Freedom's just another word

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Need a quick catch-up on economic events? Dean Baker's Beat the Press blog helps cut through the nonsense. This morning he flags a Washington Post op-ed that isn't so much contrary as it is imaginary. In the piece, titled "Quit Doling Out That Bad Economy Line," Donald Luskin writes:

Overall, the pessimists are up against an insurmountable reality: In the last reported quarter, the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.3 percent, adjusted for inflation. That's virtually the same as the 3.4 percent average growth rate since -- yes -- the Great Depression.

Sure, but apparently Luskin has already forgotten about the $160 billion stimulus package Congress passed in the second quarter.

This is a fairly basic point, easily grasped by the Post news pages today, where Michael Fletcher writes: "Boosted by federal stimulus payments, the country's gross domestic product grew at a 3.3 percent annual pace in the second quarter of this year, making up for anemic growth the quarter beforehand."

Unfortunately, though, Luskin's path is not one traveled merely by well-known and distrusted right-wing ideologues. Martin Crustinger of the increasingly conservative Associated Press writes that "The economy grew at a surprisingly strong 3.3 percent rate in the April-June quarter. Economists believe the increase in the gross domestic product could slow to a barely discernible 1 percent rate in the current July-September period." Again, it's no surprise, but for an obvious reason -- the same reason that it will slow again in the next quarter, as Crustinger writes.

All the moving parts of this financial collapse can be quite difficult to grasp, but reporters should at least have a handle on basic economic indicators. I'd say keep reading Dean Baker for starters ...

The blogosphere's clip du jour shows Megyn Kelly of Fox News questioning McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds. The Huffington Post headline says Kelly "works over" Bounds; Think Progress says she "rips" the spokesman. Relatively speaking, these are accurate descriptions, and I too was surprised by the video. But it's sad how low our collective standards for campaign journalism have fallen. These are some of the hard-charging questions Kelly had:

KELLY: I want to hold you accountable for what McCain is doing, and get you to weigh in on this. Has your candidate gone too far? Has he stretched the truth with the voters?

[...]

KELLY: No, no. Let's stay on point. I'm not giving him any credit. I'm saying what the independent analysts say. They say that claim is false. And if that's false, why would John McCain do that, Tucker? Why wouldn't he just level with the voters and say, look, he's going to raise taxes on the wealthy or whatever you consider somebody to be making over $250,000, it's going to have a trickle-down effect. That may not be good for the middle class. But why say he's going to raise taxes on the middle class when he's not?

Scary, isn't it?

Would be funny were it not simultaneously so sad and stupid: Reuters Washington correspondent Jon Decker, yesterday on MSNBC: "For Joe Biden, I -- you know, not that he's not folksy, but I don't think it helps his case when he's making the argument on economic issues wearing French cuffs and dressed to the nines."

(Media Matters notes, by the way, that you can buy French cuffs at J.C. Penney for less than $40.)

Last week, we wrote about the manufactured controversy over whether Oprah would have Sarah Palin on her show. It had already been Oprah's non-controversial policy that she wouldn't have any candidate on her show until after the election, but Drudge cited "sources" saying that, uh, that policy would include Palin, and all hell broke loose. It was a "snub!"

Today, CNN is staying on this trail, front-paging a video story titled "Oprah boycotted for Palin interview snub." The group doing the boycotting, in case you were curious, is the Florida Federation of Republican Women. Naturally, Fox News is on the story too.

George Zornick complains: An unholy nexis of bad luck is about to be created in New York state: the Mets are prepared to join forces with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. Hitching the historically bad-luck Mets to a city known for horrific sporting maladies (see Norwood, Scott) might mean that Citi Field will burn down by the All-Star break next year, but time will tell.

(In all seriousness, the Bisons are a terrific club, and the Mets would be lucky to steal them from the also-interested Blue Jays.)

