Yesterday ...


We have a new "Think Again" column here called "Exposing Stevens: Journalism Happens Here," and I see from Mark, a letter writer, that my UC-Davis talk on the fall and rise of liberalism is available on video here.

Is Hillary Clinton a combination of Jack and Bobby Kennedy re-incarnated? Or is she Lyndon Johnson? Is Barack Obama Adlai Stevenson? Is John Edwards? Sean Wilentz, George Packer and young Matt all take up these various analogies. I could be convinced by either Sean or Matt, depending on my mood. Read them here and here and here.

I'm not going to get into this except to say how weird it is that Packer is so nasty to Arthur Schlesinger, whatever you think of his politics or personal life -- not that the latter is really an appropriate topic of public discussion. Given the fact that whatever one thinks of Arthur's politics, and I think they were closer to being right than almost anyone else over time, with the exception perhaps of John Kenneth Galbraith, Schlesinger's histories have held up remarkably well, even with discoveries having been made about which he had no idea. I love these diaries because of the window they open up on the times, but nothing in them indicates to me that Arthur ever said one thing in private and the opposite in public.

Furthermore, I do not understand at all the attraction of Stevenson. (I recall Packer arguing in Mother Jones before the 2004 election that it would be a good idea for the Democrats to nominate a loser like Stevenson again. I can't remember why.) My shorthand, somewhat self-mocking, political definition of myself is that I'm a late-fifties liberal. But the idea that Stevenson was some brave, honorable voice in the wilderness is dangerous nonsense.

This is from the forthcoming Why We're Liberals:

Stevenson was a snob, and in many ways, not much of a liberal. He charmed intellectuals with his calls for a commitment to "cold-eyed humility" and a recognition that "our wisdom is imperfect and our capabilities ... limited." Though he might have been a classier fellow than General Eisenhower, bookwise -- an ironic egghead after their own hearts -- his politics were frequently indistinguishable from the plain-spoken military man. (When following his election loss, a woman tired to soothe his feelings by telling him that he had "educated the country," Stevenson replied: "Yes, but a lot of people flunked the exam." Stevenson's high opinion of his own intellect helped define in the public mind the "effete liberal" stereotype. Yet Stevenson was hardly less committed to the Cold War than Eisenhower, and though he opposed McCarthyism, he had no problem with dismissing teachers for being Party Members or using the Smith Act to prosecute others. In this regard, he epitomized the weak-kneed response of so many liberals to what was among the most significant threats to civil liberties in the history of the republic, and later, the cause of much disillusionment on the part of young leftists with their tut-tutting liberal elders. In keeping with his profile in cowardice, Stevenson also opposed both public housing and what he called "socialized medicine." He had little sympathy for much of the New Deal and a great deal of trouble making up his mind about the repeal of Taft-Hartley Act. Regarding the great moral and political and political issue for American liberals, civil rights, he was notably AWOL. (In this respect, he was less brave, and less liberal than the much-derided Truman.) Yes, the Kennedys treated Stevenson unconscionably, but Irving Howe aptly termed "Adlaism" to be "Ikeism ... with a touch of literacy and intelligence."

Sean may be right to compare some of Obama's (and perhaps Edwards') supporters to Stevensonians. But there is no comparison between the candidates. They would both eat his lunch, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is a good thing. There's nothing honorable about losing or pretending, after all, and they often go together.

Speaking of the decline of liberalism today, I see my favorite blogger, Marty Peretz is making fun of Jimmy Carter because his book has been discounted. Gee, how strange, a discounted book -- which, by the way, was also a massive best-seller. I think Jimmy's written about 24 books by now -- at least that's what he says here -- in addition to, you know, being president of the United States, helping to wipe out disease in Africa, etc., etc. Marty, on the other hand, has written no books, and owes his fame entirely to his second wife's fortune, which has allowed him to destroy much (but not all) of what's valuable in America's most important liberal magazine, but with a little bit left over for Scooter Libby's defense fund. What kind of person mocks another person in a public forum for having one of his 24 books discounted when he's never written one? My guess is one who doesn't have any real friends at all ... Friends don't let friends make total and complete idiots of themselves, every day, day after day after day after day after day ...

P.S. to my buddy, Rick: Your friend Marty says your friend Jimmy will be remembered in history primarily as a "Jew hater." Comments?

FYI: Tonight is the annual Committee to Protect Journalists' dinner. Honorees include:

  • Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of one of Russia's only independent newspapers, Novaya Gazeta. Muratov founded the paper in 1993; three of his journalists have been killed since 2000, including investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered in October 2006.
  • Mazhar Abbas, veteran journalist and champion of press freedom in Pakistan, has worked as a journalist for 27 years and endured repeated threats as a result of his reporting. He is deputy director of ARY One World Television and secretary-general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.
  • Adela Navarro Bello, general director of the weekly magazine Zeta in the border city of Tijuana, Mexico. Created in 1980, Zeta is one of the only publications to regularly run investigations on organized crime, drug trafficking, and corruption in Mexico's northern states, where self-censorship is rampant.
  • Gao Qinrong worked for China's official Xinhua News Agency in the northern province of Shanxi, and spent eight years in prison in retaliation for his reporting on local corruption. He was released last year but is still fighting criminal charges related to his journalism.
  • Tom Brokaw, one of the most trusted figures in broadcast journalism and a best-selling author. He will receive the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for a lifetime of distinguished achievement for the cause of press freedom. Brokaw has been a member of CPJ's Board of Directors since 1993.

For more information about the awardees and the awards ceremony, please go here.

