Tag Archives: Chris Rovzar

Ah, Paging Mike Kinsley…

Chris Rovzar at New York Magazine:

Speaking to a small group at MIT, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that accused WikiLeaker Bradley Manning is “in the right place” in federal custody, but the way he has been treated is “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” Just now, ABC News’ Jake Tapper asked President Obama about the comments in the White House Briefing Room. “With respect to Private Manning, I have actually asked the Pentagon whether the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting basic standards,” Obama replied. “They assured me that they are. I can’t go into details about some of their concerns, but some of that has to do with Private Manning’s safety as well.” In other news, apparently Manning’s no longer sleeping naked: Now he gets to have a “suicide-proof” sleeping smock.

Hilary Clinton:

Resignation of Philip J. Crowley as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs

Press Statement

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 13, 2011

It is with regret that I have accepted the resignation of Philip J. Crowley as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. PJ has served our nation with distinction for more than three decades, in uniform and as a civilian. His service to country is motivated by a deep devotion to public policy and public diplomacy, and I wish him the very best. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) Michael Hammer will serve as Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs.

STATEMENT BY PHILIP J. CROWLEY

The unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a serious crime under U.S. law. My recent comments regarding the conditions of the pre-trial detention of Private First Class Bradley Manning were intended to highlight the broader, even strategic impact of discrete actions undertaken by national security agencies every day and their impact on our global standing and leadership. The exercise of power in today’s challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values.

Given the impact of my remarks, for which I take full responsibility, I have submitted my resignation as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Spokesman for the Department of State.

I am enormously grateful to President Obama and Secretary Clinton for the high honor of once again serving the American people. I leave with great admiration and affection for my State colleagues, who promote our national interest both on the front lines and in the quiet corners of the world. It was a privilege to help communicate their many and vital contributions to our national security. And I leave with deep respect for the journalists who report on foreign policy and global developments every day, in many cases under dangerous conditions and subject to serious threats. Their efforts help make governments more responsible, accountable and transparent.

Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy:

Crowley’s Twitter personality mirrored his real-life personality — affable, edgy, sometimes sarcastic, and occasionally a little off-message. Crowley’s energy and willingness to take measured risks by going beyond the Obama administration’s standard talking points is what endeared him to the reporters he worked with each day. It was that same openness that cost him his job, after he admitted that he believed the Marine Corps’ treatment of alleged WikiLeaks source Private Bradley Manning was “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”

Crowley’s last tweet before resigning was a gem, but he deleted it. “We’ve been watching hopeful #tsunami sweep across #MiddleEast. Now seeing a tsunami of a different kind sweep across Japan,” read the March 11 tweet.

Of the remaining 400-plus tweets he sent out to his 24,000-plus followers, here are The Cable‘s top 10, in reverse chronological order:

  1. March 1, 7:08 a.m.: “#Qaddafi tells #ABCNews: All my people with me, they love me. They will die to protect me. The #Libyan people tell Qaddafi: You go first!”
  2. Feb. 26, 7:37 a.m.: “Despite #Qaddafi‘s hardly sober claim that the protesters are on drugs, the people of #Libya are clear-eyed in their demand for change.”
  3. Feb. 22, 7:28 p.m.: “We are surprised that #Argentina has chosen not to resolve a simple dispute involving training equipment. And we still want our stuff back.”
  4. Feb. 16, 7:56 a.m.: “#KimJongIl‘s son attended an #EricClapton concert in Singapore? Actually, the #DearLeader himself would benefit from getting out more often.”
  5. Jan. 22, 5:40 a.m.: “The claim by the lawyer for #JulianAssange that his client could go to #Guantanamo is pure legal fantasy. Save it for the movie.”
  6. Dec. 24, 12:40 p.m.: “The legal export of popcorn, chewing gum, cake sprinkles and hot sauce is not propping up the Iranian government. #Iran
  7. Oct. 28, 4:30 p.m.: “Happy birthday President #Ahmadinejad. Celebrate by sending Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer home. What a gift that would be. #Iran
  8. Aug. 27, 5:38 p.m.: “Americans should heed our #travel warning and avoid North Korea. We only have a handful of former Presidents. http://go.usa.gov/cAO #DPRK
  9. Aug. 20, 11:34 a.m.: “North #Korea has joined #Facebook, but will it allow its citizens to belong? What is Facebook without friends?”
  10. May 18, 10:37 p.m.: “It doesn’t take a reading test to recognize misguided legislation. I have read the #Arizona law. Comprehensive reform is the right answer.”

Mike Konczal at Rortybomb:

This argument is the liberal argument.  This is what distinguishes liberals from conservatives in this space.   The liberal argument isn’t that we have an extensive, unaccountable security state and feel really bad about it (while the conservative argument is that we cheerlead it), it’s that this kind of state is a bad deal.  The machine Cheney et al were operating in the dark, away from any oversight gave us no useful intelligence, corrupted offices, people and practices, and left us less safe than had we not done anything.   This is the argument I find convincing.  That Obama campaigned as the constitutional law professor from Chicago who could push back on the 8-year power grab was one reason I found him so compelling as a candidate.

P.J. Crowley has a distinguished career, retiring from the Air Force as a Colonel, and it’s good to see him stand by his statement after resigning. When I combine things like this with the administration’s aggressive war on whistleblowers it makes me think this has been a complete disaster at reform in the security-surveillance state.   What can be done about this?

Three related: 1. Kudos to the people who cover this material. Glenn Greenwald, FDL, Adam Serwer, etc. I can link to an unemployment number to tell you what you already know – things are bad in the economy. That Obama has an aggressive war on whistleblowers when he campaigned to expand their protections is a tough narrative to establish, especially since everyone has wanted to believe otherwise in the liberal space.

2. Emptywheel has a post about the Brothers Daley and torture, relating Bill Daley’s comment – “he’s done” – to the sordid history of Richard Daley’s time as a prosecutor and Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge’s torture of African-American residents of Chicago during interrogations. I’ve talked with people who know the Burge situation well from Chicago, and when I ask how could it happen I always get some variety of “that’s how things were done back then.” I worry that a “that’s how things are done” is taking to the surveillance state now that Obama hasn’t broke it but instead established and, in some cases, expanded it.

3. Robert Chlala at Jadaliyya has a post – Of Predators and Radicals: King’s Hearings and the Political Economy of Criminalization – that gives a disturbing look at where all this can go. Discussing “From Super Predator to Predator Drone” Chlala argues that the current work done on Muslim so-called radicalization in America looks very similar to the African-American “youth gang” hysteria of the 1990s, an argument that lead to a massive expansion of the incarceration state along with a political ideology of making “state violence the only solution to social questions…while nurturing a broader racialized political economy of fear that entwines media, police, military, prisons, urban “entrepreneurs,” and security/crime “experts” towards the solidification of the neoliberal punitive state.” We’ve seen where this hysteria leads. Serious leadership and mechanisms for accountability when it fails is needed.

David Weigel:

It sounds even stranger when you type it out: the spokesman for the Secretary of State resigned over comments he made at a seminar of around 20 people at MIT. It sounds so strange that the Guardian muddled it a bit in one of the first stories on the matter.

Hillary Clinton‘s spokesman has launched a public attack on the Pentagon for the way it is treating military prisoner Bradley Manning, the US soldier suspected of handing the US embassy cables to WikiLeaks.

Not really; it was a non-reported, non-televised talk to a small group that happened to be blogged. He wasn’t saying he spoke for the administration, much less that he knew the facts of the case. It was a comment in confidence; that was enough to embarrass the administration and boost him out.

John Hinderaker at Powerline:

Reflexive leftism is pretty common at State, and I suppose this was a classic gaffe, i.e., Crowley said what he actually believed. Still, it is hard to understand how Crowley could have thought it would be OK to slam the Defense Department. Isn’t the State Department supposed to be all about diplomacy? Isn’t it a bit weird that they can’t come up with a spokesman who is diplomatic enough not to insult the guys on his own side?

Rick Moran:

The military says that Manning is on suicide watch which necessitates his being stripped to make sure he can’t harm himself. If Crowley thinks that’s “ridiculous” he also thinks the Defense Department are violating the law by enforcing common sense procedures to make sure we have a live suspect to stand trial and not a dead martyr.

Crowley’s position simply became untenable.

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“Soy Un Perdedor, I’m A Loser Baby, So Why Don’t You Kill Me?”… Wait, Wrong Beck

David Carr at NYT:

Almost every time I flipped on television last week, there was a deeply angry guy on a running tirade about the conspiracies afoot, the enemies around all corners, and how he alone seemed to understand what was under way.

