Saturday, October 18, 2003
Gregg Eastbrook: The 21st-Century's Andy Rooney
Well, I guess there are some benefits to consolidated media. After Gregg Easterbrook blasted Disney for releasing Quentin Tarantino's new movie-- accusing them of releasing the movie because they were run by a bunch of moneygrubbing hebes-- ESPN.com (which is run by Disney) fired him and yanked every column he'd ever written off their site.
Thank god for small favors. I'm not sure if Easterbrook has contracted Alzheimer's, stopped taking his Haldol or started channeling Michael Medved. But a guy who used to be one of the smarter journalists on the planet has morhped into an intellectual Andy Rooney in recent years.
Bad as it was (and I'll get to it at the end), that piece wasn't even the worst abomination Easterbrook has published lately. Easterbrook's TNR blog should have been retitled Diary of a Madman; it contained at least two other firing-level pieces in the last week:
* If you're reading this blog, you probably know that, on October Ninth, Easterbrook wrote that a woman's "No" might confuse a man who was trying to tear her clothes off and bend her over a chair, saying that "Maybe half the sex in world history has followed an initial "no," or more than one "no."" He also opined "because in the real world "no" does not always mean no--speaking the word "no" is not the ideal way to communicate to a man" and "Men not only want sex, the male mindset holds that overcoming the woman's "no" is part of manliness."
* On the 10th, he belittled this study, which was based on 14 years of evidence, which concluded that taxis in Washington DC are much less likely to pick up blacks than whites. The study mentioned "in a sting operation in 2001, police officers issued 94 citations in three days against taxi drivers who passed by black undercover officers in favor of white officers posing as customers."
OK, granted it's a cite to the New York Times, which, as all regular readers of Milky Loads know, cannot be trusted. So let's point out that both DC papers ran stories on the subject. Here's one from the Post, which also mentions that one taxi company just settled a suit on this issue.
Even the Moonie Times, Sully's employer, acknowledged the spot-on nature of the study by running a furious, first person essay on the issue.
Easterbircher, however, fired off a brief in support of racism, asking, "wouldn't you, if driving a cab, rather go to an affluent white area than a low-income black area? You'd be safer and far more likely to get a good tip..." and opining "Refusing calls to homes of the poor, though illegal under D.C. hack law, is clearly rational..."
Having made those points, he implied that the study's subjects were whining and victimizing themselves: "Cabbies roar past well-dressed whites too. When I'm trying to hail a cab on the street in D.C., even wearing coat and tie, I find an average of three empty cabs roar past before one stops."
He finds? This, clearly, is a man who could give lessons to Bob Graham's diary on details. Either that, or one who likes to make up statistics.
Apart from these two abominations, Babblingbrook published several other pieces that are merely moronic:
* On the 13th, you can find a two-paragraph snapper explaining why Martha Stewart doesn't deserve jail time. The issue, it seems is whether she was "trying to influence her company's stock price or only trying to escape the consequences of her own actions."
The notion that Stewart might have been trying to do both-- that she is the CEO and largest shareholder of a company that is named for her-- escapes him. So does the following statement, which comes from page 13 of the IPO document for Martha Stewart Omnimedia:
"We are highly dependent upon our founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Martha Stewart. Martha Stewart's talents, efforts, personality and leadership have been, and continue to be, critical to our success. The diminution or loss of the services of Martha Stewart, and any negative market or industry perception arising from that diminution or loss, would have a material adverse effect on our business."
That notwithstanding, Babblingbrooks presumes to serve as judge and jury for us all, proclaiming "From the sound of the government's case, Stewart's actions were unethical but not illegal. The punishment she deserved--being exposed as greedy and dishonest--she has already received."
* Just after his "Jews for Mammon" rant, there's an essay that could (if it included several dozen obscure words), have come straight out of the National Review of the 60's: why people whould be allowed to snowmobile in national parks:
"I can attest that the sound of snowmobiles shattering the snowy calm is quite maddening. But then again, if public lands are public lands, what do we do about the fact that many average people enjoy snowmobiling? Manhattan chardonnay-circuit tut-tutting about the rustic rubes on their snowmobiles--see this New York Times editorial--never takes into account the populist aspect. And what about the snowmobile sales and service industry, a significant sector in some mountain states?"
Note again the appearance of "I'm OK with it, so you should be OK." EasterBuckley neglects to mention that the "no snowmobile" regulations were on the books and that W's administration took them off.
