Slacker Friday


We've got a new Think Again column here called "New Orleans After the Storm." And we did a really long article for The Nation on the consequences of the media's continuing love affair with John McCain, titled "Loving John McCain," here.

Unfortunately, I feel compelled to add that while it's nice to be given the cover of the magazine for one's work, I find this particular cover to be objectionable on two counts: one quite serious, the other less so. Regarding the latter, I think it misleading to make the journalists in bed with McCain so recognizable (and therefore personal) since the point of all of those words is to try to demonstrate that the phenomenon is endemic throughout the MSM, rather than just confined to the famous few. Far more significantly, it's completely unfair and inaccurate to include a likeness of Fareed Zakaria among those journalists. Fareed's column on John McCain's foreign policy, while respectful, was among the most tough-minded critiques of the consequences of McCain's political and intellectual recklessness, and so, while I never saw the cover until it appeared, I do want to take this opportunity to apologize to Fareed for that. You can read his fine column here.

From ANP:

"Obama. The Reverend Wright. Immigration. Race is taking center stage in America and, as a result, the groups that try to heighten racial divisions are on the rise." The American News Project "explores the phenomenon of 'white nationalism' " and the legitimizing of hate. And...

Despite its recent 5-4 rejection of the legal basis for the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, the Supreme Court may flip back to support the Bush administration's views on executive power. Steven Wax, a federal public defender who represents seven Gitmo prisoners, is in the middle of this Constitutional maelstrom. The ANP sat down with Wax.

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:

"Stay on the other side of the road, 'cause you can never tell/ We've a thirst like a gang of devils/We're the boys of the county hell."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Let The Four Winds Blow" (Roy Brown) -- Once again, I have utterly failed in my efforts to rewire the news ticker in Times Square so that it would run an endless loop telling the people of the world how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: There is no better way to watch Neil Cavuto's show on Fox News than in a hotel bar with the sound off. (Alas, the man's a blowhard even in closed captions.) Anyway, I found myself in just such a blissful state last week. The graphic said Neil was offering "style tips" to the two candidates in the upcoming election. Style tips from Neil Cavuto, I pondered. From the guy who apparently shops at the Big Boy Department at the Trent Lott Boutique? Anyway, one of the tips for Barack Obama was "Humanize your wife." Excuse me? Neil Cavuto now defines "human"? Did I miss a memo? The best way for Michelle Obama to be "humanized" would be for her to show up at the FNC studios and knock that oily little homunculus into next Tuesday, which I am very sure she can do. Jeebus Christmas, this is going to be a rough one.

Part The Second: After the great events of the past two weeks, it is clear to me that the new host of Meet The Press has to be this man. My favorite Van Gundy Moment? When never-used Lakers sub Chris Mihm mysteriously appeared on the floor in Game Five, he said, "I think I saw Chris Mihm out there and lost my train of thought."

Part The Third: This was a list that was fairly well done.(And a classy addition to the blog, by the way. "Wonk Or Wank? YOU make the call!") However, and it's a big however, the absence from this list of Lloyd Bochner and Pia Zadora performing the ancient Rite Of The Flexible Armadillo from The Lonely Lady evinces a distressing lack of respect for the classics. In a related development, this post contains the single most amazing -- and hilarious -- sentence in the history of the Intertubes. See if you can find it.

Part The Fourth: I thought I was rid of this walking blight a decade ago. He gets a second act and Gary Hart, who's been right about everything for the past 20 years, can't get C-SPAN at 4 a.m.?

Part The Last: I go through life with a smile and a good word for everyone. I am charmingly optimistic that a loving and merciful god would never actually give people mulch for brains. I am usually wrong about this, however. Sometimes, I am very, very wrong. And sometimes, The Washington Post makes me believe that I will never be right again. Hey, Gerson, tell your Personal Lord and Savior that he wasted a good crucifixion on your behalf, OK?