While it’s true that Charlie Sheen sucked up a lot of airtime last week, I’d been watching Glenn Beck, the Fox News host who invoked Hezbollah, socialists, the price of gas, Shariah law, George Soros, Planned Parenthood, and, yes, Charlie Sheen, as he predicted a coming apocalypse.

Mr. Beck, a conservative Jeremiah and talk-radio phenomenon, burst into television prominence in 2009 by taking the forsaken 5 p.m. slot on Fox News and turning it into a juggernaut. A conjurer of conspiracies who spotted sedition everywhere he looked, Mr. Beck struck a big chord and ended up on the cover of Time magazine and The New York Times Magazine, and held rallies all over the country that were mobbed with acolytes. He achieved unheard-of ratings, swamped the competition and at times seemed to threaten the dominion of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity at Fox.

But a funny thing happened on the way from the revolution. Since last August, when he summoned more than 100,000 followers to the Washington mall for the “Restoring Honor” rally, Mr. Beck has lost over a third of his audience on Fox — a greater percentage drop than other hosts at Fox. True, he fell from the great heights of the health care debate in January 2010, but there has been worrisome erosion — more than one million viewers — especially in the younger demographic.

He still has numbers that just about any cable news host would envy and, with about two million viewers a night, outdraws all his competition combined. But the erosion is significant enough that Fox News officials are willing to say — anonymously, of course; they don’t want to be identified as criticizing the talent — that they are looking at the end of his contract in December and contemplating life without Mr. Beck.

Ryan Witt at The Examiner:

Today Beck was not on his radio show, but his substitute claimed that the New York Times article was just “wishful thinking” and that Beck and Fox News are, in fact, on good terms.  Beck’s website The Blaze is running an article at the top of their home page which makes fun of Carr’s article.  However, none of the factual assertions in Carr’s article are actually refuted The Blaze response.

Of course, the one group who actually knows the truth are the executive of Fox News.  Thus far no one at Fox News has released a statement either confirming or denying Beck contract, or Carr’s claims that the network is thinking about dumping Beck.  Fox News normally offers a strong defense of their own employees.  Fox News President Roger Ailes has been known to send out memos stressing the need fo unity among their employees.  By not saying anything at all, the silence of Fox News executives may speak louder than words.

Matt Schneider at Mediaite:

However, Carr later points out that Beck “still has numbers that just about any cable news host would envy and, with about two million viewers a night, outdraws all his competition combined.” One might think that would be the beginning and the end of the speculation, since what more should a television show be expected to do besides get more eyeballs watching them than any other show? However, Carr raises a separate intriguing point: not only does Fox not need Beck to continue to be successful, but Beck doesn’t really need Fox either. Therefore, unless both sides are completely happy with the relationship, maybe a separation is possible?

Then, just in case the article is completely wrong, Carr mentions “But the partnership, which has been good for both parties, may yet be repaired.” In other words, yes Beck and Fox News can survive without one another, but since the relationship is highly profitable and consistently headline generating for all involved, might Carr’s conjecture be nothing more than an attempt to stir the pot?

Chris Rovzar at New York Magazine:

Beck, Carr guesses, is narrowing his audience down to only the diehards — because most people don’t want to hear about how the world is going to end. Not only because it’s depressing, but also since the world is not going to end. While other Fox News hosts like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity are lecturing to an audience that believes in America, Beck is talking to people who don’t believe in anything — except, perhaps, God and the end of days.

Carr spoke with several Fox News executives who said (on background, of course) that “they are looking at the end of his contract in December and contemplating life without Mr. Beck.” One Fox development VP is on record saying they’ve tried to get Beck to make his show cheerier. But no one, not even Fox’s crack publicity team, is quoted defending the controversial host — or insisting that his contract will be renewed. Which means that Beck, who can see doom in every shadow, is probably getting this message loud and clear: Something could very well come to an end within the year, and it won’t necessarily be the world.

Don Suber:

Yes. He has “made it difficult for Fox to hang onto its credibility as a news network.”

How about Rick Sanchez’s anti-Semitic spew when CNN canceled his show?

How about CNN’s Operation Tailwinds story?

How about CNN hiring Client No. 9 to begin with?

And speaking of news credibility,. there were never 300 asdvertisers of the Glenn Beck show to “fled.”

There are only about a dozen minutes of advertising a show.

Any media expert knows this. Any amateur knows this. Apparently David Carr does not.

And left out of David Carr’s story is the fact that the White House — through New York Times darling Van Jones — organized an advertising boycott.

Of people who don’t advertise on the Glenn Beck show.

The more the media dumps on Fox News over gnats while allowing CNN’s elephants to escape, the less unbiased the media look.

From Lucianne Goldberg: “David Carr (NYT) goes after Beck’s followers. Later tweets Beck’s audience is ‘a lot more sophisticated than people think’.”

Keep thinking you know it all, lefties.

Oliver Willis:

Beck’s problem is that he took the “oooh I’m scared of Obama (and his black skin)” sentiment and thought it was a way to make himself into a national leader of more than just a fringe of the fringe. As a result, he’s made his conspiracies even more ridiculous and tried the patience of even the tinfoil-hat brigade.

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One Stop For All Your Marty Peretz News

The New Republic:

Today, The New Republic announces that Marty Peretz, who has been editor-in-chief of the magazine for 37 years, will become editor-in-chief emeritus. In addition, he will move from writing his blog, The Spine, to writing a column for the website. Marty’s stewardship of The New Republic has been the liveliest and the most intellectually consequential in the long history of the magazine. Though he will no longer be at the top of the masthead, he will remain in the thick of things. Below are some thoughts from Marty:

I have been with The New Republic going on 37 years, almost all of them with the title of editor-in-chief. The truth is that I hardly ever actually edited an article for the magazine. But, frankly, it was my vision—and the vision of my compatriots—of what was needed for a serious journal of opinion in American society that defined what TNR has become since 1974.

The editors and staff we assembled constitute a marvel of American journalism, a long magic moment of intelligence, moral seriousness, responsible politics … and, forgive me, a deep concern for the national interest. Sometimes we quarreled with our readers and often amongst ourselves. And the truth is that there were a few occasions—very few, actually—in which, as proprietor of the publication, I exercised the prerogative of firing someone. But there was only one occasion when I kept an article from being published. From today’s perspective my reluctance to print something on Ted Kennedy’s sex life may seem too precious or finicky. Still, I think it was the correct judgment. Let others traffic in such trash.

So I endured hundreds and maybe thousands of pieces which I believed to be ethically flawed, historically wrong, politically foolish. History, in whatever ways history does these chores, will ultimately sort it all out. I dare say that I have tested the patience of some of my staff with more than a few of my articles and perhaps The Spine almost in its entirety. As errants go, however, they’ve flourished at least as much as I have.

Alex Pareene at Salon:

For those still wondering about the fate of Muslim-hating erstwhile New Republic owner and editor-in-chief Martin Peretz, they’ve finally made an official announcement: He is now the “editor-in-chief emeritus.” Marty never actually edited the magazine — though he hired and fired editors — but his title and ownership of the magazine allowed him to write first his regular columns and then “The Spine,” his dyspeptic blog. It is the blog that got him in trouble, which just revealed that no one ever read his print column.

And so, according to a recent New York magazine profile of Peretz, they were going to make him stop blogging. Except he kept blogging. And that is because, according to a slightly more recent New York Times Magazine profile of Peretz, he just refused to stop.

Multiple New Republic staff members told me that The Spine would soon be replaced by a rigorously edited weekly Peretz column. In Tel Aviv, Peretz laughed at the thought.

“That’s not going to happen,” Peretz said.

Now, that is going to happen. Sort of. Mostly. “In addition” to the new column, anonymous New Republic editors write, “he will move from writing his blog, The Spine, to writing a column for the website.”

Chris Rovzar at New York Magazine:

New Republic owner Marty Peretz, who has been much-profiled of late, has admitted he really hasn’t been editing the magazine for years now. (He lives in Israel, for one thing.) And now he’ll officially pass his editor-in-chief title on to Richard Just, who has been serving as editor since Franklin Foer left last month. “I have been with The New Republic going on 37 years, almost all of them with the title of editor-in-chief,” Peretz wrote in a farewell note, according to Keith Kelly. “The truth is that I hardly ever actually edited an article for the magazine. But, frankly, it was my vision and the vision of my compatriots of what was needed for a serious journal of opinion in American society that defined what TNR has become since 1974.” Peretz will continue to write a column for the website, which means his departure as titular E-i-C may not actually be a relief for anybody at the magazine.

