Across the borderline ...


By the twisted logic of Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, et al, every crime committed by an illegal immigrant is stand-alone evidence that we need to deport every undocumented immigrant and build a huge fence across the entire border with Mexico. As Michelle Malkin dramatically described one crime while filling in on The O'Reilly Factor: "The never-ending criminal alien revolving door. ... Another heinous crime, another illegal alien suspect with a mile-long rap sheet, another bloody tragedy wrought by open borders." Never mind that immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born citizens, and that the incarceration rate for native-born citizens is five times higher than for foreign-born individuals. (See our recent Think Again column, "Hatred for Sale," for more.)

But by these rules of evidence, regularly offered to millions of viewers by these right-wing extremists, can't we also say, then, that undocumented immigrants will produce gold-medal Olympians for this country? Will we see that on The O'Reilly Factor?

Strange things are happening these past few days in the world of television news. There's this:

Just in time for the closing rush of the presidential election, MSNBC is shaking up its prime-time programming lineup, removing the long-time host -- and one-time general manager of the network -- Dan Abrams from his 9 p.m. program and replacing him with Rachel Maddow, who has emerged as a favored political commentator for the all-news cable channel.

Also this:

The correspondent Martin Savidge is leaving NBC News for public television, where he is to become the anchor of a new weeknight broadcast that will focus on international news. WLIW in New York, which is developing the program, is expected to announce his appointment on Wednesday.

"Worldfocus," with a start-up budget that station employees said is about $8 million, will attempt to fill what Mr. Savidge called a void in television news.

"When CNN was born as a concept, we all said: 'The 24-hour era of news has arrived; think of the topics we can cover,' " he said in a telephone interview late Monday. But, he said, 24 hours now "boils down to about six headlines repeated over and over and over," adding, "It seems that opportunity was squandered."

In recent days, he said, the conflict between Georgia and Russia was heavily covered by television news media in the United States, but not the economic downturn in Europe, Iraq's nearly unspent budget surplus from oil sales or the assassination of one of Syria's top generals. "There were other events happening in the world that most Americans heard nothing about," Mr. Savidge said.

It's worth saying that for all the silliness that does exist on television, there's also great stuff out there that heightens the civic discourse (Moyers, Frontline, NOW, The Daily Show, virtually all of HBO's original programming, and so on). And while I would never say a trend towards better programming is emerging, certain conventions are being challenged. As Ezra Klein writes, about Maddow's show and its announcement online by Keith Olbermann: "You know, when I was young, this world had rules. And standards. And liberals did not get TV shows. And liberals who had TV shows did not write on DailyKos. And liberals who had TV shows and wrote on Daily Kos did not get TV shows for their even more liberal guest hosts." The audience for this stuff is out clearly out there, and let's hope the bosses finally act accordingly. In the meantime, God bless TiVo ...

George Zornick writes:

Speaking of the silliness and noise that is out there, though, the vice-presidential hype was in overdrive last night. Joe Biden, on his way to a golf game, said "I'm not the guy," which means either he's not the guy, or he is but was just being diplomatic, or as CNN's John King said, Biden was saying... "well, really, I'm not so sure." Still, that clip was played on CBS Evening News, CNN, NBC Nightly News, MSNBC, Fox, and so on.

Jack Shafer at Slate fairly points out that the campaigns are the ones encouraging this wild, blind speculation:

Today's New York Times contains a classic of the genre: "Obama Nears No. 2 Pick, Aides Say." Powered by more heavy breathing than an obscene phone call, the article's lede sources to Barack Obama's aides that he "has all but settled on his choice for a running mate and set an elaborate rollout plan for his decision, beginning with an early morning alert to supporters, perhaps as soon as Wednesday morning." Five paragraphs later, the article attributes to Obama advisers that their man "all but reached his decision while on vacation in Hawaii."

The key phrase, used twice in the Times story, is "all but," and it provides Obama's advisers the vast wiggle room in which they can simultaneously assert that he has made up his mind and that he hasn't made up his mind. In other words, the Times has no news to report -- only a higher octane of speculation it expects its readers to swallow until Obama does make his announcement.

Surely, Shafer is right, that it's in the campaign's interest to create a huge amount of buzz and speculation around the prospective vice president, like car companies that won't show the public their new design until a grand, last-minute unveiling. But it doesn't mean the media has to go absolutely bananas. Instead of following it all, you may want to read up on, say, this, which wasn't a hot topic of discussion on the air last night ...

