Monday Reads

tumblr_m67aobjzkN1rxkmgxo1_500Good Morning!

I’m still really tired and quite removed from the total weirdness of the current Beltway antics.  From my groggy eyes, it seems like some odd, abstract dance done to music with an oft-repeated, dissonant theme. I’m very much lost in a world of books and games right now and catching up with things around the house.  Oh, and sleep.  I just can’t seem to get enough of that.  Who invited all these tacky people and why hasn’t some one taught them how to behave properly at a national cotillion?

So, the journalistic dance theatrics orchestrated by the right wing appear to be spinning out there in a place that no one cares much about.  However, it should be noted that while no one real seems to care, the press is still tap dancing to the jingoism.  Have the little republican boyz cried wolf so many times that only the villagers listen and no one else? Cue the polls and the pols,

President Barack Obama comes out of what was arguably the worst week of his presidency with his approval rating holding steady, according to a new national poll. But a CNN/ORC International survey released Sunday morning also indicates that congressional Republicans are not overplaying their hand when it comes to their reaction to the three controversies that have consumed the nation’s capital over the past week and a half. And the poll finds that a majority of Americans take all three issues seriously.

“That two-point difference is well within the poll’s sampling error, so it is a mistake to characterize it as a gain for the president,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Nonetheless, an approval rating that has not dropped and remains over 50% will probably be taken as good news by Democrats after the events of the last week.”

The CNN poll is in-line with Gallup, which also indicated a very slight rise in Obama’s approval rating over the same time period. And Gallup’s daily tracking poll also indicated a slight upward movement of Obama’s approval rating over the past week. But as with the CNN poll, it was within that survey’s sampling error.

More than seven in 10 in the CNN poll say that the targeting by the Internal Revenue Service of tea party and other conservative groups that were applying for tax exempt status was unacceptable. While the White House and both parties in Congress are criticizing the IRS actions, congressional Republicans are depicting the controversy as a case of the federal government gone wild.

But more than six in 10 say that the president’s statements about the IRS scandal are completely or mostly true, with 35% not agreeing with Obama’s characterizations. And 55% say that IRS acted on its own, with 37% saying that White House ordered the IRS to target tea party and other conservative groups.

It’s nice to see that a lot of real folks are not taking all these conspiracy theories very seriously.  How can any one take them seriously with idiots like Senator  Aqua Buddha pushing them?  Why does any one give this whackadoodle air time? Not every US senator deserves national face time.  This one should be placed in a carnival sideshow in a Scheherazade costume. However, this crackpot may try to take on Hillary Clinton for the presidency next time out so it’s a way for the press to rattle the Clinton cage. Rand Paul’s trying to spin his little tail and tale into something credible.  Good luck with that!! It all come off as fundraising theatrics to me. A little snake oil music from the maestro please!!!

Sen. Rand Paul continued with his charges from earlier this week that former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton had “her fingerprints all over these talking points” on the Benghazi attack and claims that she never “really accepted culpability” because she failed to resign shortly after the tragedy. When CNN’s Candy Crowley asked Paul if he was worried about appearing to politicize the controversy by making his remarks in Iowa and other presidential battleground states, Paul dismissed the notion that his remarks were based on politics.

It’s laughable that anyone expects us to believe that Republicans care one iota about this trumped up Benghazi story for any other reason than to muddy up Hillary Clinton, because they all assume she’s going to be the front-runner for the next presidential election.

And I’d say it’s safe to assume Rand Paul is going to take up his father’s mantle and make a career out of perpetually running for president as a fundraising scheme. It worked out pretty well for his dad and the press is already propping him up because of it — with this being the latest example — so why not?

Meanwhile, the choreography of the supposed liberal bias in the press came apart when ABC’s Jonathan Karl was caught telling right wing narcissewhoppers and had to apologize.   Actually, he kinda sorta, sashayed towards an apology. Here’s his anti-mea culpa. Oh, and you gotta laugh about exactly who got to read it on air yesterday!!!