John Cook at Gawker:

Martin Peretz is an obscenely wealthy moral cripple who owns the New Republic. His penchant for spouting ethnic slurs against Arabs recently earned him two lengthy and intense magazine profiles. Neither one saw fit to report that he is gay.

It’s an open secret in Washington, D.C., that Peretz, who came to own the New Republic after marrying Anne Labouisse, an heiress to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune, is sexually attracted to men. We’ve spoken to several people who have direct (though not intimate) knowledge of Peretz’s sexual preference and say that he makes no effort to hide it. We’re told that his children have spoken openly of their father’s life as a gay man. This is not a closely guarded secret or fleeting rumor; it’s a commonplace among members of the Washington politico-media power axis.

Peretz’s life has sort of fallen apart over the last year. Though he has been an avowed bigot for most of his adult life, he has only been held to account for his ethnic hostility to Arabs and Persians recently, when he wondered aloud on his New Republic blog “whether I need honor these people and pretend they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment, which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.” The “these people” were Arabs, for whom Peretz also said “life is cheap” (he later apologized for the First Amendment line). The naked racism of the sentiment caused even some of Peretz’ oldest friends to hang their heads in shame, and served as an ignominious cap to his career. He and his wife divorced in 2009 (they had been separated since 2005), and late last year he stepped down as the New Republic‘s titular editor-in-chief and moved to Tel Aviv, where he teaches high school students and is active on the social circuit (he still maintains residences in New York City and Cambridge, Mass.).

A late-life crisis for such an eminent figure—not to mention Peretz’s defiance in the face of critics that included longtime supporters—is catnip for magazine editors. So in December, New York published Benjamin Wallace-Wells‘ 5,500-word profile, “Peretz in Exile.” The piece delved into all manner of details of Peretz’s personal life—”theirs was a complicated union,” Wallace-Wells wrote of his marriage, quoting Peretz saying “our values—and our lifestyles—sundered us apart.” The piece noted that some of Peretz’s closest friends and family members viewed him as “more compartmentalized than ever-open, almost to a fault, and yet also hidden.” And it noted—with a wink to insiders so Wallace-Wells wouldn’t appear clueless—that Peretz’s “friendships with younger men were sometimes so intense that they could seem to border on the erotic.” As for Peretz’s actual erotic relationships with men, or the role they may or may not have played in the dissolution of his marriage—they apparently didn’t merit inclusion.

And now this week comes another 5,000-plus-word profile, this time in the New York Times Magazine. Stephen Rodrick‘s “Martin Peretz Is Not Sorry About Anything” covers much of the same ground—though it includes the rather insane story of Peretz testifying on behalf of notorious New Republic fabulist-turned lawyer Stephen Glass at a California Bar Association hearing last year. Like Wallace-Wells, Rodrick aimed squarely at Peretz’s personal romantic life but chose not to mention the most salient fact about that life. “His wife cited his infidelities and explosive temper as problems in the marriage,” Rodrick writes, “but Peretz pre-empted any discussion of his romantic world, declaring, ‘My sexual life is too complicated for one word, and not complicated enough for 15.'” Unless he is an idiot, Rodrick knew precisely what Peretz was talking about, but chose to leave readers with a blurry evasion—just as he chose to write without further clarification that Peretz “lives part of the year in a high-rise apartment tended by his assistant, a 26-year-old former I.D.F. officer.” More winks for those in the know.

Both pieces purport to be attempts to understand Peretz’s psyche, and their deliberate elisions of one of the most foundational aspects of that psyche is fundamentally dishonest. We are given to understand that Peretz is important to know, and that in order to know him we must know about his wife, his marriage, his infidelities—but not his sexuality.

Eric Alterman at The American Prospect:

Well, it’s finally over. Martin Peretz, who, according to David Horowitz’s Frontpage webzine, “has been a pillar of responsible liberalism since buying The New Republic magazine in 1974,” has finally been shown the door. He did not go quietly. You can find his parting remarks here and also here and here. Peretz left TNR as he inhabited it: in a splendid (and splenetic) fit of pique, pessimism, and personality-driven politics.

No one who knew Peretz or his magazine will doubt that it was full of sound and fury. But what did it signify? It’s no easy task to sum up 37 years of anything, much less the tenure of a magazine editor who prided himself on being described as “schizophrenic.” For some, the fact that right-wing zealots like Horowitz, his Sancho Panza, Ronald Radosh, and National Review‘s Jonah Goldberg were the only people willing to come to Peretz’s defense as he was pilloried as a racist crank tells you all you need to know about the man. (It does, after all, take one to know one.)

But then there is the matter of the magazine itself. It’s long been a cliché to point out that Peretz hired editors who were both more liberal, and usually, more intelligent than he was. And many of them went on to become among the brightest stars of the American journalistic firmament. One of them, Leon Wieseltier, stayed and stayed. (The Times piece hints of the possible gift of a house from his patron.) Allowing for a few personal obsessions of his own, Wieseltier has managed week after week, for a quarter century, to publish the most stimulating and erudite “back of the book” available anywhere in America. No matter what egregious attacks Peretz sent forth against Arabs, blacks, Mexicans, or (no less frequently) liberals, Wieseltier never had any trouble attracting top-tier reviewers whether in politics or literature and eliciting what was often their best work.

So the plus side of Peretz’s tenure was that the magazine was mostly liberal, mostly well-edited, and easily dismissible when it wasn’t. But while it is true that under Mike Kinsley, Rick Hertzberg, and to lesser extent, Peter Beinart and Frank Foer, TNR lived up to its reputation as a lively, contrarian read on the week’s news with a strong liberal voice, its net effect — even in its best years — was to weaken liberalism and comfort conservatives. The primary problem was the fact that unlike say, Commentary, which after a few years of claiming that it had been “mugged by reality” owned up to its conservative conversion, TNR continued to insist that it spoke for American liberalism. And people who did not pay too close attention — or had their own reasons for indulging this conceit — played along. And so the virus of liberal self-hatred infected the entire bloodstream of liberalism — particularly with regard to Israel and the Palestinians — and bore at its body from within.

The old “even the liberal New Republic” line that dates back to the Reagan era was no joke. Kinsley and Hertzberg could write the most brilliant eviscerations of Reaganite nonsense available anywhere, but the fact that elsewhere in the magazine, these same endeavors were receiving the enthusiastic endorsements not only of Peretz but of Charles Krauthammer, Fred Barnes, Morton Kondracke — even on occasion, the likes of Jeane Kirkpatrick and Richard Perle — counted for far more in the context of contemporary debate. The sad fact of political life in Washington is that “liberals” are never so influential as when they are throwing in the towel on their own team and endorsing the arguments of the other side. (The punditocracy tends to call this “moderation.”) The New Republic “mattered” when it endorsed the contras, the U.S. war in El Salvador, the MX missile, Charles Murray’s racist pseudo-science, Republican lies about the Clinton health-care-reform plan, the Iraq War, and pretty much everything the Israeli government has said and done for the past 37 years; other times, not so much. Liberals making liberal points, however eloquently, might make other liberals feel better. They might help to inform their arguments. But they do not make news; they do not get their authors invited on Sunday shows or invited to the White House.

Doug J.:

I think Peretz’s corruption of liberalism within the media went even deeper. He hired a lot of TNRers when they were young, just out of some Ivy League school. I knew a lot of the type of the kids he would hire and they are the most affirmation-craving people you could possibly imagine. A few years of getting patted on the head by a millionaire for churning out contrarian Harvard-dining hall bullshit leaves its mark on such souls. I don’t think Michael Kinsley ever recovered from it, though I agree he can be very sharp when he’s not basking in the brilliance of his own counterintuitive ironies. With nearly all of these TNRers, the desire to bust out “how genocide is good for your 401K” remained long after they were no longer in Peretz’s employ.

There’s no question that prominent so-called “liberals” in the media have wanked around “spreading freedom”, bashing unions, doing triple-backwards contrarian reverses, musing about IQs and school uniforms, while the American middle-class has languished on life support. That’s not right.

