Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Pay No Attention to the Incompetents Behind the Curtain

Not content with their assaults on the Fourth Amendment, the Bush administration has ratcheted up their attacks on the First. The idea that a newspaper can only print what the government allows it to is fascist and antithetical to the founding principles of America. Yet frighteningly, this idea is no longer solely the fringe belief it should always remain. It is being trumpeted by many prominent conservative voices, who seem to be jockeying to see who can demonstrate the most rabid zeal for rooting out those traitors in the press.

I touched on some of this in a recent post on recent revelations about the global banking surveillance program. But make no mistake. This is:

1) An outright assault on the First Amendment.
2) An intimidation move that attempts to silence administration critics.
3) An attempt not only to win a single argument, but rather to hijack the very means for making an argument.
4) A further attempt to remove all oversight of the Executive Branch.
5) A further attempt to deny the American public (and Congress!) meaningful knowledge of what the government is doing.
6) An attempt to shift the national conversation from subjects such as Iraq by focusing ire on that familiar conservative villain, the media.
7) An attempt to distract from the staggering incompetence of the folks behind the curtain, the Bush administration.

Several excellent articles and posts delve into these issues. To be charitable, it’s a respectable position to hold that The New York Times and other papers were irresponsible to reveal the global banking surveillance program. But as Dan Froomkin observes, "It's a monstrous charge for the White House to suggest that the press is essentially aiding and abetting the enemy." I have yet to hear any conservative critic say anything approaching, “I will defend to the death The New York Times’ right to print this story or any story, but I feel they were irresponsible to do so in this case.” It’s also no surprise (as I noted in the earlier post) that all the conservatives are bashing The New York Times but not The Wall Street Journal for its coverage of the same program.

Conservative tooth-gnashing notwithstanding, there was a pressing need to report this story. Although the program's been in place since 2001, the Bush administration only briefed key members of Congress after it knew the story was going to break. Yet again, the Bush administration sought to circumvent the oversight of the legislative and judicial branches. And upholding their usual pattern, the Bush administration only did the right thing reluctantly, when forced to at gunpoint. (Considering Republicans control all three branches of government, and Congress has been little more than a rubber stamp for the Bush administration, it really says something that most of the time they don’t even trust their own party to agree with their actions!) Times Executive Editor Bill Keller did a good job overall explaining the paper’s reasons for making the difficult decision to publish.

The uniformity of the conservative response — essentially, “Traitors! Prosecute them!” — leaves little doubt that this assault is coordinated through the latest round of GOP talking points. Such furor is also meant to distract from an obvious question – why the hell is Congress yet again only learning of this because of newspapers?

And why is there such a mad rush from anyone to trust anything the Bush administration says or does, especially after they’ve repeatedly lied? For Republican politicians, of course there’s a strong impulse to retain political power. But in a good post Arthur Silber examines a deeper psychology at work:

...People exhibit one of two basic perspectives toward government (including a particular administration that holds power), and toward authority in general...

...One group, composed of people some might consider skeptics but whom I regard as realists, consistently questions and challenges any concentration of power...

...The second group is made up of people who are eager to let others make the decisions that shape their lives.

Silber also dissects an asinine article by Michael Barone. Silber eviscerates Barone’s tone, technique, and assumptions, most notably his ludicrous claim that The New York Times hates America. Meanwhile, blogger BooMan also dissects Barone, but specifically takes on his premise that terrorists “hate our freedom,” when in fact they hate our foreign policy.

We should be able to expect better from Barone, who’s worked as a legitimate journalist. It’s less of a surprise from a third-rate conservative radio talk show host like Houston’s Chris Baker, who’s absolutely schooled here by San Francisco radio host Bernie Ward (this Crooks & Liars clip has quickly become a favorite in the liberal blogosphere). Typical of his ilk, Baker cannot handle a fair discussion in a venue where he’s not in control, and storms off after being unable to answer Ward’s persistent, central question: Should the government be able to tell newspapers what to publish?

In ”Over the Top Times-Bashing” Howard Kurtz remarks, “Man, I have never seen this kind of Times-bashing before. “ Kurtz offers a good round-up of the conservative rancor (he’s yet to uncover much of the liberal response, but it’s early in the week yet). He also observes:

Some of the outside commentary is so over the top that I think those folks would repeal the First Amendment tomorrow if they could. And most of those proclaiming horror at the leaking of classified info were willing to give the White House a pass for the outing of the covert Valerie Plame.

