We have a new "Think Again" column called "Out, Out, Damned Earmark," here, and my new Nation column is called "Something Stupid," and that's here. I also did a review, sort of, of Jerome Corsi's Obama Nation for the Progressive Book Club, and that is here. Oh, and congrats to yours truly on the second anniversary (according to Wikipedia, anyway) of Altercation's appearance here at Media Matters for America ...
Name: Siva Vaidhyanathan
Hometown: Charlottesville, Virginia
At long last this election and the media coverage of it are about big, serious things. It's just too bad it took nearly a complete meltdown of the American financial system for anyone to realize that grave challenges are facing us.
As usual, the American conservative reaction to crisis is socialism for stupid rich people. By midweek, John McCain this newfound economic populism was indistinguishable from Ralph Nader's vapid demonizing rhetoric. Yet no one seemed to notice this absurdity.
As we watched cable news coverage of the AIG buyout on Tuesday, my wife, Melissa, wondered aloud, "Why don't we make Iraq cash in its $80 billion surplus to bail out AIG?"
Again, no one seemed to notice that the entire bill for this debacle as well as the wars we are fighting has been passed on to my little daughter and her children.
It's incumbent upon all political and financial journalists at this moment to remind Americans that every dollar spent in a bailout goes on our tab to the Chinese and other foreign investors. Somebody has to pay them back some day. One of the great crimes of misinformation in the George W. Bush era is that neither the cost of wars nor the cost of these bailouts gets counted on the official national deficit number. It's as if Enron and Lehmann Brothers accountants are working in the Office of Management and Budget. Who knows? Maybe they are. This is what we get for having a president with an MBA.
Someone needs to take account of all of grand giveaways to rich, connected companies under the Bush administration.
It's going to be a very strange time in America over the next four years. Yet our media systems seem devoted to making this election about the smallest, most trivial matters. But the real world keeps pushing through the fog to recapture our attention.
Of course, the past 10 years has been strange in itself. We have just lived through the American counter-revolution. In a decade we saw a president impeached by his enemies merely for having enemies. Then we saw the Supreme Court reverse the will of the voters and appoint a president. Then we witnessed a shredding of the Constitution and all commitments to international law in the wake of a horrific attack that exposed government malfeasance and incompetence. Then we overthrew and occupied a sovereign state for no reason whatsoever. All the while we burned through a record government surplus to grant tax breaks and welfare to the wealthy, who just got wealthier. Now we have a record debt, a rickety financial system, collapsing home prices, a festering war in one country and a losing war in another. The president is no longer accountable to the rule of law. And, contrary to the expressed orders of Gen. George Washington, we now torture people.
So here are two questions that I think reporters should ask the two candidates whenever they can:
1) The American military has been privatized. Private contractors with strong political connections now protect embassies and run supply systems in our two major wars and beyond. In Iraq, these contractors are not legally accountable for their actions and their personnel need not follow orders from American military commanders. Do you see this as a problem for the American military and its role in the world? If so, what would you do about it?
2) The gap between rich and poor is greater now than at any time since 1945. Is this a problem for America? If so, what would you do about it?
These two questions get to the heart of the big questions about our relationship with the government and the future of this country. Doesn't patriotism and loyalty count for something in military affairs? Should the government be a cash machine for the connected or the savior of the unfortunate?
On other, less weighty matters:
I have an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week that argues two things:
- The so-called "digital generation" coming into college these days is not as universally digital as we might want to pretend.
- There is no such thing as a "generation" anyway so we should stop using that term.
Oh, and I have decided to shut down my blog, Sivacracy.net. There are many reasons for this. The main one is that I need to devote my mind and time to finishing my book, The Googlization of Everything. Sivacracy has been fun for the past five years. But it is less fun now. And I no longer have the time or energy for it. I will continue to blog over on The Googlization of Everything, the site on which I am writing my book. So please come by to see it some time. Thanks to all the Altercation readers who checked out my stuff over there on occasion. Please stay in touch.
"There's no need to slave/The whip is in the grave."
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: The Institution (The Dead Ringers) -- For me, anyway, the essential part of field-dressing a moose is to arrange the entrails just so in order to spell out in detail how much I love New Orleans.
Part The First: The National Review is such great steaming cauldron of yummy bubbling Fail these days that it's hard to pick out any single element as emblematic of the entire rancid stew. However, this one contains the following remarkable sentence: "And no one's communication skills are better than Bork's or Thomas's." One guy's the crazy old guy standing on James Madison's front lawn, yelling about space aliens, and the other guy's an angry mute. Also, extra special man-o-the-people points for using "bien sur" without a trace of irony. Bien sur/ Zut alors!
Part The Second: Hug a librarian next week. Some of them have shown an awful lot of gumption over these cramped and fearful seven years. I wonder how they're celebrating in Wasilla?
