Scattered Thoughts On the Cusp of Vacation
Bush Administration's Deep Concern for Freedom of Press. Quiz time--quick, who's the current U.S. Secretary of Commerce? Don't feel too bad, I couldn't name him either. Now that Bush pal and ace fundraiser Don Evans has left that post to go back to making some really serious money, his succesor, Carlos M. Gutierrez, is about as much of an unknown as a presidential cabinet member can be. But since he happens to be Cuban-American, the White House has been pushing him in front of the cameras and microphones a little more now that Cuba is in the news again, with Castro's ailments. I'm just glad I didn't have any hot liquids in my mouth yesterday when I heard him being interviewed on NPR, robotically saying some of the most foolish boilerplate b.s. I've heard emanating from the Bush Administration in some time, no small feat.
Asked about opposition to Castro's rule, he kept repeating the line that without the crucial component of freedom of the press in Cuba, we really can't begin to know anything about the opposition. You would think this fellow worked for a media-friendly organization, not a presidency that has tried just about everything to undermine serious media. Former chief of staff Andy Card even famously contested the idea that the press is a stand-in for the public, maintaining instead that they're just one more interest group selfishly holding its grubby paws out. So Secretary Gutierrez, please do us all a favor and can the crap about respect for freedom of press.
Truth in Poetry. He calls himself deadline poet. For years, Calvin Trillin has been supplementing his income from the New Yorker, where he's been a staff writer seemingly since the Pleistocene era, with a few dollars for wry poems he writes for The Nation. He likes to joke that these bits of verse bring him pay "in the high two figures," which is probably no longer true, but no doubt once was when the magazine was poorer (its circulation has fully doubled during the George W. presidency). In any event, I particularly liked his verse in the August 14th issue:
At last we're reading less about Iraq's woes.
And how the chaos there still moves apace.
With all the other Middle Eastern killing,
The papers simply cannot find the space.
His war, said Bush, would shake up this whole region.
And--presto!--would democratize the place.
It's shook enough to bury his debacle.
The papers simply cannot find the space.
Sign of the Times. In a story that's unfortunately available only for subscribers, Crain's New York reports that Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and a number of smaller online startups are engaging in a hiring frenzy for advertising salespeople, as ad dollars continue their steady shift from traditional media to the Internet. Google alone is adding 35 ad-sales jobs in its New York office, the paper reports.
Hitch the Courageous. Christopher Hitchens is rightly famous for many things, including of course his remarkable eloquence and intellectual combativeness. While some of his fans, me among them, have been disappointed by his bizarre infatuation with the neocons, he has regained some respect lately with his decision to join the ACLU's lawsuit against government spying. But never let it be said he lacks courage. He was one of a mere handful of people who publicly stood up to be counted when his good friend Salman Rushdie had a price put on his head (the famous fatwa, which was later revoked) for writing a book deemed to be too critical of Islam. And now, he's publicly standing up to someone who's apparently threatening his own life.
On his website, which is not so much a personal site as it is a repository of links to all his writing (first begun by a Hitchens fan in Chicago) he tells this chilling story:
I receive lots of threats in one form or another, but the following has a peculiar interest in that it is signed. The website of the Atlantic Monthly received the following posting at 12.44 a.m. on 18 July: "Christopher Hitchens will be executed at 12.00 noon GMT on 20 July" The communication was followed, perhaps inadvertently, by the name firstname.lastname@example.org I have to say that I admire his punctiliousness in respect of Greenwich time. I have written to Mr. Jackson to say that I shall be unable to keep the appointment and that he will have to reschedule it. I have also advised him that in cases of this kind I like to know details about place of employment, social security number, credit rating, family connections and all the rest of it. He has not thus far responded. If any readers have any light to shed, I would be grateful to hear from them.