a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Among the netroots

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 10th April 2008

Senator Feingold addresses fundraiser attendees
Two other photos from the event here.
Originally uploaded by Thomas Nephew
(For more and better images, see KC’s photos.)

I went to a “Netroots Nation” fundraiser yesterday at the Mott House near the Capitol. The price was pretty reasonable as fundraisers go, and there was the prospect of seeing some friends and hearing from some of the good guys in Washington, D.C., including Senator Russ Feingold. The entry price went to support expenses for the Yearly Kos meeting in Austin this summer; that seemed like a pretty good cause.

Several online friends of mine were there, including KCinDC, altHippo, and WorldWideWeber. (Not sure anonymity is important to all of them, but I’ll go with the pseudonyms just in case.)

The first order of business was hearing from Feingold and others. Feingold — an Obama voter and likely supporter as superdelegate — surprised me a little by saying that “January 21, 2009 is as important as January 20”, meaning that it wouldn’t just matter who’s elected, but how the next president actually proceeds. He continued that it was important that the online progressive community held Washington’s feet to the fire. The subtext really seemed to be that even if Obama was elected, Feingold felt the “netroots” audience would need to continue putting pressure on DC to do the right thing. In a followup, a questioner mentioned Jim Webb and his disappointing votes on FISA. Feingold didn’t spit fire and brimstone, of course, but he said he felt the questioner needed to keep the pressure on — “not saying get rid of him”, but keep the pressure on.

Other speakers included Representatives Lloyd Doggett (TX-25), Steve Cohen (TN-9), Brad Miller (NC-13), and Rush Holt (NJ-12). Several had a bit of trouble drowning out a single songbird that was just singing his heart out as dusk gathered. But all of them made a very good impression on me. Cohen mentioned he was going to speak up for Barack Obama at a meeting of the Anti-Defamation League — which drew strong applause; I’m not saying Clinton supporters would have booed that, but my impression was that if polled, the crowd would probably have favored Obama by a wide margin. Miller noted that all incoming House members try to pick an obscure topic to become expert in that won’t step on anyone else’s toes – his was mortgage lending, and he was emphatic that in his view lenders had gone into the subprime loan business with a view to “stripping equity” from their customers.

Weber and I wound up having a long talk with altHippo. AH wondered what I thought of what he’s calling the “great 2008 rift” in the lefty blogosphere, as Obama and Clinton partisans duke it out online, and suggested it was (again paraphrasing) the end of an era of community of lefty bloggers who had made objectivity their goal rather than propaganda. I allowed that was a concern, but offered a couple of countertheories; one, that like Feingold was suggesting, some bloggers are putting down markers for being ready to go into opposition if (or when) Obama or Clinton disappoint — should one of them be elected, knock on wood.

A second thought was that as the Bush years have worn on, enraging so many of us, and as the established opinion media have at best failed to oppose him, the leftish blogosphere has put a premium on rhetorical feistiness. Some of that no-holds barred anger has maybe carried over to a Democratic campaign where neither remaining candidate looks like a progressive savior, so as people wind up choosing sides, there’s little reason to hold back with all the firepower gained from doing our “rhetorical pushups”, as I called it, over the years.

I had and have few ready quotes or links to point to in support of any of the above. On a third point, however, I do; an observation by Obsidian Wings reader “callimaco” about the Ohio primary rang true. I’ll leave it an excerpt, but the whole thing was very good:

More, [working class voters] don’t want to “join” anything. They want a “transaction”. That’s the “vote for me” model of political action. The transaction is this: we will vote for you and you will fight for us. Clinton offered them that transaction and they voted for her.

Maybe there’s a way to square that with my feeling that sometimes, perhaps given all the imponderables, the fight between online Obama and Clinton supporters often seems to turn on more on their evaluation of eachother than of the candidates. Many of us have faced or face a difficult choice between candidates, one involving weighing their Iraq, healthcare and other policy positions, the kind of campaign they run, the kind of support they’ve built, and the kind of advocate and president they might be. Once we’ve made our choices, the conflicts with others may “simply” reflect personality types and personal priorities.

There’s nothing wrong with that — I just hope we’ll all see there was nothing all that wrong with picking the other candidate either. Or that our preferred one may not be all he or she is cracked up to be. Come November, it’s going to need to be good enough that McCain and the Bush tradition he intends to carry forward is much worse. But like Feingold said, come January 21, 2009, our job won’t be over even if McCain loses.

* I’m paraphrasing Feingold’s remarks from memory; while the gist is accurate, they may not be the precise remark Feingold made.

EDIT, 4/10: next to last paragraph edited a couple of times, to little avail.
UPDATE, 4/11: altHippo discusses the event and our discussion as well, and provides an example of an arguably unproductive Obama critique at Talkleft. Matthew Yglesias was there, too (fundraiser, not our discussion), and was glad of the reminder that there are some bona fide good guys in Congress.
UPDATE, 4/14:: Welcome Air America readers — and thanks for the link(s), Avedon.

Posted in Post | 3 Comments »

Happy fourth birthday, fact-esque!

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 14th January 2008

Originally uploaded by longwayround

E-Robin’s blog “fact-esque” is celebrating its fourth birthday, so here’s a birthday cake; I hope it’s OK with photographer “longwayround” (seems to be under the license), but if not, I’ll find another one.

“Fact-esque” is one of my favorite blogs; eRobin manages a rare blend of activism, smarts, passion, and good humor that I haven’t found anywhere else.

Each of her readers will have their own favorite posts, but here are a few of mine:

I’ve met eRobin once, at a demonstration back in 2005; she’s as nice in person as she seems online. As Edwards supporters will be chanting in 2012: Four more years! Four more years! …Well, whether they’re chanting that or not in 2012, I am right now. Keep up the great work, eRobin — long may you blog!

Posted in Post | No Comments »

I miss Fafblog!

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 10th November 2007

But at least Fafblog has a long shelf life. February 20, 2006:

Q. Why are we in Iraq?
A. To prevent the failure of the occupation of Iraq. If we pull out now the occupation will be a failure!

Q. Would it have been easier to have never occupied it in the first place?
A. Ah, but if we never occupied Iraq, then the occupation certainly would have been a failure, now wouldn’t it?