Why we're liberals ...

... and why they're not.

McCain Suck-up Watch: "Referring to a response given by Sen. John McCain at the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency, Fox News' Gretchen Carlson asserted that 'he doesn't like to talk about when he was a POW.' In fact, McCain has repeatedly highlighted his experience as a POW, even as he and the media have promoted the notion that he is reluctant to do so." More here.

Have war, will travel

"It's remarkable how," a friend writes, "wherever George [Packer] travels, he finds people yearning for the United States to bomb them":

One night in Rangoon, I had beers with a famous artist whose work is banned by the regime...He suddenly declared, "The only solution is for the U.S. to drop a bomb on Naypyidaw. That's the only way! Ninety per cent of Burmese would tell you the same thing. The world is very angry at America because of Iraq. If you use one per cent of the money and one per cent of the bombs here, the world will see you in a better way." It's a commonly expressed wish in Rangoon: I met a man who had hand-delivered a letter to the American Embassy, where the U.S. keeps a low-level diplomatic presence, petitioning President George W. Bush to "bombard Burma." No one at the Embassy would accept the letter, and when I advised the man not to expect an American invasion, he looked crushed. "Why?" he pleaded."

From ANP:

Congressman Vern Buchanan, of the 13th District in Florida, is facing increasing trouble in his reelection campaign. A first-term congressman and a long-time autodealer, Buchanan is being sued by a remarkable number of former employees and customers at the very height of the campaign season. So far, seven separate legal complaints have been filed against Buchanan, accusing him of flouting campaign finance laws, defrauding banks and customers, and even smuggling undocumented immigrants into the country to work on his beachfront house. ANP traveled to Florida to investigate the story.

John McCain's investigation into Jack Abramoff's Indian-gaming scandal found Ralph Reed at it's center. But now Reed claims to be on McCain's "Victory Team 2008." ANP went to Atlanta to observe a McCain fundraiser promoted by Ralph Reed.

Alter-reviews: Monterey Jazz releases and Camp Rock DVD

I'm quite pleased with the second slate of archival releases from Monterey Jazz Festival Records, an imprint of Concord Music Group. It is not as high-profile as the first set, including as it does, not Louis, Monk, and Miles, etc, but instead:

  • Art Blakey and the Giants of Jazz, Live at the Monterey 1972 Jazz Festival
  • Dave Brubeck, 50 Years of Dave Brubeck: Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival 1958-2007
  • Shirley Horn, Live at the 1994 Monterey Jazz Festival
  • Tito Puente & His Orchestra, Live at the 1977 Monterey Jazz Festival
  • Cal Tjader, The Best of Cal Tjader: Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival, 1958-1980
  • Jimmy Witherspoon featuring Robben Ford, Live at the 1972 Monterey Jazz Festival

The range of dates and performers is impressive and in the case of, say, Cal Tjader, I'm actually learning about an artist I didn't know. And there can never be enough Shirley Horn in this world. In a just world, she would be only slightly less famous than Ella and Billie, (and perhaps Abbey Lincoln). The David Brubeck collection is first-rate, and Art Blakey just doesn't give a bad performance. The Jimmy Witherspoon show is late in the day for Jimmy, but very much on the money. Speaking of which all the proceeds from recordings going to Monterey Jazz Festival-supported jazz education programs. You can read all about them here.

Camp Rock review by Eve Rose Alterman:

Camp Rock is an original Disney Channel movie featuring the Jonas Brothers. The movie is about a middle-class kid who is dying to go to Camp Rock, but her parents can't afford it. Then her mother gets a job at Camp Rock as one of the kitchen staff, so that means she gets to go to Camp Rock. At camp "the cool girls" ask her if she wants to stay in their cabin, she says yes. All "the cool girls" have very rich parents so Michie told a series of lies to fit in. Then the lies backfired on her and "the cool girls" find out and play a mean trick saying that Michie stole her gold bracelet, but of course she didn't. Then she was kicked out of the final jam (the huge concert that everyone participates in and then someone wins) then there's a great big concert and everyone has a great time. I think that the movie was fun and entertaining, but also suspenseful. I think some of the bonus features look fun and some ... not so much.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Ryan Scott
Hometown: Portland, OR


In Jonathan Yardley's review of Andrea Mitchell's memoirs, he wrote, "Thus, for example, there is her exceedingly weird obsession with being the person to 'break' the story of a presidential nominee's choice for his running mate." In this case, it was Bush's pick of Quayle that Ms. Mitchell was crowing about nearly twenty years later.