This week on Moyers:

With the noose and the lynching tree entering the national discussion in the wake of recent news events, Bill Moyers interviews theologian James Cone about how these powerful images relate to the symbol of the cross and how they signify both tragedy and triumph. "It was the poor, black victims being lynched. In Rome time, it was poor Jews being lynched. The analogy is almost perfect there," he says. "So, how are we today going to understand what was happening to Jesus unless we see what was happening to black people in those trees?" Cone is the Charles A. Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York. He is best known for his groundbreaking works Black Theology & Black Power (1969) and A Black Theology of Liberation (1970); and he is also the author of the highly acclaimed God of the Oppressed (1975); and of Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare? (1991). It's on PBS on Fridays.

From TomDispatch:

Stuffed with stuffing this Thanksgiving, drop onto that couch with so many other Americans to catch the next football game -- and the next and the next and the next -- as the pros of the National Football League and the putative amateurs of the colleges compete for bandwidth. This is the season, of course, when college football teams (and office betting pools) begin the great plunge toward the bowl games, those ultimate gladiatorial events which were once named for flowers and fruits (how could that have happened?), but now represent tortilla chips, insurance companies, and banks.

In his latest column, former New York Times sports columnist Robert Lipsyte traces the rise of "a gladiatorial athletic culture" in the U.S. that, in the form of big-time college football, "teeters on the edge of being a scam and a tax fraud. Universities mortgage their endowments and their souls to build stadiums and buy top coaches and players; and yet, as Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist keeps pointing out, less than a dozen of the hundred-odd top football programs even make a profit, much less successfully fund other sports on campus, no less -- har har -- libraries and laboratories."

This is the inside story of sports corruption at the college level, as offered in riveting form by a great sports observer. It's a tale of America and of a "higher" education that has sold its soul "to professionalized sports and its caravan of million-dollar coaches, illiterate jocks, cheating recruiters, sell-out professors, boorish boosters, suck-up sportswriters, and administrators in thrall to Nike-Coke-Taco Bell and the grail of a major Bowl bid."

By the time Lipsyte's done with the money politics of that "sport," you're bound to wonder whether "college football" is not, like "late capitalism," a classic oxymoron.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Don Alameda
Hometown: Montclair, NJ

I don't know why I am commenting on everything in today's post. But I guess it is just my mood today. Your "Help" review makes me want to get the DVD right away. And I am glad to hear that you are a Clapton (and rock guitar) fan.

I am over fifty and I still play in a few very loud hard rock bands. Playing in a power trio is still my favorite format. Luckily I know a great guitarist who lets me play bass for him. So, we end up playing a lot of Cream covers.

But the reason I write is because of your "I didn't even know he [Steve Winwood] played the guitar."

We all remember the classic organ parts on "I'm A Man" and "Gimme Some Lovin.' " But check out this video of the first Spencer Davis Group hit ("Keep on Running").

It's a similar sound for several other notable songs recorded by The Spencer Davis Group ("Somebody Help Me," "Dust My Blues," "Mean Woman Blues," and many others). On the video of "Dust My Blues" on YouTube, you will see Spencer Davis on vocals with Steve Winwood on lead only. On other blues numbers, Winwood was lead vocal and lead guitar.

The definition of a rock-and-roll prodigy, Winwood was only 15, I believe, when the band was formed, and by the time he was 19, he had already left to form Traffic. But there is another notable early recording of Winwood on electric guitar. I believe that the original Blind Faith recording of "Had To Cry Today" features both Clapton and Winwood.

I am not sure (and I do not have any video examples of that period), but that is the way they perform it today and the original features a lead duet which has one dominant lead guitarist (definitely Clapton) and one weaker lead guitar (presumably Winwood, who wrote the song).

Name: Rob Stafford
Hometown: San Diego

Eric --

I would be the last to assert that I have any great business experience, but I have some, and much of it occurred in the years of craziness leading up to and through the internet bubble -- there was craziness on the way up, and craziness on the way down -- so there is a certain sense of edge-of-control, marketing-will-out business guy attitude that I am familiar with.

The information you share from John Brown makes sense to me. I have seen what I thought were smart, capable business people cut the legs out from under people in their own company, damaging relations with critical customers in order to step in later and "clean up the mess." I have seen those same men make decisions that ultimately destroyed both their departments & their companies -- because it was the best thing to do for the bottom line on the quarterly report.

Our business culture is sick, it rewards short-term success & often punishes long-term thinking or even prudence, and George Bush & Dick Cheney are very much the product of this culture.

The thing that disgusts me particularly is that hundreds of thousands of people are dead as a result.

Name: Don
Hometown: Riverdale, NY

Eric -

I think the ultimate piece of evidence is in the episode where Mr. Burns comes to dinner at the Simpsons and, casserole dish in hand he says, "I brought a kugel!"

Name: Jason Salzman


We all love to be media critics, but we also need to be good at communicating the progressive agenda to journalists, bloggers and the like.

This gathering tries to address this: True Spin Conference, Jan. 31 - Feb. 1, 2008. It's a national conference on Media Relations for progressives.

Here's some info:

A National Conference on Media Relations for Progressives

True Spin Conference, Jan. 31 - Feb. 1, 2008, Denver, CO Join some of America's best progressive PR practitioners for two days of panels, workshops, networking, and fun.

This conference brings together flacks from progressive advocacy groups around the country to exchange ideas and learn new and creative PR tactics.

Officials from giant corporations meet all the time to share their latest and greatest media relations strategies. This is our turn. It's the only national conference of its kind. More information is available here.

Name: Eric Rauchway
Hometown: Davis, CA


Hey, if you're interested, you can find the podcast of your UC-Davis event (and all CHSC events) through iTunes here, or by RSS here.

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