We've got a new Think Again column here called "The Return of the Cold War Punditocracy," dealing with purposely hyped and simplistic chest-beating over Georgia and Russia.
Flash back to late summer 2006 -- remember that docudrama The Path to 9/11, which explicitly contradicted the findings of the 9/11 Commission Report in almost every area, in order to cast blame on the Clinton Administration? (Let's not relive all of the inaccuracies it contained, but see here, here, and here for just a few. Also, my Nation column on the issue, here, gives a bit more context.
Politico has a decided to return to that messy affair, asking at the top of their website today: "Who was blocking 'The Path to 9/11'?" Jeffrey Ressner writes of the "Disney censorship fiasco" around that documentary, asserting in his lead that ABC cut scenes and shelved a DVD "after complaints from political forces." The news peg is that another documentary has been released alleging that The Path to 9/11 was censored -- the director is "hopeful that his newest work will expose the machinations of Disney, Clinton and the Hollywood left."
In his entire piece, Ressner never mentions even one of the factual inaccuracies made by the film, framing them only vaguely as bones of political contention. He also shifts from reporting into editorializing throughout the story, such as in this idiotic paragraph:
"Blocking 'The Path to 9/11' " presents strong evidence that many of the original docudrama's harshest critics were also among its most ignorant. Ziegler smartly cuts together many of the Democrats -- including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- admitting they had not seen the film that they were complaining about. "The Path to 9/11" was by no means a perfect docudrama, and the real-life figures certainly had a right to complain about their depiction and the way in which actual events were dramatized. But censorship is a dangerous thing, and "Blocking 'The Path to 9/11' " is a look at behind-the-scenes power struggles in Hollywood that few people ever see.
This story basically serves as a press release for conservative claims that 'The Path to 9/11' was somehow censored by the "Hollywood left" and/or the Clintons, which is a myth successfully inserted into mainstream dialogue elsewhere. This is all, of course, nuts. Democrats complained about it because it slandered them with wild inaccuracies. The Clintons don't have any veto power at ABC, and most importantly, while some scenes were removed, it still ran with a bunch of obviously wrong things anyway. That's a censorship fiasco how? I don't think Politico has fact-checkers, but if they did, would their titles be "censors?" The Politico claims that the right-wing politics of its owner do not influence its coverage. Well, something right-wing -- and ignorant -- is certainly influencing Mr. Ressner, adding further shame to everyone at ABC connected to the project, or who did not raise their voices in objection.
I'm having a little trouble understanding the MSM master narrative on David Petraeus. If he is the savior of Iraq, turning that country from a hellish cauldron of hatred to Tahiti, why is he leaving when he, himself, admits, "It's not durable yet. It's not self-sustaining." What could be more important than sustaining that alleged success and making it durable? A nicer job, perhaps, with cushier circumstances and more status, but really, why walk away from Iraq? Surely, it's the most important priority in US foreign policy right now. Whatever promotion he wants or deserves, why can't it wait?
George Zornick writes: I know we keep harping on the ridiculous press frenzy over vice-presidential picks, but it's really getting insane. Yesterday hundreds of news outlets ran with the story that Obama used a masculine pronoun when referring to his vice-president. That was actually the headline on numerous stories, from ABC News to Reuters. But here's what Obama said:
Let me tell you first what I won't do. I won't hand over my energy policy to my vice president, without knowing necessarily what he's doing. I won't have my vice president engineering my foreign policy for me. The buck will stop with me, because I will be the president. My vice president, also by the way my vice president also will be a member of the executive branch, he won't be one of these 4th branches of government where he thinks he's above the law. But here's what I do want from my vice president, I want somebody who has integrity, who's in politics for the right reasons, I want somebody who is independent.
Hey, Einsteins -- he was talking about Cheney! Seriously, the crush to be the first one out with any little tidbit about Obama's vice-presidential pick may be making reporters lose their minds.
An Army social services coordinator...who told USA Today about poor conditions at Fort Sill's unit for wounded soldiers has been forced out of his job, the employee and base officials said Tuesday.
Soldiers meeting with Army Secretary Pete Geren...on Tuesday said Chuck Roeder, 54, was a strong advocate for their problems and should not have been forced to leave.
Roeder, a retired soldier, said he was told to resign or he would be fired.