The most extreme conservatives want to see The New York Times prosecuted under espionage statutes.

As usual, Dan Froomkin zeros in on the most salient points of this entire story:

Terrorists already knew the government was trying to track them down through their finances, their phone calls and their e-mails. Within days of the Sept. 11 attacks, for instance, Bush publicly declared open season on terrorist financing.

As far as I can tell, all these disclosures do is alert the American public to the fact that all this stuff is going on without the requisite oversight, checks and balances.

How does it possibly matter to a terrorist whether the government got a court order or not? Or whether Congress was able to exercise any oversight? The White House won't say. In fact, it can't say.

By contrast, it does matter to us.

This column has documented, again and again, that when faced with a potentially damaging political problem, White House strategist Karl Rove's response is not to defend, but to attack.

The potentially damaging political problem here is that the evidence continues to grow that the Bush White House's exercise of unchecked authority in the war on terror poses a serious threat to American civil liberties and privacy rights. It wasn't that long ago, after all, that an American president used the mechanisms of national security to spy on his political enemies.

The sum total of the administration's defense against this charge appears to be: Trust us. Trust that we're only spying on terrorists, and not anyone else.

But what if the trust isn't there? And what if they're breaking the law?

That's why it's better to attack. It makes for great soundbites. It motivates the base. And perhaps most significantly, it takes attention away from Bush's own behavior.

Glenn Greenwald does his usual scholarly, thorough job to absolutely demolish every conservative complaint. In his piece "The Bush lynch mob against the nation's free press," he establishes four key points:

(1) There is not a single sentence in the Times banking report that could even arguably "help the terrorists."

(2) The reason there is "no evidence of abuse" is precisely because the administration exercises these powers in total secrecy.

(3) The Founders unequivocally opted for excess disclosures by the media over excess government secrecy and restraints on the press.

(4) How can any rational person believe that the reporters and editors of The New York Times want to help terrorists attack the U.S.?

Always good for a quip, James Wolcott observes:

It'll be interesting to see if the controversy builds or fades over the next few days, and whether or not the Times-bashers will be compelled to call their own bluff. In the meantime, whatever one thinks of the Times's performance leading up to Iraq and the Judith Miller debacle, the ugly threatmongering and barking ("For the Times to release information about secret operations and methods is treasonous”) of Peter King shouldn't go unchallenged. Let him climb the Empire State Building if he wants to work off steam.

In an update, Wolcott also notes his prediction about the "Fox All-Stars" came true: "Fox News All Star and full-time schmendrick Mort Kondracke said, more in anger than sorrow, "I think they [The New York Times] has forgotten that New York is the place 9/11 happened." Only a Beltway coward could be that obtuse."

And of course there’s a double standard. IOKIYAR: “It’s Okay If You’re a Republican.” Jane Hamsher, back blogging atFiredoglake, has a fiery post about how the same conservatives screaming bloody murder about the Times benefit from the same freedom they wish to strip from others, and how really, this tone is nothing new:

They have consistently preached authoritarian cultism; their hostility to any kind of check or balance that would impede Bush’s assertion of the unitary executive has always existed at a fever pitch. One wonders if they’ve ever read the Constitution.

But much like the profound irony of Ole 60 Grit O’Beirne demanding rights for herself won on her behalf by the feminists she bashes even as she earns her living denying them to other women, so the NRO exists as part of a free press it would very much like to see dismantled.

It makes me wonder if someone's going to propose loyalty oaths next!

Some of the most rabid responses are predictably from the National Review online and Powerline. They’re quoted and linked in the pieces above, and deserve a look. However, I did want to touch briefly on Glenn Reynolds’ broadside. Kurtz reminds us that “Instapundit” Reynolds is a law professor, but I’m not sure how that is relevant to Reynolds’ argument, except perhaps to highlight that those in higher education may still produce ludicrous opinions. I found his argument to be among the least convincing and most disingenuous I read from the right, all the more so because he purports to be both a political moderate and a serious writer. Rather than spewing raw hatred towards the Times (although he does heap great disdain on them), he attempts to invoke deeper principles of the First Amendment, but falls badly off the mark. (Certainly he shows no knowledge of Jefferson’s views on freedom of the press, or deliberately ignores them.)

In an impressive act of projection, Reynolds leads with “BILL KELLER ISN'T VERY BRIGHT, or else he thinks you aren't.” Reynolds' central argument is that “The founders gave freedom of the press to the people, they didn't give freedom to the press.” He also complains (as does virtually everyone in the Republican echo chamber) of Keller’s “hubris” and arrogance. It boggles the mind that Reynolds does not view the Bush administration in the same way, and his selective scorn is telling.

