The poets down here don't write nothing at all


If you're in Denver, I'll be signing copies of Why We're Liberals in the convention center, just across from the main DNC merchandise place near the entrance, at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Start lining up right away ...

Recently, we wrote a Think Again column on the media's blind eye towards Afghanistan. Via Democracy Now!, we have an update on how radically the situation has changed while we weren't paying attention. Correspondent Sonali Kolhatkar reported:

  • In 2005, there was almost a 70 percent approval rating of the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. In 2007 that approval rating was down to 40 percent, and is probably lower now.
  • The Afghan people are caught between the strengthening forces of the Taliban, and U.S. and NATO forces, which have killed some civilians in their attacks. So far, 2,500 people have been killed in Afghanistan since January, about half of them civilians.
  • The Afghan central government, created and installed essentially by the United States, is "really devastating the people of Afghanistan. There's rampant corruption. They're sucking away the aid. They're completely oppressing people. They're attacking journalists. Women are being imprisoned in greater numbers than ever before, for the crime of escaping from home or having, quote-unquote, 'sexual relations' -- 'illegal sexual relations.' Most of these women are simply victims of rape."

This was the war launched against the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks, but still-President Bush is getting a free ride on his handling of the conflict. Even if the media has decided to turn its collective attention away from the White House and to the campaign trail, shouldn't they be hammering the candidates with new information from the battlefield, and tough questions about how each plans to deal with the situation?

Speaking of still-President Bush: "The Bush administration yesterday proposed scaling back protected zones for endangered whales in the Atlantic Ocean, yielding to cargo companies' concerns about new speed limits for ships in these areas." From The Washington Post, which should definitely keep reporting this stuff. Four months is a long time.

I wrote a piece for The Nation yesterday about the media's obsession with the "jaded Hillary voters" storyline -- and here are two great, near-satirical examples. Last night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave a fiery speech drawing stark contrast between the policies of John McCain and Barack Obama. Upon exiting the stage, she gave an interview to Ann Curry of NBC News. This was the first question: "Good evening, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In your remarks tonight, you talked about Barack Obama being the man who will take America to a new future. Here's the question I have to ask for you. Should Senator Clinton have called on her supporters to back Barack Obama already?" There were five more questions in a row about Hillary supporters, before Pelosi broke off the interview to listen to a Jimmy Carter video tribute.

Next, via Daily Kos, this story from Scott Lindlaw at the Associated Press was headlined "Pelosi admits Democrats not yet united." Here is the entirety of Pelosi's quotes in the ensuing story:

  • Asked by reporters about female voters' comfort level with Obama, Pelosi said women show a strong preference for Obama in public opinion polls. A "gender gap" in Obama's favor had emerged "even before the convention, and even before the complete reconciliation that we need," she said.
  • "The nomination is decided, we have a vice president, we're going to work together and go forward," she said.
  • "But to stay wallowing in all of this is not productive," she said. "So we can talk about this forever, or we can talk about how we're going to take our message to the American people, to women all across America, to see the distinctions" between Obama and Republican candidate John McCain."
  • "You know what? This is like a yesterday room," she told the reporters. "We are going into the future. What did I walk into, a time capsule?"

Where did the headline come from?

Quote of the Day, from Jon Stewart:

Wearing a gray T-shirt and a healthy stubble, the "Daily Show" host told reporters that Fox's fair-and-balanced slogan is "a (expletive) you to people with brains" and that only "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace "saves that network from slapping on a bumper sticker . . . Barack Obama could cure cancer and they'd figure out a way to frame it as an economic disaster."

"I'm stunned to see Karl Rove on a news network as an analyst," he said of the Bush White House aide-turned Fox commentator.

Note that this is from a Howard Kurtz column, and he got a response from Fox News: "A Fox News spokesman replied that 'Jon's clearly out of touch,' citing a Pew study showing the network has the most balanced audience in cable news, 39 percent Republicans and 33 percent Democrats." Not mentioned, by the spokesman or Kurtz: the Rasmussen poll indicating 87 percent of Fox viewers are McCain voters.

More importantly, though, as Romenesko points out, Kurtz has violated the Washington Post's sources and attributions policy here -- the policy states that "Sources who want to take a shot at someone in our columns should do so in their own names." It's very peculiar, to say the least, that Kurtz allowed a spokesman to withhold his or her own name. Why?

(P.S. to Stewart: Sadly, networks besides Fox News also use Rove as a political analyst.)

Our buddy Siva Vaidhyanathan did a Bloggingheads this week with Will Wilkinson of Cato. They talk about Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken, Wikipedia, Google, and net neutrality. Check it out.