Q. [meditates for many years]
Q. Now I am enlightened.


August 25, 2005:

FAFBLOG: So what’s up, Democrats?
JOE BIDEN: What’s up is the war in Iraq, which is terribly mismanaged, Fafnir.
FB: Oh wow! Are you guys against the war, too?
JOE LIEBERMAN: Oh no, we’re not AGAINST the war!
HARRY REID: We’re all FOR it!
BIDEN: It’s the best worst idea in the world, and we’re gonna run with it to victory!
HILLARY CLINTON: Watch me eat a bug!
FB: So we can actually win the war! That’s great news!
REID: Sort of!
BIDEN: Maybe!
CLINTON: I can wrestle a buffalo!
FB: I’m confused.
REID: The problem is troop levels, Fafnir. The US invaded without enough boots on the ground!
LIEBERMAN: Just another couple hundred thousand soldiers on the ground and hey, we should have this thing wrapped up in no time!
BIDEN: Just like I told George Bush all along! I told him in the Oval Office, “You’re gonna go in without enough troops and you’re not gonna plan for the occupation and it’s gonna be the biggest mistake of your presidency and I’m gonna vote for it!”
FB: Wow, that all seems so prescient.

July 10, 2004:

It’s so easy to kind of sweep it all under your brain an think “Well theres nothin more to be said an nothin more to think about it” cause let’s face it nobody wants to think about their government participating in horror. An right now the level of torture talk has gone from “Torture: Bad!” to “Torture: Bad, But Not As Bad As Saddam Hussein” to “Torture: Bad, But What About Ticking Bombs?” to “Torture: Bad, But Not Necessarily Proof That The People Who Ordered Torture Are Bad” to “Torture: We Still Talkin Bout Torture?” to “Torture: Bad?” An before we get to “Torture: Sorta Like Mowin Your Lawn” I think we should try as hard as we can to wake up.

Wake up.

Apropos of which: high school kids in Chicago did, about the war — now they’re getting expelled. They did their part — now you do yours, and sign this petition to “drop all disciplinary action against the said students, and to remove any indications of said events from their permanent records. We urge you to respect these students right to free expression now and in the future.”

I would add that that I wish there were/there ought to be at least one or two colleges in this great country of ours that might look favorably on expulsions such as these. More by Arthur Silber, all via Jonathan Schwarz.

NOTE, UPDATE, 11/11: “sorta like mowin your lawn” link via Nell Lancaster, “A Lovely Promise.” Other favorite Fafblog posts of mine are an interview with James Dobson (features tbe unforgettable line “powerful shockwaves of destructive gay energy”) and “drivin with Donald.”

Posted in Post | 1 Comment »

Worth reading

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 4th September 2007

  • Thirteen Ways Not To Think About The Petraeus Report (hilzoy, guest blogging for Andrew Sullivan) — I particularly like number two:

    …Even if we can’t maintain the surge, we’re making progress, so we should stay. — This is an example of what, on Obsidian Wings, I called “benefit analysis”: noting that an option provides some benefit and concluding that we should adopt it. (Relatedly, “cost analysis” involves noting that an option involves some cost and concluding that we should not adopt it.)

  • John Edwards’ Plan To End The War In Iraq — Just when I thought there wasn’t a major candidate really saying what I think.

    By leaving Iraq, America will induce the Iraqi people, regional powers, and the entire international community to find the political solution that will end the sectarian violence and create a stable Iraq. We must show the Iraqis that we are serious about leaving by actually starting to leave, with an immediate withdrawal of 40,000-50,000 troops.

    But that’s not all; as Nell Lancaster notes in a post also worth reading, Edwards also believes the U.S. should completely withdraw all combat troops in Iraq within about a year and prohibit permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq.”* (All emphases added.) Nell:

    Primary campaigns are truly pointless, massive wastes of money and effort if there’s no significant difference among major candidates. This is a healthy step forward.

  • Post-Mortem America, Chris Floyd, “Empire Burlesque” —

    The annus horribilis of 2007 has turned out to be a year of triumph for the Bush Faction — the hit men who delivered the coup de grâce to the long-moribund Republic. Bush was written off as a lame duck after the Democrat’s November 2006 election “triumph” (in fact, the narrowest of victories eked out despite an orgy of cheating and fixing by the losers), and the subsequent salvo of Establishment consensus from the Iraq Study Group, advocating a de-escalation of the war in Iraq. Then came a series of scandals, investigations, high-profile resignations, even the criminal conviction of a top White House official. But despite all this — and abysmal poll ratings as well — over the past eight months Bush and his coupsters have seen every single element of their violent tyranny confirmed, countenanced and extended.

    Thanks, Nancy!

  • The (Josh) Marshall Plan, David Glenn, Columbia Journalism Review — A well written description and analysis of the Talking Points Memo media empire and its founder, Josh Marshall. Here’s a key observation, I think:

    When asked whether he would rather have more staff resources devoted to original reporting, [Marshall] says, “I think we’ve got our percentages down pretty well. I think it’s key to our model that we don’t draw a clear distinction” between original reporting and aggregation. Marshall favors such a mix because he wants his reporters to serve as the “narrators” of complex, slowly unfolding stories. “Sometimes that will mean walking our readers through what’s being published elsewhere,” he says. New articles in mainstream dailies often contain facts whose full implications aren’t explored, Marshall says, “either because of space or editorial constraints or because the reporters themselves don’t know the story well enough. They’re often parachuted in to work on these topics for just a few weeks.”

  • Conscience of a Conservative, Jeffrey Rosen, New York Times Magazine — Rosen profiles Jack Goldsmith: conservative, head of the Bush administration’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2003 and 2004 … and eventual dissident from the worst of what Bush, Cheney and Addington were up to. The profile and Goldsmith’s book will go down in history for this quote:

    But Goldsmith deplored the way the White House tried to fix the problem, which was highly contemptuous of Congress and the courts. “We’re one bomb away from getting rid of that obnoxious [FISA] court,” Goldsmith recalls Addington telling him in February 2004.**

    (Emphasis added.) In the event, of course, Addington was wrong — they were zero bombs, three years and six months away. This quote is also worth hanging on to, for its succinct summary of the Bush/Cheney/Addington m.o.:

    In his book, Goldsmith claims that Addington and other top officials treated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act the same way they handled other laws they objected to: “They blew through them in secret based on flimsy legal opinions that they guarded closely so no one could question the legal basis for the operations,” he writes.

