Character

September 11, 2010

It was a beautiful, crisp fall day just like this one when my car topped the first span of the Pulaski Skyway and I saw the thick plume of black smoke stretching across New York Bay from the World Trade Center.

Lots of pundits talked about 9/11 as the day everything would change. As it turned out, not everything changed, but enough did. George W. Bush was transformed from an ethically and politically compromised pretend-president, tainted by a contemptible Supreme Court decision and slated for ejection after four years of looting, into a delusional world conqueror who led America into a moral cesspool of torture, lies, and manipulation. The day’s death toll was awful, but the most terrible consequence of  Osama bin Laden’s scheme was to give a free hand to an ugly cohort that never should have been allowed near the levers of power in the first place.

It’s been said that crisis doesn’t shape character, but it does reveal character. Click here to see the character of our mass-market media revealed. Click here to see the character of the political opportunists who still exploit the disaster revealed.

Not everything changed on 9/11, but some things did. America turned into something tainted in the eyes of the world, a nakedly predatory country tolerant of blatant lies and willing to give free rein to its worst impulses. For a lot of evil people, 9/11 was just another political day. They have yet to pay any kind of price for their manipulations and deceit. In fact, some of them are poised to get back into power. Osama bin Laden, wherever he’s hidden away these days, must be having himself a good laugh over that one.

What Taibbi Said

July 30, 2010

David “Babbling” Brooks doesn’t want us to criticize the looters and pillagers over at Goldman Sachs because . . . well, because their fee fees will be hurt and they might just decide to sit on their hard-stolen money and not use it to improve things for the peons — i.e., us — who huddle beneath their banquet tables, waiting for crumbs to trickle down.

Quite a mess, that column. Fortunately, here’s Matt Taibbi with a mop and bucket. Take it away.

The Lessons Not Learned

July 21, 2010

The good news is that Shirley Sherrod is being offered her job back. The bad news is that she never should have been forced out in the first place. The badder news is that Andrew Breitbart, the glowering wingnut troll who got her in trouble by posting that maliciously edited video, will suffer no repercussions from his vending of lies and distortions. The even badder news is that the journo-buffoons covering Breitbart’s clown show are still pretending they aren’t the ones who keep the spotlights trained on his antics. And the baddest news of all . . . well, I’ll get to that.

It’s long been obvious that the Republicans have taken the measure of our mass-market media and learned how to plays its weaknesses like a nasty-sounding fiddle. Take this Daily Beast writeup by Lloyd Grove. Savor the smug insidery tone, the feigned obliviousness to the role Grove himself plays in providing this grubby smear merchant with a national platform, the craven avoidance of anything resembling a direct challenge to Breitbart’s pretzel-twisting and weasel-word evasions. Wouldn’t want to be accused of liberal media bias, after all.

Gutless simp. There are entirely too many like Grove in our national press corps, so I don’t really think anything is going to change. I mean, Breitbart’s sordid habits were well known before this. Nobody can say any of the subsequent revelations about the nature of the video, and the way it was edited to turn a speech about overcoming racism into an example of it, were a surprise. The only principle he recognizes is constant partisan attack, without regard for the facts or the personal damage he does. Despite repeated demonstrations of his unreliability, Breitbart knows he need only lay back a while and throw out another piece of poisoned bait. Our media figures will chase after it like stampeding pigs.

As of today, I will hear no more condescending lectures about how liberals and progressives have no reason to complain about the Obama administration, how we should all just zip up and let the realists and centrists chart the course and content ourselves with the half-loaf, quarter-loaf, or whatever other fraction of a loaf is supposed to leave us breathless with joy.

I held my tongue while the “realists” threw out the public option before negotiations even started, left an insurance-company stooge like Joe Lieberman in a position of influence, watered down the financial reform bill, and generally acted as though the Republicans were legitimately interested in the good faith stewardship of national government. The plain fact of the matter is that these realists got rolled. And they didn’t get rolled by some master tactician, either. They got rolled by a professional snake-in-the-grass whose modus operandi is so  well known that even a Faux News host refused to soil his hands with the story. For such a band of competent, hard-headed realists, that’s a pretty shallow learning curve. Maybe its time to start listening to those wacky, starry-eyed hippies. They could hardy have been more gullible.

