Feels like home to me ...


I'm making two public appearances this week:

  • Monday, September 15, 3:30 p.m.: "Reclaiming Liberalism," sponsored by the Wolfe Institute for the Humanites at Brooklyn College, Woody Tanger Auditorium, Brooklyn College Library.

Here's David Foster Wallace, from 2005, on right-wing talk radio in The Atlantic -- from "Host":

Distributed over two walls of KFI's broadcast studio, behind the monitors and clocks, are a dozen promotional KFI posters, all in the station's eye-catching Halloween colors against the Sweeper's bright white. On each poster, the word "stimulating" is both italicized and underscored. Except for the door and soundproof window, the entire studio is lined in acoustic tile with strange Pollockian patterns of tiny holes. Much of the tile is grayed and decaying, and the carpet's no color at all; KFI has been in this facility for nearly thirty years and will soon be moving out. Both the studio and Airmix are kept chilly because of all the electronics. The overhead lights are old inset fluorescents, the kind with the slight flutter to them; nothing casts any sort of shadow. On one of the studio walls is also pinned the special set of playing cards distributed for the invasion of Iraq, these with hand-drawn Xs over the faces of those Baathists captured or killed so far. The great L-shaped table that Mr. Z. sits at nearly fills the little room; it's got so many coats of brown paint on it that the tabletop looks slightly humped. At the L's base is another Shure microphone, used by Ken Chiampou of 3:00-7:00's John & Ken, its hinged stand now partly folded up so that the mike hangs like a wilted flower. The oddest thing about the studio is a strong scent of decaying bananas, as if many peels or even whole bananas were rotting in the room's wastebaskets, none of which look to have been emptied anytime recently. Mr. Ziegler, who has his ascetic side, drinks only bottled water in the studio, and certainly never snacks, so there is no way he is the source of the banana smell.

It's all here.

Tautologies at Work: The Howard Kurtzinator ... You too can be Howie Kurtz:

"No national candidate in modern history, not even Hillary Clinton, has ever been lambasted and lionized in quite the way Palin is." Here.

Now, let's try it ourselves:

  • No television dog in modern history, not even Lassie, has ever been lambasted and lionized in quite the way Underdog is.
  • No hamburger in modern history, not even the Whopper, has ever been lambasted and lionized in quite the way the Big Mac is.
  • No aspirin substitute in modern history, not even ibuprofen, has ever been lambasted and lionized in quite the way Tylenol is.

Your turn ...

George Zornick writes: McCain spokesman Brian Rogers informed Politico yesterday that "We're running a campaign to win. And we're not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it."

Recall also that Nicolle Wallace, senior adviser to John McCain, said on MSNBC: "Who cares if [Sarah Palin] can talk to Time magazine? She can talk to the American people."

And of course there was this from McCain campaign manager Rick Davis: "Until at which point in time we feel like the news media is going to treat her with some level of respect and deference, I think it'd be foolhardy to put [Palin] out in that kind of environment ... she will be available to the news media when and if we decide that that is going to be the case."

These statements from the McCain campaign are open declarations of war on the political media. McCain was once the Beltway press's biggest patron in terms of access, with more Sunday show appearances than any other, and infamous open-ended discussions with journalists on his campaign bus, where reporters could ask questions until there were none left, and were even sometimes privy to strategy discussions. Tucker Carlson once explained the source of many journalists' attraction to the Arizona senator: "McCain ran an entire presidential campaign aimed primarily at journalists.... To a greater degree than any candidate in thirty years, McCain offered reporters the three things they want most: total access all the time, an endless stream of amusing quotes, and vast quantities of free booze."

But McCain has now declared the press to be out of the game -- you know, the democracy, presidential election game. Sometimes he attacks them when it's convenient, as happened to The New York Times when they ran a story about Vicki Iseman, and basically the entire political press when criticisms of Sarah Palin began coming fast and furious. Otherwise, it's now clear he intends to run a campaign around the press -- damn the fact-checkers, full speed ahead. Dismissing media filters, as Rogers did above, is eerily reminiscent of the anonymous Bush adviser who declared, "we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out."