    Impeach them all.

* See also a video of recent comments by Edwards in Iowa (via lambert at “Corrente”) on Guantanamo, warrantless surveillance, U.S. secret prisons, and torture; Edwards says he’ll end all of it. While Edwards doesn’t favor impeachment for many of the usual bad reasons (essentially, Congress has better things to do), his election on a platform like this would be the next best thing.
** The quote begins with “In addition, he shared the White House’s concern that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act might prevent wiretaps on international calls involving terrorists.” This is either false or reflects Goldsmith’s own willingness to play a little fast and loose with the facts. When factually warranted, the FISA court would certify that such a wiretap was legally warranted — and could do so after the fact.

NOTES: “Post-mortem” via Avedon Carol (“The Sideshow”) and Arthur Silber (“Power of Narrative”); “Conscience” via Avedon Carol and Glenn Greenwald.

Posted in Post | 3 Comments »

Koufax scouting report

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 9th June 2007

I thought I’d use the occasion of the Koufax nominations to look around at some of the blogs listed under “most deserving of wider recognition.” Here are some of the posts I noticed:

  • At The Galloping Beaver, Canadian blogger Dave observes American movement conservatives trying to distance themselves from Bush, and writes:

    You can’t blame anything on George W. Bush. You are George W. Bush. The lies, the criminality, the deception and unbelievable disaster that is US foreign policy all belong to you. You did it. Bush simply signed the bills and executive orders you placed before him.

  • Tom Hilton, of the Bay Area group blog If I ran the Zoo has a great headline — “Foxes: “We Weren’t Consulted on Henhouse Rules” — and writes:

    I had to laugh out loud–and, y’know, cry just a little–at this headline in yesterday’s Chronicle:

    Lobbyists press Congress to ease tough ethics rules
    They’re angry they had no input in law about to take effect

    Yes, that’s right: the people whose job is to distort and corrupt the political process are put out because they weren’t consulted on the bill meant to curb their excesses.

    PS, 6/11: Hilton also has a beautiful Sierra Nevada photo series at the blog, and often posts about backpacking there.

  • Mock Paper Scissors has a scary photoshop image to go with the scary rumor that Second Lady Lynne Cheney might be proposed as a replacement for Wyoming Senator Craig Thomas, who died earlier this week. I hope this is just a strategic trial balloon, not an imminent choice — because if there’s even a one percent chance of this, we’ll just have to invade Wyoming. (Late development, via Talking Points Memo, is that Vikram Amar, a UCSF constitutional scholar, is suggesting that a close reading of the 17th Amendment makes the Wyoming law unconstitutional; it impermissibly constrains the governor both to have to name a replacement, and have to name one from a restricted list of choices, rather than simply empowering him to do so.)
  • pass the roti on the left hand side is a South Asian/diaspora-focused group blog; the latest post there, “Musharraf Forces Journalists to Keep Chhuup” by Desi Italiana, notes how Musharraf is cracking down on journalism in Pakistan, and the mealy-mouthed U.S. response to that — only a month after the US Embassy in Islamabad celebrated a bromide-filled “World Journalism Day”, e.g., “Free and independent information is the number one means to clearly portray U.S. interests in South Asia ’s economic growth and democratic reform.” Italiana concludes:

    “In US parlance, “free” speech really means “speech that paints the US under uncritical and positive light.””

    By blocking broadcasts by 3 TV networks critical of his sacking of a Supreme Court judge, Musharraf is doing much the same kind of thing Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez is deservedly being criticized for — with none of the same vocal outrage from the Bush administration. Translation notes: roti=”that good flat bread type stuff you get with Indian/South Asian food,” I think; chhuup=”the hell quiet,” I guess.

  • LesbianDad has one of the nicer blurbs I’ve run across: “LesbianDad is written by a non-biological lesbo parent who answers to the name Baba and works toward a world in which amor does indeed vincit omnia.” I’m for that. Go amor! Vincit omnia! Her latest post — “AfterBath” — gets a “been there” from this StraightDad:

    Note to self: when we’re knee-deep in the worst of it — when she’s got the shampoo all in her hair, and she has moved from stubbornly refusing to let it get washed out, to desperately begging through tears that we not wash it out, and we know there’s little else we can do at this point but impose our will against hers, and being parents in this moment feels way too much like being cops (and sadistic ones at that) — in these moments, we need to remember that:a) less than ten minutes later, reading a book and drinking her milk, she will have forgiven us and forgotten, bless her, and
    b) we are damned lucky that this is the worst of it, if that’s the worst it is getting these days.

  • Skeptical Brotha is “a black, 30 something, political junkie residing somewhere in the Carolina’s”; in a post on Wednesday, he wrote:

    I know we go back and forth around here about Obama, and I know that a lot of folks aren’t haters, but skeptics, but this, to me, is sort of serious. The ONLY Black candidate FINALLY presents an ‘Urban Agenda’, and it’s not even reported?

    He’s right. Obama’s fine speech was at best ignored, and at worst completely misrepresented as a warning about race riots; because of Skeptical Brotha, I’ve finally read it now, and I think it deserves to be remembered for Obama’s detailed policy prescriptions for fighting poverty, helping minority businesses, and building prison-to-work programs, among others. It also deserves to be remembered for how Obama motivates his audience and himself, with his refrain of “Our God is greater than that,” and particularly with his powerful story and metaphor of a baby wounded in the womb during the LA riots 15 years ago: “It’s time to take the bullet out.”

  • ArchCrone is from my old home town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee; she’s a co-blogger at “The Crone Speaks” (after ending the solo blog “Thoughts of an Average Woman”). In her latest post, she writes about the three year sentence for Mary Winkler, a Tennessee woman convicted of voluntary manslaughter for shooting her abusive, rapist husband. With parts of that sentence already served, and others to be spent in a mental health facility, Ms. Winkler may not spend any more time in jail, which I think is a good thing. Apparently, she can count herself “fortunate,” judging by statistics ArchCrone assembles:

    The statistics of prison time of men that kill their spouses and women that kill their spouses is astoundingly unjust.

    The average prison sentence for men who kill their intimate partners is 2 to 6 years. Women who kill their partners are sentenced, on average, to 15 years.