While I can imagine the immediate professional benefit of "breaking" the news of something that will be announced in the next couple of days regardless, it is indeed "weird" that such a scoop would be the high point of a journalistic career lasting decades. It's also telling that one would be proud enough of that high point to spend a significant chunk of her memoirs on the topic, rather than embarrassed. She -- along with most other TV pundits -- doesn't know the difference between genuinely speaking truth to power and being the first to trumpet an inevitable press release.

Eric adds: Yes, the two-minute scoop. This is what grown-up TV journalists dream about. Imagine if, instead, they tried to find out what was, you know, really happening somewhere ....

Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC

Mr. Alterman,

This is my favorite part of the "Obama about to name VP" frenzy. Of course he is -- the convention is coming up, he has to name someone soon. This isn't exactly news. It would be like a major news story about a baseball manager "soon to announce game one starter," two days before the start of the World Series. We will know when the Obama campaign tells us (or texts us).

Name: Dave Zimny
Hometown: Oakland, CA

Dr. A:

Jerome Corsi's notorious NPR interview on his hatchet-job book suggests a response that might work for Obama: a libel suit. In the interview, Corsi openly admitted that there were "factual inaccuracies" in his book -- "Of course there are inaccuracies: it's an attack book!" Corsi thereby conceded that his work meets the exacting standard of "actual malice" established by the Supreme Court for libel of a public figure: that the author either publishes claims he knows to be false, or demonstrates "reckless disregard" for the truth of his claims. True, a libel suit wouldn't be decided until long after the election, but it would certainly demonstrate Obama's determination to fight Corsi's smears, as well as delivering a cautionary message to future Swift Boaters.

Name: Derrick Gibson
Hometown: Miami, FL

This just in -- all of the Iraqi Shia groups receive support from Iran. But more importantly, al-Sadr actually stayed in Iraq while Saddam Hussein was around -- which is why people support him - as opposed to lackeys and flunkies like al Maliki -- who fled to Iran to hide during the reign of terror that was Saddam.

It is the twisted logic of the Bush Administration - continuing a multi-decade bias against those "radical" Shiites -- that says the less popular amongst the Shia -- al-Maliki -- must be ipso facto better for the US and our Sunni allies.

Listen, I have no idea how to discern a "good" Shia from a bad "Shia" -- and I find the question rather unseemly -- but no one has ever made a convincing case as to why an enemy of Saddam -- our supposed target -- had to be an enemy of ours.

The enemy of my enemy is my . . . enemy?

Eric replies: Am I the only person who confuses Malike and Melki? Isn't one of them injured?

Name: Jordan
Hometown: Seattle


CNN had Bill Schneider and Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley blogging during the Saddleback Church forum. As Obama finished, Crowley produced the following: "This seemed like a very pro-Obama crowd to me, but McCain just walked on stage and people were very enthusiastic in the welcome. " An evangelical megachurch, questions on abortion, stem cells, gay marriage--and CNN's Senior Political Correspondent thought she detected a "very pro-Obama crowd."

And was it just me, or did McCain remind anyone else of Turturro's act as Herb Stempel in Quiz Show as he practically wiped his brow at the excruciating difficulty of Warren's early question to name three people whose advice he would lean on? Methinks he protested a little too much before rattling off Petreaus, John Lewis and Meg Whitman.

Eric replies: Well, it was pro-Obama compared to the MSM ...

Name: Jeff Myhre
Hometown: New York City

I will consider football the equal of baseball when the NFL has 162 games in its regular season. Until then, it is behind: baseball, basketball, soccer, rugby, test cricket (but not Twenty20), curling, polo and darts.

Name: Sandy Goodman
Hometown: Rockville MD

Watching football is exciting, or was until they put in all those commercials, and still is if you can click to another football game during the ads. Watching baseball is like watching grass grow.

Name: Jesse Zander Corum
Hometown: Portland, OR

I'm sure I'm not the only one, but let me distinguish myself by being strident: Football is a stupid sport.

George Will was never smarter than when he compared football to the history of the 20th Century: "Outbursts of violence punctuated by committee meetings" (may not be exact, from somewhere in Burns' "Baseball"). But even worse, for a spectator, the "plays" involve so many players in such tight proximity that it's impossible to tell what most of them are doing or how well they are doing it. Even a rugby scrum is less chaotic. And most of the team isn't doing anything more than bashing their bodies together, hardly an interesting athletic endeavor. And then we wait forever until the next play.

