My baby whispers in my ear ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

In misleading news that doesn't mean a damn thing, Hillary Clinton has cemented her lead over Obama and Edwards in the Democratic race. Of course, most Americans will never vote in the primaries, even most Democrats, and of those who will, few are yet paying attention, and of those who will, the ones in the early primaries will determine who is the actual nominee, which is why the candidates are spending so much time in say, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, where the race looks quite different. The other issue, of course, is money. And again, this has no bearing on that. So the whole thing is just a form of journalistic masturbation, done in public, over and over. Reels the mind ... (If one must look at polls, this one is far more significant.)

I will say this, about the race, however. I did a breakfast on Sunday for the Creative Coalition with Ed Rollins. He definitely gave the impression that Republican pros are souring on Fred Thompson, for his messy non-campaign and his disappointing fund-raising figures. If Thompson does not get in this race, or does not win it, as far as I can tell, the Democrats do, regardless of who is the nominee. If Crazy Rudy wins the nomination, you can count on a third-party challenge from the religious right that will screw things up further for them. And if Bloomberg gets in the race, making it four candidates, and Rudy is the nominee, it also helps the Democrats because everyone agrees he is a much better mayor than Rudy was and so it destroys his raison d'etre. So the Democrats win there too. Seems to me Thompson is the only shot the Republicans have, so this is good news.

I try to ignore Jon Friedman's strange columns, but because Jim Romenesko likes him so much, I figure I must be missing something (and Gawker hates him so much, I take that as a recommendation). But today, my man Boehlert points out, he writes, here, "Many Dow Jones veterans secretly feel pleased that Murdoch, an aggressive, highly ambitious global businessman, will be running the company now. Above all, the man thinks big and embraces new forms of technologies."

Listen, people, when a journalist or a politician says that people "secretly feel" something, they are lying. They are simply making stuff up and putting it into the minds of people with whom they disagree in order to discredit them. Friedman is doing this on behalf of Rupert Murdoch. Draw your own conclusions.

We are the world: What Andy does here is similar, both in its egocentricity and dishonesty. He writes, "The publishing industry is one of the shallowest, dumbest and most archaic in the U.S. No one edits anything. The publishers do not care what is in their books and neither, by and large, do editors." That sentence, entirely lacking in both nuance and qualification, is patently false. I have just been re-working the manuscript of Why We're Liberals this week, and my assistant is now fact-checking the notes. My editor, Rick Kot, edited every line. It's right there on the manuscript. So did a copy editor. So did a publisher-hired fact-checker. So did a production editor. Maybe Andy's editor sucks. Maybe he hates Nan Talese. But does that give him the right to slander everyone in this deeply underpaid and underappreciated business? My (never-met) buddy Kevin Drum notices more than a little hypocrisy at work given Andy's own acknowledgments here.

(What's more, the editor in charge of deciding that Charles Murray deserved 13,000 words for his racist pseudoscience and Betsy McCaughey should be given another few thousand words for her dishonest attack -- since apologized for by Frank Foer -- on the Clinton health care plan, shouldn't really be casting stones.)

What's it all about, Ralphie?

From our sponsors:

It's like CNN is sponsoring some sort of affirmative action program for the audience-challenged Glenn Beck, who is allowed to drive his ratings into the ground without fear of being ousted. Read more here.

From TomDispatch:

We are, at the moment, in the midst of a well-coordinated and choreographed Bush administration propaganda campaign to convince us all that the President's surge plan only needs more time -- into 2008 or even 2009 -- to work; that, as Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution and Kenneth Pollack (a former cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq) put it recently in a New York Times op-ed ("A War We Just Might Win") that caused a sensation, it has "the potential to produce not necessarily 'victory' but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with."

In his latest anaylsis of America's Iraq, sociologist Michael Schwartz shows just why -- quite the opposite of working -- the doomed surge plan already shows every sign of having failed dismally. He lays out the real 'benchmarks" for the surge as the president outlined them in his surge strategy speech in January -- and then shows just why they simply can't be achieved, why a U.S. military "solution" to the Iraqi situation will be worse than impossible. From the way violence in Iraq simply floods into areas just beyond the reach of the new U.S. combat brigades to the perilously long supply lines on bomb-planted roads that convoy them their supplies, he explores the "lose-lose dilemma" of the U.S. military and why it not only is incapable of, for instance, stopping suicide car and truck bomb attacks in Shia areas, but actually opens the way for them.

