The Spectacle Blog

Glenn, Give Us Urinalysis

By on 9.24.06 | 8:12AM

You just gotta love these "analysis" pieces The New York Times and The Washington Post crank out. Today The Post's Glenn Kessler dissects unfavorable opinion of the U.S. from other countries, as exhibited at the U.N. last week:

A theme running through a number of the speeches delivered here is that democracy cannot be imposed through force.

"Our peoples have a keen interest in the achievement of a larger measure of democracy, human rights and political reform," said Ahmed Aboul Gheit, foreign minister of Egypt, which receives more than $2 billion in annual aid from the United States. "However, we now see that some seek to impose these concepts by military force. They proceed from the assumption that their principles, values and culture are superior and thus worthy of being imposed on others."

Re: Cross References

By on 9.23.06 | 8:17PM

Paul, all your points are quite well taken. But in the interest of stirring up trouble (or as "we" say in academia, "critically interrogating architectures of power"), I might make a couple points:

(1) NBC's egregious error isn't in editing God out of VeggieTales -- it's in failing to tell Phil Vischer about their intentions, which are absolutely material to the contract at issue. In a twist that Jed is sure to love, had this controversy arisen in France, NBC might have been prohibited from violating the moral right of Vischer, the artist. The idea is that Picassos cannot be bought up, hacked into pieces, and sold a la carte. Not bad...except it's out of sync with the whole of Anglo-American jurisprudence. But is there a duty to be contractually clear about what the buying of rights really means -- particularly when it intersects with what could be conceived of as the "whole point" of the work?

Cross References

By on 9.23.06 | 8:00AM

Conservative Christians are in an uproar over two decisions made by NBC. The first is the network's removal of "most if not all of the references to God and the Bible" from its Saturday morning broadcasts of "VeggieTales," which co-creator Phil Vischer said he never would have agreed to if he knew beforehand that's what NBC would do.

The second is the planned airing of a Madonna concert, in which she performs one song "while mounted on a cross, in imitation of the Crucifixion of Jesus," The New York Times reports, adding "that part of Madonna's current concert tour has drawn protests around the world from people who believe it is blasphemous or offensive to Christians."

(NBC broadcast standards executive Alan) Wurtzel said NBC did not believe it had deleted the show's religious message; he said the network had bought the rights to "Veggie Tales" because of its positive religious themes but that it did ask for changes to comply with its standards.

Re: Oppressively Low Prices

By on 9.23.06 | 6:49AM

The News & Observer of Raleigh has its own story today on the response to Wal-Mart's $4 generic drugs story, with two notable quotes:

Wal-Mart's new program is particularly worrisome for the nation's nearly 18,000 independent pharmacies.

"Matching them for a cash-paying customer is probably something we'll be forced to do," said Scott Townsend, who owns Wake Forest Drug with his wife, Debbie.

"I think what they're doing is in very poor taste. If we don't respond in kind, then we look like the bad guy, when in fact they're not doing anything that's truly a benefit."

The Personal Is the Political

By on 9.22.06 | 8:36PM

The Allen campaign blog has posted a couple videos worth commenting on.

George Allen went on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer yesterday.

This interview is just what the doctor ordered. Instead of retreating into silence, the Allen campaign is pouring it on and saying they have nothing to hide. I don't know if it is an act or what, but this is the most personal I have ever seen Allen, and I would guess many others as well.

That is what this Jewish issue amounts to -- a personal drama for George Allen and his family. It should not be the stuff of campaigns. But my guess is that the more the Webb campaign plays it up, the more it will backfire.

Re: Health Care Stats

By on 9.22.06 | 3:08PM

Lawrence: That wouldn't surprise me, and if you can find the source of that, please send it to me.

Here's a quick run-down on why infant mortality stats are unreliable.

First, some nations use different definitions. For example, Switzerland does not count any baby born that is under 30 centimeters, regardless whether the baby showed signs of life. That excludes a lot of at-risk infants from the statistics.

Under-registration is another problem. That is, a lot of babies that dies shortly after birth are simply not registered. This removes them from the statistics, obviously. This can be seen by comparing the proportion of infant deaths that occur within the first 24 hours after birth. Here is a partial table (for a full table, go here and scroll down to Table 3).

Ratio of Infant Deaths In First Day

Taxing Our Memory

By on 9.22.06 | 2:22PM

Yeah, I know -- I'm reading The New York Times too much. But today they also report on President Bush's (and Republicans') new election season offensive against Democrats on taxes, after weeks of focusing on national defense and terror. The emphasis: if Dems get control of Congress, taxes go up.

Many Democrats are on record calling for some or all of Mr. Bush's tax cuts to be rolled back, especially those benefiting the wealthiest taxpayers.

But Democrats said that Republicans were distorting Democratic positions on taxes affecting the middle class and that by this point, Republican attacks on tax cuts had become so familiar to voters that they would not have much effect.

"Our candidates have all announced they're for middle-class tax proposals," said Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois, who is leading the Democratic effort to take back the House.

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