Tag Archives: Eric Alterman

As goes Rush . . .

Oh Democrats my Democrats.

Just like that turtle in a slow boil pot of water (is that the right metaphor?), you never noticed when you capitulated. You now use in blithe ignorance words specifically designed to insult you. Words designed by a morbidly obese, four times married, college dropout, indicted drug offender and now iconic standard-bearer of the conservative movement. Words like:

  • LIBERAL MEDIA: In debate coverage, on bleeding MSNBC, I heard liberal pundits automatically refer to the ‘liberal media’. They’ve not only accepted but are now employing the very label assigned them by the morbidly obese, four times married, college dropout and indicted drug offender, a label he invented and employed over decades to discredit, denigrate and insult you. Throughout, if you even bothered to defend, your arguments were weak. “No we’re not” doesn’t do it. (Exception is Eric Alterman’s 2003 meticulously researched book What Liberal Media? – hurry, only two left at Amazon!). So you failed and now a good part of the country assume media to be liberal; they even believe that outlets like the broadcast networks exhibit bias in their vapid little 19 minutes a night of ‘news’.  Well done, Rush; fail, Dems.
  • DEMOCRAT PARTY: Same thing. The morbidly obese, four times married, college dropout and indicted drug criminal began some years ago saying “Democrat Party” instead of “Democratic Party”. Again an insult, meant to strip from the party’s name any suggestion that it stood for a democratic ideal or even process. You’ve no doubt heard it from Rush: Dems now say it too.
  • OBAMACARE: This one only took about five minutes. As soon as the morbidly obese, four times married, college dropout and indicted drug offender invented the name, it was universally adopted because, after all, it’s so much easier to say than Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

3-0. Three-zip. As Mr. Jackson said “wake the f**k up!”

“Fridays at the Pentagon”

Here is a story for Memorial Day – a wonderful and tender story (it’s still linkable here). I came to be familiar with the author, Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, in the early days of the Iraq war via Eric Alterman’s blog  Altercation, then housed at Media Matters, where Bateman was a frequent contributor and where this story first appeared around 2005.

So for Memorial Day 2012, as Eric used to say: “here’s Bateman”:

“It is 110 yards from the ‘E’ ring to the ‘A’ ring of the Pentagon. This section of the Pentagon is newly renovated; the floors shine, the hallway is broad, and the lighting is bright. At this instant the entire length of the corridor is packed with officers, a few sergeants and some civilians, all crammed tightly three and four deep against the walls. There are thousands here.

“This hallway, more than any other, is the ‘Army’ hallway. The G3 offices line one side, G2 the other, G8 is around the corner. All Army. Moderate conversations flow in a low buzz. Friends who may not have seen each other for a few weeks, or a few years, spot each other, cross the way and renew. Everyone shifts to ensure an open path remains down the center. The air conditioning system was not designed for this press of bodies in this area. The temperature is rising already. Nobody cares.

“10:36 hours: The clapping starts at the E-Ring. That is the outermost of the five rings of the Pentagon and it is closest to the entrance to the building. This clapping is low, sustained, hearty. It is applause with a deep emotion behind it as it moves forward in a wave down the length of the hallway.

“A steady rolling wave of sound it is, moving at the pace of the soldier in the wheelchair who marks the forward edge with his presence. He is the first. He is missing the greater part of one leg, and some of his wounds are still suppurating. By his age I expect that he is a private, or perhaps a private first class.

“Captains, majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels meet his gaze and nod as they applaud, soldier to soldier. Three years ago when I described one of these events, those lining the hallways were somewhat different. The applause a little wilder, perhaps in private guilt for not having shared in the burden … yet.

“Now almost everyone lining the hallway is, like the man in the wheelchair, also a combat veteran. This steadies the applause, but I think deepens the sentiment. We have all been there now. The soldier’s chair is pushed by, I believe, a full colonel.

“Behind him, and stretching the length from Rings E to A, come more of his peers, each private, corporal or sergeant assisted as need be by a field grade officer.

“11:00 hours: Twenty-four minutes of steady applause. My hands hurt, and I laugh to myself at how stupid that sounds in my own head. ‘My hands hurt.’ Christ. Shut up and clap. For twenty-four minutes, soldier after soldier has come down this hallway — 20, 25, 30. Fifty-three legs come with them, and perhaps only 52 hands or arms, but down this hall came 30 solid hearts.

“They pass down this corridor of officers and applause, and then meet for a private lunch, at which they are the guests of honor, hosted by the generals. Some are wheeled along. Some insist upon getting out of their chairs, to march as best they can with their chin held up, down this hallway, through this most unique audience. Some are catching handshakes and smiling like a politician at a Fourth of July parade. More than a couple of them seem amazed and are smiling shyly.

