There's a riot goin' on ...


Todd Gitlin points to one of those examples of MSM conventions that interefere with truth, to the obvious benefit of liars, here.

He notes that "Jim Rutenberg has a piece in the morning NYT on the Hannity loonfest that graced Fox News Sunday night." Rutenberg writes that Andy Martin's accusation that Barack Obama's work as a community organizer in Chicago was "training for a radical overthrow of the government" is "unsubstantiated" rather than false, adding: "Is the claim that the moon is made of green cheese 'unsubstantiated'?"

That's all I have to say about that.

In our recent Think Again column, "Nowhere-istan," we noted that while the entire conflict in Afghanistan was dramatically under-covered, the crucial aspect of civilian deaths in particular got virtually no mainstream media attention.

The deaths of Afghani civilians during American air strikes presents not only an obvious moral problem, but a strategic one -- these deaths have been inflaming anti-American sentiment in the country and greatly complicating the war effort. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has specifically rebuked the "carelessness" of some U.S. military operations and even brought it up directly to President Bush. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has apologized for the deaths and said it is "clear that we have to work even harder."

Now, if you've heard about civilian deaths in Afghanistan recently, it's likely because of attacks on Barack Obama by the McCain-Palin campaign and some in the conservative media. During Thursday's vice-presidential debate, Sarah Palin claimed "Barack Obama had said that all we're doing in Afghanistan is air-raiding villages and killing civilians. And such a reckless, reckless comment and untrue comment, again, hurts our cause." This claim also appeared in a campaign ad, and Sean Hannity has been flogging the comment for months.

Obama's full comment was that "[w]e've got to get the job done there [in Afghanistan] and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there."

This, if you understand the impact of civilian deaths on the dynamic of the war, is a perfectly reasonable thing to say. If you don't, however, it may seem odd and even inflammatory.

Clearly Palin incorrectly paraphrased the comment, but she is taking direct advantage of the public's knowledge gap on this issue -- the mainstream media simply did not communicate what's been going on in Afghanistan.

I have a feeling that Gwen Ifill's performance as debate moderator last week is going to look a whole lot better 24 hours from now. Tonight's debate in Nashville will be moderated by Tom Brokaw - the same Tom Brokaw who, for example, has been serving as a point person between the McCain campaign and NBC News. Actually, other Republicans have also been calling him for advice.

Also, recall my Nation piece about this statement from Brokaw: discussing McCain's success in the Republican primaries, Brokaw attributed it to the candidate's "indomitable will," and opined that McCain won by simply being "the most authentic ... he wasn't trying to reinvent himself."

There was also this, during the DNC in Denver:

BROKAW: Well, look, for Bill Clinton, and for anyone in the Democratic Party for that matter, it's a very tricky case taking on John McCain and trying to rough him up. When John McCain was sitting in a prison in Hanoi, Bill Clinton was writing letters to his ROTC commander and trying to get out of the draft, which he did successfully.

Oh, and this from Meet the Press a week ago.

Let's hope the town hall attendees end up asking most of the questions ...

George Zornick writes: It must be tricky for respectable mainstream journalists to appear on Fox News, since the questions so often are slanted and/or based on shaky premises. Politico's Jim VandeHei was presented with this problem yesterday, when he was interviewed by Martha MacCallum on America's Election HQ.

MacCallum asked Vandehei the following question, about the Obama campaign's 13-minute documentary on John McCain and the Keating Five scandal:

MacCALLUM: So this is a 13-minute, sort of mini-documentary, if you can call it that. It is very one-sided and it sort of negates some of the facts of the case in this Keating Five scandal, which was that there was absolutely no wrongdoing found on the part of John McCain. Are they barking up the wrong tree here, or are they going to get somewhere with this, do you think, Jim?

That question is more loaded than a mail truck on Mother's Day. VandeHei might have asked what facts were "negated" and discussed McCain's role in the scandal, or at least noted that you can't say "there was absolutely no wrongdoing found on the part of John McCain," since he was censured by the Senate Ethics Committee for "exercis[ing] poor judgment in intervening with the regulators," and that McCain himself loudly expressed contrition for his actions at the time.

