Thursday, January 31, 2002

Here's proof. (Not for the squeamish.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

"You see," said my Teacher, "how little your words have done. So far as the Monarch understands them at all, he accepts them as his own -- for he cannot conceive of any other except himself -- and plumes himself upon the variety of 'Its Thought' as an instance of creative Power. Let us leave this God of Pointland to the ignorant fruition of his omnipresence and omniscience: nothing that you or I can do can rescue him from his self-satisfaction."

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions
(Edwin A. Abbot, 1884)

FULL DISCLOSURE: Justin Slotman reminds me to mention that Michelangelo Signorile has long been at odds with Sullivan for one one thing or another.

That said, my beef is solely with Sullivan's overzealous, hypocritical demand for redundant and picayune conflict of interest disclosures by every practicing journalist other than himself. I don't know how Sullivan can just shrug off this accusation -- except that he's had a lot of practice shrugging off the tough ones lately. (Did no one else notice the professional thrashing Sullivan received at the hands of Joe Conason in a "debate" on Salon earlier this month? I'd provide the link, but it's "premium content" -- you gots to pay.)

None of this is to take away from Sullivan's remarkable skills as a critical essayist. His take on Dubya's State of the Union this evening was astute, eminently fair, and posted in record time.

UPDATE: Tony Andragna makes the case that the Sullivan-Signorile feud has little to do with journalistic ethics and standards, and everything to do with the obsolesence of conventional political alliances. (But, Tony -- even if Signorile does have a private agenda, how can you gloss over the facts he lays bare?)

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

SULLIVAN UNRAVELLED AGAIN! Stop the presses! Just when you thought the whole manufactured controversey had run its course, Michelangelo Signorile, writing for that "dirty Bushie tab," The New York Press, discloses -- on behalf of a bashful Andrew Sullivan -- that
Sullivan himself has been taking money from a man who is a George W. Bush buddy, a brother of a major Bush fundraiser and a covert p.r. operative who has schemed and scammed for Philip Morris and was exposed a few years ago for creating a front group for Big Tobacco. And Sullivan hasn’t disclosed the cash transaction when he’s written glowingly of this noted gay Republican -– not to mention when he’s penned endless love letters to Bush.

Sullivan lives in a glass house within a glass house within a glass house, and as usual it is shattered by one of his own huge stones. He has a list of benefactors on his website -– you have to search around to find it –- and one of the people at the top of that list is Bush friend and public-relations operative Charles Francis, a man to whom Sullivan gave a glowing writeup only days after Francis appears to have given Sullivan some cold hard cash.

It was last December, about a week after Francis’ name was listed on Sullivan’s site as a Sullivan benefactor, when the pundit wrote in his "Daily Dish" on the home page how "the work of Charlie Francis is of enormous importance –- not just for gay Americans but also for Republicans who want to see their party grow and breathe and unite." (Francis is a founder of the Republican Unity Coalition, a gay-straight alliance.)

Francis was certainly not identified as a Big Tobacco lobbyist, nor was there any disclosure -– within the text itself, as Sullivan is demanding of Krugman and others -– that "Charlie" gave Sullivan a wad of cash to keep his website going; one has to go find that information where it’s buried away elsewhere on his site. When you do find it, Sullivan doesn’t disclose the exact dollar amount (as he also has demanded of Krugman). We are only told that Francis is a Gold Sponsor -– the top donor group, comprising people who gave $1000 and up to the site.

And Francis may be just the tip of the iceberg: there are 59 other contributors named on Sullivan’s site (and then there are the ones he says don’t want their names used), some of whom must have conflicting business interests according to the all-new Sullivan Standards of Journalism.

I've just pulled quotes here. The entire article is a must-read. To paraphrase Virgina Postrel -- I think Signorile's research will be fatal to Sullivan's career.

PARTING SHOTS: Virginia Postrel, in so many words, concedes that the whole KrugmanGate debacle boils down to Andrew Sullivan's one-man crusade against a pontificating gasbag -- and that Krugman's greatest error in judgment was that he rose to take the bait.

