Hurts so good ...


My new Moment column is up here. It's about Israel's treatment of its Arab minority. While we're on the topic, see this important interview with Ehud Olmert in The New York Review of Books this week.

Really, people, it hurts to be so right sometimes. If you have any doubt about the willingness of major media institutions to cave into right-wing pressure, then read this incredible memo from inside CBS over how to deal with the criticism they were receiving for the sloppiness of Dan Rather's reporting on Bush's AWOL period in the National Guard. The highlight -- or actually lowlight -- is the people CBS thought it might need to hire to vet the issue in order to counter the "perception" that CBS was liberal and to cover its collective posterior. Here are the names that CBS executives considered, each one more insane than the last:

  • William Buckley
  • Robert Novak
  • Kate O'Beirne
  • Nicholas Von Hoffman
  • Tucker Carlson
  • Pat Buchanan
  • George Will
  • Lou Dobbs
  • Matt Drudge
  • Robert Barkley
  • Robert Kagan
  • Fred Barnes
  • William Kristol
  • John Podhoretz
  • David Brooks
  • William Safire
  • Bernard Goldberg
  • Ann Coulter
  • Andrew Sullivan
  • Christopher Hitchens
  • P.J. O'Rourke
  • Christopher Caldwell
  • Elliot Abrams
  • Charles Krauthammer
  • William Bennett
  • Rush Limbaugh

Yes, you read that right. Coulter, she of wanting to blow up The New York Times; Goldberg, who called the staff of CBS News Rather's prison bitches; Limbaugh, Drudge ... How in the world did they forget about Pinochet?

Mark Lilla has penned a useful obit for some of his old friends on the right in The Wall Street Journal:

The Palin farce is already the stuff of legend. For a generation at least it is sure to keep presidential historians and late-night comedians in gainful employment, which is no small thing. But it would be a pity if laughter drowned out serious reflection about this bizarre episode. As Jane Mayer reported recently in the New Yorker ("The Insiders," Oct. 27, 2008), John McCain's choice was not a fluke, or a senior moment, or an act of desperation. It was the result of a long campaign by influential conservative intellectuals to find a young, populist leader to whom they might hitch their wagons in the future.

And not just any intellectuals. It was the editors of National Review and the Weekly Standard, magazines that present themselves as heirs to the sophisticated conservatism of William F. Buckley and the bookish seriousness of the New York neoconservatives. After the campaign for Sarah Palin, those intellectual traditions may now be pronounced officially dead.

More here. Also, don't even think of skipping David Remnick's simply amazing investigation of Barack Obama's relationship to the race question in America.

George Zornick writes: James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times takes a look at how the far-right-wing media is taking the election of Barack Obama. In short: not well.

Rush Limbaugh has already stepped up the vitriol and taken an unusually long vacation from reality, even for him: "The Obama recession is in full swing, ladies and gentlemen," he told his radio audience of 15 million to 20 million on Thursday. "Stocks are dying, which is a precursor of things to come. This is an Obama recession. Might turn into a depression." (Apparently he thinks Obama was elected four years ago).

Sean Hannity, for his part, does "want Barack Obama to succeed," but his memory is just fine -- he said about 20 seconds later that "I fear [this] is the guy that has these radical associations 20 years ago."

I'm giving people a lot more credit these days, and so hopefully these attacks will ring as hollow to the public at large as they surely do to Altercation readers. Really, with ham-handed enemies like these, who needs friends?

Oh, and speaking of Ann Coulter, we learn, via Media Matters, she's still alive and kicking, here.

On Bob Grant's radio show, Ann Coulter suggested that President-elect Barack Obama's "civilian national security force" would lead to "a lot more Waco raids, Elian Gonzalez snatchings." In fact, Obama's comments about the necessity of a "civilian national security force" referred to expanding the Foreign Service, AmeriCorps, and the Peace Corps.

And speaking of CBS, though, Sunday night's 60 Minutes piece on illegally exported electronic waste in China was terrific - it was thorough, deeply reported, and revealed an issue that I, and I suspect many others, were unaware of. After months of hyperactive campaign reporting on cable news it was refreshing to see a solid long-form piece that actually meant something.

From TomDispatch:

In the latest TomDispatch post, energy expert and author of the new book, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet, Michael T. Klare offers the first full-scale assessment of American energy needs and possibilities, and of the crisis at hand in the upcoming Obama years.

"Of all the challenges facing President Barack Obama next January," Klare begins, "none is likely to prove as daunting, or important to the future of this nation, as that of energy. After all, energy policy -- so totally mishandled by the outgoing Bush-Cheney administration -- figures in each of the other major challenges facing the new president, including the economy, the environment, foreign policy, and our Middle Eastern wars. Most of all, it will prove a monumental challenge because the United States faces an energy crisis of unprecedented magnitude that is getting worse by the day."

