Tonto did the dirty work for free ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Right before the holidays, I did this little Guardian post on the Clinton campaign's possibly inexorable march to the Democratic nomination.

Regarding The New York Times and the MoveOn ad: The right and, particularly, Crazy Rudy have all once again demonstrated their ability to ever-so-casually skip the rails of rationality by creating this phony issue of the Times having charged the organization less money than the full-rate for a full page ad. I interrupted my Rosh Hashana to send the letter below to Romenesko -- I thought this would be OK, since it wasn't actually work -- to point out that what the Times did for MoveOn has been standard practice there for years, and the same terms have always been available to conservatives. The letter went up on Thursday and so the information was available even to the laziest journalist, as it would have been to any journalist who bothered making a phone call to the Times. And yet how many times during the past four days have you heard the lunatic accusation of a cabal between the commies at the Times and the traitors at MoveOn?

Anyway, here's what I wrote:

From ERIC ALTERMAN: Subject: MoveOn ad. For the record, four years ago, a foundation purchased a full-page ad in the Times for my book, "What Liberal Media?" Because the foundation worked through a public relations agency that buys many such advertisements with the Times, the price was considerably less expensive than the quoted rate. This is common practice in the advertising business and I would not be surprised if MoveOn.org used the same firm or one with a similar arrangement. It's open to conservatives as well and easily researched by reporters.

Here's a paragraph that got cut from my Nation column regarding the media's attempt to de-legitimize John Edwards' efforts to give the poor a voice in our political discourse:

(The poor are also, by the way, apparently entitled to virtually no television coverage. A recent study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found that during a three-year period, the three networks, combined, aired only 58 stories that dealt with poverty compared with say, Michael Jackson's trial, which enjoyed 69 stories. Of these few, if any, involved actual poor people offering their views on anything, save specific anecdotes about their poverty.)

The authors of this terrific blog I just discovered believe that yours truly should "leave the Yankee-hating for the sports call-in shows where it belongs, and stick in his blog to politics and beating up on Bush ..." I must admit this is a pretty common sentiment, and I have lately taken some flak from Newton's greatest living sportswriter for not crowing more about Pedro's so far extremely encouraging return to the mound. Still, I gotta be honest, it doesn't feel like the Mets' year this year. They are just not playing clutch, dependable ball. And if Beltran does not catch fire and Jose does not learn a little more self-discipline and the bullpen does not, well, I dunno ... I'm worried about their ability even to get past the Phillies, much less make it to the Series where, as the saying goes, almost anything can happen. So perhaps I've gone a little easier on the Yankees than I would like. As I've noted too many times to count, working the refs works.

That said, what a great blog, huh? Turns out all that complaining about the Times sports section was dead on, and henceforth, I shall have the stats at my disposal to back it up. Here's what the young people call the 411:

Well, after looking into it, I have concluded that Alterman is indeed correct, and that the Mets have been systematically underreported (or the Yankees overreported), in the paper of record, The New York Times.

The brave new world of Proquest searches lets a researcher quickly determine the frequency of an appearance of a key word or phrase over time. The basic search I simple, between April 1962 (when the Mets played their first game), and December 2003 (when the database ends) how many articles in the New York Times contained the words of the two teams.

New York Times Articles, 4/62-12/03
New York Yankees:47,051
New York Mets:33,391

This would seem to be conclusive, 30% more articles on the Yankees, or about, on the average, about 340 extra articles per year on the Bronx publicity-hounds.

Thanks, Peter Eisenstadt and Rob Snyder, founding editors of the Greater New York blog. While we're on the topic, I see Selena Roberts ($) trying rather desperately to talk the rest of us out of perfectly healthy Yankee-hating habit, though I'll be damned if I can understand the argument save for the fact that, um, Steinbrenner's gotten really old.

Yankee hate seems so synthetic, so manufactured. Really, you have to force it when the Boss is only venomous in caricature as he slip-slides away into the background.

What does that mean, anyone?

To conjure genuine hate for the Yanks is becoming more difficult -- but, of course, not impossible. A perfect Timesian sentiment, dontcha think? All that's missing is the "Only time will tell" coda.

