May 31, 2008
Watching the debates I am reminded of Walter's wise words
May 29, 2008
I don't know if it is because of the forthcoming McClellan book or what, but lately I keep seeing internet chatter and coverage about how media figures keep shifting the blame away from themselves regarding their utterly catastrophic failure to question Bush Administration efforts leading up to the Iraq War. We've seen bits and pieces of this type of thing ever since the MSM realized we'd sorta messed up by invading, but lately the tide seems to have strengthened.
Glenn Greenwald has been all over this lately, from pointing out defensive arguments raised by Brian Wilson and Charlie Gibson and blame-shifting to the White House (by Katie Couric) and corporate honchos (by Jessica Yellin). Both posts also contain numerous links to other talking heads and their full-throated defenses of the MSM establisment.
For the record, I call bullshit on all of these people. (Bullshit!)
But the one I want to complain about specifically is Yellin's excuse-ridden, half-assed mea culpa.
In a nutshell, she claims that corporate pressure came down to coerce news organizations to reject critical coverage in favor of stories less likely to upset the folks on Pennsylvania Ave. Moreover, she claims that there was a direct positive correlation between Bush's level of approval an this pressure.
That seems plausible, at first. But then you start to think about the dynamics of Bush's approval over these last several years and it seems a little more like, well, a crappy and empirically unsupported excuse.
For example, beyond a few spikes in approval -- a HUGE one immediately following 9/11, a sizeable yet smaller one following the Iraq invasion, and a minor and short-lived boost following the capture of Saddam Hussein midterms -- Bush's level of approval has been a consistent downward trend. Following the argument that corporate pressure increases as approval increases, then corporate pressure should have declined over time, barring idiosyncratic spikes. In fact, while Bush and co fought hardest to sell the war (i.e., the several months leading up to the actual invasion), the president's numbers were dropping week after week, falling from the fear-based and impossible-to-maintain levels of late fall 2001.
Now I'm not saying that the Bushies are getting a raw deal here -- far from that. Those guys were as deceptive and disingenuous as we've ever seen in the Oval Office. And I'm not saying the corporate stooges are blameless, either. I have no doubt that they were pressing for the type of coverage that would gain the most viewers and, thus, sell the most advertising. After all, they are corporate stooges -- bottom-line thinking is pretty much their job, for good or ill.
What I am saying is that these blame-dodging, self-congratulating, rationalizing and just plain lame media figures ought to do is suck it up, realize that they really hurt their country by failing at their jobs, and make their peace with the facts that they either sold their souls or were too stupid to realize they were being deceived by the Keystone Kops of White House chicanery.
Jennifer directed me to an article written by a Theodore Roosevelt scholar, Joshua Hawley, who noted the similarities between TR and Barack Obama.
Assuming Obama wins the presidency, like TR, he would be coming to power at a time of social and economic upheaval, calling for a "politics of transformation" to "transcend left and right," and challenging people to uplift their moral character.
Now, while I agree with the writer about these similarities, he misses the most important difference. When TR spoke about social/economic reforms, he was candid about who would share in such transformations: whites first, immigrants primarily from northern Europe who had divested themselves of all traces of their ideological and material origins, Native Americans who had enough of their “redness” burned away to be white, and those exemplary blacks (i.e., the few rather than the “seething mass of black atoms”) who should strive for the promise of equality with the knowledge that their skin color prevented the realization of true equity.
For Roosevelt, it was a lot easier to “preach” messages about economic change since the racial/social hierarchy was still going to remain intact at the end of the day. If Obama directly addresses the relationship between the economy/race/ethnicity in a substantive, sustained way as president, would his discussions have to challenge that hierarchy?
May 27, 2008
For all the ill will toward Hillary evident in my previous posts, I am semi-proud to admit I saw something today that made me realize that she's a little human.
Sort of like Darth Vader still had a little good left in him.
But still, a little humanity. Here's a glimpse of it.
PS - Anyone know how to paste youtube videos into blog posts? Or is that, like, illegal?
Killing time this morning, waiting for my summer class, I read this op-ed in the Washington Post.
It wasn't any different than any other op-ed on the same subject (i.e., why Hillary is still in the race), until I came to the following sentence:
"She has been the first major-party presidential candidate in memory to tout her appeal to white voters."
Think about that. Robinson is right, she does do that. I mean, duh. I had always just thought of it as some ham-fisted way to keep finding a metric that both matters and helps her.
But for the first time, I realize how dark, dangerous, and despicable it is.
It looks like the vast right wing conspiracy is at it again...
The push of the Clinton camp to ignore the opinion of the people and the super delegates for the democratic nomination does nothing but highlight why HRC should stay the hell away from Pennsylvania Ave.