I could dissect Reynolds' post at length, but Roy at Alicublog hits the key point nicely:

I may just be missing whatever point the Perfesser's trying to make. Is he trying to say that reporters are not in fact "people"? Or maybe he thinks newsmen have fewer, or less inclusive, First Amendment rights than reg'lar folks.

Because, otherwise, it doesn't matter if Bill Keller and all the Times staff walk around in ermine capes and call each other Majesty. They and we either have the right or they/we don't. There are no shitty-attitude exemptions in the Bill of Rights.

This guy is a law professor. Think about that.

While many factors are at play in this story, my take is that there are three key ones. One is that conservatives are waging a sustained war against the First Amendment and "Freedom of the Press." The second is that fighting oversight and accountability is not sufficient for this administration; they wish to silence all serious public discussion of their actions as well. The third is that, while this censorship effort is very real and dangerous, its immediate goal is to distract the media and the general populace from other issues, most notably Iraq. The incompetence of the Bush administration is hard to ignore, so conservative critics are eager to try to change the storyline with attacks on those demon liberals. It's up to persons of conscience to keep the light shining on these scurrilous gambits.

(The fantastic graphic at the top of this entry comes from the wonderful Propaganda Remix Project. This particular poster is one of my favorites from them. Interestingly, Michelle Malkin’s readers have done some (mostly crude) photoshop work on the Remix material for their own purposes. Glenn Greewald’s post provides the links.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Marshall on Siegel

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall has weighed in with some interesting thoughts on the Lee Siegel piece "The Origins of Blogofacism" I wrote about recently.

NPR’s Song of the Day

National Public Radio has a great tradition of highlighting world musicians and the offbeat home-grown variety (with quite a few Brits as well). Their website has a great new feature, a “Song of the Day” every weekday on their front page. Here’s the page of all their picks to date. I have eclectic music tastes, so I’ve been loving it.

I find I’ve heard a fair number of the bands NPR’s editors pick (NPR’s main station KCRW out here in L.A. features a great deal of alternative music). But the real joy is of course that undiscovered treasure.

I’ve had one of their picks stuck in my head the past few days, Camera Obscura’s “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken.” I’d heard some of the band’s material before, but this one’s just grabbed me. Besides having a truly great band name, how can you dislike a “Glasgow chamber-pop sextet?” I don’t always gravitate towards such a heavily produced sound, but I find the Scottish lilts endearing, the harmony entrancing, the hook catchy, the sound overwhelmingly lush in a very effective way, and the tone of the piece melancholy but hopeful with a wry sense of humor. It’s very much a deliberate throwback, very well done.

On the band website, bandmate Carey comments that this was:

One of the most problematic songs to assemble for the album but we were eventually so enthralled we gave it six choruses. Obviously the mark of a fine single. And, yes, it does refer to Lloyd Cole, and thankfully, he likes it!

Their My Space page is here and a site featuring lyrics is here. The lyrics consist mainly of the chorus:

He said “I’ll protect you like you are the crown jewels” yet
Said he’s feeling sorrier for me the more I behave badly I can bet

Hey Lloyd I’m ready to be heartbroken
I can’t see further than my own nose at the moment

Jealousy is more than a word now I understand
I know you can stay a girl by holding a boy’s hand

Hey Lloyd I’m ready to be heartbroken
I can’t see further than my own nose at the moment
Hey Lloyd I’m ready to be heartbroken
I can’t see further than my own nose at the moment

I’ve got my life of complication here to sort out
I’ll take myself to an east coast city and walk about

Hey Lloyd I’m ready to be heartbroken
I can’t see further than my own nose at the moment
Hey Lloyd I’m ready to be heartbroken
I can’t see further than my own nose at the moment
Hey Lloyd I’m ready to be heartbroken
I can’t see further than my own nose at the moment

UPDATE: I now have the CD; the official lyrics are confirmed. And the video for this song can be seen here.

Monday, June 26, 2006

First Thing We Do, We Kill All The Copy Editors

Not so long ago a project I worked on was assaulted not by a reporter, but by her illiterate copy editor, who also had a penchant for bad puns. (Anyone who's worked at a newspaper at any level or is a news junkie knows exactly the type I'm talking about!) Consequently, I laughed out loud at this great Speed Bump cartoon.

