Surrender (but don't give yourselves away ...)


One interesting aspect of the Bush administration is the degree to which it has destroyed the brains of so many conservatives who felt compelled to support it. I think it's safe to say we can add Michael Barone to that list. Check this out:

A roomful of academics erupted in angry boos Tuesday morning after political analyst Michael Barone said journalists trashed Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republicans' vice presidential nominee, because "she did not abort her Down syndrome baby." "The liberal media attacked Sarah Palin because she did not abort her Down syndrome baby," Barone said, according to accounts by attendees. "They wanted her to kill that child. ... I'm talking about my media colleagues with whom I've worked for 35 years."


Barone said in an e-mail that he "was attempting to be humorous and ... went over the line."

Attempting to be humorous? Joking about abortion and child murder? Boy, do these people ever need a vacation. Let me recommend, say, eight to 12 years in the wilderness.

George Zornick writes: Deborah Howell, The Washington Post's ombudsman, has endorsed two critiques of her newspaper's coverage during the presidential campaign:

The Post provided a lot of good campaign coverage, but readers have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama. My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show that they are right on both counts.

She documents the problems:

The op-ed page ran far more laudatory opinion pieces on Obama, 32, than on Sen. John McCain, 13. There were far more negative pieces about McCain, 58, than there were about Obama, 32, and Obama got the editorial board's endorsement. The Post has several conservative columnists, but not all were gung-ho about McCain.


McCain clinched the GOP nomination on March 4, three months before Obama won his. From June 4 to Election Day, the tally was Obama, 626 stories, and McCain, 584. Obama was on the front page 176 times, McCain, 144 times; 41 stories featured both.

Howell compares her findings to the Pew study that we wrote about in "What Obamedia?" last week. That study also showed more favorable coverage, and more coverage overall, for Obama, but as we explained that's simply a function of the fact Obama was usually winning the race, and was making strategic decisions widely seen as successful, while the exact opposite was true of John McCain. Bob Shrum said this week that "McCain was like the 1962 Mets. They couldn't cover him positively." That gets reflected in the coverage, but it doesn't mean the mainstream media, nor The Washington Post, were in the tank for Obama. Howell's inclusion of the editorial page is especially odd; doesn't the paper hire columnists to provide their honest opinions? Should some have converted them to provide balance?

But most importantly, the "problem" Howell cites here can be solved by fixing the other one she names: too much horse-race coverage. There were 1,295 horse-race stories and 594 issues stories in the Post from November 11, 2007, to Election Day 2008. "There were no broad stories on energy or science policy, and there were few on religion issues," she writes.

So it's simple -- stop writing about the horse-race so much, and the coverage won't "tilt" towards the winning candidate. It's natural for horse-race coverage to display such disparities, but not so much if reporters are exploring and analyzing policy positions.

You've probably seen the video of MSNBC's Joe Scarborough accidentally letting the F-word slip on the air.

We've written before about the FCC's "fleeting expletives" policy, which allows the agency to impose sometimes-massive fines for fleeting, inconsequential obscenities; 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.

The FCC can't touch Scarborough, since he was on cable at the time, but it's important to note, as Glenn Greenwald does, that Scarborough has been one of the biggest proponents of FCC policies that would levy fines for identical infractions on network television. When Bono said "fucking brilliant" during the Golden Globe Awards, Joe had this to say:

The show was live, and unlike SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, the "F" word was not bleeped out. Earlier this month, the FCC ruled that Bono's acceptance speech and his use of the word that began with an "F" was not a violation of indecency rules. . . . .

Robert, it was at 8:00. Kids were watching this. You've studied television and pop culture. What does it say about our FCC that we've come this far or you could say gone this far backward that somebody could say the "F" word on TV and get the federal government's approval?

Greenwald has more examples. Meanwhile, we're left to ask -- Joe, are you re-examining yourself?

Speaking of the FCC, here is a Business Week piece about whom Obama may be considering for FCC chairman; his choice will be a relief regardless after the Powell/Martin years, but Obama should strive to pick the most qualified candidate that has the least ties to the corporate telecommunications world, as many of the issues facing the FCC -- from white spaces to network neutrality -- are fundamental battles between the public interest and corporate bottom lines.

Note that there's a lot of articles like this for virtually every visible administration position, and I agree that nobody knows whom Obama will appoint (including probably Obama, in many cases at this point). And I agree that speculative articles should be more clearly labeled as speculation instead of passed off as reporting. But I do think these pieces have a good amount of merit and value, just like, for example, the NFL mock drafts that just about every outlet produces. A lot of hoity-toity sports fans will deride mock drafts as wastes of time, because the mocks rarely turn out to be accurate. Once one team picks an unexpected player, there's a chain reaction and all predictions are off. And it's true that sports journalists don't always have good reporting on a given team's draft preferences, and if they do, it's probably a calculated leak that's as likely to be true as not. These mock drafts are still useful, though: they give a sense of who possibly merits consideration, why, and what the advantages and drawbacks of such a pick would be. (This sentiment is expressed more colorfully here). I think cabinet-speculation stories are useful for the same reason.

Broadcasting & Cable's Marisa Guthrie spent election night inside the Fox News studios; it's an interesting read and gives a sense of where the network could be headed over the next several years. Also, it seems like Brit Hume had a bad night.

By the way, did anyone notice the somewhat conspicuous absence of arguably the network's two biggest stars during last Tuesday's coverage? Hannity and O'Reilly were nowhere to be found. (On MSNBC, Maddow and Olbermann were there and did provide analysis). I'm not calling for more Hannity, and I think the network made the right call. Hannity doesn't strike me as someone who would be good at live television that deals with and interprets events as they happen. He's very good at delivering his scripted attack lines and talking points, but I somehow can't imagine him reacting in real-time to anything consequential. Ditto O'Reilly.

