Slacker Friday


I've got a new "Think Again" column called "Just One DOJ Scandal? Does the MSM have BAADD?" here.

From TomDispatch:

Tony Karon offers a timely take on the Middle East -- given Saudi moves of the last few days. Senior editor at and creator of the Rootless Cosmopolitan blog, Karon begins: "They must serve up some pretty powerful Kool Aid in the press room down at Foggy Bottom, judging by U.S. media coverage of Condi Rice's latest 'Look Busy' tour of the Middle East."

Unlike jaded observers in the Middle East, he points out, U.S. media outlets were "alone in their willingness to swallow the preposterous narratives offered by Rice's State Department spinners on the significance of her latest diplomatic efforts." He then outlines the nature of the Bush administration's "fantasy version of American diplomacy" when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis -- and offers a hard look at what's behind all the diplomatic maneuvering presently underway, especially the maturing range of crises that have "festered dangerously, while Condi fiddled" -- and that indicate just how precipitously American power to influence events in the region has declined in recent years.

Given the president's notorious dismissal of genuine diplomatic initiatives, Karon concludes this way: "As the [secular liberal Beirut] Daily Star "noted in an editorial last Monday, if Condi Rice wants to revive an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, then her powers of persuasion would be more productively deployed not in the Middle East, but in the West Wing."

From The Music for Youth benefit tribute, "The Music of Bruce Springsteen," is coming up next week -- Thursday, April 5, at Carnegie Hall. Concert producer Michael Dorf tells "This tribute series is to honor the great songwriters and performers who stand up to the test of time. From Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan in 2006 to our first tribute this year, Bruce Springsteen, we have selected artists who have contributed songs into the great songbook of American history. These are my American idols.... The number of artists who wanted to be on the stage is too great to mention -- the outpouring of musicians who all have felt touched and inspired by the Boss." The bill includes Steve Earle, Marah, Badly Drawn Boy, Jesse Malin with Ronnie Spector, and more. A few tickets remain -- visit the Carnegie Hall website.

Music Rising, the Edge's campaign to help Gulf Coast musicians affected by the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, will get quite a boost from an upcoming auction. A whole host of musical memorabilia on the "Icons of Music" auction block includes a few Springsteen items, like an early handwritten lyric sheet ("Phantom Love") and a striking Tunnel-period Leibovitz photo. There's one of Nils Lofgren's guitars ... instruments from all four members of U2 ... stuff from the Beatles, Prince, Hendrix, Dylan, Nirvana... and you surely won't want to miss Gene Simmons' stage worn pants! In advance of the April 21 auction at the Hard Rock in New York, exhibitions of memorabilia will be held in L.A., Dublin, London, and New York. For information, visit, and see the full auction listing here.

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:

He's come to a sticky end/Don't think he will ever mend ...

By now, our buddy Stengel from Time has been fairly well barbecued in the smokehouses of Blogistan. However, we should look even more carefully at his odd reply to Ana Marie Cox, as she wandered back down the dimly lit runway, a beaded boa over one shoulder while the saxophone began to play. Stengel maintains that, on the Matthews show, he was speaking "as a citizen" when he started meeping about the Democratic response to the U.S. Attorneys affair. Goddamn and little fishes, as Fred Thompson will one day get around to sayin', what an ass.

Hey, Brainiac. I'm a citizen, too. I'm a citizen of a putatively self-governing republic and it is AS A CITIZEN that I object to an administration that conducts itself like the dim half of the Somoza family. It is AS A CITIZEN that I am offended by an attempt to turn US Attorneys into election-year button men. It is AS A CITIZEN that I am revolted at the unleashing within the Department of Justice of the ghost of Donald Segretti, and it is AS A CITIZEN that I am utterly nauseated by the fact that one of Karl Rove's little oppo elves is a United States Attorney instead of being the guy who cleans my spikes at the golf course. It is AS A CITIZEN that I am failed so often and so comically by the mandarins of our political press corps, most of whom I wouldn't trust to organize a two-car funeral if you spotted them the hearse. It is AS A CITIZEN that I conclude that this feckless, reckless bunch have committed unprecedented transgressions against my country. It is AS A CITIZEN that I want my Constitution rendered whole again. Hell, as a journalist, I don't expect much of anything from anyone. But AS A CITIZEN, if it's OK with Mr. Stengel, and doesn't inconvenience his social life too much, I'd like my country back.

Name: Josh Silver
Hometown: Free Press


A few interesting issues are brewing, and the folks at JibJab have come out with yet another funny and poignant online video. This two-minute "What We Call the News" is a must-watch.

The FCC is preparing to issue a bunch of full-power FM radio licenses in rural parts of the country. It's a rare opportunity to get better journalism and local content on the air and we need help spreading the word. Please forward our new website,, to anyone you know who is either in a rural state, or would help spread the word.

There is an obscure-but-important debate happening now about the future of Internet radio. A recent ruling by the "Copyright Royalty Board" is dramatically increasing the royalties webcasters must pay every time they stream a song online. Public Internet radio like NPR is especially at risk, as well as nonprofit and smaller commercial Internet radio outlets. We're going out to our 320,000 members today on this. More info here.

Another obscure decision is poised to hurt independent media. The Postal Board of Governors voted to raise rates for mailing periodicals, putting a huge and unanticipated burden on small and mid-sized national magazines and journals of opinion in particular. The ruling heavily favors (surprise) the largest companies, while raising costs by some 17% for magazines like The American Prospect and The Nation. We have assembled a coalition of right and left wing publications, and are getting members of Congress to quickly call hearings to force a revision of the rules. Background is here.

