Monday, April 30, 2007

Tiny Tim Tiptoes Through the Truth

On Bill Moyers' PBS special report "Buying the War" last week, NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert was among many "journalists" placed under Moyers' microscope of skepticism when it came to their reporting just after September 11, 2001, and leading up to the Iraq war. Russert displayed a casually devastating deludedness concerning his role as enabler in the matter, especially in light of Moyers' tight revealing of Russert's failure to truly research dubious claims by Bush administration officials on his show, "Meet the Press." Even when it came to objective issues regarding weapons of mass destruction, or the non-existent Al Qaeda/Saddam connection, Russert was all too ready to accept the answers of his guests, especially Vice President Cheney, as cold fact.

BILL MOYERS: Was it just a coincidence in your mind that Cheney came on your show and others went on the other Sunday shows, the very morning that [a New York Times story reporting Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction] appeared?

TIM RUSSERT: I don't know. The New York Times is a better judge of that than I am.

BILL MOYERS: No one tipped you that it was going to happen?

TIM RUSSERT: No, no. I mean-

BILL MOYERS: The-- the Cheney-- office didn't make any-- didn't leak to you that there's gonna be a big story?

TIM RUSSERT: No. No. I mean, I don't-- I don't have the-- this is, you know, on Meet the Press, people come on and there are no ground rules. We can ask any question we want. I did not know about the aluminum-tube story until I read it in the New York Times.

BILL MOYERS: Critics point to September eight, 2002 and to your show in particular, as the classic case of how the press and the government became inseparable. Someone in the administration plants a dramatic story in the New York Times. And then the Vice President comes on your show and points to the New York Times. It's a circular, self-confirming leak.

TIM RUSSERT: I don't know how Judith Miller and Michael Gordon reported that story, who their sources were. It was a front-page story of the New York Times. When Secretary Rice and Vice President Cheney and others came up that Sunday morning on all the Sunday shows, they did exactly that. What my concern was, is that there were concerns expressed by other government officials. And to this day, I wish my phone had rung, or I had access to them.

As "Buying the War" proves, any reporter had access to them. Throughout the piece, Moyers' questions are concise and enable substantive answers from the interviewee. His follow-up questions actually take into account the response from the subject being interviewed, something Tim Russert has a horribly difficult time doing. This has always been one of my greatest problems with Meet the Press--Russert's MO is to play quote or word "gotcha," otherwise he simply plays stenographer, allowing the guests to bloviate punctuated with "whys."

Later in the Moyers' special, Russert tossed out a populist line in an attempt to align himself as an ordinary guy with no motive but the truth when it comes to the political discussions that occur on Meet the Press. Russert said, "I-- look, I'm a blue-collar guy from Buffalo. I know who my sources are. I work 'em very hard."

That is, if he has access to them.

Unlike John Edwards, who explicitly acknowledges his life situation has drastically changed since his days as a mill-worker's son, Russert does not use his roots to illuminate his ability to sustain a unique perspective on the impact of public policy. Rather, Russert seeks to exploit his distant roots in order to deflect attention from his current reality: old Timmy is a big elite tree now, and his blue-collar days are over. What concerns viewing Americans now is not how Tim can use his beginnings to relate to the masses, but whether Tim can use his present status (and alleged intellect) to force the truth from so-called political leaders, in service to the masses that employ the leaders. Clearly Russert cannot.

It seems that Tim Russert does work his sources hard, but only for facts that will help him create questions that focus purely on semantics, the greatest foundation for political theatre. Such superficial "gotcha" work was on full display this Sunday when an impressive and surprisingly clear Senator Joe Biden appeared on Meet the Press. The following exchange blew me away, in that it supports the notion that Russert carries a singular focus into each show, and sadly it is not the truth. It is Tim's outline for the show (i.e., his gotcha-agenda) built around the guest's past appearances on Meet the Press, or past quotes made elsewhere. In no way is his focus to aggressively finesse the actual positions of his guests.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Reid, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, Senator Feingold, the senator from Wisconsin, have joined together and introduced a bill, and here’s the operative language: “No funds appropriated or otherwise made available under any provision of law may be obligated or expended to continue the deployment in Iraq after March” 31st, “2008.” Do you support that?



SEN. BIDEN: For the reasons I just stated. I think it’s—may—we may end—look, Tim, here’s where we may end up. This president may so—make it so difficult to reach the objective, the only reasonable one I think’s available, which is to leave Iraq, leaving behind a country secure within its own borders, not a threat to its neighbors, that is a loosely federated republic. It may get so bad that we do not have that option, and all of the option we have available to us is to withdraw and try to contain the civil war inside Iraq. We are not there yet. And until we reach that point, I am not prepared to say there are no circumstances under which, after a date certain, we would not have a single troop inside of Iraq.

MR. RUSSERT: So you will not vote to cut off funding for the war, period.

SEN. BIDEN: No, that’s not what I said. I just got finished telling you what I said, which was if, in fact, this president changes the circumstances again, where there lose all prospect of being able to achieve the goal that I’ve just set out, which I think could be achieved if we decentralize power in Iraq, if we have a limited federal government in Iraq, where we train the army, where they have control of the borders and their currency, where we give control over the fabric of the daily lives of the various warring factions—including their local police forces—their laws relating to marriage, divorce, the things they’re killing each other over, if we get to the point where that is no longer an option and the place has totally disintegrated—which it may—that’s a different circumstance. You can’t—I don’t know anyone who can say—I speak for myself. I cannot say for—with absolute certainty what I will do on every potential contingency because I have no control over this president’s foreign policy and the direction he’s taking us in Iraq.

MR. RUSSERT: But as of today, you would not vote to cut off...

It is not difficult to see what kind of brush Russert is painting with when it comes to the troop-hating Democrats.

The larger point is that members of the elite media do not report or reveal anymore, they only relay. Keeping their reputations and power-connections intact have become more vital than shedding light on the political successes and failures of those who are elected to produce results. What the Moyers' report exhibits is a Washington press corps willing to accept whatever they are told from the Bush Administration as gospel, and to doubt anyone else as shrouded with ulterior motives.