NPR reports that according to their May 15 poll Americans aren't very happy with the economy or the government: a whopping 80% of Americans report feeling "pessimistic" and think that the country is "headed in the wrong direction." I've been thinking a lot about what these kinds of polls might tell us. I mean, obviously the people's discontent has driven more people to participate in the primary process as everyone has already noticed. Increased electoral participation--in this case--is an immediate effect of the discontent, but such an increase in participation doesn't tell us what the discontent means. I'm not usually someone who tries to write histories of the present; like Hannah Arendt, I think that we can only know the true meaning of our collective life's stories in retrospect (which probably doesn't make me the best blogger). However, I have been wondering whether or not taking the long view of the poll numbers might possibly suggest a kind of popular repudiation of Reagan/Thatcher neoliberalism and a kind of popular re-validation of FDR New Deal socialism.
Academics, progressives, and old school Democrats have decried the potential effects of neoliberal policies since Chicago School economists began applying and testing their theories in the 1970s. The title of Noam Chomsky's 1998 Neoliberalism: Profit Over People pretty much sums up the basic critique of neoliberal policies: neoliberalism is great for the corporations that increasingly run the world, but are potentially disastrous for everyday people like you and me. Yet, while academics and other left-leaning Cassandras shouted against the dot-com whirlwind of the 1990s, the majority of Americans seemed pretty happy with the economy and didn't seem to mind the application of neoliberal principles in the U.S.
In fact, on February 9, 1998--two weeks after the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal broke-- a rather shocked Washington Post pollster reported that 61% of respondents reported that they believed that the country was "headed in the right direction." That same month Clinton's approval ratings reached an all-time high of 67%. The Post explained that the surprise "good mood" of the nation was either because the public didn't believe that Clinton did it; they didn't care if Clinton did it; or, that the economy was just so good that the whole scandal didn't matter. Indeed, President Clinton's 1998 State of the Union had informed Americans that the nation was doing pretty well:
"Because of the hard work and high purpose of the American people, these are good times for America. We have more than 14 million new jobs, the lowest unemployment in 24 years, the lowest core inflation in 30 years; incomes are rising; and we have the highest home ownership in history. Crime has dropped for a record 5 years in a row, and the welfare rolls are at their lowest levels in 27 years." (President Clinton, SOTU, January 27, 1998)
My, how the nation's finances and mood have changed over the last 10 years! President Bush's 2008 State of the Union was far less celebratory:
"As we meet tonight, our economy is undergoing a period of uncertainty. America has added jobs for a record 52 straight months, but jobs are now growing at a slower pace. Wages are up, but so are prices for food and gas. Exports are rising, but the housing market has declined. At kitchen tables across our country, there is a concern about our economic future." (President Bush, STOU, January 28, 2008)
Bush's approval ratings have reached an appallingly bad 23% and 80% of Americans believe that the nation is "heading in the wrong direction," which is probably a reflection upon the incompetency that the Bush Administration has shown in handling the War on Terror, Katrina, and the economy, among other things, but I wonder if the particular tenor that the dissatisfaction has taken--calls for increased regulation of financial markets and lending institutions; calls for socialized health care and reduced prescription prices; and calls for the government to step in to provide relief for rising gas prices and stagnant wages--and both Republican and Democratic politicians' willingness to consider these kinds of policies--might signal a demand for a renewed New Deal economy?
I'm not sure if it does or if it does not, but I'm going to be thinking/writing about this more in the coming weeks. I know that many PCC co-bloggers and lurkers know much more about the economy, economic theory, and recent history than I do, so I'd love to hear your thoughts.
May 26, 2008
Many keystrokes have been logged in recent days reporting on and analyzing Hillary's recent idiotic statement about RFK being assassinated in June 1968. Honestly, I think I've read every single article, too, just because I'm still in disbelief she actually said it. (And because I stupidly missed a flight to a conference in Seattle and couldn't get on stand-by for anything else, thus leaving me with a whole lot of nothing to do this weekend but read media coverage of the election. But I digress.)
Anyway, for as much as has been written, Emily Yoffe's recent post on Slate.com's The XX Factor blog is about as perfect as can be. Pithy yet comprehensive, and as comfortable yet incisive as Yoffe's writing often is, it is well worth a brief gander. Certainly beats all the redundant and atrocious AP wire stories about the gaffe.
May 23, 2008
As a columnist Maureen Dowd is hit or miss for me... I'm much more of a David Brooks fan, however, I really felt that she summed up how the democratic campaign will end. Humor, wit, and Hillary bashing... a good article indeed.
May 21, 2008
According to CNN "There are 12 parking lots across Santa Barbara that have been set up to accommodate the growing middle-class homelessness. These lots are believed to be part of the first program of its kind in the United States, according to organizers."