More here. And:
In the excitement of the Olympics, the run-up to the presidential conventions and the flurry of late summer vacations, it was easy to miss the Bush administration's stealth attack on the Endangered Species Act last week. A proposed regulation would simply eliminate independent scientific reviews that have been required for over 30 years.
Check out a new piece by Spencer Ackerman in Radar, here. He's interviewed Scott Beauchamp, who wrote in The New Republic under a pseudonym about his experiences as a solider in Iraq, which weren't all pretty. Beauchamp was immediately and baselessly attacked as a fraud and a fabricator, and, somewhat paradoxically, the magazine came under attacks like these: "Weekly Standard editor William Kristol penned a piece called 'They Don't Really Support the Troops,' arguing that the Beauchamp story proved that the 'antiwar left' sought the 'slander of American soldiers' using 'fiction presented as fact.' " Beauchamp's view on the whole fiasco is quite interesting; give it a read.
McCain Suck-Up Watch: "The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post all reported Sen. John McCain's assertion at a forum hosted by Pastor Rick Warren that he believes "a baby [is] entitled to human rights" "[a]t the moment of conception." But none of the articles raised the question of how McCain reconciles this statement with his support for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research and certain exceptions to a ban on abortion." More here.
With celebrations set to kick off in Denver for the Democratic National Convention, Bill Moyers Journal travels to Colorado where tough economic times are hitting suburban communities. Says Mag Strittmatter of JeffCo Action Center, a social services agency just west of Denver, "It's remarkable how many people have, in the past, brought items to us at our loading dock. They gave us clothes, and gave us food, and said, 'Here. Use these items to help people in need.' They're the same people having to ask for help." And, as the Olympics are set to close, Bill Moyers interviews Philip Pan, foreign correspondent and former Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post, on how the emerging economic power of China looks from the ground.
We always wonder what the future will think of us. Thanks to John Feffer, TomDispatch regular and co-director of the Foreign Policy in Focus website, we now have a reasonable idea of just what our world might look like from the year 2016 and a reasoned, thoughtful, canny (and enjoyable) sense of what we might have passed through in the intervening 8 years. Writing in the guise of a "futurologist," a typical pundit who went with the Washington consensus on the world -- and guessed wrong -- now apologizing for his mistaken predictions, Feffer suggests that the world of 2016 will have its surprises. In the wake of an Obama presidency, it will have proven neither filled with hope, nor an instant Apocalypse-Now world.
As that pundit looking back, Feffer writes of the early days of an Obama Washington: "The new administration did make a lot of changes in its first 100 days. The sheer number and the sheer pace fooled everyone into thinking that change had indeed come to Washington. I thought that the country's trajectory had actually been altered, that a new direction had been set in U.S. policy.
"It turns out, though, that apocalypse comes in many different forms. There are the dramatic effects of sword and fire and famine. And then there's the apocalypse of muddling through. That's what happens when you just carry on with the same old, same old and before you know it, poof, end of the world. It's an apocalypse that's neither too cold nor too hot, neither too hard nor too soft. It's the apocalypse of the middle, the Goldilocks apocalypse."
If you want to find out just what a "Goldilocks apocalypse" means, or what the world is like when all three "bears" have come home and are scratching at the door, then you'll just have to read the piece. Feffer is, however, an analyst with an acute sense of the multiple crises facing our world today, and he offers a vision of the future -- and, after a fashion, a sardonic look at the present -- which is more than worth the price of admission.
Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, "Best of Both Worlds Concert" DVD Review by Eve Rose Alterman
The movie was very exciting but informational as well. (I learned that it takes Hannah Montana 36 seconds to turn into Miley Cyrus.) It was just a series of performances with interviews and behind the scenes features. When I saw it in theaters I thought it was better than the U2 movie and the Rolling Stones movie (but that's just because I'm a kid). The new DVD comes with 2-D and 3-D discs and two sets of 3-D glasses. It has extra songs and the backstage Disney tour [with HM and the JBs] but nowhere near as many extras as the new Camp Rock DVD. I t also features the Jonas Brothers. My dad promises to watch it with me tomorrow (yeah right!).
Eric adds: "...but he's not expecting to like it as much as the Stones or U2 movies, alas...."
Name: Tim Burga
Hometown: Dallas, TX
No recitation of news programs that heighten the civic discourse can be complete without mention of HDNet's "Dan Rather Reports" and "World Report." Despite limited audience reach they are two of the very best shows on the air in terms of content, competence in presenting that content, and production quality (of course).
