The Weblog of
Kevin C. Murphy


Conjuring Political, Cinematic, Cultural, and Athletic Arcana since the End of the Last Century


"When we have to change our minds about a person, we hold the inconvenience he causes us very much against him." - Freidrich Nietzsche


A Man in Full, Tom Wolfe

Remotely Queued
Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
Reinventing Comics, Scott McCloud
The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas Friedman


The Contender (6/10)
Visions Past
Meet the Parents (7.5/10)
Almost Famous (8.5/10)
Visions to Come


Selmasongs, Bjork

Music, Madonna

A Day in the Life, The Beatles
The Gunner's Dream, Pink Floyd
Stolen Car, Beth Orton


Give 'Em Enough Dope Vol. 1-3

10/17/00 - The third debate transcript on Looka today is absolutely hilarious - I highly suggest you go read it (birddogged by Dumbmonkey.)

Nader rocks the Garden. Highlights of the evening include an Eddie Vedder-acoustic performance of Dylan's "The Times, They Are-A-Changin'" and a ringing folk endorsement of Dubya by Tim Robbin's "Times are Changin' Back" alter-ego, Senator Bob Roberts.

If she survived Menace II, she can handle The Matrix 2/3: In talks for the role of Niobe, rumored to be leader of Zion and love interest of Morpheus, is none other than Jada Pinkett-Smith.

Your mom was right: Chicken soup is good for fighting colds.

Round 3 tonight. I gotta say, I'm not a big fan of the town meeting format. I'm always reminded of an SNL skit from '92 where "regular people just like us" go up to the microphone and ask questions like, "Everybody has stuff. I want stuff. Where's my stuff?!?" And then you always have the candidates' painful attempts to empathize with the questioners. "You say your dog is sick, Roger? Oh, man, that's tough. How sick is he? Do you have pet health insurance? When I returned to my wife of 25 years after service in Vietnam, my dog was sick too..."

Look for Gore's comeback to begin tonight. Not for any reason other than Dubya has nowhere to go but down and the press is getting bored with the most recent storyline.

Slate publishes a diary of Seti@Work.

R.I.P. Gov. Mel Carnahan of Missouri. It would be venal to comment on the ramifications of this tragic accident on a Democratic Senate (and Gore's chances in Missouri,) so I note that particular elephant (donkey) in the room only in passing. Many condolences to his family and to the people of his state.

10/16/00 - Who's the exaggerator now?, part deux. Dubya gets burned on Texas health care.

Party before principle? In an effort to win back the House, the Democrats are fielding a handful of pro-life, pro-gun conservative candidates. Kinda defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

Salon examines the current fight to save Low Power-FM radio from a broadcaster-bought Republican Congress, and recounts the unkindest cut of all to LPFM, the selling-out of National Public Radio.

Good riddance.

The LA Times wonders why Gore isn't running on Clinton's record.

High Industrial lives! I thought one of my favorite blogs had given up the ghost, but it had been laying low at another URL. Doh!

An all new minimalist Genehack redesign...I like it.

Boycaught offers an interesting riff on the insular nature of weblogs in today's post. I'd say his point is sad but true.

Zo takes the season off to recuperate from his kidney disorder (a la Sean Elliot.) The East just got a lot more boring.

Essayist/playwright Anna Deavere Smith talks about Washington'a social dysfunction. The part about people looking over your shoulder is so dead on. I can't tell you how often I'm having a conversation with somebody at some Washington gathering and their eyes are scanning back and forth across the room like a rodent at the bottom end of the food chain. It's pathetic.

Despite Lieberman's safety office run in Connecticut, the Dems might still win the Senate.

Television Title Bout: FCC v. NAB. Guess where I stand? In the most recent salvo, Broadcasting & Cable, the industry's trade magazine, ridicules the Chairman's public interest speech as a fifth column operation for Gore-Lieberman. Sheah.

Corona's Monday morning reality check: David Duchovny won't be in Episode III and Paul Newman won't be in Batman Beyond. Glad we cleared that up.

Facing dwindling resources, Gore-Lieberman invest their campaign cash in producing high black turnout.

A Nader crowd gets a scare.