MIND OVER WHAT MAILBAG: The eminently sensible Mark Evanier -- whose POVonline website has lately morphed into what I would describe as the preeminent blog about comics, popular culture and show business -- adds this P.S. to my coverage of KrugmanGate:
Did Krugman poison Andrew Sullivan's lhasa apso or something like that? The whole dispute sounds very personal; like the latter has just been waiting for an opportunity to dump on the former. ... Amidst the steaming pile of debris that is Enron, the worst possible interpretation of Krugman's ethics is a gnat-bite compared to some of the tiger maulings that are now being revealed.

Something personal between Sullivan and Krugman? Yeah, I think there must be a dead dog somewhere in the picture. Either that, or Sullivan can't admit that he'd staked out a target that didn't really deserve more than an asterisk's worth of ire, so he's ratcheted up the stakes to cover his error in judgment.

I don't want to repeat myself endlessly on a subject that should have played itself out by now -- but even as I type these words, sure enough, here's none other than Andrew Sullivan popping up on local talk radio, taking yet another opportunity to bash Krugman after promising on his website today that he was finally ready to let it go. Oh, wait -- actually, Sullivan gave himself an escape clause: "I’m gonna lay off," he said,"(unless I can’t help myself)." Good enough for me. I, too, hereby promise to move on to another topic -- unless I feel like reneging on that promise tomorrow.

Monday, January 28, 2002

Reader John W. Braue, III takes me to task for perpetuating a common misconception:
Enron was only the FIFTH largest contributor to the Republican National Committee in 2000. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the top five contributors to the RNC in 2000 were:

$992,115 - AT&T
$988,774 - Philip Morris
$913,905 - MBNA Corp
$900,290 - Credit Suisse First Boston
$888,265 - Enron Corp

For the record, the top five contributors to the Democratic National Committee in 2000 were:

$3,423,400 - American Fedn of St/Cnty/Munic Employees
$1,516,100 - Service Employees International Union
$1,358,400 - Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
$1,237,500 - Vyyo Inc
$1,131,500 - Communications Workers of America:

All numbers from the CRP's website at

(...When you add in their contributions to individual races, Enron may well be the largest contributor, but I don't feel like doing the arithmetic).
John ''Akatsukami'' Braue

Friday, January 25, 2002

MAY 11, 2006: Keep that date open. Ken Layne and Bitter Girl are enthusaistically looking forward to the fourth, long-overdue Indiana Jones movie. But I'm literally counting the days! 1565 to go...

SULLIVAN UNRAVELS (3): He won't let it go! Andrew Sullivan's latest beef is that Paul Krugman is morally suspect -- not for accepting a consulting fee from Entron per se, but for failing to insist that they knock it down from the original $50,000 to, say, a Sullivan-sized $7,500 or thereabouts.

Honestly, Andrew, do you really ever expect to convince an economist to apologize for his own market value?

I remember these arguments back when Johnny Carson started to wring record-breaking contracts out of NBC -- to which they gladly agreed, if it would keep his Tonight Show stint going for a few more years. In terms of what he actually contributed to society -- so the arguments went -- was Johnny Carson ever truly worth more than, say, the best teacher in the New York City public school system? Should Carson have humbly accepted a modest $100,000 annual salary, even though he could easily command $20 million? Is this really a serious argument, or just a space-filler?

Likewise, who begrudges top professional athletes their seven- and eight-figure deals? Or Rush Limbaugh's nine-figure deal? Granted, Limbaugh is not working for a transparently criminal enterprise -- but good grief, the Enron story is still unfolding! Perhaps Sullivan is ready to make a rush to judgment on pure instinct. I would call it gross journalistic negligence to declare, here and now, that Ken Lay and his cronies broke insider trading laws as early as 1999, the year Krugman did his very short stint as an Enron consultant. (Slate's Rob Walker takes pains to remind us that "...almost every reasonable story on the subject makes passing mention of the fact that we still don't actually know what went wrong." [italics mine.] )

Isn't the timetable at all relevant? Yes, it may be reprehensible that Enron used lawful tax shelter gimmmicks to "hide" corporate debt for years. But If Enron execs did nothing technically illegal until they massively cashed out their stock options in 2001, and Krugman had no "relationship" with them after 1999, then for what does Krugman really have to apologize -- other than having become a more valuable commodity than Andrew Sullivan?

Or to put it another way: Is it okay to eat California lettuce yet? Can I ever buy Bayer aspirin or a Volkswagen Beetle with a clear conscience?

