Slacker Friday


If you missed yesterday's postings, they went up quite late but can be found below: We've got a new Think Again column called "White Open Spaces, Owned by Us," and I wrote a short appreciation of Paul Newman for The Guardian, which you can find here. Also, I've got a new Nation column, "Reality Bites," here.

Rampant, like herpes, but positive.

Quote of the Day:

Uncut Magazine: "Who will you be voting for in November?"

Brian Wilson: "McCain. John McCain. He has a good smile."

From TomDispatch:

This post brings a stunning historical perspective to the present American economic meltdown. If there's a bright side to it, writes Steve Fraser, then maybe it's that, after 50 years of relative immunity from criticism, Wall Street is again the street Americans love to hate. Right now, Fraser, a TomDispatch regular, is everyone's expert on Wall Street's grim history and author of the indispensable book Wall Street: America's Dream Palace. (He was on Fresh Air yesterday afternoon.)

He begins his latest piece this way: "Wall Street sits at the eye of a political hurricane. Its enemies converge from every point on the compass. What a stunning turn of events. For well more than half a century Wall Street has enjoyed a remarkable political immunity, but matters were not always like that. Now, with history marching forward in seven league boots, we are about to revisit a time when the Street functioned as the country's lightning rod, attracting its deepest animosities and most passionate desires for economic justice and democracy."

Few today remember that Wall Street, for populists, anti-monopolists, everyone living on what the press now calls "Main Street," was the "Great Satan" until, after the crash of 1929, in the midst of the Great Depression, it was brought to heel by Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and became politically invisible until almost this very second.

This is a moment of profound change and in it, as Fraser makes so clear, Wall Street's position in American politics and consciousness has just changed drastically. As he concludes: "Many will seek retribution as well, just as Americans used to do in the decades before the Great Depression. How could they not? That's what happens when simple rage turns into moral outrage, when people are finally called to account for the damage they've done. The emotion fuels a chemical reaction even now at work in our cultural innards. It may prove the catalyst for an intellectual and emotional explosion that someday will add up to a genuine break with the past. It did so back in 1929."

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:

"He's a drifter, and a driller of oil wells/He's an old school man of the world/He taught me how to drive his car when he's too drunk to."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Sun Up, Sun Down" (Jealous Monk) - Even though the egregious Supreme Court decision called Plessy v. Ferguson originated on one of its streetcars -- a decision that is not Roe v. Wade with which I disagree, Katie -- I nonetheless love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: I know that MSNBC is starting to get a little itchy about the Olbermann-Maddow Fortress Of Liberaltude, but would somebody like to explain what in the name of pole-vaulting Jesus Tom DeLay was doing on Hardball the other night? Was it Take A Crook To Work Day? Folks, this greasy little homunculus is under indictment. Right now. Today. At least Gordon Liddy had to serve his time before the electronic media redeemed his ass.

Part The Second: Hey Jay Carney, I think it's time for you to send Josh Marshall a nice fruit basket or something.

Part The Third: All of them? Hell, the porn alone must take most of the week. I'd hate to be the mailman in Wasilla.

Part The Fourth: You have garnished your salad with things that are smarter than this post. Now that I think about it, you have fed to your fish that which is smarter than this column. Is it too much for Little Lulu to use the Google to mention that Gwen Ifill is dinner buddies with noted liberal activist Condoleezza Rice? Of course, on the brighter side, it does enable us once again to make gratuitous use of this.

Part The Fifth: Eight more milligrams and maybe we'd have been spared this. I swear, Naomi Klein's going to come after him with an ax.

Part The Sixth: Biggest Knob In Knoxville Update: Who's ahead? This guy or this guy.

Part The Seventh: Bill Maher regularly provides a valuable voice to the scene. However, get him on religion, and the guy turns into just another Ivy League snob. "Questions nobody asks"? Are you kidding? OK, you don't believe in God and you date strippers. What a freaking renegade! That said, young Ms. Hasselbeck can grow up now, please.

Part The Eighth: Great news in the blogosphere, as people who really deserve it again find themselves one-timed through the Five hole! Bienvenue back again, young feller. We need a lengthy deconstruction of the wonder that is this guy, like, stat.

Part The Ninth: If I'm keeping track correctly, just this week, I heard the great Ralph Stanley cut a radio ad for Barack Obama, and a new tune called "O-B-A-M-A" by funkmaster Zigaboo Modeliste. Now that's cool.

Part The Last: Mo, sweetie, your personal inconvenience doesn't rise to a constitutional issue. Jeebus Christmas, woman, make your own damn reservations.

