Friday, June 30, 2006

Florida Swamped: Warming Maw

This picture represents what Florida would look like if ocean levels were to rise eighteen to twenty feet, what with global warming cooking up the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. That’s Lake Okeechobee there in the current Florida, the big eye to the south-central part of the state, opening up into the Atlantic with the sea rise to create a new version of Italy’s boot, without much of a Sicily for consolation. I live further up the east coast on a chunk of beachside exurb between Daytona Beach and Jacksonville. That whole slice of luxury, diminished though it already is by the crowding of pac-man developments, would also disappear. Not a bad fate for this town of mine, one of those non-descript coalition of subdivisions with neither center nor soul. But it’s home.

The eighteen-to-twenty-feet rise is actually a conservative estimate, given the latest global warming calculations. “The business-as-usual scenario yields an increase of about five degrees Fahrenheit of global warming during this century, while the alternative scenario yields an increase of less than two degrees Fahrenheit during the same period,” writes Jim Hansen in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books, where this watery Floridian postcard appears. (Hansen is the Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the space agency’s lead climatologist who won some notoriety in January when he told the New York Times that the Bush administration “tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture [in December 2005] calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.” The New York Review article, which you can link to below, includes this delicious header: “His opinions are expressed here, he writes, ‘as personal views under the protection of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.’”) Read the rest...

Thursday, June 29, 2006

From the Files of TNR Squad

Technobabble: Glenn Reynolds's Utopia
Christine Rosen, The New Republic

Liberals on the Strip: Wag the Blog
Ryan Lizza, The New Republic

Trash Talk: The Hatred of Ann Coulter
Michelle Cottle, The New Republic

World Cup Diary: Breakdown and Resurrection

Just when you thought this World Cup was on the verge of disaster both as spectacle and sport — low scoring, badly refereed, uninspiring, unsurprising, lacking drama and excitement — here come France and Brazil, the last two teams to win the championship, to save the day. Brazil’s 3-0 win over Ghana on Tuesday wasn’t spectacular. The famed Brazilian style is still stuck somewhere between Tierra del Fuego and Gibraltar, and Ghana’s Black Stars managed to shine despite the losing score almost throughout the match, as every African team shone this year. But we needed this Brazil-France rematch, this lunge at revenge by the Brazilians, who were smashed up on the shoals of a 3-0 humiliation by this very French team eight years ago (“we’ll always have Paris”), when Zidane had his two goals in the final to go with his previous two and Emmanuel Petit had his 90 th minute sweetener in front of 75,000 people at the Stade de France. (Lost in the crowd of those French goals that year were three by Thierry Henry, then a mere scallion of a striker, and a couple by Lilian Thuram, who’s still around.)

The French are old. They’re a bit full of themselves, these continental Americans (how could they be French if they weren’t). This year they looked the opposite of Spain. They looked slow, morbid, slightly idiotic with their inability to score, held over from their blanketing in 2002. Spain looked invulnerable, a bull out of the gate, a goal-scoring machine with the efficiency of German engineering, the youthful exuberance of Brazilian footwork, and of course that Iberian passion that’s no stranger to football, but that never quite made its mark in World Cup, play. Read the rest...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Voyeurism as Entertainment: “To Catch a Predator,” To Lose a War

Network news was once about authority: Walter Cronkite, Roger Mudd, Ted Koppel, even Dan Rather in his reporter days. But when is the last time a network, as opposed to a newspaper or a magazine, broke major investigative news vital to the public interest like the Abu Ghraib scandal (The New Yorker), the Bush administration’s secret prisons (Washington Post), the NSA wiretaps and international finance snooping (New York Times), the Marines’ massacre of Iraqi civilians at Haditha (Time magazine)? So much fine print journalism is being produced week in and week out, it’s difficult to keep up. But most Americans still get their perceptions of the world around them from the networks. And for network news these days, it’s about deference to authority: When anchor chairs are filled by the likes of Katie Couric and Charles Gibson, it’s more about putting a good face on the news than breaking it. No wonder the networks’ news divisions are indistinguishable from their entertainment function. One running example stands out as an illustration of the networks’ degradation — and irresponsibility.

On Nov. 11, 2004, NBC’s Dateline aired a segment called “To Catch a Predator.” Reporter Chris Hanson went on the prowl in a New York City suburb with tabloid journalism’s standards — the hidden camera, the ambush, the crucifixion on camera — and with a little help lured 18 men in three days to a house where the men thought they might have sex with a teen they’d chatted with online. Read the rest...

Monday, June 26, 2006

Speaking of Disgrace: Bush Against the Press

Why aren’t we winning the “war on terror”? Because the New York Times won’t let us. That, anyway, is how President Bush sees it. He was asked this morning about the disclosure by the Times and several other newspapers of his administration’s latest end-run around the law—the administration’s wiretapping of financial wire transfers “involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States.” It’s the equivalent of the NSA’s snooping on Americans’ Internet habits and emails, listening in on international phone calls and the calls of Americans speaking to anyone abroad. (Most Americans speak to other Americans, of course, so the president’s explanation that his administration is only keeping track of foreigners, let alone of suspected al-Qaeda members, is as has become habit, bogus). The press obviously if belatedly quit taking him at his word sometime in 2003, when the number of dead American soldiers and dead Iraqis became the only evidence of mass destruction on Bush’s watch in Iraq, and the administration’s strategy of preemptive war the most active weapon of mass destruction at the moment. A few people inside Bush’s government became more willing to speak to the press and stop this run-away heist of constitutional values in the name of a war judged, juried and executed by Bush without check and plenty of imbalance. The New York Times’ James Risen has been among the few but committed reporters who’ve done what much of the press, and all of the television media, refuse to do: hold Bush’s junta-like tactics and gut-skunked strategies to account. Risen’s piece on the Bush administration’s snooping around financial records reveals more of the Bush penchant for evasion and lies, for accruing power by all means necessary. But so does Bush himself. Hear him roar this morning in the Roosevelt Room, when he took the last question during a brief exchange with reporters: Virtually every word was equally veil and lie, evasion and PR, pandering and, to the truth anyway, scalding. Read the rest...