Jonathan Karl, chief White House correspondent for ABC News, addressed criticism of his reporting on the Benghazi talking points controversy, saying in a statement to CNN that he regrets the inaccuracy of his report.

“Clearly, I regret the email was quoted incorrectly and I regret that it’s become a distraction from the story, which still entirely stands. I should have been clearer about the attribution. We updated our story immediately,” he said in the statement to Howard Kurtz, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

Earlier this month, Karl reported that he obtained emails by White House staff that indicated they had a dramatic role in altering the talking points that were later used by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on Sunday morning talk shows to explain the attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.

From those talking points, she said the attack spurred from a spontaneous demonstration outside the compound, while the Obama administration later stated the violence came from a premeditated terror attack.

Questions soon arose over how the error took place, as reports showed that initial drafts of those talking points included references to extremists but were later changed to attribute the incident to protests over an anti-Islam film.

Karl reported on May 10 that, based on summaries of the emails, the White House had a leading role in the editing process and had scrubbed vital information from the talking points.

But CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper, host of CNN’s “The Lead,” reported days later that the actual e-mail from then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told a different story.

Yea.  Right. He regrets he got caught spreading propaganda more like it.  Karl’s done it before.  He has done it a lot actually.

Karl’s high profile at ABC demonstrates that conservative messages can find a comfortable home inside the so-called “liberal” media. Karl channeled former ABC corporate cheerleader John Stossel with a segment (3/5/11) complaining that regulation of the egg and poultry industries was “almost embarrassing,” since different government agencies regulate different aspects of the industries. “Got that?” Karl asked. “Fifteen separate agencies have responsibility for food safety.”

During the rollout of Paul Ryan’s budget plan, Karl (1/26/11) gushed that the Republican media darling was “a little like the guy in the movie Dave, the accidental president who sets out to fix the budget, line by line.” And while Democrats were saying Ryan “is a villain,” Karl was clear about which side he was on: “Ryan knows what he sees…. Paul Ryan is on a mission, determined to do the seemingly impossible: Actually balance the federal budget.” (Actually, even with its draconian spending cuts and absurdly optimistic economic assumptions, the Ryan plan still foresees a cumulative deficit of $62 trillion over the next half century—Congressional Budget Office, 1/27/10.)

On a This Week roundtable (2/20/11), Karl declared that state budget debates were “the Tea Party’s moment” and “also the Chris Christie phenomenon. Will politicians be rewarded for making tough choices—again, something I don’t think we’ve ever seen happen?” Of course, it’s hard not to conclude that the “tough choices” made by Christie and other Republicans are the ones that ought to be rewarded.

And in one World News segment (2/14/11), Karl likened the federal budget to stacks of pennies in order to demonstrate that deeper spending cuts would be necessary in order to balance the budget. Karl concluded that “the bottom line, Diane, is unless you’re willing to talk about cutting entitlements or defense or both, really, there’s no way you can even think about balancing the budget.” This is not actually true—one could raise revenues by increasing taxes on the wealthy—but it is how Republicans want to frame the budget debate.

costume-design-for-scheherazade-1910Just think of how horrible things are going to get when the Koch Brothers take over media outlets.  Eric Alterman–writing for The Nation–things that they could make Rupert Murdoch look good.   May the wisdom beings protect us all!!  Talk about your odd dance partners!!  Could Murdoch actually step in to take over the Trib and could that make us all actually breathe easier?  Well, not really.

But chill out for a minute and consider the following: should they enter the newspaper publishing business, the Koch brothers would be King Midas in reverse. Their commitment to producing disinformation designed to defame liberals, moderates and, indeed, all manner of sane individuals would result in the destruction of the professional purpose of their purchase. A Los Angeles Times or a Chicago Tribune answerable to Koch ownership would soon lose most of its serious journalists and all of its credibility with readers. This would vaporize the value of their investment and leave them with extremely expensive propaganda sheets to publish and loads of legacy costs to assume. Other publications would jump in to fill the vacuum, though it’s unlikely that any of them would be able even to approach the scope and reach of what will be lost. Ideally, the Koch brothers will soon recognize the folly of their ambitions and withdraw.