Some, like NBC Washington bureau chief Mark Whitaker, seem to be OK with that - saying last week that Obama's "lipstick on a pig" comment "seems like a frivolous story" but it is "important to watch" because it's an example of "how good the McCain campaign is at ... driving the news cycle day after day."

But surely the rest cannot be OK with this arrangement. At least one journalist -- who knows a thing or two about being neutered by right-wing presidential campaigners -- is not OK with it. Dan Rather writes: "Wherever one stands on the McCain-Palin ticket or however one feels about the current state of the media, these fallacious views of the press's role in our democratic republic cannot go unchallenged and uncorrected. Because they are not only wrong, they are also dangerous."

We've noted several times here that the kind of equivocation some journalists display when discussing various McCain campaign claims (see " [l]earning about sex before learning to read") clearly means they are pretending to be stupider than they could possibly be, in service of a false sense of "balance."

John McCain's interview on The View was his toughest in recent weeks. That's simply because the hosts didn't get the memo, and used common sense instead of forced stupidity.

So whereas Washington Post reporter Jonathan Weisman writes that "Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign launched a broadside against Sen. Barack Obama yesterday, accusing him of a sexist smear, comparing his campaign to a pack of wolves on the prowl against the GOP vice presidential pick, charging that the Democratic nominee favored sex education for kindergartners, and resurrecting the comments of the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.," Joy Behar can just say "There are ads running from your campaign ... Now we know that those two ads are untrue, they are lies. And yet, you at the end of it say you approve these messages. Do you really approve these?"

Quote of the Day:

"I don't think you'll find that there is a lot of disagreement about the [Iraq war] strategy. I think you'll find that most people think we're on the only reasonable course." -- Condoleezza Rice.

America is going down the tubes; evidence:

On Saturday:

1) The New York Times was not delivered.

2) The UPS boxes left outside my door were not picked up.

3) The Fresh Direct order was an hour late and missing a box and there was no receipt.

4) The Post Office left a notice saying that it was my third notice and they were returning a parcel. They did not offer to give it to the doorman who gets all the parcels. What's more, I never got any other notices. What's more, they printed the WRONG PHONE NUMBER on their notice. The people at the Post Office DO NOT KNOW THEIR OWN PHONE NUMBER! The one they stamped on the notice is wrong. (I blame Bush and Cheney.)


Randy Newman -- Harps and Angels
Loudon Wainwright III - Recovery

It's ironic that two of the greatest songwriters of the past 40 years are known for their side projects, rather than the respective genius that each has demonstrated time and again over more albums than I can count. But every time I get a new Randy Newman album -- which is not nearly often enough -- and almost every time I get a Loudon Wainwright III record, I marvel at how much can be accomplished in a three-minute song. Newman, who is best known for his sappy movie scores, is absolutely at the top of his game with this record, which song for song is perhaps the strongest piece of pop music I've heard this year. It's funny, moving, and challenging all at once. Randy is a national treasure and I'm just glad he makes so much money writing those silly music scores so that he can afford to make such uncompromising and brilliant records as Harps and Angels, which is out on the Nonesuch label.

Wainwright, on the other hand, is a bit less consistent than Newman, and he's managed to cash in on an acting career that sustains his more modest but artistically rewarding -- for me at least -- career as a recording artist and nightclub performer. His newest album, Recovery, out on Yep Roc and produced by Joe Henry, was conceived when the two were digging through Loudon's older albums. The old Wainwright hits, such as ''School Days,'' ''The Man Who Couldn't Cry,'' and ''Motel Blues," have been re-imagined and reworked with the help of Greg Leisz, Patrick Warren, David Piltch, and Jay Bellerose. I caught Loudon's show at the Stephen Talkhouse this summer and, once again, it was as if I had been invited to a marvelously talented but dysfunctional family's musical reunion. I can't imagine anybody not loving this record, given how much care and effort has gone into its creation -- even though I gotta ask, dude, how could you leave off "IDTTYWLM"?

More information on Harps and Angels is available here, and info on Recovery is here.