Come on, Sully. What's really bugging you?

UPDATE: Paul Krugman's New York Times non-apology salient point: "The muck stops here."

UPDATE: Peggy Noonan joins the $50,000 club and comes clean here.

UPDATE: Later in the day, Sullivan adds: "Shouldn’t Krugman and Noonan and Kudlow and Stelzer and Kristol now recuse themselves from any further Enron commentary?" To which I reply, Why isn't it enough that they have disclosed? Can't their ideas still stand or fall on their own merits? Doesn't the scrutiny and vocal criticism of their readers act as a break on any uncharacteristically loopy notions these EnroPundits may put forth in the future?

UPDATE: Word comes this afternoon that former Enron Vice Chairman Clifford Baxter has taken the easy way out and fallen on his sword. Baxter reportedly made $35 million on the sale of his Enron stock options -- and lucky for him, that's just about exactly what he'll need to pay the boatman.

Will the vast right-wing conspiracy find a way to pin this murder on Hillary? Stay tuned...

Reader Glenn Cordua thinks Enron bought the proverbial pig in a poke when they donated the entirety of my great-aunt Zelda's 401k retirement fund to the RNC:

Actually, in terms of the policies implemented and recommended by the Bush administration, I would score this one as a clean and complete wipeout for ENRON. From the rejection of Kyoto, to the strong recommendation to open ANWR, to the removal of Hebert as FERC chair, to the proctological examination of ENRON, DYNEGY, and all the other Californicating energy traders since late last spring under the direction of Pat Wood at the FERC (still under way), and many other details too numerous to list. To those of us in Houston, and familiar with the energy industry, the sweep of ENRON's skunking by the Bush administration in 01 was breathtaking.

Not to promote any conspiracy theories, mind you -- but I'm beginning to form the impression that the Bushies made an intentionally brilliant tactical decision, very early on, to stiff Ken Lay in order to avoid the appearance of ever having been in his pocket.

Perhaps Enron's largesse ultimately bought them nothing of value, but the next obvious question is: Who was the SECOND-largest contributor of soft money to the Republican National Committee? Who was the THIRD-largest? Who was the FOURTH and FIFTH largest? And are THEY licking their wounds today -- or licking their chops?

If I'm imagining phantom conspirators in dark places, feel free to fact-check my ass. That's what this whole exercise is about.

RANDOM KITTEN SERVER! They're soooooo cuuuuute!

Thursday, January 24, 2002

SULLIVAN UNRAVELS (2): Amidst all the verbiage that spewed from and about him over past week, Andrew Sullivan did say -- and I have to take him at his word -- that "l'affaire Krugman" has nothing to do with ideology, and that his "...criticisms would apply to anyone of any politics on the take from Enron and not disclosing fully, including the fee."

Fine. But then, let's just take one more minute to put things in perspective. Which is the more troubling turn of events that should warrant so much blogging energy?

(1) Paul Krugman reveals the size of his usual consulting fee -- and, yes, the size of his ego -- but in no way can be shown to have compromised the logic of his arguments or diminished the accuracy of his reportage of Bush's smoke-and-mirrors economic / energy policies?


(2) Even at this late date, the White House still refuses to release the names of that cabal of Republican donors and industry advisors who last year met with Dick Cheney and carved out a national energy policy that was virtually Enron's wish-list on a silver platter?

SULLIVAN UNRAVELS (1): By the time I finally had a chance to collect my thoughts, volumes enough had already been written about Andrew Sullivan's eagerness to discover (or imagine) ethical lapses on the part of Paul Krugman, for taking money from Enron before he was hired by the New York Times. Nevertheless, I am still compelled to weigh in, even at this late date.

Despite much head-shaking and tsk-tsking by the usually-sensible Virginia Postrel (you still need to provide an easy way to link to specific entries, dollink!), Glenn Reynolds and others, it now seems apparent to me that Sullivan was either being wholly disingenuous or atypically naive in leveling such damning accusations at Krugman. Otherwise, what exactly was the point of this exercise?

The facts: Krugman did some consulting work for Enron and wrote a puff piece about them for Fortune Magazine in 1999, shortly before becoming a Times columnist. In the course of things, he disclosed this fact in his Times column a year ago. More recently, he disclosed the amount of money he was paid. Fifty grand. Nice work if you can get it!

