Sunday Morning Coming Down


I never watch these things, but boy this is fun: Genuine expertise and critical intelligence vs. ignorant blowhardery: Want to see it in action? Does that exchange remind you of anything? (How sad that we missed Cokie's undoubtedly erudite contribution. I thought we were rid of her, like, six years ago. Even the thoroughly discredited Robert Novak is still mouthing off.) So, there you have it. The world has changed since November 4, but not the Sunday shows. Here was the lineup of Sunday show guests yesterday:

  • 7 appearances by Republican current elected officeholders,
  • 3 appearances by Democratic current elected officeholders,
  • 2 appearances by Republican former elected officeholders,
  • 1 appearance by a Bush Cabinet secretary,
  • T. Boone Pickens,
  • Ted Turner.

It's not only that there's a heavy Republican tilt, as has been the case for years (recall the Media Matters study) but that many of the Republicans featured have no immediate relevance. Newt Gingrich and Michael Steele? They have voices in the party now, but hold no elected office. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal does, but his current impact on national affairs, as governor of a medium-sized Southern state, is fairly small. In the face of tanking auto companies, deepening economic crisis, the SOFA accord, etc, and the Sunday show bookers could only muster three Democratic current elected officeholders. These are serious problems, and not only has Gingrich/Steele's prescriptions been discredited, they have no power to implement them.

So this is a story: "After nearly one year of negotiations, the Iraqi Cabinet voted 'overwhelmingly' Sunday to approve a security agreement requiring 'coalition forces to withdraw from Iraqi cities and towns by the summer of 2009 and from the country by the end of 2011,' the New York Times reports. 'An earlier version had language giving some flexibility to that deadline ... but the Iraqis managed to have the deadline set in stone, a significant negotiating victory.' Earlier this month, the Times reported that Barack Obama's victory spurred the Iraqi political process toward finalizing a withdrawal agreement."

This is, of course, a huge development. The Cabinet vote may be a good reflection of how the Iraqi Parliament votes, and if they pass this too -- the war's over, folks. Spencer Ackerman: "The Bush administration intended the SOFA process to entrench the occupation. Instead it gave the Iraqi government the means to end it. And that's the best-possible way for the war to end: with the Iraqi government -- the one we've disingenuously told the world we're in Iraq to support -- showing its political maturation to get us out the day after tomorrow. And out actually means out. The SOFA demands that every last U.S. serviceman is on a plane by December 31, 2011. Obama's plan for a 30,000-troop residual force? Officially overtaken by events. As I say, the impact of this appears not to have sunken in. The Iraqis have forced an end to the war."

We wrote last week that the SOFA talks were way underplayed in the mainstream media -- let's see if this story gets the attention and deep analysis it should this week. It's a vindication for those who want to see this war ended, and a stinging indictment of Bush's Iraq policy.

The New York Times featured a front-page story yesterday, headlined "Downturn Drags More Consumers Into Bankruptcy" by Tara Siegel Bernard and Jenny Anderson. They write: "Plummeting home values, dwindling incomes and the near disappearance of credit have proved a potent mixture. While all the usual reasons that distressed borrowers seek bankruptcy -- job loss, medical bills, divorce -- play significant roles, new economic forces are changing the calculus of who can ride out the tough times and who cannot."

Actually, Bernard and Anderson could have been more exact: half of all bankruptcies are usually related to medical bills, according to a study by Harvard researchers published in the medical journal Health Affairs.

It's a small point, but it's unfortunate when mainstream reporters understate the true impact of the health care crisis. It should be well known that half of all bankruptcies in the country are filed by people who can't pay medical bills, and it should also be noted that of those bankruptcies, 68 percent are filed by people who already have health insurance. Slighting the deep impact of this crisis is unfortunately common; we've been hearing a lot about the pros and cons of bailing out the Big Three auto companies, but not enough of a broad discussion about the economic disadvantages placed on companies with competitors who operate in universal health care systems; our car companies reportedly pay more for health care than they do for steel. Their foreign-owned competitors are unburdened by this because they lack our ideological fixations and embrace a more rational system of the provision of health care. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a fine article that helps explain how this happened, here, and today's Times has a profile of Phil Gramm, John McCain's favorite economic adviser, here, which helps demonstrate just how willfully blinded our leaders allowed themselves to become, and how working people must now pay the price ...