“There are families with them as well: the 18-year-old war-bride pushing her 19-year-old husband’s wheelchair and not quite understanding why her husband is so affected by this, the boy she grew up with, now a man, who had never shed a tear is crying; the older immigrant Latino parents who have, perhaps more than their wounded mid-20s son, an appreciation for the emotion given on their son’s behalf. No man in that hallway, walking or clapping, is ashamed by the silent tears on more than a few cheeks. An Airborne Ranger wipes his eyes only to better see. A couple of the officers in this crowd have themselves been a part of this parade in the past.

“These are our men, broken in body they may be, but they are our brothers, and we welcome them home. This parade has gone on, every single Friday, all year long, for more than four years.”

Again: Blitzer makes my teeth hurt

A post I wrote but didn’t publish after the State of the Union speech about the silliness that is CNN. Posting it now speaks to my laziness today, and something is better than nothing. And for me, any opportunity to trash CNN is timeless.

Eric Alterman gets it right. He pretty much always does ( I admit to a prejudice because he published my letters back  in the days when Americans hadn’t yet forgotten that we were/are engaged in two [now three?] wars). Here, he eviscerates CNN for their crappy news judgement.

Fingernails on a blackboard

The network, with annoying regularity, exhibits a puffed up sense of self-importance. In his column, Alterman goes after them for their journalistic cluelessness after they broadcast the ‘response to the response to the State of the Union’, delivered by that towering American intellect and historian, Michelle Bachman.

CNN alone mistook it for real news. They were played. But I suppose a network that likes Wolf Blitzer as its wise old man (will he never retire?) has an expectation of poor judgement.

(By the way, they do have an international edition which I understand is pretty good – why oh why do we get only the crap?)

The future of news?

While the chattering classes on cable and the overpaid ‘anchors’ on network news suck up the air, they don’t often acknowledge the sources for that news about which they chatter so much. They are not reporters; they talk about what actual reporters have written. The television class get their news from print – mostly newspapers. In fact, mostly four or five newspapers – The NY Times, The Wall Street Journal, The LA Times, Chicago Trib – a few others. The congressional journals – like The Hill, Hotline, CQ – are essential to their schtick too, but as well reported as they are, their subject is congress and only congress.

Eric Alterman’s Think Again column last week looked – yet again – at the erosion of good professional investigative reporting, and examined – yet again – what if anything replaces it.

A few highly motivated individuals and organizations have attempted to fill the gap by founding new nonprofit media organizations. These include:

  • The investigative team of reporters created by Propublica, which is funded by the civic-minded billionaires Herb and Marion Sandler and headed by Paul E. Steiger, former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal
  • The Center for Independent Media, headed by David Bennahum, a former writer at Wired
  • The creation of a series of local-news-oriented partnerships with journalism schools like those at Columbia and the City University of New York, or CUNY, which employ faculty and students to cover stories that are no longer economically affordable for local newspapers
  • Too many other small and still incipient ventures to mention

. . .  With the core news function of for-profit media increasingly on life support in the United States, we need to find ways to preserve investigative journalism

. . .

He points to countries who invest in a vigorous press, something the United States doesn’t do, likely  because Americans are hostile to the idea.

. . .  But as University of Illinois professor and tireless crusader for media democracy Robert McChesney and John Nichols point out:

we looked at the Economist magazine, and they rank every country in the world on how democratic it is and how open its governance is, how little corruption there is, how free people are, their civil liberties. … and the top six countries they ranked as the freest, most democratic countries were just about the six heaviest press-subsidizing nations in the world. The United States ranks well below them. Then we looked at Freedom House, a conservative group whose whole mission is to monitor government censorship and . . . it ranks every country in the world on how free the private press are in each of these countries every year. … Well you go down their list of the six freest private presses in the world and they’re pretty much in the six most heavy press-subsidizing nations that have those vibrant freest press systems. The United States is tied for 21st.

From earlier in the column:

Americans currently pay about $1.35 each in tax dollars to support noncommercial media, compared to about $25 in Canada, Australia, and Germany; nearly $60 in Japan; $80 in Britain; and more than $100 in Denmark and Finland. A similar fee in the United States would yield as much as $35 billion every year.

Thoughtful stuff – from someone who knows his stuff. (I am a serious fan.)

Our government does not work any more

There have been a number of fine articles and columns recently examining the increasingly dysfunctional U.S. Senate. (see also Eric Alterman’s really important essay for a look at how the executive branch is doing.)

