But your lovin' don't pay my bills ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Richard Mellon Scaife loses roughly 20 million bucks a year on the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Rupert Murdoch loses, by his own estimation, between $30 million and $50 million a year on the New York Post. Ditto Sun Myung Moon and The Washington Times. None of these are remotely the kind of newspaper that would give anyone pride of ownership or serve to manifest a sense of civic duty. So why do they do it? Because the rest of the world doesn't know any better than to take them seriously.

Fox, on the other hand, does make money; tons of it. Remember poor Bart Simpson: "And then I had this dream that my whole family were just cartoon characters and our success had led to some crazy propaganda network called Fox News." Since money trumps everthing else in Hollywood, Fox will probably get away with its naked political censorship of the Emmys, but it shouldn't:

Sally Field was cut off as she concluded a tribute to mothers by saying, "If the mothers ruled the world, there would be no goddamn wars in the first place!" ... The censorship of Field was one of three such incidents on Sunday.

"Some language during the live broadcast may have been considered inappropriate by some viewers," the network said in a statement. "As a result, Fox's broadcast standards executives determined it appropriate to drop sound (and picture) during those portions of the show."

Really, do we want what Fox thinks "some people" would find offensive censored out of public discourse? I find virtually everything George W. Bush says offensive ... I'm guessing Fox couldn't care less.

And speaking of the Scaife's Tribune-Review, I see its media writer, Bill Steigerwald, insists that Paul Waldman's Media Matters study, to which I linked last week, is "fatally flawed." Let's not hold the Scaife connection against him. Let's just see the case.

"Is Morton Kondracke a conservative op-ed columnist?" (Well, duh).

"Are David Broder, Cokie Roberts and Thomas Friedman centrists?" Well, yes, but they actually lean conservative.

OK, that's enough, Mr. Steigerwald. Two sentences in, and you've already lost the non-Scaife-funded world.

Enjoy the fella's money while you can, bub. Looks like the Mrs. is going to start taking a bit for herself -- $725,000 a month, to be exact -- and send a few of those free-market-loving right-wingers into the, you know, free market.

And speaking of Murdoch, this would be funny in a world where it didn't matter, but of course ...

And still speaking of Scaife, from today's WSJ: "After Ted Olson's name floated out of the Washington vapors last week, he was subjected to an absurd attack on his 'partisanship' from Harry Reid and Mr. Leahy."

"Absurd," these loonies write with a straight face. ... This is from What Liberal Media?, though it relies heavily on the reporting of Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, as well as that of David Brock:

Undoubtedly, Scaife's most costly endeavor -- judged purely in terms of the unwanted publicity and negative attention -- was the so-called "Arkansas Project" based at The American Spectator magazine and its concurrent "Education Fund." Begun on a fishing trip on the Chesapeake Bay in the fall of 1993, the project managed to bilk the billionaire for millions, nearly destroy the magazine, and almost cost George W. Bush one of his most trusted advisers, his appointed solicitor general. Scaife's top aide, Richard M. Larry, right-wing entrepreneur and public relations man; David Henderson, who was a friend of Larry's; Washington lawyer Steven Boynton; Spectator editor R. Emmett Tyrell; and Theodore Olson, who later argued George W. Bush's election case before the Supreme Court and was rewarded with the job of solicitor general. Larry had already approached at least two other organizations looking to fund a massive investigation into alleged Clinton wrongdoings back in Arkansas, but he was turned down cold. Eventually the Spectator would receive nearly $2.3 million for the project alone. According to the foundation's internal accounts, three-quarters of the Arkansas Project funding, or $1.8 million, was paid out in "legal expenses" with no further explanation provided.

[...]

As [David Brock] related in his book-length mea culpa, "I had stumbled onto stumbled onto something big, a symbiotic relationship that would help create a highly-profitable, right-wing Big Lie machine that flourished in book publishing, on talk-radio, and on the Internet in the 90s." Acting on the advice of one of his many mentors in the movement, Free Press publisher Erwin Glikes (now deceased) that "right-wing journalism had to be injected into the bloodstream of the liberal media for maximum effect," Brock leaked a copy of his fatally flawed Troopergate story to CNN -- "astonished," he claimed, "to see how easy it was to suck [them] in -- where it led the evening newscast, and was further picked up from there. Scaife liked what he saw and continued to pony up more millions to further pollute the national discourse with baseless allegations and paranoid conspiracy theories.

Not even Brock believed his own reporting at the time. And neither did many of the people who helped publish him. Brock alleged that Olson pushed for the publication the phony Vince Foster story because, Olson told him, the purpose was not to get at the truth but to throw mud at the Clintons and hope that something stuck. Brock wrote of Olson that "while he believed, as [independent counsel Kenneth] Starr apparently did, that Foster had committed suicide, raising questions was a way of turning up the heat on the administration until another scandal was shaken loose, which was the Spectator's mission."