Speaking of Time, this time the magazine looks at how the talented Nancy Gibbs slips the shiv into Judy G and Jeri T in her cover story on presidential spouses. It would be bias were it not for the fact that it's totally true:

For the others, the question may be whether voters have seen too much. The public displays of affection that front runner Rudolph Giuliani and wife Judith put on for Barbara Walters -- holding hands and calling each other "baby" and "sweetheart" -- only served to remind viewers that this first blush of love is also the third marriage for each, and that wife No. 3 is one of the reasons his children with wife No. 2 won't campaign for him. "I have just recently begun -- I think they call it in the political world -- being 'rolled out,' " Judith, 52, told Walters, but the process has been anything but smooth. A scathing profile of Judith Stish Ross Nathan Giuliani in Vanity Fair pored over her two failed marriages (one of which she acknowledged only recently), the requirement that a separate seat on her plane be provided for the Louis Vuitton handbag that is known around Giuliani headquarters as Baby Louis, and the inconvenient timeline of their courtship, which started while he was still living with second wife Donna Hanover.

Through all this, Judith Giuliani is trying hard to keep her game face on. "It's a steep learning curve. It's all been new to me," she says. "What's really important is, it's my husband who's running for office. He is the one. I do think that is important for us to focus on. We aren't electing a spouse." And while Rudy Giuliani told Walters he would be "very, very comfortable" with having his wife, a nurse, attend Cabinet meetings --"I couldn't have a better adviser" -- Judith downplays her influence and her interest in his campaign and in any future Giuliani Administration. "My role is really to support my husband in the ways I have always supported him. I love to take charge of his personal health needs, make sure he's exercising, getting the right food, which is a real challenge on the campaign trail," she says. "I do attend some meetings, but more often than not, it's for my own edification."

For Fred Thompson's wife Jeri, 40, who is a quarter-century younger than he is, it's hard to figure out which female stereotype is more toxic: the siren whose tight, low-cut outfits had cable-television commentator and former gop Congressman Joe Scarborough speculating that she "works the pole" -- a phrase usually associated with strippers -- or the conniving Lady Macbeth who has been blamed for sending his campaign into disarray even before it was launched. She was a major force in persuading him to run but also a major one behind a series of shake-ups that had the campaign on its second manager and its fourth spokesman before Thompson even announced his candidacy.

Her defenders note that Jeri Thompson has worked for years as a political operative. "She gets Republican politics. She gets conservative politics. But most of all, she understands where this man is and how best to help him," says Mark Corallo, a well-respected strategist who helped launch the campaign. But then, on the eve of Thompson's much delayed announcement, Corallo himself resigned.

Their family portrait -- a man who qualifies for Social Security with a 40-year-old blond, a toddler and a baby -- is a far cry from that of Ike and Mamie. "He sadly now looks like their grandfather," says Marton. "It's not what women want the presidential family to look like. No doubt unintentionally, but to a lot of women it's almost a rebuke. It's too unsubtle."

From TomDispatch:

Tom Engelhardt starts his latest piece with the lyrics sung by that former Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, in My Fair Lady: "Oh, words, words, words, I'm so sick of words. ... Is that all you blighters can do?" Of course, all she had to do was be Pygmalion to a self-involved language teacher. We've had to bear with the bloviating of almost every member of Congress, the full-blast PR apparatus of the White House, and two endless days of congressional testimony from General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, not to speak of the flood of newspaper, radio, and TV stories about all of the above and the bevy of experts who are hustled out to do the horse-race assessments of how the general and ambassador performed, whether they "bought" time for the president, and the like.

The media had for weeks offered a drumbeat of breathless prose leading up to this moment, preparing us for "pivotal reports," "highly anticipated appearances," and "long-awaited testimony," or, as both The Washington Post on its front page and ABC's World News in a lead report put it, "the most anticipated congressional testimony by a general since the Vietnam War." And Petraeus himself was treated like a cross between a conquering Caesar and the Paris Hilton of generals (with no detail about him too small to report).

In his piece Engelhardt makes the case for why Washington loves all these words -- and why we should skip them. (Polls show most Americans already have.) Why, in short, these hearings were neither "pivotal," nor, to pick another media phrase, "a moment of truth," but a done deal from mid-last summer.

