Well, they say this place is evil / That ain't why I stay*


This just in ... Ralph Nader, great guy (that's what I've always said, isn't it?):

A copy of "What Liberal Media?: The Truth About Bias and the News" by Eric Alterman was placed in the mailbox of each student in the Medill School of Journalism on Wednesday as a gift from Ralph Nader.

Medill Prof. Richard Roth said he received a call from Nader in March "out of the blue," and that Nader offered to send 1,200 copies of the book to "America's best journalism school."

The Lord works in mysterious ways ...

I've got a new "Think Again" column here. It's called "The Complicated Corruptions of Rupert Murdoch and The Wall Street Journal."

A point of clarification on yesterday's immigration post: I support a border fence if a border fence can be made to work at an acceptable cost. I don't have a view on its practicality as I have no qualifications to make such a judgment. My point was the symbolism of this issue does not interest me; the reality does.

Another scandal at Justice: Minority voter suppression

The McClatchy Washington bureau owns this story, and the rest of the MSM are either too ashamed or turf-protective to play catch-up. In its way, it's just as important as Monica Goodling's testimony from yesterday, though not nearly as "sexy" at least in the Washington meaning of the term, such as it is:

"Mr. [Justice Department civil rights lawyer Hans] von Spakovsky was central to the administration's pursuit of strategies that had the effect of suppressing the minority vote," charged Joseph Rich, a former Justice Department voting rights chief who worked under him.

He and other former career department lawyers say that von Spakovsky steered the agency toward voting rights policies not seen before, pushing to curb minor instances of election fraud by imposing sweeping restrictions that would make it harder, not easier, for Democratic-leaning poor and minority voters to cast ballots.

In interviews, current and former federal officials and civil rights leaders told McClatchy Newspapers that von Spakovsky:

-- Sped approval of tougher voter ID laws in Georgia and Arizona in 2005, joining decisions to override career lawyers who believed that Georgia's law would restrict voting by poor blacks and who felt that more analysis was needed on the Arizona law's impact on Native Americans and Latinos.

-- Tried to influence the federal Election Assistance Commission's research into the dimensions of voter fraud nationally and the impact of restrictive voter ID laws - research that could undermine a vote-suppression agenda.

-- Allegedly engineered the ouster of the commission's chairman, Paul DeGregorio, whom von Spakovsky considered insufficiently partisan.

The PDFs of the emails are here, and McClatchy's coverage of the entire AG scandal is here.

Let's make some noise, people.

As few words as possible (from me) about Joe Klein:

Michael Crowley notes the following from Bob Shrum's book:

Klein himself was trying to play many parts. He was not only reporting on the campaign and preparing to write a book about consultants; he was also a constant critic and yet another sometime adviser. After the Kerry appearance at the Iowa Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, he told [Kerry spokesman] David Wade: "Great speech, but it's too late"--then turned around and stalked away. With Klein, it was almost always too late for us, in part because we didn't always take his persistent advice. He would chastise Kerry on the phone when he didn't like a speech, counseling both Kerry and me about what the candidate should say and what our strategy should be. He argued to Kerry, for example, that his health care plan should call for an individual mandate, requiring all Americans to buy health insurance. Rejecting his advice was uncomfortable for Kerry, who liked Joe, craved his approval, and worried what his columns would say when we didn't take his recommendations.

Crowley adds, "Shrum says it was uncomfortable for him, too, not least because a mutual friend brokered 'several long evenings at Joe's house where he importuned me with his ideas for the Kerry campaign.' "

That's here. Greg Sargent prints Klein's response here.

I don't really know either man, but I find Shrum's version more compelling. In the first place, in his own defense as to his poor public record regarding opposition to the war, Klein has already admitted that he told Kerry something privately that he would not share with his readers, i.e. that he thought the war would be a bad idea. (That strikes me, by the way, as cowardly, unprofessional, and impossible to verify.) Second, I have seen with my own eyes how desperate Klein becomes for approval, even from those he claims to detest. Shrum's account jibes with my own experience with Klein. In the absence of contrary evidence, therefore, Shrum passes the smell test, Klein does not.

Gore and "celebrity." What Atrios said.

Things that annoy me but I don't necessarily expect them to annoy you:

1) The New York Times sports section thinks the Yankees are the hometown team, rather than the Mets, when the Mets are a much better team and manage to be one with a much smaller payroll and a far less obnoxious owner:

Sports »

Yankees 8, Red Sox 3: Yanks Make a Dent as Pettitte Finds Support

Giambi Meets Baseball Officials Over Steroids

Mets 3, Braves 0: Pérez, Using His Full Repertory, Baffles the Braves Again

Two Yankee articles and one Mets article on the front page is much better than usual, but it happened only because the Mets beat the Braves on an Oliver Perez shut-out. Usually the Mets are covered as if they play in Cleveland.

