The prison rape continues

FOX News Channel (FNC) garnered more than 50% of the cable news audience in primetime and total day during 2Q’04, according to Nielsen Media Research. In contrast, CNN and MSNBC both attracted less than a third of the same market share in 2Q ’04. In primetime, FNC commanded 55% of the cable news market share, averaging 1.4 million viewers, while CNN claimed just 32% of that audience with 828,000 viewers. During Rick Kaplan’s first full quarter as president, MSNBC’s primetime line-up attracted a paltry 13% of the cable news audience with 321,000 viewers (down 41% in viewership year to year).

FNC’s Total Day average of 820,000 viewers made up 54% of the cable news pie, nearly doubling CNN’s 31% (468,000 viewers) and more than tripling MSNBC’s 15% share (226,000 viewers). In the key 25-54 demo, both CNN and MSNBC lost more than half their 25-54 audience in these day parts over the same period last year. FNC averaged 457,000 persons in primetime and 291,000 persons in total day, exceeding CNN and MSNBC’s combined totals of 344,000 persons in prime and 231,000 persons in the total day time periods.

In addition, FNC sustained its programming dominance capturing nine out of the top ten shows in cable news, as CNN’s heavily promoted primetime lineup continued to flounder. CNN’s only show in the top ten, Larry King Live, remained stagnant at number four with 1,291,000 viewers, trailing FNC’s The O’Reilly Factor (2,051,000 viewers), Hannity & Colmes (1,492,000 viewers) and The FOX Report with Shepard Smith (1,339,000 viewers) respectively. Since launching in September 2003, Paula Zahn Now and Anderson Cooper 360 have yet to rank within the top ten cable news programs — Zahn currently ranks at 16th while Cooper is languishing at number 21.

Obviously there’s no market for right-wing commentary. Six months ago the St. Paul Pioneer Press turned down my column – for the second time in five years – despite the fact that I’m one of the only writers in their history to have been nationally syndicated. In thematically related news, the Pioneer Press’s readership just dropped below 200,000 for the first time in a long, long time and a (ahem) restructuring was announced last week.

Now, I understand that newspaper editors have probably studied less economics than the average NBA draftee, but you wouldn’t think it would take a rocket scientist to understand that if your dominant competitor does X, then you have to do Y if you want to compete. Offering more of X simply means that you’ll eventually be run out of business or acquired. Rupert Murdoch, on the other hand, saw the huge market left unaddressed by the ABCNNBCBS cabal and is cleaning up with a monopoly position in the rightward 50 percent of the political spectrum while he leaves all the others to fight it out for the leftward half. Surprise, surprise, guess who’s winning?

I wonder how Eric Alterman explains this. I suppose he thinks the number of stupid people is growing every day. No doubt it’s George Bush’s fault.


Eco on the end of democracy

Big Chilly once told me that he greatly respected how I often use my public platform for mysterious and seemingly nonsensical purposes. In that light, it gives me great pleasure to present more of that for which no one is asking, a translation of an article by Umberto Eco which appeared on June 25th in L’espresso: Apparire piu come essere.

To appear more than to be

Sixty-four years before Christ, Marcus Tullius Cicero, already a celebrated orator but the epitome of a New Man, estranged from the nobility, decided to declare himself a candidate for Consul. His brother, Quintus Tullius, wrote for him a manual in which he was instructed how to make an impression. In the front of the current Italian edition, (Manuele del candidato – Istruzioni per vincere le elezioni, editore Manni, 8 euros), are comments by Luca Canali, in which he lucidly describes the histoical circumstances and the personalities of that campaign. Furio Colombo writes the introduction, with a reflective essay on the First Republic.

In fact, there are many similarities between our Second Republic and this Roman Republic, in the virtues, (very small), as well as the defects. The example of Rome, over the course of more than two millenia, has continued to hold much influence on many successive visions of the State. As Colombo records, the antique model of the Roman Republic inspired the authors of the Federalist Papers, which delineated the fundamental lines of the American Constitution. They saw in Rome, more than in Athens, the example of what was truly a democracy of the people. In their pragmatic realism, the neocons around Bush were inspired by the image of imperial Rome and many of their actual political discussions gave recourse to the idea of an empire, that of a “Pax Americana” which makes explicit reference to the ideology of the “Pax Romana”.

