I started a joke ...


Give your most patriotic workers cancer and then deny any responsibility. Nice country you have here.

How nice that Rudy G continued in the same tradition. (Think about it: worse than Bush ...)

This just in: Obama endorses class-based, not race-based, affirmative action, here.

I don't think of myself as a member of either the MSM or the netroots, and although my emotional sympathies are clearly with the latter, I like to think that my position outside the both of them -- academia too -- allows me to see each one's limitations more clearly.

I've written a few books about the limitations of the MSM and expect to write a few more before my number's up, but I rarely criticize the netroots in large measure because I think most of the problems manifested in their work are trivial compared to the corrective balance they offer and because the MSM narrative remains so much more powerful and so profoundly flawed that it seems simultaneously small-minded and tendentious to pick on minor mistakes by unfamous people with next-to-no influence while Bigfoot pundit poohbahs were helping Bush and company to lie us into ruinous wars and the like. (Boy, that was a long sentence.)

Even as the netroots have grown in power and influence, I still believe all of the above, which was the primary point I tried to make in response to Jon Chait here last week. It'll be a long time before Atrios is as influential as Joe Klein and an even longer time -- think infinity -- before Klein is as honest and accurate about the world as Atrios. Still, even apart from the fact that most reporting necessarily occurs in newspapers and newsweeklies, the netroots are not always right and the MSM is not always wrong. And the netroots needs to get better about recognizing these instances and correcting them, methinks. A few months ago I wrote about a case where netroots bloggers were up in arms about a Washington Post story that had allegedly been changed in order to remove the charge that Bush had lied about removing Rumsfeld right after the election. In fact, a single phone call to the author of the story demonstrated that no story had been changed; two separate stories had been confused. And yet the netroots-enabled myth proved impossible to disarm. (I don't recall any of the bloggers who expressed their outrage printing corrections in the aftermath, though I may not have seen them.)

Recently, the netroots have been up in arms over an alleged comment by Tom Edsall that David Broder represents the "voice of the people." Here again, we see a weakness of the netroots at work, which is that many bloggers lack much experience upon which to base their judgments and tend to jump on anything and everything that confirms their beliefs. Alas, anyone who knows Tom at all well knows that it is nearly impossible to determine by either his voice or his mien when he is joking. Part of his charm is the ability to make exactly this kind of joke in a perfectly deadpan manner. And I would hope that anyone who is familiar with his work would know better than to believe that he could say something so patently silly without joking. I don't doubt that the young Radar reporter who set forth the ongoing storm was honestly confused. And it is no less clear to me that it has become such a big deal on the net because it is consistent with the toxic combination of arrogance and ignorance that characterizes so much MSM punditry and, to a degree, helped cause this war. (I see, for instance, that Jim Lehrer, who is supposed to be the gold standard for high-minded accuracy, still has no idea how much opposition there was to the Iraq war at the time of the vote -- or else is really, really bad at math -- and does not think it proper for journalists to question the veracity of the president's statements. That's here and here. Let's not even mention Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs.)

But believe me, I play poker with this guy. It is impossible to tell when he's bluffing and impossible to tell when he's kidding. This time he was kidding. The fact that Edsall has jumped from the Post by way of TNR and National Journal to the Huffington Post is actually an enormous endorsement of the blogosphere as the source of serious and sophisticated newsgathering and analysis -- one that the David Broders of the world will find it increasingly impossible to kiss off. All of this mishigas over a missed joke is both misplaced and just plain silly.

But let's be clear. It's a wrong-headed misunderstanding of the kind that happens almost every day between people of good will. Compared to, say, the self-conscious crimes against both truth and democracy commonly committed by, say, William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, Joe Klein, most of the casts of the Sunday shows, and yes, David Broder, it is minor-league stuff indeed. And while MSM reporters and pundits are supposed to have a higher standard of verification to what they print, I find all this means in practice, frequently, is a CYA attitude toward sourcing. In other words, so long as someone, anywhere, says anything, that makes it "true" enough to be reported, no matter how frequently that source has proven to be an unreliable liar or fantasist. At least in the case of the netroots, people are generally trying to figure out what's true, not that that always helps. (Academia's standards of truth, by the way, are far higher than that of either the average reporter or blogger; unfortunately, there are significant barriers regarding both relevance and 'communication skills.'

Anyway, all that was by way of saying that Glenn Greenwald, here, is right about John "I'd hate bloggers if I was America's primary advocate of torture too" Yoo and Joe "This accuracy shtick is such a pain in the ass" Klein, but not Jon Alter or Tom Edsall. (And by the way, Broder, sadly, is an "honest reporter and no ivy tower thumb-sucker," though Jon was wrong to say that like it was such a compliment. All that "reporting" inside the beltway, talking to the same self-reinforcing sources who mouth the same platitudes has made Broder stupid, mouthing the same errant nonsense over and over regardless of contrary evidence. Reporting is valuable, but so, bub, is thinking.)

