Slacker Friday


We've got a new "Think Again" column here called "Remember Iraq?"

Also, my (long) account of my trip to Israel is in The Nation this week and it's called "Israel Sixty Years On: The State of the State." And my column on Denver, et al, is also in this issue, and it's called "The Times, They Have A-Changed."

This week on Moyers:

Bill Moyers Journal gives viewers an intimate look at how deployments of National Guard troops to Iraq affect the state governors' ability to swiftly respond to domestic disaster at home and impact the families left behind. Traveling to New Jersey, the Journal follows families preparing for the deployment of nearly half of New Jersey's National Guard to Iraq. Says Guardsman Roy Parks on deploying to Iraq, "It's a hard life being in the military. Once you're in, you realize it, and you get so attached to it and everything, it just becomes second nature, and then you don't want to quit. But you're never realizing how much you hurt your family and other people when things like this come up." Also on the program, Journal contributor Kathleen Hall Jamieson returns with a recap of the key moments and messages of this week's Republican National Convention.

From ANP:

Sarah Palin and the GOP leaders at their 2008 convention avoided speaking frankly about abortion with the mainstream media, but pro-Palin delegates meandered from the talking points and spoke openly with ANP. Turns out that Palin's thriving base among social conservatives are more excited by the likelihood of the overturning Roe v. Wade than just about anything.

Presidential candidate John McCain thinks that global warming is created, in part, by humans, but his running mate, Sarah Palin, disagrees. Indeed the Republican Party Platform cautions people to be skeptical of the theory of global warming. ANP spoke with delegates at the Republican National Convention about their thoughts on climate change.

A lot has changed since the tumultuous conventions of 1968. Maverick journalists Dan Rather and Jim Lehrer lament the old days when political conventions were spontaneous and less immune to corporate influence. Both are searching for substance behind the spectacle.

From TomDispatch:

Here's how Tom Engelhardt begins his latest piece, "Going on an Imperial Bender": "Here it is, as simply as I can put it: In the course of any year, there must be relatively few countries on this planet on which U.S. soldiers do not set foot, whether with guns blazing, humanitarian aid in hand, or just for a friendly visit. In startling numbers of countries, our soldiers not only arrive, but stay interminably, if not indefinitely. Sometimes they live on military bases built to the tune of billions of dollars that amount to sizeable American towns (with accompanying amenities), sometimes on stripped down forward operating bases that may not even have showers...

"The fact is: We garrison the planet north to south, east to west, and even on the seven seas, thanks to our various fleets and our massive aircraft carriers... And here's the other half of that simple truth: We don't care to know about it. We, the American people, aided and abetted by our politicians, the Pentagon, and the mainstream media, are knee-deep in base denial."

The rest of Engelhardt's piece explores how we have garrisoned the planet, why it's not news in the United States, and what the costs of ignorance are to this country, literal and figurative. In the process, I discuss two specific ways I've personally run into the phenomenon of "base denial" -- in one case as the editor of a book by Chalmers Johnson that was remarkably well reviewed without a single American reviewer thinking to mention that it dealt centrally with the issue of Pentagon basing policy.

Engelhardt concludes: "Today, you have to be in full-scale denial not to know that the twenty-first century -- whether it proves to be the Century of Multipolarity, the Century of China, the Century of Energy, or the Century of Chaos -- will not be an American one. The unipolar moment is already so over and, sooner or later, those mega-bases and lily pads alike will wash up on the shores of history, evidence of a remarkable fantasy of a global Pax Americana. Not that you're likely to hear much about this in the run-up to November 4th in the U.S. Here, fantasy reigns in both parties where a relatively upbeat view of our globally dominant future is a given, and will remain so, no matter who enters the White House in January 2009. After all, who's going to run for president not on the idea that "it's morning again in America," but on the recognition that it's the wee small hours of the morning, the bender is ending, and the hangover... Well, it's going to be a doozy. Better take some B vitamins and get a little sleep. The world's probably not going to look so great by the dawn's early light."

Slacker Friday:

Name: Eric Alterman
Hometown: Long Island, NY

If you are near enough to Stephen's Talkhouse in Amagansett tonight, and money is not too tight, you can see a rare and, I'm sure, wonderful Rosanne Cash performance tonight at 8:00 and say hello to the Alterman mispucha. I'm squeezing in some extra beach time, and John McCain inspired me break down last night and finally join Facebook, though it wasn't easy, so profound is my distaste at the notion of using "friend" as a verb. In any case, within seconds, Petey was kind enough to invite me to join the "Eric Alterman Sucks" group. They're all a great buncha guys, I gotta say, but I have one particular fave ...

Ted Barrington (Williamsport, PA) wrote at 8:39pm on August 27th, 2008


And this:

Ted Barrington < (Williamsport, PA) wrote at 6:39pm on September 2nd, 2008


Thanks, Ted. Thanks, Petey ...

Name: Charlres Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc: "He's a complicated man/and no one understands him but his woman."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Lulu's Back In Town" (Egg Yolk Jubilee) -- Once again this week, I failed to kill and gut a moose and carve into its pale bones a scrimshaw tribute to how much I love New Orleans.

Part The First: About this whole "Hockey Mom" business. Sorry, I'm not buying it. First of all, if she's really a Hockey Mom, where in the hell is her bowling jacket? As the great Bonnie Lindros -- mother of Eric -- once told me: "They hate me because I don't wear my name on all my clothes." Put a Styrofoam cup of really bad vending machine coffee in front of her and see if she goes for it. That's the test. There's also a joke out there about someone's being one-timed through the five-hole to which I will not stoop. The many hockey fans in the extended Alter-family will catch my drift, though.

