the 9-11 attacks on the Twin Towers. 

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For the Gipper

Washington mourned the death of Ronald Reagan this week. While sentimental and opportunity for people to pay last respects, the mourning struck me, as it always does, somewhat misplaced. Why show so much respect for the dead when the living could use it more?

I understand that Alzheimer’s gripped the former president and that maybe he couldn’t appreciate friends or fellowship the way he used to. What about the family? Particularly considering the seriousness of his illness?