Okay, that's not exactly walking-around money. But what, exactly, was Sullivan trying to argue? That Krugman should have taken only a Sullivan-sized ($7,500) honorarium to avoid the stench of corruption? That he should have been fired from the Times for having written endlessly about Enron's troubling ethical lapses despite being fairly well-paid for his short consulting stint with them? We should all be so conflicted!

In other words -- as best as I can figure it -- Krugman merely failed to repeat his previous disclosures ad nauseam, and his editors elected to not make explicit a couple of little details which were, by any standard, either self-evident or largely irrelevant. I'm shocked. Shocked.

Where, exactly, is the conflict of interest? Where, even, is the appearance of conflict? If Sullivan could have cited a single instance in which Times columnist Krugman appeared to be unduly generous to his former employer, he certainly managed to keep that scoop under wraps. Should Krugman be disqualified from writing for the Times in perpetuity, solely because he was an admitted Rent-An-Economist in an earlier life? Is there no statute of limitations on the corrupting influence of monies earned prior to becoming a journalist?

The worst fault James Taranto could find was the appearance of defensiveness: "Krugman does look quite silly thumping his chest about "crony capitalism" when he himself has benefited from it and was cheering for today's villains less than three years ago." (Krugman himself remarks that the piece "looks a bit naive now, but it's a love letter to markets, not to Enron.") But Taranto concedes that Krugman "does seem to have complied with the rules of journalistic ethics," and that his failure to disclose the amount of his consulting fee "seems an exceedingly picayune point."

As Times readers well know, Krugman has a long history of railing against the cozy relationship between the entire Bush cabinet and administration senior officials, and various large corporate donors to the Republican party -- including, obviously, Enron. So in what way, then, does Sullivan imagine that cashing Enron's check has permanently corrupted Krugman? Being their paid crony, must Krugman have known -- and failed to warn his readers with sufficient vigor, before the scandals broke wide open -- that Enron would shortly be run into the ground by crooks and scoundrels? Gosh, did Sullivan's portfolio take a pounding in the wake of Enron's bankruptcy? I can only speculate.

Which, in the end, is all that Sullivan has done here: Speculate. I mean, really -- what's his beef? What's eatin' him? What was this tirade about -- if not merely to crap on a liberal-leaning anti-Bush Times columnist for the sheer joy of it?

Andrew Sullivan may well feel that his website is the only outlet where he can really kick back and say what's on his mind, free of editorial constraints -- and no question about it, shrill personal vendettas are loads of fun to read -- but this exercise has added little of value to the public discourse. Sullivan is arguably one of the three or four the most visible (and unarguably one of the most literate and persuasive) representatives of the online punditry community. As such, I would humbly suggest that he has a greater responsibility to temper his opinions with facts -- all available facts, not just the most convenient or spectacular-sounding ones.

(If you happen to read this, Andrew: Rather than merely dissing or casually dismissing him, how about debating Krugman's actual, specific beefs with Bush's economic policy sometime? Isn't that where your real grievances lie?)

Mark Steyn bashes Krugman here.
Jack Shafer of Slate trashes Sullivan here.
Josh Marshall mildly supports Krugman here.
Stromata hammers Krugman (and amplifies many of Sullivan's false accusations) here.
Virginia Postrel -- who originally wrote that "...Sullivan's research will be fatal to Krugman's NYT career" gradually offers Krugman the benefit of her earlier doubt here. (scroll through the entire past week for several relevant entries).
Kevin Deenihan explains what's really wrong with Krugman's columns here.
Andrew Sullivan continues to insist here that, disclosure or no disclosure, he takes it as an article of faith that -- as long as the cash remains in his pocket -- Krugman is permanently tainted by Enron's three-year-old bribe, even without a single concrete example of this taint manifesting itself in Krugman's writings.
Andrew Sullivan's readers weigh in here.
Paul Krugman answers his critics here, here and here.

Friday, January 18, 2002

I'M A FAILURE! I must be. Otherwise, while he was busily trashing the entire, insular WarBlog community for -- what? Not being as clever a group of writers as, say, the typical writer? -- Tim Cavanaugh would surely have found some fault with a throwaway kind word or generous remark I'd made in the pages of Mind Over What Matters, lo these past three months.

