We've got a new Think Again column here called "War on the Press, Part III: Inventing the News for Fun and Profit ..." (This column is part three in a series on the legacy of the Bush administration's war on the press. Parts I and II can be found here and here, respectively.)
There's a lot of green posturing these days in the mainstream media -- witness the mock outrage over CEOs taking private jets to Washington a few weeks ago -- so it's heartening to see some real advocates for change finally getting the recognition they deserve. The very worthy Van Jones has gotten a lot of attention this year, with a bestselling book The Green Collar Economy, and culminating next week when he'll be honored with the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. If Obama's call for 2.5 million new, mostly green jobs is any indication, Jones' message seems to be catching on with policymakers. And in the interest of transparency and journalistic integrity, I am a fellow at the Nation Institute, one of the co-sponsors of the prize. But I don't get any kickbacks, so please, no irate emails.
Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Hey Doc --
"Therefore Christian men, be sure/wealth or rank possessing/Ye who shall now bless the poor/shall yourselves find blessing."
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "I Must See Jesus" (Snooks Eglin) -- I raise a bowl of smoking bishop at the club in honor of the season, and in demonstration of how much I love New Orleans.
Part The First: Disclaimer. I've known Miles O'Brien since he worked in the Boston market. I even once turned him down for an interview at Logan Airport because, well, because I am a jerk. Anyway, This announcement is eighteen kinds of lousy. I mean, what can this hurt? It's not like science is likely to be an important beat over the coming years. Think carefully about CNN's nightly lineup. Can you think of any high-priced blowhard you might toss over the side in order to have a news network that can tell us what's up with things like, oh, I don't know, the Planet Earth? Jeebus Christmas. If they just reduce by half the amount of formaldehyde they use to keep Larry King on the air, they could make the nut easily.
Part The Second: Oooh, Richard Cohen is mad. He is outraged -- still! -- at the Marc Rich pardon, one of the pivotal injustices of the last century. He is vexed and ratty, sir! He is in ill temper, and stay out his way and don't push him 'cause he's close to the ... edge. Of course, he wasn't always this way. Once, he could look upon such matters with the cool eye and steady hand of a career Beltway cocktail-party courtier suck-up. My idea of marching them all off to a journalism re-education camp in the Smokies is looking better and better.
Part The Third: Hey, yo, yobs at the CAP. Don't be calling this cluck a sportswriter. We don't want him any more than science writers do and, believe me, actualy sportswriters think he's as big a dunce as the average climatologist does.
Part The Fourth: Everybody Wangchuck tonight! Here come our American guests. Everybody pretend to care.
Part The Last: A respected member of the Southern bar -- Roll Tide Division -- has a lot riding on this sporting event. I have a hunch that he's going to be one happy feller by Sunday. And, as interim Altercation sports editor, I can say that I have been to many nightclubs in my life and yet, mysteriously, I have never shot myself in any of them. I gotta get out more.
It is not possible to measure how little I care that David Gregory is the new host of Meet The Press. In case nobody at NBC noticed -- and given their shoddy performance vetting their military experts, it's entirely possible the the entire upper management of the network is either drunk or dead -- this past election was held on a level on which conventional punditry was considerably less than relevant to the events as they unfolded. In fact, almost all the master narratives in which the Cool Kidz invested themselves -- most of them having to do with Hillary Clinton -- turned out to be laughably detached from the reality of what was actually going on. This is not that those narratives didn't exist -- pace Bob Somerby -- but simply to say that they had no general resonance beyond the green room. Despite the constant meeping from the Island Of Misfit Historians, this looked more than ever like an election decided because a lot of actual people actually made up their actual minds on actual issues.
So elevate Gregory to the bishopric of the late Archbishop Russert's diocese. I'm sure the folks down in the Investigative Collating Department will be happy. The rest of us have cable, where we can watch news about missing white girls, but not, of course, about melting glaciers or exploding new epidemics.
A report today on ScienceBlogs points out a ten-month waiting list for routine mammograms, not in Canada or the UK, but at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, the largest breast center in Illinois.
This is an amazing piece for me as it simultaneously testifies to how badly broken are our economy AND our health care. Imagine, if you're afraid that you'll lose your job and therefore health insurance, run out of the COBRA insurance you won't be able to afford anyway, and at that point not be able to pass underwriting, you'll still be able to pay exorbitant costs for a private policy because you're prequalified. All you have to do is pay a monthly premium for that privilege! Conservative free market orthodoxy has truly brought us to the brink of ruin, yet their faith in the "wisdom of the market" still eclipses mere facts.
In regard to Gen. Barry McCaffrey's appearances on NBC, I get the impression that if the network/Brian Williams would just mention his ties to the defense industry it would make it all okay. But it wouldn't. It's not even close because disclaimers, I believe, are misunderstood and quickly forgotten, assuming they resonate to begin with. So failing to mention that he's being paid to say what he's saying isn't the outrage. The outrage is that NBC allows McCaffrey into the building.
The only compromise I might allow for "interviews" like this would be a graphic that filled the lower third of the screen and stayed there the entire time that said: "Gen. McCaffrey is a highly paid lobbyist for the defense industry and has a personal financial interest in the war's continuation, as does G.E, the corporation that owns NBC."
But what do we do about radio?
After Novak's diagnosis with a brain tumor, he wrote a heartfelt column about the kindness with which even his opponents had treated him. Sadly, he appears to have reverted to the same hypocrite he always had been.
Meanwhile, Michael Goodwin was one of the most vicious critics of Obama and Clinton until -- ahem -- Obama won. Then he became a fine leader. If you want to know what a weathervane looks like in a windstorm, read Goodwin -- unless it looks like Republicans are doing well, in which case his writing would make Goebbels proud.
It is interesting that Gibson, Halperin and others view Bush's spin with a sympathetic eye and gloss over facts. The truth, however, remains that beyond 9/11, this guy was woefully unprepared for anything. In other words, he was unprepared for hurricanes, he was unprepared for economic disasters, he was unprepared for managing the justice department, he was unprepared for policing wall street, etc.
To paraphrase the candid decider: "In other words, he didn't anticipate anything. Presidents -- one of the things about the modern presidency is that the unexpected will happen" (and people expect him or her to handle whatever happens in a competent manner).
Coming to think of it, the same could be said of the press.
Phein's response to the Edmund Wilson piece gets to a point that is crucial to the future of Liberalism -- its relation to Socialism. Differentiating Liberalism from Conservativism has been made easy by the Bushites, but I'm not sure that I've seen a Liberal coming to grips with the analysis that Capitalism is intrinsically a system that exploits. Maybe the requisite counter-analysis has been or can be advanced, but in its absence, a Liberal who prides himself on being above Conservativism should stop reacting abashedly to the charge of "Socialist."
Just to clarify for you and Mark Richard -- Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman" was released in 1968. "Dreams of the Everyday Housewife" is one of the tracks on the "Wichita Lineman" album, which also was released in 1968.
Capitol remastered his early hit albums -- "Gentle on My Mind," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman," and "Galveston" -- in 2001 and they remain in print (and at bargain prices).