What bokononists whisper whenever they think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.



By Elton Beard

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who divide people into two kinds and those who don't. I don't.



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02/02/02 12:15pm link

Joshua Micah Marshall
Joshua Micah Marshall's writings often provide a calm, perceptive take on current events, and I like his work enough to feature a permanent link to his Talking Point Memo on these pages. However, in a Feb. 2 Salon piece entitled "Hiding Osama", Mr. Marshall made a casual reference that illuminates the sorry state of political discourse today.

The article is in Salon's subscription-only section but the offending statement is in the first paragraph, which is exposed as a tickler to non-subscribers. Here is the relevant quote:

Feb. 2, 2002 | One of the ongoing journalistic sideshows since Sept. 11 and the unfolding war on terrorism has been the debate about the Arabic-language cable news network Al-Jazeera. To its defenders, including many on the far left, such as the media watchdog group FAIR, Al-Jazeera was on a journalistic par with CNN...
Now, FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) is an organization critical of the American news media. Conservative it's not, granted. But is it "far left"? I had not previously paid much attention to FAIR, so I went to their Web site to take a look. They describe themselves thus:
FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints. As an anti-censorship organization, we expose neglected news stories and defend working journalists when they are muzzled. As a progressive group, FAIR believes that structural reform is ultimately needed to break up the dominant media conglomerates, establish independent public broadcasting and promote strong non-profit sources of information.
Granted, they call themselves "progressive", and they say that "structural reform is ultimately needed to break up the dominant media conglomerates". Still, if that is the agenda of the "far left", then what ever happened to communism and socialism? FAIR does support public broadcasting, but I cannot find any hint that they advocate the socialist aim of "collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods", not to mention the communist goal of eliminating private property. Yes, they've featured Noam Chomsky as a guest speaker, but on the whole FAIR appears to be about as far left as was FDR.

This brings me to my main point. Once upon a time, before Ronald Regan's PR machine managed to turn "liberal" into an epithet, the acceptable political spectrum ranged from communism on the far left to fascism and monarchism on the far right. Liberals occupied the most respectable territory, the moderate and reasonable region smack dab in the middle of the spectrum. Even today, in most Western countries, the political parties that call themselves Liberal are generally considered center-right since they are more pro-capitalist and more concerned with individual freedoms than are the Labor and Socialist parties. On any sane political spectrum, liberalism is the centrist, reasonable and moderate philosophy.

A political spectrum in which the mildly left-liberal FAIR is perceived as the extreme left edge is politically deadly to liberalism, because few people are willing to support positions defined as "extreme". American liberals desperately need a real political force to their left, so that they can again position themselves in the political center where they belong, but instead they seem to spend more energy on destroying everyone to the left of them than they invest in countering the long-term rightwards drift of American politics.

This is a sad state of affairs for liberal-minded people, and it's unfortunate that Mr. Marshall so casually contributes to the prevailing canard by rhetorically positioning FAIR on the far left. It's not, and he should know better.

02/01/02 05:00pm link

Wolf Blitzer
Wolf Blitzer, Journalist? That's how CNN advertises him, but you decide how well he reports. Today on CNN Mr. Blitzer interviewed Prince Turki Al-Faisal, until recently the Chief of Saudi Intelligence.

BLITZER: Have you ever met, personally, Osama bin Laden?

Prince Turki Al-Faisal
AL-FAISAL: I met bin Laden five times, during the Jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan. This is from the time, the mid-eighties to 1990, and most of those times were in embassy receptions or in such functions that were held in Islamabad or Peshawar in Pakistan, when I was there. And you know at the time he was a volunteer that helped the mujahideen against the Soviets with money and equipment and so on. So the meetings with him generally took place in social events.

BLITZER: And the meetings ended after the soviets were forced to leave Afghanistan?

AL-FAISAL: The last time I met him was perhaps early 1990. It was after the soviets withdrew and he was back in the Kingdom, and he came to say hello, and he had other projects in mind which I turned down at the time, because they were so extraordinary and unacceptable.

BLITZER: If you read the book by Ahmed Rashid, the Pakistani journalist, on the Taliban, he suggests in there that you were very involved in the early days of the Taliban in helping them develop their power in Afghanistan. Is that right?

AL-FAISAL: Well, you know, the Taliban came as a surprise to everybody…[SNIP]

Excuse me, I'm just the publisher of an unknown me-zine and not a real journalist, but if Wolf Blitzer is playing one on TV then how can he completely ignore the revelation by the former head of Saudi Intelligence that Mr. Bin Laden approached him with "other projects in mind" which he turned down because they "were so extraordinary and unacceptable" ? Wouldn't a real journalist follow up on such a remarkable statement?

Mr. Blitzer wrapped up the interview without ever asking Prince Al-Faisal about Osama bin Laden's "extraordinary and unacceptable" projects.

I have to believe that even Larry King would have picked up on that.

01/31/02 12:40am link

He never noticed!
Attorney General Ashcroft denies beating breast. Contradicting earlier report that Mr. Ashcroft ordered the great breast cover-up, Justice Dept. spokesman Shane Hix said that "the attorney general was not even aware of the situation," because "obviously, he has more important things to do". Well, obviously. How could anyone have suspected that our Attorney General would be aware of a situation involving a large aluminum breast rearing above his head in news photos?

A piercing response to this comes from NekedBob@aol.com via bartcop.com:

Ashcroft denies any connection to the statues being covered so we're left to assume that The Spirit of Justice and The Majesty of the Law were ashamed to be seen in the same room with him.
NekedBob may be on to something there. But the AP story also adds a previously unknown tidbit:
Hix said the Justice Department bought the drapes to avoid having to rent them every time the agency had a formal event. The drapes cost about $2,000 to rent.
Which brings up a new question: for just how long has Justice been blowing $2,000 a pop to cover up the Spirit of Justice during formal events? And, if it's not too difficult a question, why?

[Conservatives note: that's two thousand dollars of your money each time.]

OK, enough with the trivial stuff. I know there's a war on. On to more serious things - have you heard the one about Crisco oil and calico cats?

01/30/02 01:50pm link

Tiny Polemics by the virtually unknown polemicist Robert Dobbs are helping to un-distort the language. This work speaks for itself, and it's in the public domain so you can help it reproduce, like this:

RD009 Visualize It
It can happen.

RD010 Fall 2001 Results
Contrary to Tweety.

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Busy, busy, busy.

What bokononists whisper whenever they think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.



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