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In The “It Never Rains, But It Pours” File

P.B. at The Economist:

TO LITTLE pomp and widespread confusion, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the former dictator of Haiti, returned to his country on January 16th, a quarter century after fleeing to exile on the French Riviera. Mr Duvalier arrived on an Air France flight a little before six in the evening, and a few hundred people greeted him outside the airport. A convoy of Haitian national police then accompanied him to a glitzy hotel in a suburb of Port-au-Prince, the capital. Along with his Haitian companion, Veronique Roy, and a smattering of associates, he dined on a grilled conch and promised a press conference. But in the morning, about a hundred reporters waited in vain for Mr Duvalier to appear. A shabbily suited spokesperson cited “capacity problems” at the hotel and promised that the ex-dictator would talk tomorrow.

Little is known about the intentions of Mr Duvalier, who simply said upon arrival that he had “come to help”. His trip may well have been prompted by Haiti’s current political turmoil—its presidential run-off election, originally scheduled for yesterday, has been postponed indefinitely because of arguments over who should participate. But with both the Haitian government and the UN peacekeeping force keeping mum, speculation is running rampant over what he has in mind. One theory holds that the French sent him to pressure René Préval, the president, to accept the findings of a report by the Organisation of American States, which called for the government’s presidential candidate, Jude Celestin, to be dropped from the run-off. (The French embassy has denied any involvement). Another contends that Mr Préval himself cooked up the visit as a “Wag the Dog”-style ploy to distract the country. “Do you hear anyone talking about the election this morning?”, quipped Louis Henri Mars, an anti-violence campaigner. A less popular interpretation is that the stooped, haggard Mr Duvalier just wants to spend his last days at home.

It is also unclear why Mr Duvalier, a torturer, kidnapper and thief—although a less brutal ruler than his father and predecessor, François—has not been arrested. The Haitian government reiterated in 2008 that its criminal proceedings against him were ongoing, and he faces a $500m judgment in the United States. Haiti has no statute of limitations for misappropriation of public funds, and international law holds that crimes against humanity can always be prosecuted.

Chris Rovzar at The New Yorker:

Baby Doc has said he returned to “help” Haiti as it recognizes the anniversary of last year’s calamitous earthquake, and will hold a press conference today. He hopes to remain in the country for three days, though while there he could be arrested and charged for atrocities committed during his rule.

The Jawa Report:

Read more: Or just start reading Doonesbury again.

Doug Mataconis:

Given how poor, pathetic, and desperate Haiti is the return of Duvalier to power isn’t entirely inconceivable, unless the United States and the rest of the OAS were to weigh in to make sure it doesn’t happen. Nonetheless there is absolutely good that can come from Duvalier’s return, and the one  thing that is truly sad about this whole situation is that, in many ways, Haiti is no better off today than it was on the day the Baby Doc Duvalier was flown to France on a U.S. Air Force jet.

Ed Morrissey:

Duvalier, 19 years old when he officially took power and tossed out at age 34, wouldn’t leave his cushy exile in France merely to act on behalf of the OAS, or even to counter the OAS.  It’s difficult to imagine any reason for Duvalier to be in Haiti except to seize power once again.  It’s about the most propitious time for a power grab; we have a disputed and almost certainly corrupt election, starvation, epidemics, and the ravages of natural disasters still plaguing the nation.  That kind of chaos breeds dictators more often than not, and the return of a ready-made dictator might make it even easier to seize control.

Peter Worthington at FrumForum:

What to do about Haiti?

How can Canada improve the situation, a year after the earthquake and the return of Baby Doc Duvalier?

The answer: Nothing. More devastation ahead.

In Haiti, some 95% of the rubble resulting from the quake has still to be removed. Without moving the rubble, how can reconstruction begin?

The answer: It can’t, and won’t.

A million are living in tent cities a year later. About the only significant change is a surge in pregnancies after the quake – two-thirds of them unexpected, or unplanned. And a plunge in the age of these mothers.

Some predicted this as soon as word of the catastrophic quake  got out. No amount of humanitarian aid will change things. Haiti seems one of those corrupt, basket economies that defies improvement.

Worse, now, that Baby Doc is back.

Aside from blaming Nepalese troops on UN duty for the cholera outbreak, there’s very little evidence of accountability in Haiti.

Regardless of how cholera started, lack of clean water is an invitation for cholera and  other water-born diseases.

Jonathan Katz at Salon:

Haitian police led ex-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier out of his hotel and took him to court Tuesday without saying whether he was being charged with crimes committed under his brutal regime.

A contingent of police led the former dictator known as “Baby Doc” through the hotel and to a waiting SUV. He was not wearing handcuffs.

Duvalier, 59, was calm and did not say anything. Asked by journalists if he was being arrested, his longtime companion Veronique Roy, laughed but said nothing. Outside the hotel, he was jeered by some people and cheered by others.

The SUV drove in a convoy of police vehicles to a courthouse, even as dozens of Duvalier supporters blocked streets with overturned trash bins and rocks to try to prevent the former dictator from going to prison.

The courthouse was thronged with spectators and journalists trying to get in to view the proceedings. It was not immediately clear whether the session would be open to the public — or what, if any, charges had been filed against him.

His removal from the hotel came after he met in private with senior Haitian judicial officials met inside his hotel room amid calls by human rights groups and other for his arrest.

The country’s top prosecutor and a judge were among those meeting with the former leader in the high-end hotel where he has been ensconced since his surprise return to Haiti on Sunday.

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He Got His 15 Minutes On An Emergency Exit Slide

Radar Online:

Q10001425
CRIMINAL COURT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK
PART APAR, COUNTY OF QUEENS
_____________________________________
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

STATE OF NEW YORK
COUNTY OF QUEENS
V.

STEVEN SLATER
DEFENDANT
_____________________________________

POLICE OFFICER THOMAS EDDINGS OF PORT AUTHORITY, TAX REG#: 042792,
BEING DULY SWORN, DEPOSES AND SAYS THAT ON OR ABOUT AUGUST 9 2010
BETWEEN 12:07PM AND 12:18PM, IN BACK OF TERMINAL 5  JFK AIRPORT, COUNTY OF
QUEENS, STATE OF NEW YORK

THE DEFENDANT COMMITTED THE OFFENSES OF:
PL 120.25 RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT IN THE FIRST DEGREE
PL 145.10 CRIMINAL MISCHIEF IN THE SECOND DEGREE
PL 120.20 RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT IN THE SECOND DEGREE – DNA SAMPLE
REQUIRED UPON CONVICTION
PL 145.00-3 CRIMINAL MISCHIEF IN THE FOURTH DEGREE
PL 140.10-A CRIMINAL TRESPASS IN THE THIRD DEGREE

IN THAT THE DEFENDANT DID:  UNDER CIRCUMSTANCES EVINCING A DEPRAVED
INDIFFERENCE TO HUMAN LIFE, RECKLESSLY ENGAGE IN CONDUCT WHICH CREATED
A GRAVE RISK OF DEATH TO ANOTHER PERSON;HAVING NO RIGHT TO DO SO NOR
ANY REASONABLE GROUNDS TO BELIEVE THAT HE HAD SUCH RIGHT, INTENTIONALLY
DAMAGE PROPERTY OF ANOTHER PERSON IN AN AMOUNT EXCEEDING ONE THOUSAND
FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS;RECKLESSLY ENGAGE IN CONDUCT WHICH CREATED A
SUBSTANTIAL RISK OF SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY TO ANOTHER PERSON;HAVING NO
RIGHT TO DO SO NOR ANY REASONABLE GROUND TO BELIEVE THAT HE HAD SUCH
RIGHT, RECKLESSLY DAMAGE PROPERTY OF ANOTHER PERSON IN AN AMOUNT
EXCEEDING TWO HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS;KNOWINGLY AND UNLAWFULLY ENTER OR
REMAIN IN A BUILDING OR UPON REAL PROPERTY WHICH IS FENCED OR OTHERWISE
ENCLOSED IN A MANNER DESIGNED TO EXCLUDE INTRUDERS

THE SOURCE OF DEPONENT’S INFORMATION AND THE GROUNDS FOR DEPONENT’S
BELIEF ARE AS FOLLOWS:

DEPONENT STATES THAT AT THE ABOVE DATE, TIME AND PLACE OF OCCURRENCE THAT HE IS INFORMED BY STEVEN GULLIAN, JET BLUE PILOT THAT THE DEFENDANT STEVEN SLATER DID ACTIVATE THE AIRCRAFT EMERGENCY ESCAPE SLIDE ON DOOR R-2.  DEPONENT IS FURTHER INFORMED BY STEVEN GULLIAN THAT THE DEFENDANT WAS WORKING AS A FLIGHT ATTENDANT ON JET BLUE FLIGHT 1052 FROM PITTSBURGH.

