Sadly, Slacker Friday

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Winning back Congress: It's a lot harder than it looks, continued, here.

Atrios reminds us: Want to do something positive which doesn't even require you to get up off your ass? Join MoveOn's Call for Change program.

Speaking of which, Chris Bowers notes that unopposed House Democrats are sitting on $26,288,418, here, and suggests a plan.'

If you catch the Moyers program on Net Neutrality and the Frontline program on the first year of the Iraqi occupation, you'll see that Kenneth Tomlinson has so far failed in his efforts to destroy the value of PBS. Check them out if you can. (I do think these Iraqi geniuses should be tried, though that would have to take place in an alternative universe...)

Here's the speech on corporate social responsibility and newspapers given last weekend by Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger. You'll be amazed.

OK, I am late to this, but let's all take a moment and go here now. Then go here. Then go here. And while we're doing all this clicking, let's take another stopover here.

And now, for the latest on that extreme anti-abortion proposal in South Dakota, the one that would outlaw the procedure except for cases where the mother's life (not her health, just her life) is in danger: A new advertisement in favor of the law features a group of physicians who are pro-life. They have a right to speak their minds, sure, but do they have a right to pass off their ideological and religious values as hard science? Over at The New Republic, Jonathan Cohn says no, here.

Just this on last night: Oh, the painful irony. We got Beltran because of how amazingly clutch he was when playing in the post-season against the Cardinals, right? Still, what a season, huh? And what a thrilling catch by Endy, and how inspiring was it that both Maine and Perez came through the way they did when it mattered most. ... Anyway, thanks again to Steve and Rob for allowing me to attend the only two home victories against the Cards.

Remember when you thought I was kidding, or perhaps crazy? The Bobcat Goldthwait-dog blowjob movie is here. See it if you can.

From the Benton Foundation:

FCC GETS FLURRY OF MEDIA OWNERSHIP STUDIES [SOURCE: Broadcasting & Cable, AUTHOR: John Eggerton]

The Media & Democracy Coalition announced Thursday a study of 36 media markets in 12 US states showing that all were concentrated and that virtually all the smaller markets were highly concentrated according to viewership numbers. As the Federal Communications Commission considers allowing cross-ownership of newspapers and TV stations in the same markets, the study shows that the 50% viewer share of dominant market players in L.A. could escalate to 80%, which would be "disastrous for democracy." When asked whether the Internet should be factored into the concentration equation, Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America argued that it is not a primary source of local news, and that the local ownership rules are about a diversity of local sources of news and information. Cooper said that maybe someday the Internet will be such an alternative, but that for now it is a good source of national and international news, but it doesn't help you figure out who to vote for for city council. And even its local component is often a trip to the Web site of the local TV station and newspaper. On top of this study, Cooper announced he will also file a study on the economics of consolidation and on allowing more multiple station ownership in markets.

IRAQ PROPAGANDA PROGRAM LEGAL: PENTAGON REPORT [SOURCE: Reuters, AUTHOR: Kristin Roberts]

The U.S. military acted legally when it hired a contractor to pay Iraqi news organizations to run pro-American stories, the Pentagon's inspector general has found. An unclassified summary of results of the inspector general's probe, released on Thursday, said: "We concluded that the Multi-National Force-Iraq and Multi-National Corps-Iraq complied with applicable laws and regulations in their use of a contractor to conduct Psychological Operations and their use of newspapers as a way to disseminate information." Stories were planted with the help of Washington-based Lincoln group. The inspector general, the Pentagon's internal watchdog agency, reviewed three Lincoln Group contracts. In one of those cases, it found that a military contracting office did not maintain enough documentation to verify expenditures under the program. Because of that, the inspector could not determine if the contract was awarded properly or if payments made were appropriate, the summary results stated. "This Department of Defense report shows that the Pentagon cannot account for millions paid to the Lincoln Group for their propaganda program and that basic contracting rules were not followed," said U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) who sought the inspector general's review. "Broader policy questions remain about whether the administration's manipulation of the news in Iraq contradicts our goal of a free and independent press there," Sen Kennedy said.

