Wrong 'em, Boy-O

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I've got a new Think Again column called "Michael Mukasey: Man of Mystery" here.

This is too funny. Yes, the problem with U.S. Middle East coverage is the fact that Muslims intimidate journalists and, hence, coverage is overly sympathetic to Arabs. You read it here first.

No, this is actually much funnier. "Dean" Broder on the genius of Newt Gingrich. (Um, Dave, I guess I wrote you your own personal column. I called it "Think Again: Beware the Ideas of Newt," and it's here.)

Book 'em, Dan-O:

I make it a point not to feel sorry for people who make $8 million a year. (This is especially true in Dan Rather's case because he keeps meeting me and then forgetting he's ever met me ...) But you could tell he got screwed by CBS when they dropped him in response to right-wing-driven hysteria, lest anyone look too carefully into George W. Bush's draft-dodging. Remember, not even the Thornburgh commission ever determined whether those documents were fake, though it is a given of virtually all discussion of the matter that this was somehow proven. What the right has always understood is the fact that the one of the most powerful forces in the universe is the fear of the heads of large corporations feeling themselves to be embarrassed. This is nowhere more true than for the heads of large media corporations.

Rather became an embarrassment for CBS and so he was unceremoniously dumped, just as CNN dumped its producers way back when for a story on the use of nerve gas in Vietnam that may or may not have been true but fell within the radar of the right's minions. Thing is, the producers at CBS needed the money that paid for their silence afterward. Rather, because he'd been netting that $8 mil or so -- and by the way, anchor salaries are one big reason all network news is in such trouble today. How many journalists do you think you could hire at, say, $150K per year with the salaries of Messrs. Williams, Gibson, Russert, Schieffer, Stephanopoulos, and Ms. Couric? The number for Katie alone would be about a hundred. (Remember, Peter Jennings left his family $50 million when he died during the years that ABC News was all but decimated.)

Anyway, Dan-O's big bucks come in handy right about now because he couldn't be bought out with a confidentiality agreement.

According to the suit, Rather contends that the network committed fraud by commissioning a "biased" and incomplete investigation of the flawed Guard broadcast and, in the process, "seriously damaged his reputation," and charges that CBS and its executives made him "a scapegoat" in an attempt "to pacify the White House," though the formal complaint presents virtually no direct evidence to that effect. To buttress this claim, Mr. Rather quotes the executive who oversaw his regular segment on CBS Radio, telling Mr. Rather in November 2004 that he was losing that slot, effective immediately, because of "pressure from 'the right wing.' " Sounds true to me.

And how telling is this? "Instead of directly vetting the script he would read for the Guard segment, Mr. Rather says, he acceded to pressure from Mr. Heyward to focus instead on his reporting from Florida on Hurricane Frances, and on Bill Clinton's heart surgery."

And this: "Under pressure, Mr. Rather says, he delivered a public apology on his newscast on Sept. 20, 2004 -- written not by him but by a CBS corporate publicist -- "despite his own personal feelings that no public apology from him was warranted."

Read all about it, here and elsewhere, I'm sure.

Alter-clarification:

Tuesday, I wrote of the New York Post, The Washington Times, and the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, "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." To be fair, that statement is entirely true of the Times and the Post. It may well be true of the Tribune-Review. I am certainly under the impression that it is. But my impressions regarding the Tribune-Review are not really worth very much. I've noticed a few instances where Scaife has messed with the news over the years, and I've allowed these to color my entire view. Perhaps my impression is correct, perhaps not. But I should have kept my mouth shut about it. I try hard not to write strong words about things that I've not taken the time and effort to understand, and I did not do that in the case of the Tribune-Review.

Eric R. on why the University of California Regents should have let Larry Summers speak, here.

Alter-reviews: John Coltrane, Interplay, on Concord

I guess Fred Kaplan had a better time at the Sonny Rollins show at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday night than we did, given that we had to buy our own balcony seat and wait on an unbelievably long will-call line to get in. And since we don't pay bubkes for our reviews here, we can't afford Fred except as a link, so read him there and on his jazz blog, here.

