Pump up the volume ...


Since leaving The New York Times, where she was a star reporter for decades, and was invited to break the paper's own rules on the front page as she announced she was doing so in order to support the Bush administration's lies about finding WMD in Iraq, Judith Miller has found a home on the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal and as an on-air analyst for Fox News, whose senior vice president, John Moody, says: "She has explained herself and she has nothing to apologize for." Well, she's certainly in the right places now, where lies are actually approved of so long as they support the team. (More on that here.) But how, again, is the Times -- which features another famously pro-Bush spinner on its pages, William Kristol, on its pages today -- a liberal conspiracy?

Oh, never mind, that would call for evidence ...

Jamison Foser writes that, finally, "for the first time this year, a prominent media figure asked John McCain about his relationship with G. Gordon Liddy":

Imagine for a moment that Barack Obama had said he was "proud" of an "old friend" who urged people to shoot law-enforcement agents in the head. Do you think maybe he would have been asked a question or three about it? Do you think maybe there would have been more than the occasional passing mention in the news of the relationship? Of course there would have been.

Simply put: Liddy is not an issue because Obama never raised it; Ayers is an issue only because McCain did. The inverse to Foser's question: do you think the media would have found an education board Obama served on years ago, and tied him to the 40-year-old radical history of one of his many colleagues on that board, all on its own? After having been aware of the tangential relationship for many months, would the MSM have raised the issue and gone wall-to-wall with coverage in October 2008, weeks before the election, without the Republican Party pressing the issue? You know the answer.

This is a great example how the mainstream media frequently allows the campaigns to exercise almost total authority over campaign narratives. We've highlighted this tendency before: NBC Washington bureau chief Mark Whitaker said that the controversy over 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." On MSNBC, Chris Matthews asked Joe Scarborough, "I want to ask you, what will we talk about two days from now?" Scarborough replied: "Whatever the McCain campaign wants us to talk about, because the McCain campaign is assertive."

And on CNN, John Roberts noted that Sarah Palin has been lying about the "Bridge to Nowhere," but then said: "But why can't Barack Obama make that point stick?" -- as if it's Obama's job alone and not, you know, reporters like John Roberts to make the truth stick.

It happens to this day -- here are three quick questions:

  • McCain gave a speech last week where he accused Obama of "measuring the drapes" in anticipation of winning the White House. Within a week, MSNBC's Alex Witt and CNN's T.J. Holmes each suggested that Sen. Barack Obama is prematurely "measuring the drapes" for the White House. Why? Because Obama has a White House transition team in place -- something that every president from Carter through George W. Bush had as well at this point in the election. One can't just wait until after Nov. 4 to start planning. So would these producers have taken this obvious political fact, and twisted it into a "measuring the drapes" narrative all on their own?
  • The Drudge Report has once again been hyping the Republican line on a McCain comeback, with blaring headlines about the volatile and likely unreliable daily tracking polls. On October 17, his headline was GALLUP SHOCK: 49 OBAMA, 47 MCCAIN WITH LIKELY VOTERS. The MSNBC chyron that morning: GALLUP SHOCK: OBAMA 49%, MCCAIN 47%. Would the producers have found a notoriously up-and-down tracking poll to be a "shock," if that wasn't the narrative being pushed?
  • Obama has proposed cutting taxes for low- and middle- income taxpayers and raising taxes only on single people earning more than $200,000 per year and families earning more than $250,000 per year. CBS's Bob Schieffer, who just moderated a debate, knows this. Yet, he said on the CBS Evening News that McCain "wants to emphasize that Barack Obama is going to raise taxes and he's [McCain's] not. I mean, that's what he's going to have to argue from here on in if he has any chance." But, the charge is false, and so why can't Schieffer note that? Why can't he use his journalistic authority to create a narrative that McCain is lying about his and Obama's proposals, instead of letting what he knows to be a false argument advance?