Reliable BS

After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
-"The Solution," Bertolt Brecht, 1953

Remember — the problem is not that the Bush administration is breaking the law and concealing it or lying about it. The real problem is that you know about it. And that, friends, means it’s time to play that beloved conservative game: Blame the Fourth Estate!

The Raw Story has the video up of a segment from Howard Kurtz’ CNN show Reliable Sources. In it, New York Times columnist Frank Rich must defend against the by now familiar BS line that the press are traitors for revealing yet another secret, illegal government program (this one deals with global banking — I know, it’s hard to keep track any more). Three papers initially covered the story, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal (no link because subscription is required). Guess which newspaper earned conservatives’ ire and which paper received no comment?

Rich is first subjected to Dick Cheney’s charges that revealing the program is irresponsible and hurts the war on terror. In the next clip, Peter King (R-NY) does Cheney one better by insisting that criminal charges be filed against reporters. Finally, Rich must fend off former White House speech writer David Frum, who denouces the dissemination of this information as treason most foul, and who divines the machinations of The New York Times in all three newspaper accounts based on the “grammar” of the story. Never let the realities of media competition interfere with a good liberal conspiracy theory! Rich does a fine job of laughing in Frum’s face in a mostly civil manner.

A shorter statement from these conservative press critics could just as well be: “I’m disappointed that this truth-telling may become a trend.”

Really, I think the American people would be more forgiving about the Bush administration's unprecedented law-breaking if they were just more, well, competent. At this point, Bush’s approval rating hovers around 30%, down to his base, the “yellow dogs,” so to speak. These are the people who a) think he’s competent or b) think the Democrats would do an even worse job or c) are sticking with Bush out of stubborn loyalty or d) hate the Democrats so much anything they oppose must be good.

The Washington Post’s account of the story contains a choice quotation:

"We are disappointed that once again the New York Times has chosen to expose a classified program that is working to protect Americans," spokeswoman Dana Perino said. "We know that al-Qaeda watches for any clue as to how we are fighting the war on terrorism and then they adapt, which increases the challenge to our intelligence and law enforcement.”
Yeah, well, Dana, some of us are pretty damn disappointed "once again" in this administration. I know you’re a paid flack, but anyone who thinks that terrorists aren’t aware they may be monitored or recorded is a complete idiot. Mobsters have been using surveillance-foiling tactics for decades. Hasn't the White House crew seen Casino? Or is it only Rambo, based on their disastrous foreign policy? Maybe if your team could, y’know, follow the law and uphold the Constitution - oh, not to mention, tell the truth without being forced to at gunpoint - you’d have a little more credibility when you complain about the press. (Apparently, the Bush administration chose to brief lawmakers on this latest disclosed program only after the newspapers said they would run the story, all for the purpose of the White House minimizing damage and being able to claim, "they were briefed!")

And let's not forget about Cheney, as transcribed from the video:

What I find most disturbing about these stories is the fact that some in the news media take it upon themselves to disclose vital national security programs, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people. That offends me.

Considering Cheney’s batting average is almost nil, and he’s a well-established liar, if he’s genuinely offended (or even if it's the usual manufactured outrage), it probably means you’re doing something right. What I find most "disturbing" about Dick Cheney is that he’s taken it upon himself to bypass the legislature and the judiciary and push for a series of dangerous, harmful and illegal actions, from warrantless eavesdropping to torture, thus making it more difficult for America to retain its previously positive image abroad, not to mention the problems caused by a direct and sustained assault upon the Constitution and the core values of America itself. That offends me.

And sorry, no, you don’t get to lie repeatedly to the American people and to Congress and keep on telling the same discredited story about Atta in the Czech Republic even after DCI Tenet has told you to stop doing that because they know it’s false and the Czechs say so, too... (whoops, sorry the list can go on for so very long...) You don’t get to lie repeatedly, perform horribly, break the law and then complain about other people when they tell the truth. There’s a reason that Cheney’s approval rating is regularly below 20%, and it says something that not even all the diehards will stick up for Cheney.

Ask not how your government can better serve you. Ask how you can better assist the government in curtailing your civil liberties.

There's a saying that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. However, knaves and scalliwags vilifying those who tell the truth about them is a pretty reliable occurence as well. The only question is what flavor the BS will come in this time, and from whom.

Perhaps if Cheney is unhappy with the people, he can dissolve them and elect another. Personally, I’m hoping a step in the other direction shall occur this November.

