Running on empty ...


I did a post for the Guardian about Charles Rangel here.

This is not the place to discuss pending legislation that would write a $700 billion check to the Bush administration, no strings attached, to deal with the financial crisis.

But any time a journalist hears "no strings attached," it's time to get to work -- and also remember the record of the soon-to-be-stringless beneficiaries. Writes Matthew Ygelsias:

Like remember when some folks said Bush's math was wrong and his tax cuts would lead to large deficits? Idiots! Or those who warned that occupying Iraq might be kind of hard? Morons! If you can't trust George W. Bush with an unlimited grant of authority then who can you trust?

Time to hit the archives!

One of the biggest maladies of campaign coverage is the weight given to attack lines and commercials -- what the reporters are engaged with day-to-day -- as opposed to actual matters of substance and policy. And we just got a great example -- the Associated Press, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Washington Post all wrote that the McCain campaign criticized Obama, in the words of McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds, for "his ties to spiraling lenders like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and their jet-set CEOs."

A campaign levels charges, they are duly reported, job well done, right? Well, the reality of the campaign was duly reported, but not the actual situation -- as Media Matters notes:

[S]everal senior McCain campaign aides have served as lobbyists for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or both. As Mother Jones reported on its MoJoBlog, the following McCain campaign officials have lobbied for one or both entities: chief political adviser Charlie Black, national finance co-chairman Wayne Berman, congressional liaison John Green, Arthur Culvahouse, who reportedly headed McCain's vice-presidential search team, and William E. Timmons Sr., who reportedly "has been tapped by the McCain campaign to conduct a study in preparation for the presidential transition."

What's said on the campaign trail simply isn't a complete story. Maybe that would be OK if other reporters or editors back in the home office added other stories about actual relevant matters, but in this and many other cases, they don't.

George Zornick writes: Last week, we linked to Candy Crowley's abdication of her most basic job responsibilities -- asked by Anderson Cooper whether lying by the two candidates was equal, she said "I'm not going to be the one to tell you whether it's equal or not. I honestly think that voters need to be out there..."

Now, we have two more highly influential journalists deciding not to do their job. At Time, Michael Scherer and James Carney have prepared an extensive chart mapping lies by each candidate. Their introduction does note that "McCain has been far quicker to throw the truth overboard--both in advertisements and on the stump," but then they have this whole silly graph which, as FAIR notes, is "chiefly concerned with achieving symmetry, both political and graphic."

They then wrote, "There are so many charges and countercharges about who distorted things first that we decided to spread the highest profile allegations, good and bad, across a grid measuring both accuracy and substance so you can be the judge."

If we're the judge, what are Scherer and Carney? Court clerks?

Rick Davis, campaign manager for Sen. John McCain, told reporters that Gov. Sarah Palin won't face tough questions from journalists "until the point in time when she'll be treated with respect and deference."

Um, based on this interview with Sean Hannity, I think we are at that particular point in time. Here's just some of the questions that our highest-rated cable news outlet asked the prospective vice-president of the United States, in only her second interview with a reporter since being named McCain's running mate:

  • HANNITY (on camera): Senator McCain's son has served in Iraq as we move to national security. You just said goodbye to your son who is off. He is going to serve in Iraq. First off, on a personal side, what did you say to him as he was leaving for Iraq, and what did he say to you?
  • HANNITY: Why do we need to win in Iraq, to just get right to the bottom line? Why is losing not an option?
  • HANNITY: Let me ask you this, Senator Obama had talked about people in Pennsylvania while he was in San Francisco as being bitter Americans clinging to guns and clinging to religion. Do you think that was a put-down of middle class people in the country?
  • HANNITY: You've talked a lot about religion, and I know you discussed this. How important is religion and your faith, because I've read a lot about you, and obviously, religion and faith is an important part of your life. How important is it in your life?

At the end of the interview, Palin commended Hannity and the Fox network: "But you have to have that balance, and you find that balance." This is exactly what Rick Davis had in mind as "deference," although Hannity did have to end the interview before he could shine her shoes.

McCain Suck-Up Watch, flip-flop edition: The Los Angeles Times reported, "[Sen. Barack] Obama has not taken a position on AIG's rescue, unlike [Sen. John] McCain, who has backed it." But the Times did not point out that the day before the bailout was announced, McCain indicated that he opposed a federal government bailout of AIG, asserting that "we cannot have the taxpayers bail out AIG or anybody else."

From ANP:

The U.S. financial system faces a grave crisis as investment giants teeter on the edge of collapse. These institutions aren't merely made of paper and percentages, though. They're led by people - people who've made some rotten decisions in recent years. Whereas we'll hear much in the coming weeks about the federal regulators who are scrambling to avert a disaster, we should also hear about the CEOs who got very rich while their firms crumbled.

In attack ads and interviews, John McCain repeatedly claims Barack Obama will raise taxes on the middle class. Though Obama's proposed tax plan would decrease taxes for most middle class voters more than McCain's, recent polls found a majority of Americans think Obama would raise their taxes. ANP traveled to Winchester in the battleground state of Virginia and found that McCain's controversial charges seem to have had an effect.

From TomDispatch:

The media and Internet feeding frenzy over Sarah Palin has been ... well, frenzied beyond belief. The latest TomDispatch post by environmentalist and author Chip Ward, however, goes to the heart of what matters when it comes to the Alaskan governor. It asks just who she really is and answers that an issue -- Creationism -- normally considered, at best, a sidebar by the media, is in fact the key to understanding what she means for all of us.

