Why am I so soft in the middle?


I experiment with the iron laws of journalism today by writing a stand-alone Nation column on the continued media obsession with assassinating Al Gore's character called "The Assault on Reality," here, as well as a follow-up column on the same topic, but with a different emphasis (and no word limit), for my CAP Think Again column. That one is cleverly called "The Assault on Reality, Continued," and it's here.

And hey, lookit, Al's ahead in New Hampshire. "Sure, Hill led Obama 37 percent to 19 percent with John Edwards slipping back to 9 percent, tied with Bill Richardson, among all likely Democratic primary voters polled. But 32 percent of those same 232 voters said they would switch to Gore if he announced, with 29 percent of Clinton voters ready to abandon her. Which would make Gore an instant front-runner for the first primary." And lookit, as well, these numbers for Jeanne Shaheen. Would this be America's first Arab descent (by marriage, I think) vs. Arab descent senatorial election? Will Marty Peretz support the Fulani candidate?

Altercation alienates its base, parts, I and II:

1) I'm saddened that we won't get immigration reform.

2) I'm fine with the end of affirmative action by race and look forward to its replacement with affirmative action by class.

As if poor General Petraeus didn't have enough problems already, what with an unwinnable war and a nearly insane vice commander in chief, now's he's got Joe Klein following him around Baghdad, whining, "Why don't you like me better?"

Here's a question: Should the Democrats try to impeach Cheney or Gonzales, both, or neither?

A lot of people were furious when I didn't care that Dale Earnhardt died. Just so I get it right this time, do I have to be upset about Liz Claiborne too? Is it all famous people, or just the ones approved of by those NASCAR nuts at The Weekly Standard?

The Wall Street Journal reporters' statement:

Here. (I wonder if the members of the editorial board signed this.)

A statement from Wall Street Journal reporters:

Wall Street Journal reporters across the country chose not to show up to work this morning.

We did so for two reasons.

First, The Wall Street Journal's long tradition of independence, which has been the hallmark of our news coverage for decades, is threatened today. We, along with hundreds of other Dow Jones employees represented by the Independent Association of Publishers' Employees, want to demonstrate our conviction that the Journal's editorial integrity depends on an owner committed to journalistic independence.

Second, by our absence from newsrooms around the country, we are reminding Dow Jones management that the quality of its publications depends on a top-quality professional staff. Dow Jones currently is in contract negotiations with its primary union, seeking severe cutbacks in our health benefits and limits on our pay. It is beyond debate that the professionals who create The Wall Street Journal and other Dow Jones publications every day deserve a fair contract that rewards their achievements. At a time when Dow Jones is finding the resources to award golden parachutes to 135 top executives, it should not be seeking to eviscerate employees' health benefits and impose salary adjustments that amount to a pay cut.

We put the reputation of The Wall Street Journal and the needs of its readers first. That's why we will be back at our desks this afternoon, producing the day's news reports. But we hope this demonstration will remind those entrusted with the future of Dow Jones that our publications' integrity must be protected, and sustained, from top to bottom.

That's all for today. The mail is really excellent and there's lots of it, and I spent all that time on the Gore columns. Plus, it's JVC Jazz festival week in NYC. I saw Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Billy Cobham play four songs from Kind of Blue last night. What did you guys do?

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Cathy Doyle
Hometown: West Springfield

Dear Eric,

Well, I'm glad to hear that you're still alive and well. We were worried. And you could speak today, but none of us are in DC anymore. Penguin gave me a free copy of When Presidents Lie, which seemed to be very popular at the booth (although a sticker that said "now updated with new info on G. Bush" would have made it fly off the table.)

And turn the Blackberry off when you're on the beach for heavens sake! Or at least reply and let us know you're still alive!

Name: Nicholas Sinisi
Hometown: Ossining, NY

You're absolutely right about the pro-Yankee and anti-Mets bias in the Times, Eric. They seem to kowtow to Steinbrenner and Company the same way they give the benefit of the doubt to Bush and Company (witness the Christie Whitman story you cite).

I've always tended to think of Yankee fans as knee-jerk GOP supporters - arrogant and obnoxious, for the most part. Maybe even unable to see reality, as in the cases of the war going badly and their team flailing?

When the Yankees win, they're the top story in the Times. And when they LOSE, they're STILL the top story, even though, as you say, the Mets have been in first place all year and went further in last year's playoffs than the Yankees did (and have a team that's much more OF a "team").

As much as I enjoy the Times, they need to start looking at the standings, and report accordingly...

