But in this ever-changing world in which we live in ...

But in this ever-changing world in which we live in ...


Last week we flagged CNN's Drew Griffin's interview with Sarah Palin, in which he offered questions like "You seemed to be very much on your game. You get huge crowds. Even bigger crowds than John McCain. Why is that?" and "Governor, is Barack Obama a socialist?" before getting around to softly addressing what is the single largest issue facing Palin -- her involvement in the firing of Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.

Palin has now given another national interview; she and John McCain sat down with NBC's Brian Williams last week. (Note, again, that Palin draws out a marquee interviewer, making CNN's assignment of Drew Griffin last week all the more curious). Amazingly, Williams didn't even ask about Monegan's dismissal at all.

It's worth reiterating how important this issue is when considering Palin's case for the vice-presidency. When McCain introduced Palin in Dayton, she said that "Along with fellow reformers in the great state of Alaska, as governor, I've stood up to the old politics as usual, to the special interests, to the lobbyists, the Big Oil companies and the 'good old boy' network." Palin has repeated this in countless iterations since then, and it's the reason McCain's team picked her in the first place. Jane Mayer's recent New Yorker piece makes clear that McCain chose Palin in large part because other candidates "did not transmit McCain's core message that he was a 'maverick.'" Robert Draper writes the same in The New York Times Magazine -- he reports that what McCain campaign manager Rick Davis saw in Palin was "namely a way to re-establish the maverick persona McCain had lost while wedding himself to Bush's war."

The problem, of course, is that on October 10, a bipartisan legislative panel found that Palin "unlawfully abused her power" in firing Alaska's public safety commissioner, and specifically said Palin violated a statute of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. Such a condemnation, so close to the election, is damaging to any candidate, to say nothing of one that's based her image on battling corruption.

Williams' interview aired over three days last week, and he even mentioned the Troopergate scandal in two of the prefaces to the interview clips -- but he didn't find it relevant enough to actually ask Palin about it. By the way, over the course of the three days the Palin interview was airing on NBC's Nightly News last week, Palin was being deposed again in a seperate investigation into the firing of Monegan. The deposition happened not 24 hours after Williams interviewed Palin -- but he apparently did not find this newsworthy and did not ask her about it.

Aside from Griffin's neutered question, Palin has never been asked about the Branchflower report, nor has she publicly responded to it, save a shouted reply to a group of reporters that she was "vindicated" by the report's findings, which is, you know, not true. The story just isn't a visible one -- over the past month, it's gotten only 25 mentions on the network and cable news outlets combined (Palin and Branchflower), as compared with 143 mentions of her recent wardrobe dust-up (Palin and $150,000).

Et tu, Brian?

One outlet that has been providing fair coverage of Palin is her hometown newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News. They were praised in a Guardian editorial today:

Its reporting has been bold and informed ever since Mr. McCain made his surprise pick at the end of the summer. While the big papers were recovering from the shock, and trying to work out how to reach her hometown of Wasilla, the Anchorage Daily News was ready with facts about her less-than-wholesome record as state governor.

We also praised the ADN last year for their tough reporting on the various and sundry scandals in Alaska, notably those involving Sen. Ted Stevens. That seems especially notable this week ...

George Zornick writes: The Washington Post has been running a weekly feature keeping track of Iraq war casualties. That's good. But they've been downplaying the Iraqi civilian deaths. That's bad. FAIR is on the case:

In the most recent edition of this feature (10/25/08) which the Post has been publishing as a chart in the Saturday newspaper since August 2, the Post offers a "maximum count" of 96,719 Iraqi civilian deaths. Yet as the Post itself acknowledged in a footnote to its chart on June 15, 2007, there are studies that put the Iraqi death toll much higher: A 2006 survey by Iraqi physicians and overseen by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimated over 600,000 killed at the time.

More here.

Regarding the strange Orlando television interview with Joe Biden we mentioned yesterday, Altercation correspondent John Farmer points us to this -- the interviewer's husband, you will surely be shocked to learn, is a Republican political consultant.

