What did you dream? It's all right, we told you what to dream

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

This story on Obama is on the money, methinks. I'm quoted in it giving some credit to the campaign itself for inspiring some of the crap it's taking. I did say that, but I think it's a small part of the story, and the press corps would have done this anyway. What's more, the campaign is stuck in a bind. Obama really is different than other presidential candidates, and not just because he's black. This is in part because of his background in community organizing and in part because he's not been in Washington long enough for it to define his political character, which is why, alone among top-tier candidates and most Washington wags, he has nothing to apologize for vis-à-vis the war. He's not a radical by any means, but he is trying to effect change within the system rather than merely master it. So, the campaign has a devil's bargain, and I suppose it's best to get this crap out of the way. Anyway, it's nice to see the Las Vegas MSM taking notice of the power of the blogosphere to enter the discourse as a useful corrective, and it's part of the welcome decline of pundit prestige.

More good sense on the Nader film, here.

"I'll say it again -- this movie is a fraud. It allows its subject to run wild and seems terrified to call him on anything. The second half of the film, centering around Nader's presidential campaigns, should be the most dramatic and provocative aspect of the film, but Mantel and Skrovan go out of their way to make excuses for their subject. They bob and weave their way around holding Nader's feet to the flames, even for a little bit. Nader himself never takes the opportunity to show any contrition to his supporters.

"To be fair, the movie offers token (if well-reasoned) opposition from the likes of The Nation's Eric Alterman and Columbia University's Todd Gitlin, which ends up being the most challenging and heartfelt part of the movie. But this analysis seems to have been watered down in the editing room (notice how both men seem to frequently get cut off mid-sentence), and it is disingenuously juxtaposed with rambling and contradictory excuses from Nader allies about why the events of the last seven years are everybody's fault but Ralph's. This is not a fair fight."

Read this and weep.

From our sponsors: William Kristol is a Republican operative, not a pundit, much less a journalist. (I wrote about that here.)

From TomDispatch:

Chip Ward has just retired as the assistant director of the Salt Lake City Public Library System. As he leaves, in a Tomdispatch.com piece, "What They Didn't Teach Us in Library School," he reveals a public-library challenge-cum-nightmare that is rarely acknowledged, a dirty little secret that tells us all too much about the state of our nation today. He introduces us to a set of library visitors most of us never think about. Public libraries have become de facto daytime shelters for the nation's street people -- and librarians, increasingly, are our unofficial social workers for the homeless (and often the disturbed).

Ward, a superb writer, offers this previously untold and shocking tale in vivid, anecdotal terms. He introduces us to Ophelia ("Don't mind me, I'm dead. It's okay. I've been dead for some time now."), who peers at other library visitors through the four lenses of her two pairs of glasses; 70-year-old Margi, who spews racist venom and reads her book on submarines upside down to "make things right"; John, who, despite his raw sores and scabs, refuses medical treatment because the last time he was at the hospital, the nurse slipped "implants" under his skin and they're now tracking him on frequencies we can't hear; and Crash, a charmer in a wheelchair when sober, which he seldom is.

They are all "chronically homeless" -- and also chronic visitors to the Salt Lake City library where Ward worked for years. Street people like them turn librarians into untrained social workers on a mission the taxpayers never funded -- and offer Ward a remarkable window into the lives of the homeless and how we choose to deal with them that few of us ever see. He introduces us to a world of overwhelmed medics and medical services, overworked social workers, and overtaxed police -- as well as snake-pit jails and the grim living conditions on the streets.

He concludes: "The cost of this mad system is staggering. Cities that have tracked chronically homeless people for the police, jail, clinic, paramedic, emergency room, and other hospital services they require, estimate that a typical transient can cost taxpayers between $20,000 and $150,000 a year. You could not design a more expensive, wasteful, or ineffective way to provide healthcare to individuals who live on the street than by having librarians like me dispense it through paramedics and emergency rooms. For one thing, fragmented, episodic care consistently fails, no matter how many times delivered. It is not only immoral to ignore people who are suffering illness in our midst, it's downright stupid public policy. We do not spend too little on the problems of the mentally disabled homeless, as is often assumed, instead we spend extravagantly but foolishly."