Norm Orenstein of the American Enterprise Institute (that’s the thoughtful conservative think tank, unlike Heritage which is entirely ideological) has an op-ed today in Times. (Yes, I am still reading the editorial page.) It is definitely worth a read. From it:

“Filibusters aren’t just more numerous; they’re more mundane, too. Consider an earlier bill to extend unemployment benefits, passed in late 2009. It faced two filibusters — despite bipartisan backing and its eventual passage by a 98-0 margin. A bill that should have zipped through in a few days took four weeks, including seven days of floor debate. Or take the nomination of Judge Barbara Milano Keenan to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit: she, too, faced a filibuster, even though she was later confirmed 99 to 0.”

This is quite remarkable. And entirely irrational.

Now, it is on to A Face in The Crowd. And by the way, Beck’s DC side show has every movement person of color on the stage. None in the audience of course cuz all two dozen of them are on the stage. An Indian too. Also I thought I saw a Pakistani.

About a book

GAME CHANGE: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime

I just blew the better part of the morning finishing this book. I could not step away. (It kept me reading last night until 3:00 am.) When it was published a few months ago, it was the talk of cable and the obsession of the White House press corps. Columns were written. Everyone weighed in, whether they’d been there or not. The authors talked to every talker. Their book sold a gajillion copies and probably made them rich.

It was criticized: said to be gossip, hearsay, suspicious, unfair. It was not sourced, nothing was attributed, how could anyone know if it was true? But it was a great read everyone said. A real barn burner. Even Eric Alterman, a media critic and a voice I trust entirely, said so..

Back in the 60’s, when the late Theodore White wrote “The Making of the President’ following the  1960 campaign, he invented a genre. He did it again after 1964, 1968 and finally after 1972. This book is not only titled “Game Change’, it is itself a game changer. I’ve not read anything quite like it before, and in spite of the oddity of the absent sourcing etc., I found myself believing every single word. And I want these guys to keep writing the roundup after 2012, 2016 and 2020, when Levi Johnson is expected to be elected.

The authors, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, were unflinching in their treatment of all the candidates. What surprised me was how well Obama fared in the telling of the tale of the campaign trail. His remarkable political savvy and relentlessness were present, as was his often criticized aloofness. It was in the telling of the days of the financial meltdown in October of 2008 that we got to see the qualities necessary to a president.

While McCain was stumbling and revealing – to the horror of his staff – his utter cluelessness about the economy and how it works, Obama was talking to Paulson and Bernanke and even Bush almost every day. He got it. When he tried to reach McCain by phone to discuss coordinating their message with the administration and the Treasury because of the danger of the situation, McCain wouldn’t call back for 24 hours. He didn’t get it. Obama did. Even Paulson couldn’t reach McCain by phone and had to wait sometimes for 36 hours to have his calls returned.

In the grip of the shared terror that the economy might actually immolate, Bush convened a meeting of his top financial advisors along with Obama, McCain and their financial people. Everyone engaged (Obama to the point that Paulson later said he was ‘astonished by Obama’s level of engagement’ and found himself turning to the candidate as if he were already president) – everyone that is except McCain, who remained silent. Finally, toward the end of the meeting, Bush asked McCain if he had anything to add. He said something about House Republicans and what they wanted to do. Bush ‘was dumbfounded’ and ended the meeting.

Both authors are cable regulars and I had always found Halperin to be  smug. He was the founding editor of a once essential online first-read of the day among political junkies – ABC News’ The Note (authorship of which I once wrongly attributed to Jake Tapper of ABC News eliciting an actual response(!) from him denying any connection with it. I apologized for my careless beginner’s mistake.)

But now I’ve decided that anyone who can produce a book this good will be allowed some smugness.

The best part of reading Game Change is that it reminded me our leaders are not saints. They are clawing, ambitious and often ruthless and that that’s the way people emerge as leaders. It’s always been the way although we  like to pretend it’s otherwise.

Read it.

Calling Jimmy Olsen

A terrific column by Eric Alterman today. This jumped out:

“According to MMS spokesman Nicholas Pardi, there’s not a single reporter in the country who covers its activities full time.”

The Minerals Management Service, the agency whose regulatory failures led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, has not attracted any interest from our ‘free’ press in the last decade or more. They have however, been ‘freely’ swarming around the latest bimbo eruption, wherever it may be. By the thousands.

Lucky us.


We’re all fair and balanced and having f-u-n!