DEPONENT IS FURTHER INFORMED BY JUNE DONOVAN OF JET BLUE SECURITY THAT THE DEFENDANTS ACTIONS CAUSED DAMAGE TO THE EMERGENCY ESCAPE SLIDE AND DID CAUSE A DANGEROUS CONDITION TO THE GROUND CREW WORKING BELOW THE AIRCRAFT.  DEPONENT FURTHER STATES HE WAS ADVISED BY JUNE DONAVAN THAT THE COST TO REPLACE THE EMERGENCY ESCAPE SLIDE IS IN EXCESS OF $25,000.  DEPONENT STATES HE IS FURTHER INFORMED BY JUNE DONOVAN THAT SAID ESCAPE SLIDE IS DEPLOYED AT THREE THOUSAND PSI AND CAN CAUSE SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY OR DEATH IF IT STRIKES THE PEOPLE WORKING UNDER THE AIRCRAFT.

DEPONENT STATES THAT THE DEFENDANT DID ADMIT TO HIM BOTH VERBALLY AND IN WRITTEN FORM THAT HE INTENTIONALLY ACTIVATED THE AIRCRAFT EMERGENCY SLIDE AND DID EXIT THE AIRCRAFT VIA THE EMERGENCY SLIDE.  DEPONENT FURTHER STATES THAT THE DEFENDANT MADE A FURTHER ADMISSION THAT HE WALKED ON THE AERONAUTICAL AREA UNTIL HE WAS ABLE TO FIND AN UNLOCKED DOOR TO EXIT TO THE STREET AREA.  DEPONENT FURTHER STATES HE IS THE LEGAL CUSTODIAN OF SAID AREA AND THE DEFENDANT DID NOT HAVE PERMISSION OR AUTHORITY TO ENTER OR REMAIN IN SAID AREA.

Heather Robinson at Huffington Post:

And I gotta say, the guy made my day.

The funny thing is, I was seated on this flight yesterday — JetBlue #1052, Pittsburgh to JFK — next to a lady who was scared to fly. At the outset, she pulled out a rosary and started praying (that’s not unusual, especially on a flight from Pittsburgh, which is a heavily Catholic city).

As we ascended, the turbulence was a bit more intense than typical, but nothing to be alarmed over. She was crossing herself and fidgeting, so I told her, “There’s nothing to worry about. I’ve been flying multiple times a month all my life and this is normal.”

She thanked me, and we got to talking a bit. I told her the same thing — “it’s totally normal”– when we heard the bump of the wheels coming down prior to landing.

It was when we stood up to disembark — in those annoying moments when everyone is waiting to be released from the metal can we’ve been packed in together — that Steven Slater commandeered the PA system and issued his rant. I didn’t take notes so the following is not exact, but a paraphrase: “F— you! F— all of you! I’m f—— through with this! I’VE HAD IT! I’ve been doing this for 28 f—— years and I can’t take it anymore. And for the f—– a—–who told me to f— off: f— you! That’s it! I’m done! F— you all!”

At that point the older Catholic lady looked back at me and crossed herself, and I told her, “No, that is not normal.”

College students sitting nearby were laughing. One of them mentioned that a flight attendant had been bleeding and speculated that that might be “the guy” who’d just engaged in the rant.

I missed Slater’s inflation of the emergency chute, and didn’t know until I woke up this morning about his racing home to Belle Harbor, Queens in his silver Jeep Wrangler and hopping into bed with his boyfriend (leave it to the great New York Post to get those wonderful details).

Overall, it got me to thinking: in a way it’s a shame things like this don’t happen more often. Let me explain: in an age when, for good reason, authorities are constantly on the alert for terrorists and mass shooters, when any highway altercation, we are warned, can escalate into a gunfight, when eighty-year-old women are forced to relinquish their knitting needles and nursing mothers their bottles of milk at airport screening because of dread of vicious acts of brutality, Americans must restrain ourselves and behave obediently at all times in public places. Current mores leave no room, no outlet, for the venting of frustrations, or for freewheeling, spontaneous behavior of any kind.

No one who would engage in deliberate violence against another person is doing so because of petty frustrations; obviously, something deeper is askew in such an individual. But what about the rest of us? The “normal” decent people who feel fed up with the lack of civility, the many little humiliations, of everyday life? People who would never dream of doing anything violent, and who–because of the actions of a few truly evil people–are prevented from expressing normal frustrations, normal anger, out of (often justified) fear that someone might “go crazy,” show up packing a gun, etc.? Sometimes we need to get in someone’s face and tell that jerk to f— off. Likewise, sometimes people just need to get out of a situation, to take an escape, when doing so does not harm anyone else.

Gulliver at The Economist:

The ramifications for Mr Slater are serious, and he faces charges of reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. Who knows what damage the slide could have done to somebody on the ground, etc. But only a heart of stone could fail to sympathise. Indeed Mr Slater could well end up lionised by fellow flight attendants for telling a surly, unco-operative passenger exactly what he thought. And he should also be praised for the manner of his departure. If you are going to effectively jack in your flying career, then speeding down the emergency slide, beer in hand, is no bad way to do it.

Joel Achenbach at WaPo:

I think we all want to pull a Slater now and then. We want to activate the escape slide. Maybe at work, maybe at home. We want to shout “It’s been great!” and grab a beer and slater on out of there.

Flight attendant Steven Slater got arrested, of course, because you’re not supposed to deploy the emergency slide on a plane except in an emergency. But you can just picture what might have happened (and the Times story goes into some detail): Some passenger for whom the rules don’t apply, who perceives himself as more important than everyone else, leaps out of his seat before the plane has reached the gate. Slater tells him to sit back down. The passenger refuses and yanks his oversized bag out of the overhead compartment and bonks Slater on the head. Slater, temporarily deranged, uses the public address system to point out that this man is a total and complete arsehat of the first order. Slater at that point surely realizes he has future in the airline industry. What’s he going to do? Emergency slide!

But what makes him an instant legend, of course, is the beer. He grabs the beer on the way out. That’s the “Animal House” meets “Airplane!” note. No wonder he’s an instant Internet icon. His name will become a verb, just watch.

James Poniewozik at Time:

Move over, Sully Sullenberger, there’s a new folk hero in the skies. OK, maybe not a universally acclaimed hero. And not a “hero” in the sense of, like, saving lives, or stopping a terrorist, or really doing anything traditionally considered “heroic.” Still, Steven Slater—the JetBlue flight attendant who reportedly had an altercation with a passenger who injured him in the head, cursed her out over the PA, then deplaned, with a beer, via the emergency slide—is the talk of the country today. (And, I’m guessing, the talk of late-night TV for a while to come.)

There are a lot of reasons Slater’s exit might have struck a chord: general frustrations with work, the economy, or the rudeness of strangers, or specific irritation with the breakdown of airline civility. But above all, the Slater story is fascinating because it provides an irresistible image of screw-you liberation: the put-upon employee telling off some jerk, kissing off his job over a PA system, then taking off. Grabbing a beer. And going down a slide. A freaking slide! Yabba dabba doo!

Obviously, Slater’s was not the most level-headed course of action. He flew off the handle, freaked out in front of a plane full of passengers and caused inconvenience and expense to others by abusing an emergency exit. I don’t endorse that. Don’t try this at home, kids stay in school, &c.

But it may be the impracticality, the ballsiness, or the craziness of Slater’s gesture that makes it so fascinating. Quitting your job dramatically, after all, would seem to be the last thing you want to do in the middle of an economic downturn. Maybe that’s the appeal. Slater may have had his personal reasons for cracking, but there was a kind of ’70s, mad-as-hell-not-going-to-take-it,  Take This Job and Shove It sensibility to his rebellion, and people responded to it: over 11,000 people had joined the Free Steven Slater! page on Facebook by this afternoon

Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite:

Steven Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant who lived out the dreams of every worker frustrated with their job (and probably most people frustrated with the state of flying in this country) with his dramatic, expletive-laden exit “not only from the plane but, one imagines, also from his airline career,” has landed on the cover of all the major New York City papers.Not surprisingly the New York Post wins for headline, though it fails to pack the full punch one normally hopes for. Meanwhile, the NYT, who put the story below the fold on A-1 sans a picture, wins hands down for their write-up:

Mr. Slater asked for an apology. The passenger instead cursed at him. Mr. Slater got on the plane’s public-address system and cursed out the passenger for all to hear. Then, after declaring that 20 years in the airline industry was enough, he blurted out, “It’s been great!” He activated the inflatable evacuation slide at a service exit and left the world of flight attending behind.