I must note that the image of electoral competition that emerges in the 20 pages of Quintus is of extremely small virtue compared to that which had inspired the federalists of the 18th century. Quintus does not seem to even consider the possibility of a political man who boldly confronts the electorate in the face of dissent with a courageous project, with the hope of conquering the voters on the powerful strength of a utopian idea. As Canali also notes, totally absent from these pages is any notion of debating ideas; instead, there is recommendation to never expose oneself on any political issue, so as to avoid making enemies. The candidate envisioned by Quintus must only be sure to appear fascinating, doing favors and other self-promotion, never saying no to anyone but leaving everyone with the impression he will do what they want. The memory of the electorate is short, and before long they will forget old promises….

At the end of the letter we ask: but is democracy truly only this, a form of conquering the public favor that is founded on nothing but appearances and a strategy of deceit? It is certainly so, and it cannot be differently if this system, (which, as Churchill said, is imperfect, but is less imperfect than all the others), allows one to arrive at power only through consensus and not through force and violence. But we must not forget that these instructions for a political campaign were written at moment when Roman democracy was already in crisis.

It was not long after when Caesar definitively took power with the assistance of his legions, and with his life Marcus Tullius paid the passage from a regime founded on consensus to a regime founded on the fist of the State. But one cannot avoid the thought that Roman democracy had begun to die when its politicians understood that they no longer had to be serious about their policies but had only to engineer the obtaining of the sympathies of those we might well call television viewers.

This demonstrates that there is truly nothing new under the sun. In our modern arrogance, we believe that we are different, that our pseudo-democracy, (as false in every way to the democratic ideal as was its Roman predecessor), is a light illuminating all mankind. Quintus Tullius might easily have been Dick Morris or Karl Rove, advising hollow-suited frauds such as Bill Clinton and George Bush.

The laws of history are not as easily discerned as the laws of physics, but they are every bit as inexorable. Eco gives us one more reason to believe that we are living in the last days of the American Republic.


Dayan wouldn’t be surprised

The American marine who is being threatened by his kidnappers with beheading had deserted the military because he was emotionally traumatized, and was abducted by his captors while trying to make his way home to his native Lebanon, a Marine officer said Tuesday. The officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he believed that Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun was betrayed by Iraqis he befriended on his base and ended up in the hands of Islamic extremists.

The officer said Corporal Hassoun, a 24-year-old Marine linguist who was born in Lebanon, was shaken up after he saw one of his sergeants blown apart by a mortar shell.”It was very disturbing to him,” the officer said. “He wanted to go home and quit the game, but since he was relatively early in his deployment, that was not going to happen anytime soon. So he talked to some folks on base he befriended, because they were all fellow Muslims, and they helped sneak him off. Once off, instead of helping him get home, they turned him over to the bad guys.”

The Israeli general Moseh Dayan was once asked what made him so successful. “Fighting Arabs”, he is said to have replied. Hassoun’s desertion would seem to suggest that even the USMC can’t make warriors out of them. A Marine deserting? I can’t even imagine what my Marine grandfather would have to say about that. I think he’d be torn between leaving the guy to his fate and, as he liked to say, giving the guy a fair trial and hanging him.

In World War II the 442nd Regiment (of American-born Japanese Nisei) were sent to fight in Europe because it was considered unwise to put them under the psychological stress of fighting the Japanese. They acquitted themselves heroically, taking tremendous losses in rescuing the surrounded Lost Battalion and ended up as one of the most decorated units of the war. So, it’s not a new problem and it should hardly come as a surprise to learn that using foreign-born Muslim troops to fight other Muslims in a Muslim country doesn’t work out well.

This is yet another suggestion that this administration is hopeless when it comes to war-fighting. Foreign auxilaries can certainly be useful, but not within your own elite units.


Where’s my bottle?

Urs Meier, the referee who single-handedly knocked England out of Euro 2004, has the nerve to say:

I’m absolutely shocked by what’s gone on and the attacks from The Sun, the supporters and the other newspapers. I’m really shocked because the decision was 100 per cent correct and the whole world saw this decision was correct.

