Every picture tells a story, don't it?


The news everywhere is that the new Batman movie has set a new box office record for a single day by besting Spider-Man 3 by about $2 million. Thing is, those numbers are all pretty much nonsense, as is well known by the people writing them and editing them (and certainly sourcing them). Everyone but you, dear reader.

The fact is these numbers are made up by the theaters, and then turned over to the studies who add their own fictional spin, and then given to the PR departments, who then spoon-feed them to reporters, etc.

Does anyone verify them? How could they, given the speed with which they appear? And in whose interest would it be to pay for it? As Edward Jay Epstein explained in his excellent book The Big Picture: The New Logic of Money and Power in Hollywood, here:

To begin with, the Sunday numbers are not actual ticket sales but "projections" furnished by Nielsen EDI, since the Sunday evening box office cannot be counted in time to meet the deadlines of the morning papers. Variety, to its credit, corrects the guess estimates on Monday with the actual weekend take. Yet even these accurate numbers leave in place four other confusions about who earns what.

What's more, for many other reasons, they have little if anything to say about actual profitability. So if you're interested in who's giving you careful, honest news-reporting, check and see what qualifications are used in the reporting of these self-serving and largely fictional numbers.

Still don't get it: I read The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Editor & Publisher stories on the new Pew study released this morning, called "The Changing Newsroom." Not one of them linked directly to the study itself, so that readers could determine what it might contain for themselves, here. It begins thusly:

It has fewer pages than three years ago, the paper stock is thinner, and the stories are shorter. There is less foreign and national news, less space devoted to science, the arts, features and a range of specialized subjects. Business coverage is either packaged in an increasingly thin stand-alone section or collapsed into another part of the paper. The crossword puzzle has shrunk, the TV listings and stock tables may have disappeared, but coverage of some local issues has strengthened and investigative reporting remains highly valued.

The newsroom staff producing the paper is also smaller, younger, more tech-savvy, and more oriented to serving the demands of both print and the web. The staff also is under greater pressure, has less institutional memory, less knowledge of the community, of how to gather news and the history of individual beats. There are fewer editors to catch mistakes.

Pretty much everything I've read in it so far is consistent with this and this.

And while we're on the topic of me, check out the new, no longer beta, webpage on Fora.tv here.

Congrats to my friends at Think Progress for stealing away Matt Yglesias, who remains, in our not-so-humble-opinion, something very close to America's best political blogger, despite his stubborn and ultimately inexplicable unwillingness to link to Altercation. The Atlantic's loss is really only a loss to them, as I assume young Matt will remain his Whitman-esque, multitudinous online self. It does hold into further relief, however, that The Atlantic, while still a quite good magazine with the great Jim Fallows reporting and a brilliant back of the book edited by Ben Schwarz, is now, more than ever, politically dominated by voices of the hawkish center-right like Kaplan, Sullivan, Rauch, Goldberg, and the rest of their right-leaning, Yglesias-less online "voices." Anyway, you can read Matt at ThinkProgress one of these days.

More News Jews Can Use:

When I wrote about the American Jewish Committee's survey of American Jews a few months ago, I was denounced by the AJC's executive director for calling American Jews' position on the Israeli-Palestinian question "impressively sensible," here, and noting that majority American Jewish positions on U.S. foreign policy were, in fact, opposed to most of those taken by the professional American Jewish establishment which professes to speak for it. (Apparently the AJC thinks American Jews to be neither impressive nor sensible.) It therefore gives me no small pleasure once again to tip my proverbial cap to the folks at J Street for their new survey, here, which shows American Jews to be impressively sensible on almost everything and again, at odds not only with most of the hawkish, pro-Republican American Jewish establishment, but also the neocons, and particularly the John Hagee-loving Joe Lieberman. They even support U.S. pressure on Israel to do the right thing for itself and make concessions for genuine peace -- something considered heresy (or is it blasphemy) for the people who pretend to speak in their name. Here are some highlights. Take a look:

10 Do you approve or disapprove of the way George Bush is handling the Arab-Israeli conflict?

Strongly approve: 9%

Somewhat approve: 20%

Somewhat disapprove: 26%

Strongly disapprove: 45%

Total Approve 29%

Total Disapprove 71%

Q.11 Now, we would like to rate your feelings toward some people and organizations, with one hundred meaning a VERY WARM, FAVORABLE feeling; zero meaning a VERY COLD, UNFAVORABLE feeling; and fifty meaning not particularly warm or cold. You can use any number from zero to one hundred, the higher the number the more favorable your feelings are toward that person or organization.