Roger Ebert, meanwhile, thinks Slater is a hero fit for our 2010 time: “Predicting JetBlue’s batshit flight attendant becomes a folk hero and guests on cable and talk shows. A Sully for 2010.”

Chris Rovzar at New York Magazine:

When we first read the story of JetBlue steward Steven Slater, who went crazy yesterday after a passenger rudely bonked him on the head with a piece of luggage, our takeaway was simple: This guy’s going to become a folk hero. This morning in the Daily News, columnist Joanna Molloy decided it had already happened, that his status as a populist icon was already sealed. “How many of us have wanted to say Take This Job and Shove It? I’m As Mad as Hell, and I’m Not Gonna Take It Anymore?” Molloy asked. “Slater did it, and he did it with flair, cursing back over the plane’s public address system at the obnoxious passenger who conked him on the head with his suitcase, then releasing the emergency exit slide and jumping out and disappearing across the tarmac. He even had the presence of mind to toss his carry-on luggage down the slide first.” She even predicted: “There’ll probably be a song about him online today.” There isn’t quite yet, but of course there will be.

So what has the Internet wrought on this new icon so far?

• This morning he is both the Nos. 1 and 2 topics on Google Trends, and is trending on Twitter.
• There are already the requisite Free Steven Slater T-shirts.
• Unfortunately, they are not yet available on FreeStevenSlater.com.
• There are multiple Steven Slater fan pages on Facebook, the largest one with at least 12,000 fans.
• There is already a PayPal-linked Steven Slater Legal Defense Fund, if you care to chip in.
• There’s a movement to contact JetBlue directly on Slater’s behalf (though, judging by the fact that the airline waited nearly a half-hour after Slater’s escape from the plane to alert authorities in order to allow his full getaway — and enough time to have sex with his boyfriend before getting arrested — we suspect JetBlue is already at least a little on his side).
• Dealbreaker is already pushing to find Slater a new employer.

Of course, as Steven Slater is bound to find out soon, in the Internet era, folk heroes have about the same enduring presence as the feeling of cleanliness you get from a moist airline towelette. So to the man of the day: Sell that TV interview now, get the biggest payout you can for pictures in a celebrity weekly (we wanna see that boyfriend you were doing when the cops showed up!), and nail down at least one endorsement deal for Xanax or something. Because this isn’t going to last.

UPDATE: Byron York and Ann Althouse at Bloggingheads

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The Two Propositions Of The Day: Proposition 8

Andrew Sullivan with the ruling

Marc Ambinder:

Here’s what you need to know about Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision invalidating California’s Proposition 8, a referendum, passed by voters, that banned same-sex marriage. The decision itself will be appealed, and Walker’s reasoning could serve as the basis for argument at the appellate level — or, the appeals court could decide to argue the case a completely different way.

What matters are the facts that Walker finds. Why? As Chris Geidner notes, “[the] judge or jury who makes the findings of fact, however, is given deference because factual determinations are aided by the direct benefit of the judge or jury at trial. On appeal, Judge Walker’s findings of fact will only be disturbed if the appellate court finds any to be clearly erroneous.”

Walker, in his decision, writes that “Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gays and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.”  He evaluates as credible witnesses the panel of experts who testified against Proposition 8, and finds fault with the credentials of several witnesses who testified against same-sex marriage, including David Blankenhorn, President of the Institute for American Values.

“Blankenhorn’s testimony constitutes inadmissible opinion testimony that should be given essentially no weight,” Walker writes. “Blankenhorn gave absolutely no explanation why
manifestations of the deinstitutionalization of marriage would be exacerbated (and not, for example, ameliorated) by the presence of marriage for same-sex couples. His opinion lacks reliability, as there is simply too great an analytical gap between the data and the opinion Blankenhorn proffered.”

Jacob Sullum at Reason:

The arguments for banning gay marriage are so weak, Walker said, that they fail even the highly deferential “rational basis” test, which applies in equal protection cases that do not involve a “suspect classification” such as race. “Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians,” he wrote. “The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite sex couples.”

The decision is bound to be appealed and may ultimately reach the Supreme Court. The text of Walker’s opinion is available here. The Los Angeles Times has excerpts here. I discussed the equal protection argument for federal recognition of state-approved gay marriages here and here. More to come.

Rachel Slajda at Talking Points Memo:

In his findings of fact, Walker pointed out that California “has never required that individuals entering a marriage be willing or able to procreate.”

He also notes that slaves were unable to marry.

“The states have always required the parties to give their free consent to a marriage. Because slaves were considered property of others at the time, they lacked the legal capacity to consent and were thus unable to marry. After emancipation, former slaves viewed their ability to marry as one of the most important new rights they had gained,” he wrote.

Walker also noted that past marriage inequalities have included the prohibition of interracial marriage and coverture, in which a woman’s identity is subsumed by her husband’s.

Chris Rovzar at New York Magazine

The Brad Blog:

Great news for real conservatives who believe in the U.S. Constitution and its guarantee of equal protection under the law! A U.S. District Court Judge, first nominated by Ronald Reagan and then appointed under George H.W. Bush, has struck down CA’s Prop 8 which added an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage equality. The state’s majority Republican-appointed Supreme Court had previously found no basis for banning same-sex marriage in the CA constitution. That finding was, in effect, overturned at the ballot box in November 2008 by Prop 8 which ended same-sex marriage in the state and left thousands of marriages in limbo until today’s finding.

Jim Newell at Gawker:

CNN is going to gay bars in San Francisco on TV right now, for reactions. (Update: No one was in the gay bars so they stopped. Lame empty gay bars!)

You can read the full decision here. The judge found it unconstitutional under both the due process and equal protection clauses. The ruling is expected to be appealed and could end up at the Supreme Court.

Steve Benen:

The full ruling from Judge Walker, an appointee of President H.W. Bush, is online here.

Note, the case will now go to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which tends to be pretty progressive. Many legal experts I’ve spoken to expect the Supreme Court to eventually hear the case.

In the meantime, the decision is heartening. The arc of history is long, but it continues to bend towards justice.

Jesse Zwick at The Washington Independent:

Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see what kind of role the issue of same-sex marriage, so incendiary in California in 2008, will play in the midterm elections in the state this November. The Courage Campaign, a progressive online organizing network based in California and formed partly in response to the passage of Prop 8, has been busy pointing out the role of the National Organization of Marriage (NOM), the main nonprofit behind the passage of Prop 8, in backing California candidates like GOP senate hopeful Carly Fiorina.

“In NOM, Carly Fiorina has aligned herself with a fringe group that relies on lies and fear to advocate discrimination and second-class citizenship for millions of loving American families,” Courage Campaign Chairman and Founder Rick Jacobs said in a press release. “Bigotry is not a family value and it has no place in the United States Senate.”

The National Organization of Marriage, already under fire for failing to disclose its donors to state election officials in Iowa and Maine, has now joined up with the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, an initiative of American Principles in Action, and the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life women’s network, to back Fiorina through the “Tus Valories” (Your Values) Campaign, an independent expenditure on the part of American Principles in Action.

bmaz at Firedoglake:

The common wisdom is that the prospects for upholding Judge Walker’s decision in the 9th Circuit are good. I agree. However, the common fear is that the ever more conservative and dogmatic Roberts Court will reverse and ingrain the discrimination, inequality and hatred of Proposition 8 and its supporters deep into American law and lore. I am much more optimistic this is not the case.

As the inestimable Linda Greenhouse noted recently, although the Roberts Court is increasingly dogmatically conservative, and Kagan will move it further in that direction, the overarching influence of Justice Anthony Kennedy is changing and, in some ways, declining. However, there is one irreducible characteristic of Justice Kennedy that still seems to hold true; she wrote of Kennedy:

…he embraces whichever side he is on with full rhetorical force. Much more than Justice O’Connor, whose position at the center of the court fell to him when she left, Justice Kennedy tends to think in broad categories. It has always seemed to me that he divides the world, at least the world of government action — which is what situates a case in a constitutional framework — between the fair and the not-fair.

The money quotes of the future consideration of the certain appeal and certiorari to come on Judge Walker’s decision today in Perry v. Schwarzenegger are:

Laws designed to bar gay men and lesbians from achieving their goals through the political process are not fair (he wrote the majority opinion striking down such a measure in a 1996 case, Romer v. Evans) because “central both to the idea of the rule of law and to our own Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection is the principle that government and each of its parts remain open on impartial terms to all who seek its assistance.”
……
In a book titled “Justice Kennedy’s Jurisprudence,” a political scientist, Frank J. Colucci, wrote last year that Justice Kennedy is animated by an “ideal of liberty“ that “independently considers whether government actions have the effect of preventing an individual from developing his or her distinctive personality or acting according to conscience, demean a person’s standing in the community, or violate essential elements of human dignity.” That is, I think, a more academically elegant way of saying fair versus not-fair.