Nothing is set to change when it comes to the 2008 presidential contest, where the horserace and image race are all in vogue, but discussing policy is not. With all of the threads of our society weighed thin with the strain of Bush's war and cronies and failures, we're in serious trouble if the some portion of the press cannot step up and behave like adults.

But don't look to me-- I'm just a blue-collar guy from Buffalo.

The entire Bill Moyers' PBS Special, "Buying the War," can be viewed here.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Oafs of Office

NBC News anchor Brian Williams did everything in his power to make the Democratic 8 look like children last evening in South Carolina, throwing out blunt gotcha-type questions (haircuts, hedge funds and hypothetical terror attacks) and minimalist policy ones (raise your hand if you've ever owned a gun). After some of the candidates resisted and attempted substantive answers to airhead questions, Williams lamented, "You can't get a one-sentence answer out of this group."

Well of course you can't-- they're running for President of the United States, not Student Council at Rydell High. When one of the candidates commented, "this isn't American Idol," I couldn't help but thinking, "Oh, but it is." And Mike Gravel is Sanjaya.

Last night's debate made little news as each candidate filled their stereotypical shoes with ease. My rankings of the candidates:
  1. Hillary: This is hard for me to admit, in light of my past rants, but the Senator from New York was tough and practiced. So much so that I was able to get past her shrill voice (for the first time ever). While her answer to healthcare was lame (she wants a "second try") her answers on terrorism and the Virginia Tech shootings were Bubba-lite (in a good way). I sure as heck don't want to debate her.

  2. Edwards: He handled the haircut question well (waved it away), provided substantive answers for energy policy and healthcare questions, and no matter what the pundits might say refused to bait Hillary on the say-sorry-for-your-Iraq-vote question. It seems to me that Edwards is a tiny bit tired of talking about how sorry he is about that Iraq War vote, with good reason. When asked about his wealth, he relayed a story from his childhood when his father couldn't afford the prices on the menu at a restaurant in South Carolina and the family had to leave, and the personal moment had General Election written all over it. If "some say" he lacked energy, that's fair, but we're a long way out.

  3. Obama: Barry looked like John Edwards in 2000-- exciting, youthful and super nervous. As I watched, I couldn't help but wish that Obama had run against a more challenging opponent besides Alan Keyes in his Illinois senate race, because his general approach seemed unsure. However, he unarguably warmed up as the debate went along, and he hit back hard when Kucinich tried to make him look confused on terrorism, which bodes well for the future.

  4. Biden: I liked when he kissed up to Hillary. It was adorable. And I personally think his Iraq answers are the best from the group, hands down.

  5. Richardson: Like a first date, I was totally interested in him for the first few minutes, but then he got on my nerves. Bill gets points for being visably annoyed with the silly questions Williams asked (and for saying his favorite Supreme Court Justice was Wizzer White, that's actually interesting!) but if Richardson is already annoyed with the debates during the first debate, um, maybe he shouldn't be there. Actually, he can stay (so long as he pays for dinner).

  6. Dodd: So, uh, how can you talk so simply and honestly about why gays should be allowed to marry and then say you're against gay marriage? It reminded me of the movie "Mean Girls" when Tina Fay's teacher character says to Lindsay Lohan's student character, "You know, what's so weird about your exam is that all the work is correct, it's only the answer that is wrong." Yup. Weird.

  7. The Crazy Remains: Mike Gravel was like Ross Perot without a brain--snippy, insulting and annoying. Pundits may like him for his reality-show flavor but this is an election, not sideshow entertainment (or is it?). As for Kucinich... ah, nevermind. If you love him, good luck.

Overall, a mild affair, and I suspect things will stay that way for some time. Why would any of them try too hard at this point-- showing up is enough. Not even political nutcases like me take these first debates too seriously. They are like a read through after a play is cast. Each line is said aloud just so every actor can get a feeling for where it's all headed.

One thing's for sure though: I can't wait to see some McCain, Romney and Giuliani give it a spin.

Raise your hand if you've been married more than once.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Grumpy Old Man

Look for a post about this evening's Democratic debate in South Carolina on Friday.

Until then, enjoy two clips. There will be a quiz Monday.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Moe's Badder Blues

Having sadly skewered another Democratic presidential candidate for being too "effete" and superficially loose with his campaign funds, Maureen Dowd sets her April 25th column's sights on Barack Obama and his wife Michelle. You will recall that Dowd rendered a gloomy, negative take on Obama's announcement tour in February, when most pundits and opinion-makers were able to squeeze at least some sunshine from the history-making moment.

In that February 21st column, Dowd wrote that Obama was "'too emotionally detached and cerebral" and "'self-consciously pristine." Obama as the detached "dreamboy" is Moe’s new, thin theme for the Senator from Illinois. And now, more than two months since that February column, Dowd's red hair has become more bloody than ruddy when it comes to Barry. She writes, "the coolly detached candidate, striving to seem substantive, is good at turning down the heat himself. He manages to tamp down crowds dying to be electrified. He resists surfing his own wave of excitement."

So Barack is an adult among the weary? Really? It's too antiquated to comprehend or take seriously (so last century) and thus Maureen won't even try to. Instead, Dowd confusingly (and “some people” might say dishonestly) describes the candidate in opposing tones. On one hand we are to believe Obama is the cerebral loner, too self-aware to believe his own hype. But on the other hand Dowd tells us that Obama has no substance and is the superficial "dreamboy" to Hillary's "Queen" (to use Dowd's unimaginative Oscar reference).

Dowd desperately needs to describe Obama as detached because her typing fingers simply won't do inspiration and hope. Her opinion-making skill exists only where there is a bad man (or woman) operating boldly and with objectively evil aims. Where the GOP offers her "deceptive" and "bumbling" characters from Bush to Cheney to Wolfowitz, the Democrats only offer the potential for satiated emotions and, well, solutions. In a March 3rd column on Obama, Dowd interviewed the Senator in his office and her impression included this pretty sounding but pointless conclusion: "I'm just not certain, having watched the fresh-faced senator shy away from fighting with the feral Hillary over her Hollywood turf, that he understands that a campaign is inherently a conflict." (Note that Dowd’s lazy narrative would like to spin Barry as the Noxzema Girl to compliment Adam Nagourney’s John Edwards as Breck Girl theme).