The scenario that should truly alarm and depress the rest of us is the one that many have posed as the salvation of these papers: a Tribune Company takeover by Rupert Murdoch. While one group of Los Angeles businessmen is interested in buying the LA Times, they have no interest in the package of eight. That leaves Murdoch. And while resistance to a Koch purchase among editors and reporters is strong enough to convince the new owners that they might be buying an empty shell, the attitude toward a Murdoch takeover is quite the opposite. When, during a meeting of the entire staff, LA Times columnist Steve Lopez asked those assembled to “raise your hand if you would quit if the paper was bought by Rupert Murdoch,” only a handful reportedly did so (compared with about half of the staff when the Koch purchase was proposed). Similarly, one member of the Baltimore Sun staff wrote Jim Romenesko that “Murdoch, at least, is a newsman,” a view that was echoed nearly word for word by a Chicago Tribune journalist: “Murdoch, for all his flaws, is a newspaper man.”

True, but by the same logic, Jack the Ripper was a lover of the ladies. Murdoch may be a “newspaper man,” but he is surely not a man who respects honest journalism or even the laws of society as they apply to it (or much else, for that matter). Just in the past few weeks, Murdoch has been making news in the following ways:

He paid out $139 million to settle a class-action suit by News Corp. shareholders, who accused the board of directors of putting the Murdoch family’s interests above those of the company with regard to both the British phone-hacking episode—one of the most egregious criminal scandals in the history of journalism—and News Corp.’s sweetheart acquisition of his daughter Elizabeth’s television production company. The lawsuit alleged that the board “disregarded its fiduciary duties” and allowed Murdoch to run News Corp. as his “own personal fiefdom.”

tumblr_lno8ojSw711qlyv3fo1_400

So, want the worst example?  Guess who was on MTP yesterday?  Dancing Dave managed to embarrass the entire journalistic bordello in one short hour.

GREGORY: And we’re back. For our remaining moments, joining me now, author of the new book Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life, the Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Mister Secretary, welcome back. You have such an interesting distinction here because I remember President Bush who I covered called you a matinee idol and now you’re soon to be a great grandfather. That’s a pretty good combination.

MR. DONALD RUMSFELD (Former Secretary of Defense/Author, Rumsfeld’s Rules): Think of that. It’s exciting.

GREGORY: I want to ask you first about a very disturbing subject within the military that of course you’ve worked over for so long and that is sexual assaults in the military. Some of the reported cases going back to when you were Defense Secretary and reported and then the estimates is that much larger number and the alarming rise between 2010 and 2012. And the issue at hand here is what should the military do about it? Does it have to change the way these crimes are reported at the chain of command and go outside of that to a special prosecutor? What would you do?

MR. RUMSFELD: Well, I don’t know that a special prosecutor is the answer, but there is an argument that can be made for handling them in a way different than they’re being handled because they’re serious. And– and I would suspect that an awful lot of them don’t even get reported.

GREGORY: Mm-Hm.

MR. RUMSFELD: And– and that’s probably true in the public sector, in private citizens as well as in the military.

GREGORY: Right.

MR. RUMSFELD: But– but it’s a terrible thing. There has to be zero tolerance. And it– it appears that– that something different is going to have to be done and I wish I knew what the answer was. I don’t. But– but it had– people have simply got to not tolerate it.

GREGORY: What about the culture in the military? Is that a part of what’s contributing to this? Is it a major part of what’s contributing to it?

MR. RUMSFELD: Well, people talk about that. The military– they talk about athletic teams and– and male environments. I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t think– there’s certainly nothing about the military that would contribute to it in terms of– of the purpose of the armed forces. The– but I don’t know the answer. I– and I think they better– they better really land all over people that are engaged in any kind of abuse of that nature.

GREGORY: There’s so much happening in Washington and you are a veteran of so much controversy as even in your most recent incarnation as defense secretary in the Bush administration. You write this from the book, Rumsfeld’s Rules, “If you foul up, tell the boss and correct it fast. Mistakes can usually be corrected if the adminis– the organization’s leaders are made aware of them and they are caught up early enough and faced honestly. Bad news doesn’t get better with time. If you have fouled something up, it’s best to tell the boss first.”

MR. RUMSFELD: That’s true.

GREGORY: Accountability. Whether it’s IRS or the questions about Benghazi, who is accountable? How do you assess that in these cases?

MR. RUMSFELD: Well, in these cases, I don’t think they know yet. Clearly, the president and in the case of Benghazi, the Secretary of State. That’s the way life works. But what bothers me about it is that two things really concern me. One, you think of a manager, a leader. When something like that happens, you call people in, you sit them down and you let them know that you intend to find ground truth fast. And he seems not to have done that. The other thing that’s worrisome is, as they say, truth leaves on horseback and returns on foot. What’s happening to the president is incrementally trust is being eroded because of the different messages coming out. You know, it’s important that you avoid the early reports because they’re often wrong, and you have to get people in, find ground truth, and then communicate that as fast as you can to the extent information goes out that’s– proves not to be accurate. Presidents and leaders lead by persuasion and for persuasion to work, they don’t lead by command. You have to be trusted. And to the extent trust is eroded, as it is when stories get changed and something more is learned and– and it kind of incrementally destroys your credibility, I think that clearly is a problem. I was worried, for example, I came back from being ambassador of NATO when President Nixon had resigned and President Ford was in office. And the reservoir of trust had just been drained during the– that– that experience that we went through.

Yes. I saved the best for last.  Dancing Dave asked Donald Rumsfeld about how to hold the federal government accountable for made up scandals.  Hasn’t this man been put in jail for crimes against humanity yet?  And, aren’t you glad I didn’t quote the rest of the damn panel?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Good Night, Good Luck: Thoughts on Murrow, Journalism and Responsibility

murrow

Good Afternoon

Thursday night I watched the film Good Night and Good Luck, with David Strathairn and George Clooney. I am sure that many of you saw this film when it came out eight years ago. (Yes, that is 8 years…)

I saw it too back then, but I had not seen it in years…and I never saw the short featurette interviews with the real people portrayed in the film.  Joe and Shirley Wershba, Milo Radulovich, Ed Murrow’s son and Fred Friendly’s son discuss Murrow and give some thoughts on the use of television media during the time of the McCarthy hearings. I say television because Ed Murrow was concerned about how viewing the image or picture being broadcast on the screen would change the news story he was telling.

It is fortunate that I found this featurette on the web, it is only 15 minutes but if you can, watch it before you read the rest of my post.

Good Night, And Good Luck – Featurette | SPIKE

Fred Friendly’s widow states that Ed Murrow was, “dubious” about the change from his radio show, “Hear It Now” to the television version “See It Now.”  It was Murrow’s belief that the camera changed the story, that people processed visual information and news differently than they did when just listening to the words being said.  According to Murrow’s son, the camera invaded the news story, especially in those early days of news broadcast, with the lights and large equipment needed to air the programs, it changed the dynamics of the story in a real big way.

It was during this time the news took on an editorial flavor; there aren’t always two sides to a story. McCarthyism was destroying the country. Murrow got this message out to his viewers, knowing what was at stake.  It was personal and it was risky…

The Murrow team had been collecting film on Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy where ever he went…and used it when they got the evidence they needed. Murrow got to the truth of the story by taking McCarthy’s own words and actions and putting them on the air.

Joe Wershba says that Murrow knew the tremendous power of television media…he describes the agonizing question of whether Murrow had the right to use this power against McCarthy. Think about it…Here you have McCarthy, trampling the rights and civil liberties given by the Constitution, and yet McCarthy got all this power because of the very rights he was running over.

This is where Milo Radulovich comes in. Radulovich,

…was an American citizen (born in Detroit) of Serbian descent and former reserve Air Force lieutenant who was accused of being a security risk for maintaining a “close and continuing relationship”[1] with his father and sister, in violation of Air Force regulation 35-62.[2] His case was publicized nationally by Edward Murrow on October 20, 1953, on Murrow’s program, See It Now:

That [Air Force regulation 35-62] is a regulation which states that ‘A man may be regarded as a security risk if he has close and continuing associations with communists or people believed to have communist sympathies.’ Lieutenant Radulovich was asked to resign in August. He declined. A board was called and heard his case. At the end, it was recommended that he be severed from the Air Force. Although it was also stated that there was no question whatever as to the Lieutenant’s loyalty.—Edward R. Murrow[3][4]

Murrow used Radulovich’s personal story to get the point across. And when the Air Force finally reinstated Radulovich, people realized just how powerful television journalism was, and Murrow felt the consequences would be great.

On the featurette, Fred Friendly’s son says that “overall climate of television news” today is frightening…and that his father would be horrified by it.

Well, this horrifying evolution of television news can be primarily shouldered by the corporations…specifically the advertising money these corporations brought in…the airwaves were originally thought of as the people’s airways…that the news had to be given to the public straight. But then the news programs became a money-maker, news stories became entertainment. And with this entertainment, the trust people had in broadcasters like Murrow disappeared.

Friendly’s son says in the interview up top, television was making more money doing its worst…than it did doing its best. (Ain’t that the truth!)

Shirley Wershba states how important it was to get the truth to the stories, they used McCarthy own words in their reports, pointing out the hypocrisies and the craziness of McCarthyism. They researched and were very careful with what they reported on the news. It is not like that today. We have seen too many times the mistakes, blatant ones at that, made by the press…they are careless with the facts.

Responsibility. It is something that both MSM broadcast news and the people watching it must take seriously.  Responsibility is vitally necessary to get the facts down right. George Clooney says at the end of the featurette he hopes the film Good Night and Good Luck will bring the issue of responsibility to the discussion and I agree with him; we need to talk about responsibility.

I guess my point with all this is just how important it is to question things.

Maybe that is why people like Jon Stewart, sites like Wikileaks, and those who blog and pick apart news reports are popular with folks who look for the big picture, the ones who don’t accept the cropped version as the final word. It is our responsibility to dig deeper than what we see, hear and read in news broadcast…and in journalism media today. I think too many people are not doing their homework. They take whatever bits and pieces they get from MSM and leave it at that. It is a shame, because this lack of attention is causing present day extremist the likes of McCarthy to flourish in our government and politics.

It is ironic, the very rights these extremist are out to destroy… are the ones that allow them to carry out their agenda. The difference between now and Murrow’s time comes down to this…us.

We…the public.

Were our standards were higher? Eh, I don’t know, but I do feel however that responsibility is key.

It seems that there are less Murrows and Friendlys out there who feel responsible to the people, and more importantly…it seems to me the public has become full of people who don’t feel responsible to truth. We get fed the news and opinions the corporations and sponsors want us to eat…but few question it.

I wish news outlets weren’t controlled by the money companies pay to advertise on their shows, websites or blogs. It makes me think about Murrow’s anxiety about the power of television. Think about how the internet has changed the news narrative. The internet is just another powerful technology…like television was in its day….only the web is instantaneous. It is distracting and full of things that manipulate our opinions.  But…the internet is also a tool we can use to be responsible to the truth, if we use it responsibly.

I wish people would question, research and look for truth behind every news report being told. I worry that there is no longer a responsible collective voice standing up for what is right or true….unlike the era of McCarthy, we do not have that voice…the sense of duty or obligation to stand up to the money men behind the corporations, politicians and the advertising and lobbying dollars they use to get what they want.  And, they have the ambitious McCarthys of today, to do the job for them.

The batshit crazy. It’s been going on for so many years…and my fear is it will keep on going.

Will it ever stop?

Keeping all this in mind, take a look at a few of these links:

Last week Glenn Greenwald had an article about Bob Woodward…you can read it here: Bob Woodward embodies US political culture in a single outburst

I want to bring this part of Greenwald’s post to your attention…where he mentions an essay written by Lewis Lapham back in 2008:

Bob Woodward fulfills an important function. Just as Tim Russert was long held up as the scary bulldog questioner who proved the existence of an adversarial TV press while the reality was that, as Harper’s [sic] Lewis Lapham famously put it, he maintained “the on-air persona of an attentive and accommodating headwaiter”, the decades-old Woodward lore plays a critical role in maintaining the fiction of a watchdog press corps even though he is one of the most faithful servants of the war machine and the national security and surveillance states. Every once and awhile, the mask falls, and it’s a good thing when it does.

This last paragraph stuck with me, and when I watched Good Night, and Good Luck last night…particularly the featurette, I went back to the Greenwald post and dug a little bit deeper.

Greenwald links to this Gawker post from Aug. 2008, A Careful Evisceration Of Tim Russert. Which I will highlight this statement:

…Lapham, sometimes slammed as insufferable bore, has spun a compelling essay out of his rough initial pronouncement that “1,000 people came to [Russert's] memorial service because essentially he was a shill for the government.”

This is little nugget from New York Magazine in July of 2008, again in reference to Lapham’s essay: Lewis Lapham Unhappy With Political Journalism, Including Tim Russert

Lewis Lapham isn’t happy with political journalism today. “There was a time in America when the press and the government were on opposite sides of the field,” he said at a premiere party for Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson on June 25. “The press was supposed to speak on behalf of the people. The new tradition is that the press speaks on behalf of the government.” An example? “Tim Russert was a spokesman for power, wealth, and privilege,” Lapham said. “That’s why 1,000 people came to his memorial service. Because essentially he was a shill for the government. It didn’t matter whether it was Democratic or Republican. It was for the status quo.” What about Russert’s rep for catching pols in lies? “That was bullshit,” he said. “Thompson and Russert were two opposite poles.”

Well, here is the actual essay Greenwald is refering to: [Notebook] | Elegy for a Rubber Stamp, by Lewis Lapham | Harper’s Magazine

Please read the entire essay, but I just want to point out a few paragraphs to look out for:

Many people loved Russert, and I don’t doubt that they had reason to do so. I’m sure that most of what was said about him on camera was true: that he was a devoted father, a devout Catholic, and a faithful friend, generous in spirit and a joyful noise unto the Lord. I mean no disrespect to his widow or to his son, but if I have no reason to doubt his virtues as a man, neither do I have any reason to credit the miracle of Russert as a journalist eager to speak truth to power. In his professional as opposed to his personal character, his on-air persona was that of an attentive and accommodating headwaiter, as helpless as Charlie Rose in his infatuation with A-list celebrity, his modus operandi the same one that pointed Rameau’s obliging nephew to the roast pheasant and the coupe aux marrons in eighteenth-century Paris: “Butter people up, good God, butter them up.”

With the butter Russert was a master craftsman, his specialty the mixing of it with just the right drizzle of salt. The weekend videotapes, presumably intended to display Russert at the top of his game, deconstructed the recipe. To an important personage Russert asked one or two faintly impertinent questions, usually about a subject of little or no concern to anybody outside the rope lines around official Washington; sometimes he discovered a contradiction between a recently issued press release and one that was distributed by the same politician some months or years previously. No matter with which spoon Rus sert stirred the butter, the reply was of no interest to him, not worth his notice or further comment. He had sprinkled his trademark salt, his work was done. The important personage was free to choose from a menu offering three forms of response—silence, spin, rancid lie. If silence, Russert moved on to another topic; if spin, he nodded wisely; if rancid lie, he swallowed it.