He sums up the last two days of "testimony" and endless spin and analysis about the testimony this way:

To grasp the Petraeus moment, you really have to re-imagine official Washington as a set of drunks behind the wheels of so many SUVs tearing down a well-populated city avenue -- and all of them are on their cell phones. They hardly notice the bodies bouncing off the fenders. For them, the world is Washington-centered; all interests that matter are American ones. Nothing else exists, not really. Think of this as a form of imperial autism and the Petraeus moment as the way in which the White House and official Washington have, for a brief time, blotted out the world.

Alter-reviews:

Washington Square Serenade by Steve Earle, reviewed by Sal:

Washington Square Serenade is the most inspired Steve Earle record since 1996's "I Feel Alright." That's not to say the albums in between were not worthy. Steve Earle doesn't make bad records. There just seemed to be a sameness in the last few that made listening a bit difficult. Earle has a lot to say and never hesitates to say it. So just when you're wishing for a romp like "Guitar Town," or a monster chorus like the ones in "Someday," or "I Ain't Ever Satisfied," what you got on his last few were, to paraphrase a friend, "New Yorker articles set to music."

The inspiration for his new release is Earle's current hometown, New York City. And while no song is a light-hearted throwaway, each is distinct enough from the other so that the album plays nicely and quickly, and never forgets to convey Earle's beliefs. It's rarely heavy-handed.

Two beautiful tracks with the wonderful Alison Moorer, Earle's wife, "Days Aren't Long Enough" and "Down Here Below," are standouts. The title track harkens back to Earle's Nashville days. "Red Is The Color" is a pounding blues from the swamp. And the Brazilian flavor of "City Of Immigrants" is a brilliant and successful dive into new musical waters for Earle.

Washington Square Serenade is a winner. Earle's best in a while. And an album destined for my year-end Top Ten.

Sal Nunziato
Unemployed

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Ken
Hometown: Cherry Hill, NJ

On Tuesday, I watched an interesting documentary on PBS's POV called "The Camden 28". As a piece of art, it did not seem to me to be especially ground-breaking (though I am no critic). On the other hand, it is an effective if rather simple retelling of the story of 28 anti-war activists who in 1971 broke into the Federal Building in Camden, NJ, to destroy draft records as a protest against the war in Vietnam. By all accounts, similar acts on both a larger and smaller scale were happening all over the country at that time as opposition to the war in Vietnam continued to grow so I don't think there is anything particularly different or special about this group except that the filmmakers, like me, happened to be from Southern New Jersey. However, the parallels to today are obvious. Little more than a generation later, we, again, find ourselves mired in a war that was never necessary or justified and now continues at growing and grievous cost in blood and treasure only because of the stubbornness of military and political leaders who, among other things, are compulsively incapable of admitting defeat or error.

While the parallels are obvious, there is one enormous difference between today and anti-war movement of 1971 that not only jumps out and slaps you in the face as you watch this documentary, but also, perhaps, may start to explain why today's anti-war movement is so ineffectual by comparison. Quite simply, it is the make-up of the protesters. The majority of "The Camden 28" were the expected mix of college kids and other young idealists from various walks of life, but they also, much more surprisingly, included four (4) Catholic priests and a Protestant minister. While this was initially shocking to me, it really should not be. I don't intend to make this a diatribe on religion and, in fact, there is no need to because one does not need to be a theologian or particularly religious or even Christian to know that, if one boils down the message of Jesus Christ to its most fundamental component, it is a message of peace. As such, it should not be at all shocking that people of conscience who'd sworn to live their lives in accordance with, and spread the word of, Jesus Christ would do anything and everything in their power, even breaking the law, to stop a war. What should be shocking is that today, just 36 years later, so few of these same people of conscience have stood up to make the same argument. Rather than standing up for the most fundamental aspect of Christianity, the overwhelming majority of the religious right in this country has allowed themselves to get bogged down in such brazenly political wedge issues as gay marriage and abortion rights and evolution and sex in the media and, well, I could go on endlessly, but you get the point.

I will leave it to others to debate who deserves more blame. Is it the Republican Party leaders who have so completely and nakedly and despicably co-opted the religious right in this nation to feed their own lust for power? Or is it the leaders of the religious right who've allowed themselves to be so fully co-opted that they've literally sold out their most fundamental beliefs? Or is it the multitude of otherwise good-hearted, religious folks (and most of us fall into this group regardless of how we choose to worship) who've done nothing as their leaders, both political and religious, have strayed so far from the basic teachings of their church? Quite frankly and sadly, I think the answer is "all of the above."

