Friday, October 31, 2008

RIP Studs Terkel 1912 - 2008

A great many eulogies will be written in the days ahead about the scope, breadth and humanity found in Terkel's work (in fact, here's a great one from the Chicago Tribune).

It would be greatly surprising if one of them failed to mention of Working, however. It is a seminal work, one that gave a realistic and relatable voice to the working class during the late 60s/early 70s, filling in the details of the gap between the lower and upper classes for posterity.

He was respected and admired by many.

C'mon, Sarah

I mean, seriously...

"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations," Palin told host Chris Plante, "then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media."

I can't even address this without blowing a gasket, especially when Glenn Greenwald does the honors so vociferously.

And you want to run again in 2012 as the head of the ticket?

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Monday, November 3rd: Smack A Whippersnapper Upside The Head Day

Given the Progressive's propensity for getting complacent once they think things are going well, one should be more than a little leery of stories touting early voting leaning heavily towards Obama; simply because we can not let up. (Feel hopeful, fortified, sure, just not relieved.) Earlier this week Olbermann cited an early voting exit poll showing that while 48% had voted for Obama, 47% voted for McCain, in other words, it's still too early to reliably assume anything.

The early voting reportage has been good for some incredibly touching stories that likely would've been lost in the election day coverage, such as this one about a 109 year old daughter of a slave voting for the first African-American major party presidential nominee; or this tear-jerker that strikes a generational chord. Beautiful stories both.

But then, you read about how the young 'uns haven't been showing up to the early votes, and while it isn't panic inducing, it does get one's dander up. Granted, the youth vote is likely to show up on election day itself, but still: Traditionally, the youth vote under performs.

Which is why I propose to make the day before the election, this coming Monday, National Smack A Whippersnapper Upside The Head Day. Beyond the satisfaction of smacking a whippersnapper upside the head, you get to engage the turks and pester them to vote. Pretty simple, really. Please note: Said smacking doesn't have to be literal, okay?

TPM is keeping a Guide to GOP Voter Suppression regularly updated, worth looking into.

Lastly, the GOP has predictably decided to go after the Jeremiah Wright angle. Classy.

White Supremacists For Obama

If you think you've seen everything...well, no. No, you haven't.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Meanwhile, Back At The SEI Compound

Non-political updates:

- Congratulations to SEI co-founder/contributor Deni, and his wife Lisa, for the birth of their baby daughter only known as S.A.M.; a pseudonym that brings to mind the name of a female cyborg in some cheesy 80s teen comedy.

- Speaking of birthdays, SEI contributor MomentOfChoice celebrated her own 25th birthday a couple of days ago, without much fanfare here. Happy belated birthday, MOC! Many happy returns.

- Lastly, there are some changes brewing behind the scenes here at SEI...Expect to learn more in the weeks ahead.

Fact Checking the Liberal Media

Seventeen years ago I walked into the U.S. Information Agency newsroom a green kid just out of college with skewed delusions of following in the footsteps of Papa Hem, who got his start at the Toronto Star. I got dumped onto the LATAM desk where I thought I’d be forever writing short, three-hundred word-ers about the dismal state of the banana trade in Nicaragua, or the rogue bus filled with poor women and children tumbling into a ravine in La Paz. The hard-and-fast rule, then, even for small, regional pieces, was to always buttress up the story with two independent sources. Nothing ever went out on the wires without a two-source confirmation. I pulled stuff from AP, UPI, Reuters, various sleepy or inebriated stringers out in the field, even AFP, the French news service—in spite of my ignorance of the language. On AFP stories I would look for confirmation of names or places, anything to get the damned thing out to the language services, in order to be translated. We sometimes even used FBIS, the hush-hush (I guess not anymore) “news service” provided by CIA to some of us with medium clearance. Although we couldn’t name the source, we’d be able to use it as confirmation for our piece. Those were the days.

And then came the 24-hour (all in a row!) news cycle, with the explosion of MSNBC in ’95 and the subsequent outlets (CNBC, Fox, Bloomberg) competing on CNN’s already-established turf. Like a fool, I moved out of news writing and into TV production, working on several political talking heads shows—most of which are still around, using the same tired pundits. Reporting changed suddenly. Chunks of time had to be filled fast, and producers and news directors ran with un-confirmed stories, knowing full well if their network wouldn’t put it on the air, the competition would. Numbers, numbers! It was all about those teeny percentage points spit out by Nielsen. This whole dirty un-checked business culminated in early ‘05 when CBS anchor Dan Rather resigned over his rushed and admittedly flawed story on President Bush’s National Guard Service. And so the Ultimate Journalist took the bait and paid for it all with the abrupt and un-ceremonious end to his career. I remember shaking my head in disbelief at the asinine move, in spite of my disdain and disgust for W. Rather was a great journalist. But not this time. Emotions got in the way, and management pushed to get out a bogus "exclusive."

The Right continually harps on the media being liberal. I’ve heard this song for decades, only what it strategically fails to trumpet is the fact that “the media” is owned by corporations, and the big boys and girls at G.E., Disney, and Viacom don’t usually like leaning to the left, especially when it comes to pumping out the profits and pleasing their shareholders. However, nor do they want to ignore anything. In fact, by pushing a “liberal” media, they cover all the bases. If you sniff hard around parent companies of media outlets, you can smell the quintessential corporate culture---the analogous philosophy to the auto industry giants working to ameliorate both the neo-hippies who rattle the cage, screaming for environmental responsibility, as well as the gun-totin’, truck-drivin’ good ol’ gas-guzzlin’ boys and girls (re: real Americans!) from the heartland . Take Toyota for example--a company whose outrageously-popular Prius has been the best-selling hybrid for years. If you paid close attention, however, Toyota lobbied aggressively (and successfully) last year in fighting the tougher-mileage CAFE standard for its gas-guzzling truck and SUV division. This is how corporations operate. Nothing new.