David Brooks Jumps In, Too

Disappointingly, David Brooks seems to have drank from the anti-blogger Kool-Aid as well with his piece today, 6/25/06. I suppose one could argue it’s primarily anti-Kos, but it depends on the premise that liberal bloggers are sheep, or more specifically, “rabid lambs.” The Agonist gives a run-down on it here and TRex has an entertaining send-up of it here.

Now, who are the sheep again?

Lee Siegel Puts Them Uppity Bloggers in their Place

The New Republic’s Lee Siegel has posted two ludicrous pieces deriding bloggers as angry, infantile fascists (6/22/06’s “Blog This” and 6/23/06’s “The Origins of Blogofascism”). It’s pointless for me to skewer his overall arguments (such as they are) since James Wolcott and Digby have done such a thorough and entertaining job of it already (hat-tip to guest poster Watertiger at Firedoglake for the Wolcott link and many other great ones in the same post).

Instead, I wanted to highlight a shocking failure of logic perpetrated by Siegel in his second post, “The Origins of Blogofascism.” In it, he quotes at length from a short profile of Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, better known as “Kos,” that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on 1/15/04. In it, Moulitsas explains:

"I believe in government. I was in El Salvador in the late '70s during the civil war and I saw government as a life-and-death situation," he said. "There was no one to root for. The government was a corrupt plutocracy and the rebels were Maoists. The concept of government is important."

He remembers bullets flying in the marketplace and watching on television as government soldiers executed guerrillas. He also remembers watching footage of the Solidarity movement in Poland.

He was 9, and he asked his father what that was all about. His father, a furniture salesman, said, "It's just politics."

The future blogger said, "Tell me all about it."

Siegel's interpretation immediately follows:

So he loves government, but hates politics. There's something chilling about that. I wonder, does Zuniga consider the Solidarity movement disgusting, compromising, venal politics, too? And was there really no one to root for during the Salvadoran civil war? It's hard to believe the usually inflexibly partisan Zuniga actually said that. The rebels may have been "Maoist"--whatever that meant to them in Central America at the time--but their goal of overthrowing a brutal, rapacious regime might well be something that a passionate political idealist and reformer like Zuniga, looking back at it in 2004, would sympathize with. Or so you would think.

Siegel’s interpretation defies common sense. How can one possibly take that passage and conclude that Moulitsas (incorrectly referred to as Zuniga by Siegel) “loves government, but hates politics?”

Let’s leave aside the ludicrous assumption that a nine-year old should form a nuanced understanding of the Polish Solidarity movement and the Salvadoran civil war, and in the case of Solidarity, to do so upon first encounter. The author of the Chronicle piece does not print anything to indicate what Moulitsas thinks of these movements now, if indeed he even asked him. While Moulitsas starts speaking about the past in the present tense, the bulk of the passage is about his perceptions when he was nine years old. For Siegel to extrapolate Moulitsas’ present views on these matters from such a scant passage is intellectually dishonest, poor reasoning or sloppy journalism. I view it as a deliberate misrepresentation, creating a straw man (or “chilling” snow man, in this case).

But more to the point, the actual passage describes a nine-year old whose father dismisses or minimizes the complexity of the Solidarity movement, for whatever reason (perhaps he thought it too complex or upsetting for his son, or he himself was not that interested, who knows? The article does not say). To which the boy responds, “Tell me all about it.” The boy, young Moulitsas, presses his father to explain to him about politics (and some rather complex politics at that!). How does this passage possibly indicate that Moulitsas “hates politics?”

Of course, it doesn’t. It shows exactly the opposite. The anecdote is used in the original Chronicle piece to indicate how Moulitsas became interested and engaged in politics at a young age. Considering his is the most popular political site on the web, and the fact that he worked for Howard Dean, to say that Moulitsas “loves government, but hates politics” is laughable.

"There's something chilling about that," opines Siegel. It's utterly craven to misrepresent Moulitsas' beliefs and then express shock and horror over them! Furthermore, where does Moulitsas use the terms "disgusting, compromising, venal" that Siegel attributes to him? It's not in the Chronicle piece. It's not in any linked post. Where's the research, where's the evidence? Did Siegel just make this up as well, as he telepathically divines Moulitsas' true intent?