    The reasons are far different as well.

    In 1993 an Ohio-based research team studying the motivations for murder in intimate relationships found that 82 percent of men in custody who killed female partners or wives did so because they were motivated by “possessiveness,” whereas 83 percent of women in custody described their motivation for murder as “self-defense.”

    Good for the jury for not convicting her of murder (the charge prosecutors sought); good for the judge for not seeking more retribution. Maybe some abusive husband will take heed. And maybe more people will help women in abusive relationships, and not assume they don’t need the help. This guy was a preacher.


    Well, I’ve done my part. Before I once again succumb to A-list lethargy, I challenge more bloggers allegedly “worthy of greater recognition” to look around and do some of that recognition with “Koufax Scouting Reports” of their own. See you later! Eschaton, Huffington, Daily Kos, Eschaton, open thread, rock on…. zzzzzzz.

Posted in Post | 8 Comments »

2006 Koufax nominations

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 8th June 2007

The 2006 Koufax “Most Deserving of Wider Recognition” nominations have been posted. Thanks to some kind, pitying soul, a complete breakdown in quality control, and a deeply troubling failure in border security procedures, they include this blog — thank you! In order to get everybody’s Google rating or whatever up a little higher, here’s the list in full:

abyss2hope: A rape survivor’s zigzag journey into the open, Aetiology, Ali Eteraz, Alterdestiny, And Doctor Biobrain’s Response Is…, Angry Brown Butch, Anonymous Liberal, Antagony & Ecstasy, The Anti-Essentialist Conundrum, appletree, Archy, art crit, at the end of the boom, Axis of Evel Knievel, BagNewsNotes, Bark Bark Woof Woof, Bats Left, Throws Right, Being Amber Rhea,, A Blog Around the Clock, Blog of the Moderate Left, Blue Gal*, The Blue Republic, BlueNC, Bouphonia, The Brad Blog*, Brains and Eggs, A Brown Eyed Handsome Man, Capitalism Bad, Tree Pretty , Confined Space (quit, unfortunately), Conservative Truths, Digital Doorway, Dos Centavos, Down With Tyranny!, d r i f t g l a s s,, Echidne* (hey, she won last year, no fair), elle, phd,, Engulfed Cathedral, European Tribune, Existential Ramble, eye of the storm, F-Words, Fact-esque, The Fat Lady Sings, Feline Formal Shorts, Fetch Me My Axe (best blog name), The Fifth Estate, First Draft, thefreeslave, The Galloping Beaver, Gender 3.0, Good Times and Bad Times in Lost America, The Gun Toting Liberal, HAH!, Having Read the Fine Print (a.k.a. Black Amazon), The Heretik*, How This Old Brit Sees It …, Huck and Jim, Ice Station Tango, If I Ran the Zoo (highlights here), Ilyka Damen, I’m Not a Feminist, But, INTL News, Jane Awake, Jay Sennett, Karena, konagod, Larvatus Prodeo, Lawyers, Gun$ and Money*, The Left End of the Dial, LEFT IN EAST DAKOTA (the old all caps trick, eh), LesbianDad, Life From The Trenches….Literally, Life, Law, Gender, Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted), Lydia Cornell, Marisacat, McBlogger, Media Needle, Mercury Rising, Mock, Paper, Scissors, Musical Perceptions, Musings, Nation-Building, Newsrack Blog (ta da!), No More Mr. Nice Guy!, No Right Turn, Norwegianity*, The Oil Drum, Orcinus*, Packaging Girlhood, pass the roti on the left hand side, Persephone’s Box , phronesisiacal, The Primary Contradiction, Power and Politics, Progressive Gold, Progressive Historians, Prometheus 6, Puisi-poesy, The Quaker Agitator, Race Changers – working towards an anti-racist future, one week at a time, Rachel’s Tavern, Racialicious, Rants From The Rookery, The Reaction, Real Climate, Reclusive Leftist, Replace The Lies With Truth- , Rhetorically Speaking, Richard, Scientia Natura: Evolution and Rationality, Scrutiny Hooligans, Sharanya Manivannan,, The Sideshow*, The Silence of Our Friends, Simply Left Behind, Skeptical Brotha, Sly Civilian, SoapBoxBlog, Sour Duck, Streak’s Blog, Street Prophets, Stump Lane, Super Babymama, Taking Steps, TBogg*, Temple3, this blog will self-destruct in five seconds, a.k.a. The Pime (disqualified: one name per blog), Thoughts From Kansas, Thoughts of an Average Woman (moved to The Crone Speaks), Tiny Cat Pants, Turn This Bus Around!, Truly Outrageous, uggabugga, Unapologetic Mexican, Unscrewing the Inscrutable, Vortex(t), Welcome to Pottersville, Woman of Color Blog, World O Crap, Wrapped Up Like a Douche (so that’s what they were saying), You Forgot Poland! (other best blog name), Zuky

There seems to be some mistake: the category is for “writers who consistently deliver, yet don’t receive the recognition they deserve.” By contrast, I pride myself on delivering inconsistently, and probably receive precisely the recognition I deserve.

Still, in the spirit of “winning is everything,” I’m shooting to get more than three votes this year. So I’m going to throw some some elbows, and here’s how: I challenge big-time competitors like Avedon Carol (The Sideshow) to go pick on someone their own size over in the “consonant level” blog nominees. (They’re not quite A-list, but B-, C-, D-list… consonants, get it?). Accordingly, I’ve marked blogs that I think are already widely recognized enough, dammit, with an asterisk. More seriously, I’ve marked in color the ones I’m familiar with and can already recommend.

Actually, of course, have a look at any of them — especially “fact-esque” and “The Sideshow,” my own nominees for “most deserving” (fact-esque) and “consonant-level” and “best overall” (Sideshow). Heck, if you have a couple of years, have a look at all of them. As ever, may the best blog lose so that I can win.

PS: Nell Lancaster, a frequent commenter here, is among the nominees for “Best Commenter“; don’t forget to vote for her whenever that finally rolls around.

EDIT, 6/11: added plugs for fact-esque and The Sideshow, and link to my nominations post.

Posted in Post | 1 Comment »

We Fight Back

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 3rd June 2007

That’s the motto at Steve Gilliard’s “The News Blog,” and it’s one of the rallying points online for doing just that.