In the meantime, you're stuck with a far less erudite review by yours truly of a wonderful new box set from my friend Stormin' Norman Lear and his homeys over at Concord of Coltrane material called Interplay. The beautifully sounding five CDs are drawn from seven collaborative records that Trane recorded for Prestige between 1956-58. When I first heard about it, I got worried. I love early and mid-Coltrane, but I try and fail to love or even stand the later stuff. But as with the water in Casablanca, I was misinformed. This is melodic Coltrane, and aside from the Miles years and just a few of the famous masterpieces, it's pretty damn difficult to beat, anywhere. We don't get any Sonny Rollins -- the two men respected and admired one another but stopped playing together quite early -- but we do get Coltrane with Kenny Burrell, Frank Wess, Red Garland, Tommy Flannigan, Jackie McLean, Paul Quinchette and Mal Waldron, among others. And the jam sessions included not only put a song in your heart but also, I know this sounds sappy, a smile on your face.

The discography is excellent and the CDs are handsomely packaged, though not with indiviudal jewel cases, if you're the kind of person who likes to take them out of the box. The introductory essay is by Nat Hentoff, but more important, the notes are by Coltrane scholar Lewis Porter, with original liner notes by Ira Getler. Great, rare photos too.

Visit Concord here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Dan R.
Hometown: Lancaster PA

Hey Dr. A.,

As much as most people actually hate the New York Yankees, you have to admit, nothing sells like drama. The Yanks are drama. What are the Mets? By the way, a quote from the great Bob Feller says it best, "As much as we disliked the Yankees, fans and players alike, they were good for baseball. Unsuccessful teams like the Browns, Senators, and A's paid a lot of their bills with those big crowds that poured through the gates when the Yankees came to town." Not much has changed from those days to these days.

Name: John S.
Hometown: Seattle

Dr. E.,

The prospect of unprovoked war with Iran is terrifying.

A few months ago I called my Congressional reps and urged them to tell the President:

If the President orders an attack an Iran without Congressional approval, we will commence impeachment proceedings immediately.

We all need to call Congress. Early and often.

Thanks for your good work.

Name: Brian Geving
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

Eric,

After reading the Times piece on Alan Greenspan, I agree with you that the only reason for his mea culpa is because he's hawking a book. No intelligent person would believe that he would suddenly start criticizing Bush's horrible fiscal policy after nary a peep for 6 years, even though he's had plenty of opportunities.

But it was the last two paragraphs that jumped out at me:

In retrospect, Mr. Greenspan's moral collapse in 2001 was a portent. It foreshadowed the way many people in the foreign policy community would put their critical faculties on hold and support the invasion of Iraq, despite ample evidence that it was a really bad idea.

And like enthusiastic war supporters who have started describing themselves as war critics now that the Iraq venture has gone wrong, Mr. Greenspan has started portraying himself as a critic of administration fiscal irresponsibility now that President Bush has become deeply unpopular and Democrats control Congress.

This is a subject that has been brought up in the blog before, and I've commented on, but what is it about having George W Bush and Dick Cheney in the White House that causes formerly courageous men and women to lose their moral bearing? Has Dick Cheney sent his minions to steal Wonder Woman's Magic Lasso to use on these fine individuals? That's the only explanation that makes sense to me, without bringing up uncomfortable subjects like whether the nature of mankind is good or evil.

Name: Paul
Hometown: Oak Harbor, WA

Just watch the movements of U.S. Navy aircraft carrier groups if you need to validate your concern about the U.S. attacking Iran. When all of our carriers are deployed, then your worst fears will be justified. In the interim, I think the U.S. will prefer to use proxies to fight/contain Tehran.

Of course, attacking Iran will drive the price of a crude oil over $100/barrel almost instantaneously, which will in turn drive the U.S. and world economy into a rather unpleasant depression.

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