Can you guess which Presidential candidate said of homosexuality in 1981, "I think it is wrong...It is not just another normal optional lifestyle?" Hint: He refused campaign contributions from gay groups in 1984 on the grounds that homosexuality was not "an acceptable alternative that society should affirm." Another hint? It starts with an A and ends with an l Gore. Sad, sad, sad.

Caught The Contender this past weekend. It was pretty decent until the last fifteen minutes or so, when the movie completely derailed...[Spoiler] I thought the fact that she didn't have the college orgy undermines the whole point of the movie, that private consensual sex has no bearing on suitability for public office. Also, why on earth would Congress invite President Bridges to speak before a joint session, and then love it so much when he screamed at them for letting down America? Tough to see a movie with such promise fall apart at the end like that. Sam Elliot and Gary Oldman were fun, though.

10/13/00 - What amnesia-sufferers and Tetris can tell you about your stranger dreams.

Andrew Sullivan looks at Dubya's judicial appointments and discovers that they're not as conservative as Team Gore would have you fear. Also in TNR, Jeffrey Rosen looks at how the Supreme Court is handling privacy.

Nat Hentoff makes the case anew for helping Nader reach 5%. And so does Eddie Vedder.

Who's the exaggerator now? The kettle returns fire on the pot.

The trailer for Shadow of the Vampire is now online. A supernatural riff on the filming of the legendary Nosferatu, Shadow stars John Malkovich and Willem DaFoe. Count me in.

TNR's informative state-by-state electoral map, where Gore currently still leads Bush 220 to 167 (115 electoral votes are a tossup)

Lars Erik-Nelson is rightfully disturbed by Dubya's "hangman's grin" in the second debate.

Gary Oldman, the (Conservative) English actor who specializes in playing strange Americans, berates Dreamworks for re-editing his new movie The Contender in a presumably pro-Democratic fashion. Hard to comment until I see the special edition DVD.

Bad Leo! Martin Scorcese rips into Di Caprio for showing up late to the Gangs of New York set after a bender.

10/12/00 - Slate talks Tivo, and links to Kottke in the process.

A bounty hunter takes aim in the newest Episode II select. Very Blade Runner-esque backdrop, eh?

In the new world of talking computers, old gender stereotypes persist.

Fresh off his summer outing, the freewheelin' Bob Dylan plans a fall college tour.

Lucas promises to keep Jar Jar at bay.

War. What had seemed so close a few short weeks ago looks farther away then ever.

I found my copy of A Man in Full buried behind a hidden flap in my briefcase, so it's back to Charlie Croker's Atlanta this evening.

Debate No. 2 is in the books. Five days before Super Tuesday, I wrote the following over at the Bradley site: "A primary vote for Al Gore is a prayer that George Bush just happens to be a lousier candidate than the Vice-President." If last night is any indication, that prayer may go unanswered. Hamstrung by his now infamous penchant for exaggeration and the spectre of his performance in the first debate, Al Gore just wasn't able to land any substantive body blows on a more relaxed, congenial, and articulate (by his low standards) Dubya. I think the Vice-President's message on taxes and the Texas record were essentially correct, but the messenger is so flawed and compromised at this point that his criticisms were easily sidestepped by Dubya.

I also don't understand why the veep isn't running more on the Clinton record...George Sr.'s name came up more often last night than Bill Clinton's. To be sure, l'affaire Lewinsky was a national embarrassment, but it's hard to deny the economic performance of the last eight years - a performance which every single Republican in Congress explicitly renounced their claim to in 1993 (when multiple variations of "Clinton will be held accountable for the crash that follows this 1993 economic bill" resonated around the Capitol).

Of course, there's always going to be that element of the radical right wing who truly despise Clinton (and reserve an even more vehement loathing, strangely enough, for Hillary.) But it's not like Gore would win those votes anyway. He made this same mistake in the primaries. If he had run a campaign of "It's the past eight years, stupid" against Dollar Bill, rather than one of "$150 vouchers" and Mediscare race-baiting, there'd be at least some chance that I might still vote for the guy.

