PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
December 14, 1998
In mourning for America
I have a day job, so I need to make it clear to anyone who comes here that the opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of my employer, my family, or your great-aunt Mathilda. Offer not valid in Wisconsin. You must enter to win.
Table of Contents:
How angry am I? I, a creature of habit, have re-arranged the order of this column so that, if you read nothing else, you read my editorial on the impeachment process. I was tempted to make it the whole column, but that would make me just like them, the monomaniacal haters. I considered leaving out the humor this week too, but as Adlai Stevenson said, "I laugh because it hurts too much to cry."
I just wish I knew more about HTML, because I'd like to drape this column in black crepe this week, in honor of the dishonor the rabid Republican partisans on the Judiciary Committee have brought to our country. If you know the coding or own the art to put this column in mourning, let me know.
The haters have won. Articles of impeachment are on their way to near-certain approval by the House. And not ten times ten thousand honeyed words from the lickspittle Republicans on the committee, from the hypocrite Hyde on down, can change the facts.
Now I know from my email, published and unpublished, that some of you believe impeachment is the right thing to do, and I respect your motives. I don't respect the motives of a single member of the committee. If there was a scintilla (to borrow a word Henry Hyde was amused by) of evidence of a crime that rose to the level of treason or bribery, at least one Democrat would have voted for one of the articles of impeachment. Nixon's impeachment was bi-partisan. This is a witch-hunt and we'll be feeling the pain of it for generations to come. Thank you Newt.
How We Got Here
For you see it was Newt who advanced the modern idea of criminalization of political disputes. It wasn't his idea; he just improved on it. The Democrats tried it first with Reagan. Interesting, isn't it, that the Democrats had a prima facie case of blatant, deliberate anti-constitutional behavior against Ronald Reagan in the Iran/Contra affair. Congress said no money for the Contras. It is an undisputed fact that Reagan decided to support them anyway. It doesn't get more unconstitutional than that.
The Democrats controlled Congress. They didn't impeach Reagan because he only had two years left in his second term and was very popular with the American people. Sound familiar? Thanks to the suicidal GOP actions of the last few weeks, Ronald Reagan will go down in history--as the last American president to miss out on the thrill of being impeached by a Congress in the hands of the other party.
The modern GOP didn't invent hatred of presidents either. They just refined it to an art. Roosevelt was so hated that capitalists toasted his death. Kennedy haters abounded. Even I joined in when it came to hating Nixon, although I like to think I had good cause. (By the way, one of you regular readers once told me a Jerry Vorhees anecdote. If you mail it to me, I'll add it to this column).
But none of the hatred in my lifetime has matched the Rush Limbaugh-fueled Get Clinton crowd, funded by Scaife interests and other conservative people and foundations with more money than brains and more time on their hands than good sense.
Hating the president, while corrosive, as least was an historical fact of American life. Impeachment is something new, and it is now too late to put the toothpaste back in the tube. There are good reasons that we've only impeached two presidents before now. All of those reasons have been trampled into the dust in the GOP rush to fulfill their hate.
Here's what's going to happen:
The Best Quote Of The Debate
After days and days of facts, opinion and Republican bloviating, I found one quotation that summed up the whole matter for me. There have been many references to this passage. Still, it took me almost two hours (way longer than it should have) to find it on the Internet. I wasn't sure of the date, the professor's name, and I thought he said "hunt down" instead of track down. The Republicans, with the same kind of attention to factual accuracy as they have shown throughout the hearings, quoted him as saying hunt.
I am including the hard-to-find URL here (and by the way, when it comes to free, well-indexed general news, I recommend CNN hands down), in case you want to read the whole statement of Princeton history professor Sean Wilentz, But I think this really says it all:
If you believe [the charges] do rise to that level, you will vote for impeachment and take your risks at going down in history with the zealots and the fanatics.
Guess what? I am younger than most of the GOP zealots and fanatics on the Judiciary Committee, and I am smarter than all of them put together--even if you count Mary Bono twice. Plus, I am a writer, so I get to help draft history. I have a long memory.
I promise everyone who reads this that I will take care of myself so that I live long enough to hunt down and destroy the reputation of every craven GOP lackey, on and off the committee, who inflicted this inexcusable damage on our system of government. Writers always get the last word. Professor Wilentz, I accept your challenge. I will track them down and condemn them before history for their cravenness. I now have one more thing to live for.
Remind me to tell you why I hate Microsoft Word.
Anyway, I am really upset about the irrational and punitive policies airlines are instigating with regard to carryon baggage. I'd be more upset if I still flew frequently. I'd also be more upset if I hadn't just blown my whole wad of vitriol writing about the impeachment proceedings.
This issue resonates with me personally. Once, shortly after United baggage check-in at SFO was automated, my bags took a lovely vacation in Hawaii while I went to New York City. I've never waited less than a half-hour for my bags, and have had them lost on a dozen occasions in 20 years of regular flying. That's why I carry on. That's why I resent the manufactured crisis. My good friend Joe Brancatelli, who writes about travel, knows much more about this than me, and wrote about it in his column last week (you may have to get into the archives to see this one if you don't read my column right away):
BRANCATELLI FILE: ONCE MORE UNTO THE CARRY-ON BREACHThe internecine fight between Continental and United and Delta over templates and other carry-on issues points out the folly of it all. The confusion is now infuriating. Read all about it in this week's edition of The Brancatelli File. Point your browser to biztravel.com, then click on the home-page hotlink for the Brancatelli File.
I wrote Joe to ask him what I could do, and he responded:
I've gotten a ton of Emails on this week's column and there's one message: people seem to be switching in droves to American from United Airlines. Shocking, really, because frequent flyers are loathe to change carriers and lose their elite privileges.
