We've got a new "Think Again" column, the final one of our study of the legacy of the Bush administration's War on the Press, here. It's called "Bush's War on the Press, IV. War on War (and more)." Links to the other articles in the series are at the end of the new one. Also, my new Nation column, "Center Right? Not Quite," can be found here.
"The wren, the wren/the king of all birds/St. Stephen's Day, she got caught in the furze/Down with the kettle and up with the pan/Won't you give me a penny to bury the wren?"
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Bacon Fat" (Andre Williams And His New Group) -- Hey, my love for New Orleans is ****ing golden. I'm going to hang onto it.
Part The First: Why has no bigtime talking head yet suggested that Governor Grabitall out there in Illinois go all-in at the crazy table and announce that he is appointing Patrick Fitzgerald to take Barack Obama's Senate seat? Why am I not an elite pundit with ideas like this?
Part The Second: Decent work here from young Ezra. I haven't yet seen the film, so I can't comment on what conclusions it draws from the events it depicts. But the only quibble I have with the column is that, like so many before him, Young Ez goes a little soft on old Tricky there at the end. If the movie argues that the Frost interviews functioned as some sort of national atonement on Nixon's part, then I may well be throwing Jujubes at the screen by the 90-minute mark. That old bastard never atoned for anything in his life, and the country got nothing like closure, because Nixon did no time. He spent the next 20 years rehabilitating himself, aided immeasurably by an amnesiac national press corps that decided he was a statesman. The coverage of his funeral was an appalling whitewash. The fiction that Watergate was a "national trauma" to be healed, and not a series of crimes for which specific people should be punished, lead directly to the inability of Congress to do its duty in the Iran-Contra scandal and, therefore, to the abdication of constitutional oversight that, since 2001, has ruined so much of what the country once stood for. When people argued, in 2000, that "the American people" needed a quick resolution to the extended Florida unpleasantness, it was a demonstration of how the failure to punish Nixon for his crimes developed in the national press a culture of infantilization when dealing with "the American people." Whoever they are perceived to be.
Part The Third: To me, the most intriguing thing about Cadillac Records is that Phil Chess apparently bailed on the project, which is why the film includes only a fictionalized Marshall, played by Adrian Brody. (The second-most intriguing thing is the genius-level casting of Cedric The Entertainer as Willie Dixon.) But, with all due respect to the Panda Gang, there's some decided Fail in this post, most notably in its dissing of Dennis Quaid's Jerry Lee Lewis. I have come to like that portrayal more and more as the years go by, although not as much as Alec Baldwin's turn as the Killer's bible-thumping cousin, Jimmy Swaggart. And, let us be quite frank, Jerry Lee Lewis was demonstrably crazier than a loon for his entire public career. And no less charismatic for it. In fact, charisma is often a manifestation of someone's essential lunacy.
Part The Fourth: Sometimes, I feel very sympathetic to the argument that liberals are elitist bluenoses who look down on anything anyone else finds remotely enjoyable. This is one of those times. Merry Christmas to you, too, you twit. Believe me, when U.S. News finally goes down into the unmarked, unmourned grave toward which that hopeless hack Michael Barone aimed it, I'm going to hire a marching band and throw a parade while you all clean out your desks. I will, to paraphrase Cher in Moonstruck, wear red to your funeral.
Part The Fifth: Having fired Walt The Drunk Security Guard, and apparently at a loss as to what to do next, the folks at Salon continued to be plagued by crazy people sneaking in and using various workstations around the place. The last time it happened, the interloper from the Planet Gobsmack started yammering about Sarah Palin's gifts as a linguistic innovator. She returns to that theme here -- "There has been a revolution in English -- registered in the 1950s in the street slang, colloquial locutions and assertive rhythms of both Beat poetry and rock 'n' roll and now spread far and wide on the Web in the standard jazziness of blogspeak." In reply, I will pay homage to the late Steve Gilliard and say, in the standard jazziness of blogspeak, "This woman crazy."
Part The Last: In case you haven't noticed, the question of what the Politico(!) would do once the horse race concluded in November has been answered rather definitively. Faced with the notion of actually writing about policy and not about polls, the kids either have taken a half-gainer into a deep tank of abject fail, or they've launched a frontal assault on the Hardball green room. In any event, if you bet on this thing being even more worthless after the election than it was during the election, you win. It's like reading the runners-up in a regional "Write Like Margaret Carlson" contest.
Which leads us, inevitably, to this and, to be fair, to this, too. (Ayers also did a bit on Hardball this week.) I'm beginning to wonder whether or not the Warhol Meridian has any meaning any more. Absent their nearly vicarious bit parts in an election that's been over for a month, these two clowns have no news value whatsoever. However, even taking into account their roles as supporting characters in the drama, aren't both of these guys at about the 16 minute mark by now? How do the story conference go out of which junk like this gets produced? At a time of vast and ongoing national crises, upper echelons at the Politico(!) have decide that the best use of their limited time and their limited staff is to send someone to gather quotes from a public dolt. There are a hundred similar decisions being made in a hundred different places, and too many of them produce nothing but dreck.
And, as for Ayers, well. that whole piece in the NYT was fairly gagworthy, but it was this bit -- "Our effectiveness can be -- and still is being -- debated" -- that should have frosted anyone who remembers the era. No, Bill, the effectiveness of the Weather Underground is not "still being debated." History has pretty much made the judgment that you all were a bunch of destructive idiots who threw nihilistic temper tantrums with live ammo, and who did less to stop the Vietnam War than did the Strawberry Alarm Clock. Go away now, OK? Call if you need a plumber.
I found the following excerpt of the USC report on Bush's Alhurra TV station almost too funny for words:
"The quality of Alhurra's journalism is substandard on several levels," the researchers wrote. Its broadcasts "lack appropriate balance and sourcing," and "relied on unsubstantiated information too often, allowed on-air expressions of personal judgments too frequently and failed to present opposing views in over 60 percent of its news stories."
"Our diagnosis is that Alhurra is not performing at the level that it needs to reach to be successful," the authors said.
You can almost visualize the report saying, "and the station will now be purchased by Rupert Murdoch to supplement his Fox News cable holdings." Oh, the info on the report came from ProPublica.org, which I thank you for turning me on to.
In the waning days of the Bush presidency, we are finally, FINALLY, seeing the kind of scrutiny from the media we all desire. The headlines are blaring about the corruption of the administration:
From Newsweek: "What scandal says about Obama's ethics." From Fox News: "(Will) Eric Holder ... pass confirmation after his role in the 2001 Marc Rich pardon?"
It's taken 8 years, but finally we're seeing ...
Wait ... what's that? You say these are the crimes that haven't been committed by the upcoming administration, not the crimes that were committed by the outgoing administration ...
Still ... oh, never mind. My head hurts ...
Thanks for keeping on keeping on.