I would suspect that what Obama actually doesn't understand (nor does John Edwards, it seems) is that folks like Maureen Dowd need either some candidate-created blood in the water or candidate-generated lies to spin their own stories. Both John and Barry probably don’t care either, since both of their campaigns are about progress and not pandering. I'm not sure that Maureen Dowd understands that Americans are fed up with the Republicans’ self-inflicted conflicts that yield no result beyond deeper division and wilder debt. So many months out before the race truly begins, Dowd has already tired of the lady-boys in the Democratic field because they don’t provide enough red-state-hate meat for her hungry liking.

In her recent breezy article about John Edwards’ locks, Dowd declared that "effete is never effective," a startlingly soothing sentence that means nothing, especially in light of the ineffective macho chest-pumping we have witnessed for the past 7 years. All Barry and John offer Dowd is a chance to recycle her sad masculine-feminine theories that you can buy for 49 cents at Of course Moe has the blues. Her one-note act is all about alliteration in the name of sarcastic reveals. But it’s tough to keep finding ways to call someone fresh or removed (or subconsciously feminine, i.e. gay). Obama and Edwards have their stinking happy marriages, happy children and even happier supporters. All Maureen is left with are over-priced haircuts, teasing wives and big, adoring crowds. Boring.

As for this new April 25th article, Maureen pens that she watched Obama’s wife Michelle give a speech recently, a speech wherein the candidate’s wife poked fun at Barack’s dual life, one as political god and another as a regular, bumbling man. You would think Dowd would eat this up and surround it with “Are Men Necessary?”-type bromides. But no. Rather she writes, “Many people I talked to afterward found Michelle wondrous. But others worried that her chiding was emasculating, casting her husband — under fire for lacking experience — as an undisciplined child.” Ah those “others” rise up again.

For Dowd this entire election will be all about who is the tough Daddy and who is the emotional Mommy, regardless of whether Hillary is the Democratic nominee (or especially if she is not). Dowd enjoys the sexist and vaguely bigoted gender world she has designed in her mind and she will not be moved. I would suspect her waning TimesSelect talent in 2008 will be focused upon throwing antidotes into that gender world and making them stick, logic be damned.

Asked to be the “war czar” for Iraq and Afghanistan by the Bush Administration, Retired Marine Gen. John Sheehan told reporters he turned down White House offer because, "The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going."

Neither does Maureen Dowd.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I Wish I Wrote That, Pt. 1

"Its dense web of deceit is the deliberate product of its amoral culture, not a haphazard potpourri of individual blunders...Like the C.I.A. leak case, each new scandal is filling in a different piece of the elaborate White House scheme to cover up the lies that took us into Iraq and the failures that keep us mired there. As the cover-up unravels and Congress steps up its confrontation over the war’s endgame, our desperate president is reverting to his old fear-mongering habit of invoking 9/11 incessantly in every speech. The more we learn, the more it’s clear that he’s the one with reason to be afraid." -- Frank Rich, New York Times, Sunday, April 22, 2007

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Hair Up There

Did you hear? Presidential candidate John Edwards got two $400 haircuts in Beverly Hills. His campaign paid for the haircuts. Edwards announced he was reimbursing the campaign for the amount, which should not have been paid out of campaign funds. Reporter Adam Nagourney of the New York Times (or, perhaps, the word hack is more applicable) writes a news-less piece today (hey, he's good at it!) about this haircut scandal, getting an excuse to use words like "coiffure" and "stylist." Nagourney also got to use his trademark lazy-kitty purr, writing:

John Edwards, the North Carolina Democrat, announced on Thursday that he was reimbursing his campaign $800 to cover what his aides said was the cost of two haircuts — yes, you read that correctly — by a Beverly Hills barber, though, perhaps, the word stylist is more applicable.

Oh... snap! You go, girl! Perhaps, indeed!

Well I have one vital and profound question for all of you out there (and for Mr. Nagourney): have you ever tried to get a decent haircut in the greater Los Angeles area? Have you?

I have, my friends. I have. And it is not easy, nor is it pretty.

When I moved to Los Angeles in 2004, my first haircut attempts were in Silverlake, most likely at a joint named, um, let's call it "Judy's," where the "stylists" had bad attitudes and the conversation was minimal. You could buy over-priced magazines, shirts or even shoes while you waited. You could not help but enjoy the polished concrete and the high ceilings. However, every time I left, my hair always looked, well, violated. But the place was cheap-- around 20 bucks-- and you do get what you pay for, no?

My next ventures were in the Beverly Hills area, at a "salon" a friend chose for me because of a friendship he had with the "stylist" there (long story) and here the trim results were grim. The haircut was, with tip, around $90 and I was so fearful of offending the "stylist" (and by implication, our mutual friend) that I never complained. Here, the conversation was plentiful and the water purified. But the hair cutting was troubling. It seemed you did not get what you paid for (plus parking was a nightmare).

As of late I have been trying out spots in Venice, light and airy places where they offer you a beer or wine and everyone is too cool to be in a hurry. But again, the result up above has been dismal. My bangs never look right, my line in the back is never quite straight, and my sides, well, let's not go there.

The point is this: when you find a good "stylist" in Los Angeles, pay them anything they want. I am running on three years in this locale and no haircut can match my former Iowa stylings (those folks can cut hair). And heck, I am not even running for President, nor am I monied like John, but I tell you, no price is too high. While pundits can question whether Edwards is a true man of the people because his hair is too perfect, I am left to sigh at one more thing John Edwards and I have in common--we'd both give anything for a good haircut.