I suspect Siegel was trying to paint Moulitsas as an idealist who loves the ideal of good government but cannot grasp the complexity of political realities. I’m probably being overly generous, since every mention of Moulitsas or bloggers is pejorative. At best Siegel’s being dense, but I feel he’s being disingenuous. My take is that he set out to slam Moulitsas, and then tried to gather his stones without doing a very good job. He earlier states that “Two other traits of fascism are its hatred of the processes of politics, and the knockabout origins of its adherents.” In order to paint Moulitsas as a representative “blogofacist,” which is the entire point of the piece, he needs to somehow establish that Moulitsas “hates politics” and that he’s ruthless or “knockabout” (New Republic writer Zengerle’s much-dissected posts about Moulitsas cover his supposed ruthless, dictatorial nature). Considering that in the paragraph immediately after Siegel slams Moulitsas for 'hating politics,' he slams three bloggers for using aliases when all three have their real names publicly displayed on their sites, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Siegel is just plain sloppy.

While I don’t want to pick too much on Siegel — and he’d no doubt be amused that a lowly blogger is parsing his, um, superior prose — two points remain inescapable. 1) His thesis is ludicrous. 2) He can’t support it (not surprising, given #1). In fact, one of his key pieces of evidence proves the opposite point! There's something unseemly about a man with a national platform decrying bloggers for not being able to tolerate Siegel when he doth "conscientiously criticize, in the form of a real argument" when he apparently cannot form a valid or sound argument himself.

(As a point of minor interest, Siegel slams bloggers but only features a single link in his five most recent posts, and that’s to another New Republic writer’s post, Zengerle's. Perhaps Siegel lacks the know-how to link the articles he cites, or he chooses not to because that would sully his status as a real writer.)

As reader "jfabermit" observes in the comments for “The Origins of Blogofascism”:

Honestly, the discussion threads here and elsewhere were much more reasonable than either post of his. If you want to see some actual intelligent commentary on the blogosphere, try the comment thread to the previous post, and ignore this drivel.

Well said.

(I should point out that I am not a regular DailyKos reader, and have left less than 6 comments on that site to date. DailyKos seems to have some very intelligent posters, great links, and makes great finds. It won Best Commenter (Georgia10) and Best Community last year from the 2005 Koufax Awards . However, I find that there’s a large amount of “venting” such as “Bush sucks” etc. and more conspiracy-minded material to wade through in the comments at both DailyKos and Atrios’ site Eschaton. I find the comments at Crooks & Liars, Glenn Greenwald’s Unclaimed Territory, and TPM Cafe to be more thoughtful on the whole. My point is that I am not a “Kossack,” but regardless of my feelings about the site or Moulitsas, both deserve to be criticized on their merits.)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Hitler vs. Coulter

The website Give Up has a quiz challenging readers to guess which of fourteen quotations was said by Hitler as opposed to Ann Coulter. They update some of the references to America and such so that cries of "the Fatherland,""Bismark" and invading Poland don't appear.

A few that I missed I should have gotten; Hitler's writing style is more, umm, grand, than Coulter's. There's one I'm not sure many could deduce, since it's rather short and the hatred is indistinguishable. Even if the prose style differs for the two writers, the tone really is the same. That's the scary part.

Meanwhile, Blogenfreude over at Agitprop penned a lovely "guest post" by Coulter about the recent murder of soldiers Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker. The post is made up entirely of direct quotations from conservative bloggers, but reads as if Coulter wrote it herself. Never doubt the woman has influence! It also shows, as I commented on the site, that with Coulter you really can just play the tapes. It makes me wonder why she bothers to write new books or articles at all, given that her work really is the equivalent of Mad Libs for the Far Right. But apparently it's easier to churn out this crap when you don't bother to write it all yourself.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Poets on CD

Terri Gross interviewed former poet laureate Billy Collins on Fresh Air about a new 4-CD set, Poetry on Record: 98 Poets Read Their Work, 1888-2006. I had been waiting for part two of the interview to be aired before posting, and now it has, so here’s Part 1 and Part 2.

(In an earlier post about National Poetry Month, I linked one of my favorite pieces of recent years, a poem by Collins now famous among high school teachers titled ”Introduction to Poetry.”)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Poetry: Stanley Kunitz (1906-2006)

Poet Stanley Kunitz died on 5/14/06, shortly after his 100th birthday. Robert Pinksy penned a lovely remembrance of him for Slate, and NPR has a number of interviews with him that can be heard here.

I’m not as familiar with Kunitz’ work as I’d like to be. The pieces used by Pinsky and NPR are striking. The site Poem Hunter features some of his poems which can be read here. To contrast a poem of youth with one of age, read ”The Testing Tree: and then ”Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation.” The Favorite Poem Project also features a reading of the Hornworm poem here.