(Special "Après Moi, Le Deluge" item:)

NBC SAYS VIEWERS WON'T NOTICE CUTS IN NEWS STAFF [SOURCE: New York Times, AUTHOR: Jacques Steinberg]

NBC executives predicted that budget cuts announced yesterday across the breadth of its newsgathering operation would barely ripple with viewers, though their effect off camera is expected to be substantial. Virtually every corner of the news division will be affected in some way, including the "Today" show and "NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams"; the cable channel MSNBC; the news desks of the 10 NBC-owned stations, which include WTVJ in Miami and WNBC in New York; and its Spanish-language network, Telemundo. As an example of how the company's strategy might change, Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, compared how it would have typically approached a school shooting, as opposed to how it might in the near future. In the past, "Nightly News," "Today" and "Dateline," all programs on NBC, might have sent individual correspondents and camera crews to the scene, along with representatives of MSNBC, MSNBC.com, NBC News Channel (which provides wire-service-style video feeds to affiliates) and several NBC stations themselves. "I'm not saying that now every story will get just one person who is going to meet the needs of every entity," said Capus. "That's not the point. But maybe, instead of 30 people, we can send 25. I believe we can do that, and viewers will have no idea that behind the scenes, those are the conversations going on." To accommodate the consolidation of its newsgathering, Capus said he was planning to build a central newsroom on the third and fourth floors of the network's headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan. Currently, its news operations are scattered throughout that building, as well as in two New Jersey suburbs. Bill Kovach, the chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, a membership organization seeking to ensure a place for high-quality journalism in the Internet age, said that announcements like NBC's yesterday portend "a disturbing trend, one that anyone who worries about democratic society has to be concerned about. If a major news organization like NBC is going to reduce the number, and it sounds like a significant number, of the people who go out and gather information to go into the daily stream of news, it's going to thin our knowledge of the world somewhat."

Slacker Friday:

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago

Hey Eric, it's Stupid to have strange bedfellows. It seems every day we're told our foreign policy is stymied by China. Want to save Darfur? China has oil interests there and won't let us. Want to sanction Iran? China (and Russia) won't let us. North Korea? China is the only one with any influence. It didn't have to be this way. Remember how George Bush I, only two years after Tiananmen Square, granted China temporary MFN status? How in 1996 President Clinton and Congress made MFN status permanent? Interestingly, the small opposition came from mostly from Congress' far left (Paul Wellstone) and far right (Jesse Helms), with the odd centrist voting his/her conscience (Robert Byrd, Jim Jeffords). Just think if today we had a multi-billion dollar carrot to hold out to China *every year.* They might be a bit more cooperative. Nobody was making such strategic arguments back then, but it's another example of how humanitarian foreign policy usually is the most effective foreign policy in the long run. It should also be noted that the anti-China-MFN coalition resembles the anti-Iraq War voices circa 2002.

Other strange bedfellows: evangelical church members and yours truly. We were all election judges in Milwaukee in 2004 -- six of them for the GOP, one of me for the Dems. And we got along great -- I helped keep their voter counts when they went on bathroom breaks, they gave me cookies, we chatted during uneventful stretches. It was when the -- party -- people came that all Hell broke loose (no pun intended): voter challenges, harassing election officials, etc. My point? In a blue state the GOP out-volunteered the Dems by 600%. Even if their support is down by half, they still have the numbers. If you really want to see the Dubya administration investigated during the next two years, volunteer!

Name: Rich Gallagher
Hometown: Fishkill, NY

Dear Eric,

To follow up on the discussion of national polling vs. local polling, there are some amazing new numbers coming out of New York, courtesy of Majority Watch.

Majority Watch has been polling in six districts in upstate New York, all six of which are seats that are currently held by Republicans. One is an open seat, currently held by a Republican who is retiring. The remaining five districts have Republican incumbents running for re-election.

Here's what the polls are showing:

19th District -- John Hall (D) 49%, Sue Kelly (R) 40%

20th District -- Kirsten Gillibrand (D) 54%, John Sweeney (R) 41% (it was reported yesterday that Sweeney never disclosed that he went on a 2001 junket to Saipan with Tony Rudy, an associate of Jack Abramoff)

24th District -- Michael Arcuri (D) 52%, Raymond Meier (R) 43%

25th District -- Dan Maffei (D) 51%, James Walsh (R) 43%

26th District -- Jack Davis (D) 56%, Tom Reynolds (R) 39%

29th District -- Eric Massa (D) 52%, Randy Kuhl (R) 40%

In addition, Peter King (R-District 3) has only a two-point lead over his challenger, Dave Mejias.

The implications are staggering. Everyone knew that Reynolds was in trouble, but the others are big news. If these numbers hold up, Democrats stand to pick up as many as six House seats in New York State alone.

