Yesterday's post went up very late, so we're going to leave it today so it gets a fair viewing. But we have a new Think Again column here called "Drilling Deep to Mislead on Oil Prices." We also have a new Nation column, "Obama vs. the Smart Guys (and Dumb Wars)," here.
This Week on Moyers:
Injury rates reported at America's poultry plants have dropped dramatically in recent years, and so have workplace safety inspections. Are regulators rewarding companies for inaccurate reporting of injuries? Bill Moyers Journal and Exposé: America's Investigative Reports go inside America's poultry industry, which employs almost a quarter-million workers nationwide, to show the reality of working conditions and to investigate how official statistics showing a drop in workplace injuries may have been the result of deceptive reporting. Also on the program, Bill Moyers interviews Sen. Barbara Boxer about global warming.
In case you missed it, we wrote a lengthy piece for this week's issue of The Nation, called "Loving John McCain: A Smitten Press Corps Soft-Pedals His Hardline Politics," in which we attempt to illustrate that the mainstream political media has ignored the addiction to political expediency and extreme positions of Sen. John McCain, and that they do so in part because the man with whom they "are infatuated is largely an invention of their collective imagination, one they often admit they love not because of what he says and does but because they -- as with George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin -- can discern what lies in his heart." My old friend Richard Cohen is mentioned in the piece, for his characterization of McCain as "the hero [who] still does things his own way." James Wolcott also contributed a piece to this month's Vanity Fair about the hero-worshipping "man-crushes" that Washington pundits, including Cohen, hold for McCain.
Cohen acknowledged the pieces in his column yesterday, writing: "In some recent magazine articles, I and certain of my colleagues have been accused of being soft on McCain, forgiving him his flips, his flops and his mostly conservative ideology." He pleads not guilty, but continues:
[F]or the record, let's recapitulate: McCain has either reversed himself or significantly amended his positions on immigration, tax cuts for the wealthy, campaign spending (as it applies to use of his wife's corporate airplane) and, most recently, offshore drilling. In the more distant past, he has denounced then embraced certain ministers of medieval views and changed his mind about the Confederate flag, which flies by state sanction in South Carolina only, I suspect, to provide Republican candidates with a chance to choose tradition over common decency. There, I've said it all.
Well actually, Richard, I think we said it a little better: "The pro-immigration candidate opposes immigration. The candidate who opposes tax cuts for the rich supports them. The pro-campaign finance reform candidate has a campaign that is run almost exclusively by lobbyists, and exploits loopholes in the law to skirt spending limits -- even the laws the candidate wrote. The candidate who opposes 'agents of intolerance' in the Republican Party embraces them. The candidate with the foreign policy experience frequently confuses Sunnis and Shiites and misreads Iranian influence in the region, but is proposing permanent war. The candidate who claims to be a fiscal conservative wants to bust the budget. The candidate who claims to take global warming seriously does not want to take any serious action to address it."
In any case, we sort of agree. "But here," according to Richard, "is the difference between McCain and Obama -- and Obama had better pay attention":
McCain is a known commodity. It's not just that he's been around a long time and staked out positions antithetical to those of his Republican base. It's also -- and more important -- that we know his bottom line. As his North Vietnamese captors found out, there is only so far he will go, and then his pride or his sense of honor takes over. This -- not just his candor and nonstop verbosity on the Straight Talk Express -- is what commends him to so many journalists.
Obama might have a similar bottom line, core principles for which, in some sense, he is willing to die. If so, we don't know what they are. Nothing so far in his life approaches McCain's decision to refuse repatriation as a POW so as to deny his jailors a propaganda coup. In fact, there is scant evidence the Illinois senator takes positions that challenge his base or otherwise threaten him politically. That's why his reversal on campaign financing and his transparently false justification of it matter more than similar acts by McCain.
This is an admirably honest admission by Cohen, one of the country's most highly influential political columnists. Yes, McCain has reversed course on most major matters, Cohen acknowledges, but McCain refused to do so under torture in Vietnam all those years ago, so it's OK.
Appreciate this: Cohen does not attempt to refute those "magazine articles," but affirms their central premise. He explicitly says that policy reversals by Obama "matter more" than policy reversals by McCain, because Obama has not won the character primary, as defined by Cohen. He goes on to say that a "presidential race is only incidentally about issues. It's really about likability and character," noting that for Obama, "the character question hangs -- not because of any evidence to the contrary and not in any moral sense, either, but because he is still young and lacks the job references McCain picked up in a North Vietnamese prison." Being right about stuff like, um, the war, is not important to Richard.
He's written this too:
I was miserably wrong in my judgment and somewhat emotional, and whenever my resolve weakened, as it did over time, I steadied myself by downing belts of inane criticism from the likes of Michael Moore or "realists" like Brent Scowcroft, who had presided over the slaughter of the Shiites. I favored the war not for oil or empire (what silliness!) or Israel but for all the reasons that made me regret Bosnia, Rwanda, and every other time when innocents were being killed and nothing was done to stop it. I owe it to Tony Judt for giving me the French ex-Stalinist Pierre Courtade, who, wrongheaded though he might have been, neatly sums it all up for me: "You and your kind were wrong to be right; we were right to be wrong."