Update: Check out a very un-clever missive from Maureen Dowd on the subject (oh, she uses the term "blowout"! Dowd is as clever as Nagourney!). If people truly believe this haircut incident is reflective of something about Edwards' character, then by all means vote for someone else. The state of our political discourse has become so lame and tired that well-kept journalists, made-up with expensive hairdos and outfits, feel the freedom to raise up some false outrage and find this sideline activity offensive (check out Dowd's photo next to the article--um, speaking of blowouts...). Forget any facts or issues, and definitely forget any sense of humor--this proves Edwards is a faggot, right? Isn't that what all of these stories really want to say? Democrats are fags? From nappy-headed to too well-coiffed. What a hairy month in America.

The entire storyline is a distraction from any progress on any significant issue. Wake up. I want to see Hillary's salon bill, pronto. Or Mitt Romney's. Actually, no I don't--I don't care about their hair. I care about their vision and their voice. Silly me.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

One More Time, With Feeling

Disappointed with its one-note President and his darkside understudy, the Republican Party appears to be inching closer towards all-out clamoring for a presidential run by former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson. It seems that since W. and his star-spangled backdrops have failed to get the job done, this time around the conservatives want a professional actor to soothe their aesthetic aches. But perhaps the title of a 1990 film Thompson starred in could provide the GOP with a subtle warning even the Bush Twins could read into--"Die Hard 2: Die Harder."

Oh, yes, my GOP friends, the state of your party could get much worse. With your trail of 2008 candidates reading like a reality show cast list for "The Bad Girl's Club," risking it all on an untested and uninspiring short-term Senator simply because he makes you feel good seems so...well...Democrat-like. You probably believe that there's no where to go but up, right? With John McCain fading into a chaotic soft focus twilight, Mitt Romney proving his Massachusetts mettle with flip-flops and missteps, and Rudy Giuliani hanging around like eccentric Auntie Mame, it's hard out there for a conservative. George W. Bush has weaved the politics of 9-11 into a suffocating Afghan that has squeezed old-time Republican principle of any fresh oxygen and left the Party in a bind where the puffed-up Daddy rhetoric leads to kiddie results.

Is Fred Thompson the answer? Yesterday after a visit to Capitol Hill, several Republican lawmakers hinted at Fred's ability to bring the nation together, citing no evidence of his past leadership skills, but only the funny feeling they had inside. It is as if Bush's persistent ripping at our national seams for 7 years had nothing to do with their Party. The new GOP mantra seems to be, "We made you awfully sick, but now we'll make you feel much better."

We have all read the various "Where's the Beef?" articles about Barack Obama, articles that dismiss Obama's genuine attempt to create a unifying movement of Americans in the last few months and complain at his lack of policy papers. That's fine and good, but be on the lookout for the same articles about Fred Thompson, should he run, because in Fred's instance they are well-deserved. Spinning one's wheels on a soundstage is not remotely comparable to the collective grassroots efforts each Democratic candidate have made on the national stage as of late. And while it doesn't seem likely that any Republicans are asking this Beef question of Thompson right now, before their proverbial chickens hatch, this is to be expected. When the false hope of a Hollywood storyline is all you've got, you have to make it work.

It will be more than interesting to see the Republicans rally out of an emotion other than fear, after they have cynically used their past three presidencies to teach Americans that a common enemy is the only way we'll get along. Just be warned, GOP, that without a true prescription (beyond image) for any of our country's ills-- your Party may die harder than before.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


With all of the talk of the remarkable college women of the Rutgers basketball team, who were casually injured days ago by the ignorant words of the I-man, America now has a too-long roster of remarkable college students from Virgina Tech who suffered the ultimate injury by losing their lives at the cowardly hand of a fellow student.

Media talk will inevitably turn to asking "How did this happen?", as if we really do not know the not-so-mysterious causes of gun violence. Our dumb wonder quickly rises in these moments, and I fear that like the not-so-mysterious causes of incompetence, or distrust, or bigotry, no one truly wants an answer.

Like modern American tragedies, blame will need to be passed somewhere, never to ourselves, but to some aspect of the system, in this tragedy's case to the police and administrators in Blacksburg, Virgina. We are so good at placing anger and frustration upon individuals and groups that failed only because we failed to ask serious questions or demand thorough preparation.

I hope that as we grieve for the lost young men and women of Virgina Tech we can admit this event is one more recent example of how our notions of public safety are false. Rhetoric from our leaders may soothe our feelings, or provide us with common enemies, but our vulnerabilities as communities remain unguarded and unaddressed.

We don't exclusively need to fight evil-doers over in Iraq to prevent them from coming here. We have plenty of other evils at home already. The greatest one might be our relentless focus on our feelings, and never on results.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Too Sunny

Forgetting Don Imus, I will enjoy the SoCal sun today...

You'll note Meet the Press has General Zinni this Sunday, and also a conservative-dreamy panel, including David "Crybaby" Brooks, John Harwood, Gwen Ifill, and Eugene Robinson (ok, so Eugene and Gwen aren't so bad)... so we all have that to look forward to.

In the meantime, check out "Children of Men" on DVD this weekend and try to pretend it doesn't seem plausible. And I can't believe I'd ever write this... but check out this worthwhile column today, "Our Prejudices, Ourselves" by Harvey Fierstein in the New York Times.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Easy Being Green

Go to the library or supermarket checkout and read, "The Rise of Big Water," by Charles Mann, found inside of Vanity Fair's 2nd Annual Green Issue for May. It is full-on devastating (and not available online-- that clever, clever Graydon).

Another great article in this issue, detailing Rush Limbaugh's pathetic and persistent contribution to anti-Environmentalism, "Rush to Judgment" by James Wolcott, is available online, found here. A superb teaser paragraph for you from the Limbaugh article:

From Teddy Roosevelt, who made wilderness protection a priority and created national parks, bird sanctuaries, big-game refuges, and national forests, to Richard Nixon, under whose bad-moon presidency the Environmental Protection Agency was formed and the Clean Air Act of 1970 was passed, the Republican Party carried a tradition of conservation that crumbled under Ronald Reagan, for whom nature was mostly a scenic backdrop whose resources could be exploited out of camera frame. Reagan's selections of James Watt for the Department of the Interior and Anne Gorsuch for the E.P.A. put bureaucratic vandals in positions of stewardship, and in 1987 he vetoed re-authorization of the Clean Water Act, a veto that fortunately was overridden. It is a measure of how awful the George W. Bush administration has been on the environment that some activists miss the old, upfront hostility of the Reagan era, when at least the political and corporate machinations took place in open daylight. "Unfortunately, now," lamented Daniel Weiss, an environmental activist (quoted by Amanda Griscom in her article for online's Grist), "our leaders are much more savvy—and far more insidious. They undo laws in the dead of night." Under Bush II, environmentalists no longer need to be engaged, because they've been so stridently marginalized and stigmatized as a pantheistic kook cult practicing socialism under the guise of Gaia worship. This was largely Limbaugh's doing, and now every right-wing pundit from Cal Thomas to Michael Savage croaks the same tune.