George W. Bush





Barack Obama





John McCain





Joe Lieberman





Nancy Pelosi





Democratic Party





Republican Party










Rev. John Hagee





Rev. Jeremiah Wright





Q.30 (IF SUPPORT ACTIVE ROLE) Would you support or oppose the United States playing an active role in helping the parties to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict if it meant the United States publicly stating its disagreements with both the Israelis and the Arabs?

Strongly support: 41%

Somewhat support: 45%

Somewhat oppose: 11%

Strongly oppose: 3%

Total Support: 86%

Total Oppose: 14%

You may recall that Marty Peretz/Jamie Kirchick was one (or two, I really don't know) of the people who attempted to undermine J Street with demonstrably false assertions about American Jews' views on the Middle East -- assertions that were disproven not only by the new J Street survey but also by the AJC's -- which Peretz/Kirchick quoted selectively and dishonestly, naturally. I say "naturally" because it is SOP over there in Peretz's corner of TNR, which I fear has reached a kind of new low with this post in which he writes, "It is a week after Palestinian terror took on a new tactic: the bulldozer as an instrument of mass murder and mayhem."

Once again, the question is: deliberate dishonesty, stupidity, or both?

In fact, as Akiva Eldar pointed out, this was not a "new tactic" but "a 'lone wolf,' a drug addict or just a nut case." Peretz wants to exploit it in support of his continuing campaign to stoke up racist hatred against all Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular, but he cannot be bothered to get his facts straight. I was actually on Jaffa Street when the attack took place -- though not on the same part of it -- and as soon as everybody understood what it really was, people resumed their normal lives. Had it been a real terrorist attack, the tourists, at least, would have emptied out of the city. But nothing happened. The hotels remained full and the restaurants crowded. Peretz/Kirchick's campaign of hatred rests in significant measure on ignorance, and it's nice to see from J Street that it is increasingly failing to convince.

I don't deny that history has given Jews good reason to be paranoid. Here is one example of why. It is just a shame that both Palestinians and Israelis must suffer for this irrationality and indefensible that they must suffer to assuage the guilty consciences of ignorant American right-wing Jews who want to see Israel retain every inch of occupied territory and are willing to see them fight to the last Israeli to do it. Read Connie Bruck's incredible profile of Sheldon Adelson, here, for more on that.

"Don't come in my ear": "I'm talking with Dick Morris about the Clintons. This Gitmo thing is old."

(Actually, what impressed me about this video is Laura's ability to keep her cool amidst so much incompetence on the part of Fox. How do these people put out a broadcast?)

From TomDispatch:

Retired Lt. Col. and historian William J. Astore first noticed the term "warfighter" in 2002. He writes: "Like many a field-grade staff officer, I spent a lot of time crafting PowerPoint briefings, trying to sell senior officers and the Pentagon on my particular unit's importance to the President's new Global War on Terrorism" -- and, like others, he picked up the new word, a mix of "warrior" and "war fighting." "But I wasn't comfortable with the term then, and today it tastes bitter in my mouth."

In his latest TomDispatch post, Astore takes a trip to the Gettysburg battlefield and clambers around the "claustrophobically placed boulders of Devil's Den," while tourists get antiseptic accounts of the battle from their tour buses, and in the process he wonders just how the "citizen soldiers" of past American wars could have been replaced by the "warfighters" of "Generation Kill" -- and just what that means.

He particularly focuses on a commonplace boast of our politicians today -- that we now have "the world's best military." Pointing out that it wasn't the "world's best" in either World War I or World War II (that "honor" went to the Germans), he writes: "Today, our military is arguably the world's best. Certainly, it's the world's most powerful in its advanced armaments and its ability to destroy.

But what does it say about our leaders that they are so taken with this form of power? And why exactly is it so good to be the 'best' at this? Just ask a German military veteran -- among the few who survived, that is -- in a warrior-state that went berserk in a febrile quest for 'full spectrum dominance.' "

This piece which begins by focusing on a new term for soldiers and a new militaristic boast for Americans ends as an eloquent plea for Americans to consider their real military heritage and reject the path we're presently on.


The New Orrin Keepnews Collection from Concord:

The good news from my friends at Concord is the release of yet another in the series of inexpensive, remastered in 24-bit CDs produced by the great Orrin Keepnews, drawn from Riverside Records, which recorded seminal jazz albums in the '50s and early '60s, and his '70s label, Milestone Records.

