Monthly Archives: October 2004

too pathetic


When this story broke, my reaction was the same as Begala’s on Crossfire: There was no way that Bush cheated like this in the debates. And just because Doonesbury believes it that doesn’t make it true.
But now Salon says a NASA photo analyst has concluded that he did. I know on the scale of things — unnecessary war, torture, trillion dollar deficits, the environment — this sin is tiny. But is there anything more pathetic than cheating in a debate? WBSH — George “radio man” Bush. Powerful and effective, so long as he keeps the channel in tune. Continue reading

Posted in presidential politics | 33 Comments

According to this poll, Kerry's got a landslide

Dave took a word and turned it into a site: Presidential Enblogment 2004. According to the numbers as of now, Kerry’s running 85% to Bushs 11%, and Nader’s 4%. And now there are 248 links on Google for “enblogment.” There were none two days ago. Continue reading

Posted in presidential politics | 9 Comments

calling for a retranslation

So translation is the hardest thing in the world to do well, so no criticism of the translator intended here, but: There’s something very weird about the translation of bin Laden‘s speech.
As Aljazeera has translated it, near the end bin Laden says this:

And for the record, we had agreed with the Commander-General Muhammad Ataa, Allah have mercy on him, that all the operations should be carried out within 20 minutes before Bush and his administration notice.
It never occurred to us that the Commander in Chief of the armed forces would abandon 50,000 of his citizens in the twin towers to face those great horrors alone at a time when they most needed him.

He goes on to refer to the Pet Goat incident, so we know he’s referring to the morning of September 11. But what does “carried out within 20 minutes before Bush and his administration notice” mean? Is bin Laden saying he gave the US warning (“notice”) before the attack — which would explain the weird look on Bush’s face before he was told the attack had actually occured?
Is there someone out there who can do better with the translation? Continue reading

Posted in presidential politics | 28 Comments

election duties

It is astonishing to me how hard it is to talk to friends and family about this election. It must have been easier before we entered the age of the broadcast. People must have expected it. But today, politics is religion � and neither are to be discussed among people who disagree. We feel free to stuff envelopes at an election headquarters. Or even to blather on in a blog. But the act of directly confronting someone else — at least if you know them — and asking them to explain their vote is as rude as asking them to explain their heart.
Most of the time, that doesn’t bother me. But in elections like this, it depresses the hell out of me. My family has had a vicious, extended debate through our mailing list about this election. I never understood how families were torn apart by the Civil War. I understand it now. Yet despite the bloodiness, it feels to me a duty. I swayed just one vote in that exchange with my family; I never expected to sway any. But the expectation of failure is not a reason to concede — see, e.g., the free culture movement.
I think this a duty we all share. We should learn to do it civilly. We need better tools. But if we’re ever to become a democracy that is immune from the spins of the likes of bin Laden and Rove, we need to rediscover, or just discover, the ethic of reasoned persuasion.
We built p2p-politics to ease people into this practice. Despite its brilliant technical implementation, the idea was a bust. Billions came to the site to watch the clips; scores of great clips were submitted; but precious few used the tool to send to someone else an argument, or a reason, or even a clip.
Whatever your tool, make this a duty of citizenship. Not always, maybe not in every election. But at least in this election. I spend a huge part of my time (insanely, my friends say) engaging with people I don’t know who email all sorts of questions and abuse (and even some words of praise). So this might seem more natural to me. But citizenship must mean explaining why. At least this time, it must. We are divided, and furious. We should use that anger for some good. Continue reading

Posted in presidential politics | 7 Comments

who needs rove when you've got bin laden

So Newsweek reports the Nation rallying behind the President, partly in response to bin Laden’s attack on Bush (in particular, his mentioning of this scene of Bush immediately after the attack on 9/11.
We are an astonishingly manipulable people. Continue reading

Posted in presidential politics | 25 Comments

Signing Off

Larry has been extremely generous in providing me this week-long opportunity to use his blog to explore some controversial questions involving contemporary intellectual-property law. I�m grateful to him � and to all of you who have offered reactions to my suggestions and questions. Terry Fisher… Continue reading

Posted in guest post | Leave a comment

Price Discrimination � with respect to entertainment and drugs

In this, my final, post, I�d like to take up the troublesome topic of price discrimination � both with respect to the distribution of audio and video recordings and with respect to sales of pharmaceutical products. My own view, which I�ll try to explain briefly, is that (a) we are likely to see much more price discrimination by the providers of these goods in the near future; (b) price discrimination in the context of entertainment is, on balance, bad; and (c) price discrimination in the context of drugs is, on balance, good. Judgments (b) and (c) are tentative and surely debatable; I�m hoping to elicit reactions. Continue reading