Instead, though, VandeHei sat by, and simply said this: "Listen, the only person who's going to sit with this 13-minute video is someone who probably hates McCain to begin with. I don't think an undecided voter is looking at a Web video to decide who the heck they're going to support come Election Day.... The truth is like everyone should be very skeptical of everything they're hearing right now, because both candidates are throwing out a bunch of stuff out there that isn't true and isn't accurate and certainly isn't 100 percent true."

A new addition to the MSM, SCLM, etc jargon: the KMSM. The "kinda mainstream media." See:

Worse, Palin's routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric's questions for her "less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media." At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, "Sit down, boy."

Kinda mainstream media: obviously mainstream -- in this case, one of the three major broadcast networks -- but one that we should all collectively de-legitimize because they asked me tough questions about what I read.

McCain Suck-Up Watch: On October 4, The New York Times published a front-page article about Sen. Barack Obama's association with William Ayers -- at least the 18th Times article this year mentioning that association. But the Times has yet to mention Sen. John McCain's relationship with G. Gordon Liddy. The October 4 article quoted Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman denouncing Obama's association with Ayers but did not note that Chapman has described Liddy as McCain's "own Bill Ayers" and written that "[i]f Obama needs to answer questions about Ayers, McCain has the same obligation regarding Liddy." More here.

And there is this curious piece on a Sarah Palin rally by Dana Milbank. We learn that "Barack Obama, she told 8,000 fans at a rally here Monday afternoon, 'launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist!' This followed her earlier accusation that the Democrat pals around with terrorists. 'This is not a man who sees America the way you and I see America,' she told the Clearwater crowd. 'I'm afraid this is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to work with a former domestic terrorist who had targeted his own country.' The crowd replied with boos." One man in the crowd also replied thusly, we learn later in the article: "Kill him!"

But according to Milbank, what is "[w]orse" is the fact that "Palin's routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness."

I dunno. I think calling for the assassination of a presidential candidate is rather worse than criticizing the press. What's more, I find it curious that Milbank is all of a sudden so offended by the McCain campaign, when, just weeks ago, he was doing its bidding in order to exploit racist stereotypes designed to undermine Obama on the basis of thin-to-no evidence.

In a Nation column devoted to this particular issue, I wrote:

Of course, a presidential campaign cannot openly traffic in racism and xenophobia. So it must conduct this campaign in a kind of code. Historically blacks and dark-skinned immigrants have been accused of "not knowing their place" by whites who see their positions challenged, and are deemed to be "uppity." The code word du jour is "presumptuous."

Think about it: the candidate who won his party's presidential nomination and is leading in every national poll stands accused of acting as if becoming President requires some planning and preparation. Apparently ignorance and incompetence have become prized virtues in George W. Bush's Washington, and so potential competence is considered a cause for concern.

Sadly, many in our mainstream media have eagerly enlisted in the racist Republican cause. I could give numerous examples, but let us focus on just one: the Washington Post's White House columnist, Dana Milbank. In a recent column, Milbank, who prides himself on his alleged lack of ideology, complained that "Barack Obama has long been his party's presumptive nominee. Now he's becoming its presumptuous nominee," adding, "Obama's biggest challenger may not be Republican John McCain but rather his own hubris." Milbank's shocking litany of Obama's offenses included his taking a foreign trip, meeting with world leaders and leading Washington figures, failing to post his schedule, leaving a private prayer in Jerusalem's Western Wall and tying up traffic in Washington. Each of these unremarkable events was described in language dripping with sarcasm and imputed evil intent--as if Obama was responsible for his security detail's traffic planning. In a single column, Milbank complained of Obama's "presidential-style world tour ... presidential-style business ... presidential-style pep rally...presidential-style visit...acting presidential...outdoing the President in ruffles and flourishes lately ..."