Greatest City in the World, Update: Last night, I saw Elvis Costello, John Mellencamp, Rosanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Norah Jones sing "Me and Bobby McGee," twice, at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, along with two and a half hours of some other great songs, including this one by Rosanne, Elvis and Kris, in a taping of Elvis's new talk show, Spectacle, which will be on Showtime soon. What's going on in your city?

Alter-reviews:

Golden Smog -- The Best of Golden Smog

I have trouble with this whole alt-country genre. All my friends seem to like it a lot better than I do, and I don't like Wilco at all. But Golden Smog is one of the few groups I get -- maybe it's because they don't take this stuff too seriously. Their new best-of album has 18 of the band's best cuts, and has an alternate version of the fan favorite "Until You Came Along" and an unreleased Brian Wilson cover ("Love and Mercy"). It's out on Rhino, and more information is here.

Solomon Burke - Like A Fire

Solomon Burke is having his second or third or fourth artistic life, thanks to Shout! Factory. This is another one of those celebrity get-togethers, with the difference being that these are good, new songs from the like of Clapton, Keb' Mo', Ben Harper and others -- and Burke has never sounded so good. In fact, it's hard to remember when soul music at all has sounded so good. More information is here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: David Fuller
Hometown: Peotone, IL

Hi Dr. A. and George,

I've been sorely disappointed by the media as of late. True, there are glimmers of hope: the Charlie Gibson / Sarah Palin interview, The Daily Show that makes excellent use of satire to skewer political hypocrisy, and oddly enough, the ladies on "The View" interviewing John McCain. Nevertheless, I remain largely unimpressed overall, as evidenced by, well, pretty much everything you guys write about here.

So that got me wondering about how reporters go about doing what they do. Is it possible, given our 24/7 news-cycle obsession, that the reporters covering the candidates have been tasked by their employers to maintain access to candidates at all costs, and therefore "fudge the facts" (when facts are even used -- ha!) while writing / doing other journalism (TV, radio, etc.)? In other words, is there a fear of being "kicked off the bus" (so to speak) by the reporters, and consequently not having any access at all -- which would no doubt drive their employers insane?

If so, it would seem to me that hoping for a general uprising by the MSM towards candidates that threaten/bully reporters in this manner (you know -- something like saying, "We're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore" en masse) would be like waiting for Godot: Ain't gonna happen. So that begs the question: If certain candidates (ahem -- political party?) have figured out how to "work the refs" in this regard, what recourse do we, the American public -- along with the few honest journalists that actually wish to continue to get at the truth - have?

Name: Derrick Gibson
Hometown: Miami, FL

For a second there, I thought I was going to have to pro-offer some dap to the long lost Christopher Hitchens, for his words in this piece. Thankfully, ol' Hitch is not quite off the sauce, just yet.

Apparently incapable of praising Senator Obama for rightly diagnosing the problem with Pakistan more than a year ago, Hitchy turns things upside down and concludes the reason neither the Bush Administration nor the McCain campaign can even mention the rising problems in Pakistan is because of the unwillingness of the liberal media to acknowledge that Obama's call to focus on the Afghanistan War will inevitably lead to some sort of "high-noon" style showdown with the corrupt Pakistani supporters of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Got that?

Name: Kib
Hometown: Tucson

No canned stew in modern history, not even Dinty Moore, has ever been lambasted and lionized in quite the way Armour Star is.

Name: Richard Taylor
Hometown: San Antonio, TX

No journalist in modern history, not even Edward R. Murrow, has ever been lambasted and lionized in quite the way Hacktacular Howie Kurtz has.

Name: Bill Manson
Hometown: Guelph ON

No televison commentator in modern history, not even Howard Kurtz, has ever been lambasted and lionized in quite the way Keith Olbermann is.

No breakfast cereal in modern history, not even Wheaties, has ever been lambasted and lionized in quite the way Froot Loops is.

No baseball team in modern history, not even the Yankees, have ever been lambasted and lionized in quite the way the Mets are. Ummm, maybe not.

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