Once upon a time, there was a place called ESPN that was a house of horrors for its female employees. (Details can be found in this book. Almost alone among high-profile employees of the network, and at considerable personal risk in a company that was wary of him even at the height of his popularity, Keith Olbermann stood up and supported a whole bunch of embattled young women you never heard of. It's part of the reason I admire him almost as much as I like him, and I like him a very great deal. (This also goes for how, at considerable professional peril, he walked away from his first MSNBC gig rather than be part of the Lewinsky circus and the ensuing kabuki impeachment.) So, it is with no little sadness that I say that Countdown has become well-nigh unwatchable. And it's not just that the Special Comments are coming so often these days that they're not very, well, special any more. (Hey, some people love them. Some people would be happy with one every night. Different strokes and all.) It's more that, even given his undeniable strengths as a broadcaster, KO is now producing a completely conventional MSNBC show. Oh, it's got some southpaw bells and goofy whistles that the others don't have. (Although poor Chris Matthews now has to stumble his way through a "funny" nightly video package clearly modeled after Countdown's "Oddball" segment. It's like watching a duck juggle.) And it has introduced some new talking heads -- Doc Maddow, for one, and Chris Hayes of The Nation. But, otherwise, it's Howard (Mort Kondracke Without The Laughs) Fineman and Eugene Robinson and Richard Wolffe and Dana (I'm Funny, Too. Honest To God, I Am) Milbank, and the usual cast of characters from the far end of the Kool Kids table in DC.

Moreover, as MSNBC became ground zero on television for juvenile sexism aimed at Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Olbermann who'd stood up for anonymous production assistants and video editors at ESPN largely sat down. He even got clumsily tangled in it himself; that "two people go into a room" comment was just flat stupid. And if Tucker Carlson had clasped his knees together while holding up, say, a Nancy Pelosi nutcracker on, say, the Fox News Channel, Olbermann would have teed him up as that night's Worst Person no matter what atrocity Bill O'Reilly had tossed out that day. Instead, when asked about his network's performance in this regard by The New York Times, Olbermann's responses were self-evidently inadequate. How he did during the extended Russert obsequies this week depends vitally on your fundamental opinion of the deceased -- as the Jesuit-educated overweight journalist son of Irish Catholics from a battered little East Coast city myself, I would like that mushmouthed fathead Brokaw to stop telling me what I'm like, OK? -- and it must have been a horrible shock to all of them. But, take him all in all these days, and KO seems to be turning into something I never would have thought possible of him -- a house man.

Name: Merrill R. Frank
Jackson Heights, NYC


While four U.S. and European oil companies re-enter Iraq after nearly 40 years of a state-run oil industry in order to -- to use the movie parlance -- "drink their milkshake," one wonders how many of the CEOs and employees of these companies donated to organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project or the IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America). Or better yet advocate an increase in taxes to pay for the next 50-odd years of veterans' benefits for the wounded service members and the families of the deceased. How many of these same CEOs and their employees can look into the faces of these same families and tell them that their sacrifice was for the good of the country?

Name: David Fuller
Peotone, IL

Dr. A.,

In regards to the correspondence about oil from Rick from Lisle and John from Des Moines, I thought I would add some insight that I learned yesterday (and my apologies if I missed this in your excellent work somewhere). Turns out that the oil companies currently hold 10,000 drilling permits right now, and have leases to 68 million acres of land that is going undrilled -- no need to "open up ANWR or the Gulf Coast right now" as Newt Gingrich would have everyone believe. (Drilling permits are apparently what happens right before the drill bit hits the ground -- so oil companies are confident that oil is there.) Check out this June 2008 report from the Committee on Natural Resources.