After pointing out that everything would be fine if snowmobiles simply had quieter engines, he closes with "Snowmobile manufacturers and conservative lobbyists were foolish to oppose the regulation of these products; now they pay the price." Neatly missing the point-- that, thanks to W, the industry has no regulation and is still getting access to public land.
But, hey, this piece is nothing compared to his strident defense of W's environmental policy. Did you know that W. is personally responsible for all environmental regulation since 1970? Easterblight implies that he is:
"Overall, air pollution is down 48% since 1970... All forms of air pollution except greenhouse gases declined under Bill Clinton and continue to decline under George W. Bush."
"In 1970, one-third of lakes and rivers met the Clean Water Act definition of "safe for fishing and swimming"; today almost two-thirds do."
Easterblight acknowledged that "the president imposed an evil new forest policy designed to encourage logging", but says "Bush's new forest policy leaves most important decisions to local managers from the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Though they may abuse their new discretion, it's also possible they will use it wisely."
Given all that has happened under W's reign, is that a possibility we should believe is likely to occur? The EasterBunny thinks so. He also thinks:
"White House rules do make it easier to drill for oil and natural gas on public lands. But you can't demand no oil drilling and also demand no mileage restrictions on SUVs. Until American voters are willing to make a serious commitment to energy conservation — and there is no sign of this — it's hypocritical to insist that oil and gas must be produced out of sight, out of mind."
The complaint that no one supports energy conservation comes in an article claiming that "most of the charges made against the White House are baloney", by the way. It closes with a classic "blame the victim" statement: "By relentlessly exaggerating the case against Bush's environmental policies, Democrats and environmentalists only serve to discourage the president from proposing higher vehicle mileage standards or meaningful global warming rules, the two most keenly needed ecological reforms."
Having said all that, I don't buy the notion that Gregg Easterbrook is a good guy who just misspoke for a second, so let's cut him a break. More to the point, I don't think he misspoke. But more on that one later.
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Why Rush Limbaugh Should Be Executed
Meanwhile, I'm always amazed at the passivity and/or inability to retort that most democrats have. That anyone could sit there and allow the wingnuts to frame the discussion with statements like "liberals are hypocritical if they don't let Rush Limbaugh walk" really bothers me.
Since when have liberals ever suggested that drug kingpins should be given treatment, instead of criminal penalties?
I'm not up on Florida laws, but Rush Limbaugh's volume of purchases would qualify as drug trafficking in most states. Except for the people who believe that drugs should be legalized, I've never read a liberal commentator suggest that drug kingpins should receive treatment and probation for a first offense.
And, yes, he is a drug kingpin. You can argue that it isn't trafficking if you intend to eat all the drugs yourself (this was tried in Raoul v Duke), but no one knows for certain that Limbaugh wasn't buying some of the quanitities with the intention of selling or trading. The proof is at least as strong as the evidence that Hillary Clinton whacked Vince Foster with a pipe in the library.
Because another person was involved, all the conspiracy charges apply
This wasn't a victimless crime or a crime of impulse. Another person was involved, and the purchases were carefully planned and specified. Discussions about how to commit a crime are evidence of a conspiracy, and society has the right to demand that all the appropriate penalties apply.
There's a possibility that fraud or grand larceny was committed
I've never priced Oxycontin and I don't know how the drugs were obtained. But if any type of type of discount plan or prescription coverage was involved (you'd like to think that the HMOs would catch it), the amount of money denied to the pharmacy and/or drug companies (or paid by the HMO) would be a loss due to misrepresentation or deceit. And, depending on the laws, that's fraud or larceny.
Add that up, and you have head of a drug ring, the mastermind of a conspiracy, possible fraud and probable violation of labor laws (generally the Department of Labor frowns on employers harassing their workers to buy them drugs). That's three or four sets of felonies, folks.
I don't know what liberals Sean Hannity reads, but I've never seen many people claim that a three-time loser shouldn't go up the river. Matter of fact, I might be confusing my wingnuts, but I believe Rush Limbaugh was a strong advocate of the death penalty for drug trafficking.
I admit that I'm biased here-- I hate the SOB, I was thrilled when he went deaf and went off the air and I think anything bad that happens isn't punishment enough.
And because I admit my bias, I think we should give Rush Limbaugh the punishment that Rush Limbaugh always advocated. After all, doesn't the Golden Rule say "Do Unto Others and You Would Have Them Do Unto You?"
So, as I see it, God's law says that Rush Limbaugh should fry. God's law tells us to turn him into a Crispy Critter.
I don't know about you folks, but that's good enough for me.