Part The Second: The other night, I heard John King on CNN earnestly explaining to me the difference between "Wal-Mart Moms," "Soccer Moms," and "Hockey Moms." Basically, it caused me to wonder why smart women don't just go around to the cable news outlets explaining things with Louisville Sluggers. As Alison Porchnik says to Alvy Singer in Annie Hall, "No, I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype."

Part The Third: My favorite pundit ID of the week came when, on the heels of Jeffrey Toobin's gobsmacked reaction to John McCain's acceptance speech, Wolf Blitzer, the most thoroughly worked ref on television right now, threw it to Amy Holmes, whom he described as a "former speechwriter for Bill Frist." No! Really? THE Bill Frist? Did she write the Senate speech about Terri Schiavo? Because that really worked out really well for him.

Part The Fourth: Splitting up Matthews and Olbermann was a terrible idea. The MSNBC broadcasts from Denver were terrible, but they were at least coherent. This was just a mess.

Part The Fifth: Worst visual of the convention: watching the Palin family hand baby Trig down the line every time the camera went on. They could teach something to the U.S. 4X100 relay teams, I'll tell you that.

Part The Last: RIP, Amos Moses. Outside of Joe South, there aren't many more underrated figures in pop music than this guy. And he was hell on the guitar, too.

I have no hope for the next 56 days. None whatsoever. Reality's relevance was lost somewhere between Invesco Field and the Xcel Center. We're going to get lofty post-partisan dreariness from both presidential candidates, and a vicious 1992 culture-war brawl under the radar, which will be thoroughly deplored in public by the people who profit from it most. I shouldn't have to watch Karl Rove tell me about the American people and how they vote. I should get to watch Karl Rove being hauled off in chains to Danbury. The major television networks will curl up into a ball roughly five minutes from the start of the first presidential debate. The whole campaign is now going to be conducted on the level of pure mythology. If they had any intellectual honesty whatsoever, the people on TV would dress in white robes and divine the campaign through the movement of waves and the burning of laurel leaves. For a minute back in the spring, it seemed like the country was ready to admit to itself that it poisoned itself with bull***t over the past seven years and was prepared to issue itself a corrective. Not any more. We're back to "personality" and "character" and "narratives" and all the other stuff that keeps anyone from thinking about what's really at stake here.

And Jeannie Moos was Not Funny. Call me Kreskin.

Name: Stephen Troutt
Hometown: Murfreesboro, Tennessee


Have you noticed that, in MSM "labeling" world, bedrock Republicans, as in say, Governor Palin, suddenly become more "moderate" than their record would seem to indicate while Democrats, say Senator Obama suddenly become more "Liberal" than their record? I guess it is the same sort of the journalistic sleight of hand magic that produces "The Maverick" -- all the MSM has to do is repeat it as "fact" long and loud enough. Talking heads do need to keep talking, you know.

Name: John B
Hometown: Des Moines, IA

Politico has richly earned the criticism it has received from Liberal corners, with Altercation not the least of those. That said, even a broken clock is right twice per day, and they couldn't have been more right today. Maybe even people who live in Matt Drudge's world get tired of serving as punching bags after a while. In any case it's obvious that we're in for a particularly nasty campaign season. The Obama/Biden campaign had better be ready to deal with pit bulls, with and without lipstick.

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

Your point about Kristol's potential work for McCain while employed by the NY Times is worth noting. In addition to his August 25th column, he was promoting Palin even earlier, I believe, on one of the political TV shows. He needs to disclose any connections to the campaign not only to his employers but to his readers.

And if Noonan looked like a conflicted personality when her hot mic revelations contradicted her column from the same day, her subsequent disavowal of what had been revealed for all to hear on the internet brought her credibility even lower. That lame explanation was a transparent attempt to keep her job.

What would our media be like without the likes of Kristol and Noonan adding to the cacophony?

Name: Greg Hilliard
Hometown: Phoenix

Interesting that Mike Murphy dropped his guard and called the Palin pick "cynical" and "gimmicky." This is the same Mike Murphy who on MSNBC at the Democratic National Convention claimed that Bill and Hillary Clinton would be voting for McCain. Which one should we trust? The one playing a role on camera or the one being honest off screen?

Name: kathleen suits
Hometown: Lancaster MA

I recall a certain well-known, bow tie-wearing columnist who helped prep Reagan for a debate with Carter and then praised the Republican candidate's performance in his column and also, I believe, on one of the panel shows without noting his participation in the rehearsal. A few commentators complained about this action, but there were no sanctions to my knowledge.

Name: Michael
Hometown: the Ozarks

While I may moan and cringe at parts of "Washington Journal," the DNC and RNC have once again proven the invaluable contribution of C-Span to our political coverage. Watching Obama, Clinton, et. al., and now Thompson and Palin without listening to Brokaw gargle out inanities or watching Matthews sputter and spew is like a drink of cool water at the end of a hot day.

Name: David Fuller
Hometown: Peotone, IL

I was heartened to see that actually pointed out here -- that, contrary to the RNC assertions that Obama has, "...done nothing, has not reached across party lines and has no record as a reformer," the reality is that he has done all three, and in one fell swoop, at that.

Now, if only the pundits and the rest of the reporters in the SCLM would actually bother to point that out when challenged by a Republican to name an Obama accomplishment (with John McCain the "maverick" no less!), we'd all be a lot better off and well-informed.

Alas, I hold little hope that such an obvious fact will be used frequently -- if at all -- as a refutation to such silly challenges. Ironically, I believe it was Ronald Reagan who said that "Facts are stubborn things," (even if John Adams said it first). Indeed they are. If reporters and pundits would use them once it a while, well, that'd be a refreshing change, wouldn't it?

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