George Zornick writes:

I am completely horrified at the rampant media bias present in coverage of the DNC in Denver. Time and again, a crucial fact has been overlooked, out of either ignorance or malice: the existence of the National Hockey League, which uses the Pepsi Center -- site of the convention -- for the Colorado Avalanche. Some brief examples of anti-NHL bias, of which there are many:

  • Larry King on CNN, Monday: "Live shot of Denver, Colorado. Events that took place at the Pepsi Center there where the Denver Nuggets of the NBA play basketball ..."
  • Katie Couric, CBS Evening News, Monday: "There are press secretaries in the showers, even the sauna has been transformed into an office. But when it's all over, the whole massive arena goes back to the Denver Nuggets."
  • Wolf Blitzer on CNN, Sunday: "You're looking at live pictures of the Pepsi Center here in Denver, Colorado. Normally, the Denver Nuggets would be playing basketball here. Not this week. The Democrats -- they have their convention inside. We're inside." [Note to Wolf: the NBA season begins October 28.]
  • Even the hometown media forgets, writing a piece titled: "How is the DNC like a Denver Nuggets game?"

Look, it's not like the Avalanche are a bad team -- they've won two Stanley Cups and eight division championships since 1995. (The Nuggets have zero championships, zero conference titles, and one division championship in the same time frame. Actually, they've never won an NBA championship, or even appeared in the finals, ever.) Some respect for this major American sports league, please.

Eric Boehlert writes: Hillary Clinton speaks at convention. The press concocts a story. Read more here.

We at Altercation mourn the death of Ted Solaratoff and extend our best wishes to his close friends and family

On this day in Eric Alterman History: Well, yesterday, actually, but 31 years ago I got a ride from my sister Marcia to the E.J. Korvettes on Central Avenue in Yonkers and I plunked down $3.24 of my hard-earned paper-route money to buy an album that begun, "The screen door slams ..." The rest as they say, is destiny. (P.S. Get ready for the greatest "Promised Land" in history.)

Alter-reviews: Little Feat and Irma Thomas, by Sal

Little Feat, Join the Band (429 Records)

I am shocked that I love the new Little Feat record as much as I do. A band long past its prime, re-recording its most classic material without its leader and voice, using special guests of which I really care about only two, is a recipe for disaster in my book. So why is Join The Band so enjoyable? Let's start with production. Mac McAnally & Billy Payne paid attention to the snap of the drums and the importance of warmth, two things that made the first five Little Feat records so special. They had the savvy to underplay the roster of superstars, as if they were just longtime members of the band. And you can tell from the performances that Dave Matthews, Chris Robinson, Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, Jimmy Buffett, Sonny Landreth, and Bob Seger absolutely love Little Feat.

Just about everything works on this CD. Paisley's guitar playing, Gill's sweet and soulful voice, and the harmonies of Brooks & Dunn (oh yeah, they are here as well) all give these familiar tunes a new lease on life. One of two highlights for me is the really rocking "Oh Atlanta" with Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes. The Crowes have played many Little Feat songs in their live shows, and Robinson's vocals seem as if he's been waiting for this session for years. The other is "Sailin' Shoes," which features the always breathtaking Emmylou Harris and the not-as-cute Bela Fleck, but neither is what makes this version cook. The band must not have been able to decide just how they wanted to tackle this tune, so they opt for a few different arrangements, all of which seem completely natural as they move from tempo to tempo. Join The Band is a blast from beginning to end.

Irma Thomas, Simply Grand (Rounder)

Many go with Aretha, and how could you not? Sometimes I'm all over Gladys Knight (not literally). There is so much more to Gladys than the hits. But lately, Miss Irma Thomas, "The Soul Queen Of New Orleans," is the one for me. The early years, those amazing tunes penned by Allen Toussaint, are just too special for words. Then there's the Muscle Shoals album, Something Good, from 1967. Pure grit. The Jerry "Swamp Dogg" Williams productions of the '70s respectably hold their own. A couple of missteps for Irma in the '80s, but wasn't just about everything recorded in the '80s a misstep? And just recently, the Grammy award winner, After the Rain, from 2006, a collection of songs that, although claiming to be written and recorded before the storm, seemed to reach out to everyone who was affected by its wrath. A killer.

