November 22, 2003

Rugby W.C. Final: For those of you who didn't make your way to a Santa Monica pub at one in the morning, England pulled off its biggest sports win in almost 40 years, beating the host country Australia, 20-17, in overtime. The reaction overseas was predictable, according to Reuters:
"Hundreds of pubs and bars in Britain opened early for the kick off at 9 a.m., many serving breakfast beforehand to bleary fans as they trooped in wearing their replica white England shirts. As the match went into extra time, the beer flowed and the volume of noise increased, culminating in an eruption of joy as (Jonny) Wilkinson kicked the winning drop goal for a 20-17 victory. The Sun newspaper estimated that fans across the nation would down 50 million pints of beer, with the British Beer and Pub Association predicting that an English victory would add an extra 15 million pounds to pub takings."
That's one pint of beer for every man, woman and child in England, for those keeping track.

November 21, 2003

Off-Wing Opinion finally has the courage to say what everyone has been afraid to say for far too long: the Victoria's Secret models are just plain butt-ugly. While you debate that, I'm off to work on my other site...GO CAL !!!

Nothing exemplifies the Ugly American stereotype more than the collective whining that arises out of certain corners everytime someone says something negative about the good ole US of A. To wit, a leading chickenblogger goes after an Iraqi critic of Bush's Cut-And-Run policy, one who was actually in Baghdad when the bombs were falling. Just a reminder, Mr. Lileks, you are not awarded the Medal of Honor for bravely sitting at your workstation and griping about what ungrateful bastards those A-Rabs are, for not celebrating Bush as the Second Coming of Mohammed. And I don't think Salam Pax is going to feel obligated to clean your pool or shovel snow off your driveway just because he's from a Third World country and you happen to share a state where three people have died in combat since March.

November 20, 2003

Global Village: For those of you bored by the 24-7 coverage of the events in Santa Barbara, here's the same story, as reported by Al-Jazeera.

November 19, 2003

If you spend half your life on the internet, as I do, you have probably come across an article or column published in Tech Central Station. As it turns out, according to the Washington Monthly, far from being a web-journal of disinterested political commentary, it is, in fact, little more than an internet version of "astroturfing", a technique popularized by conservative lobbyists to generate the appearance of grassroots support for an issue:
On closer inspection, Tech Central Station looks less like a think-tank-cum-magazine than a kind of lobbying practice. Which makes sense: Four of the five co-owners of TCS are also the co-owners of the DCI Group, the Washington public affairs firm founded by Republican operative Thomas J. Synhorst. TCS's fifth owner is Charles Francis, who is also a senior lobbyist at DCI and is listed on TCS's phone directory. And as it happens, three of TCS's sponsors--AT&T, General Motors, and PhRMA--have also retained DCI for their lobbying needs.


TCS, for its part, includes a disclaimer on its site noting that "the opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of the writers and not necessarily those of any corporation or other organization." But it is startling how often the opinions of TCS's writers and sponsors converge.

Last July, for instance, PhRMA retained DCI to lobby against House legislation that would permit the reimportation of FDA-approved drugs from Canada and elsewhere. The same month, TCS put out a press release announcing that it planned to cover an upcoming bus trip taken by Canadian patients to "access prescription drugs and medical treatment" in the U.S. (The trip was sponsored in part by the Canadian subsidiaries of many of the same pharmaceutical companies that belong to PhRMA.) A few days after the press release was issued, TCS columnist Duane Freese published an article touting the bus trip and attacking the legislation; other contributors also wrote columns for the site attacking reimportation.

The articles on Tech Central Station address a broad range of issues, some of concern to its sponsors, many not. And most of the site's authors are no doubt merely voicing opinions they have already reached. But time and time again, TCS's coverage of particular issues has had the appearance of a well-aimed P.R. blitz. After Exxon-Mobil became a sponsor, for instance, the site published a flurry of content attacking both the Kyoto accord to limit greenhouse gasses and the science of global warming--which happen to be among Exxon-Mobil's chief policy concerns in Washington. [link via TalkingPoints Memo]
Combined with the GOP's success at building a political machine amongst business lobbyists of K Street, the use of a front magazine to influence opinion throughout the internet, as well as the wholesale purchase and sponsorship of ideologically-correct bloggers, is a chilling indicator of how far the Right is willing to go to shape the acceptable range of debate in this country. Anyone interested in how the Medicare and energy bills will fare in the court of elite opinion can read the tea leaves first at Tech Central Station.

November 18, 2003

And I thought NaziPundit was bad...the website for GOPUSA published this warm tribute to George Soros, all but accusing him of drinking the blood of Christian babies.
Kid rocks !! You realize that when Adu becomes a free agent, he'll only be 21.

November 17, 2003

I've been meaning to write about this ridiculous article for a week now, about Clippers "fans" in Los Angeles. In fact, there are almost none; there are people who can't afford Lakers tickets, so they settle for the Clippers. Since they made the move up from San Diego, the Clips have done almost nothing to establish a fan base, an identity distinct from the Lakers, in the same manner in which the Mets developed a following in New York City distinct from the Yankees. That since 1962 the Mets have been slightly more popular in its home city than its more successful neighbors is testament to the fact that fans don't necessarily need a winner to maintain a rooting interest; the inexplicable failure of the "other basketball team" in Los Angeles to promote itself amongst the public as the "anti-Lakers" has made the franchise a joke, unloved in its hometown.