Part The Third: I know a lot of people who feel the same as Mr. Weed and the Landlord. An estimable rock critic of my acquaintance also came to the lads as a youngster when he first heard Quadrophenia, which is certainly the most well-produced album in the catalog -- compare the sound to, say, Tommy. Gaaah. -- and undoubtedly Pete's most accomplished story cycle. (Also, John Entwistle's work beginning on "Baba O'Riley" on Who's Next and continuing all the way through the last chords of "Love Reign O'er Me" from Quadrophenia is one of the greatest works of sustained virtuosity in all of rock.) However, all due respect, and speaking as someone who climbed aboard with "Substitute," this remains their greatest record.
Part The Fourth: "Sarah knows how to field-dress a moose. I know how to castrate a calf. Neither of those things has anything at all to do with this election. But since we know so much about Sarah's special skills, I wanted to make sure you knew about mine too," she said.
Uh, Lt. Governor Judge? I get your point and all. But I'd rather the campaign not turn on the relative disembowelment skills of the various candidates, OK? I mean, we've had enough trouble over the past seven years from politicians who trust their own guts.
Part The Fifth: My Other Home Team loses takes a real chance. Elsewhere from the Altercation Interim Sports Desk, God goes out of His way to make young Matthew's life miserable. And this is an awful lot of fuss for a stadium that hasn't seen a world championship this century.
Part The Last: It seems that there may well be now some dispute over the historical origins of the old SNL "Lord And Lady Douchebag" sketch. Of course, that particular linguistic barrier in American journalism fell completely this week.
I have given up on keeping track of the nonsense. In the first place, I'm in the process of revising the manuscript for the book based on this Esquire piece and, sooner or later, I've got to just decide to type "-30-" on the damn thing and not try to keep up. In the second place, it just doesn't pay any more.
On Hardball yesterday, I watched this very strange Ron Christie guy yammer at a Democratic consultant named Jenny Backus and, a flat week after everybody including Howie Damn Kurtz had noted that the GOP talking point on that Illinois sex-ed bill was a load of hooey, here was Christie, talking about "our culture" and how it was sexualizing our children. (At this point, he may have been sweating a bit.) "I HAVE NIECES AND NEPHEWS!" he thundered.
F**k off, I replied.
Nieces and nephews?
Raise kids of your own before you presume to raise mine, you useless foof.
And, some day, I'm going to figure out why Chris Matthews calls the vice-president, "Chee-nee." I think he's just screwing with him, is all.
Regarding your comments on fact-checking in the traditional media, I noticed this item on CNN's website. The author, Ed Henry, devotes several paragraphs to detailing McCain's links to lobbyists, then goes on to try and show that Obama also has a problem with lobbyists. The trouble is, the only lobbyist the author names is Joe Biden's son, who does not work for the Obama campaign. So what is Henry's conclusion? "But the bottom line is, both sides have ties to lobbyists, meaning whomever wins will have a hard time backing up the rhetoric about change and shaking up Washington."
Something stuck out from the list of politically themed articles in the Wall Street Journal:
Page A7: "McCain, Obama Jockey For Position On Economy"
Page A14: "With An Eye Towards History, McCain Hits Obama On Taxes"
Page A14: "McCain Wins Endorsement of Democrat"
Page A15: "Video of Iraq Vet Boost McCain Online"
Page A21: Rush Limbaugh Op-Ed
I double checked to note if the Journal covered Chuck Hagel's repudiation of Sarah Palin or Ron Paul's rejection of the McCain/Palin ticket or Rep. Wayne Gilchrest's (R-MD) endorsement of Obama or that more of our soldiers deployed in Iraq have given to Obama than they have to McCain. No, none of that.
I guess Fox's "Fair and Balanced" coverage does extend to the Journal these days.
Watching the Lady Lynn on the evening news, I kept wondering when she was going to get hit by a pie thrown by one of the Three Stooges. Born too late, alas, for "Disorder in the RNC."
Although her costume did appear to have been express mailed by Time Machine from the the Columbia wardrobe department, circa 1935.
LTC Bateman's posts are great.
I can't believe this even needs saying, but we're not going to win anything by bombing people.
By some stroke of fate I found myself simultaneously reading "Three Cups of Tea" and "Blowback." The former is the story of philanthropist Greg Mortenson's efforts to build schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The latter is Chalmers Johnson's prescient account of how the actions of our government would come back to haunt us.
I recommend everyone read both books, preferably together. There's simply no better way to juxtapose the nobility of one path with the arrogance of the other.
From the Onion -- comments on Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann being removed from election coverage:
"This is the biggest upheaval at MSNBC since it dropped issues from its political coverage."
Ten feet outside my window right now are two deer, mother and child, eating my roses. A few feet beyond are the walnuts, ripening and dropping off the trees. Then there's this year's bumper crop of plums.
On the other side of the house, the chickens are happily laying their organic eggs, the tomatoes hang heavy with fruit, and the habaneros are finally ripening.
So what's happening in my town? Who cares? What's happening at your house?
Eric replies: My house is nobody's business, but if we're back to my town ...
Friday night: Randy Newman at Carnegie Hall; Saturday Night, Ahmad Jamal and J@LC Orchestra at the Rose Theater and Sunday Night, Jackson Browne at the United Palace.