Mickey, on the other hand, badly underestimates the value of the judgment of, say, Spencer Ackerman or Ezra Klein vs., say, Marty Peretz, unintentional comedy bonus aside. ...

And speaking of Joe Klein, I see Time thinks it OK to mislead its 3.25 million readers while offering up a correction only on Klein's (unintentionally funny) blog, here.

Funny how every time the truth slips away from Klein, or as he would put it, he is "chronologically incorrect," it is somehow related to his obsessive hatred of liberals and the left.

From TomDispatch:

What value has a human life? Ever since the life insurance policy came into its own, we've been quite capable of putting a price on life and death. As it happens, last week the American military put a specific price on the death of a 16-year-old girl who happened to be carrying a bundle of grass to her family's farmhouse on a road near Jalalabad, Afghanistan, early this March on a day when an elite Marine Special Operations unit ran amok after being ambushed. (The Pentagon's term for this is "using excessive force.") Along with a rare official apology, the price for taking her life and those of 18 other completely innocent Afghans along a 10-mile stretch of road: $2,000.

Thanks to military documents pried loose by the ACLU, we also know a good deal more about similar "consolation payments" in Iraq where, for example, the families of those innocents slaughtered (also by Marines on a rampage) in Haditha were paid $2,500 per death.

All of this brought to Tom Engelhardt's mind another official calculation of the value of a slaughtered civilian innocent -- one seldom mentioned any more: In the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, the family or spouse of a loved one murdered on that day was also given a monetary value by the U.S. government -- on average $1.8 million, thanks to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, created by an act of Congress, signed into law by President Bush 13 days after the attacks, and put into operation in 33 months of careful, pro bono evaluation by Kenneth Feinberg, special master of the fund.

In other words, we now have the U.S. government's evaluation of what price slaughter should exact in the deaths of innocents -- in New York, Iraq, and Afghanistan. And the gap between the value of a slaughtered innocent in New York and either Iraq or Afghanistan is almost two million dollars.


Eric on Amy Winehouse at the Highline last week:

Should you go see Amy Winehouse live, together with her incredibly hip r&b band? I say "no, no, no." So, if you read carefully, does Jon Pareles, here. Less than an hour and practically comatose throughout. Still, Back to Black is incredible; maybe the best album of the year, so far. Stay home and dance around your house to it instead.

Sal on the new David Bowie re-issues:

I'm not sure what the thinking was behind EMI's new David Bowie reissue campaign. They used the same remastering from the last reissues, still left off the bonus tracks, and jacked up the price to cover the costs of the fancy new "original LP replica" packaging. Boy, that'll save the industry. Who is going to buy these? No one, right? Well ... actuallly, I am a Bowie fan (read: freak) and I bought them all. Maybe EMI had me targeted all along.

The packaging is really the selling point, if you go for that sort of thing. The textured cover of Hunky Dory is back. The gatefolds of Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs are there as well (although they used the censored Diamond Dogs cover, making the "original LP replica" campaign even more confusing). The inner sleeves with lyrics are also included.

The audio quality is identical to the last batch or remasters, yet I found myself listening to each one over again, including the unjustly trashed Tin Machine CD, a much better record than most say. (People tear this record apart based on hearsay. few have actually heard it. IT ROCKS!!)

It's an expensive investment in a time when CD sales are at their lowest, but there are some collectors still out there, and it's a beautiful collection for us fans (read: freaks).


Correspondence Corner:

Name: David Peirce
Hometown: Erie, CO

I fear we are remiss if we do not note that with support for Bush plummeting and election season beginning to heat up that the stage now seems to be set for a Gulf of Tonkin type incident.

Name: Carl
Hometown: Muscle Shoals

I won't vote for Mitt Romney. Although his religion is a big deal for 60 Minutes, it's not that big a deal for me. I won't vote for Romney because he is a Republican.

Name: Rob Stafford
Hometown: San Diego

Eric --

Are you or your readers aware of the planning around Blackwater West?

It's an 824-acre site they're planning to build in the San Diego area with "pistol and rifle ranges, a helipad, an armory and a defensive-driving track," which will be used not just to train Blackwater employees, but police & military personnel as well.

Aside from what this expansion implies to me in terms of their ever-growing reach, does it concern anyone else that a massively profitable corporation, which makes most of its scratch from war, will be training our public servants & soldiers?

Name: Larry D. Kness
Hometown: Clinton, Iowa

Love you like a brother, Eric, but I would like to add something to your latest Nation article on Imus.

I get upset when the right is allowed to define an issue and they did a good job of defining the Imus issue.

Everywhere I went and everyone I talked to said the same thing, "but rap music"... yada yada yada.

Never once did I hear it mentioned that WHITE people make their share of music that is degrading to women too.

Have you read the lyrics to Buckcherry's song "Crazy Bi*ch"? With all the blathering about rap videos degrading women (which I agree with BTW), I wonder if you or your readers know the original video posted by Buckcherry online for that song featured a MINOR?

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