This is a thoroughly timely and canny analysis of the developing situation in Iraq. As Schwartz points out, the recent appeals of the president and his men for time might sway Americans, at least briefly, "But events on the ground in Iraq do not respond to Presidential appeals or the sunny testimony of generals. In Baghdad and surrounding provinces, the situation has already entered what might be thought of as post-surge reality. In part as a consequence of the surge strategy, ethnic cleansing in major neighborhoods of Baghdad may be nearing completion; meanwhile, in the north, the shaky relationship between the Kurds and Turkey is wavering on the brink of a hot war, while the Kurd-Turkmen-Arab cauldron in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk may erupt any time into a new Baghdad."

Great, underappreciated moments in a young man's life: I actually got to take film courses at Cornell with Michelangelo Antonioni. He made some great films, but he was not one of my favorites.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Brian Geving
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

The Writer's Guild of America East recently came out with a report surveying WGA members that work for news stations around the country, and the picture isn't pretty when it comes to the quality of television news.

You can read the entire report here.

Their findings?

"The conglomerates have slashed jobs overall, converted full-timers to part-timers, and combined jobs. The result is too many conflicting demands on the few workers who are left, resulting in a lower-quality news product. "

"The report demonstrates that our members are experiencing a decline in news quality, especially when once-independent newsrooms are consolidated. Some of the aspects of this decline are:

• Less news overall: fewer stories are covered, and they are repeated more frequently, especially on co-owned stations (recycling)

• Less hard news, more "infotainment" news and more cross-promotions of outlets or products owned by the same company.

Other aspects of the decline in news quality include:

• Less research and fact-checking

• Less time spent seeking multiple sources

• Less investigative reporting

• More VNR use

• Less preparation time

• More time spent multi-tasking (for example, doing production work as well as writing)

Name: Joanne
Hometown: Santa Barbara

The LA Times Calendar section this morning was filled with Bergman stories. My favorite of his movies was "The Virgin Spring." The horrifying rape and murder scene stays with me still today. But then Max von Sydow nails the culprits, so there is a happy ending. Pat Buchanan tells a wonderful story about his old man (you think Pat is a crank) responding to a friend of his, over for dinner at the Buchanan's long dinner table, who describes the scene and the old man goes nuts, admonishing the kid for talking about such things in front of Mrs. Buchanan. Classic.

Name: Steve Elworth
Hometown: Brooklyn

So many people had early experiences with Bergman films. Mine was with The Seventh Seal. For whatever reasons, he has become the filmmaker for those who do not love cinema. He was probably the greatest director of actors and a wonderful interpreter of other people's plays in what probably, was his most significant career as a theater director. Why else would one go to BAM to listen to English translation in headphones of a German play done in Swedish? Today, a filmmaker of the same generation beloved by those who love cinema has died, the magnificent Michelangelo Antonioni, man of the cinema.

Name: John Herndon
Hometown: Burbank, CA

Dear Dr. Alterman, I saw Bergman's greatest films on PBS decades ago. I thought, as did Bergman himself, that "Winter Light" was his best by far. It was totally bleak, with clueless characters, and, as such, was a dark comedy with the driest and sharpest sense of humor he ever showed. Your article yesterday on economic inequality was the best post I've read in a long time. I've spent my life amazed at the intellectual dishonesty of Goldwater or Reagan conservatives. There is no such thing as small government, and the rich know it. Whether or not you want government to favor the business owners or the workers is the difference between being conservative or liberal. As you wrote about Sen. Schumer, it's not the difference between Republicans and Democrats.

Name: John Loehr
Hometown: Free Union, Virginia

Kenneth C. Griffin's statement that "... if the tax became too high, as a matter of principle I would not be working this hard" made me think "and if you didn't, who exactly would notice?" Mr. Griffin doesn't actually produce anything, and if he quit working altogether, I doubt if anyone's life (other than his immediate family) would be affected.

Thinking of Mr. Griffin reducing his arduous and painful work regimen made me consider David Brooks' repetition of the new conservative meme that those in the upper income brackets make more because they work more hours. I guess if you're a trader like Mr. Griffin making hundreds of millions per year, in a comfortable office, you might put in more time than you would cleaning toilets or nailing shingles, or working in a hospital ward. I know I work longer hours in my air conditioned law office in the July heat than I did as a framing carpenter for 17 years, but I don't think that proves Mr. Brooks' point.

Name: Kim Viner
Hometown: Laramie, Wyoming

A continuing classic case of administration doublethink on the part of Vice President Cheney today. He parrots Edelman's line (rejected by SECDEF Gates) that Senator Clinton's question about troop redeployment somehow aids the enemy in Iraq. This from the administration that announced with great public flourish the current surge of troops; telling the enemy when they were going to arrive, how many there would be, and where they were going to be deployed. Heck, the administration even announced the tactics that the additional troops would employ. Perhaps the Veep and Mr. Edelman need to think before they doublethink.

Kim Viner
Commander, U.S. Navy (ret)

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