Meier certainly doesn’t deserve the death threats he’s been getting, but all the stick he’s been receiving from the English press is absolutely justified. Their outrage would probably be significantly mitigated if he simply admitted that he made an honest and all-too-typical mistake of awarding a phantom foul in the box. But instead he flings this “100 percent correct” nonsense around and makes even lukewarm England supporters like me want to punch him in the face.

The truth of the matter is easy to ascertain. All that’s required is a simple review of all the fouls called in the penalty box when there is a chaotic situation and the referee can’t see exactly what is going on. I’d be willing to bet that at least 90 percent of the whistles blown are fouls called on the attacking team. This defies belief, and the unfair bias can be proved by comparing the ratio with the ratio of fouls called in the open field of play.

The only thing I hate more than phantom fouls in the box are diving strikers and phantom offsides calls. UEFA has done a good job dealing with the latter two, it’s now clearly time to do something about the former.


New look

It’s just another Blogger template, but I figured it was time to get rid of that old “F11” problem. If you had that problem beforee, let me know if all the posts are showing up now.

And besides, I dislike orange.


How they cling to their misconceptions

Bellatrys comments over at Dark Window:

Anyone who starts talking ‘Kinder, Kirche, Kuche!” talk *deserves* to be tarred with the fascist brush.

This is an interesting confession. So anyone who supports children, church and women being able to stay at home with their children “deserves to be tarred with the fascist brush”. This would make approximately 75 percent of the planet fascist, but never mind that. The fact that both Hitler, (who was not a fascist), and Mussolini, (who was), saw the Catholic Church as one of their most dangerous and troublesome rivals doesn’t seem to trouble this poor leftist. Note too, that while the actual party manifesto written by the party founder is to be cast aside as mere propaganda, subsequent actions notwithstanding, a general slogan belonging to a different party in a different country somehow suffices to shine a light on my true fascist ideology. Stupendous stuff, Sherlock!


From each… to each….

“the tax cuts may have helped you,” Sen. Clinton said. “We’re saying that for America to get back on track, we’re probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.”

And who was it that was saying that modern Democrats are NOT left-wing? This is the message of Marx, of Lenin, of Hitler, of Mussolini, and every left-wing demagogue since Socrates who would elevate the collective over the individual. It is not possible to subscribe to both human rights and left-wing collectivist ideology. The two are in inherent and fundamental contradiction, which is why decent, well-meaning left-wingers so often find themselves trapped in a maelstrom of cognitive dissonance.


Not that you care

I suspect this will be completely lost on the horde of Philistines that inhabit this sparkling corner of the Blogosphere, but UMBERTO ECO HAS A NEW NOVEL OUT!

Entitled The Mysterious Flame of the Queen of Loana, it is described as follows:

Imagine if you woke up one morning and did not remember anything about yourself: who you were, where you are, if you were married or if you had children. And that happens to the protagonist of the new novel by Umberto Eco, a sixty-year old stricken with amnesia following a serious accident. The events described in The Mysterious Flame of the Queen of Loana revolve around the figure of John-Baptist Bodoni, called Yambo, an antiquarian librarian in Milan in a desperate search for his past. He awakes from a long sleep in his hospital bed, a man with perfect recall of who Napoleon was, how to drive a car and open a box of cookies, but who does not know who he or those around him are.

Although he recovers fully from his injuries, Yambo does not recover his memories. To help him retrieve them, his wife brings him to the old house of his family in Solara, between Langhe and Monferrato, where the man spends his days interred in an immense attic listening to old records, leafing through his childhood comic books and reading the letters of his mother.

At first his life slowly begins to return, but the familiar sounds and smells lead his imagination to discover the fanciful life of his youth. He comes back to his consciousness, but only to discover the unforeseeable, for when the dramatic paradox of his life reveals itself, he truly learns who he is.

In anyone else’s hands, this story would probably be so dull as to fail to slice butter, but I have no doubt whatsoever that it will be a masterpiece, as Eco spins the reader’s mind around like a basketball on the overlong index finger of a Harlem Globetrotter, giving it periodic whacks as it whirls by.


