Happy birthday, birthday boy


In my last Nation column, I closed with a quote from Washington Post pundit Ruth Marcus, who wrote in pointed contrast to the "On-the-One-Handism" of the Post's news pages, which apparently believe that a politician's outright lies deserve to be published in the paper without any rude commentary from a reporter pointing them out to be such. Marcus, however, was having none of it. She wrote, "John McCain's campaign has been more dishonest, more unfair, more ... dishonorable than Barack Obama's."

But I guess being more courageous than your own newspaper -- indeed, making them look like ninnies -- can last only so long. Ms. Marcus is back, and as if bitten by the "On-the-One-Handism" Pod monster, she's changed her mind and is now insisting, here, that we "rebalanc[e] the scales" on lying between the two presidential campaigns. Marcus now thinks Obama is just as bad. In the second paragraph, she says that "Obama misleadingly accuses McCain of wanting to impose a $3.6 trillion tax hike on employer-provided insurance." This is a bizarre charge, and she provides no evidence. Elsewhere in her piece she cites FactCheck.org, but that site does not say anything about this claim.

As I noted last week, CBS's Wyatt Andrews also flagged the Obama claim as false, apparently since one can opt out of the McCain tax on employer health benefits by giving up their employer health insurance, and can even get a tax credit for buying it on the free market. (Which is true, but similar to saying the mayor isn't proposing a property tax hike because you can always give up your house).

It's not clear if that's the rationale Marcus relies on, but in addition, Obama's math is backed up by McCain's own top economic adviser. Douglas Holtz-Eakin told McClatchy, The New York Times, and Marcus's own paper that McCain's health care "tax measure would generate about $3.6 trillion over 10 years, which would pay for the tax credits, making the entire proposal budget-neutral." As Ezra Klein notes, when one says a tax measure "generates" revenue, well, that means it's a tax hike.

Marcus made this a key point in her argument that Obama is getting into the lying game, and so she should explain to us exactly what the charge is here.

George Zornick writes: McCain Suck-Up Watch: This one fits neatly into preconceived notions that Democrats just want to spend, spend, spend: During interviews with Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft characterized Obama's economic agenda as "ambitious and expensive," citing the costs of Obama's infrastructure, alternative energy, and health care plans, but there was no similar characterization of McCain's tax agenda by correspondent Scott Pelley, who interviewed McCain, even though, according to the Tax Policy Center, McCain's tax plan would likely add $1.5 trillion more to the federal deficit over 10 years than Obama's tax plan. More here.

Eric Boehlert writes: Whenever right-wing bloggers try to report the news, unintended hilarity usually ensues. The latest laugh comes courtesy of the Jawa Report. Read more here.


Blinded by its obsession with the presidential campaign (an obsession that has too often revolved around tactics and trivia), the press this summer all but ignored the unfolding financial collapse at a time when the public announced, week after week, that it was starved for more economic reporting and that the economy was, without question and perhaps without precedent, the single most pressing issue for the presidential campaign. Read more here.

From ANP:

On Saturday, the Bush administration proposed what could be the largest government bailout of private industry in the history of the United States. This week, the architects of the proposal, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, testify before the Senate banking committee. ANP caught up with Charlie Cray, Director and Policy Analyst at the Center for Corporate Policy, who spoke about the philosophical underpinnings of the current economic meltdown and his predictions for the future.

Alter-reviews: The Silver Jews, The Clash and Alejandro Escovedo

Silver Jews -- Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea

Believe it or not, I never listened to Silver Jews before I picked up Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea. For a guy who's famous for being depressed, this is one funny record. It's also a musically interesting, lyrically challenging one. Rather high-minded too, but in ways that work. It's out on Drag City Records, and more information is here.

The Clash -- Live at Shea Stadium

I missed The Clash live at Shea Stadium when they, together with David Johansen, warmed up The Who back in 1982 -- I guess I must have moved to Washington by then, which adds one more stupid thing to a long list of reasons that I wish I had never moved to Washington. This is one of the greatest performances ever by a warm up band, and I gotta give The Who credit for having the nerve to come on after The Clash. The sound here is terrific, particularly given that it's in Shea Stadium, and while The Clash were headed for their final meltdown, I can't imagine they ever gave a bad performance. Sure, I'll still brag about having seen them in small clubs long before they were popular enough for this, but they never lost it, and it's all here. Not the only band that matters: but one of the only bands that still matter. This is out on Epic/Legacy, and more information is here.

Alejandro Escovedo -- Real Animal

"Real Animal" is the ninth solo album from Alejandro Escovedo (who just played the DNC big stage). The album is a musical biography, as it travels through Escovedo's various incarnations from punk rock to string quintets. Over 13 tracks, he has several collaborators -- David Pulkingham (guitar), Josh Gravelin (bass), Hector Munoz (drums), Susan Voelz (violin), Brian Standefer (cello) and Chuck Prophet (guitar). It's out on Back Porch Records, and more information is here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Debra Johnson
Hometown: Scranton, PA

In light of the documented lies repeated by Sen. McCain lately, why, oh why, do newscasters consistently refer to his campaign as the "Straight Talk Express"? It happened again this morning while announcing McCain's arrival in our city as in " The Straight Talk Express arrives in the Scranton area this morning." I have yet to hear "Truth You Can Believe In hit the campaign trail today....... ."

Name: Matt
Hometown: DFW

Your friend Pierce posed this question Friday. Here's the answer, from a briefing Cheney held with Republican House leaders J. C. Watts and Dennis Hastert on Dec. 5, 2000:

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there seems to be some latter day question about how to correctly pronounce your last name. How do you pronounce it? How do you want us to pronounce it?

CHENEY: How do I pronounce my last night [sic] and how do I want you to pronounce it? Well, the family's always said Cheney with an "e" and that was especially true West growing up. I find, when I came East, that the tendency was to say Cheney with an "a". I'll respond to either. It really doesn't matter.

Name: mjr

Hey -

I saw your post about Bruce & the world's worst sax player and it reminded me of the following:

Eight years ago I was in a jazz club in Prague, and in between sucking down absinthes (worst tasting stuff in the world if you've never). I noticed that my seat had a little brass plate on it w/ Madeleine Albright's name on it and my wife's had Vaclav Havel's name on it.

I asked the waitress, "What gives?"

She: "Oh, yeah, when Clinton was in Prague he came here to get down. Havel presented him with a silver sax and BC sat in with the band for a few tunes (Summertime, My Funny Valentine, and some noodling). We sell the CD upstairs."

I bought it; it's not bad.

Check it out.

Eric replies: I once went to an Eric Reed show at the Village Vanguard and coming out of the bathroom, I was stopped by a Secret Service guy. I looked up and out walked Havel with, I kid you not, Henry Kissinger and Lou Reed. When they left, Henry and Vaclav got into a limo and ditched Lou, who had to get into the Jeep that followed.

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