Name: JimG
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio

What I don't understand is why everyone is not repeating Gen. Petraeus' earlier comment that "there is no purely military solution in Iraq" and asking him in response to his presentation this week, "So what?" Without a political and diplomatic surge, there is not going to be a resolution to this conflict. The General says so, the experts say so. So, why don't the Congressional critics fund the troops and require the administration to engage in substantive regional diplomacy and Iraqi politics to reach a resolution? Let's put some meaningful benchmarks where they need to be, on the Bush administration to get them to support their own war. (And a few benchmarks that require some immediate payment for the war effort might be fun to add too.)

Name: Richard Taylor
Hometown: San Antonio

For all those folks who are against the Iraq occupation but decrying the "Betray-us" ad from MoveOn, my only response is to ask them how much play the ad would have received if they had just used bland, "non-offensive" language? My bet is very little. But now, the ad AND the message are out in normal conversation and will reinforce the message. Naming General Petraeus is supposed to have originated with the troops on the ground. So I guess they don't support themselves? Or could it be that they have a better understanding of the individual than all the pundits and whiners? My bet is on the latter.

Name: Ron Starr
Hometown: Seattle

One must also add a note of irony to the Seattle Times' series on media and democracy. For over a year, the Times has been trying to get out of a joint operating agreement (JOA) and, thus, to kill the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the only other daily paper in Seattle.

Name: Brent
Hometown: Helena, Montana

Eric,

In your Farm Aid writings you stated, "I had no understanding before of all of the ecological implications of local food and farms and the like..." I highly recommend you (and your readers) pick up a copy of Michael Pollan's book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma." I found it to be a page-turner, sans the chapters on hunting. That is where his thesis most misses the mark. That said, I do believe it will be an eye-opener for you.

In a similar light but less entertaining and informative would be Barbara Kingsolver's latest book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." She captures the premise of eating locally but in my mind doesn't appear too excited about the "project" other than to have a book at the end.

Name: Ruth Katz
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY (originally Chicago, IL)

Hi Eric --

Thanks for mentioning the educational booths at the Farm Aid concert. I helped organize Homegrown Village, so I really appreciate hearing that it got noticed and made a difference.

Name: Marilyn King Reece
Hometown: Alabama

Letter writer A Sullivan quite rightly pointed out Wednesday that "the only way Iraq can survive our invasion is if we provide the military protection. For a very long time." This week in The Nation, Tom Hayden details the policy of fomenting civil war by way of counterinsurgency warfare, which "seeks to coerce populations into accepting a repressive regime or foreign occupation--and sometimes both," from Kit Carson's using rival tribes against the Navajo to Gen. Petraeus ( ). And the Thursday bombing of our president's photo partner Abu Risha indicates that, yes, it will take a very long time.

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

I was similarly unhappy with the MSM reporting of Petraeus' and Crocker's appearances before the Senate and of Moveon.org's ad. However, I was extremely disappointed that Petraeus' earlier work and predictions weren't addressed. Unless I missed it, no one asked him about 1. the rosy op-ed he wrote prior to the election, 2. earlier testimony about the readiness of the Iraqi police whose training he oversaw, and 3. the missing weapons that were his responsibility. Before we put any credence in what he has to say about the military impact on the present and future situation, his earlier errors must be addressed. Indeed, these should have been addressed when he was vetted for the job he now holds, although I don't believe the weapons disappearance was known at the time. Simply according his testimony credibility because he's wearing the uniform is not sufficient.

Moreover, the fact that Crocker and Petraeus both are adopting a logic invented for the Bush 2004 campaign should put us on alert: that is, "things are bad, but they'll be worse if we don't follow the Bush administration's plan." The truth of the matter is that things are bad because the Bush administration hadn't a clue and should never have embarked on this to begin with. As long as Congress rewards incompetence by allowing this failed policy to be extended, we're screwed.

Name: Bill Skeels
Hometown: Raleigh

"But Tonto he was smarter, and one day said, 'Kemo sabe/kiss my ass, I bought a boat, I'm going to sail away.' "

should be ...

"But Tonto he was smarter, and one day said, 'Kemo sabe/kiss my ass, I bought a boat, I'm going out to sea.' "

Rhymes with " ... Tonto did the dirty work for free."

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