But Mr. Gilliard won’t be there anymore; he died today at the age of 41, presumably from complications after his recent surgery. I didn’t know him personally, but I was always impressed with his writing, his outlook, and his energy. I extend my condolences to his friends and family.

Other reactions — from simple R.I.P.’s to essay length remembrances by Sara, Jane Hamsher, James Wolcott to name a few — from around the Internet: Atrios, Avedon Carol, Damian TPoD, digby, eRobin, Ezra Klein, James Wolcott, Jane Hamsher, Jon Swift, Julia, Lindsay Beyerstein, Matthew Yglesias, Nicole Belle and John Amato, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Roy Edroso, Sara, Steve Benen, the talking dog, Tom Watson. [May be updated; Jon Swift has another list.]

UPDATE, 6/9: New York Times obit.

Posted in Post | 3 Comments »

Department of followups: terraforming, Wal-Mart, Bosnia, coffee, Gilliard

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 14th May 2007

An occasional review of further developments in stuff I’ve written about before.

# Terraforming Today, October 19, 2002 — As I wrote in 2002, it’s been established for some time that phytoplankton “blooms” — surges of growth of marine single celled plants– can be caused simply by adding relatively small amounts of iron to areas of open ocean. (Iron is a trace element the organisms need to grow and multiply.) Much of the biomass that isn’t converted into plankton-eaters eventually settles to the bottom of the ocean. The questions have been whether this could result in significant net removal of carbon from the atmosphere — and even if it did, would it be a good idea? Now we can add another one: is it commercially viable as a “carbon credit” scheme? In early May, the New York Times’ Matt Richtel reported in “Recruiting Plankton to Fight Global Warming“:

In an effort to ameliorate the effects of global warming, several groups are working on ventures to grow vast floating fields of plankton intended to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and carry it to the depths of the ocean. It is an idea, debated by experts for years, that still sounds like science fiction — and some scholars think that is where it belongs. […]

In Europe, where there is a market for carbon credits, it is now worth only $2 to offset a ton of carbon emissions. But not long ago, that figure was $35, and it is expected to rise again as the limits imposed under the Kyoto Protocol on global warming start to bite. Planktos believes that it can make a healthy profit if it receives $5 a ton for capturing carbon dioxide. […]

….[but] one unresolved question is whether regulatory bodies will even endorse iron fertilization as a valid means of carbon sequestration that would be allowed under any so-called cap-and-trade system to limit global warming gases.

One objection to the “Geritol tablet” global cooling theory are that at least some of the biomass settling to the bottom of the ocean may wind returning to the atmosphere later on as methane or nitrous oxide, both of which are worse greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. Another problem is that large scale carbon and biomass dumps to the deep sea might well change the chemistry of the deep sea environment, disrupting ecosystems there.

Meanwhile, though, at least two companies — Planktos and Climos — are looking at the idea. Planktos is sending a ship, Weatherbird II, to the Pacific Ocean area near the Galapagos Islands to measure carbon uptake after iron releases.

# Wal-Mart wins another one, February 25, 2005;, July 17, 2005; Employee Free Choice Act, June 13, 2005 — Human Rights Watch (HRW) has published a study of Wal-Mart labor practices this month — Discounting Rights: Wal-Mart’s Violation of US Workers’ Right to Freedom of Association. From the introduction:

Wal-Mart is a case study in what is wrong with US labor laws. It is not alone among US companies in its efforts to combat union formation, following the incentives set out in unbalanced US labor laws that tilt the playing field decidedly in favor of anti-union agitation. It is also not alone in violating weak US labor laws and taking advantage of ineffective labor law enforcement. But Wal-Mart stands out for the sheer magnitude and aggressiveness of its anti-union apparatus and actions.

Between January 2000 and July 2005, even the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) found 15 labor law violations by Wal-Mart. The next closest “competitor” was Kroger — with 2. The HRW report describes a variety of illegal Wal-Mart anti-labor tactics in detail, including Discriminatory Hiring, Firing, Disciplining, and Policy Application; Union Activity Surveillance; “Unit Packing” and Worker Transfers to Dilute Union Support; Addressing Worker Concerns to Undermine Union Activity; Threatening Benefit Loss if Workers Organize; Interrogating Workers about Union Activity; Illegal No-Talking Rules; Discriminatory Application of Solicitation Rules; Illegal No-Solicitation Rules; and Confiscating Union Literature. There’s also a chapter on the Loveland, Colorado case I wrote about a couple of times back in early 2005 (see “Wal-Mart wins another one”.)

# ICJ: Srebrenica was genocide. Serbian police were involved… (yet Serbia cleared of genocide), February 26, 2007 — In early April, the New York Times’ Marlise Simons reported “Genocide Court Ruled for Serbia Without Seeing Full War Archive“:

Lawyers interviewed in The Hague and Belgrade said that the outcome might well have been different had the International Court of Justice pressed for access to the full archives, and legal scholars and human rights groups said it was deeply troubling that the judges did not subpoena the documents directly from Serbia. At one point, the court rebuffed a Bosnian request that it demand the full documents, saying that ample evidence was available in tribunal records. […]

As part of its ruling, the court said that the 1995 massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, a designated United Nations safe haven in eastern Bosnia, was an act of genocide committed by Bosnian Serb forces, but that it lacked proof in this case that the forces were acting under Serbia’s “direction” or “effective control.”

The ruling raised some eyebrows because details of Serbian military involvement were already known from records of earlier tribunal cases. For instance, evidence showed that in late 1993, more than 1,800 officers and noncommissioned men from the Yugoslav Army were serving in the Bosnian Serb army, and were deployed, paid, promoted or retired by Belgrade.

These and many other men, including top generals, were given dual identities, and to help handle that development, Belgrade created the so-called 30th personnel center of the general staff, a secret office for dealing with officers listed in both armies. The court took note of that, but said that Belgrade’s “substantial support” did not automatically make the Bosnian Serb army a Serbian agent.

However, lawyers who have seen the archives and further secret personnel files say they address Serbia’s control and direction even more directly, revealing in new and vivid detail how Belgrade financed and supplied the war in Bosnia, and how the Bosnian Serb army, though officially separate after 1992, remained virtually an extension of the Yugoslav Army. They said the archives showed in verbatim records and summaries of meetings that Serbian forces, including secret police, played a role in the takeover of Srebrenica and in the preparation of the massacre there.

