I am racing my book deadline today. Here is the most excellent Table of Contents:

Kabuki Democracy: The System vs. Barack Obama
Introduction: You’ve Got A Lot of Nerve To Say You Are My Friend.
Chapter 1: The Autumn Weather Turns the Leaves to Flame
Chapter 2: Don’t Know What I Want But I Know How to Get It
Chapter 3: If That’s All There Is, My Friend, Then Let’s Keep Dancing
Chapter 4: What It Don’t Get, I Can’t Use
Chapter 5: I Read the News Today, Oh Boy
Conclusion: It’s Here They Got the Range And The Machinery For Change
Post-Election Epilogue

Ok, back to business:

New Think Again column: Extremist Liberals? Say What?
New Nation column: West Bank Stories
Weekend Daily Beast column:  "Don’t Ask, Don’t Think" (or something)

Meanwhile, in Marty news, get this Druze-hating:

Marty Peretz, "Ahmadinejad At The Lebanese-Israeli Border—Another Obama Debacle," 10/15/10:
For some time, the Obama administration feigned support for the Sunni center dominated by the Hariri many-billions kleptocracy which allied itself with the mostly Maronite Christians and the Druze. But Christians, including those associated with a neo-fascistic general Michel Aoun, also defected to the Shi’a, as did the congenitally untrustworthy Druze, always ready to make a deal they will break.

and this

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
"Harvard Student Government Calls on President Faust to Investigate Peretz Fund, Condemns University for Honoring Him" Cambridge, Oct. 19—Harvard’s Undergraduate Council voted overwhelmingly yesterday in favor of a bill calling on President Drew Faust “to establish a commission of concerned faculty, students and administrators to investigate” the decision to honor Martin Peretz. The Undergraduate Council is the representative body of Harvard’s more than 6,700 undergraduate students.

The “Student Response to Peretz Fund Act,” passed by a vote of 26-7-4, was presented to the student government by the Harvard Islamic Society, the Black Students Association, Latinas Unidas, the Society of Arab Students and the Progressive Jewish Alliance.

Leaders of these groups met with Harvard President Drew Faust earlier this month, and requested that the administration investigate the decision to honor Peretz. When Faust made clear that she was not willing to investigate the decision, student leaders decided to bring the matter to the Undergraduate Council.

After gaining the support of the UC President and Vice President, the bill passed two council committees before reaching the floor. Students gathered at 7:00pm EST in Emerson 305 to show support for the legislation.

Last month, the Social Studies committee inaugurated a fund in Peretz’s name despite widespread opposition from students, faculty and alumni. Peretz made the now-infamous remarks that “Muslim life is cheap, especially to Muslims” and that Muslims are not worthy of First Amendment protection. Peretz also wrote that "Latin societ[ies]" enjoy "characteristic deficiencies" such as "congenital corruption" and "near-tropical work habits." Regarding African Americans, Peretz wrote that "So many in the black population are afflicted by cultural deficiencies" and that "in the ghetto a lot of mothers don’t appreciate the importance of schooling."

(Speaking of which, has that courageous scourge of liberal cant Jon Chait had anything to say yet on Marty Peretz’s hate filled fulminations in his magazine yet? If so, I’ve not noticed.)

And I see Harper’s new Deputy editor was my sister’s boyfriend through most of high school. He had a band that wanted the gig of my bar mitzvah, but they were not very good and it went to another band that auditioned with an incredible version of "One More Saturday Night" which remains the ur bar mitzvah dance song, in my opinion.

"Turn on channel six, the President comes on the news,
Says, "I get no satisfaction, that’s why I sing the blues."
His wife say "Don’t get crazy, Lord, you know just what to do,
Crank up that old Victrola, put on them rockin’ shoes."

We paid them a hundred bucks.

Anyway, James got much better and played in some good bands, and then wrote some good books, particularly one about working at Amazon in the beginning, and translated Orianna Fallaci, which, as I recall, was a nightmare, and got hired by CJR and now Harper’s. Great guy….

Alter-reviews

The Twilight Zone: Season 1 [Blu-ray]

The first season of the Zone is an amazing document. It’s a precursor to what we think of as the sixties back before such things were imaginable. And while it was awfully hit or miss, even the misses are really interesting, if often discomfiting. This is 36 episodes complete with Rod Serling’s original promos for the following week’s episode. Among them, "Time Enough at Last" starring Burgess Meredith as the last survivor of an atomic blast, sadly, like yours truly, dependent on his glasses to read. "The After-Hours" starring Anne Francis as a department store shopper haunted by mannequins; We get little playlets starring Ed Wynn, Everett Sloan and Ida Lupino, Roddy McDowel, Ron Howard and the great Jack Klugman. The transfer here is way superior to the DVD version, which I owned until I got this. (Turns out the kid’s bat mitzvah tutor is a big fan.) And Serling’s pitch to advertisers for the Pilot is really interesting as well.

Here are the extras with the new Bluray release.

