OK, I believe ya. But my tommy gun don't ...


Hey folks, George Zornick here again while Eric is away. (LTC Bateman will return tomorrow.)

On Friday, I was curious about how Fox News was reacting in the aftermath of the November elections. (I happily shut it off for a while there, so as not to sully my own good feelings). The answer: not too well. Bill O'Reilly began his show that night by declaring the Blagojevich affair has "a 50/50 chance of disrupting the nation." He never explained what that meant, but later, he did pose the question to future Fox News host Glenn Beck. Here's that entire exchange -- follow along, if you can:

O'REILLY: I got to switch it over to Blagojevich. Now, for our purposes here, we believe that this story has a 50-percent chance of igniting into a mini-Watergate. Do you see it that way?

BECK: I think -- in fact, I was going to ask you that because I saw your talking points and I wanted to know if you thought, when you said they had a 50/50 chance of igniting the country I wondered what that meant. I think it's much worse than that, Bill. I really, truly believe that this country is on the brink, that we are sitting at 1860 and it's not too late to pull ourselves back. But we're feeding on ourselves. I think this has all the earmarkings of pushing us over the edge even more.

1860? Holy crap, why is Beck so angry? Does he own a musket? He explained:

BECK: You can't continue to disfranchise people. You've got -- yesterday, our representatives say no to the bailout. Today it looks like Bush and Paulson are going to say yes to the bailout. How is that constitutional? Where did that happen where the president can just become a king and do whatever he wants? When it comes to the governor in Illinois, the guy's a dirtbag. Now, should Rahm Emanuel have spoken to the governor? Yeah, I think it's appropriate, but let's wait to hear what those conversations were.


But if the conversations were "Hey, what are you going to give me in exchange?" then Emanuel should have reported that. But let's keep it isolated on Emanuel. Let's ask why now. In fact, let me rephrase this. President-elect Obama, please, the country is on the edge. Please, you are my president. I didn't vote for you, but you are now going to be my president. Please, address the American people and do it with actions and say, "This must not stand."

No answer on the musket, and I'm not sure I actually understand why he's so upset either. You'll recall this is the same Glenn Beck who loved the president's warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, and when House Democrats (temporarily) erected roadblocks to the policy's renewal, said: "[President Bush] feels -- and I happen to agree with him -- that this congressional game-playing by [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi will end up killing Americans." That's one answer to his incredulous question about when Bush started acting like a king, and surely not the only one.

Picking apart the wild contradictions and non-sequiturs in that rant is beside the point, though -- all we can really take away is that Obama should be lucky to have adversaries like Beck and O'Reilly. Perhaps vague calls to arms are scary when the popular wind is at Beck's back, but not when Obama is enjoying historic approval ratings. O'Reilly and Beck just seem disconnected and slightly deranged, playing to an incredibly small sliver of true believers. Fine by me.

We wrote a Think Again earlier this year about the unhealthy national dialogue on health care. It's a complex issue, but we believe that on three simple and essential points, reporting has proven itself deficient: indulging politicians who claim, indefensibly, that the United States enjoys the world's greatest health care system; failing to emphasize the sound economics behind government-provided health care -- and the shaky economics behind consumer-driven care; and neglecting overwhelming popular opinion in favor of government solutions to the health care crisis.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism has released a study examining 18 months of health coverage in the mainstream media, across a wide range of media. Their findings are not surprising, although still disappointing. The study finds that health coverage comprised only 3.6 percent of all coverage during that period, less what's devoted to crime and natural disasters. (Over 18,000 people die each year due simply to lack of health insurance. I don't recall any tornadoes that big.) Cable news devotes just 1.4 percent of its programming to health coverage, and despite the dramatic differences between Barack Obama and John McCain on how the country should run its health care system, the subject accounted for less than one percent of campaign-related news.

Notably, the health coverage assessed here included all the stories we see about specific ailments, like diabetes or cancer, which comprised a majority of the stories on both network and cable news. That's all fine, but not really where the emphasis of our health care reporting should be. This is why when people point out simple, unassailable facts about health care, like that France and other government-run systems do it better for less money, they are treated as left-wing whackos. People simply don't have the facts, and free-market health care supporters have wide latitude to fear monger about socialized medicine.

When did SNL become the new Mad TV? I saw the Paterson sketch on Saturday, and it was offensive, stupid, and --worst -- not funny.