In perhaps the most bizarre analysis of the veepstakes, a pundit claims the media obsession with the veepstakes is a good reason for them to avoid actually covering the candidates' positions on various issues.
"The fog of speculation over who will accompany Sen. Barack Obama down the aisle in Denver has obscured his message," ABC's Andy Fies reports.
Hearing John McCain deliver his line of he will go through the gates of hell to catch Osama Bin Laden, I had to think back on similar statements from a certain unpopular President who then failed to follow through on such a promise. But my question for McCain would be, how do you plan to find the resources to go through the gates of hell to get Bin Laden, when you already have said you don't mind spending 100 years in Iraq, want to bomb Iran, and want to take an aggressive stance against Russia? It is nice for McCain to be able to deliver these well-scripted lines, but does he ever have any substance to back up his statements (and will the press ever once ask an intelligent follow-up question).
Name: Stephen Zeoli
I won't try to engage in a long discussion of the merits of either sport over the other, but I do want to point out one great advantage that baseball has had over football -- that is until now: Baseball had refrained from using instant replay. Nothing sucks the drama and tenseness from a football game than the referees stopping the game to review a play -- first of all, because it is always on a play that was exciting (because of a great juggling catch, or a tightrope run down the sideline) and should have the stadium abuzz. Now we've got to sit there waiting for the referee to watch the play over and over. Meanwhile, the announcers on TV tell ramble on about conclusive evidence ... Now, instead of the players being the center of attention it is the referee. He finally returns to the field and makes his ruling and the game can continue, but with all the excitement completely leached from the dazzle of the preceding play.
Imagine -- your favorite player smacks a game winning home run. You're ecstatic with joy. But wait, the umpire is going to review the call -- the moment is totally lost, even if the ruling is that the homerun stands. Now you're just cheering for an umpire's judgment and not the clutch performance on the diamond.
Spare us from this instant replay hell!
I often compare the baseball season with soap operas. Whenever I explain my love of baseball (and the two DVR's I have running to record games) in this way people get it. It is a six month long story that has been going on for 150 years.
As Earl Weaver said: "This isn't football. We do this every day."
In light of Jeff Myhre's comments, it's not fair to compare football and baseball by the number of games. A much better comparison would be the number of minutes the ball is in play. I've heard that a typical baseball game has the ball in play for only 1.5 minutes; times 162, that's 243 minutes. Football has 16 games each with 60 precisely measured minutes of a live ball, for a total of 960 minutes per season.
At one time I was enthralled by the pontifications of George Will and Thomas Boswell regarding baseball, and regularly regaled my wife on its subtle nature and intrinsic grace.
But during one sermon, while the 1982 World Series between Milwaukee and St. Louis was in progress, Brewers manager Harvey Kuenn let loose a particularly impressive mouthful of spent chewing tobacco. Not a spit, rather a protracted drool over the dugout railing which seem to take forever to reach the ground.
That, and assorted crotch scratching over the years, demolished that argument forever in her eyes, and mine.
Truth be told, life for most of us is too busy for either the gentle pace of baseball or the violent bursts of football. Both are best appreciated in short segments, which is why highlights on ESPN will forever rule sports television.
Despite their relative unpopularity in this country both soccer and hockey lend themselves more to extended viewing, due to the unpredictability of play and the importance of each goal.
And that, despite the occasional head butt, overly dramatic flop, missing tooth and octopus thrown on the rink, speaks more to the true grace of sport.
Football may be the best spectator sport -- it's certainly the best spectacle, week in and week out, year after year.
Baseball may be the best team sport for fans -- it's accessible to analysis by everyman (unlike football; can you describe how blocking schemes adjust for defensive variations?), it goes on every day, day after day, for half the year, giving fans lots to talk about, and it's relatively affordable.
But when it comes to families, the best American sport, hands down, is ... swimming. Especially if you have multiple children. Kids on swim teams go to practice at the same time regardless of age or gender, so you're not driving all over town. The cardiovascular exercise will be a lifesaver when they get older (says the survivor of three cardiac episodes that should have killed him, but didn't due to strength of heart muscle). If you want to know if your young athlete is screwing around with cigarettes or other harmful substances, all you have to do is look at their times in competition, which never lie. Swimmers don't idolize other athletes, because nobody else works harder; they have a good sense of who they are and what they can do. But best of all, from a parents' perspective, when swim practice is over, they're clean, they're tired, and they are ready to go to bed.