Fleeing from fascism

Dark Window hurls accusations of goofiness: [Vox’s] new column implies that it’s actually modern-day liberals who are the fascists and to prove his point, he gives us his own translation of Mussolini’s Fascist Manifesto. I encourage you to go read the article itself as it’s a little long to quote here at length…. Frankly, I don’t like it when any side throws around highly-charged names like Nazi or Fascist or Communist to describe a political foe. And unfortunately, this seems to be happening with alarming regularity these days. These terms come flying from both Left and Right and although the people throwing them will generally say they’re simply pointing out similarities between a particular person and a particular historical policy of one of the above-mentioned groups, their actual intention is obviously not to engage in a close historical reading of political theory. Rather, it’s to generate the extremely visceral reactions associated with things like the Final Solution or Gulags or Death Camps or Totalitarianism. I think it’s wrong when either side engages in this activity and, frankly, I think it generally masks an inability to debate the merits of particular issues or policies. It’s far easier to call somebody a Nazi or a Commie than it is to participate in a reasoned debate.

Now, I like Dark Window and I agree that the name-calling is often pointless, however, as one who has extensively read through the history and intellectual development of Fascist, National Socialist and Communist ideologies, (as well as other, less famous leftist variants), I am not simply attempting to generate visceral reactions. Instead, I am methodically demonstrating how the Left has been successful in hiding the direct relationship between its modern forms and its historical forms for which most people harbor great loathing. So, I have to salute DW for making what is the only possible argument against the left-wing nature of facism. Unfortunately for him, it is ultimately a weak one.

But back to Vox. His main argument seems to be that since Mussolini used what amounts to a propoganda piece to advocate things like women’s suffrage, a minimum wage, and systemization of national transportation, that liberals are far more fascist than conservatives or libertarians. The mistake Vox makes is to draw the simplistic conclusion that if Mussolini wrote something in his manifesto, it’s what fascism came to be and what we mean when we use the term today.

It would only amount to a mere propaganda piece if Mussolini had not subsequently enacted those very measures he was advocating in his manifesto. Take women’s suffrage for example: Mussolini took power in 1922 and women were granted suffrage in 1925, albeit with some restrictions. He did precisely as he promised in the manifesto when the Charter of Labour was enacted, setting up twenty-two syndicates where membership was compulsory for employers and employees, each controlled by a party member. Furthermore, if the manifesto is to be viewed as nothing but a meaningless propaganda piece, it seems most strange that it should threaten the Catholic Church, which was still a popular institution in Italy.

As with most American liberals, Dark Window is uncomfortable with the simplistic notion that written documents, such as the U.S. Constitution, mean what they say. This discomfort with textual precision is why the modern Left has such a difficult time coming to terms with aggressive forces such as the global jihad, as they cannot believe that bin Laden is so simplistic as to announce his intentions. Why would he, they think, when they themselves are sophisticated enough hide their true intentions?

Quite the contrary, the manifesto was written to wrest control of the government by gaining wide popular acceptance through political compromise. The words of the manifesto bear very little resemblance to what is meant by modern political theorists when they describe the doctrines of fascism. Once Mussolini gained power, he governed in a very different manner than that espoused in his manifesto. Industries were not nationalized but run under a structure of corporatism strongly influenced by the Church. Even more importantly, the driving factor of actual fascism was not to create an egalitarian society but to centralize power in the hands of a small and strongly nationalistic ruling body.

Modern political theorists either define the term so broadly as to be almost meaningless, or turn it back around in a circular definition equally devoid of meaning. What is fascism? The governing philosophy of Benito Mussolini’s party. What was the governing philosophy of Benito Mussolini’s historical party? Facism. The Church corporatism, or corporativismo to which DW refers is simply a form of collective class collaboration proposed by Pope Leo as an alternative to Marxian class conflict, but it has nothing to do with Christianity or capitalism and is yet another collectivist left-wing concept. Furthermore, Mussolini never had any intention of coming to power through compromise, as his planned 1922 march on Rome clearly shows.