Instead, he nails "...the consistently correct Moira Breen," trashes "my very dear friend Ken Layne," and finds fault with "another terrific Matt Welch column." Among twenty-or-so other, non-fraudlent members of the Big-Name Blogger Brigade. Where's Mind Over What Matters? Nowhere! As least insofar as Tim Cavanaugh is concerned,

Aha! Here's the problem! Obviously, I'm not sufficiently sucking up to the right self-aggrandizing people. Tim! It's not too late! I can learn! I'll do better! Look here! See? Watch this:

My self-hating friend Tim Cavanaugh has just written a "laundry-list" style hatchet job that would put Maureen Dowd to shame! Don't miss it!

Daimnation trashes Tim Cavanaugh here.
Samizdata trashes Tim Cavanaugh here.
Instapundit trashes Tim Cavanaugh here.
Dailypundit trashes Tim Cavanaugh here.
Little Green Footballs trashes Tim Cavanaugh here.
Bjørn Stærk trashes Tim Cavanaugh here.
Tim Blair trashes Tim Cavanaugh here.
Jeff Jarvis gently trashes Tim Cavanaugh here.
Ken Layne royally trashes Tim Cavanaugh here and here.

And finally, USS Clueless reminds us here that, by calling so much attention to his little chain-yanking stunt, the above-mentioned bloggers have only helped Cavanaugh accomplish exactly what he set out to do. My position, quite the contrary, is that when Mind Over What Matters fails to jump at the slightest provocation, we're letting the terrorists win.

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

BLOWIN' IN THE WIND: "So Osama Bin Laden didn't kill Charles Bishop and Accutane didn't either. What did? Mental illness. That's sad. But it's not news."

So says Richard Blow, writing for the occasionally interesting In an article subtitled "How The Press Used Its Own Hysteria To Create An Overblown Tale Of Drama and Destruction," Blow reaches the same obvious conclusion that Mind Over What Matters did one week earlier -- except that where I was just flying on instinct, Blow debunks the Accutane connection with solid research and documentation:
Look at the numbers. According to the Miami Herald and other papers, 147 out of 12 million Accutane users between 1982 and May 2001, an 18-year span, were hospitalized for depression or committed suicide. That's about 1.25 hospitalizations or suicides per 100,000 Accutane users. But the suicide rate among Bishop's age group, 15-24, is about 15 per 100,000 per year. Which makes it sound that if you don't want your kids to kill themselves, you should put them on Accutane, and fast."

By the way, has just overhauled their entire website, and it's now much easier on the eyes. Thanks, guys.

INCREDIBLE! I've hardly posted a worthy paragraph since the holidays, and still you people keep coming back, looking for more. Bless you all. The long drought is nearly over. My DSL connection is back -- Blogger seems to be working reliably (for the moment) -- at this point, fatigue remains the only obstacle to the resumption of a near-daily posting schedule. Stay tuned...

Friday, January 11, 2002

FREE ADVICE: If you are thinking of signing up for broadband Internet service from a company called Edge Connections, do yourself a favor and stick white-hot needles into your eyes instead. Trust me -- you'll suffer far less in the long run.

Thursday, January 10, 2002


What drove that kooky kid, Charles Bishop, to fly a Cessna into the side of 40-story building in downtown Tampa? Let's see -- he wasn't a pampered do-your-own-thing Berkeley brat -- and for some reason, Dungeons and Dragons is getting a free pass here -- Aha! He had acne, so maybe it wuz that debbil medication Acutane what made him depressed. Heaven forbid we consider the theory of personal responsibility and pin the blame on Charles Bishop's free (if tragically irrational) will.

But wait! Now it turns out that it may have been genetics! Mom and Dad, it seems, once attempted to end their own lives in a bizarre suicide pact! Here's part of the story:

Charles Bishop's mother, Julia, and father, Charles Bishara, entered into a suicide pact after they were denied a marriage license in 1984 ... Bishop's mother, the former Julia Detore, tried to marry Bishara when she was 17 and he was 19, but the couple was denied a marriage license ... The couple stuffed rags into the tailpipe of Detore's car and tried to fill it with carbon monoxide to kill them both ... When that failed, they allegedly agreed Detore would stab Bishara with a butcher knife, and he would slash her wrists with the same knife.