Kudos to Vanity Fair for two solid issues in a row--last month's issue featuring an article on The Sopranos creator David Chase was near-perfect and 100% readable, cover-to-cover.

And speaking of Easy Being Green, in case you missed it, here's the permalink to my column on Al Gore and his "An Inconvenient Truth."

The Lowbrow Fire List

In light of Imus-related happenings, please welcome a new permanent feature on the site, a "lowbrow fire list," a naming of those American media and political personalities that are hellbent on coarsening our culture and ruining any shot at political balance, however imperfect, across the nation. All of us know that Don Imus is not the worst or first offender, and thus, it's time to call the rest out of the hypocritical closet. I'll be writing colmuns about those on the list from time-to-time, keeping tabs on their efforts to dumb down our discourse. I welcome your suggestions at

the lowbrow fire list (so far):

Don Imus: Rutgers' women's basketball team are "nappy-headed hos"
Ann Coulter: John Edwards is a"faggot"
Glenn Beck: Hillary Clinton is a "stereotypical bitch"
Rush Limbaugh: Obama is a "Halfrican American"
Newt Gingrich: Spanish is "the language of living in the ghetto"

Bush League, Part 2

From Political Wire's Political Insider:

Last Tuesday, a reporter asked President Bush during his press conference whether he knew what the price of a gallon of gas was. His response -- "About $2.60-plus" -- was remarkably close to the correct price, $2.69. Afterwards, with his aides, Bush expressed his relief, saying he was lucky he had been asked for the price of gas since he wouldn't have been able to tell the reporter what the price of a gallon of milk was.

This is probably because Bush drinks oil and not milk, right? If only Iraq had milk reserves... (oh, and by-the-way, the cheapest I can find gas around Santa Monica is $3.24)...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bush League

Grocery List: Giuliani doesn't know the price of bread and milk, which I would aim a ton of wealthy (or not wealthy) white men don't know...I'd rather hear whether Giuliani knows the dismal salaries of teachers and other professions in comparison to CEOs and other upper management...Red Don: Romney, McCain and Giuliani were quick to support Imus...Too quick?...The New Black?: Fred Thompson has lymphoma...If he runs get Katie Couric ready for her close-up...Daddy Party Knows Best: From today's New York Times, in his upcoming speech on Iraq, John McCain "will warn against making policy about the war based on 'the temporary favor of the latest public opinion poll' and assert that the administration’s strategy for securing Baghdad is the right one." How can a Democracy's foreign policy not take into account what the majority of Americans want? Opinion polls have resoundingly turned against the war in Iraq for more than a year, hardly 'temporary favor'...I guess McCain wants to be another Bushian Dictator...Thank goodness these guys know better than the nation does...Who to Hate: From the same Times article detailing general Republican frustration around the nation with the 2008 GOP field, two great quotes that have a lot in common:

And Katon Dawson, the party chairman in South Carolina, expressed confidence that the party would recover from any internal damage it suffered as its candidates took shots at each other.

“We don’t do well until we have a common enemy,” Mr. Dawson said.

Alan K. Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, said the party’s presidential candidates were being whipsawed as they tried to appeal to conservative voters who have a history of strong views on issues like abortion and gay rights. “These tests are destroying the Republican Party,” Mr. Simpson said.

Republicans don't do well until they have a common enemy--true. The common enemies they select (women, gays, immigrants, etc.) are destroying the party because they alienate folks who tire of hating others--true...ah, fun time to be a Republican!...Lost Mo-mentum: Speaking of Daddy Party Knows Best, Maureen Dowd is off her vacation, and pens another "GOP-is-the-daddy-party" column so all-over-the-map I would suggest she take another week off...

Words Over Actions

Question: Why Don Imus and not Limbaugh or Coulter or Beck or Savage or Sharpton or Bush or Cheney or Gonzales or Novak or Maher or Malkin or Carlson or Matthews or Couric or Williams or Franken or Hannity or O'Reilly or Olbermann or Kerry or Pelosi or Inhofe or Coburn or McCain or Robertson or Falwell or Dobson or Wonkette or Daily Kos or the Post or the Times (pick one) or the Journal or Time or Newsweek or US Weekly or InTouch or TMZ?

To quote Jeffrey Wells, "It's a shitstorm out there."

Why Don Imus? What does this say about us? I'll tell you--it says we're a bunch of selfish... unfocused...brats.

Eyebrow Raisers

Sharper than Sharpton: Gwen Ifill pens a fantastic column entitled, "Trash Talk Radio," which paints a coat of common sense all over the Imus situation...I suppose "no tolerance"makes sense but if Imus was fired, would the Rutgers girls feel better? Would America become less racially divided? Maybe Sharpton should make fewer soundbites and more progress?... Nagourney Fluff: Man, I wish I could get paid to write a long online column about 2008 polls that pretty much provides no news and little color...Good Morning Times readers, today I will teach you about amazing numbers called polls... 19 months to go... Can't Get No Respect: John Edwards takes a risk to show some concrete leadership, says he will skip the Congressional Black Caucus Debate hosted by Fox News, Hillary and Obama follow, and the Huffington Post puts up a picture of only Obama and Hillary with the title, "Key Dems Say No to Fox Debate"... Drudge did the exact same thing, posting Edwards decision alone first, as if it was an act of defiance, and then posting only Hillary and Obama's decisions in a joint headline, as if the two of them were the story... Riot Hiatt: Glenn Greenwald at Salon notes how the Washington Post's tone on the US Attorney scandal may be shifting...I guess Russert's declaration there was no "wrongdoing" at all is not exactly quoting from the Beltway Bible... Free Parking: I love when Slate does these back-and-forth columns and this one will be all about the final season of "The Sopranos"... I loved the first episode if only for the unbelievable acting during the Monopoly game...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Hunting Rabbits

Some readers have fairly complained I am rambling as of late, and so I hope that a more coherent post should appear later today.