That being said, despite his improvements, Dubya still seemed so evasive, frat-boy-makes-good goofy, and disturbingly flippant about the execution of two (NOT three) men for an admittedly horrific crime, that there's no chance I'd think of changing sides in this one. A pox on both their houses, I say.

One additional note: on the subject of tax reform vs. tax credits, which seems to be one of the clearer lines of distinction forming in this election cycle. Given a choice between the two, I'd prefer tax reform. Despite the proliferation of easy-to-use computer programs, the current tax code has become so arcane and loophole-ridden that it clearly needs to be simplified. And payroll taxes would be an excellent place to start.

That being said, given that Dubya's plan is so substantially weighted to the top 1% of Americans, I prefer the Gore-Lieberman tax credits in this case. Lefty that I am, I still believe in progressive taxation of individual/family incomes.

I've always wondered about our policy towards taxing business, though. I haven't completely thought this through, but it seems to me that taxing businesses is (a) counter-productive and (b)results in double-taxation. There are three things businesses can do with their income: 1) invest in more plant and infrastructure, 2) invest in their employees via raises and such, or 3) pay a dividend to their shareholders. I'd think the government would want to encourage Options 1 and 2, and 2 and 3 are already taxed anyway (on employees' and shareholders' individual tax returns.) So, other than taxing investments in foreign infrastructure (which, it could be argued, does nothing to help American workers), is there a reason to tax business income, when it'll be taxed in one way or another somewhere else down the line?

Like I said, I haven't really thought it through and my working knowledge of economics is abysmal. Not very Naderish of me, I suppose, but I'm not wedded to the idea anyway. Just thinking out loud. Either way, corporate welfare - in terms of fat subsidies rooted in century-old legislation - has got to go.

It seems that the Cisco/Microsoft tax break for employee stock options also speaks to this notion (via the newly-employed Cluttered [Congrats!]) I'll have to review it further.

Where I do definitively side with Nader - and progressives in general, is in staunchly defending citizens from Corporate Power. And this is where I have my big philosophical break with the don't tread on me anti-government Right. When it comes to live and let live social issues I'm all for libertarianism. But History has shown us that the absence of strong government does not create an Edenic utopia where individuals flourish, as some right-wingers would have you believe. Rather, as we saw in the Gilded Age, corporate interests soon occupy the power vacuum left by a weak Federal government.

Indeed, it was a Republican President - Teddy Roosevelt - who first popularized the solution that a strong federal government had to be the necessary corrective to corporate power, and thus he molded the "New Nationalism" movement of his day. Basically, he realized that government had to be as big or bigger than the corporations to effectively protect the average American citizen from undue harm. (The other solution of the time, the anti-monopolism of Louis Brandeis, argued the converse: it asserted that businesses should be broken up and made small enough that they could be counterbalanced by a small federal government.)

The only problem with Roosevelt's approach, unfortunately, is that over the last century corporations have seen the ball game for what it is and fused themselves inexorably to our institutions of government, vis a vis lobbyists, donations, etc. (This process could have started innocently enough as a necessary move to coordinate industry efforts behind the WWI and WWII war efforts.)

At any rate, my feeling is - Big or Small government - the system is currently busted. Perhaps the technologies of the Information Age can be used effectively to decentralize power in Washington and still retain an efficient and sufficiently strong Federal government. But it will matter little if the overpowering influence of corporate money isn't significantly decreased, if not eliminated, from the political process.

Now, I don't think the corporations and government are always necessarily opposed. But there are enough times when a narrow corporate interest is at odds with the public interest that our government should be strong and independent enough to advocate the concerns of the people.

In sum, corporations appeal to our wants and desires as consumers. Government should appeal to our needs and hopes as citizens. And, in the final analysis, the latter should always trump the former.

Which brings me to my final point: why I consider myself a Progressive rather than a Liberal. First off, I don't make the distinction to defend myself against the ridiculous right-wingers who have, in a feat of true Orwellian linguistics, somehow made the word "Liberal" synonomous with "pinko unAmerican tax and spend communist." Better a Liberal than a Conservative anyday, in my book.