It gets worse. Here's the whole sordid story!

Sorry for the paucity of new content lately. My DSL service is still acting cranky, and at this point, I reserve the right to do likewise.

Received an unprecedented amount of e-mail regarding last week's remarks about Paul Krugman's column. If I can find the will to slog through the old dial-up connection, I'll post a few of 'em later today.

Friday, January 04, 2002

PAUL KRUGMAN DOESN'T GET IT. At least, not in today's New York Times column, in which he is reduced to making wild guesses:

You might have expected the concentration of income at the top to provoke populist demands to soak the rich ... Indeed, the Republicans have moved so far to the right that ordinary voters have trouble taking it in; as I pointed out in an earlier column, focus groups literally refused to believe accurate descriptions of the stimulus bill that House Republican leaders passed on a party-line vote back in October.

Why has the response to rising inequality been a drive to reduce taxes on the rich? Good question. It's not a simple matter of rich people voting themselves a better deal: there just aren't enough of them. To understand political trends in the United States we probably need to think about campaign finance, lobbying, and the general power of money to shape political debate.

Yeah, we might think about campaign finance, lobbying, and the power of money if we were looking for a remedy for insomnia. But seriously, Krugman really doesn't get it. And I say this despite having a good deal more sympathy for Krugman's McCain-like "plain talk" sensibilities than folks like Instapundit and the rest of the right-leaning bloggista community.

Krugman is right when he makes the point -- over and over again -- that a great deal of the Bush tax plan is based on, not fuzzy math, but imaginary numbers, and that no one should buy into Republican rhetoric at face value. But are we to believe that so many American voters are such morons that (for practical, statistical purposes) fully half of them pushed the lever (or punched the chad) for Bush because they bought the lies?

Give us some credit, Paul. Most low- and middle-income people don't intend to stay that way. Most of the bottom 99% income-earners dream of one day becoming a member of that top 1%. Most of them never will achieve that dream. But surely that's what the American Dream is all about -- the right to work very hard to improve one's (or one's children's) lot in life

And when we finally get there, we want to know that it was worth the trouble. There would be far less incentive to work that hard for 40 productive years or longer if we know the fruits of our labor will only be taxed away in the end!

Granted, this somewhat oversimplifies the equation. Some people would work hard anyway because they have a strong cultural work ethic or are driven from within, and some people truly are morons who voted the straight Republican ticket because they liked the sound of Bush's feel-good promises that couldn't possibly be kept.

(And in making the counter-argument, Gore had an nigh impossible task: While Bush could promise deficit reduction, social security privatization, drug benefits for seniors, and a rainy-day slush fund all in one breath, most people's eyes would glaze over by the time Gore finished explaining why this was mathematically impossible.)

None of which is to say that the Republican tax cuts make one whit of fiscal sense. They don't. But as a percentage of our overall economy, they hardly matter -- and besides, they can always be repealed if there is sufficient political will.

But more to the point: If the Republican tax cuts were a consequence of the corrupting influence of campaign contributions, surely Enron would have gotten a far better bail-out deal than the airlines!

No, Mr. Krugman. The dynamic here -- the reason that so many low-income earners support lower taxes for high-income earners -- boils down to the power of capitalism, human nature and the corrupting influence of the American Dream.

Thursday, January 03, 2002

BREAKING NEWS: WE'RE OFFICIALLY BACK TO NORMAL! Sharks have resumed their coordinated attacks against American citizens on -- er, just slightly off -- American soil.

Wednesday, January 02, 2002

MORE MAILBAG: My thanks to everyone who keeps popping by, looking for new content this week and last, but I'm afraid I've done something to goof up my primary computer's device drivers -- and my backups predate the installation for my current DSL service provider -- so my broadband connection is still problematic this week. (Going in through dial-up is the royal pits.) Hopefully, we'll be more-or-less back to normal in another day or two.

Meanwhile, reader and old CAPA-alpha buddy Bill Sherman remarks:

Enjoyed your self-examination piece in "Mind Over What Matters," but once again I find I can't resist taking issue with a part of it: your characterization of liberal dogma that's based on the assumption that all liberals favor strict gun control. As someone who lives in the farming Midwest - where hunting is a fact of life (made some venison lasagna myself this Thanksgiving - but don't worry: I'm not personally packing - too much of a klutz for that!) - I can attest to the fact that there are plenty of left-leaning types who are not so doctrinaire on the matter of gun possession. Characterizing all gun control advocates by claiming that their only agenda is to Ban The Guns is to indulge in the type of stereotypical spinwork that sites like Spinsanity exist to counter. (Thanks for linking me to that site, incidentally!) 