2) Lynne and Dick Cheney, two of the worst people in the entire world in every imaginable way, have a grandchild by their lesbian daughter, whom they exploit for political purposes when useful, but retain their popularity with the same people who torment gays not related to Dick and Lynne Cheney.

From our sponsors:

Media blasted Edwards for speech fee but omitted Giuliani speeches, Edwards' explanation

Several media figures have attacked Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards for receiving a $55,000 fee for a January 2006 speech at the University of California-Davis -- as first reported in a May 21 entry to the San Francisco Chronicle's Politics Blog. In several cases, they have not also mentioned reports that Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani charged Oklahoma State University $100,000 for a speech he delivered in 2006 and an additional $47,000 for the use of a private jet, as Media Matters for America has noted. Moreover, several left out the response by the Edwards campaign, which asserted that UC-Davis offset the cost through sponsorship and ticket sales to the event.

Carlson defended Giuliani's speeches as "selling ... talent," attacked Edwards' speech as "soaking a public university"

On the May 22 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, host Tucker Carlson attacked Democratic presidential candidate and former Sen. John Edwards (NC) for his January 9, 2006, speech at the University of California-Davis, claiming that Edwards "soak[ed] a public university for $55,000 when he's already worth millions." He then asked: "Why the hell is he doing that? What's the possible justification for that?" However, just five days earlier, Carlson had defended the millions of dollars former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani made on the lecture circuit in recent years, saying: "If I make millions giving speeches, I have to get up and perform. I'm selling my talent." Additionally, Carlson made no mention of the fact that UC-Davis charged admission for Edwards' speech, which, combined with sponsorship of the event, offset Edwards' fee, according to Edwards' campaign.

Kurtz faulted media for depicting Gore as "exaggerator" but omitted his own role

In his May 22 "Media Notes" column, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz wrote that in contrast to current media reports portraying former Vice President Al Gore as "a heroic figure," Gore "got terrible coverage" during his 2000 presidential campaign, adding that Gore "was depicted as an Internet-inventing exaggerator who sighed during the debates and needed a consultant to steer him to an earth-toned wardrobe." Kurtz, however, did not mention his own contribution to this depiction of Gore -- misrepresenting Gore's statement about his role in creating the Internet and falsely claiming that Gore "suggest[ed] he discovered the Love Canal disaster."

Blitzer did not ask Bloomberg about police surveillance of political activists before 2004 convention

During an interview with Michael Bloomberg, CNN's Wolf Blitzer did not take the opportunity to ask Bloomberg about recent reports that "the New York Police Department was secretly monitoring" anti-Bush activists and would-be protesters before and during the Republican National Convention in 2004 "and not just at public events."

From TomDispatch:

Since 2004, TomDispatch has been following as carefully as possible what can be known about the American air war in Iraq, perhaps the single least well covered subject in the mainstream when it comes to that war. TomDispatch regular Nick Turse has been on the job of late. His most recent investigative piece on the air war is the best assessment that can, at present, be found in our media world. When you read this piece about what we do -- and mainly don't -- know on the subject, you need to imagine that somewhere down the line, as (partial) "withdrawal" begins, there is likely to be worse to come, possibly far worse, in terms of destruction from the air. (This piece, by the way, also appears in abbreviated form in the latest issue of The Nation Magazine.)

Turse begins his investigative piece with two questions: "Did the U.S. military use cluster bombs in Iraq in 2006 and then lie about it? Does the U.S. military keep the numbers of rockets and cannon rounds fired from its planes and helicopters secret because more Iraqi civilians have died due to their use than any other type of weaponry?"

In the course of giving us his best and most judicious answers to such questions, which the U.S. Air Force has no interest in pursuing, Turse also offers a sweeping assessment of the air war in Iraq to date. This includes what he's discovered about the use from the air of those cluster bombs, regular bombs and missiles, rockets, and cannon fire as well as the slow growth of the U.S.-trained Iraqi air force, and the scale of killing from the air. He also considers why the air war in Iraq has remained so poorly covered, so shadowy, so secret.

He concludes with a plea:

With the military unwilling to tell the truth -- or say anything at all, in most cases -- and unable to provide the stability necessary for NGOs to operate, it falls to the mainstream media, even at this late stage of the conflict, to begin ferreting out substantive information on the air war. It seems, however, that until reporters begin bypassing official U.S. military pronouncements and locating Iraqi sources, we will remain largely in the dark with little knowledge of what can only be described as the secret U.S. air war in Iraq.


