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Archive for June 22nd, 2008

Late Night: The Ascension of the Russert

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 22nd, 2008 4:43 am by HL

Late Night: The Ascension of the Russert
Russert played the game by the rules, and the first rule of Russert Fight Club was to never say anything that might call into question the seriousness of the Very Serious People who came on his show. You went on Meet the Press to have your legitimacy consecrated. You faced “tough” questions you and everyone else already knew the answer to.

Russ ChristPicture credit: “Russ Christ,” by watertiger. Click on image for larger size.

Tim Russert died a week ago. I have little to say about the man personally, because, like The Editors, I did not know him personally.

Neither am I much concerned with who will replace him on Meet the Press, as I would much prefer for that program and all similar programs to be either canceled or completely reformatted so they are not clubby little vapid insider smarmfests, hideous vehicles for the perpetration of a conventional wisdom typically at odds with the public good.

As an interviewer he could be “tough,” but was rarely illuminating. After the 348th time he sprung an ancient quote in order to create the appearance of inconsistency it is quite possible that people began to catch on to his favorite tactic: it got just a bit old. And it was never very difficult to anticipate just what his other questions would be ahead of time. If you knew the game and you knew the players, you knew the lines.

That’s what is really meant when he is lauded as “fair.” He played the game by the rules, and the first rule of Russert Fight Club was to never say anything that might call into question the seriousness of the Very Serious People who came on his show. You went on Meet the Press to have your legitimacy consecrated. You faced “tough” questions you and everyone else already knew the proper answer to, even if you were spouting egregious bullshit and everyone knew it. You just had to know how to play the essentially meaningless “gotcha” on the short hop: if you sounded good, you were golden. You were performing and that was understood.

Look at the reaction from wingnuttia — they know it’s a game, and how to play it, at least the savvier among them. The dreaded MSM becomes just a bit less ferociously committed to electing Democratic candidates when it comes to Tim Russert!

The thing that always impressed me the most about him was his sense of fairness. Yes, he could be tough on politicians, but as far as I could tell, he treated everyone fairly and well, whether it was people across the ideological spectrum or across the economic and class spectrum. Even though he was at the absolute top of the Washington ziggurat, he had not a trace of elitism.

So much for The Partisan Liberal Media as an article of faith on the right. Russert was the most influential journalist in Washington — but was not biased! What a racket — that MSM stuff? That’s for the rubes, (sort of like how the religious right will be continually stroked on the abortion issue, but will never achieve consummation). It’s all about belonging, about playing the game and profiting by it.

Tim Russert was at the top of his profession, a profession deeply subordinate to dominant political power. But he was in the dominant position among the dominated, which is not a bad place to be, if you can stand it. If you can bear knowing that your job is to define and police the boundaries of “acceptable” and “legitimate” political speech, boundaries that are set up precisely where the powerful want them placed so as to avoid the need to ever have to answer real questions, as opposed to questions that are merely “tough.”


Sunstein An Advisor To Barack Obama?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 22nd, 2008 4:42 am by HL

Sunstein An Advisor To Barack Obama?
AdamB announced his law panel for Netroots Nation and it is an impressive one. But one thing stuck out for me in his announcement – the bio of Cass Sunstein:

One of America’s foremost legal scholars, Cass Sunstein is a professor at Harvard Law School and a visiting professor at The University of Chicago Law School, and serves as an advisor to Obama for America.

Cass Sunstein is an advisor for Obama for America? That is extremely troubling as Cass Sunstein holds views that I believe should be anathema to most progressives. For example, Sunstein supported John Roberts for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court:

The Roberts nomination is not welcomed by those who object to the rightward drift of the federal courts or believe that Justice O’Connor’s successor should be no more conservative than she. . . . But at this point in our history, the most serious danger lies in the rise of conservative judicial activism. . . For those who are concerned about that kind of activism on the Supreme Court, opposition to the apparently cautious Judge Roberts seems especially odd at this stage. . .