I’ve meant to write about this in its own post, but couldn’t figure out what else to say beyond spluttering in disgust. So rather than lose sight of it altogether, I’m just putting down a marker here. It seems to me there’s a back story waiting to be reported on this. One involves the “controversy” of whether Serbia and Montenegro could be held to account under international law, since this “rump Yugoslavia” was not strictly the former republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) in and of itself. A second, deeper controversy involved some judges’ 1996 opposition to the whole idea of holding nations — rather than individuals — accountable for genocide:

In [Judges Shi Jiuyong’s and Vereshchetin’s] view, the Convention on Genocide was essentially and primarily designed as an instrument directed towards the punishment of persons committing genocide or genocidal acts and the prevention of the commission of such crimes by individuals, and retains that status. The determination of the international community to bring individual perpetrators of genocidal acts to justice, irrespective of their ethnicity or the position they occupy, points to the most appropriate course of action. Therefore, in their view, it might be argued that the International Court of Justice is not the proper venue for the adjudication of the complaints which the Applicant has raised in the current proceedings.

A remarkable view for a judge on the International Court of Justice! This view didn’t prevail in 1996, but it was co-authored by a judge (China’s Shi Jiuyong) who was among the majority finding against Bosnia this February. As before, it seems to me that justice for Bosnians and Srebrenicans has foundered on legal pedantry and shortsightedness.

# Starbucks Challenge, November 20, 2005 — Just got a comment to this post alerting me to the documentary “Black Gold,” by Nick and Mark Francis, about Ethiopian coffee farmers and their struggle to get a decent price for their crop:

Tadesse Meskela, the representative of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union in Southern Ethiopia, seeks to circumvent the global commodity exchanges by tirelessly traveling the world selling premium grade coffee directly to coffee roasters who will pay more for his high grade product and who support the idea of paying farmers a living wage. He returns the profits to the cooperative members who use the extra income to build the schools and infrastructure needed to develop their communities.

At the Cancun conference, one African delegate explains, “Trade is more important than aid.” Seven million Ethiopians are dependent on aid and Africa exports a smaller percentage of world trade today than 20 years ago – only 1%. If that figure only doubled it would represent 70 billion dollars, five times the amount of aid the continent receives.

# Send some good thoughts Steve Gilliard’s way, March 9, 2007 — Mr. Gilliard is not getting better; a post-operative “system-wide infection” has him back in the ICU at his hospital. In addition to good thoughts, consider visiting his web site and clicking through on some ads, donating some money, or buying some of his handsome “Fighting Liberals” or “We Fight Back” t-shirts, coffee mugs or other items.

NOTES: “Recruiting Plankton” item via Enrique Gili (“commonground”), who also linked my 2002 post (thanks); Human Rights Watch Wal-Mart report via Jonathan Tasini. Gilliard via digby and Avedon Carol.

Posted in Post | 2 Comments »

My Koufax nominations

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 16th January 2007

The 2006 Koufax nominations are now open at “Wampum,” which hosts this extravaganza annually. As the announcement states,

The Koufax Awards are named for Sandy Koufax, one of the greatest left handed pitchers of all time. They are intended to honor the best blogs and bloggers of the left. At the core, the Koufax Awards are meant to be an opportunity to say nice things about your favorite bloggers and to provide a bit of recognition for the folks who provide us with daily information, insight, and entertainment. The awards are supposed to be fun for us and fun for you.

Categories are explained in more detail in the linked post. The explanatory blurbs and introductions below are written as if new readers might check this out — which I hope they will, because I’ll link to this from my nomination comment at “Wampum”. Herewith my nominations for 2006:


Best BlogThe Sideshow (Avedon Carol), The Carpetbagger Report (Steve Benen), Balkinization (Jack Balkin et al)

Sideshow and Carpetbagger two are definitely among my “go to” blogs, sifting an incredible range of news and writing for the nuggets that sum it all up that day, and adding either sharp, quick commentary and sometimes essay-length analysis along with it. Balkinization will be introduced in more detail below; overall, it runs away with my personal nominations list.

Best Blog — Pro DivisionTalking Points Memo

Far and away. Between this and the above three, you see close to half of what I look at each day. (UPDATE, 1/17: ineligible! …because it won last year)

Best Blog CommunityKnoxViews

A while after East Tennessean R. Neal ended his own blog (“Southknoxbubba”), he came back with “knoxviews”, but as the category nomination indicates, it was a different kind of site: a blog community where multitudes could sign up to add their own posts to the front page feed. (Full disclosure: I’m a member– having grown up in Oak Ridge, TN — albeit an infrequent contributor.) To my mind, it’s a huge success: the site is lively without being overwhelming. While contributors’ interests run the gamut,, the site is a particularly good resource for any and all interested in Tennessee politics. The tenor of most contributors’ politics is generally but by no means exclusively leftish; the key thing is that while there are inevitably exceptions to the rule, political arguments generally remain well-spoken and polite.

Best WritingJim Henley (“Unqualified Offerings”), digby (“Hullaballoo”), Roy Edroso (“alicublog”), Marty Lederman (“Balkinization”), Scott Horton (“Balkinization”), James Wolcott (Vanity Fair), Teresa Nielsen Hayden (“Making Light”)

Here’s 50% of the rest of what I look at each day. 3 semi-amateur, 4 professional, 1 libertarian, 2 humorists, 2 lawyers, 1 editor, all excellent writers.

Best Post —There are so many, of course, but looking through my “worth reading” posts and others, here’s a list of some that impressed me last year:

  • Ticking Bombast (Jim Henley, “Unqualified Offerings”) — a discussion of the “ticking time bomb” fallacy, later extended and revised for Reason Magazine.
  • I am a Muslim (Aziz Poonawalla, at Daily Kos) — a typically constructive, thoughtful rejoinder to “I am a Jew” (also worth reading) by practicing Muslim, Howard Dean supporter, and committed Texan Aziz Poonawalla.
  • This is no fun (John Cole, “Balloon Juice”) — an (ex-)Republican looks back in anger at what’s become of his party.
  • Why I blog (Teresa Nielsen Hayden, “Making Light”) — A manifesto for writing about stories that matter, whether the professional media or public relations firms do or not.
  • Katrina and the common good (Boyd Blundell, “After the Levees” at TPM Cafe) — Why Katrina was a tipping point for the Bush White House, and what that says about America.*

Best SeriesThe Talking Dog interviews

…with people knowledgeable about “legal issues and related matters associated with the ‘war on terror.'” Actual, valuable journalism, committed by one of us nasty bloggers. The last interview of 2006 was with Trevor Paglen; links to previous ones can be found at the end of that post or in the sidebar.