Among the most interesting points:

  • Drilling on federal lands has steadily increased since the 1990s
  • Drilling permits have gone from 3,802 five years ago to 7,561 in 2007
  • Oil and gas companies have shown that they cannot keep pace with the rate of drilling permits (so opening the Gulf and ANWR would help how, exactly?)
  • Although permits have gone up, the price of gas has ALSO gone up, refuting the idea that more drilling will automatically reduce prices
  • The Bureau of Land Management has issued 28,776 permits to drill on public land; yet, only 18,954 wells were actually drilled (a difference of 9822)
  • Of the 47.5 million acres of on-shore federal lands that are currently being leased by oil and gas companies, only about 13 million acres are actually in production
  • Offshore, only 10.5 million of the 44 million leased acres are currently producing oil or gas
  • According to the Minerals Management Service, of all the oil and gas believed to exist on the Outer Continental Shelf, 82% of the natural gas and 79% of the oil is located in areas that are currently open for leasing
  • Nearly 91 million acres are currently open to leasing in the Arctic region of Alaska, including onshore and offshore lands. Oil and gas companies have leased only 11.8 million of the 91 million acres.

The report goes on to say that just drilling in these 68 million acres (this excludes the Alaska acreage, because much of it is still unleased by the oil companies even though it is available to lease) of untapped areas without drilling anywhere else would likely produce six times the amount of oil in ANWR. Yes, that's right: SIX TIMES what ANWR is estimated to be able to produce at peak production. And if they'd bother to lease the Alaska areas that are available, that number would undoubtedly go much higher.

There's much more in the report, but suffice to say, the next time one of us hears the claim that we need to drill in ANWR or off the coast of Florida to reduce our oil dependence and affect pricing, we should (confidently!) ask why in the world we aren't making use of the 10,000 permits already issued and the 68 million acres of unused, currently leased land to drill on first, and why the additional drilling we've already done since the 90s hasn't reduced prices at all.

Shock Doctrine, indeed -- don't fall for it. Educate folks on this, so our politicians can confidently vote "No" to the Gingrich nonsense with the knowledge that the American people have been sufficiently educated about this issue to know better than the lines we're being fed by the oil companies and those shilling for them.

Name: Ken
Lenexa, KS

So if we drill all along the coasts and pump out the unlikely billions of barrels of oil, so what? Correct me if I am wrong but aren't we also a tad short on refinery capacity? My understanding is that the oil companies have not exactly been rushing to use any of their record profits to build new refineries or even update their current plants.

Name: Chuck
Kansas City

I'm not an attorney, but anyone that pushes legal theories that basically say the president can do whatever he wants, or that habeas corpus is optional, should not be allowed to practice law with the exception of maybe traffic court. This is exactly what you get with the John Yoos and Antonin Scalias of the world, whose Federalist Society bias colors every argument they make. They know what outcome they want and use whatever flimsy logic and precedent they can to get there, and when questioned on it, try to throw out tangential issues to distract everyone from the fact that they are wrong.

But the media's conventional wisdom on both men focuses on their brilliance. Granted, they are by most measures smart, but anyone that pushes an agenda in lieu of actually considering the facts would be considered a hack -- a very smart, disingenuous hack to be sure.

Scalia we are stuck with for many more years, as well as the brilliant ideologues Roberts and Alito, confirmed by the spineless Dems, and Thomas. This should settle once and for all the need to fight these types of nominees, or better yet, have a president appointing judges that actually consider the law when ruling on important issues. But Yoo teaching law at any school, let alone the University of California at Berkeley? Is that a way for them to combat charges of liberal bias? Since when are they obligated to hire ideologues like Yoo? Isn't that what conservative think tanks are for?

Name: Rich Gallagher
Fishkill, NY

The Westchester County eighth grader whose father is a lawyer might be interested to see that President Carter's Nobel Peace Prize was issued to "Jimmy Carter."

The kid's teacher reminds me of my seventh-grade geography teacher (coincidentally, also at a Westchester County school). One day she told the class that the Grand Canyon was in Colorado. I protested and showed her a map that clearly placed the Grand Canyon in Arizona. She took a look at it and then announced that the map was wrong.

And some teachers wonder why their students don't respect them!

Name: Steve S.

" ... a caller said, 'I had to explain to my young son why these two men were holding hands the other day,' Michael Savage stated, 'You've got to explain to the children ... why God told people this was wrong.'

I'm confused, are they talking about George Bush and members of the Saudi royal family?

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