And so, back to fact checking. Whether or not I believe the media is liberal, conservative, or independent, I have outlets and venues for cross-referencing what I read---much like back in those dark days when I had to sit on my story and watch the wires for confirmation. Yes, I read the New York Times, The Huffington Post, Slate, The Washington Post, but I also check out The Wall Street Journal, The Looney Rev. Moon’s Washington Times, Kristol's and Barnes’ Weekly Standard, and (gasp!) Fox News. In fact, Roger Ailes and I go way back to ’94 when he employed me for his now-defunct “America’s Talking” network (Chris Matthews got his TV start on that, as well).

The point is, we’re almost into 2009 and there are enough sources online and otherwise to dispel or support any kind of information. It’s up to us to be pro-active. Reading and frequenting sites or publications exclusively, based on party affiliation is, in my opinion, highly irresponsible if one aims to be well-informed. Slapping labels on The Media should not amount to ammunition for any particular political party. But we let it. We’re lazy (well…some of us at least) and we like being fed tidbits and soundbites because it’s easier that way. Fox News says jump and we jump. We’re more content being parrots than researchers. I know, some of us are more privileged with larger chunks of time, but nobody said gettin’ edumacated is easy. Do the work and stay well-rounded. The liberal or conservative or whicheverthehellwaytheylean media ought not to sway or affect the innate desire for the truth.

“The Truth is Out There.” (Damn, I miss that show).

Only Seven Six Days Left

Fact - Barack Obama has been campaigning for 20 months now.

If he is able to put his head down and keep his eyes on the Presidential prize, then so can we. We can be grateful in the fact we do not have to go out there, kiss hands, shake babies, deliver the same speech over and over again, and live with the pressure of knowing that all of the work you've put into this effort, all of the setbacks overcome, the daily questions over every decision you've made, pointing out the tired red herrings early and often; all of that will come to an end next Tuesday.

At least Obama has some work to focus on. What about the rest of us? We have to do something with all of this pent up energy. May I suggest the following:

- Watch the Republican party implode.

This isn't about gloating. This is about watching a once dominant institution falling in upon itself as if it were the Stardust on the Vegas strip.

This is unprecedented, people. It simply doesn't happen. Some of the things we've already seen in this election cycle usually don't happen until there are days left before the vote.

Let's look at some of the major events that took place since last Friday as a small sampling of what's been happening in the grander scheme of things:

Friday, backwards 'b.' Saturday, SNL snubs McCain. Sunday, McCain can't remember the five former Secretaries of State who have endorsed him on Meet The Press. Monday, the ludicrous half-assed terrorist plan to assassinate Barack Obama is exposed, polls from reliably red Virginia are released showing Obama in the lead, and the ambivalent mercenary George Stephanopolous becomes the first voice in the mainstream media to point out the obvious. Tuesday, pro-Palin Bill Kristol switches up, and another poll shows McCain up in Arizona by only two points! IN ARIZONA!

We may come to find that cats and dogs are sleeping together on Wednesday.

This is only on the national scale, who knows how many countless other examples could be found locally? Such as Senator Ted Stevens' being found guilty of corruption, or having the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Washington, Dino Rossi, having to testify against charges of illegal campaign coordination.

Looking at all of this in the aggregate, you may come to agree with Salon's Gary Kamiya: The conservative ship is sinking, and they have no one to blame but themselves.

- Watch Democrats fight back against Right-leaning members of the media.

Whether it's Biden casting doubts on the seriousness of an interviewer, or Obama spokesman Bill Burton simply calling a spade a spade, it is refreshing to finally see some spine from the progressives. This kind of spirit would not have been seen two years ago. Not even a year ago.

- What to do with all that leftover vigilance and anxiety? Let's not kid ourselves, there's still plenty to watch for. Problems both questionable and genuine continue to arise in places like Virginia and Colorado.

You'd be surprised what simply voicing yourself can do. You may run into opposition, that's only natural, but your saying something will likely touch minds of people who think like you.

That connection may inspire someone else to vote, if nothing else.

Monday, October 27, 2008

From "Maverick" to "Rogue"

I'm not sure there's much to really chew on in this report that some McCain aides have been struggling with Palin and accuse her of going rogue. It seems pretty clear that only the rock-solid GOP faithful are willing to keep up the charade that she's a legitimate candidate, when it is in fact clear that what she is, really, is a risky-political-choice-that-backfired in expensive pumps.

But what most struck me was the description of "diva" that was referenced in the article. Here's the quote:

"She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone," said this McCain adviser. "She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.

"Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves, as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom."
(emphasis mine)

This strikes me, particularly the last highlighted bit, because it sounds so much like W. He may be, in fact, a picture-perfect example of a heterosexual male diva.

And I think it goes further than that, because there is something in the diva-ness that the Right eats up. They love these "courage of their convictions" types that care little for science or diplomacy or basic intellectual curiosity. They attach to leaders that believe themselves "the beginning and end of all wisdom."

This resonates so deeply with me I propose we start attaching the term "diva" to the GOP and all her minions. Or maybe divas for the leaders, and diva-lovers for the minions, as at best anyone who would willfully vote for Palin is a groupie, toadie, or spineless personal assistant.

CNN: Palin's 'going rogue,' McCain aide says