In this light, I also take issue with Kopel's futuristic fantasy piece: which indulges in the basic spin tactic of imagining an exaggerated situation (Does anybody realistically believe that we're gonna ban all firearms? Might as well try imagining, as Lennon also did, "no possessions" or "countries.") and then scoring ideological points from this Cloudcookooland. Are there sentimental liberals who believe that the world would be a better place if we banned all firearms (and "never more were to fire 'em," to slightly misquote XTC)? Undeniably. Are there fund-raisers who indulge in shoddy stats and Worst Case Scenarios to get money? Equally undeniable. But I think you'll find such practices as common to the NRA as its ideological opponents.

Me, I believe that guns can be as dangerous as cars - and it behooves a government that's concerned with the protection of its population to maintain some measure of control and overview of the use of both. Will this insure that no one will be injured as a result of the irresponsible or illegal use of either? Of course not. But it still makes intuitive sense to me to support some form of measured gun control - much as I support the traffic laws of the land.

As I've occasionally, obliquely mentioned on this page in the past, in real life I run a small graphic design and consulting business. One of my "most memorable" customers (to put it politiely) was Phil, a gruff old printing broker who personified the "old" in "old school." He had no patience for learning anything about the printing business if he could possibly avoid it, so he would constantly put me in the position of having to tell him that the things he was asking me to do were either ridiculous or, at least, ill-advised -- and usually, they were the same things, over and over again. As long as I kept solving the problem for him, it wasn't worth it to him to waste any energy on preventing it.

Not surprisingly, he was also the last of my regular clients to refuse to embrace the Internet -- and also, not surprisingly, his business was not resilient enough to survive the disruption and loss of revenue of 9/11. In all fairness, his printing brokerage business was heavily dependent on the econonmic health of the Financial District, and he did lose a couple of major clients on 9/11 -- and also, he was recovering from treatment for cancer, and was looking for an excuse to retire anyway. But toward the end, I had the opportunity to get a peek at his books -- briefly entertaining the possibility of doing some sort of merger or buy-out deal -- and it turned out that his business was never as large or robust as he had me believing all along. Mythmaking is a powerful tool, and I'm sure he used it to his great advantage for many years.

But all this is descriptive oversaturation to describe a personality that would be colorful regardless. What always especially struck about this gentleman was how he defied political labeling. Phil had served in Korea -- at least, so he said, and I have no reason to doubt it from the detail of his anecdotes. Certainly, he knew his way around firearms, and indeed, he did have a carry permit, and made use good of it. Probably, his favorite anecdote was of the time he'd caught some thug red-handed -- in the act of stealing the radio out of his van -- and made an armed citizen's arrest.

At the same time, he was an unrepentent traditional liberal in almost every other sense. Unlike many typical White Male New York liberals who only "walked the walk" as far as voting symbolically for David Dinkins in '88 (and then voting him out by a narrow margin in '92), Phil actually put his business on the line by hiring only minority women to his support staff -- and when he finally did sell the business, he was so loyal to has last remaining hire that the deal specifically required the new business owner to keep her on salary or find her a better job!

Point being, the old Archie Bunker-era labels have become quite irrelevant to the national discourse -- on any subject -- and have been so for many years. If the first clue came on the day when Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan jumped into bed on the subject of globalization, surely the pointlessness of this artificial chasm should have become self-evident when the Democrats became the party of deficit reduction and Republicans promised to spend the same two trillion dollars on both social security privatization and new health care benefits.

Which is why I continue to say that the public debate is vastly, horribly served by those in the Dowd/O'Reilly/Limbaugh mainstream media who take such delight in framing every argument as an us-against-them / liberal-vs.-conservative conflict. That may be the easy way to fill column inches or air time, but it offers nothing of value to public policy decision-making.

But as I am, at the moment, on deadline, and I must free up this terminal for other purposes, I'll have to wrap up for now with a nonconclusive "More to come..."