Noting that Barack Obama has a stated, but underreported, "commitment to blocking further media consolidation, fostering more independent and diverse media, ensuring universal high-speed Internet access, and 'taking a back seat to no one' in passing 'Net Neutrality' laws to prevent Internet providers like Comcast and AT&T from creating fast and slow lanes on the Internet," Josh Silver of Free Press gives his top media reform priorities for 2009. They include increased funding for PBS and NPR, and also white-space driven affordable Internet and reversing media consolidation, which we've written about here and here. Getting a federal shield law wouldn't be bad either.

George Zornick writes: Anyone else not want to hear the phrase "Team of Rivals" for awhile? There were no doubt foreign policy differences between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama worthy of discussion, but the idea that putting her in Foggy Bottom is comparable to Lincoln's famous cabinet appointments seems way, way overdrawn. The sector of the mainstream media that just cannot. let. go. of the primary fight has taken this ball and run -- Hardball regular Michelle Bernard said Hillary "will run a parallel government. It will be a huge problem"; others referred to her as Obama's "enem[y]" who may "mak[e] trouble" for Obama. But while the foreign policy differences between Obama and Clinton are certainly worthy of discussion, are they really any more pronounced than differences that may exist between, say, Obama and John Kerry or Bill Richardson, who are also being considered?

Henry Loomis, who became the director of Voice of America under President Eisenhower, died on November 2: Mr. Loomis was still in the post in 1965 when the Voice of America came under increasing pressure from the White House not to report awkward foreign-policy news, notably the growing U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia. Mr. Loomis resigned, and in an accusatory farewell speech said, "The Voice of America is not the voice of the administration."

The New York Times obit is here.

The return of John McCain and of McCain Suck-Up Watch: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Sen. John McCain appeared at a rally in support of Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), but the article did not note that McCain reportedly criticized as "disgraceful" and "reprehensible" a campaign ad Chambliss used during his 2002 race against then-Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA). More here.

Quote of the Day:

Q. What is George W. Bush's legacy in the Middle East?

A. One word: catastrophe. The United States has traditionally had a very strong position among upwardly mobile Middle Easterners who saw American-style meritocracy as an alternative to the system imposed on them, which allows only the children of the elite to be the leaders of tomorrow. Even if most Middle Easterners would not say it publicly, their dream was America, and America was the dream of the Middle East. And that dream has been killed entirely by Bush.

Gilles Kepel, professor of Middle East and Mediterranean studies at the Institute of Political Studies, in Paris, author of Beyond Terror and Martyrdom: The Future of the Middle East (Harvard University Press).

Some guy picks his 20 favorite singers, here.

From TomDispatch:

In his latest TomDispatch post, Tariq Ali, author most recently of The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power (highly praised in The Washington Post by Barack Obama's new Pakistan policy adviser Bruce Riedel), considers the future of George W. Bush's Afghan disaster. He explores the deteriorating political and military situations there, Afghan President Hamid Karzai's hopeless dilemma, rising strains within NATO, lowering morale among U.S. forces, and why the "neo-Taliban" is gaining strength (especially from U.S. air strikes that kill Afghan civilians). As he assesses the situation:

Over the last two years, the U.S./NATO occupation of that country has run into serious military problems. Given a severe global economic crisis and the election of a new American president -- a man separated in style, intellect, and temperament from his predecessor -- the possibility of a serious discussion about an exit strategy from the Afghan disaster hovers on the horizon. The predicament the U.S. and its allies find themselves in is not an inescapable one, but a change in policy, if it is to matter, cannot be of the cosmetic variety.