So the challenge for anyone arguing to Justice Kennedy in the courtroom, or with him as a colleague in the conference room, would seem to be to persuade him to see your case on the fair (or not-fair, depending) side of the line.

I believe that Linda is spot on the money with her analysis of what drives Anthony Kennedy in his jurisprudence. And this is exactly what his longtime friend, and Supreme Court advocate extraordinaire, Ted Olson will play on and argue when the day arrives. It is exactly what Vaughn Walker has ingrained in to and framed his extraordinary decision today on.

Today is one of those rare seminal days where something important and something good has occurred. Fantastic. The beauty and joy of equality, due process and equal protection under the Constitution of the United States of America.

UPDATE: Dahlia Lithwick at Slate

Orin Kerr

Ilya Shapiro at Cato

Tom Maguire

William Duncan at NRO

Eugene Volokh

UPDATE #2: James Taranto at WSJ

Scott Lemieux

Dan McLaughlin at Redstate

Jim Antle in The American Spectator

UPDATE #3: David Frum at CNN

Steve Chapman at Reason

UPDATE #4: Legal Insurrection

Allah Pundit

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Filed under Gay Marriage

Lady Gaga Lady Gaga Douche Bag Lady Gaga

Erik Hayden at The Atlantic has the round-up.

Molly Fischer at New York Observer:

After agent Andrew Wylie announced his plans to do ebook business directly with Amazon, Macmillan CEO John Sargent snarked that Wylie seemed to fancy himself a publisher.

But if agents do begin filling some of the roles traditionally played by publishers, what new skills will they need to learn? What resources will they require?

The first order of business, it seems, may be finding some good copy editors.

Yesterday, agent Robert Gottlieb of Trident posted a 480-word response to the Odyssey Editions news on Publishers Marketplace. By our count, it featured at least 10 typos or other errors. Excerpt:

It is one thing to advise a client as a traditional agent it is another to be in business with the client where their can be a conflict in interest. I can invision litigation between author and agent/publishers down the road. It is the nature of the times we live in today. 4. I don’t think giving any publisher/retailer exclusive rights to books serves the authors interest. From B&N to Walmart and the smaller shops authors works need to reach the widest available reader ship. . . . I like the way they are constantly looking to inovate. We are all living in exciting and challanging times in our industry and we are all going to see a lot more inovation and new ideas.

A corrected version is up now. Learning curve!

Gene Weingarten at Washington Post:

My biggest beef with the New Newsroom, though, is what has happened to headlines. In old newsrooms, headline writing was considered an art. This might seem like a stretch to you, but not to copy editors, who graduated from college with a degree in English literature, did their master’s thesis on intimations of mortality in the early works of Molière, and then spent the next 20 years making sure to change commas to semicolons in the absence of a conjunction.

The only really creative opportunity copy editors had was writing headlines, and they took it seriously. This gave the American press some brilliant and memorable moments, including this one, when the Senate failed to convict President Clinton: CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR; and this one, when a meteor missed Earth: KISS YOUR ASTEROID GOODBYE. There were also memorably wonderful flops, like the famous one on a food story about home canning: YOU CAN PUT PICKLES UP YOURSELF.

Newspapers still have headlines, of course, but they don’t seem to strive for greatness or to risk flopping anymore, because editors know that when the stories arrive on the Web, even the best headlines will be changed to something dull but utilitarian. That’s because, on the Web, headlines aren’t designed to catch readers’ eyes. They are designed for “search engine optimization,” meaning that readers who are looking for information about something will find the story, giving the newspaper a coveted “eyeball.” Putting well-known names in headlines is considered shrewd, even if creativity suffers.

Early this year, the print edition of The Post had this great headline on a story about Conan O’Brien’s decision to quit rather than accept a later time slot: “Better never than late.” Online, it was changed to “Conan O’Brien won’t give up ‘Tonight Show’ time slot to make room for Jay Leno.”

I spent an hour coming up with the perfect, clever, punny headline for this column. If you read this on paper, you’d see it: “A digital salute to online journalism.” I guarantee you that when it runs online, editors will have changed it to something dull, to maximize the possibility that someone, searching for something she cares about, will click on it.

I bet it’ll read “Gene Weingarten Column Mentions Lady Gaga.”

Lady Gaga.

Chris Rovzar at New York Magazine:

The headline that Weingarten says he carefully crafted for his column (appearing this weekend) was, “A Digital Salute to Online Journalism.” Online, it reads, “Gene Weingarten Column Mentions Lady Gaga.”

Michael Scherer at Swampland at Time

Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic:

Every writer and editor I know really liked an essay published this week by Paul Ford called “Real Editors Ship.” Of course we would: it makes the case for our value in our economy. Here’s the nugget of his thought.

Editors are really valuable, and, the way things are going, undervalued. These are people who are good at process. They think about calendars, schedules, checklists, and get freaked out when schedules slip. Their jobs are to aggregate information, parse it, restructure it, and make sure it meets standards. They are basically QA for language and meaning.

In other words, editors do the things for text that designers did for visual products. They standardize rules; they enforce consistency; they provide the key for the map; they make things right.

And yet, in recent years, they’ve seemed expendable, perhaps because they were still around. Now, though, they’re disappearing. Text goes online with less editing than it did at magazines or newspapers. More and more of us writers are working without regular editors. More and more people are writing without ever having been edited. Maybe now people will realize what editors did: their presence will be felt in their absence.

Here’s my analogy. We take good roads for granted in the US; our highway system just works, so you start to think of it almost as geology, almost immutable and close to eternal. But if you take a drive on the backroads of the Yucatan, the forest encroaches, large potholes appear out of nowhere, and the signage is indecipherable, regardless of your level of Spanish.

The Internet can feel like a jungle, and journalists are in the business of providing paths through the territory. Writers might blaze the trails, but editors maintain the roads. The vines are creeping and the potholes are growing. And maybe letting the road deteriorate is really the only way to make audiences and media companies realize the value of those whose names do not appear underneath the headline.

Update 12:32pm: This article has been updated to fix a couple of typos that only served to reinforce my point.

Meenal Vamburkar at Mediaite:

We don’t realize what we’ve had until it’s gone. In this case, it’s edited and polished prose. Editing is necessary in the same way that fact-checking is — yet in the 24/7 news cycle, it’s often overlooked in order to save time. Perhaps it’s because publishing something online feels less concrete than ink on paper, but that’s hardly an excuse. Just as this post will be edited before it is published, it makes sense that others should be too — even if they’re only online.

Paul Ford:

People often think that editors are there to read things and tell people “no.” Saying “no” is a tiny part of the job. Editors are first and foremost there to ship the product without getting sued. They order the raw materials—words, sounds, images—mill them to approved tolerances, and ship. No one wrote a book called Editors: Get Real and Ship or suggested that publishers use agile; they don’t live in a “culture” of shipping, any more than we live in a culture of breathing. It’s just that not shipping would kill the organism. This is not to imply that you hit every sub-deadline, that certain projects don’t fail, that things don’t suck. I failed plenty, myself. It just means that you ship. If it’s too hard to ship or you don’t want to deal with it, you quit or get fired.

I recently left zineland and did a bunch of freelance work and hooboy do people not know how to ship. A three-year project that yielded only 90-second page load; or $1.5 million down the drain with only a few microsites to show. And I’ve started to find myself going, God, these projects need editors. Editors are really valuable, and, the way things are going, undervalued. These are people who are good at process. They think about calendars, schedules, checklists, and get freaked out when schedules slip. Their jobs are to aggregate information, parse it, restructure it, and make sure it meets standards. They are basically QA for language and meaning.

But can they deal with character encoding issues when the parser breaks? Not really. They’re often luddites of the kind that calls the mouse a clicker, even the young ones. That said, I think there’re weird content times afoot. Google just acquired MetaWeb, which is not user-generated as much as user-edited content. (C.f. the Shakespeare page). Wolfram Alpha is purely about curating data sources and then calculating atop the restructured data. Wikipedia growth is slowing, but editing and tagging continue; the infoboxes are a wealth of semantic data. Meanwhile F——b—— and Tw—— (I can’t bear to write those words again) continue to dump forth information by the gallon, now tagging their core objects with all manner of extra metadata. Everything is being knit together in all sorts of ways. User-generated content is still king, because it generates page views and inculcates membership (the concept of the subscription being dead, the concept of the membership being ascendant) but user-edited content is of increasing importance because of what I call, having just made it up, “the Barnes & Noble problem.”