It's overseen by Keepnews himself and he contributes new liner notes to them and explains some of the feelings at the time and choices that he made. The new series is made up of:

  • Coleman Hawkins: The Hawk Flies High (1957)
  • Sonny Rollins: Freedom Suite (1958)
  • Nat Adderley: Work Song (1960)
  • Wes Montgomery: Incredible Jazz Guitar (1960)
  • McCoy Tyner: Gone With the Wind (1976)

They all represent either seminal moments in jazz history or albums that Keepnews and company feel to have been under-appreciated and deserve a new hearing. For instance on the "Hawk Flies High," he explains, "Before [Coleman] Hawkins, the tenor saxophone-which has come to be one of the basic instruments of jazz-simply did not exist, a fact that would be disputed by neither Lester Young nor Ben Webster-his most prominent immediate successors-nor by Sonny Rollins or John Coltrane or anyone you might choose to put near the head of the line thereafter." The Sonny Rollins "Freedom Suite" is not only a beautiful piece of music but an important artifact in the history of the civil rights movement -- Jazz's role in the movement is infrequently addressed. (It was released in 1958.) Keepnews says he picked the McCoy Tyner album -- which is not well known except to aficionados -- because it's his favorite.

That would be enough to get me to lay my money down ... You can read about each individual release here, but you'll have to search out the individual releases yourselves, alas.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Thomas Heiden
Hometown: Stratford, CT


With the latest reports of KBR doing shoddy and dangerous electrical work throughout Iraq, let's remember that the firm's "no-bid" contract was an important reason for the haste with which the whole Iraq catastrophe was initiated.

As CBS's "60 Minutes" pointed out at the time, the only way no-bid contracts could legally be awarded in those circumstances was if the situation was "urgent."

It was not as simple as not wanting to give the American people and their representatives adequate time to assess the quality (using that word loosely) of the evidence - there was at least one other significant reason for Bush Corp.'s haste.

How about a new corporate motto for KBR? I suggest, "KBR -- poisoning, electrocuting, and raping around the world."

Name: Don Schneier
Hometown: Springfield, MA

In recent years, George Lakoff has been promoting the characterization of Liberalism as a "nurturing" political ideology, deriving this from his conception of governing-governed as parent-child relation, with the Conservative as the strict parent, and the Liberal as the permissive one. How this model applies to such fundamental phenomena as the Conservative advocacy of laissez-faire economics, or the Liberal insistence on Rule of Law, is unclear. More generally, his metaphor seems little connected to the historical development of Liberalism as the Voice of Reason, as the adversary of compulsion, greed, prejudice, and stupidity, as the unique principle of adult self-rule. The Liberal would do better to heed one of Lakoff's other prescriptions -- to define Liberalism in its own terms, which the past eight years have proven to be more relevant than ever.

Name: Bill Bunker
Hometown: Chicago

In criticizing Obama, the Washington Post puts forth this common argument that the architects of this war need to be commended because our situation there has improved, "vastly" seems to be the most common adverb. ("Yesterday, with bloodshed at its lowest level since the war began..."). Improved compared to what? Last year, two years ago? Why shouldn't the situation in Iraq always be measured against what we were promised from the get go? Dick Cheney was adamant on the inevitability of a rosy outcome, and quick to question the patriotism (and manliness) of anyone who dared suggest something more complicated than "sunshine and lollipops." Let's say I hire a guy to build me a garage, and he insists that he do so in the swampy part of my yard despite the recommendations to the contrary by a team of engineers. (I should also mention this guy said I won't even have to pay for this job since we'll both get rich from whatever goop he'll extract from the ground in the process.) Five years and tens of thousands of dollars later should I then congratulate him when says he's been able to jack up this sunken mess six inches higher than was the year before? You bet I should! Unless I hate America.

Name: J DAlessandro
Hometown: Crestwood, NY

As a Yankee fan for more than 40 years, I cannot let the absence of insults against Steinbrenner go unchallenged.

The man has been a disaster for baseball, and an embarrassment for the fans, and the Yankees have prospered most during periods when he was not there to disrupt matters. Everyone knows that the current Jeter/Mariano team was built by Gene Michael during Steinbrenner's second (!) suspension from baseball.

The expensive "improvements" such as Giambi, Carl Frickin' Pavano and Rodriguez have not resulted in a single world championship. The current intelligent rebuilding efforts, which might or might not succeed in future years, are a direct result of the Boss's disability.

Had he been hail and hearty during this past year, there is no doubt whatsoever that the Yankees would have mortgaged their future to out-bid the Mets for their over-priced starter Santana, who doesn't seem to have 93 miles per hour left in his arm anymore. Perhaps the Barry Zito of the future. You're quite welcome.

Oh, and Yogi as The Greatest Living Yankee? I think not, not so as long as Mariano Rivera draws breath.

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