The Net Neutrality/Save the Internet campaign has quieted down for now as we build out our public interest/industry coalition. However, our success in Washington has forced telcos and cable to take the fight to the states. In response, we've launched our state legislation tracker here. More on that issue in April.

We're gearing up for another official FCC hearing April 30th in Tampa, and Chairman Martin has given no indication that he will force a vote on consolidation. Meanwhile, there is increasing speculation that Martin will leave the FCC this summer.

Name: Sam G
Hometown: Rockville, MD

Mr. A,

One can wonder if one reason Politico is so Bushy and Drudgy is that it's owned by a big Bush fan from a family of big Bush fans. He's Robert Albritton, whose family owned the old Washington Star, still has a bunch of TV stations, and who was CEO of the late Riggs Bank before the bank pleaded guilty to laundering millions of dollars for Chile's late dictator Augusto Pinochet, Prince Bandar and other rich Saudis, and crooked officials of Equatorial Guinea. Riggs Bank paid a $16 million fine and was sold two years ago. President George W.'s uncle, Jonathan Bush, was in charge of Riggs' investment arm, according to the Demopedia website, and Bush knew the Albrittons well enough to wave at Robert's father during his inauguration parade and yell, "Hey Joe, how are you?" Joe Albritton was a Bush fundraiser and donated a portrait of Ronald Reagan that hangs in the White House.(See NYTimes 3/10 and 3/30/05 +

Name: Traven
Hometown: Seattle

Sono molto impressionato dall suo intervista con il gionale italiano! Bravo!

Name: Brian Donohue

I sharply disagree with you over the claim that Bloomberg is a good mayor. The land deal/giveaway on the MTA West Side property with his billionaire buddy Woody Johnson (only stopped at the last minute, much to Mike's dismay); the shit-slinging at the Transit Worker's Union during the strike, exacerbated by his use of his own media empire to disseminate falsehoods and insults about Roger Toussaint and the union; the entire conduct of the RNC, which was disgraceful (I nearly got arrested just walking across a street by cops dragging the cordon tape around a few isolated protesters); the NYPD spying scandal, which is only beginning to open up now; and all the other marks of plutocracy that have marked this administration make it one of the worst in my memory (though he does compare favorably by a certain margin with Koch and Guiliani). Oh, and has that hole in the ground downtown gotten anywhere yet? As I suggested last year, they could have filled it with soil, trees, and grass four years ago and had a living memorial to the lost rather than a corporate-driven pissing contest.

In short, New York under Bloomberg is not a people's city, but an insider's club. If that is the definition of successful government, then maybe it's time I moved. Plutocrats -- even so-called "benign" ones like Bloomberg -- are a danger in government at any level.

Name: Merrill R. Frank
Hometown: Jackson Hgts, NYC

Maybe "Rappin MC Rove" was just emulating his mentor Lee Atwater when he played MC at Bush 41's 1989 inaugural, which featured performances by rhythm-and-blues legends BB King and Bo Diddley. Nothing like the architects and enablers of Nixon's "Southern strategy" paying homage to music legends.

Nashville songwriters Marshall Chapman and Gary Nicholson even wrote a song spoofing it.

What's next -- Rove plays Klezmer at the next AIPAC conference?

Eric replies: Dude, I was at that concert. It was totally awesome.

Name: Hal Grossman
Hometown: New York NY

I just read Alan Blinder's article in Foreign Affairs. It's called "Offshoring: The Next Industrial Revolution," and it's in the March/April 2006 issue. It's worth reading.

Nowhere does Prof. Blinder question the theory of comparative advantage or the benefits of free trade. In fact, he says that governments can't stop free trade, especially in information.

Blinder's main point is that lots of service jobs -- 40 million or more -- are going to leave the U.S. in the years to come. He stresses a distinction between impersonal services and personal services. Impersonal services are things like radiology or security analysis, where quality does not depend on face-to-face contact. Personal services do require face-to-face contact, and can range from surgery to waiting on tables.

Blinder does call for better trade-adjustment programs for people whose jobs leave the country, and for a more robust social safety net in general. That's not inconsistent with a free-trade position; it just shows that he has a heart.

Blinder also argues that our education system had better start thinking about how to train young people for the jobs that are likely to stay in the U.S., and not for those that could easily move to India. (India is a bigger threat than China, because it has educated people who speak English.)

My first reaction to this was that we're in deep trouble, because our education establishment is not known for its nimbleness or its fresh thinking.

But my second reaction is that things may not be so dire. Blinder argues that what the "safe" personal-services jobs may have in common is not skill level, but the importance of people skills. To which I would add that our schools seem to be better at fostering people skills than at teaching impersonal skills, like grammar or long division. So maybe globalization won't be the ruin of the U.S. economy. But there will be some dramatic adjustments.

Politically, I see a couple of lessons here for liberals:

1. Offshoring probably won't reduce the number of U.S. jobs, but there will be a different mix of jobs here. So it's a bad idea for Democrats to oppose free trade in information. Don't demagogue this issue.

2. What we need are a couple of initiatives that liberals are well-placed to pull off -- assistance for displaced workers and public education that prepares people for jobs that will actually exist. Conservatives are ideologically allergic to both of these things. That leaves liberals with an opening to describe the problem and propose solutions.

Name: Chris
Hometown: Portland, ME

Kyle Sampson's opening statement is a blatant representation of the Republican strategy, contempt for any statement and view other then there own (and they call "us" liberal!). Says Sampson, "The distinction between political and performance-related reasons for removing a United States attorney is, in my view, largely articifical." Say what? I'd like to use this philosophy to tell Mr. Sampson that the distinction between prejudice and performance-related issues is largely artificial. You're fired, Mr. Sampson, because you are little, fat, four-eyed and balding. Oh yeah, and because you're Republican too.

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