Well, I didn't write a column about it, Joe, but I did the next best thing: I pointed people at yours. And let me conclude by saying that thank goodness my employer has a deal with American for transcontinental air flights. If you haven't switched yet, and you can, do. Let's make sure United gets the message: we carry on because your baggage handling stinks like yesterday's diapers.
Computer Industry News
The Judiciary Committee debate was a sad day for American legal education. So too is every day during which a Microsoft lawyer or spokesman steps before a microphone, on the courthouse steps or anywhere else.
In the case of the committee, all of its members are lawyers. All of them know there is a difference between lying and perjury. Not every lie is perjury and they know it. The audacity of the Republicans' deliberate attempt to mislead and confuse the American people is breathtaking in its scope and cynicism. Weren't these people taught any ethics in law school?
Only Microsoft's legal counsel bests it. I say again, shame on you William Neukom, chief legal counsel to Microsoft. I expect you to vigorously defend your client. That's the heart and soul of the American legal system. But I have yet to hear you open your mouth in public without gratuitously misrepresenting the nature of American antitrust law. We can argue--well, you can argue--about whether or not Microsoft has violated it. But to lie about the nature of the law, as I have seen you do time and again, is simply inexcusable. I'm no lawyer, but I know the law when I see it.
I want to offer further circulation to an interesting theory I heard from John McChesney on NPR last weekend. He suggested Microsoft's slow, deliberate cross-examination of witnesses is a deliberate attempt to bore the reporters out of the courtroom so they will not be present to report the weak and half-baked nature of the Microsoft case to the American people. It is a shameful tactic, and one that seems right in line with other tactics we've seen from the Microsoft legal team (such as fighting the release of the Bill Gates videotape while accusing the government of releasing only snippets). Shame on Microsoft again. This makes it all the more important for us in the media to stay focused on the trial of the century, no matter how long it takes.
I couldn't decide whether to make this a letter or a news item. It was so well written and so evocative, I decided to make it a news item. It comes from a man I am proud to call my friend, one of the finest, most honest, hardworking and intelligent people it has ever been my privilege to know in the fields of PR or journalism. Paul Franson got the job I wanted in 1976 at Electronic News. Later, he went into PR and founded Franson and Associates. He is now retired in the Northern California Wine Country. He writes:
I remember that last NCC well. My pr agency was new, and had arranged a lot of inexpensive rooms (no $$). One of my favorite people, Kathleen Wiegner, the infamous stealth assassin from Forbes, asked if we knew of any rooms. We gave her one of ours. It turned out to be the worst motel in Orange County. Roaches, Hell's Angels, hookers and drug dealers in the parking lot until 4 am, police cars with flashing lights every 45 minutes. [sounds like my hotel that year. PES]
Craig Reynolds noticed this and forwarded it to me and a select group of friends:
...As for Bill Gates' suggestion that the Justice Department wants to destroy Microsoft, a government official said it best, telling the Washington Post:
A Product Plug: Spumco Christmas Cartoon
I am not in the habit of plugging commercial products in this column, but I've enjoyed this one, and at $2, the price/pleasure ratio is high: It is mildly offensive. If you didn't like Ren and Stimpy, you'll hate this flash-animated cartoon.
THE XMAS CARTOON RETURNS!-------------------------
For those of you who missed it last year, Spumco's "A Goddamn Xmas" is back! You can buy it for just $2 using our new real- time credit card transaction process and download it right away. (No waiting like last year!) This is a cartoon you can keep and play right on your desktop anytime you want.
Spumco Xmas Cartoon Order Page
If you haven't heard my voice in a long time and have a hankering to, or if you're merely interested in an intelligent audio discussion of the week's two or three most important news events by knowledgeable reporters, give a listen to the TechWeb Week in Review. I am the host and ringmaster. You'll need a RealAudio player to hear it. I am very proud of this program. It used to involve a newscast, a commentary, a promo and the roundtable, but we decided the roundtable provided more value than the other segments. It is a mere coincidence that it was also the easiest part of the program to produce. As I've said many times to many of you, audio on the net is either TV in 1946 or quadraphonic sound in 1975. I wish I knew which. You can hear it here.
The ol' column is gettin' kinda long, so I'll put my Top 15 list winners from this week here, and let you find the rest of the list here.
This is my sixth number 1. And while I didn't have a hat trick, I did get two submissions onto the list:
The Top 13 Other Retractions Printed by the NY Times in 1998
I know Leah Garchik came in for some criticism when I ran similar items of hers two weeks ago, but she does cite her sources; now maybe those sources plagiarized them...
Some inspiring imaginary mergers from George and Brendan Ward, tycoons of industry:
See Leah's column here.
I now have the honor of sharing a correspondent with the late, great Herb Caen. Kent Peterman of Benicia, Calif., schoolteacher, bon vivant and wit was a frequent contributor of bon mot to the Caen column. This week, he chipped in for my column:
I once knew a Richard (the late Richard C. Parker) who hated being called Dick. He hated it with a passion. Thus I understand the emotion behind this brief missive from Daniel P. Dern of Massachusetts. I knew him as Dan in college, but a lot of people prefer to be known formally in print:
Daniel, if you please.
Henceforth and forever more, every time I remember to get it right--which I hope is every time, Daniel. My sincere apologies. Everyone deserves to be known by the name they prefer.
Joe Brancatelli writes from the Hudson River Valley about last week's nearly-all humor issue:
Cool column. I think the best bit of "Internet humor" have been those Hotbot ads. The idea of turning a search engine into a room of old men is just brilliant. And every one of the commercials has been hilarious.
I agree. If you haven't seen them (or didn't realize what they were advertising), watch them carefully. They are funny and clever, which is more than you can say for most Internet advertising on TV.
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