Name: Brian Donohue
Hometown: http://dailyrevolution.net

Re. bullet point 1 from Tuesday: if the Times commits itself to genuine journalism in covering Iraq, the corruption in Washington, and the 2008 election, I will forgive them any bias on the coverage of a bunch of whiney multi-millionaires and their corporate bosses who make it impossible for a normal family to see a ballgame without sacrificing a week's pay. Is Good in Queens, and Evil in the Bronx? Jesus, Alterman, return to your center. Pro sports today is everywhere a bald shill, a profit-taking of near-Halliburton proportions. I haven't been able to afford to take my kid to a game in over five years, and I've completely lost interest. Give me a society where a cop, a teacher, or a soldier makes more money than the demi-god leadoff hitter of the local rounders team, and I'll start going back to the ballpark. Until then, let's focus on demanding truth of the media on things that matter.

Name: Kelly Roney
Hometown: Southborough, MA

Eric --

"Is the truth, in this case, just too disturbing?"

You ask this in the context of ground zero poisoning syndrome, but it applies to the larger trend in journalism since, oh, about the time Walter Mondale tried to treat American voters as adults. For example, virtually all the truths necessary to publish this week's Washington Post series on Dick Cheney have been obvious since 2002 anyway, but the MSM has simply found the visible fact of Cheney's (mostly successful) lust for unchecked, unconstitutional power to be too unpalatable for the child-like consumers it has concluded it has.

American democracy is in its greatest domestic peril since at least the Great Depression, and the media trumpets: "NEW!! Summer journalism year round!" In their hearts, they channel Jack Nicholson, "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth."

Of course, you know this. You wrote the book on this.

Name: Martin
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Hi Eric,

Aaron from Forty Fort, Pennsylvania asks, "Are you at all upset about the fact that your prediction of a Kerry "landslide" was wrong?"

The language you used was:

"I'll go further, I think there's at minimum, a twenty-five percent chance -- maximum, forty-percent chance -- of a Kerry landslide."

... and ...

"Yes, Kerry in a landslide because I believe in my countrymen and women. That's my prediction. I'll eat it if I have to -- along with a great deal of the hope I held for my country's democratic future."

You went a great deal further than most pundits by offering (less than likely) percentages. Still, you were wrong. But as you explained, you were wrong about voters interpreting bin Laden's appearance in the news at that time. You were wrong about voters buying into the Republican campaign of fear. You were wrong about having hope.

If you predicted a 25-40% chance of Kerry landslide, isn't that another way of saying that there more-than-likely wouldn't be a Kerry landslide?

I feel that this goes without saying, but given all that's occurred since the election, anyone predicting Bush would (or should) lose, has been proven right. Repeatedly.

Eric replies: Thanks, I'll take it.

Hometown: Richton Park, IL

JJ Coker said "As the Chinese say, prediction is very difficult, especially in regards to the future. "

Wasn't it Yogi Berra who said that?

Name: John Kuhlman
Hometown: Weaverville

You should probably drive from San Diego to Brownsville, TX before getting too enthusiastic about a fence. There is a lot of desert and some very rugged countryside. And, of course, the fence would have two ends -- one on the Pacific and the other on the Gulf of Mexico.

Eric replies: "Enthusiastic," bub? Just who is enthusiastic? Read the item. And by the way, one of us spent a week riding in the cars with the border patrol around San Diego, and I don't think it was you ...

Name: David Shaffer
Hometown: Harleysville, PA

Doc --

You write in response to Rick Perlstein's criticism of your immigration position, "... it's not as if we get to choose which laws we'd like to obey." Shrub and his minions have been doing that for the past 6 and a half years -- why shouldn't everyone?

Oh wait, I remember -- we're not criminals ...

Name: John G. Woodside
Hometown: Sugar Land, TX

"Getting hung up on the symbolism at the expense of the reality is where liberals have gone wrong so many times in the past and I'm tired of it."

Hey, isn't that exactly what those Nader supporters did in 2000?

Just asking ... the Ralphie voters, that is.

Keep up the good work at your new digs!

Name: John
Hometown: Kinnelon, NJ

Dr A,

70.9 percent of US deaths from roadside bombs? Let's dispense with "IED" and "roadside bomb" and get the proper perspective. Say, "booby-trap". The most powerful military in the world, troops with the best training, the best weapons money can buy, drones, infra-red, night-vision, smart bombs, etc. being killed by improvised booby traps made by irregular troops from discarded or stolen ammunition. Sound familiar?

Name: Tom Arsenault
Hometown: Durham, NC

Mr. Richard posits in your correspondence corner today that:

"People who are good at things like engineering and business administration usually become Republicans, and people who are good at writing and teaching and the arts usually become Democrats. I thought everyone knew that!"