The writer sees himself as part of an emerging demographic in Los Angeles, of young professionals and artists who have adopted the Clippers as their team:
Much of the Clippers' newfound support came from hipsters in the gentrified neighborhoods east of Highland Avenue. These writers, graphic designers, and animators exist in the same professional universe as those inhabiting the lower bowl of Staples during a Lakers game, but they harbor a disdain for their neighbors that can be expressed only though metaphor. And in terms of sports fandom, the Clippers are that metaphor. The Clips are mod indie fare to the Lakers' big-budget studio snore.
The trend of which he speaks does not exist. There are no "hipsters" from "gentrified neighborhoods" who give Sterling's team their ultimate allegiance. For as long as they've been out here, this team has had the same type of followers: people who are basketball fanatics, and who will watch anything; people who can't get tickets for the Lakers; and, more typically, fans of the visiting team.

He makes other absurd statements as well, claiming that the Lakers are the team for native-born Angelenos, while the Clips get the emigres from back East. In fact, of all the teams in Los Angeles, the one team most likely to be adopted by people from out-of-town are the Lakers, a fact proven by the relatively high percentages of people in the Sports Illustrated polls of other states who root for the Lakers as their first or second team. It's the Dodgers and Angels who are afflicted by Fifth Columns of Cubs and Yankees fans for home games, not the Lakers.

In fact, I can safely say I know exactly one person like the description in the article, a Clipper fan and Laker hater. His name is Tom, and he moved out here from Buffalo (the original home of the franchise) the year the Clippers uprooted from San Diego. I know a lot of people whose lives revolve around Laker games, who knew enough to do their celebrating when they finished off Sacramento in 2002, rather than waiting for the Finals, who attach Laker pennants to the car antenna. And I know basketball fans out here who hate the Lakers, whether it's because they grew up following the Celtics or Sixers, or because they hate all the teams in LA, or because they just don't like Kobe. But I know only one person whose absolutely favorite pro basketball team in the whole world is the LA Clippers, who will watch their games even if something else is on, and that's only because his rooting interest predates their move to Los Angeles. And that, I believe, is the ultimate legacy of Donald Sterling.

One of the best things to happen to me because of blogging was discovering the work of people like Matt Welch, whose jaundiced take on the Ahnolt Ziffel debut this afternoon is a welcome palliative to the drivel the mainstream media (and politicos) have offered today.

Speaking of Welch, he posted something last week about an Andrew Sullivan comment, one of Sully's classic neo-nixonian asides about how "some liberals" were unaffected by 9/11, and so are unable to truly comprehend the growth and moral stature of our Great Leader. Welch took exception with that, and I agree. But as with any traumatic event, our reaction depends on how immediate the event was to us. A person who barely survived the attack is affected differently from someone who lost a friend or family member; a New Yorker who breathed in the noxious fumes from the collapsed Towers was affected differently than someone like myself, who could only vicariously experience the horror.

But if there was one common denominator we all shared, it was how the immediacy of an apocalyptic terrorist attack was brought home to us. That a couple dozen people, armed only with boxcutters, could cause that much damage to two American symbols, and whose murder toll was stemmed from a geometric increase only by our "good fortune" that the attacks occurred early in the morning, and one of the planes crashed short of its target, was frightening; the next attack could be far worse, and the possibility that a nuclear Armageddon would be in our future, so soon after the end of the Cold War was to make that nightmare of the 80's a more remote possibility, was a staggering thought. No one who got any sleep the night of September 12 will ever forget that feeling.

In terms of the political stances we take, however, I doubt the events of two years ago changed a great deal. Instead, what we have is an opportunism of motive involving that event, in which we continue to justify our previous positions based on our collective national reaction to that tragedy. Those who viewed John Ashcroft as a threat to civil liberties saw the Patriot Act as one such step along the path to ending due process, while those who support placing Palestinians into bandustans used the "war" on terrorism as a justification for their views. The ways in which 9/11 changed everyone, such as our tolerance for increased searches at airports, or our increased focus on Islam, are shunted aside for the time being, while everyone resumes the debates we were having ten, eleven, twelve years ago, about the proper uses of U.S. power, about support (or opposition) for Settlements on the West Bank, about the role of government in our daily lives.

Needless to say, Iraq is viewed by both supporters and detractors of the President through a prism unaffected by 9/11; with little concrete evidence of any connection between the perpetrators and Saddam Hussein, we play a little game, with hawks calling for war based on the perceived nuclear threat of Hussein, and doves questioning whether any action was called for due to the non-existence of WMD's, but everyone knowing that Hussein's ouster would have been on the table even if the terrorists had gotten lost on the way to the airports, and/or if Al Gore had received a fair count in Florida. Andrew Sullivan, no doubt, would still see a Fifth Column lurking under every tree in Cambridge, while I would still be making snide partisan remarks about the President's shortcomings. The President gets no credit from me for disingenuously making the case for war, for going in with little in the way of international support, and for not preparing for the aftermath, but no one voting in 2000 should have been surprised he would take us to war with Iraq on even the slightest pretext, nor can anyone reasonably claim that President Clinton (or President Gore) would have steered us in a different direction.

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