Two Whales in a Pod
Lucianne's Legacy posted an astonishingly revealing look into his mental processes at The Coroners this morning:
RUSH [Jonah Goldberg]
I want to write my syndicated column on the drug-problem hooplah. If you've seen particularly nasty celebrating about the guy's misfortunes, please send examples (as always, preferably with URL, dates etc) to GFilecorrections@aol.com by noon. Thanks.
Posted at 09:15 AM
There are an awful lot of embarassing confessions in those 44 words:
1. He's decided what he wants his column to say, but admits that he doesn't have any supporting evidence for his point of view.
2. He's admitting that he either has never heard of Google, doesn't know how to perform a search on it or is too lazy to do it. (A search on "Rush limbaugh drugs jail good", produced 6,450 results in .41 seconds.)
3. Less than a week after he had to admit that he doesn't pay attention to current events or do his own research, he's asking anyone who is more well-read than he is (which, even on NRO, would be just about everyone) to find examples to support his preconceived position and send it to him.
4. He's posting an APB for research at 9:15 AM and setting a deadline of noon-- which suggests, if I haven't lost my ability to perform simple math (like my buddy Milky Loads), that he's going to spend a whopping two hours and forty-five minutes gathering his facts.
I wish I had more time to write firstname.lastname@example.org to tell him how appalled I am at his lack of professional ethics. And I wish I weren't too ethical to sign email@example.com up for a lot of spam.
Your Wakeup Call is Here, Mr. DeLong
Either Brad DeLong is employing an exquisitely subtle form of sarcasm, or he's just learned an unhappy truth about organized labor:
"Union leaders seemed much more focused on trying to prevent their kind of employment from declining than in trying to get a better life for people who had been members of their union. It was as if workers ceased to exist when they took a job in another industry."
As if? No, that's it exactly. Labor unions are entirely funded by dues payments from their members. If an auto worker takes a job as an accountant, that worker ceases to be a source of income to the union. And as membership declines, so do the number of voters-- and, as a result, the union's political clout.
Except for a few locals that are run by bright, caring, politically savvy people-- who work for unions because they genuinely care about their people and would be thrilled to see (say) a hotel chambermaid become a computer programmer-- most unions have the same relationship with their members that the computers in The Matrix have with the humans.
Don't get me wrong-- I'm not saying the relationship between unions and members is parasite-host. Unions provide a lot of protections to members in return for the dues. People who think that unions are no longer necessary are cousin to the people who think that the laws and programs have wiped out rascism. All you can think when you listen to them is "Gee, you don't get out much, do you?"
But, no, the top priority of most union leaders isn't the career development of their workers or the continued growth and profitability of the businesses they serve. It's "How many members can we keep?" and "How much money can we get them, so we can justify an increase in dues?"
If employers could offer some unions stock options or profit participation-- in exchange for the ability to downsize at will to juice the stock price-- you'd see a hell of a lot of unions embrace downsizing. It's all about the benjamins, Brad.
Sunday, October 12, 2003
People who complain about the system usually don't have a clue about how to use it to their advantage. The following is a seminar in (a) how to get something done fast, and (b) why conservative groups kick most liberal butt. Here we have a tragicomedy in three acts.
Act I: Thursday morning, after hearing about the feeble efforts to ban the vile board game Ghettopoly, I thought of a tool to put some serious pressure on the guy making the game: Get Hasbro (who owns Monopoly) to go after them for trademark infringement. Since I know a bunch of people in Philadelphia (which is where the protests are centered), I called a buddy associated with the group coordinating the protests and passed my idea along.
They didn't like the idea, and I chronicled this instance of ideological stubbornness.
Went out to lunch with a friend, still fuming about being rejected. "You couldn't get Hasbro to join in on the protests," he scoffed.
"Like hell you couldn't," I replied. "I could get them to sign on by Monday."
"No way," he replied.
Way, dude. I went back to my office, opened up the Hasbro web site. After confirming that there was nothing on the site about the game, I found the "Media Contacts" page and called the person whose name was listed.
Minor problem: her voice mail said she was out of the office all day. Luckily, her e-mail was listed. After calling a writer friend who owed me a favor (to cover me just in case they tried to confirm my identity), I composed the following message:
To: [name of person omitted]
Date: 10/09/03 02:18 pm
Subject: Press Inquiry regarding Ghettopoly.com
Dear [name of person]:
I'm working on a story for [his employer], the [name of city] branch of the New Times chain of weeklies. The topic is the game Ghettopoly (www.ghettopoly.com) and I need some comment from Hasbro for the record, please:
1. Is Hasbro aware that a board game based on Monopoly-- containing racial stereotypes and slurs and offensive references to civil rights leaders-- is being made and sold?