I wonder if Sunstein still agrees with that. More importantly, what does Obama think of that view. More . . .

Cass Sunstein supported the Bush Administration theory of inherent authority to spy on Americans without warrants:

Hugh Hewitt: Do you consider the quality of the media coverage here to be good, bad, or in between?

Cass Sunstein: Pretty bad, and I think the reason is we’re seeing a kind of libertarian panic a little bit, where what seems at first glance…this might be proved wrong…but where what seems at first glance a pretty modest program is being described as a kind of universal wiretapping, and also being described as depending on a wild claim of presidential authority, which the president, to his credit, has not made any such wild claim. The claims are actually fairly modest, and not unconventional. So the problem with what we’ve seen from the media is treating this as much more peculiar, and much larger than it actually is

(Emphasis supplied.) Perhaps he is advising Obama now on FISA. Consider these thoughts from Sunstein:

Hugh Hewitt: So if we assume, and I do, that FISA is Constitutional, if it puts into place an arguably exclusive means of obtaining warrants for surveillance of al Qaeda and their agents in the United States, does the president’s avoidance of that necessarily make him a law breaker? Or does it make the FISA ineffective insofar as it would attempt to restrict the president’s power?

Cass Sunstein: Yeah. I guess I’d say there are a couple of possibilities. One is that we should interpret FISA conformably with the president’s Constitutional authority. So if FISA is ambiguous, or its applicability is in question, the prudent thing to do, as the first President Bush liked to say, is to interpret it so that FISA doesn’t compromise the president’s Constitutional power. And that’s very reasonable, given the fact that there’s an authorization to wage war, and you cannot wage war without engaging in surveillance. If FISA is interpreted as preventing the president from doing what he did here, then the president does have an argument that the FISA so interpreted is unconstitutional. So I don’t think any president would relinquish the argument that the Congress lacks the authority to prevent him from acting in a way that protects national security, by engaging in foreign surveillance under the specific circumstances of post-9/11.

(Emphasis supplied.) The question is this – to what degree do the views of Cass Sunstein on these issues reflect the views of Barack Obama? I would like to know.

Speaking for me only


Mall Payments

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 22nd, 2008 4:41 am by HL

Mall Payments
Certainly an innovative business model, on both sides.

But some of the forces pushing Steve & Barry’s growth were not tied to end-consumer demand, but the needs of mall owners in a softening commercial-real-estate market. Much of the company’s earnings came in the form of one-time, up-front payments from mall owners. Those payments were designed to lure the retailer to take over vacated sites, say several people familiar with the company.

Without these payments, the stores are barely profitable, if at all, people familiar with the company’s finances say. In recent weeks, the retailer has been seeking at least $30 million to fund operations through 2008. It has approached a number of financing sources, say these people.

3) Profit!

(via cr)

Saturday Evening Thread
enjoy


Can the Media Deal With Michelle Obama?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 22nd, 2008 4:40 am by HL

Can the Media Deal With Michelle Obama?
The media is pushing hard on the boundaries of being a life partner turns into being a political partner.


The Ones that Got Away

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 22nd, 2008 4:39 am by HL

The Ones that Got Away
Christopher Williams describes white flight, and the self-ghettoization of suburbanites lured by cheap gas and “safe neighborhoods.” Billy Glad responds to David Brooks on the “race card” in the Democratic Primary. Billy: “The race card, like the gender card, is…


Waxman: “I Don’t Think We’ve Had a Situation Like This Since Richard Nixon”

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 22nd, 2008 4:38 am by HL

Waxman: “I Don’t Think We’ve Had a Situation Like This Since Richard Nixon”
The White House pulled out the old executive privilege trump card at the last minute today to avert a House government oversight committee vote to hold Administration officials in contempt of Congress. Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) has announced that…


The LiberalOasis Radio Show: Uprising Edition

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 22nd, 2008 4:37 am by HL

The LiberalOasis Radio Show: Uprising Edition

Today at 10 AM ET, The LiberalOasis Radio Show was broadcast on WHMP-AM in Western MA. My special guest was David Sirota who discussed his NY Times best-selling book “The Uprising, the presidential candidates on trade, and how Bush’s energy proposals could turn Colorado blue.