Readers may recall we published an excerpt from Crystal Zevon's oral history of her ex-husband Warren, titled I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon, here. I've been reading it and man, talk about your rude awakenings... I have to say, I'm glad I never met the guy; well, I'm glad I never met the guy while he was still drinking. I've not finished the book and he seems to get better. But if you ever needed an argument that you should enjoy and appreciate the art, without feeling a need to embrace the artist -- much as our celebrity-driven culture demands -- then Mr. Zevon is it. This book is really hard to read, but also hard to put down.

Strengthening the art/artist thing is the first release on Danny Goldberg's Ammal Records, Warren Zevon's Preludes, 17 previously unreleased demos discovered by his son, Jordan, after Warren died, including rough versions of some of his biggest hits ("Werewolves Of London," "Hasten Down The Wind," "Poor Poor Pitiful Me") plus six new songs. They are all worthwhile, with one of many highlights being "Empty Hearted Town," a song about a walk through the streets of L.A. and the wish for a warmer jacket and "something more to say," before noting "it's all I can do to make it through the day." Sal and Tony note, "Zevon was a great performer as well as a great writer, so hearing this music in raw form, without the studio gloss added, is a treat indeed. Also includes an interview from 2000 that's worth the time it takes to listen to it," with some wonderful acoustic performances. It comes with a 44-page booklet with dozens of family photos, all previously unpublished. It's great stuff. Read more about it here.

Bonus media crit/music coincidence point: Crystal Zevon was West Coast coordinator for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

* Warren Zevon, "Join Me in L.A."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Frank Brockerman
Hometown: Honolulu

Hey Dr. Alterman,

I'm heeding your call to research and thought you might benefit from a really great tool that can be used to compile information. It's called the "History Commons" which provides a space for people at the grassroots level to document history and conduct grassroots investigations on any issue. It has the capability to store info on all the sources one cites and allows contributors to organize data by entity (person, organization, corporation) and theme as well as multi-level cross-referencing.

One of the main goals of the site is to provide a ready resource for "journalists, bloggers, historians, and the hoi polloi."

For example, here's what contributors to the History Commons have come up with for:

Removal of Jean Bertrand Aristide
GMOs -
Bush Environmental Record
Bush Global Warming Policy
US Health Care System

Thanks for all of your work and let me know what you think.

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

Although I regret that the Democrats didn't hold their ground and put pressure on the one who's finally responsible for this disaster, I'm not as surprised as many on the left appear to be over the Democrats' agreement to strip out withdrawal timetables from the funding bill. It's been clear since the veto that the majority expected to come back with something that wouldn't be vetoed. In hoping to avoid being tagged with failing to support the troops, though, the Democrats find themselves open to the charge of complicity in the deaths of more troops. If the military plan is not viable, then why support it at all? Why is continuing until September any more worthy of support? The Times' layout today makes a compelling graphic argument on page A1 and in the continuation of juxtaposed stories on pages A10 and A11: the front page photos illustrate the story about the carnage; in the adjacent column runs the story of the Democrats' retreat on the deadline. The interior pages are perhaps more damning; across from more photos of the mortal futility of this war is a picture of Harry Reid with hands raised as if in surrender.

The simplistic rhetoric of the images is somewhat unfair. And it obscures the cynical move by the majority to link the raise in the minimum wage to the Iraq funding. Like 80% of the American public, I support raising the minimum wage; in fact, I think it should be even higher than what's been proposed. But because of the broad support, not only does the minimum wage need no help, but also its link to the Iraq funding insults the principles of those who trusted the Democratic congress to check the president's worst inclinations because it implies that objections to the war can be bought off with a piece of economic justice, as if principles can be bartered. Of course, legislative strategy will often include bargaining, but the leverage that comes with being the Congressional majority affords control over how legislation is packaged. I have no problem with adding other emergency funding for agricultural support and disaster relief to the Iraq funding, but let the minimum wage go forward on its own. If Bush vetoes that just as he rejected a 3.5% increase in pay for the troops, a failure to support the troops that deserved far more attention than it received, an override was certainly possible, and if not then an argument for a larger Democratic majority would have just gained strength in advance of the next election.

Name: Ed Weston
Hometown: Port Orchard Wa.

I have to agree to the idea of legal change in immigration. I don't see a physical fence along our border with Mexico as being very effective. I do see it being very expensive, both in materials and manpower. I haven't seen any recent information on this fence. Perhaps they've got it sussed. I await further information, and hope it's good information.

Elvis and the Imposters were on PBS a weekend or so ago. I think I prefer Bruce on bass, but I usually enjoy listening to him anywhere or how. I liked "People's Limousine" with, I think, T Bone Burrnett.

Thank you for more of your good work.