Name: John
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Dr. A, not sure if you saw that John McCain was on Hardball on Wednesday (I missed the first half). Anyways, I was just wondering if anyone had the guts to ask Mr. McCain the following:

Mr. McCain, in U.S. News & World Report, you described the day Hanoi Hilton guards beat you "from pillar to post, kicking and laughing and scratching. After a few hours of that, ropes were put on me and I sat that night bound with ropes."

"For the next four days, I was beaten every two to three hours by different guards . . . Finally, I reached the lowest point of my 5 1/2 years in North Vietnam. I was at the point of suicide, because I saw that I was reaching the end of my rope."

Given this terrible experience you endured, how can you with a clear conscience, endorse the Millitary Commissions Act, which under the right interpretation, would not condemn such treatment or even define it as "torture" per se??

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

Wm. Weissbeck of Schererville, IN, is correct in his partial answer to my post about some Illinois Democratic candidates avoiding party affiliation. But at the state level, the bigger scandal magnet is the Republican Party, with the former governor recently convicted of corruption as poster child. Despite suspicions about both parties' state organizations, though, Tammy Duckworth was recruited by Rahm Emanuel, as were most if not all of the 20 or so Iraq vets now running as Democrats. She ran and won the Democratic primary, so why all the stealth now? I'm also disappointed in her rhetoric because given the profile of Iraq in this election, having an Iraq vet run as a Democrat is good for the party. The benefit is mutual. And she could surely use the party's help because she's now virtually out of money at the most crucial stage of the campaign. In light of her reluctance to wear the mantle, I'm not sure if party funding will be forthcoming, especially if there are other races that might be better served. To be sure, Duckworth is seeking Hyde's open seat, so it's been a Republican district for a long time. But with the growing embarrassment of Denny Hastert nearby, is such a thing as a safe Republican district in Northern Illinois? After all, Obama ran for an open seat left by Peter Fitzgerald, who was abandoned by the Republican Party because he was not in lock step with them. And in 2004, Melissa Bean defeated Phil Crane, a multi-term Republican congressman, and that was before the Republican juggernaut ran aground. Running as a Democrat has an upside, especially in the current climate.

Name: Steve
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

What's so liberal about that petition? Hell, I would sign it and I'm a conservative. The only nit I could pick with it was the use of the word "illegitimate" regarding our reliance on military action. Believe me, I was trying. If anybody acquiesced to Bush it was the conservatives. I don't mean the radical "whackos" (Isn't radical conservative a non-sequitur?). I mean the people who think that the government should stay out of the bedroom, spend the same it taxes, stuff like that. You know, old school. That petition is as poor an excuse for liberalism as whatever the heck the President's agenda is today passes for conservatism. By the way, it is right to be unfailingly polite. You may notice that I always say "President", not just "Bush" or W or 43 or idiot, or anything like that which may apply. It's good discipline, and the people you want to call whacko or nitwit or any number of silly names don't see that they can get to you. A couple of weeks ago the cops chased a drug dealer into my office. (It was awesome! I'm on the phone with a customer and I held the phone up so she could listen in.) Anyway, one of the officers calls the kid (about 15 years old) "Asshole." Two of the other officers corrected her on the spot. I asked later why. One told me that even though they all know this kid is an A-hole, it was bad discipline. If you don't keep your mind on your job at all times, you're more likely to make a mistake. Also, the suspect may not give a crap about the distinction, but the bystanders will see that the officers are trying to conduct themselves in a professional manner. Not only will they have more respect for the police, they will be more likely to help out, even if it's only pointing which way the guy went. So as far as I am concerned, being polite to the people you want to call whatever it is you may want to call them makes a good impression on the readers. Especially a guy like me who thinks that you at times tiptoe on the verge of making inadequate or mistaken arguments, as opposed to my saying that you are an idiot. If I keep it cool and respectful, you might read my objection. If I get Ann Coulter on your ass (sorry for the image), my complaint won't even get close to your screen.

Name: Scott Schiefelbein
Hometown: Portland, Oregon

With all due respect to your devotion to the New York Mets and the achievements of Mr. Maine, he's got a long way to go before he topples Joe Montana from the "Greatest Athlete Named After a State" pedestal. (But what a performance!)

And, while I'm sure you meant "state" in the "one-of-fifty-U.S.-states" sense, as a Tar Heel I have to remind you that since nations are often referred to as "states," Michael Jordan should top the "broad-definition-of-state" list.

Eric replies: Somebody didn't click on the link, apparently ...

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.