2. If Hasbro is aware of the facts as stated in question 1, when did Hasbro become aware of these facts?
3. Does Hasbro consider the game to be an infringement of its trademark(s) for Monopoly?
4. Is Hasbro taking action to halt production and sale of the game Ghettopoly?
5. If Hasbro is not taking action to halt production and sale of the game, is there a specific reason for its decision not to act?
[Name of paper] is a weekly, so an answer within the next 36 hours is acceptable. My preferred medium for response is e-mail, because this eliminates the possibility of misquotes.
A response at your earliest convenience would be appreciated.
ACT II: Ahh, the power of the press. The very next morning, the following message appeared in my mailbox:
From: [name of person]
Date: Fri, 10 Oct 2003 11:25:43 -0400
Subject: Press Release from Hasbro
Attached please find a press release from Hasbro.
When I opened the document, it contained the following:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Wayne Charness
Hasbro Demands Gamemaker Immediately Stop Selling
Highly Offensive “Ghettopoly” Board Game
PAWTUCKET, R.I., October 10, 2003 – Hasbro, Inc. (NYSE:HAS) yesterday reiterated its demand to David Chang, manufacturer of the highly offensive game “Ghettopoly,” that he immediately stop selling this game to retailers worldwide.
“We want to make it clear that Hasbro has absolutely no connection to the reprehensible ‘Ghettopoly’ game,” said Frank Bifulco, President of Hasbro’s U.S. Games. “Mr. Chang’s game violates our MONOPOLY game intellectual property rights and Hasbro plans to bring suit against Mr. Chang if he does not immediately stop selling the game.”
Hasbro is a worldwide leader in children’s and family leisure time entertainment products and services, including the design, manufacture and marketing of games and toys ranging from traditional to high-tech. Both internationally and in the U.S., its PLAYSKOOL, TONKA, MILTON BRADLEY, PARKER BROTHERS, TIGER and WIZARDS OF THE COAST brands and products provide the highest quality and most recognizable play experiences in the world.
# # #
According to the Properties tab on the document, that press release was created Friday, October 10 at 10:11 AM; the version they sent me was revision 3. It had been saved at 11:08 AM. Assuming the Hasbro workday begins at 9 AM, they had a press release written in about 75 minutes and then it took them another hour to get it approved.
Out of curiosity, I headed over to the web site (it was now about 11:45). And, yep, there it was. Very impressive, given that Hasbro outsources their public relations page. My guess is that they put it on the site first and then sent it to me.
ACT III: After executing one moonwalk and several fist pumps, I figured I deserved the right to take a victory lap in person. SO I called the phone number listed for Black Clergy of Philadelphia & Vicinity. Turned out to be the cell phone for its leader, Reverend Robert P. Shine, Sr. The voice mailbox was full.
Called my buddy in Philly. "Well, I don't know how helpful that'll be," he replied. We're still trying to get the game removed from stores."
Now that pissed me off. Hasbro is a publicly-traded, $3.5 billion corporation. Which means (a) they're sensitive to any charges of rascism and (b) they have a slew of attack lawyers on retainer. They also have a claim-- trademark infringement-- that would be a laydown case in any court in the country.
And, because they're a big company located in a big city, they probably have made big contributions to at least one judge who would be more than happy to issue a restraining order, saying "Effective immediately, it is illegal to make and sell copies of Ghettopoly until you come to our home city and spend two years trying to convince me to let you sell the game." (Which is how the telemarketing guys got the do-not-call list stalled; they had two pet judges rule for them.)
You're seriously telling me that an organization that can't even afford a land line and a secretary to answer the phone can't use their help?
"Well, let me talk to them," he said.
"You do that," I said, and hung up. For an issue like this, you'd normally call Jesse Jackson. But since Jesse ain't running for office, I dialed a contact with Al Sharpton's National Action Network. Reason 1: Sharpton will push it immediately, because it generates free media. Reason 2: If a presidential candidate does something, it automatically gets national attention.
Presto: The game is now off the shelf.
As Kenny Rogers once sang, "If you're gonna play the game, boy, you gotta learn to play it right." Part of the reason that conservatives control so much of the discourse is that they are really good at pulling the levers. Liberals are unbelievably lame. There's nothing cool about not knowing how to do politics and pressure effectively. And it makes your claims that you're being put upon a hell of a lot less credible.