Posted in Copyright | 2 Comments

SF Voters: The Granick Slatecard

Jennifer Granick, superstar of all things cyber, and director of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, has released her annual SF/CA Slatecard. You can download it here. Her blog is The Shout. Continue reading

Posted in politics | 1 Comment

"The Choice" as explained by The New Yorker

The New Yorker’s November 1 editorial on the upcoming election is by far the most thorough and compelling explanation of why we should vote for John Kerry. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments

enblogment: For Kerry

It is no surprise to readers of this blog that I would endorse John Kerry for President. I’ve been harshly (sometimes unfairly) critical of the President (though the Secret Service has not questioned me about my criticism), while I’ve withheld criticism of John Kerry, save for questions about his campaign, and anxiety about his views on IP (and subsequent events have calmed both fears).
But every blog owes it to this space to state its case one way or the other, however briefly, so that the reality of November 3 doesn’t distort the views of where we are today.
There is an aspect of George Bush that has made it hard to come to this view. I’ve had no doubt about his policies — except for his views on trade (the steel tariffs embarrassment notwithstanding), I’m against them. But his character (as we see it) has a feature that is rare in politicians, and that as a liberal, I long for. As Bush likes to say, even if you disagree with him, you know where he stands. He’s flip-flopped of course (see facts 88-92 on The Nation’s 100 Facts about Bush), but on core positions, he has remained firm.
This is a feature in a politician, not a bug. It was the great disappointment of Clinton that heat would melt any resolve. Loyalty was a weakness. Commitment to an ideal that was unpopular was simply a prelude to a changing commitment.
Bush is different in this respect. It is a certain stubbornness, no doubt, but when stubbornness reflects principles, it is a rare virtue for a politician. It is how we like to remember Reagan. It’s what gave Lincoln the strength to risk everything for the Union.
But ultimately the question is what this stubbornness is a commitment to. One can respect a man committed to values one disagrees with, but that respect depends upon believing that it is really values that constitute the disagreement.
And here I found the Susskind’s book about Paul O’Neill the most instructive. The Price of Loyalty tells a story about a terrifying White House. The terror is the role of politics in this White House. No doubt, every White House has a political director. But at its core, policy should be the driver. Politics might wrap the policy; politics might guide its execution. But if a Presidency is to be more than a machine to assure reelection, then commitment must be to something more than the machine to assure reelection.
This White House has no policy core, at least according to O’Neill, and confirmed in many obvious ways. As he describes through Susskind, there is just a political shell, with no core policy driving the politics. Policy debates are scripted; arguments are removed from the script. The least curious President gets surrounded by yes men, who are themselves watching for signals not from the President, but from the men in charge of getting the President elected.
This is a criticism we could generalize across branches. The branch I know the most about (though admittedly, not much) is the judiciary. Everyone who lives and studies the law recognizes that judges too have a political shell. They are sensitive to, and react with, the changing mood of a time. But we respect judges not for their political skill, but for the principles that define their legal core. The political shell must answer to those principles. If it does, the judge merits respect, even from those who disagree with the principles at his or her core.
I spend my life as a lawyer in the dreamworld that imagines that principles guide judicial decisions. My students try to wake me from that world; I refuse to wake. And as a citizen, I want to live in the world where the White House is guided by a policy making core, not by a political shell. There is an ideal in the law called getting it right, politics notwithstanding. There should be such an ideal in the White House too.
My values are closer to Kerry’s than Bush. So I start biased in his favor. But in those moments when I let myself imagine that Kerry might actually pull this off, the picture that is most dramatically different in my mind is the idea that getting it right might return to the White House. Getting it right: following the facts, asking questions, testing theories, doing what, in light of these, and the values that frame these questions, is right.
Kerry reads. He asks questions. He gets angry at incomplete answers. He does policy. On this alone, he will be a better President than President Bush. And if he can thin the political shell to its properly secondary place, and not fear standing for some ideals that most think wrong, then he’ll be a great President — greater than Clinton, or Reagan, or just about anyone else.
There’s of course much more one could say. There are the parts that make me rage with anger (torture) and well with tears (torture). But the ideal of a policymaking White House is at least a reason for Kerry over Bush. I won’t pretend that it was reason that got me to my vote. I’m sure that anger and tears will always have more power than reason. But if you want to get it right, here at least is a reason. Continue reading

Posted in presidential politics | 20 Comments