In the meantime, should you need mini-breaks from the Monday rush, check out the following articles on the internets (proving anyone can write a Mini-Note!):

Newsweek: Things are worse for McCain than I thought...Jonathan Alter, "McCain's Meltdown" and things are more awkward for Clinton than I expected...Richard Wolffe, "Clinton Fund-Raising Strategy Backfires"

New York Times: Proving that in life, all roads lead to Iowa, at some point...Week in Review, "About that Political Traffic Jam in Iowa"

Daily Kos: This weekend's Meet the Press was a weird GOP love fest in the form of pastel-shorn Kate O'Beirne..."Russert's Idea of Balance"

60 Minutes: Visual proof the straight-talk has hit more than a rough patch... "John McCain"

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Fox News Cracker Watch (Don Imus Edition)

In honor of Don Imus' picture appearing on the homepage with the headline, "Imus Messed Up," it's time for another Cracker Watch.

At 6pm PST on Saturday, April 7, 2007:

White Women: 10

White Men: 17

Don Imus: 1

Anyone non-white: 0

Fair, balanced, and lily white!

Happy Easter weekend!

Don of the Dead

Don Imus has caused a recent controversy by saying this about the Rutgers University women's basketball team: "That's some nappy-headed ho’s there, I’m going to tell you that.”

An article in the Saturday edition of the New York Times writes about the fallout and Imus' on-air apology, but the article seems more annoyed with what it terms "modern media drama" surrounding the comments than the remarks themselves. Something is horribly wrong when the media laments the treatment of bigots rather than their nasty remarks.

In addition to a history of blatantly racist comments, Imus has a long history of fag-baiting on his radio show, and at one point in time the website gathered these comments in an "Imus Watch" of sorts.

I just went to write this, "Imus isn't some proven nut job no one listens to, like Glen Beck--this is a guy that has politically and culturally important guests on his program. That's why this matters." But read that again... what's wrong with me? Why does this only matter if a "mainstream" media figure spews it?

Personalities all over the Right have been saying worse and more about women, homosexuals and immigrants for years and no one in the traditional media makes a stink. But these figures don't go away, and as Ann Coulter proves, they get braver with their invective, both in object and subject.

All bigoted comments, no matter who says them, enter our political and social discourse and they swirl into a foundation of poison that enables a figure like Don Imus to feel the freedom--and even necessity--to speak that way.

It reminds me of a new song written by Mary Chapin Carpenter about the ordeal endured by the Dixie Chicks. Carpenter writes in "On With the Song":

This isn't for the ones with their radio signal/Calling for bonfires and boycotts they rave/Exhorting their listeners to spit on the sinners/While counting the bucks of advertising they'll save

These media types are like the barking dog in the neighborhood--all the neighbors can't stand the damn barking but no one does anything to stop it.

An Easter Weekend Question for myself and for you:

What are we doing to stop these dogs?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

An Inconvenient Possibility

Tied to the couch with a head cold yesterday, I finally forced myself to watch Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth." I must admit I was pleasantly surprised.

Almost exactly eight years ago, I traveled to Princeton, New Jersey to spend the Easter holiday with a college friend and his family. Because my friend's mother was a member of the Princeton University faculty, they lived on campus in a stately white home hugged with trees and well-groomed grasses. I was assigned a guest room in the back of the home, on the second floor. The weather was moody, moving from sun to gloom with ease, as only spring knows how. Looking upon the city with Midwestern eyes, everything seemed aggressively colonial and overly clean. The entire trip made for great memories.

But oddly, one of my greater memories of the trip was the book I was reading. Every morning, I would rise earlier than my friend, throw on a sweatshirt, sneak down to grab a cup of coffee from the kitchen's Cusinart, and then quickly creak back up to my room for some reading time. The book I brought with me was a biography entitled, "Inventing Al Gore," written by journalist Bill Turque.

In 1999, I was going through a sort of personal transformation (for another time), but part of this transformation included a realization that my political conservatism was a shield of sorts, and not the result of my actual beliefs. This shifting framework influenced how I approached the book. I started the book thinking Al Gore was the largest dolt ever elected to public office. I finished the book thinking Al Gore was the most sympathetic and smart dolt ever elected to public office.

Watching "An Inconvenient Truth" yesterday I felt the same sympathy and envy at Gore's intellect. There are scenes in the documentary where Gore narrates softly and shares aspects of his deeper personal trials: the car accident that nearly killed his son, the death of his sister to lung cancer, the 2000 election. It was as if the viewers had been given a key to Gore's "lockbox" and shown solid proof that the man was tough and real.

What startled me the most was the emotional similarity between Gore's near-loss of his son and his sister's cancer death and John Edwards' loss of his son, Wade, and now Elizabeth's bout with cancer. Even more importantly, though is the comparison of how these events influenced smart, dogged men into becoming crusaders for something larger than themselves.

Gore took the emotional toll from his son's near death and re-affirmed his commitment to the health of the environment, to larger purposes focused on the future. Gore also used the death of his sister from lung cancer to force a confrontation with his family's tobacco-supporting history and became one of the first elected officials from the South to take on big tobacco and demand more clarity in notifying the public of the undeniable danger of cigarettes.

Edwards used his son's death as motivation to run for public office. Having never served in any capacity, Edwards took on a North Carolina legend and won himself a seat in the United States Senate. In a hurry, Edwards ran for President after only one Senate term, and became the vice-presidential nominee almost purely based on his life story and his passionate displeasure with the "two Americas" forming in the United States. Despite learning of Elizabeth's breast cancer just before election day in 2004, Edwards went on to work on issues of poverty and labor representation up until he announced his second try at the presidency. Now that Elizabeth's cancer has returned, John continues to try to turn these experiences into emotion-fueled results for the greater community.