Best Single Issue BlogBalkinization (law), Global Guerrillas (security, terrorism)

Balkinization has become nothing less than a profound service to civil society in the United States, by providing timely, understandable legal and constitutional analysis of issues of the day. While I’ve mentioned Lederman and Horton in particular, all the contributors, including of course founder Jack Balkin, are able and eloquent writers. See an earlier post for an introduction to Global Guerrillas.

Best Group BlogBalkinization

See above. Relevant to the “group” part is that contributors often take up each other’s posts for further comment in post form.

Most Humorous Blogalicublog (Roy Edroso)

Edroso deserves a medal for reliably skewering right-wing bloggers and writers like Glenn Reynolds, Jonah Goldberg, Stanley Kurtz, Ann Althouse and others. His “more in contempt than in anger” tone and his refusal to let right wingers get away with putting every single cultural item on a conservative/good to liberal/bad scale are two of the characteristic features of his writing. I can’t really explain or analyze why (I think) he’s funny. He just is. Go read him.

Most Humorous Post — Again, sifted from my “Good for a grin” and “Heh. Indeed” posts:

  • Meet the Press in Hell (World O’Crap) — Russert: Mr. Satan, let’s start with you.”
  • Without all of you my career could never have gotten this far (Roy Edroso, “alicublog”) — “What bargain? Who are you?”
  • Hard Core (T.A. Frank, “Showdown ’06”, Washington Monthly) — on people still supporting Bush:“…the image that comes to mind is that of a pot left accidentally on a burner, leaving only a strange, ugly clump. “You’ll never pry me loose,” it says. “I’m your base.”
  • I’m Offended (Chris Bertram, “Crooked Timber”) — all-purpose “bad other culture” post, e.g., “To those who say that our side has also erred, I agree: there have been errors of judgement. But if anything our mistake has been to do too little and too late.”

Most Deserving of Wider RecognitionFact-esque

Not sure it’s right to say eRobin “plod[s] away in wilderness, or is yet to be discovered,” but I don’t think she’s as widely known as she deserves to be. Her blog combines excellent political and issues analysis with a signature dose of activism — how, where, and when you, the reader, can do something about what you’ve just read. (Full disclosure: eRobin nominated me for this category, too; thanks!)

Best Consonant Level Blog The Sideshow (Avedon Carol), The Carpetbagger Report

The category is for moderate-sized blogs which have not yet, or perhaps are happy not to, reach the ranks of the “A-listers.” As I said above, these two are definitely among my “go to” blogs. I should also say that (1) I find myself thinking “I should write about that” and find these two have beat me to it, but also (2) Ms. Carol, in particular, has often linked to items of my own.

Best Expert BlogSchneier on Security, RealClimate

Bruce Schneier writes clearly about security — from private to national — which often means he’s skeptical of current U.S. policies. RealClimate is “climate science from climate scientists,” and is as valuable in its way as “Balkinization” is for legal and constitutional issues.

Best New BlogStop the Spirit of Zossen

S.S.Zossen is part of an unusual, entertaining site called “Stiftung Leo Strauss” that I first came across via Jim Henley (“Unqualified Offerings”). The signature items are rather well done Photoshop (or something) collages, and intelligent analysis of world events in an agreeably ironic, continental tone.** As with Henley, there’s a libertarian bent to analysis which often contributes to sharper critiques than you’ll find elsewhere. The blog actually started in late 2005, but I say it’s a 2006 blog.

Best Human Equality BlogAll Facts & Opinions (Natalie Davis), Andrew Sullivan

Although Natalie has recently been in more of a musical frame of mind, she’s a reliable and eloquent voice for gay issues, and particularly for full equality in matters of marriage and religious worship. Andrew Sullivan has been instrumental in teaching mainstream America about gay rights, particularly marriage rights. Sullivan has also been outstanding on what is perhaps the ultimate human equality issue — torture and other prisoner abuse. The difficulty with a “Koufax” for Sullivan, of course, is that he’s not “of the left” per se, and was in fact a rather caustic and even intolerant critic of the left during the run-up to the Iraq war, which he supported. I’ll leave it to others to decide how critical that history is to them.

Best Coverage of State or Local IssuesFree State Politics (Maryland), Jousting for Justice (Maryland), KnoxViews (Tennessee/East Tennessee), Facing South (Southern U.S./Gulf Coast/New Orleans)

Of these, only Free State Politics is completely focused on its geographic area, but local and state coverage is a signature feature of all of them. Knoxviews accomplishes that using the “swarm” approach; one or the other of its (generally) East Tennessee members will usually cover any interesting state or local news item, and will generally get quite a bit of comment about it. “Jousting for Justice” is also a blog community, but the lion’s share of local coverage is done by founder and Baltimore area activist Stephanie Dray. Free State Politics is a group blog of a number leftish Maryland bloggers. (Full disclosure: I’m a member; although I’ve contributed only a few posts so far, I think they’ve been worthwhile.) Facing South is the most successful blog started by an institution (Institute for Southern Studies) that I’m familiar with; above all, their coverage of post-Katrina New Orleans is second to none.

Best CommenterNell Lancaster

No disrespect to my other highly valued commenters here, but Nell contributes her on-point, informative comments at a number of other sites I visit as well, including Obsidian Wings and Unqualified Offerings; they’re often quite as good as the post they comment about.

== My own categories ==

Most missedFafblog!

Possibly the most brilliant thing ever to happen to the blogosphere. (Insert your own joke there.) The site is still live, but there haven’t been new posts since last July.