Until I was about 26 almost everything I wanted to read was in Barnes & Noble. Eventually they had less and less of what I wanted. Now B&N’s a place I go before a movie, and I get my books anywhere else. I’m increasingly having B&N moments with full text search ala Google. It’s just not doing the job; you have to search, then search, then search again, often within the sites themselves. The web is just too big, and Google really only can handle a small part of it. It’s not anybody’s fault. It’s a hard, hard problem.

Remember when everyone was into the idea that Google is a media company, back in 2008 when YouTube was two? Google is not really a media company as much as a medium company. Google creates forms—i.e. structured ways of representing data—and then populates them with search results. They’re the best at that. Google doesn’t do the best job making it easy to edit the nodes in every case (they can when they want, though—it’s easy to edit in Gmail, or upload a video), or even particularly want you to edit much of their data. Knol being the exception that proves that Knol is kind of eh. And I haven’t checked in on Orkut (the 65th largest website in the world) in quite a while.

Now, though, they’ve bought ITA (a very interesting company that has had tons of weird database stuff going on for a while) and Metaweb. So clearly structured—meaning edited, meaning user-edited—data is now going to be a big part of the web. There are going to be all kinds of new slots and tabs and links and nodes. And whether the users want this or not, it looks like they’re going to get it, and the state of NLP being what it is, not to mention NPC, humans will need to be involved. Unfortunate but true. (Then again I’ve been off in the high wilderness for five years; I have no clue what people think in Mountain View. I could just be blowing more smoke.)

The Semantic Web is basically the edited web, for some very nerdy take on editing. Which implies editors. Facebook has gone turtles all the way down. Django, Rails, and other frameworks make it possible to build custom-structured-and-semantic data acquisition tools with very little pain; Django’s admin, in particular, is optimized for exactly that sort of thing. Solr and related technologies make it possible to search through that structured information. And nearest to my heart there’s an insane glut of historical data, texts, and so forth, billions of human, historical, textual objects to come online from the millennia before the web. Plus a gaggle of history bloggers trying to contextualize it (the history bloggers are the best bloggers out there—but that’s for a different day). Dealing with the glut—and we must deal with this glut, because what is more important than sorting all human endeavor into folders?—will require all manner of editing, writing, commissioning, contextualizing, and searching. (Take a look at Lapham’s Quarterly to see one very successful approach, using paper and ink.) Fortunes will be made! Not mine, of course, because I lack the qualities that money likes, but someone’s. History is big business.

I see three problems with my idea. First, editors and journalists are mostly luddites, as already noted, and they don’t really hang out in places where you might think to hire them. (I think the Awl should have a jobs board; that would be perfect.) But I think this one can be solved: even my most technically mystified editor pals could be trained to use Freebase Gridworks. Add to that the willingness to schedule the living shit out of everything, the ability to see patterns, a total dedication to shipping, and willingness to say “no,” and you start to have this very interesting source of power inside your organization, especially given the changes coming in web content, where you need structure and connections in order to play with others. Editors can help you play nice. And they actually do understand standards, at least conceptually. If you tell them the line needs to end with a semicolon they will end it with a semicolon. Words into Type and ISO 8879 are of similar complexity.

Second problem: most editors want to be editing for print or broadcast, not for the web, which is still seen as slumming it. But that said more and more of the big-deal journalism is about aggregating data. Which means that more and more journalists are getting exposed to thinking in grids and bulk-editing and so forth. Or at least getting interns to do it for them. Which is interesting. Also, getting fired or taking a buyout helps people gain perspective on what they like doing; there’s that.

Third problem: I’ve worked on various big content engagements, and I’ve talked to a number of people with more big-content experience than me. And people agree that big orgs, even if they now have content problems, won’t hire editors, or enough editors, to manage their content. Think: museums, non-profits, giant corporations, government. I get very sadpanda when I see someone spend $500K plus deployment, development, and licensing costs on a Java EE-based multilingual platform incorporating a JSR-238 repository with a custom workflow/process approval engine. Because they could build out something for about 20 percent of that (or sometimes 1/2 a percent of that), and hire a few editors to wrangle the content. The content, were it approached strategically, could be of far higher quality—better SEO, more durable, consistent voice, vetted for legal compliance, primed for re-use. And you can make an end-run around workflow if you add versioning and reversion capability to your text fields (like Wikipedia), give most users the ability to edit, and give the editor full revert and publish privileges. Most CMSes are parasitic technologies dedicated to preserving the cultural and hierarchical status quo of their hosts no matter the cost, literally. People hear me whine about this and they say: Our case is different; we need to have a system that sends out seven thousand “todo” emails per day. And I grieve for the spirit of Work, killed by her evil child, Workflow.

That’s it. This of course is already too long because I don’t have an editor.

Mike Taylor at Mediabistro:

Without debating the quality assurance – related merits of dedicated style police, we can say that the forces governing the current state of media — limited budgets and the rapid-fire demands of Internet publishing — continue to work against the droves of unthanked and underappreciated guardians of syntactical propriety. Nevertheless, it’s comforting to know that the copy editing discipline is dormant rather than extinct.

Lori Fradkin at The Awl:

The word is douche bag. Douche space bag. People will insist that it’s one closed-up word—douchebag—but they are wrong. When you cite the dictionary as proof of the division, they will tell you that the entry refers to a product women use to clean themselves and not the guy who thinks it’s impressive to drop $300 on a bottle of vodka. You will calmly point out that, actually, the definition in Merriam-Webster is “an unattractive or offensive person” and not a reference to Summer’s Eve. They will then choose to ignore you and write it as one word anyway.

I know this because, during my three-plus years as a copy editor, I had this argument many, many times.

When I left to take a non-copyediting position at another company, I sent an e-mail to some of the editors telling them to spell it however they wanted going forward. I no longer cared. Which was kind of the case to begin with. I never had a personal investment in that space between the words, but as part of my job, it was my duty to point out that it should exist. It was a job that suited my tendency to worry about details, but one that also forced me to engage in unexpectedly absurd conversations.

I pretty much knew I wanted to go into journalism since I served as an editor on my high-school newspaper, the Three Penny Press, but what exactly I wanted to do changed throughout the years. Initially I thought I wanted to work for People, but then I realized that I am way too shy to approach famous people and ask them about their personal lives. Also, my desire to be their best friend would likely interfere with my ability to do objective reporting. Then I decided I wanted to work at a fashion magazine, a dream killed by The Devil Wears Prada, a friend’s internships in the industry and the acknowledgment that I’m not very good at putting clothing combinations together. (I like dresses for a reason.) But starting at some point in college, I aspired to one day, fingers crossed, work at New York magazine. I was a faithful subscriber, despite living in Evanston, Illinois.

It was my one-day-if-I-work-really-hard goal, but when I did the requisite round of informational interviews for jobs in New York, I paid a visit there as well. I was introduced to the copy chief, who oversees fact-checking and copyediting, and I mentioned that I was far more interested in the latter. The former, with its inherent asking-questions-of-strangers, makes me incredibly uncomfortable, even when it’s just “Are you still located at 123 Some Street?” Plus, I’d always had an eye for error: When one of my best friends in elementary school asked her mom what “f-u-k” meant because she’d seen it on the door to the bathroom stall, I helpfully jumped in: “I think you mean f-u-C-k.” You’re welcome, Friend’s Mom.

All of this is to say that I never necessarily aspired to be a copy editor. I enjoyed the experience—seriously, your job is to sit and read articles—but when my day-camp counselor asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I did not tell her that I hoped one day to correct who-whom mix-ups or determine whether “faucetry” was a real, dictionary-approved word. I told her I wanted to be a princess.

The job has its perks—an accumulation of random knowledge, for instance—but it also has its side effects when you unintentionally drink the copy Kool-Aid. Once you train yourself to spot errors, you can’t not spot them. You can’t simply shut off the careful reading when you leave the office. You notice typos in novels, missing words in other magazines, incorrect punctuation on billboards. You have nightmares that your oversight turned Mayor Bloomberg into a “pubic” figure. You walk by a beauty salon the morning after you had sex for the first time with a guy you’ve been seeing and point out that there’s no such thing as “lazer” hair removal, realizing that this may not be the best way to get to have sex with him again.

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