· Extremely rare, never-before-released unofficial Twilight Zone pilot, "The Time Element," written by Rod Serling and hosted by Desi Arnaz
· 19 New Audio Commentaries, featuring The Twilight Zone Companion author Marc Scott Zicree, author and film historian Gary Gerani (Fantastic Television), author and music historian Steven C. Smith (A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann), music historians John Morgan and William T. Stromberg, writer/producer David Simkins (Lois & Clark, Dark Angel), writer Mark Fergus (Children of Men, Iron Man), actor William Reynolds and director Ted Post. Interviews with actors Dana Dillaway, Suzanne Lloyd, Beverly Garland and Ron Masak.
· “Tales of Tomorrow” episode "What You Need."
· Vintage audio interview with Director of Photography George T. Clemens.
· 1977 syndication promos for "A Stop at Willoughby" and "The After Hours."
· 18 Radio Dramas
· 34 Isolated Music Scores featuring the legendary Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith and others! Set also includes:
· Audio Commentaries by actors Earl Holliman, Martin Landau, Rod Taylor, Martin Milner, Kevin McCarthy, and CBS executive William Self.
· Vintage Audio Recollections with actors Burgess Meredith and Anne Francis, directors Douglas Heyes and Richard L. Bare, producer Buck Houghton and writer Richard Matheson.
· Rod Serling Audio Lectures from Sherwood Oaks College.

Now here’s Reed.

Reed Richardson writes:

Lose It, Don’t Use It

Here’s a simple test for Altercation readers. See if you can find the flaw in the argument below:

“[A]t the end of the day, [journalists] have to be professional—and that means avoiding actions that create the perception that they are taking sides in political controversies, including elections.

Specifically, mainstream journalists can’t put a political sign in their yard or carry one at demonstrations. They can’t donate money to candidates. They can’t sit on a school board. They can’t participate in political rallies. They can’t lobby, and they can’t become partisan activists.

To me, it’s a small price to pay for the privilege of being a journalist.

NPR is not restricting its staff’s freedom. It’s protecting its credibility as a news organization that tries to give its audience fair, non-partisan coverage.”

This ponderous quote came from NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard’s column last Friday, in which she bemoans the “lousy job” the blogosphere did covering her network’s awkward release of a memo banning all NPR staff from attending the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallies next Saturday. I wrote about this last Thursday and was ready to move on, that is, until I read the jarring paragraphs above at the end of her column.

The matter-of-fact way that Shepard juxtaposes an enumerated list of forbidden forms of political expression that all “mainstream journalists” must adhere to next to a declarative statement that these restrictions somehow DO NOT constitute limitations on those same journalists’ freedom is unsettling, to say the least. I would almost give Ms. Shepard the benefit of the doubt and say her summation was inadvertently inartful, since she wedges in between the two aforementioned paragraphs an admission that journalists (at “objective” news organizations presumably) are indeed being asked to make a sacrifice with regard to individual political advocacy in exchange for their livelihood. Nevertheless, even if her language was a mistake or imprecise, the incident is telling and represents a clear distillation of the mainstream media’s myopia when it comes to the ethics of individual political advocacy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually a fan of NPR, although I don’t listen as much as I used to since I no longer commute to work by car anymore. And as I said, NPR’s policies, generally, and Ms. Shepard’s comments, specifically, aren’t anything different than the conventional wisdom found at nearly every other major news organization in the country.

But here’s another test. Compare this NPR news report on House Minority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor from a few weeks ago and this Jon Stewart interview with Cantor a week ago. Granted Stewart gets nearly a half-hour of airtime with Cantor and NPR’s Andrea Seabrook gets only four-and-a-half minutes, but even so, the difference between the two is stark.

The NPR story talks about how Cantor and his “Young Gun” Congressional counterparts “know they can’t be the same old GOP,” but spends literally no time trying to figure out where or how their proposed policies would actually differ from said “old GOP.” The group’s so-called “thinker,” Rep. Paul Ryan, has released an economic “Roadmap for America’s Future,” which might be pertinent to explore in the article to test his supposed smarts (especially if it turns out that his plan, if enacted, would achieve none of its claims of fiscal responsibility and instead fulfill two of the longest-running fantasies of Republicans). but it gets no mention at all. Indeed, the reader/voter gets almost nothing of value out of this kind of story other than a little inside-baseball talk about a potential GOP leadership power struggle in the next Congress. Of course, what exactly they would fight about or disagree on, who knows? And, frankly, why should you care?

Turn to Stewart’s interview, however, and you’re rewarded with an intellectually serious, if rhetorically free form, discussion that actually digs into the policies that Cantor espouses, policies that would actually impact a voter watching and help him or her make a better decision come Election Day. Of course, in Cantor’s case, you come away from the interview with a much clearer idea that all his talk of limited government and concern for the middle class is just that, talk. What’s more, when Stewart refuses to budge without straight answers on his questions, Cantor’s true ideology finally is revealed and gives the lie to the unsubstantiated spin about his leading a different kind of GOP than was offered up in the NPR article.

Stewart’s not bound by fears of keeping hidden his personal opinions or biases, his political leanings, such as they are, are transparent and well-established and his audience can judge the fairness of his interview with Cantor accordingly. Yet, in this very unscientific comparison, I would submit that he’s committed a more valuable act of journalism than Seabrook, who I’m sure has never donated money to Cantor (or his Democratic opponent) and, in my personal opinion, is a very good reporter.

Of course, this is not to say that incisive, policy-focused stories that go past empty campaign sloganeering aren’t being done on NPR or in other mainstream media outlets. They are. But they’re too often the exception to the rule in a profession that seems increasingly under institutional retreat from the communities it purports to serve. If journalists are incessantly trained to view all forms of political involvement except voting (and even that act has its notable detractors among the Beltway press), as something foreign, off-limits, tainted even, it follows that, over time, their approach to covering the subject is liable to be accordingly affected. Stand apart from something long enough, in other words, and there’s a good chance you’ll start to see yourself standing above it. Take away someone else’s freedom in pursuit of some pure, unattainable level of objectivity and there’s a danger in losing sight of the real purpose of journalism: telling the truth to better serve our democracy.

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