Lifetime AchievementGary Farber (“Amygdala”)

As I’ve mentioned, Gary has fallen on tough times lately, and I hope you’ll get in the habit of reading his blog and clicking through on some of the ads he runs. A blogger since December 30, 2001 and a Netizen long before that, Gary brings an indefatigible blog ethic to the table, with a great eye for both the important and the bizarre. His incredible breadth of knowledge of U.S. and world history often makes for particularly valuable posts on current events; his long experience in the “skiffy” fanzine scene and with the genre also make his blog a resource for anyone like me who loves science fiction and fantasy.

* Some of my own 2006 posts that I think were pretty good: Remember Symbol Susan?; Judgment at Nuremberg; Darfur rally… “in the shadow of Iraq”; Lincoln v. Bush; How DINOs evolve, how they go extinct. For a listing of all of what I think are my better posts, go to “Selected Posts.”
** Leo Strauss is a German-Jewish political philosopher viewed by many as the ur-neocon; “Stiftung” means foundation; however, the blog and site are by no means a tribute to neoconservatism.
EDIT, 1/16: Zossen entry rewritten, footnote added.

Posted in Post | 6 Comments »

Worth reading

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 25th July 2006

Senator John Edwards on Poverty — from an R. Neal interview at “Facing South”:

It’s time to finish the job of welfare reform by giving low-income men the opportunity to work and challenging them to take responsibility for doing so. Welfare reform asked young mothers to join the workforce and gave them help to get there. Millions of poor women benefited, but poor men lost ground during the best economy we’ve ever had. In America today, there are communities where half the young men are out of work.

I believe that we should create one million ‘stepping stone’ jobs over five years. A good job that will let people work their way out of poverty in the short term, and help them get experience so they can get better jobs in the future.

We also need to give America’s workers a real right to organize. Unions helped move manufacturing jobs into the foundation of our middle class, and they can do the same for our service economy.

Five Years of Attention Whoring — Pablo Shounin is the blogger formerly known as Sgt. Stryker, pretty well known back in 2001-2003 or so as a serviceman both willing and able to deliver sharp commentary on politics, current events, and other bloggers. This title to the contrary, I’ve noticed many posts by Pablo/Stryker over the years whose honesty, eloquence, and/or humor stood out. From “Five years”:

…my claims of liberal thought didn’t seem to matter as long as I was saying what people wanted to hear. I was “right on” and I routinely “nailed it”. Nevermind that half the time, I trolled low-rate Freeper posts and newer conservo blogs to find the latest material and mock it using Stryker’s Schtick. I was purposely using words and phrases in exaggerated prose to mock what I was seeing, while at the same time slipping-in an honest point. […]

…things started to change right after the Iraq war started. I was involved in a chat with some other prominent bloggers that sent alarm bells ringing in my head and really started me on the path to seeing them in an entirely new light. … There was a lot of the typical tough-talk in the chat and I mentioned my hope that an “Alpine Redoubt” wouldn’t play itself out in Iraq. When asked what I was talking about, I said it was Eisenhower’s main fear that the die-hard Nazis would take to the Alpine mountains and launch a guerilla war that would last for years. The people in the chat replied that the only mountains in Iraq were in the Kurdish north and the Kurds wouldn’t fight us. So help me, these people literally thought I was talking about an actual flight to the mountains by Saddam’s followers. […]

I know I’ll get tired of it eventually, but so far I still feel the need to let the world know what I think, as if it really matters. No, correct that: I still feel the need to let a close circle of people that I respect (note: over in the blogroll) know what I think and that matters to me.

I’m honored to be one of them.

For Thomas — riggsveda (“It’s My Country, Too”) responds to a comment of mine on an earlier post of hers (also worth reading) with an extended quote by Gore Vidal, which reads, in part:

The time has come to hold another contitutional convention. Those conservatives known as liberals have always found this notion terrifying, because they are convinced that the powers of darkness will see to it that the Bill of Rights is abolished. This is always a possibility, but sometimes it’s best to know the worst all at once rather than to allow those rights to be slowly taken away from us by, let us say, the present majority of the Supreme Court…

(I had suggested that a constitutional convention “would be more likely to produce a reactionary disaster than a step forward.”) Riggsveda continues:

I admit it: I’m sick of it all. When I hauled out my long-buried optimism about the possibility of reversing the aristocracizing of America during the last election, I was stunned that Bush was returned to office, and what I have seen on my local front as those near to me have involved themselves in politics has made me all but despair of any hope. […]

Can the party be saved? Maybe. But to do so would require the kind of wholesale changes to the electoral system that would allow outsiders and poor people to campaign. In my neck of the woods, there is a concerted effort by the Democratic machine to rebuff all attempts to run for any office at all if you haven’t been vetted and approved by the county Commission. On a more statewide level, the attempts of Chuck Pinnacchio and Alan Sandals to run for office were deep-sixed by Chuck Schumer and Ed Rendell long before the primary ever got off the ground, so now I’ve got a Democratic candidate to represent PA in the Senate that was hand-picked by a New Yorker who ran the machine. This is not representative government. This is puppetry.

I got yer Geneva Conventions right here — Tarek (“Liquid List”):

Being forced to show proof is what this administration sees as the final battle. They defend and defer and lie and deceive and finally give in — on paper. And they say, “trust us.” The world cannot trust us any longer. The world simply mustn’t. We’re habitual liars, and we gladly smile in your face while suspending a mortally wounded man by his shackled arms from a jailhouse window until his heart stops as soon as you turn your back.

It’s Full of Stars — In South Africa for a conference and to visit historical archives there (be sure to read that link, too), Tim Burke took time to visit the Ithala game preserve:

For me the animals were secondary to the night sky, however. In mountainous or desert regions of the United States, you can still get very good views of the stars at night, but I have to say there’s nothing in the U.S. like the sky we saw in Ithala, in my experience. There are no lights besides the muted camp lights for many, many miles around the park, nothing at all. The camp is at elevation, and in the winter, the air around it is mostly clear, though occasionally the smell and sight of distant grass fires presents itself. Looking up at the Milky Way, undisguised by anything, with bushbabies making weird cries all around you in the trees, fills you with a kind of skin-prickling awe. I think I could have that sensation every single night and it would never get old or banal.

UPDATE, 7/25: Avedon Carol (“The Sideshow”) also raises the idea of a constitutional convention (well, strictly, a reader of hers does); she sounds about as wary of it as I am.

Posted in Post | 3 Comments »