Quote of the Day: "I just much prefer scandals about Neiman Marcus to, uh, you know, weighty academics talking about the economy..." -- Maureen Dowd, on MSNBC yesterday.'s Bill Simmons writes:

There is one silver lining to Buffalo's Cinderella season slowly falling apart to the point that the Bills now might miss the playoffs. I am not allowed to mention it, but if you rack your brains, you will figure it out. Think about the insufferable way that Oprah attached herself to Obama, and you will be getting warm.

Anyone want to fill me in on this one? What media figure has been propping up the Bills this year? Chris Berman has certainly said nice things, and he even donned a Buffalo hat at one point. But Obama won, and Oprah was happy, whereas the Bills are losing ...

I'll assume for now that this is a dig at Simmons' ESPN colleague, Berman, which is only further proof of anti-Bills bias at that network. It has hired two former members of the 1990s Dallas Cowboys, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith, both of which openly root for their old team on the air; Smith even served as spokesperson for his old team when a (very) critical book was written. Such criticism is especially ironic coming from Simmons, one of the biggest jock-washers for the New England Patriots in the mainstream sports media. But profess fanship for the Bills? Tsk tsk, how insufferable...

Alter-reviews: Sal on Cheap Trick and Warren Zevon re-issues

Cheap Trick --Budokan! (30th Anniversary DVD+3CDs)

Cheap Trick is one of those bands whose best-known songs are their weakest songs. While "Surrender" and "I Want You To Want Me" are both great, "The Flame," "Can't Stop Falling Into Love," and "Don't Be Cruel" represent the worst side of this legendary pop band. This is how I feel about At Budokan. It may be Cheap Trick's biggest-selling record, but it's not what I consider to be the classic history has made it to be. Mind you, it's still a blast and with this new deluxe version, you get it all. There is the complete concert from the 1998 reissue on 2 CDs, a third CD with a performance from the following night, and a DVD of the performance which was broadcast on Japanese TV. That's a lot of Budokan. If you want to venture into Cheap Trick waters for the first time, pick up the brilliant 1977 self-titled debut, or the Todd Rundgren-produced Next Position Please. If you want to get all nostalgic, Budokan! is for you. You can read all about it here.

Warren Zevon -- Warren Zevon (Collector's Edition)

Warren Zevon's brilliant debut gets the royal treatment with improved sound and a bonus CD of alternate takes and demos on a new package from the always classy Rhino Records. This is the record with the pre-Linda Ronstadt versions of "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" and "Carmelita," as well as the absolutely riveting "Desperados Under The Eaves," with a gorgeous vocal arrangement by Carl Wilson. Excitable Boy was the record that put Zevon on the map and rightly so, but the debut was a long time coming. Zevon had been working on these songs for years and thought of giving up and moving out of the U.S. altogether. But thanks to some encouragement from Jackson Browne, he pressed on and gave us this amazing album.

BUY THIS ONE NOW!! (or at least read all about it here.)

-- Sal

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Bob Wenning
Hometown: Chicago

In reading this post from Monday, I was reminded of the same grave warnings from Rush and his crew just before Bill Clinton took office. He was sure Clinton's economic proposals (particularly the higher taxes proposed for Rush and his ilk) were going to lead to the ruin of the American economy (Right again, Rush!). A friend of mine who was a Rush devotee, took his money out of the stock market. I can't say I didn't warn him that Rush doesn't know shit.

Also, regarding Hannity's ad nauseam references to Obama's radical associations and his liberal Hyde Park neighborhood -- the University of Chicago, where Obama was a constitutional law professor, is one of the leading intellectual centers of conservative legal and economic thought. But somehow this 'association' was rarely mentioned in this context. Obama had much more exposure to these conservative "radicals" in a month than he ever did to Wright & Ayers. Hopefully, he will not be unduly influenced.

Name: Ken
Hometown: Kansas City

I have spent the last week reading blogs all over the internet. I have found an incredible amount of BS out there. One spin that bothers me most. A lot of people are posting more "stuff" saying Rev. Wright is a racist. Let's see. An elderly black man is angry at his country for the racism and bigotry he experienced over most if not all of his life. In other news, water found to be wet and the Pope is outed as a Catholic.

I am a middle-aged white guy originally from the northern plains. I am guilty of believing that this country had largely put racism behind us. Boy was I wrong. A sports columnist here in KC wrote a column on Obama's election to President. If you go to our paper's web site and read the comments to that article you will find some of the worst we have to offer as humans. Some of the best too. But I am left feeling much less optimistic about the future. I also try to keep in mind that I am living in a state that is still trying to remove science from the classroom.

Name: Don Hynes
Hometown: Portland OR

I'm not a fan of Rather's, and with Junior heading back to six figure public speaking it hardly matters, but isn't it dreadful that the only mistake Rather made was in the false document that was passed to him. No one has ever challenged the validity of what was in the document (or really investigated from where and by whom) and the original source who till this day swears to the original documents verity, that Junior got a pass into the Guard because of Pater's direct influence. Make that a walk for Airman Junior and another big K on the lie board for Dad.

Name: Jef Hall
Hometown: Oshkosh, WI

Thanks for your review of The Hold Steady/Drive-By Truckers. The 2 best shows I saw this year so far were these 2 bands on their own.

I got the ticket the day I found out about the show, and can't wait for Friday in Chicago.

This is shaping up to be a great month.

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