What is amusing here is that DW fails to recognize that the driving factor of EVERY left-wing ideology is to centralize power in the hands of a small ruling body. This is true of Bolshevist Marxist-Leninism, of Maoist Communism, of the Khmer Rouge, of the National Socialists, and, it must be noted, of the corrupt Democratic-Republican globalist cabal. It is surely the height of irony that the heirs of Marxian dialectic cannot seem to recognize it at work in their own ideologies.

Finally, DW’s position is wholly anti-intellectual. Taken to its conclusion, it suggests that ideas which cannot be put immediately into practice have no standing. The Left often attempts to have its cake and eat it too, in its common argument that Soviet Communism as practiced between 1917 and 1989 is not true communism as theorized by Marx, but Italian Fascism as practiced between 1922 and 1939, on the other hand, is true facism, all contradictions to fascist theory as theorized by Giovanni Gentile notwithstanding.

“And yet, the only serious question is if it is more ironic to tar a libertarian or a member of the Religious Right with the fascist brush, as one seldom hears James Dobson calling for the government seizure of all church-owned property.” That’s your only serious question, Vox? Considering the very strong ties between the Catholic Church and Mussolini’s fascist party during the early years of power and the Church’s strong influence over him and his policies during his entire reign, your example seems to break down. Because if there’s one thing Dobson is calling for, it’s more religious influence on our national leaders.

The “strong ties” to which DW refers are precisely the opposite of what he is implying. Far from a partnership, the Church-Party relationship was an uneasy one of two opposing parties unable to gain sole supremacy. Once Mussolini realized that in confronting the Catholic Church he was taking on “a colossal force”, he arranged to make accomodations in much the same way that Lenin made capitalistic compromises in his New Economic Program of 1925. Did Lenin therefore have strong ties to capitalism? If one reads the actual text of the Lateran Treaties, one quickly realizes that this is essentially a bribe, providing the Church with the land and sovereignty of what is now the independent Vatican in return for a free hand in the governance of Italy.

“In 1925, Mussolini encapsulated the heart of fascist philosophy in a memorable phrase: Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato. This means “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.” Now, I ask you, in the Year of Our Lord 2004, does that sound more like a Libertarian, a Republican or a Democrat?” If you read that in light of Mussolini’s actions, you know that his definition of “the State” is far different than what Vox is implying. Replace “State” with “Strong Nationalistic Leader” and ask that last question again.

Here DW completely loses the plot. Mussolini may have come to believe that he was the State, (and certainly his assertion “the Fascist State is itself conscious and has itself a will and a personality” is suspicious), but regardless of whether he is referring to himself, a vanguard of the People or a freely elected representative body, he shares with today’s Democrats a belief that there is nothing outside the lawful purview of the national government.

PS – Just to set the record straight, it was not Dark Window or any of those who took up his Vox Challenge that made accusations of facism. I received several emails subsequent to the suffrage post that also made statements regarding my ancestry, my sexual preferences and the amount of fecal matter in my intestines. Now, DW can be hysterical, to be sure, but usually in the funny sense – Up yours, Luxembourg!

PPS – Dark Window adds: Update: Vox has posted an enjoyable and spirited response to this piece over at his own blog. Sadly, I will not be at home much the next couple of days so in lieu of a proper riposte on my part, I simply direct you over to him and invite you to formulate your own conclusions. In this instance, I happily cede the last word to him.

I can’t take any joy in having the last word here, as he’s clearly off to spend a week meditating in the forest as he mourns the tragic passing of Les Bleus, dead of self-asphyxiation.


Shifting sands of argument

Naked Writing takes exception to my clarification of the Spanish Inquisition: It wasn’t that bad. That’s what I’m reading at several sites devoted to the faithful point that the Inquisition “wasn’t that bad.” Instead of millions killed, as popular sentiment maintains, the Roman Catholic Church itself “only” killed a few hundred thousand for heresy and witchcraft crimes – the grand excess of others who died actually perished at the hands of the secular authorities in Roman Catholic countries, carrying out harsh penalties for witchcraft and heresy under their own ensign as opposed to that of the Church. Above that, the other the pains and deaths of those eras attributed to the Inquistion was either Protestant propaganda designed to shift the blame from Protestant states and churches trials for similar crimes onto the memory of those states allied with the RCC.