That brings us to Simply Grand, the new CD that pairs Miss Thomas with a dozen of music's finest piano players. Ya got ya New Orleans faves like Dr. John, Ellis Marsalis, Jon Cleary, Henry Butler, David Torkanowsky and Davell Crawford, as well as Randy Newman, Norah Jones and John Medeski all contributing to this stripped-down recording. But the real star of course, is Miss Thomas, who after 40 years has released two consecutive CDs that are arguably the best of her career. Both Jones and Newman offer up their own "I Think It's Gonna Rain Today" and "Thinking About You," respectively, while Dr. John and Jon Cleary offer up originals that they had written but never recorded. Simply Grand is by no means a Gospel record, but you will feel reborn after one listen. "Cold Rain" will bring you right into the Gospel Tent at the New Orleans Jazz Fest. Every loss, big or small, every moment of joy ever experienced by Miss Thomas is reflected in her powerful performances on Simply Grand. Buy this record!

Sal Nunziato
"The Gumbo"

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Martin Brandt
Hometown: San Jose, California

Dear Eric --

I have always found it vaguely insulting the way media pundits talk about voters as if we were children who weren't in the room. I mean, when my parents wanted to discuss something they didn't want us to hear, they at least had the courtesy to speak in Spanish.

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

They just don't get it.

Matt Bai's quotation tells you a lot. The Beltway media have long faced accusations of front-running, pro-establishment reporting, long before 1998, long before Allen Drury's phrase about how you have to "stand tall in Georgetown." Perhaps some of the netroots lack that history. But while their interest may be recent, the history behind it is long and sordid.

Worse, what Messrs. Milbank and Cohen -- once two of my favorites -- fail to understand is so simple that it even could be made clear to Sean Hannity: the real source of upset with them is not that they took disagreeable positions, even if they did. Rather, it is that they misstated or misused the facts to get to those positions.

By the way, I saw Milbank on CNN this morning, and he is looking a lot less smug than he did when he was on MSNBC. Maybe he even feels slightly embarrassed about so tarnishing his own reputation.

Name: Tim Kane
Hometown: Mesa, Arizona

If it's Tuesday, then that means it's that time of the week for the New York Times to publish another correction to Bill Kristol's column. Except this week is different. Kristol, that old fox, is out ahead of the times.

If you read his piece this week, you might have noticed that he wrote his own correction in his second paragraph to the fiction he wrote in the first paragraph, and perhaps saving himself this week from his weekly Tuesday embarrassment. Of course it would be better if he quit writing fiction in his NEWS column altogether, but, you know, baby steps.

Name: Brian P. Evans
Hometown: San Diego, CA

Did anybody else notice that during the Closing Ceremonies of the Olympics broadcast on NBC, there was a clip of Bush at the gold medal ceremony for men's basketball. And while George and Laura and the rest of the entourage were standing at attention during the playing of the national anthem...

...not a single one of them had their hands over their hearts. Will the chattering heads mention this? Is this not proof that the Bushes, Mr. and Mrs., are all unpatriotic traitors?

Name: Rajesh
Hometown: Cherry Hill, NJ

From an article in today's The American Banker (8/25/2008) ($$): "Though Sen. Barack Obama has sharply criticized commercial bankers for their role in the housing crisis, political donations originating from the industry favor him over his rival for the presidency.

"Through last month bankers have given the Illinois Democrat $1.9 million this election cycle, compared with $1.7 million to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., according to data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.

"This is the first time since the center started tracking the data in 1990 that commercial bankers gave more to a Democratic presidential nominee than the GOP contender -- even when President Clinton was running for a second term in 1996. The trend was also true across the broader financial services industry, which gave $22.4 million to Sen. Obama and $19 million to Sen. McCain."

The author concludes: "It is hard to know what conclusions to draw from the numbers, but observers agree they do not necessarily mean bankers believe Sen. Obama would be better for their business."

No, but, given the fact that Mr. Obama has promised higher taxes for those making over $250,000 and that he wants to clamp down on Wall Street speculators, isn't it reasonable to conclude that even the Wall Street types realize that financial industry deregulation has had adverse effects and that the effects of the lowered tax for the rich in the last eight years has done nothing for the larger economy?

Name: Bob
Hometown: Independence, MO

Bruce Springsteen in Kansas City -- Let Max Sing & Save the Last Dance for Me

Sunday night at the Sprint Center Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band came on stage almost 1 1/2 hours late. By the time they were done playing at midnight, some 3 hours and 10 minutes later, we were all completely drained.

It was not a rock concert, it was a revival, and there was a higher power in the house. Bruce and the band took us to the very limits of Rock and Roll and when they were done, there was nothing left to give.

One of the highlights was when Bruce honored a request to "Let Max Sing". Check out the video.

In the middle of a 50 minute encore, the lights came up and they played "10th Avenue Freezeout," Born to Run," and "Rosalita" ... and then they played on. Are you kidding me, who else could pull that off?

A cover of "Save the Last Dance for Me" went into "Dancing in the Dark" and "Rockin' All Over the World" to end the night.

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