By ceding narrative and investigatory authority to the campaigns, the mainstream political press is rendering itself useless.

George Zornick writes: Rush Limbaugh is predictably asserting that Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama is because they have the same skin color. He sarcastically wrote in an e-mail to Politico's Jonathan Martin: "Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race. OK, fine. I am now researching his past endorsements to see if I can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed. I'll let you know what I come up with."

Limbaugh, of course, is correct. Powell usually only endorses inexperienced, very conservative, white candidates. He even works for them!

Additional conservatives-reacting-to-Powell fun: On Sunday, the hosts of Fox & Friends wondered whether Powell's endorsement of Obama was retribution for not being chosen as McCain's VP: "And do we know whether in fact he had been vetted by the McCain campaign for vice president at some point? Do we know whether they ever had a discussion with Sen. McCain about whether he would be considered as a vice presidential candidate and if he did, and he wasn't selected, how does that affect this endorsement?"

I suppose we don't know that as a point of fact, but that's a ridiculous and easily manipulated construction. Alternately, we may wonder: "Do we know whether, in fact, the heads of the Fox & Friends gang were stuffed with straw and a looping RNC tape recorder months ago? Do we actually know for sure that this never happened, whether Ailes and Murdoch ever had this conversation?"

Can't say for sure, I suppose ...

Those bigfoot political pundits love them some capital gains tax cuts. In criticizing Sen. Barack Obama's "mindset about taxes," Fox News' Brit Hume said that "when you've lowered [capital gains tax rates] in the past, you get a gusher of revenue, because people go ahead and take their capital gains and the revenues go up." Of course the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the 2006 extension of the 2003 cuts on capital gains taxes would result in decreased revenues of $20 billion over 10 years. But the source Hume cited, of course, was Charlie Gibson, who made the same false claim in April during the Democratic debates. These guys should start a think tank -- Pundit Institute on Capital Gains Tax Reform, or something. George Stephanopoulos and Thomas Sowell can join too.

Glenn Beck has finally and naturally taken his act over to Judy Miller's new house at Fox News, where Sean Hannity praised him as "a perfect fit, a great addition to family." The short list of Hannity's accurate public statements would include this one. Beck is indeed a good fit for Fox News, and Think Progress has collected a few reasons why. My favorites:

  • BECK: You need to torture, I mean, within reason. ... You do what you have to do to get the information if it's pressing. 12/21/07
  • BECK: I was against Abu Ghraib and I said, because it didn't look like it was done by professionals, what was that, stacking people in a pyramid. 11/1/07
  • BECK: With his rock star persona, celebrity fan club, a socialist point of view, Obama feels a lot like he's running for king over president. ... I think this man is actually dangerous. 8/13/08

We'll note that Beck left CNN Headline News, and so they get no credit here. However, if they can take care of Nancy Grace ...

Our recent Think Again catalogued the cynical, largely baseless "voter fraud" accusations being made against ACORN and other groups. A follow-up, from McClatchy: "An ACORN community organizer received a death threat and the liberal activist group's Boston and Seattle offices were vandalized Thursday, reflecting mounting tensions over its role in registering 1.3 million mostly poor and minority Americans to vote next month."

See this:

From Mother Jones:

16 Words: New Court Filing Suggests Another Manufactured Threat in Bush's 2002 State of the Union

A potentially explosive new court filing by the lawyers for Lakhdar Boumediene and five other Guantanamo detainees suggests that the Bush administration ordered the Bosnian government to arrest and hold the men after an exhaustive Bosnian investigation had found them innocent of any terrorism related activity and had ordered their release, in order to use them as props in Bush's January 2002 State of the Union speech.

McCain Suck-Up Watch: The Washington Post reported that "[t]he Republican National Committee has also begun making automated phone calls in Virginia and in other battleground states that talk about Obama's connections to 'terrorists,' " but not that Sen. John McCain's campaign also paid for the calls. More here.