After holding Obama personally responsible for the campaign's failure to include a New Yorker reporter on its press plane abroad -- allegedly in retaliation for the satirical cartoon -- Milbank wrote, "Even Bush hasn't tried that." Oh, really? Does a White House reporter really need to be reminded that the New York Times was refused access to Dick Cheney's press plane in 2004? Has no one mentioned to him that US citizens have been removed from official presidential events because of the bumper stickers on their cars?

Most egregious, Milbank also apparently sliced and diced Obama's words to give them exactly the opposite connotation the candidate intended."

It continues here.

Non-Sequitur-ish Quote of the Day: "If Niccolò Machiavelli were to envision an economic crisis that would cripple the Republicans prior to Election Day, he couldn't do much better than one precipitated by the banking industry." -- Jay Cost at Real Clear Politics.

And what if God and Superman had a fight? I've always wondered about that one ...

When I was in Bellagio the summer before last, I had the pleasure of witnessing the collaboration that resulted in the creation of this remarkable film.

Check it out. I don't imagine you've ever seen anything like it.

From TomDispatch:

The question Chalmers Johnson poses in his latest piece is: Have the Bush years, most recently in the form of a global financial Katrina, created the conditions for a rare turning-point election in U.S. politics, as with Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Democratic Party in 1932 -- or will deep-seated racism and entrenched regional/party loyalties prove too much, even for this catastrophic moment?

With his usual acumen, Johnson, whose latest book, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, warned of the possibility of a profligate, militarized U.S. going bankrupt, then explores the nature of a turning-point election in recent American history. He speculates about the conditions under which "the 2008 election might set in motion a political reconfiguration -- and even a political renaissance -- in the United States, restoring a modicum of democracy to the country's political system, while ending our march toward imperialism, perpetual warfare, and bankruptcy that began with the Cold War."

Johnson also explores the knotty question of racism in this year's presidential vote, as well as the far more hidden matter of the way the two parties have entrenched themselves regionally in the American psyche -- and balances them against factors ranging from the possible youth vote to changing party affiliation that might be election alterers this year.

This is a striking exploration of the electoral landscape. Johnson concludes: "Above all, two main issues will determine whether or not the November election will be a realigning one. Republican Party failures in managing the economy, in involving the country in catastrophic wars of choice, and in ignoring such paramount issues as global warming all dictate a Democratic victory. Militating against that outcome is racist hostility, conscious or otherwise, toward the Democratic Party's candidate as well as deep-seated regional loyalties. While the crisis caused by the performance failures of the incumbent party seems to guarantee a realigning election favoring the Democrats, it is simply impossible to determine the degree to which race and regionalism may sway voters. The fate of the nation hangs in the balance."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Michael Kropp
Hometown: Mahwah, NJ

It's interesting that you posted the Wikipedia page on the original Mavericks. It turns out that wiki was quite correct, that is, if we are to believe, like Sarah Palin, that the NYT is "always correct."

Apparently, the original "maverick", Samuel Augustus Maverick, became somewhat infamous in his Texas town for not branding his cattle.

The NYT not only had a write-up on the original Maverick family, but also their descendants' unhappiness with McCain adopting the term. The money quote, from Terrellita Maverick, a member emeritus of the board of the San Antonio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, "(McCain)'s a Republican," she said. "He's branded."

Name: John Moore
Hometown: San Francisco

Dear Dr. A.,

Since right-wingers like Ann Coulter are now trying to blame non-white people for the credit crisis (by claiming that somehow this is all the fault of the Community Reinvestment Act), I thought you might want to provide your readership with a few helpful sources of accurate information on the topic. This posting, from a blog maintained by that well-known commie rag Business Week, explains that only about 20% of subprime loans were made by lenders subject to the CRA. For additional info, you can see this brief article by Ellen Seidman, former head of the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Although Coulter's dishonesty (and racism) shouldn't surprise anyone, the WSJ and other more "respectable" sources have been blowing this horn as well. It's high time someone in the MSM exposed this for the utter BS that it is.