So there you are. Right, wrong, issues, shmissues; it's character that counts, buster. Obama's is in question, but "not because of any evidence," -- though Cohen has noted in the past, he is the same color as Louis Farrakhan -- and "not in any moral sense," but because McCain was tortured in Vietnam. Got that? Or rather, as Gavin at Sadly, No! summarizes: "Apropos flip-flopping, the key difference between Obama and McCain is that McCain can get away with it. For instance, watch this."
One more thing: Cohen is a "liberal."
This morning, I plugged in the word "Jews" to Amazon's search engine for books. Entry # 1 was The Jews and Their Lies by Martin Luther (Paperback -- December 31, 2004)
Entry #3 was The Synagogue of Satan by Andrew Carrington Hitchcock and Texe Marrs (Paperback -- March 1, 2007)
OK, you know about the Pentagon's Stealth bombers, and you probably know about its "black budget" as well (which swallows billions without accountability), but there's "another stealth side to the Pentagon -- the corporate side where a range of giant companies you've never heard of are gobbling up our tax dollars at phenomenal rates. Nick Turse, author of the single best book on how our lives are being militarized, our civilian economy Pentagonized, and the Pentagon privatized" -- The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives -- "now turns to the stealth corporate side of the Pentagon." He introduces TomDispatch readers to five "billion-dollar babies" and offers a glimpse into the larger black hole of military spending into which our tax dollars pour.
While the giant weapons makers -- Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman -- are well known, who in our world has ever heard of MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc (owned by billionaire investor Ronald Perelman), which took in $3,360,739,032 from the Pentagon in 2007 or the blandly named DRS Technologies, Inc, which raked in $1,791,321,140 that same year?
So take a moment to meet five mystery defense companies in a series of striking snapshot portraits culled largely from their own corporate documents, including Harris Corporation, Navistar Defense, and Evergreen International Airlines, not one of them a household name in this country. As Turse concludes:
Tens of thousands of defense contractors -- from well-known "civilian" corporations (like Coca-Cola, Kraft, and Dell) to tiny companies -- have fattened up on the Pentagon and its wars. Most of the time, large or small, they fly under the radar and are seldom identified as defense contractors at all. So it's hardly surprising that firms like Harris and Evergreen, without name recognition outside their own worlds, can take in billions in taxpayer dollars without notice or comment in our increasingly militarized civilian economy.
When the history of the Iraq War is finally written, chances are that these five billion-dollar babies, and most of the other defense contractors involved in making the U.S. occupation possible, will be left out. Until we begin coming to grips with the role of such corporations in creating the material basis for an imperial foreign policy, we'll never be able to grasp fully how the Pentagon works and why we so regularly make war in, and carry out occupations of, distant lands.
Name: Dan Smith
Hometown: New York
I used to be a student at Northwestern and saw you speak a few years ago and thought of you in this situation: A friend of mine worked for the Miami Herald for 4 years before the Herald's parent company, the McClatchy Co., laid him off in a series of drastic cuts.
However, the paper decided to get him to write an article and regular blog about the experience, how he's coping, and where he'll go next. Thought you might find it an interesting collision of the past and potential future of news reporting.
Hometown: West Windsor, NJ
I just have to bring up this issue with Dobson blasting Obama about how he is "distorting" the Bible. The issue is that Obama quoted the Leviticus passages that appear to say slavery is OK and eating shellfish is an abomination. Dobson says that Obama should not be quoting from the Old Testament because none of those teachings are relevant. Only the New Testament should be considered.
Well, see, here's the thing. Leviticus just happens to be the only place in the Bible where homosexuality is considered an "abomination." Some biblical scholars consider Jesus to have refuted Leviticus when he said that the path to salvation is not achieved by eating the right foods.
So, Dobson, a very conservative voice for evangelicals is basically throwing out the entire premise for making homosexuality a sin in the eyes of God just so he can score political points against Obama.
Very disappointed with the Congress. I could be missing something but it sure seems like the administration got everything it wanted -- and by proxy, then, so did the giant telecoms. With POTUS in lame duck status, why can we still not draw a reasonable line in the sand regarding our civil liberties?
Makes me curious, though: Will the Republicans still support this whole "unitary executive" after a Dem has been in office for a while?
Hometown: Concord, NH
Let me tell you, I have been in the book business for 14 years, and it never ceases to amaze me how these reviews are assigned. If there ever was an occasion for the "conspiracy vs. screw-up" argument, it's this, especially with the NYT.
Hometown: Hastings-on-Hudson, NY
Following the LTC's suggestion to "Read it and, literally, weep," I did and absolutely did, damn it. Revoke my man-card too, I don't care.
Hometown: Redmond, WA
Charles Black claims that an attack by terrorists on the United States would benefit John McCain to the detriment of Barack Obama. Naturally, the MSM misses the real point: It falls all over itself trying to figure out whether he is right or wrong while ignoring the colossal cynicism of the remark. McCain knows he can't win talking about Iraq, the economy, health care, alternative energy, infrastructure -- in other words, any of the huge issues facing this country that the Republicans did nothing about when they had the chance -- so he plays the fear card. Hang on, it's going to be a bumpy ride...