Steve Serby in the New York Post: "Good for Tom Coughlin. Good for Coughlin for tightening the noose around Plaxico Burress."

Burress, a receiver for the New York Giants, is black, and his coach, Tom Coughlin, is white. Al Sharpton is on the case. I don't know what to say -- it is the Post, which makes both atrocious prose and rancid racism equally plausible.

Quote of the Day 1: "Look, if we free the people of Iraq we will be respected in the Arab world." -- Bill Kristol, February 20, 2003.

Quote of the Day 2: "I hope everyone forgets this pick if I'm wrong [laughs], and gives me credit for making a bold, upset pick if I'm right." -- Bill Kristol, October 27, 2008. OK, he was talking about his prediction that McCain would win the election, but still ...

Quote of the Day 3: "You know, just because the thing I saw wasn't there doesn't mean there wasn't something there that I didn't see." Ann Althouse.

McCain Suck-Up Watch: NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, Lester Holt and the AP uncritically repeated the McCain campaign's claims that Sen. Barack Obama is already writing or has already written an inaugural address. The claims are reportedly based on a New York Times article, which asserted that Obama transition chief John D. Podesta "has already written a draft Inaugural Address for Mr. Obama, which he published this summer in a book called 'The Power of Progress.' " But neither O'Donnell nor the AP gave any indication that they had attempted to verify the accusation or obtain a response from Podesta, who issued a statement calling the charge "a complete fabrication." More here.

And people say Hollywood is a ridiculous place when it comes to politics ...

God in my iPod: Yesterday, while preparing for class, Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" was followed by Steve Earle, "The Revolution Starts... Now."

Alter-reviews: Ray ... Blu-Ray

The James Bond Blu-Ray collection

MGM and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment are putting six James Bond films onto Blu-Ray, in advance of the latest Bond movie, "Quantum of Solace." Have you noticed that it has become a necessary function of all recent James Bond movies that the title makes no sense whatsoever? That wasn't true for the earlier films, represented here, with classics like Dr. No, Die Another Day, Live And Let Die, For Your Eyes Only, From Russia With Love And Thunderball. You can buy any single movie for $35 (suggested retail, anyway) and get a ticket to the new movie, or buy a three-disc volume for $90 and get two tickets. In any case, aside from being on Blu-Ray -- which is really something -- we get a wide variety of special features with each of the movies. Live and Let Die, for example, has an "Interactive Guide Into the World of Live and Let Die," and "Bond 1973: The Lost Documentary." Thunderball has "The Incredible World of James Bond -- Original 1965 NBC Television Special," as well as a quirky 1965 Ford promotional film, "A Child's Guide to Blowing Up a Motor Car." They really went all-out on extra features; there's a lot of unusual stuff in there. A full list of features, and more information on the collection, is here.

I should also mention the "Best of Bond ... James Bond" CD that's being released by Capitol. The theme song from each movie is often as recognizable as the movie itself. Nineteen tracks contain the famous ones -- the Monty Norman Orchestra's Dr. No theme and Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger" - but also some forgotten gems like On Her Majesty's Secret Service's "We Have All the Time in the World," by Louis Armstrong. The Amazon page for that CD is here.

Oh, and did I mention this?

007 walks into a bar and takes a seat next to a very attractive woman. He gives her a quick glance, then casually looks at his watch for a moment.

The woman notices this and asks, "Is your date running late?"

"No", he replies, "I am here alone. Q has just given me this state-of-the-art watch and I was just testing it."

The intrigued woman says, "A state-of-the-art watch? What's so special about it?"

"It uses alpha waves to telepathically talk to me," he explains.

"What's it telling you now?"

"Well, it says you're not wearing any panties ..."

The woman giggles and replies, "Well, it must be broken because I am wearing panties!"

007 taps, taps his watch ...

and says "Damn thing must be an hour fast."

I should also mention this and this.