Bonus: Lyrics to "A Piece of the Pie" by Randy Newman:

Like us all you want the very best of life
A car, a house, a neighborhood that's nice
With flowers and trees and lots of little kids around
Where public schools aren't breeding grounds
for vice

You say you're working harder than you ever have
You say you got two jobs and so's your wife
Living in the richest country in the world
Wouldn't you think you'd have abetter life

If you lived in Norway
You'd be fine right now
Get sick there
You make the doctor wait
If you lived in Belgium
You could mediate
[Flemish/French debate]
Hey knock it off!
And the French fries are great

Jesus Christ it stinks here high and low
The rich are getting richer
I should know
While we're going up
You're going down
And no one gives a shit but Jackson Browne
Jackson Browne

There's a famous saying someone famous said
As General Motors goes so go we all
Johnny Cougar's singing it's their country now
He'll be singing for Toyota by the fall

That's not ture
John's a patriot
He's not like you
He's a......

Jesus Christ it stinks here low and high
Some get rich
And others just get by
Bono's off in Africa - he's never around
The country turns its lonely eyes to who?
Jackson Browne
Jackson Browne
Jackson Browne

A piece of the pie
That's all we're asking for
A piece of the pie

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

Thank you for continuing to hammer the point that the media are dropping the ball. Fortunately, the tide is beginning to turn at least a bit. It started with Charlie Gibson's interview with Sarah Palin. I was not expecting much more than a human interest fluff piece, and soft-pedaling on her shortcomings as a candidate. So I have to admit that I was wrong. I've not seen it all, but I thought that he called it straight when he asked if her quick assent to McCain's offer was not a show of "hubris" (not sure she got the word). And his Bush Doctrine line of questioning was revealing both of her lack of fundamental policy knowledge and his clear amazement of her shallowness.

The other sign of a turn was McCain's appearance on The View. These women were courageous in their questioning of him, and he did not respond well at all. He was annoyed and resorted to the same lies that they'd called him on. When The View starts doing the job that real journalists are supposed to be doing, any member of the negligent media who hopes to retain a shred of credibility knows its time to do the job or be declared irrelevant. I expect to see more of this tide turning.

Name: Jeff N
Hometown: Skillman, NJ

Now that "Obama plans sharper tone..." I wonder if Joe Scarborough and the rest of the MSM will call this being more "assertive" or will they cry that Obama is now going negative in his attacks on the "Mavericks."

I heard the ladies on The View gave McCain a good working over today -- especially Whoopi. It seems more and more that non-reporters in the media (i.e. The View, The Daily Show, etc.) are doing the work of the reporters who actually draw a salary for supposedly asking the tough questions. A sad comment on the state of the 4th estate.

Name: John B
Hometown: Des Moines, IA

Coverage of Sarah Palin appears to be slowly backing away from openly fawning to a little more critical of her "record", but the MSM still seems to be letting the campaign slide on what should be a major red flag. Palin has, to put it bluntly, fired a lot of people in her short political career. The McCain camp represents this as proof of her "reformer" status, but couldn't it just as easily be something completely different?

Over and over Ms. Palin has used the reason that she wants people who will "support her more fully." There are actually two questions here, and they're both important. The first is obvious; is this really what "reform" looks like? It looks a lot more like cronyism. The second is a little more philosophical, and goes to the nature of public service. Apparently public employees exist to serve Sarah Palin. I always thought they served the public. That's not a small distinction.

Name: Kim Viner
Hometown: Laramie WY

In her first prime-time interview, Governor Palin stated, "I've been working on for these years as the governor of this state that produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy." John McCain says she know more about this subject than anyone else in the United States.

Nope - not even close. According to the Energy Information Administration, Alaskan energy production is 3.5% of the U.S. total. Alaska does not even produce 20% of our domestically pumped crude -- that figure would be 18.5%.

In fact, Texas and Wyoming are by far the largest producers of energy (Texas leads in oil/natural gas and Wyoming in coal) and CA, LA, NM, PA and WV all contribute more to our domestically produced energy supply than does Alaska.

Name: Larry Cowan
Hometown: http://larrycowan.wordpress.com


I am no big fan of Ms. Dowd, but just as a stopped clock is right twice a day she has reached the stunningly obvious, "But now we may want to think about where ignorance and pride and no self-doubt has gotten us."

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