As Ward writes: Palin's "willingness to put Creationism up against the teaching of evolutionary science in the classroom on a he-says-she-says basis [is] far more revealing of just who our new Republican vice presidential candidate is than we generally assume. It deserves the long, hard look that it hasn't yet gotten. "

Ward takes that hard look -- and at the environmental ravages that go with it. After all, for the last eight years, the Bush administration has led a holy war against nature, against the environment (one Ward has covered at TomDispatch). Now, it is to be continued. "Yes," he writes, "Republican animosity to government regulation is long-standing. ... And yes, they emphasize property rights over notions of the commons and have often been comfortable sacrificing wildlife, air, and water quality in the pursuit of profits... But none of this quite explains the Bush administration's shameful record on the environment. In the final analysis, the only explanation that fits the nightmare of the last eight years is this: It has been on a holy war against nature -- and the nomination of Sarah Palin is essentially an insurance policy taken out on its continuation."

He concludes: "An ecologically illiterate generation of students will be ill-prepared to meet our real, less than rapturous future. ... They will drive blindly into the future, burning fossil fuels, without a map they can read. ... The Evolution vs. Creationism debate appears to be an argument over the distant past. But it's actually about the future. It's about, in fact, who will define the cultural mindset that will generate that future. Let us pray it is not defined by a pit bull with lipstick who thinks she is 'tasked by God' to drill for oil."

This piece pierces to the heart of McCain's Palin choice and explains just why, with her, the future looks more like the abyss.

World's greatest wedding singer, here (accompanied by the world's worst sax player). You're welcome.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Sean
Hometown: Peoria, IL

Dr. A,

Once again, we see here that the MSM is more than ready to report any of the "falsehoods" (lies) the McCain camp is willing to make noise about. The article says "Mr. McCain sought to turn that advantage against his rival, charging that Mr. Obama's 'own advisers are saying that the crisis will benefit him politically.' "

In the next paragraph, we get the punch line: "The McCain campaign could not cite an example of an Obama adviser claiming that."

I wonder if the Obama campaign told lies like this, the MSM would report on them. I think Candy Crowley would report them ... and then spend three minutes explaining why Obama's are worse.

Name: Derrick Gibson
Hometown: Miami, FL

As Sunday dawned over Miami, I turned toward your recent Nation article on earmarks as well as your Progressive Book Club review of the latest from Jerome Corsi; I asked myself as I was reading them if there was a unifying theme to be found across the pair and one word sprang to mind: hypocrisy.

It seems improbable to me that people report on McCain's plans to reign in "earmarks" without simultaneously scoffing at the futility of this act. Your article pointed out how imprecisely "earmark" is defined as a term and you also described the minuscule budget impact from earmarks -- and yet this man campaigns across the country saying to numerous audiences that he can balance the budget -- despite extending the tax cuts that have taken us out of balance -- by ending earmarks -- regardless of the definition -- is beyond disingenuous. It can only accurately be described as a lie told to the American people.

And that brings me to Corsi. It took you less than 1,500 words to pierce whatever credibility this book purported to have and yet its publisher -- Simon and Schuster -- touts this book as "#1 New York Times bestseller!" Again, we have a situation where a small truth -- yes, the book has sold many copies -- is used as a cover for a massive series of lies.

These are just two examples of hypocrisy and there are no doubt many more, but how do we measure the cost of these hypocrisies to our society? Who even is responsible for developing such measurements and presenting them to the public in a manner that we can understand? We have bureaus of economic advisers and most people have heard of GNP or GDP as measures of our economic health: when our politicians are either party to or victims of campaigns of lies - what does that mean to our society?

We require something akin to a gross truth product -- a measure of the overall output of truth produced across our society. Can we get some of our social scientists on this?

Name: Rich Gallagher
Hometown: Fishkill, N.Y.

Dear Eric,

I love Pierce, and his Red Sox admittedly have been on a roll of late, but disrespecting Yankee Stadium is a bit much. Perhaps his memories of the 20th century are too painful for him to bear?

Flashback to Friday, September 28, 1956. I was eight years old and my father had gotten tickets for a night game between the Yankees and the Red Sox. In those days night games started around 8:00 p.m. As a rule that would be too late for me to be out, but my mother wasn't feeling well and I didn't have school the next day, so I got to take her seat. It was dark when we arrived at Yankee Stadium, and I remember being astonished when we got inside and I saw how brightly the field was illuminated by the lights. Then I embarrassed my older brothers by loudly shrieking, "Mickey" warming up in the outfield! My hero, Mickey Mantle, had been relegated by injuries to pinch-hitting duties for the previous week or so, but that night he started in center field.

We sat in lower deck reserved seats in right field. It must have been a chilly night, because the New York Times sportswriter wrote that there was "a top-coat crowd of 16,760 fans" at the game. The Red Sox were a dreadful team in those days. Bob Porterfield, who was never mistaken for Cy Young, started for the Sox and was scorched for seven runs in five innings. One of those runs came on Mantle's 52nd homer of the season, a shot which flew over my head and landed at least a dozen rows behind my seat. Ted Williams was running neck-and-neck with Mantle for the batting title, but the Splinter had a miserable 0-3 night. Yankee starter Don Larsen induced Williams to hit three grounders to Billy Martin at second base, two of which resulted in double plays. The Yankees won, 7-2, and when the season ended two days later Mantle had won the Triple Crown. Ten days later Larsen pitched a perfect game at the Stadium, the only no-hitter in World Series history.

So I say that Yankee Stadium deserves every tear which is shed over its demise.

And hey, is New York a great city or what? Earlier that summer I went to my first-ever major league baseball game at Ebbets Field and saw the Brooklyn Dodgers play the St. Louis Cardinals. In the course of my first two MLB games I got to see seven Hall of Famers in action -- Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, and Stan Musial.

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