From TomDispatch:

Suicides, self-inflicted wounds, resistance to eviction, armed self-defense, arson, and murder -- such extreme acts may become increasingly run-of-the-mill as the foreclosure and financial crises meld into a single disaster in the United States. Already a search of the local news -- undertaken by TomDispatch's Nick Turse -- finds painful evidence of the human costs of the present crisis bubbling up into consciousness. In a striking report from the debt and foreclosure home front, Turse tallies up for the first time some of the evidence of just how deep, painful, and unnerving the present crisis is already proving.

Here you get accounts of foreclosed homeowners barricading themselves in their houses and shooting it out with the police, or turning on each other. "In March, Ocala, Florida resident Roland Gore killed his dog and his wife, set fire to his home which was in foreclosure, and then killed himself," goes a typical Turse account. In fact, this TomDispatch post is filled with horrific little dramas from around the country like this one:

Pinellas Park, Florida resident Dallas Dwayne Carter was a 44-year-old disabled, single dad who lost his job, fell into debt, and was faced with eviction. "He always talked about needing help -- financially and help with the kids," neighbor Kevin Luster told the St. Petersburg Times. On July 19th, Carter apparently called the police to say he was armed and disturbed. When they arrived, Carter fired his pistol and rifle inside the apartment, before emerging and pointing his weapons at the officers on the scene. Police say they ordered him to drop them. When he didn't, they killed him in a 10-round fusillade.

You cannot find another report at the moment which brings together this range of human tragedies. Turse concludes: "Right now, there are no real counts of the many extreme acts born of the financial crisis, but assuredly other murders, suicides, self-inflicted injuries, acts of arson and of armed self-defense have simply gone unnoticed outside of economically hard-hit neighborhoods in cities and small towns across America. With no end in sight for either the foreclosures or the economic turmoil, Americans may have to brace themselves for many more casualties on the home front. Unless extreme economic steps, like mortgage- and debt-forgiveness, are implemented, the number of extreme acts and the ultimate body count may be far more extreme than anyone yet wants to contemplate."

From Social Research:

A Social Research Conference at The New School Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the University in Exile

Free Inquiry at Risk: Universities in Dangerous Times

Conference speakers include:

  • Robert M. Berdahl, President, Association of American Universities
  • Hanna Holborn Gray, Former President, University of Chicago
  • Anthony W. Marx, President, Amherst College
  • Robert M. O'Neil, Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, University of Virginia School of Law
  • Joan Wallach Scott, Institute for Advanced Studies

Keynote Event: Aryeh Neier, President, Open Society Institute in conversation with endangered scholars from Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Belarus, and China.

The New School
Tishman Auditorium, Alvin Johnson/J. M. Kaplan Hall
66 West 12th Street, New York City
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, October 29th, 30th, and 31st, 2008


One More Into the Bliss -- Boris Garcia, and "We Are All One" -- Michael Falzarano

Boris Garcia is actually a band, not a person - an ensemble that plays "jamgrass." It's everything from Bluegrass, jazz, rock, folk, Celtic, soul, and blues. Porchwerk Music and Dig Music have released the group's third album, "One More Into the Bliss," eleven songs featuring the aforementioned musical styles along with old stalwarts, Donna Jean Godchaux MacKay and Buddy Cage. Tim Carbone produced. More information is here.

It's interesting, but for me, the real find in this genre is this record by Michael Falzarano, apparently his third one. It's called "We Are All One," and it's on Woodstock records. Twelve of the 14 tracks are his, and there are some of the last known studio recordings of the late fiddle virtuoso Vassar Clements. Falzarano was in Hot Tuna on and off for 20 years, and recently has been touring with the reconstituted New Riders of the Purple Sage. If you like those two bands, this is going to be hard to resist. More information is here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