George W. Bush took an alcohol addiction and turned it into a messianic certainty in his own wisdom, tearing apart a nation and alienating it from the world. He uses fabricated emotions to prey upon the fears and insecurities of Americans, insecurity that he has ironically and cruelly created through his own incompetence. This man gets to be President. Al Gore's private drive to improve the environment backdrop we all share is mocked as political. His weight is discussed, but not the weight of his message. This man gets an Oscar. John Edwards seeks to use his personal struggles to illuminate the humanity we all share, a humanity that can surely compel the country to take on issues like health care, poverty, and education. This man gets mocked for his "insatiable ambition," no matter that the ambition genuinely seeks to benefit 100% of the polity, not just a deluded 30%.

If Al Gore should decide to run for President again, he should select John Edwards as his running mate. These two men share a vision of a unified, smart America. They have endured unique struggles and turned their common troubles into possibilities. They do not impose their convictions, but only offer the conviction that all of us should be involved in creating and protecting our own future.

After 8 years of Bush's superficial and insulting leadership, the country could use some pragmatic thinkers with true Southern charm.

In the introduction to the book version of the documentary, Al Gore writes:

The climate crisis also offers us the chance to experience what very few generations in history have had the privilege of knowing: a generational mission; the exhilaration of a compelling moral purpose; a shared and unifying cause; the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside the pettiness and conflict that so often stifle the restless human need for transcendence; the opportunity to rise.

Wouldn't it be nice.

Quote of the Day

From today's Washington Post a great kicker quote from Elizabeth Edwards:

"Most of the stories about me end up [saying], 'She's just like a regular person,' " Elizabeth Edwards said. "So my job, to be a regular person, that's really not that tough. If I had some higher standard to meet, I'd be worried about it."

Did she look frail or brittle or somehow scared of all that lay in front of her? No. Dressed unremarkably (a black cardigan sweater, black pants, unheeled shoes), at no point did she look frazzled or even bored. After walking into the terribly hot incubator room during a tour of the Stonyfield yogurt plant, she told the company's president and CEO, Gary Hirshberg, "You'll have to do better than this if you want to make us uncomfortable."

If not uncomfortable, the three-city jaunt proved exhausting--for those following her. It began in the late morning and drew to a close on the UNH campus close to 9 p.m. I was ready to return to a hotel room for "Law & Order" and room service. Sitting behind the makeshift stage in the UNH student union, as a way of asking "How do you plan to do it?," I told Elizabeth Edwards how the day had drained me, a 31-year-old with a head cold.

"You don't have children, right?" she said with little sympathy. "I have a 6-year-old boy who gets up really early, at 7. I have a 25-year-old, and she comes in at 2. I just adjust my life to accommodate both those things and my energy level is such that I can make it through that time."

After a brief pause, she added: "And you're a wimp, I gotta say. Sorry."

I think she was joking.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Someone Tell...

Rudy Giuliani that Jim Nussle, his big Iowa campaign deputy, lost the Iowa race for Governor.

Matt Drudge that Obama raising $25 million is probably more newsworthy than John McCain's forehead.

Mitt Romney that the last time America elected a President disinterested-slash-clueless about foreign policy, it didn't work out so well.

Hillary Clinton to put away the drapery books, for now.

Dick Cheney that no one listens to him anymore (he's behind the bushes).

President Bush that as his employer, we all want proof he's actually taking a "working trip."

Eyebrow Raisers

Get some coffee and enjoy your Wednesday morning.

In response to the troubling first quarter numbers, John McCain is re-tooling his fundraising and campaign approach. From our favorite snippy "reporter" Adam Nagourney in today's New York Times, McCain's folks are saying the Straight Talk Maverick will "adopt the kind of big-donor fund-raising program pioneered by President Bush and give a speech explaining his support for the administration’s troop buildup in Iraq." That ought to do it, Senator! Great ideas. Throw in reclaiming your conscience and speaking without fear of the Religious Right and you'll be...well...we may all need to agree old McCain is toast.

Not that what follows in this paragraph will force the media to substantively pay attention to this candidate, but...interesting poll news from New Hampshire showing that John Edwards has jumped ahead of Barack Obama to become the second choice of primary voters behind Hillary. [Exact CNN/MUR Numbers: Clinton = 27%, Edwards = 21%, Obama = 20%]. Small but significant and a trend to keep an eye on. Further, a University of Iowa poll (go Hawks) shows Edwards maintaining his lead in the caucus state. There is no denying Edwards' organization there is committed and practiced (albeit missing a passionate precinct captain from Westgate Street).[Exact UIowa Numbers: Edwards = 34%, Clinton, 28%, Obama = 19%]. Other American Research numbers for both parties in early voting states are here. In the Washington Post Chris Cillizza gives a fair take on the money race, so far (Cillizza writes pretty well and with balance and here he is on last evening's Countdown, which you must watch or Tivo daily).

Dude, did Obama beat Hillary with money? You may already know by the time you read this...

Do any of you visit Daily Kos? I have such mixed feelings about the site... I have posted comments and some actual posts, but I am always surprised at the very, let's say, aggressive comments sections. There's a growing spitball fight between the Edwards and Obama folks and this post gets the needed scolding just right.

Is the American Idol Sanjaya phenomenon speaking to the way 2008 may pan out? Worthwhile and airy Idol spewing from the New York Times. This sentence surely made me think about the '08 candidates: "As 'Idol' grows more stately and respectable, it’s only natural for viewers to chip away at its veneer." How we all love to shock the system and tear down our top dogs. Too bad we cannot focus that communal energy on politics and voting for people that matter.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Quick Hits's Gonzo-meter Death Watch for the Attorney General makes a great point in advance of Alberto's April 16th testimony:

His testimony later this month—even if it jibes with his most recent interviews—can at best amount to an admission that he is one of the worst and most clueless managers in the history of government. Short of capturing and trying Osama Bin Laden on April 16, there isn't much Gonzales could do in the coming weeks to restore his reputation.