What follows is a crucial overview of American energy needs and the problems they bring with them -- after all, with 5 percent of the world's population, we already consume one quarter of the world's total energy supply. Klare covers oil, on which the U.S. "relies excessively... at a time when the future availability of petroleum is increasingly in question"; coal, our most abundant domestic source of fuel but "the greatest emitter of greenhouse gases when consumed in the current manner"; and the various alternatives, renewable and otherwise. And he points out Obama's dilemma to come: "No other source of energy, including natural gas, nuclear power, biofuels, wind power, and solar power is currently capable of supplanting our oil and coal consumption, even if a decision is made to reduce their importance in our energy mix."

This piece is thorough and suggests alternative paths for responding to the American energy future. It also lays out a crisis to come, somewhat masked today by suddenly lower oil costs.


The Hold Steady and the Drive-By Truckers by Eric:

Boehlert and I caught the The Hold Steady and Drive-By Truckers "Rock and Roll Means Well" tour at Terminal 6 last week. The two bands share an attitude, a sensibility, and a tendency to write songs with too many words to fit in the same line. But they don't sound anything alike. The Hold Steady are classicists in an early Springsteen kind of way, while the DBT's hail from Tucker/Skynyrd country. But they like one another and I like 'em both and last week's show was nothing but evidence of why. The Hold Steady "opened," although it was a co-headline show and the first band varies from city to city. The Hold Steady ranged widely through their catalogue, including "Constructive Summer," "Massive Night" and "Magazines." The Drive-By Truckers were just as happening despite recent changes in the lineup owing to the breakup of the marriage of two of its members. I was quite moved when Patterson Hood told a long story about his 88-year-old great-uncle in Alabama pulling the lever for a black man, but it was the music that made the night. Read all about 'em here and here.

Speaking of which, here's a longer article about Mr. Zimmerman's moving Election Night show.

John Doe and Kathleen Edwards at Zankel Hall by Sal:

Los Angeles' X are punk rock icons. Sorry to say, they never did much for me, mostly because I never warmed up to singer Exene Cervenka. I preferred their side project, The Knitters, where John Doe, lead singer and songwriter for both (although The Knitters were mostly country covers) seemed more at home.

Ottawa singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards has released three critically acclaimed CDs, yet only a handful of songs culled from the three managed to pique my interest. Comparisons to Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, and Joni Mitchell seemed easy, but to my ears, inaccurate. I hear fellow Canadian Sarah McLachlan, albeit, better and with more depth. (Canada, what a hotbed of talent!)

It wasn't until the release of John Doe's most recent CD on the Yep Roc label, A Year In The Wilderness, that I fell into the deep end of love and respect for both. Wilderness was one of my favorite records of 2007, mostly due to the song "The Golden State," a duet with Miss Edwards, that simply knocked me off my feet. In the words of Frank Sinatra, right before he'd launch into "Something," by George Harrison, "Dis is da only love song dat nevah sez da woids 'I love you,' but it's all dere, baby!" Two more songs on that record, the melancholy "A Little More Time," and the crunchy rocker "Lean Out Yr Window" also featured Edwards.

Doe and Edwards brought that chemistry to Zankel Hall below Carnegie Hall on Friday night, for a performance that was at times moving and occasionally hysterical. Singing both together and separately for the 75-minute set, John Doe & Kathleen Edwards, in Edwards' words, "are like Sonny and Cher ... only he's Cher." There was some harmless sparring on the stage over what song to play and which guitar to use, but for the entire time, I was anticipating some non-musical breakthrough in their relationship, something akin to Harry & Sally kissing for the first time. That vibe added an intensity to an already compelling performance, which featured the three songs I mentioned earlier, as well the heartbreaking title track from Edwards' most recent release "Asking For Flowers," Doe's emotional "Twin Brother," and a playful duet on "When Will I Be Loved," the evening's final number.


Correspondence Corner:

Name: David Fuller
Hometown: Peotone, IL

Dr. A.,

First, let me echo everyone else's sentiments, and thank you for what you and Media Matters do here in this space. It truly is a place where I not only learn, but can find facts to help others better understand (and occasionally argue with).

I recall hearing someone say late Tuesday night or sometime Wednesday that we are "still a 'center-right' nation" and reading about Republicans blaming the media for "being in the tank for Obama." My thought is: Let them repeat this delusion as much as they want.

Think about it. Republicans lost seats in both house in two consecutive elections. Your information from "Why We're Liberals" -- lays out the case why many Americans already ARE liberal (even if they have trouble admitting it). Furthermore, many moderate Republicans have either retired from Congress, or lost seats. That largely leaves the far right-wing the majority of Republicans left in Congress. And the American electorate sent a powerful message not only on this November 4th, but also last Election Day in 2006, that they don't want those kinds of people in charge anymore.

