These are better days ...


I did a personal post about Barack Obama for the Guardian, which should be up shortly. I'm still a bit in awe of the moment and want to collect my thoughts over time, but I would like to take this opportunity to offer a genuinely heartfelt "thanks" to all of the people who've helped sustain both me and this site -- including the entire Altercation mishpucha -- during these dark days when, I'm sure, there were some when we weren't sure it was really our country anymore. Of course, it always has been, and what a great comfort it has been to yours truly to have so many of us here -- since we began in May 2002 on -- to constantly reassure and support our better selves. We are in, no doubt, for many disappointments in the future, but we have surely earned the right to take a moment for a sense of pride in ourselves and in our country, and to offer our gratitude to Barack Obama for helping us to recover our sense of optimism, of destiny, and of -- yes, dammit -- pride in our patriotism.

George Zornick writes: I woke up this morning, and Bill O'Reilly was on the phone with the Fox & Friends crew, threatening in completely serious tones to move to Ireland if Al Franken prevails in his tight Senate race and joins President Obama in Washington.

That's a little scene that, in 2004, would have been a fantasy somewhere in the area of personally quarterbacking the Buffalo Bills to a Super Bowl victory. I don't have much profound to say at the moment other than to note how unbelievable, in every sense of the word, this election was for the under-25 crowd. I was in high school when President Bush was elected in 2000, and was still unpacking my first dorm room on September 11, 2001. My political consciousness developed exclusively in the Bush era, perhaps largely as a reaction to it. Despite all the polling and indicators pointing at an Obama win, it's been difficult to truly envision Washington, DC and the country in any other way. I'm sure this was largely true for people of all ages and experiences during the darkest days of this past decade, but it's worth noting that the only political world young folks knew to this point was one in which Karl Rove's divisive, fear-based 50-percent-plus-one strategy always prevailed, Bill O'Reilly was dominating and scary, and Barack Hussein Obama gave a hell of a convention speech but could never really be president in any realistic scenario.

In recent months I was certain Obama would win, but almost didn't know what to think when he actually did. It may be clichéd, but when the sun rose over New York City this morning, it really looked like a brand new day -- one that a lot of young Americans have never seen before.

Yesterday, the FCC voted to approve the unlicensed use of "white spaces," the empty spectrum between television channels that can now be used to bring low-cost, high-speed Internet to almost every corner of the country. We wrote about this issue recently in Think Again, noting that this little-noticed policy change could narrow or even eliminate the gap between haves and have-nots when it comes to Internet access.

In other FCC news, Kevin Martin has punted on a number of telecommunications overhauls that were planned for this month. The Bush administration is intent on cementing a number of policy changes before they leave office, but the FCC seems to be willing to just hand off to the Obama administration. We'll watch closely, as we will the Supreme Court case FCC v. Fox Television, which was just argued in front of the court.

We've written about this case both at Altercation and in a Think Again column -- Fox is challenging the FCC's authority to impose huge punitive fines for even "fleeting" expletives, which is an authority they've taken very seriously in recent years. For example, the FCC fined a small public television station in California for airing Martin Scorsese's documentary "The Blues," which contains musicians using some earthy language. It would be a victory for free speech if Fox prevails. An excellent NY Times editorial on the case ran yesterday.

From Media Matters: President Bush was re-elected in 2004 with 286 electoral votes, the smallest popular-vote margin since 1976 (excluding the 2000 election) and the lowest electoral vote count for an incumbent president's re-election since 1916. Nevertheless, many in the media were quick to echo Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that "the nation" gave Bush "a mandate." It remains to be seen whether the media will apply the same standard in assessing the results of the 2008 election. More here.

Brokaw is back at it -- he said on Morning Joe that America is a center-right country because a majority of land area in the United States, if you measure it on the county level, voted for McCain.

When do they name that replacement?

Eric asks: Did he really say that? Does land vote? Is it possible for someone in Tom Brokaw's position to be that stupid? Or perhaps a better question is, "Is it necessary?"

Joe Scarborough was on the warpath yesterday morning, describing Paul Krugman and "bloggers" as "hateful." Remember we pointed out back in July, when he went off on bloggers "just sitting there, eating their Cheetos," that Scarborough's frequent, recent venom for "bloggers" isn't anti-blogger, just anti-people who disagree with him. He loves bloggers sometimes:

SCARBOROUGH: And one thing I'll say to all of you is what Jason just said the bloggers did seems to me what 60 Minutes has been doing for some time. Mike Wallace basically kicks down doors and tries to get at the truth, whether people like it or not. And he's held as a great journalist.

I think somebody's got to keep the mainstream media in check. OK, I know I'm a member of it. I'm just telling you. That's the truth. That's our little secret. Don't tell anybody. That's my little Valentine's gift to you.

Now, coming up next, why doesn't the old liberal media understand that blogs are here to stay and they're serving us all?

Scarborough went on to talk about "the power of bloggers," and blasted "The New York Times, the last bastion of the old media. ... The gray lady of journalism still doesn't get it."

It would be nice if, someday, Scarborough engages the ideas of online journalists and not just their medium.

Oh, thanks be to god for "Liberal MSNBC ..."

McCain Suck-Up Watch, one last time edition: Andrea Mitchell said it was "a great irony, a sad irony, for John McCain" that Hispanic voters are "shifting to Barack Obama" even though McCain "lost his Republican base ... partly on supporting immigration reform." But Mitchell did not note that McCain reversed his position on immigration reform, aligning himself more closely with the GOP base, or that McCain stated that he would not support his own reform bill if it came up for a vote in the Senate. More here.