Name: Joanne
Hometown: santa barbara CA

Have to totally disagree on the fence situation to prevent illegal immigration. We can't even build levees in New Orleans, and as Lewis Black points out, even if we did build a fence, it would take Congress 5 years to figure out what color to paint it. If you don't want illegal immigrants in the country, then tell all those businesses that hire them on the cheap to cut it out. And, don't talk to me about illegality when the Mob is in control of the government.

Name: Doug Mason
Hometown: Meridian, ID

I must admit surprise at your support for a fence. Fences and walls have been notoriously ineffective throughout history as one can almost always find a way over, under, around or through one. The cost is astronomical as well, particularly vs. benefit (true or perceived).

Name: Ga Jennings
Hometown: Boston

With regard to immigration you failed to mention the organized wholesale import of workers -- by American companies -- and that some 60% of "illegals" are visa overstays and not those who "crossed the desert from Mexico."

These two facts rarely if ever make it into the debate.

Name: Kenneth W. Veith
Hometown: Philadelphia

Hi Dr. Alterman,

I agree with you on your views on the immigration problem.

However, if what I read recently here is fact, the fence/wall is not the answer. According to the article it would be a ecological disaster. It would block the natural movement and source of water for many animals resulting in their death.

Hopefully we can find a better way.

Name: John Kilian
Hometown: Raleigh, NC

Thank you for supporting the border fence. I'm not fanatical about unbroken borders (is it me or does it seem that Lou Dobbs has abandoned his medications, or that they have abandoned him?). I am, however, pretty fanatical about people who do not follow an ideological line and can look at each issue fresh. I would not have guessed that you might be pro-fence, and that's why I read your blog even if I often disagree -- you are no robot for the party line, I could say much like your friend Little Roy, but then I would be a provocateur. Seriously, you did identify the key point, the ideological fracture that has many on the left supporting the position that benefits big business whilst so much of the right lines up against the hand that feeds them. The downfall of the Republican coalition?

Name: Traven
Hometown: Seattle

Kudos on your immigration piece. I, for one, am tired of hearing -- from my fellow lefties, no less -- that people like me who want to do something about illegal immigration are a bunch of racist, know-nothing xenophobes. I also think the Democrats may pay a price for embracing the "path to citizenship" (which, as a matter of practicality, I mostly support, though what's come out of the Senate -- only got here Dec. 31st? that's OK, you're in -- is too generous) without a serious -- serious -- emphasis, too, on enforcement, including a real wall and verification of employment eligibility. The only thing I take issue with is your support of "generous" immigration. I'm more of the ZPG type myself. Here in the West we face stratospheric housing prices, a looming water shortage, impossible traffic and increasing environmental degradation. All of that can be tied in one way or another to an expanding population.

Name: Elizabeth Cruz
Hometown: Tacoma

Thank you for the comments on illegal immigration. Allowing people to cross the border illegally does not solve the real issue, which is poverty in Mexico and Central or South America. The only people who benefit from the current system are the multinational corporations and those governments who do not try to create a fair economic system for their citizens.

Name: Ryan Scott
Hometown: Portland, OR

I love it when she lies to me -- Greg Trooper.

I can think of a few situations where that quote would come in handy.

My thoughts have returned occasionally to the internet vs. the MSM, and the way the volume of information and opinion on the web can be effectively and meaningfully evaluated/filtered in a way that makes it more useful and informative. Not that I'm talking about censorship, of course, and I feel silly having to say so expressly.

But the web -- which can address complex issues so much more effectively than TV in 99% of circumstances -- can be overwhelming. Not all blogs are equal in terms of the strength of insight and analysis, and it would be nice -- when a new blogger puts forth a compelling argument -- to check the historical accuracy or fairness of that particular blog or blogger. No matter how refined someone's bullshit detector, unless you know the subject well, a moderately smart but fundamentally dishonest blogger can be very compelling.

So ideally, one would want a Media Matters for the Internet. But that itself would require enormous resources. What might be more fun, and could start on a somewhat smaller scale, would be a website of scorekeepers for the occasional -- but often enlightening -- intra-web debates that go on. I've learned a lot more about Joe Klein's honesty and intellect from reading his responses to criticism than his actual opinion pieces. See also Marty Peretz's pathetic response to Matthew Yglesias.

Speaking of Joe Klein, I'd want to title this hypothetical website, "But My Larger Point Remains the Same. . . .," the rhetorical crutch that both he and Jonah Goldberg had to rely on recently, in different contexts, when called out on misrepresenting a fact essential to whatever argument they were making.

Name: Rod Wilson
Hometown: Buffalo, NY


Any word on Stupid? You haven't mentioned him or done a shout out for a while. Just hoping he's OK, is all.

Eric replies: I wish I knew ...

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