Monday, April 24, 2006

Sorting through the muck so you don't have to

Sometimes I have to scratch around to find subjects or links I want to write about about. Lately there's been so much, I feel like I have ADHD. Only without all the Flop-like cognitive clutter.

First, the excellent Dahlia Lithwick at Slate writes about how the Duke lacrosse story has tapped into people's ids and personal agendas. Her attitude about the attorneys' spin is appropriately skeptical:
One might hope that all this evidence, and the unambiguous legal charges, would lead to reasonable legal inferences and unequivocal legal conclusions. But that is where we'd be dead wrong. Because the so-called objective "evidence" currently being meticulously weighed and evaluated by the media is no more "objective" or "conclusive" than the rank speculation by the pundits. Everything we are hearing about the DNA tests and the photos is selective, secondhand, and anecdotal. We are being played by the lawyers, with leaks and well-chosen sound bites.
Less convincingly, Slate's Jack Shafer questions whether the Times has been biased against the lacrosse players. Idiotically, he thinks that press coverage should closely mimic the rules of evidence and burdens of proof of a courtroom.
The fairness of a trial-by-newspaper, of course, depends on how closely a news organization apes the practices of official courts. Fairness requires it to consider not only the statements and evidence of the accuser, but that of the accused, no matter how heinous the charge. By that measure, the New York Times has failed the two Duke University lacrosse players who were indicted Tuesday of raping a woman during a party in an off-campus house on March 13.
In other Times news: if Flop and I were continuing our beloved (reviled?) scorched-earth policy toward that paper's Styles sections, this week's would have been a killer. First came an appalling story about a new crop of tux-wearing Manhattan male socialites -- sexually ambiguous (or apparently, non-threatening) dudes who take rich ladies to charity benefits. It's a story relevant to fewer than 1,000 people, and wasted the Times's precious column inches with this shit:

Male socialites enjoy playing the same game women traditionally have, seeking the limelight at charity galas, parties for new perfumes and store openings. Some men are even dressed by designers, lent free clothing for their public strut, an ancient measure of whether a socialite has truly arrived.

The Russian Revolution happened for less. To the barricades!

On Sunday I also received an outraged e-mail from Flop, who thought it was misogynist that the Styles section featured a piece about ladies who don't like the NFL draft but put up with it. Horrible and stupid, but I experience the same thing whenever a new season of Entourage airs, so I'm not too exercised.

Today, however, the Times's review of a play called The History Boys was sufficiently interesting that I immediately bought two tickets. I'm not much of a theater guy -- once or twice a year, usually when a friend has a spare ticket -- but two-and-a-half hours about academic jealousy and the right approach to teaching history? I'm there. This proves that I'm much more boring sober than drunk.

The Hold Steady's fall release is no longer my most anticipated album of the year: Hello, Neil Young's Living With War. The album will be available for streaming and download in early May, with CD sales breaking shortly thereafter. I'm not unbiased. I follow Neil Young the way a creationist follows a school board meeting. This time, it's extra-special.

On my bookshelf I've got a collection of Rolling Stone articles about Neil. The magazine makes itself required reading with a kick-ass cover story by Princeton historian Sean Wilentz. Wilentz puts forth a careful case for why George W. Bush may be the worst president in U.S. history. It will be hard to knock James Buchanan off that hill, but Wilentz (whose recent book The Rise of American Democracy is on my summer reading list) is pretty persuasive:
Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties -- Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush -- have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures -- an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities. Repeatedly, Bush has undone himself, a failing revealed in each major area of presidential performance.
In Vanity Fair, Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein lays out the case for why a bi-partisan impeachment proceeding is necessary. Right away:
The first fundamental question that needs to be answered by and about the president, the vice president, and their political and national-security aides, from Donald Rumsfeld to Condoleezza Rice, to Karl Rove, to Michael Chertoff, to Colin Powell, to George Tenet, to Paul Wolfowitz, to Andrew Card (and a dozen others), is whether lying, disinformation, misinformation, and manipulation of information have been a basic matter of policy—used to overwhelm dissent; to hide troublesome truths and inconvenient data from the press, public, and Congress; and to defend the president and his actions when he and they have gone awry or utterly failed.

No comments: