My new Think Again column is called “NPR: Still Bending Over Backward.” It is critical of NPR but also of NPR’s critics and it’s here.

My new Nation column is called “How Rupert Murdoch Buys Friends and Influences People” and it’s here.

Reed is away this week so I need to create an excuse for this post. I don’t really feel like it, so:

1) A Wall Street Journal columnist wanted to write a column about how even liberals think Obama’s like Jimmy Carter and quoted a column allegedly written by me in US News. I’ve never written for US News. I wrote that column for The Daily Beast. So I got a correction in the Journal—at least online, but if you want a lesson in the power of the right-wing echo machine, look how many times that “left-wing fussbudget” Eric Alterman of US News has been quoted in the blogosphere of late, here.

A big problem in the world is that Republicans have gotten so crazy and so divorced from reality that it makes the rest of world crazy and stupid merely to have to pay attention to them, unless you get to do articles like a) this or b) this.

But you can only do those stories once; and in truth, even those two articles go a little too far in indulging craziness for my taste. The rest of the articles have to be respectful of statements, allegations and ideas that are completely crazy. It’s a big part of the reason the debt crisis ever happened in the first place. Crazy idea after crazy idea, repeated over and over and over until unemployment, which is still sky high, doesn’t really matter anymore but the deficit does and global warming becomes contestable, etc. This is one reason I don’t bemoan the collapse of “objective” reporting. Its death will leave smart reporters who are willing to take some crap from the crazies the opportunity to tell a great deal more of the truth. But we’re not there yet. See my above CAP column for why.

I saw “Friends with Benefits” the other night. It’s OK, a little bit better than “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” which is also OK, though Emma Stone’s parts make it better than OK, but the part I really liked was when they talked about how much T-Mobile sucked. I am stuck with T-Mobile beause I get no cell service in my apartment without a hot spot, but I haver never dealt with any company in my entire life that is both so simultaneously dishonest and incompetent. Twice, at two different stores, salesmen have sold me phones and lied to me about the rebates to which I was entitled. Lied, outright, just to get the contracts signed and then there’s nothing to be done about it. And those contracts, oy vey. They are written specifically to hide how much they plan to screw you and your entire family. And once it happens, they don’t care. It’s like they have robots working in customer service designed to repeat the same nonsense over and over and over and over and over when you call to complain (after waiting on hold for forever). I don’t know if Sprint is any better, but this is one merger I can support as a kind of mercy killing.

Also, lookit this story about the original “Dancing in the Dark” video. It’s really interesting, here.

Also, since we’re killing time, here’s a 2002 desert island disc I made that might be useful to some of you. I would change a bunch of things now, but I don’t want to mess with history.

Eric Alterman, Desert Island Discs:

1) Bruce Springsteen: “You Can Trust Car to the Man Who Wears the Star” (Live at The Main Point, 1975, bootleg)

2) Bob Dylan, Biograph

3) The Beatles, The White Album

4) The Rolling Stones, 40 Licks

5) Miles Davis/John Coltrane, The Complete Columbia Recordings, 1955-1961

6) The Duke Ellington Orchestra: The Blanton/Webster Years

7) Frank Sinatra: The Complete Capitol Singles Collection

8) The Complete Hank Williams

9) Elvis Presley: The Complete 50’s Masters

10) Beg, Scream and Shout: The Big Ol’ Box of Sixties Soul (Rhino)

10) The Clash, London Calling

10) Derek and the Dominoes, Layla and Other Love Songs

10) The Allman Brothers Band, The Fillmore Concerts

The runners up, in no particular order, but in which artists are allowed only one cd.

1) The Beach Boys—Good Vibrations box

2) The Roches

3) Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes—I Don’t Want to Go Home

4) Warren Zevon, Excitable Boy

5) The Creedence Box

6) The complete Billie Holiday on Verve

7) Radiohead, The Bends

8) Lucinda Williams

9) Tom Waits, Crystal Gayle, Soundtrack for “One from the Heart”

10) Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Volume 15, Englishtown September 3, 1977

11) The Chess Box

12) Willie Nelson, Stardust

13) The Patsy Cline Box

14) Nirvana, Nevermind

15) Neil Young, Live Rust

16) The Johnny Cash Box

17) Van Morrison, Tupelo Honey

18) The Merle Haggard box

19) Randy Newman, Sail Away

20) The Tony Bennett Box

21) Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life

22) Bob Marley and the Wailers, Box

23) The Marvin Gaye Box

24) Steve Earle, I Ain’t Ever Satisfied

25) Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville

26) Marshall Crenshaw

27) George Harrison, All Things Must Pass

28) Who’s Next

29) Leonard Cohen—I’m Your Man

30) The Kinks—Rock n Roll Fantasy

31) Art Tatum, The Complete Pablo Group Masterpieces

32) Kate and Anna McGarrigle, The Family Album.

33) Back to Mono: the Phil Spector Box

34) Abbey Lincoln with Stan Getz, Brother Can You Spare a Dime?

35) James Brown Live and Lowdown at the Apollo, Volume I

36) Jackson Browne, Late for the Sky

37) The Sam Cooke Box

38) The Al Green Box

39) Sly and the Family Stone, Anthology

40) U2, Rattle and Hum

41) The Otis Redding Box

42) Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti

43) The Soul of Ben Webster,

44) Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong Together/Together Again

45) Sonny Rollins, The Bridge

46) Emmylou Harris et al, Return of the Grievous Angel. (Graham Parsons tribute)

47) T. Monk—Solo Piano

48) James Taylor

49) Elvis Costello, My Aim is True

50) Graham Parker, Squeezing Out Sparks

51) Paul Simon, Live Rhymin’

52) Aretha Franklin, Box

53) Ray Charles and Betty Carter, , Box

54) Rockpile, Seconds of Pleasure

55) Santana, Moonflower

56) Bonnie Raitt, Give it Up,

57) REM, Murmur

58) Patti Smith, Land

59) The Blasters collection

60) The Steely Dan Box

61) The Byrds Box

62) John Lennon, Plastic Ono Band

63) Paul McCartney and Wings: Band on the Run

64) Greg Trooper—Straight Down Rain

65) David Forman

66) Steve Tyrell, Standard Time

67) Bell and Shore, L-Ranko Motel.

68) Television: Marquee Moon

69) The Band, The Last Waltz box

70) The Buffalo Springfield Box

71) The David Johansen Group, Live at the Bottom Line

72) Stan Getz and Gliberto Gil,

73) Garland Jeffries, Escape Artist

74) Maria Muldaur

75) Rosanne Cash, Ten Song Demo

76) Elton John, 11/17/70

77) Iris DeMent, The Way I Should

78) John Prine et al, In Spite of Ourselves

79) The Motown Sixties Box

80) Smithsonian History of Classic Jazz

81) Smithsonian History of Country Music

82) Smithsonian History of American Popular Song

83) Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Will the Circle Be Unbroken

84) Herbie Hancock, Maiden Voyage

85) The Ramones

86) The Fugees

87) Lauryn Hill

88) Toots and the Maytals, Pressure Drop

89) The Specials

90) Allan Sherman, My Son the Folksinger

91) Roy Orbison, A Black and White Night

92) Nina Simone, Sugar in My Bowl

93) Velvet Underground, Loaded

94) Rod Stewart, Every Picture Tells a Story

95) Gary “U.S.” Bonds, Dedication

96) The Essential George Jones

97) Robert Cray, “Strong Persuader”

98) John Coltrane with Johnnie Hartman

99) Solomon Burke, Don’t Give Up on Me

100) Guys and Dolls, Original Soundtrack 

The Mail
Raj Chaudhry
Mr. Alterman,

The ombudsman at the Washington Post got at least a couple of things wrong. One was the hour that news began to spread that the perpetrator was a blond Norwegian, (which certainly did not rule out jihadists, but should have given pause to any serious journalist or blogger). The time stamp on Jennifer Rubin’s original post is 5:06 pm EST. The first comment on that same blog calling her conclusion into question appears less than an hour later, at 5:53 pm EST. Here it is:
CTV, among other sources, is reporting that the shooter, who allegedly was also seen in the area of the bombing prior to it, was Norwegian. Tall, blond and Nordic looking. If true, it is one more nail in the coffin of ethnic profiling, regardless of his ideology.
7/22/2011 5:53:28 PM EDTRecommendRecommended by 11 readers

So the record could not be more clear. Patrick Pexton seemed to build a charitable cushion of several hours that made it seem like the news was only available for a short while before Rubin signed off. Her own comments section proves that wrong. Comments on the identity of the Norway bombing suspect also spill into the comments threads for her other posts that evening.

The ombudsman also made it seem as though Rubin was mainly guilty of reporting on the Weekly Standard’s speculation (as if that absolves her). In fact, she wrote "Moreover, there is a specific jihadist connection here." As I read that, she is connecting (imaginary) dots and stating a fact where none has been established. She jumped to a conclusion.

I also found it odd that the Mr. Pexton mentioned Rubin’s productivity. What does that have to do with the controversy? Then again, maybe he stumbled on a contributing factor. Sometimes, metrics are misleading. Maybe Rubin works too fast to be responsible, and what he advertised as a positive is a significant negative.

Anyway, I enjoyed your coverage.

Philip Skau
Phoenix, AZ
Why has there been no mention in the Western media of the growing protests taking place in the streets of Israeli cities? Last night, 8/6/2011, a quarter of a million people were out protesting the economic conditions prevalent in the country, and yet there was no mention of this as a major news item in any of the mainstream media outlets. These protests are every bit as important as the ones in Cairo several months ago, as they signal a profound dissatisfaction with the current Israeli regime. Like their Arab cousins all across the Middle East, the Israeli people are asserting that economic conditions are deteriorating, and that this trumps the political problems in the country. This is a MUCH larger problem for the Netanyahu government than the upcoming Palestinian Statehood proclamation next month. Do the Western media outlets not want us to see the deep divisions that are apparent in Israeli society? And what "crisis" will Netanyahu and his cronies invent to try and thwart next months’ proclamation

Karen Paolini
San Leandro, CA
Thanks for printing Michael Green’s letters, particularly the latest one. I’m so frustrated by my friends on the left. There seems to be a willful disconnect from the realities of the political process, as opposed to those on the far right who know how the system works and work it for all it’s worth. The left, in contrast, insist on denouncing Obama for NOT using all the underhanded tactics they hated when Bush used them. Folks, winning an election doesn’t give a president a magic wand with which to enact every pie-in-the-sky program that Dennis Kucinich wants. There are actually Democrats out there who live in the center and want to see some restraint on the part of government. No one will ever get every single thing they want, not even Obama, rest assured. I guess I’d just like to see the left grow up, stop whining, start working. Sigh.

Dear Dr. Alterman,

Your factual and reasonable piece about the realities of President Obama’s prospects for reelection and the absurdity of a challenge from the left was your usual excellent writing and analysis. Yes, the important matter is countering the Tea Party nuts.

However, as the drone goes on of "adults-in-the room," compromise (when there is no real compromise), and bipartisan, I’ll say this. Such cowardly talk is nonsense for Democrats. If it worked so well, why did the House election cycle end up as it did? Republican television barking dogs and American Supreme Court decision aside, (which freed up the money-giving restraints on corporations and allowed the infusion of foreign dough for the GOP), some voters must have been very angry and afraid or turned off in a big way. Why else would they turn in mid-stream to support the insane voices of such extremists?

The left is not responsible for the Tea Party crazies. We are not responsible for the erroneous bilge spouted by so much of the television "punditocracy," the continual drip of weird assumptions on TV by such with no factual basis. We can articulate our ideas and fight in these elections instead of rolling over to moronic policies and statements. Let this be done succinctly, proudly, and in a tone where we can be heard. We don’t have to sit around and take the foolishness and lies.

I’ve been thinking of something I read in Joan Baez’s autobiography I’ve kept near me:

At home we have freedom of speech but fewer and fewer words with
any meaning are ever spoken. We have freedom of thought, but
nothing pushes us toward creative thinking. We have freedom of
choice and a diminishing quality of moral and spiritual values
characterizing our choices.

What is there to be afraid of? This is our country we are talking about. Give it over to those who would dismantle our ideals and freedoms? Back down to idiots who don’t know our history or the principles upon which this nation was founded? I say fight against them all the way.

Editor’s Note: To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.

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