It may be the case that the Republicans have gotten so crazy, so hateful in their behavior and so blatant in their moves to hinder economic recovery, that voters will reject them in November.  We can only hope. That’s the baddest news of all — we are reduced to that hope. Our side has the best ideas and the best way forward, and yet we have to cross our fingers and hope Congress will not be overrun by an even bigger bedlam of liars, loons, and looters. What a disgusting situation.

There’s a scene toward the end of Sweet Smell of Success when Sydney Falco confronts the corrupt columnist J.J. Hunsecker and says, “J.J., you have such contempt for people, it’s making you stupid.” Breibart, the wannabe Hunsecker, has been brazenly telling all and sundry that he had no idea who edited the video, and that he simply posted it on his site without regard for even rudimentary fact-checking. That’s pretty stupid on his part. In fact, I’d call that an admission of reckless disregard. I think a judge would call it that, too. I hope Sherrod finds herself a good lawyer and sues Andrew Breitbart into next Sunday. He’s got enough money to buy his way out with a settlement, but a lawsuit might begin the long overdue process of cleansing our hoplessly polluted national discourse.

Gulf of Cuyahoga

July 18, 2010

Via Crooks and Liars, here’s a story about a TV news station that collected samples of water and sand from beaches along the Alabama-Florida panhandle coastline. Not only did the samples register disastrously high concentrations of petroleum, but one of the samples actually exploded during laboratory testing.

Thanks to the negligence of British Petroleum — and the magic of those marketplace fairies that supposedly make strict regulations unnecessary — we may see the Gulf of Mexico become a larger sibling to the Cuyahoga River, that heavily polluted Ohio waterway that actually caught fire in 1969. Image above.

It may be time for Randy Newman to update “Burn On,” his 1972 ode to the Cuyahoga.

Where Was I?

July 8, 2010

Boy, tempus sure has fugited. It’s been a busy year, but I’ll spare you the details.

There’s more to say, but right now I just want to highlight the good folks at Talking Points Memo, who have enrolled in Beck University to check out its demanding course load. The first installment appears to be the usual claptrap about how the Founding Fathers were all Jesus whoopers who would have made full-immersion baptisms a requirement of citizenship if they’d only had the time to stick it into the Constitution. Since the patrons of this online “university” pony up $9.95 a month for this stuff, I can only marvel at the willingness of conservatives to keep paying good money to hear the same nonsense repeated ad infinitum.

Later.

All Guns Blazing

June 26, 2009

Dan Froomkin, whose career with the Washington Post has ended under circumstances that bring considerable disgrace to the newspaper, has filed his final WaPo column. He is not, I’m happy to see, going gently into that good night:

When I look back on the Bush years, I think of the lies. There were so many. Lies about the war and lies to cover up the lies about the war. Lies about torture and surveillance. Lies about Valerie Plame. Vice President Dick Cheney’s lies, criminally prosecutable but for his chief of staff Scooter Libby’s lies. I also think about the extraordinary and fundamentally cancerous expansion of executive power that led to violations of our laws and our principles.

And while this wasn’t as readily apparent until President Obama took office, it’s now very clear that the Bush years were all about kicking the can down the road – either ignoring problems or, even worse, creating them and not solving them. This was true of a huge range of issues including the economy, energy, health care, global warming – and of course Iraq and Afghanistan.

How did the media cover it all? Not well. Reading pretty much everything that was written about Bush on a daily basis, as I did, one could certainly see the major themes emerging. But by and large, mainstream-media journalism missed the real Bush story for way too long. The handful of people who did exceptional investigative reporting during this era really deserve our gratitude: People such as Ron Suskind, Seymour Hersh, Jane Mayer, Murray Waas, Michael Massing, Mark Danner, Barton Gellman and Jo Becker, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau (better late than never), Dana Priest, Walter Pincus, Charlie Savage and Philippe Sands; there was also some fine investigative blogging over at Talking Points Memo and by Marcy Wheeler. Notably not on this list: The likes of Bob Woodward and Tim Russert. Hopefully, the next time the nation faces a grave national security crisis, we will listen to the people who were right, not the people who were wrong, and heed those who reported the truth, not those who served as stenographers to liars.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that there is so very much about the Bush era that we still don’t know.

Froomkin says he’ll take some time off before unveiling his next project. Best of luck to him.

Librul Media Bias

February 4, 2009

It’s just so insidious, I tell ya.

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