Name: Tom Murphy
Hometown: Beaverton, OR

As I read the conservative talk machine increasingly blame the poor or those with less than perfect credit for the housing implosion, I don't hear much about the "house flippers" "get rich in real estate" crowd that used to make headlines. I remember in Portland when new condominiums went up for sale with lines of potential buyers, most of whom merely wanted to hold the property for a few months and then flip it for a substantial haul.

What happened when the prices stopped rising and the second (or third) mortgage started coming due? Just wondered if there isn't more blame to go around rather than pick on hard-working people trying for their piece of the American dream of owning a home.

Name: Rob Breymaier
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

I'm glad you went through the whole false assertion that CRA is to blame for the crisis. If anything, this crisis is due to the lack of CRA efforts in poor and minority communities.

First, it resulted in a situation where unscrupulous mortgage brokers could prey on hopeful and trusting prospective homeowners.

Second, many banks just bought those bad loans instead of making good risk-based loans in order to get easier CRA credit. Instead of coming up with responsible products on their own, as CRA law intends, they just bought bad loans in the requisite neighborhoods from mortgage brokers.

Name: Merrill R. Frank
Hometown: Jackson Heights, NYC


When some foreign potentate flouts democracy and the rule of law, the likes of Ron Lauder, the now unemployed editors at the New York Sun, Arthur Schulzberger Jr., Mort Zuckerman and Rupert Murdoch are the first to condemn them and use their respective organizations and media holdings to editorialize and rally the masses against said dictator.

When the mayor of New York behaves in a similar manner he becomes "indispensible" and they use such terms as "These are rough times" as if his elected replacement would not be able to lead the city in an equally effective manner. They also claim it's only a one time change to three terms for this mayor and not applicable to future mayors. This would create an unfortunate precedent which a future mayor could cite in case of an "emergency." If the City Council caves in and allows the mayor to run for a third term without a voter approved referendum changing term limits to three terms then they are truly nothing more than a rubber stamp.

Name: Paul
Hometown: Watchung, NJ

I'm a fan of this space, so with all due respect I have to express my disagreement over the criticism of Steven Pearlstein.

Pearlstein is a terrific business columnist. Fact is he is right in that almost nobody in the press understands the complex financial instruments that created the collapse of the banking industry. That is not an insult, just acknowledging that it is not within the expertise of many journalists (or bloggers) who are not in the trade press.

The vast majority of what I read about the problem on liberal blogs is pretty silly and/or oversimplistic. This isn't about nefarious Wall Street villains trying to rip off the taxpayers, or about the rich versus the poor. The greed that created this mess was pretty much universal from borrowers to loan brokers to lenders to rating agencies to bond buyers and traders and so on. (That's not to say that there aren't regulators or firms who made bad and/or criminal decisions, because there were, but that's for another letter...)

The bottom line is that journalists and bloggers should be a little humble when forming opinions about complex topics they knew nothing about a week ago.

Eric responds: You may well be right. For the record, we took no position of Mr. Pearlstein one way or another. We don't have the requisite expertise. We do admit to finding his comments in that chat both ignorant, offensive and wrong -- as well as exemplary of larger trends in the MSM -- and so believed them to be worth some attention.

Name: Ken Bilderback
Hometown: Gaston, OR

In Oregon we're debating whether a "blogger" is a "journalist" in regard to such issues as executive sessions.

Unfortunately, the debate as framed so far focuses more on whether a blogger is a corporate employee than if she/he is a journalist.

Newspapers often raise the cry of "Who will represent the public if newspapers go out of business?"

If ordinances such as this are allowed to stand, the answer is: No one.

It's easy to dismiss bloggers as ignorant gasbags or ideologues, but there are plenty of corporate "journalists" who probably fall into those categories, too.

There also are plenty of bloggers who are serving an important role by filling holes left by the cuts of corporate news organizations.

Allowing government agencies to define who qualifies for protection under the First Amendment is a dangerous precedent.

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