Over the past week, it was distressing in the extreme to see what my business has become. For several days, it was made increasingly apparent that the Republican Party has nominated for vice-president a person who is manifestly unqualified to teach middle-school history. (Hint: the default answer, always, is, "Dred Scott v. Sanford, Katie." The Civil War was, like, a bad thing.) And yet, through the entire run-up to the debate, it was argued by serious people who analyze serious politics and make a serious living doing it that Sarah Palin could reveal herself to be non-dim by putting on the correct puppet show for the media in her debate against Joe Biden. Make no mistake. That's what the punditocracy was arguing. Give us a reason, please, not to have to write what we all know to be true, what has been self-evidently true to the entire country since you walked off the podium in St. Paul. No rational person can possibly believe that she got smarter, or better informed, or more curious in the time that elapsed between when she talked with Ms. Couric and last night's debate. What we were being asked to judge was purely how well she had refined her performance skills in the interim. None of what the Walking Dead on the cable shows were looking to see has the slightest thing to do with her fitness for the office she seeks, let alone the office that might descend upon her. Journalists should not be in the business of perception-is-reality. It is our job to hammer the reality until the perception conforms to it. Hell, even Katie Couric's pretty much figured that out. Any postgame analysis that doesn't reflect this principle is not worth talking about.

Name: Bob Cawley
Hometown: Ballston, NY


The AP fact check on AOL is a total joke. Of course, it is a textbook case of on-the-one-handism but most of the Biden "errors" are -- well, calling it a stretch really doesn't do it justice.

BIDEN: Warned that Republican presidential candidate John McCain's $5,000 tax credit to help families buy health coverage "will go straight to the insurance company."

THE FACTS: Of course it would, because it's meant to pay for insurance. That's like saying money for a car loan will go straight to the car dealer.

So ... if he's right, why are they calling him out?

BIDEN: Said McCain supports tax breaks for oil companies, and "wants to give them another $4 billion tax cut."

THE FACTS: Biden is repeating a favorite saw of the Obama campaign, and it's misleading. McCain supports a cut in income taxes for all corporations, and doesn't single out any one industry for that benefit.

Again, are they getting the tax break under McCain's plan or not. There is no refutation of his claim.

BIDEN: "As a matter of fact, John recently wrote an article in a major magazine saying that he wants to do for the health care industry -- deregulate it and let the free market move -- like he did for the banking industry."

THE FACTS: Biden and Obama have been perpetuating this distortion of what McCain wrote in an article for the American Academy of Actuaries. McCain, laying out his health plan, only referred to deregulation when saying people should be allowed to buy health insurance across state lines. In that context, he wrote: "Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation."

Ummmm ... ? What do they think deregulation is? I'll bet proponents said the same thing about financial industry deregulation when they were pushing those bills.

Name: Joe Raskin
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Dr. Alterman --

As far as the Mets are concerned, I stand with my team (well, most of the team. There are certain pitchers who I hope will go for a cruise. A very long cruise). I am counting the days until spring training and the opening of CitiField.

As far as Mr. Newman is concerned, we were all truly fortunate that we lived in the same time as a very great man like him. For all of the wonderful eulogies that he has received over the last few days, I'm not sure that he was appreciated enough.

Name: Josh Silver

Hi Eric,

I am surprised by how many significant media policies are in play in these waning days of the current FCC and Congress. As usual, most of it is technical and inside ball, but I'll give you a quick summary of what's happening.

More than 60,000 Free Press members sent letters to the city of St. Paul during the RNC demanding that charges be dropped against Amy Goodman and dozens of other journalists arrested covering the convention. We staged a press conference the day after the convention, and as you've probably heard, all charges were eventually dropped. Public and grasstops pressure definitely moved the ball.

The Resolution of Disapproval -- the congressional vote that would reverse the Dec. 2007 FCC vote to allow cross ownership of newspapers and broadcasters -- has died in the House, after the Senate had passed it by wide margins. While this is disappointing, the measure would have surely been vetoed by the president, and the rule is tied up in the courts now, which buys us time.

In a major -- and wonky -- victory, Congress overwhelmingly passed the "Broadband Data Improvement Act," a bill that would close the current gaps in data on the availability, speed and value of U.S. broadband. We have been pressuring Congress and the FCC since 2005 -- producing two subsequent studies, successfully lobbying for the bill's introduction and finally testifying in support of the bill in front of key congressional committees. The information collected will lay the foundation for policies in the next Congress to promote universal, affordable high-speed Internet access for all Americans -- the key goal of our Internet for Everyone initiative.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin will likely leave the agency in January, and he is making some interesting moves to further improve his legacy. He has indicated support for some key policy "gets": allocation of unlicensed "white spaces" -- chunks of the broadcast spectrum that can be used to create cheap wireless "clouds of Internet connectivity"; redirection of the "Universal Service Fund" from funding phone build out to broadband build out; and taking the first steps in applying Net Neutrality not just to wireline broadband (cable & DSL), but also wireless Internet, like cell phones and all other wireless systems. This means intense negotiations between now and December.

Like always, while these issues are wonky, they remain hugely important for the future of journalism, the Internet and virtually all media.

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