From Eric Alterman in his latest column at The Nation:

” . . . at least twenty Fox News personalities have endorsed, raised money for or campaigned for Republican candidates or causes, or against Democratic candidates or causes, in more than 300 instances and in at least 49 states”—and they have been routinely advertised as Fox News personalities while doing so”

Eric Alterman, smart man

Alterman and Bob Somersby at The Daily Howler – and, once upon a time a blog called Media Whores Online which went ‘out to pasture’ a few years ago – instructed me over the last decade on the nuances of observing our mainstream media at work. And it’s not pretty – because they neither understand their jobs nor do a credible job. Facts are scrambled and rarely corrected. Anchors are ignorant of the subjects on which they interview their guests. And always – always – they are more interested in themselves, in each other and in their narrow little media/beltway world than in informing their viewers.

In today’s column, we learn of a recent beltway party “in which “a couple hundred influentials gathered for a Mardi Gras-themed birthday party for Betsy Fischer, the executive producer of ‘Meet the Press.’ Held at the Washington home of the lobbyist Jack Quinn, the party was a classic Suck-Up City affair in which everyone seemed to be congratulating one another on some recent story, book deal, show or haircut.”

No wonder they haven’t the time to do any real reporting.

But, Alterman points out that it’s Fox News – with its public advocacy – that operates on an altogether different ‘journalistic’ planet. I’m reminded of a recent post here in which  Rupert Murdoch, when asked to name a moderate or liberal on his network, thought a while and said “Greta! Greta VanSustren”. Whose husband works for Sarah Palin.

Something I didn’t know

Hard to believe of course. Here’s something I didn’t know:

” . . . it’s notable that despite the claims that all these revelations have seriously damaged the public’s confidence in “climate science,” 54 percent of voters in Republican pollster Frank Luntz’s poll, released on January 21, 2010, believed that climate change is either “definitely” or “probably” occurring, compared with just 18 percent who believed that it is “definitely” or “probably” not occurring. An even larger majority, 63 percent, say they believe climate change is likely caused by humans. So far, at least, the skeptics have lost the larger battle, despite the irresponsible reporting of it in the media.”

From Eric Alterman’s column at American Progress, which I recommend to anyone interested in a reporter’s examination of the issue, the coverage and the known facts. Alterman is primarily a media critic, so go there just for the fun of it. When observing the state of today’s media, he’s kind of  Jon Stewart as an academic, with glasses and a beard. More serious, but just as biting. He’s at The Nation too.

Shoot self in foot – repeatedly. It’s the American way.

These long excerpts are lifted directly from Eric Alterman’s CAP column this week. He addresses the crookedness of our privatized campaign financing system and the dreadful legislation it produces – while burying legislation in the public interest, but not the interest of those corporate sponsors of our congress. He says it better than I ever could:

While most in the media prefer to focus on personalities of these influential “consensus builders,” “moderates,” and “conservatives,” they would be wiser to obey that old Watergate adage and “follow the money.” For it is the manner in which we finance our elections—rather than the courage or cowardice of any given individual—that determines the shape of the legislation the “system” produces. . .

He gives us some examples:

Two of the top three donors to Olympia Snowe’s (R-ME) 2006 campaign, who voted against the legislation, were Aetna Inc. and New York Life Insurance. Overall, the insurance industry made the largest percentage of donations to her campaign. In June, Sam Stein wrote about Snowe’s relationship with the insurance industry when Democrats were still courting the senator to support reform.

The top two donors to Committee Chairman Max Baucus’s (D-MT) 2008 campaign were Schering-Plough and New York Life Insurance. The combined donations to Baucus’s campaign and his congressional leadership PAC from health professionals and the pharmaceutical and insurance industries totaled $2,488,139 from 2003 to 2008.

Baucus, Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) all serve on the Senate Finance Committee and have all played vocal roles in the debate taking strong positions against the public option. These four senators and their political action committees have received a combined $201,403 from Blue Cross/Blue Shield since 2005. . . In July, Mike Ross (D-AR) led a bloc of seven Blue Dogs on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in a fight to weaken funding to a public health insurance bill.. . the [same] Blue Dogs had raised $1.1 million for their PAC, a majority of which came from health, insurance, and financial sectors. Bendavid singled out Mike Ross for his tough negotiating and his “moderate” positions on health care reform. Eggen reported that Ross alone raised over $1 million from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries in five terms in Congress.

He goes on taking special aim at  former Speaker Dennis Hastert and NY Sen. Chuck Schumer.

He wraps it up:

If Congress adopted a system of the public financing of elections—as is done in most democracies—they would receive better legislation at a miniscule fraction of the cost they now pay indirectly for their penny-wise, pound-foolish attitude toward election funding.