Absurd, huh?

The Journal says of the Mukasey nomination: "You finally have the right man for the right job at the right time." That's good enough for me. I'm against him. Saves me the trouble of having to read anything else about the guy...

To be (brutally) honest, I can't recall ever mentioning Bob Herbert in the more than five years I've been doing Altercation. Kinda proves the guy's point, alas. (Also I'm impressed with Frank's reporting. He tracked me down in Bellagio, talked to me for an hour, and then used only a single quote, but fairly and in context.) Even writing this piece was kind of brave ...

Also, this is kinda hard for me to write, but when we were all younguns in Washington in the early '80s, like Ezra, et al, are now, Richard Cohen was the best columnist in the world. No, really....

From TomDispatch

Boston Globe columnist James Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews and Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War, is a man who knows something about the dangers of mixing religious fervor, war, and the crusading spirit. A former Catholic priest turned antiwar activist in the Vietnam era, Carroll also essentially grew up in the Pentagon -- his father was the founding director of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency. For him, as a boy, that five-sided monument to American imperial power was "the largest playhouse in the world."

More recently, for his new film, also titled Constantine's Sword, he has been exploring the roots of religiously inspired violence in our present world, including the arrival of evangelical Christian fundamentalism at the U.S. Air Force academy and in the military. As a subject, American-style fundamentalism generally receives remarkably less coverage and consideration than other fundamentalisms of our world -- and it's a subject, as his recent interview "American Exceptionalism Meets Team Jesus" shows, on which Carroll is eloquent. In it, he carries us from the first religiously inspired Puritan moments of American "exceptionalism" through the particular style of missionizing zealotry that characterized George Bush's war in Iraq.

He considers the nature of the fundamentalist mindset; why an American special sense of mission (which cuts across all political boundaries from right to left) is so dangerous -- especially when, in our own moment, it combines with a Christian evangelical sense of the same; what happened at the U.S. Air Force Academy where "Team Jesus" was one of the nicknames for the football team; why the Constitution (and its wall between church and state) is worth defending; and how to deal with a world that is religiously aflame.

He concludes: "Religion and politics, religion and military power, are a deadly mix in an age of weapons of mass destruction; and, if the United States of America gets this wrong, there's no reason to think anybody else is going to get it right. Casting an eye across the century to come, this is the issue."

More New York bragging:

1) Can you believe I forgot to mention how Neil Young went on and on at Farm Aid about the fact that the city apparently has the world's best drinking water? Well, we do, says Neil, because of something having to do with family farms. I couldn't really follow it.

2) Last night if you lived here you could have stopped off at the World Trade Center and seen a killer set by the Old 97s followed by one by The Hold Steady. Tomorrow you could see one by Ollabelle, the Holmes Brothers and Nick Lowe. Tonight there's another one, I forget what, but I ponied up my money to see Sonny Rollins at Carnegie so I can't go. And this weekend, you can see the Public Theater perform Hair for free at the Delacorte in Central Park. And if you pay money, you can see Patti Griffin and Allen Toussaint there on Thursday. How are things in your city?

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Meryl
Hometown: Brooklyn

Hi Eric, glad Sal liked the new Steve Earle so much, and wanted to let you, him and anyone else who might be interested know that he'll be in conversation at the 92nd Street Y on Tuesday, Oct. 9. Shana tova ....

Eric replies: Hi, Meryl. Steve will also be premiering the new record at Town Hall Wednesday night the 26th. The folks at The Wire have allowed him to shave off that beard now that they are done taping so he looks more (or less) like himself in case that was bothering anyone ...

Name: Jeff Myhre
Hometown: New York, NY

I grew up in a household where we had 2 favorite teams, the LA Dodgers and whoever was playing the Yankees that day. So, what's all this piffle about it being hard to hate the Yankees? It's an article of faith among all enlightened and decent people that the New York Yankees are evil incarnate, they are Satan's team, they are the cause of all ill in the world. The snake in the Garden of Eden wore pinstripes! One doesn't need a reason to hate the Yankees any more than the tide needs a reason to ebb and flow. So please, no more of this revisionism.

Name: Mike
Hometown: Seattle

Further to Ron Starr's note about the Seattle Times, this also is the paper that has gone to great lengths to keep the legal proceedings involving the joint operating agreement private by going through arbitration and then refusing to disclose key terms of a settlement with the P-I, like the amount of money actually changing hands. Seems that the public's right to know stops at the doors of the Times.

Name: Brian P. Evans
Hometown: San Diego, CA

Since My Fair Lady is one of the few perfect musicals out there, I'd hate to see its underlying story misquoted. Pygmalion was the sculptor and thus, his cognate was Henry Higgins. Eliza Doolittle was the stand in for Galatea, the statue Pygmalion created, fell in love with, and came to life when Aphrodite took pity on Pygmalion.

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