Alter-reviews: The new Fountains of Wayne, by Sal:

"TRAFFIC & WEATHER." Both their debut and followup, "Utopia Parkway," appealed to just about everyone who heard them. Even people who only listened to jazz were blown away by the hooks and chops. Their most successful record, "Welcome Interstate Managers," had some of their best-written material, as well as some of their most easily dismissable. But after "Stacy's Mom" became their much-overdue hit single and they were no longer hip, people were ready to stick a fork in F.O.W. Many fans figured that the commercial success would have diminished the creative edge that put them a step ahead of so many other power-pop bands. The nay-sayers figured, OK, witty, often hilarious lyrics, great harmonies, '70s pop influences with '80s new wave flourishes -- we get it. Enough. But NO! NOT ENOUGH! "Traffic & Weather" sounds like classic Fountains Of Wayne, but it also goes a step further, incorporating everyone from Nilsson to the Beach Boys to Todd Rundgren to the Flying Burrito Brothers. Don't count these guys out yet, not by a long shot. This is some of the best-written material you'll hear this side of the Pecos.

Correspondence Corner

Name: Jeff
Hometown: Vancouver

Ok, we get it, New York is a great place to live (if you can afford it). Everyone already knew that. We ALL love New York. Up here, north of the 49th, in Vancouver where we have lots of unknown but still great bands, a few well-known musicians, and visits from lots of other ones, as well as a great literary scene, we also have mountains, beaches right in the middle of city (a 10 minute walk from downtown), bucolic islands and wilderness that aren't only for the rich and one of the most multicultural cities in the world.

Name: Karl W
Hometown: Bloomfield, CT

"it just shows that he has a heart"

Government has to make choices, and I don't know if I'm ready to have my standard borne on the battlefield of policymaking under the banner of "have a heart." Haven't we witnessed enough years of *AFTA of all stripes to show that sucking up to the unfettered flow of capital is bad for this country? Then, maybe what follows isn't about "the cold equations" vs "have a heart" but "remember the middle class"? If this is to be about a cliche, I'd much rather it be "class warfare"; at least after the disastrous Battle of the Bush those of us under the 90th percentile can place claim to only firing in self defense.

Dagny Taggart was the last entrepreneur not to go begging for a government handout. Trade policy is not a free-for-all (Wild West mining town, dark ages fiefdom, 18th century Barbary coast--pick your metaphor) and that the government is there to not just kowtow to "American-based" multinationals (whatever that means). Democrats could do worse in the framing debate than Harry Truman's axiom about money being like sh*t, useless until it was spread around.

At another point, what if it's not about the educational policy of this country? Have we given up on everybody out of college, thrown up our hands, and said "We've sucked up to the WTO, demolished your pensions, eviscerated collective bargaining, and put into your heads that Social Security is in trouble so we can destroy it -- basically knocked out all the pegs that created the middle class of this country from the mid-20th century on--and all we can say is, we'll try to fix it for your toddlers a decade and a half down the road"? I'm not buying that yet.

Name: Dan R.
Hometown: Lancaster PA

I believe that the statement made by Kyle Sampson should be taken into consideration by Congress regarding the President of the United States of America. "The distinction between political and performance-related reasons for removing a United States attorney is, in my view, largely artificial." All you have to do is substitute President for attorney and there you go. It's time to uproot the "shrub."

Name: Bill Skeels
Hometown: Raleigh

Your Think Again column is dead on.

The idea that any media wants scandal to simply go away is counter-intuitive to most readers. There is, however, a fundamental reason the MSM wants most of these to sink; these aren't stories about 'current' wrongdoing, they're stories about wrongdoing that's generally past by 1-6 years, in other words, the entire length of the Bush Administration. Sure, one or two scandals, that's just normal, and good for the journalistic business. But as each serious scandal emerges from that time frame, it becomes more and more clear that the MSM (as represented so well by Stengel and the rest of the Tweety Matthews crowd) was simply asleep at the switch. Each scandal makes it clear that the view that the Bush Administration is fundamentally more corrupt than any past Administrations, and corrupt in ways that touch more deeply on issues of power. Each new scandal is solid proof that the performance of the MSM in 2001-2006 was appalling, and that the opinion of their critics was exactly on point.

Every newly discovered Bush 'scandal' (especially those relating to use of government to maintain political power) undermines the MSM 2001-2006 worldview, and confirms their shortcomings. No wonder Broder and his ilk don't want to hear it.

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