But anyway, on to my point. To borrow from Michael Sandel and Alan Brinkley, modern Liberalism (not classical "don't tread on me" liberalism) is rooted in the experience of the government-business partnership of WWII and is primarily concerned with a value-neutral federal government ensuring the equal distribution of rights. Meaning that Washington doesn't take much of a stake in fostering any particular value in the people as a whole. Instead, it is committed to ensuring equal justice to each segment of American society, be they by gender, race, ethnicity, or occupation. In other words, the concept of the public interest is subsumed by variety of competing interests, and it's the government's job to act as a honest broker state and ensure fairness to all. Liberalism's greatest success, of course, was the great and still unfinished Civil Rights revolution of the 1960's.

Progressivism, on the other hand, is rooted in the Progressive Era of TR and Woodrow Wilson, and is primarily concerned with fostering some kind of virtue in the electorate and in preserving the pre-requisites of citizenship. What's the difference? When liberals talk of competing interests, progressives speak of the public interest. When liberals talk about the rights of individuals and the concerns of groups, progressives talk about the obligations of citizens and the needs of communities. While liberals are value-neutral with respect to corporate power (they serve the needs of consumer-Americans), progressives want to know how this corporate power adversely affects citizens. In the liberal view, government mediates betwen groups of people, while, in the progressive view, the people are the government. In the progressive view, carmakers, farmers, breadbakers, and gun owners; Whites, Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics, we are all citizens.

TR and Woodrow Wilson were Progressives. JFK and LBJ were Liberals. FDR - crazy, wonderful experimentalist that he was - was both and neither. When faced with the Great Depression, that sucker would -and did - try anything.

These two strands of public philosophy - liberalism and progressivism - aren't mutually exclusive by any means, nor are they only represented in one party (although the Republicans' guiding philosophy in everything but social matters, since Goldwater in '64, has primarily been "classical liberalism," a.k.a. just leave me alone.)

Now, there is one big problem with Progressivism. Due to its concern with fostering virtue in citizens, Progressivism can be a coercive philosophy (a la Rousseau) if misapplied. As y'all know from reading this weblog, I'm not much in favor of pious virtuecrat pols deriding sex, violence, and Eminem for our nation's ills, nor of the government abridging individual freedoms to save that individual from him or herself. But, as John Stuart Mill noted in On Liberty, one virtue that government can get behind and thus sidestep the coercive trap is independence and self-cultivation.

In other words, in my view of progressivism, the government has two main virtues it should try to cultivate in each citizen:

One should be the necessary education to think independently and creatively for oneself. To ensure that each person in America has the tools and the space to follow their own path and arrive at their own destination (I could go into a whole nother digression here involving the transcendentalists, the Beat, and the peculiarly Zen nature of American life (see Robert Thurman, Stanley Cavell), but I get a sense I've been going on for way too long here anyway.)

The second virtue that government should foster in its citizens should be the habits and techniques of deliberation, a.k.a. the skills of democracy. We should teach our children (once they reach an appropriate age) not only how to think for themselves, but how to engage each other in thoughtful discourse. How to challenge each other's opinions and statements in a non-personal way. Basically, how to debate each other about the public good as citizens of a democracy must.

I know it all sounds a bit academic and removed from reality, but, what can I say? This is where my idealism (or what vestiges of it that survive this election cycle) lies. Fortunately, Neoprogressivism is a nascent but full-fledged movement in our country and in the Democratic party these days, thanks to communitarian writers like Sandel, Benjamin Barber, and Amitai Etzioni, historians like Brinkley, and politicians like...Bill Bradley.

My, I've rambled on today, haven't I? Now back to your regularly scheduled weblog.

Not for nothing is Jersey the home of the Hurricane. Garden State Law Enforcement officials discovered they had a a widespread racial profiling problem and took steps to hide it from the Feds rather than solve it.

Salon on the (anti-)Warpath: While Arthur Allen questions the candidates' silence on the drug war, Gary Kamiya warns that America's drug hypocrisy is reaching meltdown levels.

Say WHAT? L. Frank Baum, author of the first handful of Oz books, advocated Indian genocide. As far as skeletons in the closet go, this one's pretty menacing.

Also from Cluttered (and Mr. Barrett), a successful experiment in teleportation! Those metaphysical black box dilemmas just took a giant step toward becoming more physical.

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