June 2004 Archives

If you follow the news as closely as I do, you might have seen these items mentioned last week while they were still pending:

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced, with bipartisan support, a severely wrongheaded bill called the "Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act" (enter "S.2560" online here). If passed, it would amend copyright law to criminalize anyone (data backup software developers, peer-to-peer websites, etc.) who could profit from "inducing copyright infringement." This bill is a new low – and that's saying something – for posturing about "protecting children" while its real intent is the restriction of consumers' fair use rights inherent in their legally purchased property.

(Fair use is a well-established copyright doctrine that allows certain exceptions to the don't-copy/don't distribute rules that Hatch and his funders would like to make absolute. Check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation's website for more information. The EFF examines many important subjects that are largely ignored by the mainstream corporate media; they also do a great job of explaining how legislation like this affects our everyday lives.)

At the other end of the spectrum, Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA) has introduced the "Digital Media Consumers’ Rights Act" (enter "HR.107" online here) that would protect fair use rights by requiring copy-restricted CDs to be so labeled, and by amending the most onerous provisions of the DMCA. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act essentially made it illegal to circumvent copy protection. The travesty of this law is evident in several cases of jailing computer programmers [Dmitry Sklyarov] and silencing computer science researchers [Ed Felten] under the guise of protecting copyrights. The real goal, as usual, is protecting profits.

There is an increasingly clear demarcation between two schools of thought (not always aligned with political parties) in Washington DC: one that is pro-freedom and pro-citizen, and another that is pro-restriction and pro-special interests.

Call or write your Congresscritters, and let them know where you stand. (While you're at it, register to vote! Corporations may count the ballots, but we still get to cast them...)

Thanks for reading.

Quote of the Day:

"Exactly as the special interests of cotton and slavery threatened our political integrity before the Civil War, so now the great special business interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit. We must drive the special interests out of politics. [...] For every special interest is entitled to justice, but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office. The Constitution guarantees protection to property, and we must make that promise good. But it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation."

Theodore Roosevelt ("The New Nationalism," 1911)

Back when same-sex marriages were new in the US, conservative commentator Cal Thomas wrote a column titled "Marriage Massachusetts-Style") laying out his anti-marriage stance. I've had some fun deconstructing his opinions before, so I wrote a letter to my local newspaper's editorial staff entitled "New England Wedding Bells." I was disappointed to see the 50th anniversary of Brown recede into the past with no mention of the issues I had raised, either from my pen or anyone else's.

Then Ronald Reagan died.

I knew that many people idolize Reagan and treasure memories of his presidency; I expected that the outpourings of emotion would be torrential. Despite the rosy-glassed hindsight that often accompanies loss and grief, however, I wasn't prepared for the near-complete absence of any critical voices. I could only wonder: when Clinton dies someday, will the media only mention Monica, Whitewater, and the Lincoln Bedroom in passing, or will the infamous "Arkansas Project" lurch back to life, and - forgetting any now-inconvenient sensitivities - recount every dark and fevered tale of the 1990s? (Time will tell, but I have my suspicions...)

It was during this silent time that I wrote to my local newspaper (they published an edited version). My spouse wants me to stop writing letters-to-the-editor if I get death threats, but if their aim is as poor as their rhetorical skills [see the "Quote of the Day" below from Ted Rall's website] I needn't worry.

Toward the end of last week, a blog entry from liberal cartoonist/columnist Ted Rall attracted some attention for suggesting a fiery destination for Reagan. Rall's later, more considered (but no less inflammatory), piece titled "Reagan's Shameful Legacy" received almost no mention in the major media. The Nation ran a few articles on Reagan this week, most notably David Corn's "Reagan and the Media: A Love Story," but most people still seem wary of being shouted down as politically incorrect and insensitive. In a 24x7 news cycle, though, only this moment exists. As Rall mentioned in his blog, "...the only time America will talk about Reagan's legacy is now. In two weeks, no one'll care. That's why we're talking about this now. On the other hand, if editors opened their pages to old topics, that would change."