Good satire may be offensive or include prejudiced views, but generally those views are actually being attacked. We're not supposed to be laughing with Borat, or Beavis and Butt-head, or some of the characters on Dave Chapelle, but at them. Mad TV was an awful series because it cut out any commentary and meant simply to offend. One of its most popular sketches was the Miss Swan bit, where the entire punch line seemed to be an Asian lady who talked funny.

And that's all the Patterson sketch was. He's blind and confused, holding charts upside-down. What's the joke? What's the message, blind people aren't competent?

Mad TV was thankfully canceled last month, about 13 years too late. I hope it's not reincarnated as Saturday Night Live.

Bush continues to get a free ride during this valedictory period. From Media Matters: In an article headlined "Bush's Sensitive Side is Showing," Washington Post reporter Dan Eggen quoted former Bush official John DiIulio saying, "Clinton talked, 'I feel your pain.' ... But as Bush showed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, he truly does feel deeply for others and loves this country with a passion." Despite quoting DiIulio's characterization of Bush's expressions of empathy as genuine and Clinton's not, at no point did Eggen mention Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina, for which he was widely criticized. More here.

From Tom Dispatch:

"Is it possible," asks Nick Turse, TomDispatch Pentagon correspondent and author of The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, "that one of the Pentagon's contractors has a tripartite business model for our tough economic times: one division that specializes in crock-pots, another in adult diapers, and a third in medium caliber tactical ammunition? Can the maker of the SaladShooter, a hand-held electric shredder/dicer that hacks up and fires out sliced veggies, really be a tops arms manufacturer? Could a company that produces the Pizzazz Pizza Oven also be a merchant of death? And could this company be a model for success in an economy heading for the bottom?"

The answers to these questions are yes, yes, yes, and a distinct maybe.

Once upon a time, from World War II deep into the Cold War, the top civilian corporations producing the big-ticket items for our consumer lives, ranging from Ford and Whirlpool to General Tire and Rubber Company and Dow Chemical, also churned out the deadliest of weaponry for the Pentagon. No longer. Though the consumer majors of this moment are still Pentagon contractors, weapons making is largely left to weapons-industry giants like Alliant Techsystems, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing.

But one modest-sized consumer corporation, National Presto Industries, which makes vegetable dicers, adult diapers, and ammunition, seems a throwback to old times. Turse explores the history of the company and its present economic viability (its stock is rising, despite bad times) thanks to its ammo-making wing.

In this provocative piece, he concludes, as he began, with questions about the Pentagon and the future: "Will Presto be the back-to-the-future model for Pentagon contractors in the lean times ahead? Only time will tell. At the very least, it seems that, as long as Americans allow the country to wage wars abroad, require their salads to be shot, and have bladder issues, National Presto Industries has a future."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Larry Cowan


As an act of solidarity with the jailed Iraqi journalist, set aside a pair of your oldest, dirtiest, smelliest shoes. When the GW Bush Presidential Library opens at SMU, mail the shoes. If random Altercators sent a pair of shoes over the next 20 years, it would be a small gesture of the disgust the world feels for this man and his administration.

Name: Ryan McQueeney

Stan Wiggins, you are uninformed. I work with the Ford, GM and Chrysler workers, specifically with those in management. I can tell you that for several years not only have the people I work with not been given wage increases or bonuses, but they have been forced to work longer hours due to most empty positions going unfulfilled. These white collar workers don't have the protection the UAW workers have, no job banks, no overtime protections. They are not flying on private jets or vacationing in Europe. They are in as fragile a state as anyone who is employed by the Big 3.

I say this not to attack the UAW, or even Stan Wiggins. But what purpose does it serve to attack a large group of hard working, mostly middle class white collar workers who are suffering as much as the mostly middle class blue collar workers? If it is wrong in any sense to ask the UAW to make wage concessions, why would it be right to ask the white collar workers to make wage concessions?

Name: K. Castro
The Left Coast

Re: Correspondent Mark Shotzberger's quip on how "100 years from now, people will not know who most of our present 'Super Stars' are."

I work just a stone's throw from Hollywood, and am bombarded daily with tons of trivial claptrap from the entertainment industry -- this is an industry town after all. I can only hope Mark is right; right now politics is the choice of media, but as soon as Barack's Inauguration is over, the talking heads are going to go back to bombarding us with Lindsay, Paris, Jessica, Angelina, Scarlett, ad nauseam.

Hey, Hollywood: Anyone out there remember Bebe Daniels, Alice Terry, Alla Nazimova or Patsy Ruth Miller? Didn't think so...big celebrities back in the day, "day" meaning the 1910's and 1920's.

Sic transit gloria.

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