The audio podcast for the show is here: (iTunes / XML feed / MP3). Video of the opening monologue, about the coastal drilling con, and the oil shale con, is below.


Fill ‘Er Up – But Make It Hydrogen

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 22nd, 2008 4:36 am by HL

Fill ‘Er Up – But Make It Hydrogen
But it’s not an Academy Award that’s got her excited. It’s the chance to rent the potential car of the future – one fueled entirely by hydrogen, not gasoline, reports CBS News correspondent Hattie Kauffman…

Carbon tax would ‘screw everybody’
Prime Minister Stephen Harper pulled no punches on Friday in describing a carbon tax proposal by Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, saying it would “screw everybody” across Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper answers media questions at a funding announcement in Saskatoon on Friday. He said the Liberals’ so-called green shift proposal would \Prime Minister Stephen Harper answers media questions at a funding announcement in Saskatoon on Friday. He said the Liberals’ so-called green shift proposal would “recklessly harm the economy.” (Geoff Howe/Canadian Press)The prime minister made the uncharacteristically blunt comments during an appearance in Regina with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.


Mullen: I Want ?A Healthy Dialogue With Iran? Because ?Engagement Would Offer An Opportunity?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 22nd, 2008 4:35 am by HL

Mullen: I Want ?A Healthy Dialogue With Iran? Because ?Engagement Would Offer An Opportunity?
Last month, President Bush launched a political attack at Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and other Democrats while speaking before the Israeli parliament, saying that they favor a policy of appeasement toward terrorists. “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals,” said Bush. “We have an obligation to call this what […]

mullen.jpgLast month, President Bush launched a political attack at Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and other Democrats while speaking before the Israeli parliament, saying that they favor a policy of appeasement toward terrorists. “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals,” said Bush. “We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement.”

After Bush made the comments, CNN’s Ed Henry reported that “White House aides” said that Bush was referring to those who have said “it would be okay for the U.S. President to meet with leaders like the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.” But now, Bush’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, appears to be siding with those who favor direct engagement with Iran.

In an interview with National Journal published today, Mullen speaks favorably of directly engaging with Iran, even though he says Iran has not always shown a “propensity” for it:

NJ: Given Iran’s role as a spoiler in the region, and with so much now at stake for the United States, doesn’t it make sense to directly engage with Iran to discern its motives and explore potential accommodations?

MULLEN: I would like to have a healthy dialogue with Iran, but many different administrations over a period of decades have been unable to achieve that. But I do think engagement would offer an opportunity, certainly, to understand each other better. That said, the Iranians have to want to talk too. It can’t just be a desire on our part. And the Iranians haven’t shown much propensity for dialogue.

Mullen isn’t the only administration official who has eschewed Bush’s absolutist rhetoric in favor of a more diplomatic approach.

The day before Bush made his “appeasement” remarks, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a group of retired diplomats that we need to “figure out a way to develop some leverage” with Iran “and then sit down and talk with them.” Gates later refused to defend Bush’s attack.


McCain Driving Debate, But Some Fear Swerving

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 22nd, 2008 4:34 am by HL

McCain Driving Debate, But Some Fear Swerving
In the two weeks since Barack Obama became the presumptive Democratic nominee, John McCain has demonstrated a knack for driving the daily political debate, forcing his opponent to respond to a challenge to meet in town hall debates, accusing him of being “delusional” about terrorism and saying he…

The Pluses and Minuses of Gov. Anonymous
The Fix’s mom always wanted us to be a lawyer. And, while law school is not in the cards, we have always been interested in arguing both sides of a case, especially when it comes to politics.