Reagan's fans seem to want all negative comments to wait until after their mourning is complete. I can sympathize with their position, but mourning doesn't seem to stop his acolytes from pushing their plans to memorialize him. Bearing in mind that Reagan already has an aircraft carrier, a huge federal office building, and Washington National Airport (re)named after him, it is fair to wonder when the media silence can be broken. After Reagan's visage is carved into Mount Rushmore? Once he has a monument on the Mall in Washington DC? When he displaces Alexander Hamilton from the $10 bill, or FDR from the dime? (Or, as the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project wants, when he has a monument in every state and a memorial in every single county?)

As Charlie Sheen asked Michael Douglas in Wall Street, "How much is enough?"

Thanks for reading.

Quote of the Day:

"Fuck you! you cocksucker!... You piss ant twerp... I would shove those gay glasses up your ass... You Cocksucker FUCK YOU"

(One of the many well-reasoned and articulate emails Ted Rall received after his appearance on "Hannity & Colmes" last week)

Ronald Reagan, RIP

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I've known for years that conservatives would go all-out in their attempts to canonize Reagan upon his death. Their efforts were so inaccurate - and my local newspaper printed so many blindly idolatrous letters - that I had to speak my piece:

The current media effort to canonize Ronald Reagan, including Sunday's multi-page encomium, requires a re-balancing of the scales. Reagan's Teflon shell - combined with an unprecedented degree of media sycophancy - perpetuates the mythologies of his presidency even after his passing. "Morning in America" jingles and Panglossian rhetoric may have made us feel better about our country, but fondly remembering Reagan's destructive policies is as nonsensical as today's students having high self-esteem and low test scores.

Most historians, less swayed by simplistic slogans, consider Reagan a below-average president. Often mistakenly credited with winning the Cold War against the Soviet Union, which had been collapsing for decades, Reagan's greatest real accomplishment was demonizing government in general - and social programs in particular - while overlooking the massive corruption both inside and outside his administration.

Rush Limbaugh, always prone to a highly exaggerated opinion of Ronald Reagan's tenure in office, once stated that this nation owes Reagan "a debt that it can never repay." That is true, but not in the way Rush intended. Reagan - that alleged paragon of fiscal discipline - never submitted a balanced budget to Congress, and we will be paying for his supply-side budget deficits far into the future. This coming Friday should not be a one-time national holiday in memory of Reagan, but every April 15th should be. We should remember Ronald Reagan for generations to come, as we continue to pay for the unrestrained borrow-and-waste orgy of the 1980s.

While I have nothing but sincere condolences for Reagan's family and friends, who have experienced the loss of a loved one as none of us should, we should not whitewash his disastrous presidency: turning America from the world's biggest creditor nation to its biggest debtor, lying about arms-for-hostages deals with so-called "moderate" terrorists, supporting murderous thugs in Central America while calling them "freedom fighters," ignoring the AIDS epidemic, denigrating social programs with fictitious "welfare queens," and deregulating S&Ls to the tune of a $500 billion taxpayer-funded bailout.

Ronald Reagan may have been a charming man, but - even by GOP standards - he was an abysmal president.

update (6/14): An edited version of my letter was published as "Reagan wasn't saint he's made out to be."

update 2 (6/21): A response to my letter was published under the title "Reagan inherited troubled country," to which I replied:

(mis)remembering Reagan

The emotionalism of many Reagan mourners--those who are inclined to excuse rather than examine his legacy--never ceases to amaze me. That Carter, an honorable president who bravely told unpalatable truths to our nation, is considered worse than one who vacillated between cluelessness and mendacity illustrates much about the GOP's true believers.

The other source of my continual amazement is the inability of Reagan's would-be defenders to address any of the facts regarding his disastrous presidency; instead, they perform a simple misdirection and attack Carter instead. This response to my letter is a typical example: he could not refute any of the facts, preferring instead the plaintive wail that Reagan made him feel better.

Unfortunately, those warm fuzzies don't erase the damage done during the 1980s.

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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