American Experience: The Presidents Collection 15-DVD set

PBS Home Video has released the entire American Experience collection of "The Presidents," which contains extensive biographical documentaries of every president who served in the 20th century, sans William McKinley, who only served into 1901, and Bill Clinton. The ten programs -- on Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Truman, Kennedys, LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Reagan and George H.W. Bush -- add up to 2,225 minutes over 15 DVDs. They are quite solid historically and provide a kind of personal and aesthetic experience that goes beyond what the printed word can achieve, though they are also all done by PBS and so play it pretty safe with regard to ongoing historical controversies. If you like your history on DVD, or teach the stuff and want a few days off, they are invaluable, both as documents and and as teaching tools, though I do recommend some classroom discussion afterward. Various ones are narrated by author and historian David McCullough, Linda Hunt, Jason Robards, Stacy Keach, and David Ogen Stiers, and most of them include additional mini-documentaries, extended interviews, a teacher's guide in PDF format, and more. More information is available here.

The Best American Comics, 2008 -- Lynda Barry, Editor

Houghton Mifflin has amassed the best American comics of 2008, as selected by Lynda Barry, a writer and cartoonist whose comic strip "Ernie Pook's Comeek" just celebrated its 30th year in print. (Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, also acclaimed cartoonists, are the new series editors). Matt Groening is in here, as is Alison Bechdel, Chris Ware, and others. Being a classicist myself, I can't judge whether these are in fact, the "best," and if we're not getting superheroes, then I don't see what the problem is with providing a bit more gratuitous female nudity, but still, this is a useful collection for those of us who like to keep up. (I'd read it in tandem with Paul Buhle's recent collection Jews and American Comics, just published by Yale, which we discussed here recently. In any case, more information on the 416-page book is here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Karl Witter
Hometown: Bloomfield, CT

I'm a ham radio operator, so I know something about spectrum scarcity, public service, technical reality, and the FCC.

It amuses me to no end that the same commercially-run TV model we've put up with for decades is attempting to perpetuate itself by promising the public that when TV stations go digital these corporate conglomerations will have more channels on which to carry programming.

To paraphrase the old punchline, "Two channels? You don't even know what to do with one!"

Name: David Peirce
Hometown: Erie, CO

In addition to questions about the economy, Iraq, and the forgotten Afghanistan, it seems to me that the next president will face the issue of what to do with alleged crimes committed by members of the Bush administration. Will existing investigations be allowed to continue? Will new needs for investigation that are revealed be allowed to proceed? And most importantly, will Bush administration officials be pardoned?

It seems appropriate to me that both candidates be required to answer this before election day. I care not a whit that this could compromise McCain's precarious pandering to both the GOP base and mainstream voters.

Name: Stephen Zeoli
Hometown: http://welcometosherwood.wordpress.com

Isn't it a ironic that staffers for the Mr. Maverick campaign are complaining that Palin is "going rogue." I mean, isn't "going rogue" sort of a synonym for "maverick?"

Name: Matt A-W
Hometown: Moscow, ID

I was on the TV-screen-mounted elliptical at my university rec center today and I noticed the person on my left watching Lou Dobbs and the person on my right watching Headline News. At the time, Dobbs was doing a segment titled "Barack the Redistributor" and Headline News was doing a segment on how Joe Biden gets angry at "tough questions." Having just read the CF piece on Biden's interview and the Stumper piece on "redistribution," it made me mad enough to work out a little harder today. That, and Lou Dobbs' always stern expression.

Name: Dilford
Hometown: Fairfield, IA

Might I point out John Hammond's "Wicked Grin"? Since Tom Waits produced it and adds plenty of guitar throughout, it may lack some of the "objectivity" of other cover/tribute CDs but it does a bang-up job of bringing the blues element of (some) Waits music to the fore. Augie Meyers is all over it, too (I count that as a good thing).

Name: Peter Bartlett
Hometown: SF, CA

My first concert was The Who, but not with the Clash, alas. The undercard on that day, 26 years ago this Friday ("WHO-loween! ROCK-tober 31st!") at Sun Devil Stadium featured Loverboy (eh...) and a still inchoate John Cougar.

The most memorable moment occurred when John Cougar was hit in the head with a bottle, and had to leave the stage to get stitches. But he came back out, cussed out whoever threw the bottle, and sang "Hurts So Good." Had a soft spot for him ever since.

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