From TomDispatch:

Here's how Tom Engelhardt beings his look back at the strangest years of our lives: "They may have been the most disastrous dreamers, the most reckless gamblers, and the most vigorous imperial hucksters and grifters in our history. Selling was their passion. And they were classic American salesmen -- if you're talking about underwater land in Florida, or the Brooklyn Bridge, or three-card monte, or bizarre visions of Iraqi unmanned aerial vehicles armed with chemical and biological weaponry let loose over the U.S., or Saddam Hussein's mushroom clouds rising over American cities, or a full-scale reordering of the Middle East to our taste, or simply eternal global dominance."

Their president had been a cheerleader at his prep school, Andover, and on a pile of rubble at Ground Zero, bullhorn in hand, on September 14, 2001, George W. Bush found his calling as "cheerleader in chief." As Engelhardt comments, "While transforming himself into a national cheerleader-in-chief, he even kept 'his own personal scorecard for the war' in a desk drawer in the Oval Office -- photos with brief biographies and personality sketches of leading al-Qaeda figures, whose faces could be satisfyingly crossed out when killed or captured. He clearly adored it when he got to dress up, whether in a flight suit landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier in May 2003, or in front of hoo-aahing crowds of soldiers wearing a specially tailored military-style jacket with 'George W. Bush, Commander In Chief' hand-stitched across the heart."

As earlier in life when he was repeatedly rescued from failure and enriched by his father's friends, he was in these years supported (Karl Rove), enabled (Condoleezza Rice), cosseted (various officials), and so became "the decider," a willing figurehead (as he had been, for instance, when he was an "owner" of the Texas Rangers), manipulated by his co-president Dick Cheney. "In these surroundings," Engelhardt comments, "he was able to take war play to an imperial level. In the end, however, this act of his life, too, could lead nowhere but to failure."

By now, of course, an administration based on soaring fantasies, false promises, lies, and bait-and-switch tactics has been foreclosed. The results were sadly predictable from an administration and a president, dreaming of global domination and domestic triumph, whose bubble was bound to be burst. In the rest of his piece, Engelhardt explores just what made these last years so strange -- the patterns to be seen both in Bush's life and in the life of his administration that have led us, on the eve of an historic election, to the edge of disaster.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Terry
Hometown: Cheyenne

Dear Eric: Thank you for the writing, the research, standing for liberals, and working and fighting to keep hope alive. Glad to be stepping with you and the Altercators into the light. I feel good, duh, duh, duh, duh duh, duh, duh...

As to Obama becoming president, may it be so. I wish Molly Ivins and my father were here to see this.

Name: Steve Thomas
Hometown: New York, NY

One question: Why does America hate America?

Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC

Mr. Alterman,

Tonight is a great night for this country; it has restored my faith after what has transpired over the last 8 years. I wanted to send a thank you to you and Media Matters for the work you do because I know your work played a part in helping to set the record straight and stop the Republican lie machine that looked so powerful just four years ago. I am really speechless right now about what has transpired this night. A great, great night.

Name: Joel Davies
Hometown: Chicago

Thank you, Eric, for helping us find our voice!

Name: K.Desai
Hometown: Springfield, IL

I have been a long time reader and this is only the second time I have emailed you. The first was on Election Day, 2004. It was the first time I had ever voted. Today, I cast my second presidential ballot ever. I hope the election results tonight are different than 4 years ago.

But, if the polls are right, we will have elected Barack Obama as president. However, that is the easy part. The hard part is what comes next. It is fixing this country. Lets us enjoy what we have accomplished but not forget we have to keep working. Keep doing what is right and what is best for the country. That is the campaign that never ends.

Name: Charles Perez
Hometown: Marion, NY

Dr. A,

Thank you and congratulations. Thanks for your hard work over the past several years helping us understand what's really going on under the spin of the SCLM. Congratulations to us all for the payoff for all the hard work we've all done to get here.

"President-Elect Barack Obama." It has the feel of an incantation -- casting a spell to create a better country and a better world.

Name: Bill
Hometown: Mill Valley CA

The message about racism is that, no, it's not gone, not by a long shot. But enough old white crackers like me have been sufficiently modernized to be inspired by people like Barack Obama--because of their race and what we know race means in this country--so that when we say Bring it on, we see that it might really get brought (we'll know in a few hours).

As another Obama famously said, For the first time I'm really proud of my country.

Name: J.P.
Hometown: Luxembourg

Hey Doc,

I'm here in Luxembourg and I got up at 2:30 am on election night in the states because I couldn't sleep. I turned on the BBC coverage of the election to see what the Brits were saying about how the election was going. I was pleasantly surprised to see Ted Koppel on as a guest.

However, 10 minutes later, after I had changed the channel to see what CNN was up to, I changed back to find they had replaced him with John Bolton! How is this man even considered a credible media personality anymore? (And John Stewart was right, he does look like the shaggy dog with a shave.)

Luckily I was able to go back to sleep without nightmares, but they should really warn a guy when they're going to do that.

Name: Beth Postema
Hometown: Fargo, ND

Thanks for lifting up the words of "A Change Gonna Come." I checked the cd out from my library, and made my 12-year-old listen to it on the way to school this morning. He's excited about the Obama victory, but I don't know if he fully understands the significance of the song or yesterday's decision.

I then listened to it 4 times through, wailing along on my way to work.

Name: Jim
Hometown: Swanzey, NH

My first thought was "Mightn't there be a different Jon Favreau?" That being cleared up, in what alternative universe would Obama appoint Schwarzenegger, who was neck deep in the shenanigans that led to California's "energy crisis," to be Secretary of Energy?

Name: Gordy
Hometown: Sylvania, OH

LTC Bateman and Mr. Pierce,

Please accept my sincerest apologies. I was immensely tempted to write your names in for the Presidential and Vice Presidential positions. However, my fear gripped me and I hope you will forgive me. I hope my vote helped turn Ohio blue.

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