I think Republicans are in for a long winter in the wilderness, because the ones left in power are so far outside the mainstream of America, they won't compromise to have moderates join them anytime soon. Let them stay marginalized. Let them (for lack of a better metaphor) sit in the corner and think about what they did to the country for the last 8 years (14 if we go back as far as Gingrich). There are enough conservative and moderate Democrats in Congress to avoid a far left over-reach, yet likely attain some serious progressive goals in the near future. And the few remaining moderate Republicans (Susan Collins comes to mind) will, I hope, be the ones that President Obama reaches out to during his Administration to get things done, together.

I say: It's about time. Welcome to the new world. Or as Michael Lind of Salon put it, the Fourth Republic.

Name: Walter
Hometown: Middletown, PA

Dear Dr. A:

I also want to send along some thanks to you and for your fine work these last few years. I found your page back in '03 or so while on active duty. Looking back, it's almost as if you were my "secret friend" for liberal discussions that I couldn't find with my mostly very conservative colleagues. I spent five years on active duty after several years in the Nat'l Guard (was also two years behind Bob Bateman in ROTC at our university). I love the Army and what serving means (also never fond of hearing I hate America if I'm a liberal), but left after finding out my next assignment was going to be in Iraq. I at times felt I was turning my back on my fellow soldiers, but felt Iraq was too wrong to justify leaving my family. I was very much against the war and the Bush Admin. from the get-go, so it was nice to have your page as an outlet to hear some similar views.

Thanks again for your work and it's nice to have election day end on a good note.

Name: Stuttering Ha Ha Harley
Hometown: Ontario CA

Ka Ka Kudos to you and your blog. It is a button on the top of my browser that I hit every weekday. I really didn't get the 'community' idea of the internet until I found it was an address that I liked to visit. Guys like Pierce, Bateman, Siva, Zornick, and Galleger to name just a few hang out there. It's an address where I can eavesdrop on thoughtful conversations on issues that I care about. I've been reading your blog for a long time now, and your move from MSNBC to Media Matters was to me a visible lesson on the MSM, an acronym that I learned hanging around your address.

My father had fond memories of FDR who put him to work in the CCC, and Will Rogers who brought laughter and clarity to many of the nation's plight. The need for humor becomes especially important now. Trying to get across the complexity and nuance of policy (which will happen) is where humor can exceed many other forms of communication. Stewart and Colbert are pretty sa sa secure.

If we couldn't laugh, we would surely cry. Better to laugh at adversity, and that part of the story has yet to be written. Power never concedes, it has to be beaten. The fight is now on in earnest, but it's OK. I know an address where I can find some fellow citizens to 'back me up' in the many battles still to be fought mind to mind. Thanks for being here!

P.S. I am quite proud to say that the county I live in turned blue for the first time in many years. Browsing the local throwaway paper, the part where you would expect to see the classifieds, was filled instead with page after page of foreclosure notices.

P.P.S. I stand corrected. It was not Jim Nabors. Mel Tillis was the stuttering singer.

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

Recently, I reported on a blog by the editor of the right-wing Las Vegas Review-Journal, Tom Mitchell. Here's a new entry in which he attacks Sen. Harry Reid. What Mitchell doesn't mention is this:

1. The state senator who wrote about his tour of duty in Iraq was running for reelection, got the R-J's endorsement, and thus got free space in the news columns to trumpet his service in Iraq, yet no one else who served in Iraq from Nevada got this much space to tell about his experiences.

2. A candidate's wife might reasonably criticize attacks on her husband. A real journalist would ask those he attacks for the other side. But he's just the editor.

3. The recent link to his blog post attacking the LA Times for not releasing the Khalidi video -- he claimed confidential sources can't set rules for news stories appears to have inspired an Arizona Republic editor to reply critically, and for Mitchell to respond, "I've been in biz for 35 years -- an editor for everyone of them." Well, if he ever had been a reporter, he would know how vital confidential sources are. Or if he'd merely watched "All the President's Men."

But I was a confidential source for a reporter whose stories won a statewide press award. Had my name been revealed, I would have lost my tenure at my college. I guess the R-J should give back its award for that, and any other it got through the information provided by a confidential source.

Name: Michael Rapoport


Regarding Ken G from Cherry Hill's comments: While I am no fan of Nader, the Missouri situation is a little more complicated than to simply suggest that Nader cost Obama a win in Missouri. In addition to Obama, McCain and Nader, Bob Barr -- who would have pulled votes from McCain -- was on the ballot in Missouri, and got 11,355 votes.

If you hypothetically add Nader's votes to Obama's, and Barr's votes to McCain's, you would have had a virtual dead heat in Missouri -- Obama would be ahead by less than 600 votes. And that's not factoring in yet another candidate on the Missouri ballot, Chuck Baldwin, who drew 8,181 votes.

You can actually make a much clearer case that Barr cost McCain a win in North Carolina. Obama beat McCain by less than 14,000 votes in North Carolina, and Barr got more than 25,000. Nader wasn't on the N.C. ballot.

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