Well, I hate to disagree with Mr. Richard, but being an engineer myself, and a lifelong Democrat (since before I got into high school) I have to strongly dissent from what he wrote. And it's not just me that's an engineer and a Democrat. Oh no. I'd say probably a full 100% of my fellow engineers where I currently work are Democrats as well.

What he wrote is sort of like saying, "Girls are good at writing and boys are good at math." It just isn't true, and neither is it true that engineers are Republicans.

Just my 2 cents for today.

Name: Derrick Gibson
Hometown: http://allpanthersareblack.blogspot.com/


My fingers leapt for the keyboard when I read that remark from one of the Altercators. As an engineer, I would forcefully argue that we favor results. If something does not work -- discard it; if something does work -- use it everywhere it is applicable. Does not sound to me like a group of people who would follow in lemming fashion as some sycophant led them through the gates of hell.

But that is just my opinion.

The world of free software (or open source for you corporate types) provides a large scale study of how engineers think; I would argue that the political views of folks who demand the right to improve the software they buy - and then share those improvements with anyone who wants them -- reflect a Democratic worldview.

Name: Yvonne
Hometown: Hampton, VA

Regarding Mark's comments about "[p]eople who are good at things like engineering and business administration usually become Republicans, and people who are good at writing and teaching and the arts usually become Democrats. I thought everyone knew that!" Well, I guess I didn't know that. My husband and I are liberal civil servant engineers, and proud of it. Granted, sometimes it feels like we're in the minority, but we have found that it's mostly because those who are politically outspoken at work (which is by the way illegal for civil servants according to the Hatch Act) are the Rush Limbaugh on the car ride into work kind of people. Just because they are always angry and loud doesn't make them a majority.

Name: Rica
Hometown: London, UK

To answer Donna's question about the US savings rate, here are some of the resources I use in my job --

1) the current savings rate is negative and has been since Q2 '05. For info, check out the Bureau of Economic Analysis -- all sorts of fun stats and data for econ nerds.

2) another good resource is the Fed, where you can check out the debt ratio, which measures debt to personal income. Currently, it's running around 14.33. It also breaks down what is mortgage/rent debt and what is just consumer debt.

Anyhow, those are just a couple of the sites we use - but they're a good start.

Name: George
Hometown: Binghamton NY

Eric, I read 80% of the time and have seen your previous call outs to Stupid. Did I miss an actual answer as to what happened to Stupid? Can you give an update?

Eric replies: We are at a loss in regards to Stupid, as he has not responded to numerous shout-outs and more than a few emails. We are saddened by this, far more saddened, I might add, than by the fact that you are blowing off 20 percent of what we write here, but that hardly excuses it.

Name: Josh Silver
Hometown: Free Press


It appears that Rupert Murdoch is going to buy the Dow Jones Company. The two sides have reached agreement designed to protect the editorial integrity of the Wall Street Journal, though it unclear whether the agreement is worth the paper it's written on, or whether the Bancroft family will give a final deal its blessing. As I mentioned, there are no laws on the books to prevent this deal. But we're using it as a platform to call for new laws that would prevent a TV network owner from purchasing a major national daily. More here.

Last week, Free Press and Center for American Progress released a scathing report showing that of the 257 news/talk radio stations owned by the top five commercial conglomerates, 91 percent of weekday talk radio programming is conservative -- while just 9 percent is progressive.

The report directly links the state of radio to the consolidation of ownership, and makes tangible policy suggestions to remedy the problem. More information here; The full study is here.

This Thursday, the FCC will hold another official public hearing, this time in Portland, Maine. Last night Free Press and Common Cause were featured in this excellent short TV news clip here (click "play video"). The FCC will focus on the standard question of how well local media are serving the community, as well as the state of local radio, particularly Low Power FM radio stations.

Just last week Free Press convened a national press call with Democratic and Republican lawmakers, local radio activists and the Indigo Girls to announce the introduction of a new LPFM bill that would free up thousands of new radio licenses for local groups in cities and suburbs across the country. More info here.

This issue is not to be confused with the FCC's plan to issue full power FM licenses to not-for-profits in rural areas in October. Information at our site getradio.org.

New royalty fees are still set to go into effect July 15 that would decimate the Internet radio business. The new ruling means the Internet radio stations face rate hikes of up to 1,200 percent - and they'll have to pay royalties retroactively back to 2006. Most will go out of business if this goes through. But we're backstopping a solid campaign launched by our allies at savenetradio.com -- and helped promote their nationwide "day of silence" that was covered by nearly every major newspaper in the country. The latest is here.

Finally, Free Press took home two awards at this year's prestigious "Webby" awards in New York. It is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet including Web sites, Interactive Advertising, Online Film & Video and Mobile content. We won the "peoples choice" for best activist Web site and video, both for SavetheInternet.com. More info here.

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