If you want proof of "objectivity," take Sunday morning's "Meet the Press"--please. After Tom Brokaw let Colin Powell endorse Barack Obama and deny the blame for anything that went wrong in American foreign policy during his tenure as secretary of state, the round table evaluated matters quite fairly. We had Joe Scarborough, the former Republican congressman, telling how William Ayers has been moved to "the side." Brokaw asked David Brooks about the "very liberal" Democrats in Congress. Andrea Mitchell lamented the huge disparity in money between the two candidates as though something was wrong with the capitalist system that her husband did so much to destroy during his tenure as Federal Reserve Board chief. Jon Meacham, the uber-objective editor of Newsweek, talked about the John McCain who fights for causes larger than himself.

If NBC, CBS, and ABC would like to know why Jon Stewart kicks the living daylights out of them on a nightly basis, when many of those he is addressing haven't bothered to watch, maybe they should look at the alleged journalism that Brokaw practiced Sunday morning. If NBC News were capable of embarrassment, it would be embarrassed.

Name: David Peirce
Hometown: Erie, CO


When I was beginning a PhD program in economics in 1993 and Mr Krugman was still in his early 40s, Mr Krugman's work in international trade was already being discussed as Nobel-worthy. He did nothing less than advance international trade theory from its early 19th century foundations. Most work in economics seeks to take "baby steps" forward. This work moved international trade theory more than 150 years forward. This with a very elegant approach that paid homage to the Ricardian notion of comparative advantage on which all trade theory had rested.

His was (and I hope is for the next generation of economics students) research and writing that made geeky adherents to the dismal science excited.

My chosen field was international finance. There, Mr Krugman's work on currency devaluations (such as that of the Asian tiger nations in 1997) is similarly seminal. I imagine grad students today are applying his work there to understanding the attacks we have witnessed in recent months on financial stocks. And I would pay good money to be sitting in his class at Princeton this quarter to hear him explain the economics of the current financial crisis.

Along the way, Mr Krugman has always written with simplicity and clarity. Unlike much of the profession, he eschews complex mathematics for their own sake, but he can wield them when needed to make a point. He has always "translated" his work for lay audiences, as his many books and now body of NY Times editorials attest.

The bobbleheads miss the point (what's new there?) of the Nobel Prize in Economics. I mean, I can see where they think the Nobel Peace Prize is political: Bush and Cheney will never win. But the committee no more considered Mr Krugman's NY Times editorials than they did Mr Friedman's PBS series in making the award. (I daresay that Mr Friedman's economics work was far more politically motivated in its assumptions and intentions than Mr Krugman's.)

Name: Barbara
Hometown: Portland, ME

Thank you for addressing the misconceptions in Think Again. I work for an institution that has gone from a $2 billion bank to one of the top 15 in the country. We have grown through M&A, and believe me, we buy a bank in a state, every advocate for every "disadvantaged" group comes out of the wood work. So we know CRA. We have been able to develop programs for CRA that have not subjected this bank to increased risk. CRA doesn't make an institution go out and lend to every citizen or even a target group. What it does do is require a bank to develop products (within its own risk parameters) that can be marketed to identified groups -- this helps the bank increase loan and deposit growth and helps the community in giving citizens access to loans and to financial services that they may not have had access to--citizens who may have been under-serviced by the industry. Is it a pain, sure -- since we have to maintain a certain score in order to keep buying banks and growing--but you know what? We have actually gotten inroads into communities that have been mistrustful of financial institutions -- so it many ways it can be a win-win.

Name: carl
Hometown: muscle shoals

"Not terribly well known" covers? How about Eddie Hinton's "Down In Texas" or Walt Aldridge's "Nadine" by The Decoys?

Or take your pick from any of Eddie Hinton's tunes from Jimmy Hall's "Build Your Own Fire" album.

Name: Kurt Sims
Hometown: Middletown CT

So Professor Vaidhyanathan just found out that there is a decent team in the Tampa Bay area? Hmmm, how very like a Yankees fan to so quickly forget last season.

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