He also offers a ground-level view of the situation from an American veteran of the Afghan war gone AWOL in Canada and suggests why a military-plus solution to the conflict -- centered on a new Obama-era "surge" -- cannot work, while a military-minus solution, involving the mobilization of all the regional actors, all Afghanistan's neighbors, might. This would represent a true break from present U.S. policy.

He concludes: "Whether you are a policymaker in the next administration or an AWOL veteran of the Afghan War in Canada, Operation Enduring Freedom of 2001 has visibly become Operation Enduring Disaster. Less clear is whether an Obama administration can truly break from past policy or will just create a military-plus add-on to it. Only a total break from the catastrophe that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld created in Afghanistan will offer pathways to a viable future."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Rick Kane
Locust Grove, Virginia

Doctor Alterman:

You and others perceptively noted that the WSJ was doomed the day Murdoch bought it. This would have been a catastrophe for us all 20, or even 10 years ago, but now it will only be a catastrophe for the WSJ staff and the poor fools who continue to read it. For NYT, Bloomberg, and the Financial Times, it is market opportunity. Finally, for the last year, thanks to you and Dean Baker, I have found the best economic, financial, and business commentary on the Web at sites such as Calculated Risk, Angry Bear, and Naked Capitalism.

Name: Will Thomann
New York, New York

Re: LTC Bob's letter. I have to say I'm sick of how we on the left are told that we must now cooperate with the right wing, just because they say so. I'm all for cooperation, but not if it merely means that the right wing simply gets its way, which is the only way the right wing cooperates. It is time that the failed policies and the people who represent them get put to pasture. Now is not the time to cooperate with them.

Name: Reed Richardson
Ridgewood, NJ

To: Charles Pierce, Esq.

In your previous motion before this court regarding the plaintiff Roderick David Stewart (corresp. 11/14/08, Pt. II), counsel left the record sadly incomplete, leaving out one important citation that, contra. "I Ain't Superstitious," et al., augurs poorly for your client. I, of course, am referring to the landmark decision Stewart v. Waits (1990, the "Downtown Train" case), where the party of the first part did knowingly and with apparent malice engage in running up to #2 on the Billboard charts an unforgivably schmaltzy, power-ballad cover of what had previously been Tom Waits' brilliantly haunting and bittersweet song of unrequited love. Documentary evidence of this gross malfeasance (Cite: we feel is more than sufficient to justify the issuance of a temporary restraining order barring counsel from further admonitions on behalf of his client before this court as well as, frankly, any ex parte discussions with (at) the bar.

Footnote: It should also be pointed out to the court that the first visual reference of the mode of transportation at issue was, in fact, the Grand Central/Times Square shuttle, a train that does not begin, end, or ever travel through "downtown." (Ibid.)

Name: Bill Dauphin
Vernon, CT

Unless I missed some previous mention of it, Pierce's list of Rod Stewart covers is incomplete without including the Mod's version of Cat Stevens' "The First Cut Is the Deepest," which appeared on the 1976 album, A Night on the Town.

Stewart's throaty voice gave the song an emotional grit that Stevens' own rendition never achieved.

Name: Ron Curtiss
Studio City, CA

Eric: As Mr. Pierce has left the obscure cover songs door open, let me add Yes' versions of the Beatles, "Every Little Thing" and "I'm Down," plus their brilliant version of Paul Simon's "America" that clocks in at over 10 minutes!

Name: Steve Collins
Carrboro, NC

I was really glad to see Pierce's resurrection of the old Rod Stewart, the man that Greil Marcus once lamented as the greatest waste of talent in music history. If I may add some to his tally of great covers that Rod did when young, he is remembered by many as being one of, if not the, finest cover artist of Bob Dylan. I'm thinking in particular of his cover of Dylan's "Only a Hobo" on Gasoline Alley. But even in his lamentable later years, his cover of "Forever Young" wasn't shabby. Rod the Mod has always been best when he acts as an interpreter. And not singing about "Hot Legs."

Eric replies: Nice new Rod collection, limited edition has a DVD, to be reviewed shortly ...

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