What else can one say? Executing 6,000 people over hundreds of years is not as bad as murdering millions, is it? If millions of deaths is no worse than a few thousand, then why do so many people have their panties in a bunch over Stalin, Hitler and Mao? The USA has executed more than 6,000 people in less than half the lifespan of the Spanish Inquisition, should our country then be regarded with the same historical horror as is the Inquisition? Facts are facts, and the facts are that the common knowledge about the Inquisition is utterly, totally and completely wrong.

The problem is, the argument that non-theists such as myself make regarding the tragedy of these deaths, isn’t one easily absolved by lowering the body count. Saying that the terrors behind the Inquisition “wasn’t that bad” because “only” 25,000 people were killed in Germany or that the population of the Duchy of Lichenstein was “only” reduced by 10% instead of far higher numbers misses the point. And mounting an argument, as several of those sited do, that Church backed investigations into heresy and witchcraft accusations was better because the Church was “less” likely to use torture . The critique, the point, the crime non-theists point to existed the moment the first person was singled out for an accusation.

That may be the argument that this individual makes, but it’s not one that anyone else is making. The argument everyone else makes is that the Spanish Inquisition was a terrible human tragedy in which the Church murdered millions of innocent individuals for the crime of not being Christian. And that simply isn’t true. The Inquisition was State law equivalent to current Saudi law that requires citizens in Saudi Arabia to be Muslim, and was far more civilized as it simply exiled those who refused to comply instead of beheading them. Interesting, that “non-theists” are more troubled by events 500 years ago instead of what is happening right now. Are they cowards, racists or simply anti-Christian bigots? I’m not sure, perhaps all three.

That anyone, at anytime, in any place, for any reason, was maimed, tortured or otherwise victimized because their take on the illusory and intangible was different than the majority’s, are grounds enough for anger.

You can tell this person is a left-liberal, as he is of the opinion that meaningless posturing counts for something. Notice how this insensibly mutates the argument from a specific assertion that the Spanish Inquisition was terrible because it slaughtered so many victims into an amorphous condemnation of All Bad Things.

The “evidence” that Majority Believers — the Orthodox of whatever stripe, creed, faith, understanding, or religion — put forward as evidence proving that their take is the right and correct, is just as fleeting, nebulous and non-existent as every other, heterodox heretic to grace either the rack or the stake. For no matter what flavor of mist one prefers, it is still, in the end, mist, evaporating quickly under the morning light of ration inquiry. It fails to solidify no matter its name “Orthodoxy” or “Heresy.” Be it 1 dead or 1 million, all those who were felled, were so over nothing.

Naked writing, naked assertions. Under this individual’s reasoning, one would deny gravity because one cannot see it. As for the latter statement, it reveals utter ignorance of the very reason the Spanish Inquisition came into being, namely, the fact that Spain was still in the process of expelling the Moorish invaders in completing La Reconquista – the Spanish Inquisition began in 1478 while the Ten Years War for the final piece of the Reconquest, Granada, did not even start until 1481 – and many Moors and Jews not loyal to the Spanish throne were making false conversions to the state religion rather than face expulsion. Contrary to the Naked Writer’s assertion, the Inquisition was not “over nothing” but was a serious State matter of settling past scores and quelling internal insurrection. While other Inquisitions focused on heretics, the Spanish Inquisition was far more concerned with hunting down conversos. The uprisings of the Mudejares in 1500-1502 and the Moriscos in 1568-1571 indicates that these royal concerns were not unfounded.

Jewish history is rather more sober on the entire subject than the later Protestant propaganda, as it tends to concentrate more on the expulsion of their people from Queen Isabella’s Andalusia (1483) and the rest of Spain (1492), and admits that many of the Jews who remained did make false conversions. Considering that the American people were quite willing to round up Japanese-Americans over the imagined threat of a Japanese invasion, it seems a little strange to condemn the Spanish people, who had been living under the heel of foreign invaders for 700 years, for wishing to ensure that they were completely rid of all their former occupiers following the long-awaited triumph of the Reconquest.