From The Caucus at the New York Times, McCain's low fundraising number proves that trying to change your stripes, no matter how much the clever Maverick you think you are, is never wise.

A article looks at how Fox News' main sin may not be the outright Republican bias but the weak "Democratic" talking-heads it places on the air, using "scary Democrats" like Al Sharpton or "losers" like Susan Estrich as pathetic foils for the ultra-conservative hosts. "Other Democrats who are chosen to counter Fox's conservative guests and hosts often appear as enablers. They're on-screen to prove to viewers that even Democrats agree that a radical left wing dominates the Democratic Party, not to mention the media," the article smartly notes. This has been one of my biggest problems with Fox, and with many MSNBC shows (other than Countdown) in general. Is this the networks fault, or the Democrats fault for not pushing smarter, more representative spokespeople?

Matt Drudge's good friends at come to radical conclusions when looking at fundraising numbers: McCain is not doing so well, Hillary is not inevitable, and the Democrats are more pumped with their field. Um, did we need first quarter numbers to tell us this?

The article does make two important observations to keep in mind though, 1) "The Clinton camp highlighted the $4 million she raised on the Internet, but that number seemed less impressive when Edwards reported that of the $14 million he has raised, more than $3 million of it came in online," and 2) "The Obama camp said it couldn't yet release its figures for the first quarter, which ended Saturday, because the finance team is still counting cash raised at 5,000 house parties on the last day."

Exactly. To be continued.

Very Seriously

Today President Bush said he takes climate change "very seriously." Here's a Mini-Hall of Fame of other important issues the President has taken "very seriously" in the past:

1. Iraq Study Group Report: Bush said the report "will be taken very seriously by this administration." Result? Report recommendations totally ignored.

2. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Bush said, "it's very important for us to take his words very seriously." Result? Nuclear advancement!

3. New Democratic Congress: Bush told the new Congressional leaders in December 2006, "I take your ideas very seriously." Result? Bush rejects any Democratic involvement in Iraq policy. For example, at today's press conference Bush accused the Democrats of being "more interested in fighting political battles in Washington than providing our troops what they need." Oh, really?

4. Bush's Decision to Invade Iraq: Bush told Brit Hume he left the Situation Room for a solo walk where he "thought very seriously, a serious reflection about what I had just done, and said a prayer or two." Result? 3,257 dead American soldiers and counting. No funeral attendance. Walter Reed scandal. The Surge. Etc.

Bonus: It runs in the family! Jeb Bush to Florida on Hurricane Ernesto in August 2006: "Take this storm very seriously." To be fair, most likely Jeb actually meant it.

Richie Romney

Forget the fundraising for a moment--after all of those GOP-fueled stories in 2004 about upper-crust John Kerry and his wife's moolah (those out-of-touch limousine liberals), why won't the media ask and answer the simple question: How rich is Willard Romney ?

The New York Times today notes, "Mr. Romney has never disclosed his net worth, but analysts who study compensation at private equity firms say his earnings as the founder of Bain Capital are likely to amount to several hundred million dollars."

John Edwards' new 6 million-dollar home puzzlingly got front page treatment at the Washington Post weeks ago. Why not discover Mitt's vast net worth? Or, am I wrong to believe it is relevant to the campaign? Is the settled media equation: Republican Rich = inspiring and a hard-worker, Democrat Rich = opportunistic and anti-worker? (Update: It's very relevant if this report is true. Do we want a self-funded President?)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Someone Who Sparkles

I'm not going to comment specifically on the money race until Obama reports his actual #s (I suspect it's closer to $26 million than we think). So...

Chris Matthews keeps calling Fred Thompson the future hero and "Daddy" of the GOP, basing this assessment entirely on how Thompson looks and talks (and, ironically, how he makes GOP-ers "feel"). No mastery of any issues, no recent history of fighting for anything significant, no participation in the political debate for the past few years... just some Law & Orders and an 8-year undistinguished senate career. If we were using our brains as well as our eyes, wouldn't John McCain be the "Daddy" in the GOP? Is Matthews setting this up so he can label Hillary "Mommy"? Does anyone besides Lamar Alexander honestly believe Fred Thompson is as charismatic and smart as Chris Matthews does? Oh, right Robert Novak does-- his column in the Washington Post today is titled, "Thompson is For Real" (unlike, say, fantastical, magical John McCain or the tooth fairy).

The GOP is ideologically unhappy with its 8+ candidates (all of which run the conservative gamut) and somehow this makes Fred Thompson a conservative savior. Sickening.

Update: Man, I needed a laugh about the whole Thompson thing and this Politico article delivered supremely, with a super quote from a "political scientist" named Neal: "The party is in need of someone with glamour, someone who sparkles."

Elton John-John McCain, anyone? Mitt-Cher? Huckabee-Liberace? Love it.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Random Grumpy Old Men

On Meet the Press, Tim Russert and Orrin Hatch demand a "shred of evidence" from Senator Leahy that the US Attorney purge was improper, ignoring reality, and say, Senator Domenici's phone records. Rumor is that Hatch wants to be the new AG, bringing a deeper level of denial to the DOJ (now with music!).

What was worse about the show was that the hapless Leahy failed to respond to any of Russert's loaded "questions" with all the hard facts at his disposal. The best part of the show was in the first few minutes when both Leahy and Hatch had major throat-clearing problems. Incompetence is phlegmy.

Wow--the Bushies have even soiled the proud tradition of the Smithsonian.

Have you read much about the newly-found Gospel of Judas?

The GOP's General was told to make it happen by August. Will Petraeus betray us by selling false victories in order to meet his charge? The mess could get messier--we all know Bush doesn't read memos in August.

Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times pens a "Democrats Beware" column, using poll numbers to buy into and validate Bushian national security hype. But what about these kinds of poll numbers?

A Thompson joins the race (not Fred...yet). This was the guy that helped Big Pharma write Bush's costly Medicare drug plan. High-cost Zoloft for everyone.