Making Nowhere Plans for Nobody

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We have a new Think Again column, called "No Iraq News (Still) Isn't Good News," here.

I find the reporting out of Iowa and New Hampshire profoundly dispiriting. A fair estimation would be that 99 percent of it is entirely irrelevant to the question of who should be the next president and what issues that person is likely to face. That 99 percent includes horse-race coverage of one variety or another, devoted entirely to process and execution, and meant almost exclusively for insiders. What is further dispiriting is the degree to which so many liberal bloggers and journalists who generally decry this kind of thing have fallen into exactly this trap. It's a lesson in the sociology of journalism and the power of group dynamics. I remember during the first election that I traveled with the press, I was with Al Gore in Nashville on Super Tuesday in 1988. When Gore held a press conference the next day, I was determined to ask him a question about the MX missile. When I did, the rest of the room looked at me as if I had rabies. They had done their "issues" six months ago, and now the only reason that issues mattered was to what degree they accorded political advantage. Ditto today, but even more so. I won't name names because the disease is so prevalent, it would be unfair.

How to cheat in journalism: from the current New York magazine:

After a failed attempt by front man Thom Yorke's record label to strong-arm OiNK into removing his solo album from the site, the band changed strategies, inviting fans to pay whatever they wished to download their new record, In Rainbows, or drop $80 for a lushly packaged, high-fidelity physical album. One estimate puts their first-month online sales as high as $2.74 million.

Really, I estimate their first-month online sales as high as ten bazillion gazillion dollars. From Altercation:

After a failed attempt by front man Thom Yorke's record label to strong-arm OiNK into removing his solo album from the site, the band changed strategies, inviting fans to pay whatever they wished to download their new record, In Rainbows, or drop $80 for a lushly packaged, high-fidelity physical album. One estimate puts their first-month online sales as high as ten bazillion gazillion dollars.

Just as true, (and would survive an intern fact-check just as easily). Remember reader: beware thinly sourced claims!

Quote of the Day, from Paul Krugman, here:

Rupert Murdoch, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq:

The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy, if you could put it that way, would be $20 a barrel for oil. That's bigger than any tax cut in any country

" 'You Don't Understand Our Audience': What I learned about network television at Dateline NBC." Great piece by John Hockenberry, here.

From the "You can't make these people up," department:

Fox News guest: sex ed boosters want kids to get STDs.

During the Dec. 31 broadcast of Fox News' Special Report, Concerned Women for America President Wendy Wright claimed that proponents of comprehensive sex education are trying to "encourage" sex because "they benefit when kids end up having sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies and then they lead them into having abortions." She then added, "You have to look at the financial motives behind those who are promoting comprehensive sex ed."

Lifted from Think Progress, here.

Nice profile of Dion here. I was planning to complain that it could have been written two years ago, when Dion released that excellent acoustic blues album, but that's only because the headline is a bit misleading. The story is an evergreen ...

Petey's new wife. Sorry ladies. (Read from the bottom up, but only if you have a valid-looking ID card that can get you a beer somewhere.)

Craziest thought of the day, if serious, here: "[Gil Scott] Heron's like the Leonardo Da Vinci of our generation." Really, Ezra. Johannesburg = Sistine Chapel Mona Lisa? Come now.

Many months ago, I noticed an obituary in one of the papers for a retired diplomat whose first name I don't recall, but the description of his life struck me as that of an ideal liberal American patriot. His last name was "Kaiser." The mind gets hazy, but if I recall correctly, and I apologize if I don't, he was the father of Robert Kaiser, Charles Kaiser, and David Kaiser. He must have been quite a dad, therefore as well. Robert Kaiser has led a long and distinguished career as a liberal Washington Post reporter and editor, and is one of the people most responsible for my career path when he politely suggested that I forget about working at the Post about 20 years ago, and so sent me on my path to my doctorate, etc., and thank goodness for that. Charles Kaiser is a distinguished liberal journalist who writes about gay issues a great deal and is a bit too generous to New York Times poohbahs for my taste but has been doing very interesting interviews for Radar and has a spot-on column about Andrew Rosenthal and William Kristol here. His column informs me that his brother, the historian David Kaiser, on whose history of Vietnam I relied a great deal when writing When Presidents Lie and who I learn from Charles' column maintains a terrific blog, soon to be added to our roll here. Check it out here, as Charles suggests, for an extremely useful compendium of Kristolania, and much else that is worthwhile as well.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Billy
Hometown: Helena, Montana

Eric, I think every time that the idea of Michael Bloomberg running for president as independent is written about, there should be a sentence or two about the incredible difficulties he faces.Petitioning to be on the ballot in 50 states is incredibly hard. Without the passionate volunteers to circulate these petitions, the cost is very high. When you pay people to collect signatures on petitions, your ratio of duplicate signatures and signatures from ineligible voters (residency, not registered, etc.) increases. Paid circulators have to collect anywhere from 50% to 100% more signatures to withstand challenges. Here in Montana, I don't see a lot of committed, passionate moderates wanting a bipartisan presidential ticket. Maybe New York or Oklahoma are different.

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