Baseball has waiting too, but each pitch is a distilled moment of drama, and each pitch has a possibility of being hit over the fence. We can follow the ball from pitcher to hitter to fielder, clearly seeing all aspects of play. Unless you're watching on TV, even base stealing is easy to notice. Comebacks are never impossible, only increasingly unlikely. And while baseball players are rarely any more intellectual than other sports, it does seem like the stats and history attract more nerds and academics as baseball FANS.

Name: Marty Cobern
Hometown: Cheshire, CT

Regarding the silly argument:

We all know that George Carlin settled this issue years ago (as he did many others).

Name: John Loehr
Hometown: Free Union, Virginia

I agree with Siv that the idea of baseball as "the thinking man's sport" especially as perpetrated by George Will, who has demonstrably never been in a public high school athletic locker room, is silly. I also get tired of hearing about real grass and "the symmetry of the emerald diadem." And I'm a guy who never hit below .350 from the day I started playing in 1962 until the age of 38 in a men's hardball league.

Regarding the "great American pastoral setting" foolishness, in the 70s and 80s, the best teams all played their home games on artificial turf, and you had to build a superior team to play on that surface. For all the hoopla about the 1975 Sox and Fisk's home run, the fact is that the Riverfront Reds won that series. (And I'm a Pirates fan who feels about the same affinity for those Reds as the great Dock Ellis, who once knocked down five of them in a row in the first inning.) I'm no sabermetrician, but I'll bet a beer that the Cardinals, Phillies, Pirates, Reds and Royals won more games between 1970-1990 than any other five nines of that period.

Baseball is a fundamentally asymmetric game; why else do we have only right handed catchers?

And Siv, living here in C'ville, there is no excuse for you to say that lacrosse is only played by rich white boys, when you could easily walk from your office to Klockner Stadium where Joe Christmas, Will Barrow and the Bratton twins have all played with great distinction for UVA (NCAA champions, 2005) in the last few years.

Name: Pat O'Neill
Hometown: Folsom PA

Siva writes:

"But now lacrosse is almost exclusively played by rich white kids at elite high schools and colleges."

This would be a big surprise to those of us in southeastern PA, where the lacrosse powerhouses are all in pretty middle-class and working-class areas. My own local school, Ridley High School, has won the state championship six out of the last ten years, regularly defeating "prep" schools such as St. Joe's, the Haverford School, and Malvern. It has sent All-Americans to Maryland U, Notre Dame and Hofstra, and at least three Ridley grads play in the professional lacrosse league.

Ridley is hardly an "elite" high school, being made up of kids from the middle class and working class families of Delaware County.

Name: Ken
Hometown: Kansas City

I want to second Charles Pierce's comment about football being a little nearer our hearts. I have not seen a pickup baseball game in years but I see a bunch of guys in a local park most weekends playing football with friends cheering them on. Could it be that Carlin was right about the game being about land acquisition? I don't know.

Also, I want to tell Matt Shirley that while I appreciate Phelps' accomplishments in this Olympics I do not want to discourage Amanda Beard from doing her thing with (or without) clothing. Just sayin'.

Name: JRoth
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Bill Dunlap's story about Jerry Wexler has me feeling sad, because I'd absolutely love to hear Chuck Berry play with a hot big band -- his first professional gig was playing with one in 1942, when he was 16 and swing was still king. It's a shame that no one thought to make it happen during the '90s swing revival -- even a one-off concert with, say, Brian Setzer's band would've been pretty spectacular. And how nice for Mr. Berry to do something musically creative for the first time in decades?

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

Rosanne Cash's statement about her father, whose political ideology is almost indefinable, reminds me of something to which I am immodest enough to link. I wrote it for a now-defunct alternative weekly in Las Vegas and it involves a good friend and ally of John Rich, the "country" singer (I have heard his music, and I am not yet prepared to remove the quotation marks) who announced Mr. Cash's support for John McCain. I was tempted to say that the biggest difference between Messrs. Cash and McCain is that one of them is alive, but I am not certain of that, so I will be careful. Here is the link.

I should note that Toby Keith, who made remarks that seemed approving toward lynching but saw no racial connotations, says now that he is in fact a Democrat and likes Barack Obama. I am skeptical. After a long time in exile, the Dixie Chicks, after all, now are acceptable. As a country music fan, I know that earlier generations made political statements, but they managed to avoid sounding this ridiculous.

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