A couple more:

The attitude doesn’t lead to the digging up of much news that might be of interest to the American people, but it endeared Russert to his patrons and clients. Madeleine Albright, secretary of state in the Clinton Administration, expressed her gratitude to Olbermann: “Tim was amazing because I can tell you that, as a public official, it was really, first of all, a treat to get on the show.” Two days later, over at NBC, Mary Matalin (former CBS and CNN talk-show host, former counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney) seconded the motion, attributing Russert’s profound knowledge of national politics to his superb qualities as a rubber stamp. “He respected politicians,” Matalin said. “He knew that they got blamed for everything, got credit for nothing. He knew how much they meant. He never treated them with the cynicism that attends some of these interviews. So they had a place to be loved.” Remembering Russert on ABC, Sam Donaldson explained why too much salt in the butter makes it harder to spread: “He [Russert] understood as well as anyone, maybe better than almost anyone, that the reason political reporters are there is not to speak truth to power . . . but to make those who say we have the truth—politicians—explain it.”

Speaking truth to power doesn’t make successful Sunday-morning television, leads to “jealousy, upsets, persecution,” doesn’t draw a salary of $5 million a year. The notion that journalists were once in the habit of doing so we borrow from the medium of print, from writers in the tradition of Mark Twain, Upton Sinclair,

H. L. Mencken, I. F. Stone, Hunter Thompson, and Walter Karp, who assumed that what was once known as “the press” received its accreditation as a fourth estate on the theory that it represented the interests of the citizenry as opposed to those of the government. Long ago in the days before journalists became celebrities, their enterprise was reviled and poorly paid, and it was understood by working newspapermen that the presence of more than two people at their funeral could be taken as a sign that they had disgraced the profession.

On television the voices of dissent can’t be counted upon to match the studio drapes or serve as tasteful lead-ins to the advertisements for Pantene Pro-V and the U.S. Marine Corps. What we now know as the “news media” serve at the pleasure of the corporate sponsor, their purpose not to tell truth to the powerful but to transmit lies to the powerless. Like Russert, who served his apprenticeship as an aide-de-camp to the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, most of the prominent figures in the Washington press corps (among them George Stephanopoulos, Bob Woodward, and Karl Rove) began their careers as bagmen in the employ of a dissembling politician or a corrupt legislature. Regarding themselves as de facto members of government, enabling and codependent, their point of view is that of the country’s landlords, their practice equivalent to what is known among Wall Street stock-market touts as “securitizing the junk.” When requesting explanations from secretaries of defense or congressional committee chairmen, they do so with the understanding that any explanation will do. Explain to us, my captain, why the United States must go to war in Iraq, and we will relay the message to the American people in words of one or two syllables. Instruct us, Mr. Chairman, in the reasons why K-Street lobbyists produce the paper that Congress passes into law, and we will show that the reasons are healthy, wealthy, and wise. Do not be frightened by our pretending to be suspicious or scornful. Together with the television camera that sees but doesn’t think, we’re here to watch, to fall in with your whims and approve your injustices. Give us this day our daily bread, and we will hide your vices in the rosebushes of salacious gossip and clothe your crimes in the aura of inspirational anecdote.

Indeed, it all comes down to the idea of truth in journalism according to the corporate sponsors…batshit crazy is now becoming symbolic of the myth that there is a “free press” in this country….when the obvious conclusion seems to me centered on one thing…the lack of responsibility from both the media journalist…and their viewing and reading public.

Batshit crazy…Will it ever stop?

In all honesty, the answer to my question above is simple.

No, it will never stop as long as we, the people, fail to hold our “free press” accountable to the responsibility of journalism.

It’s a very sorry sad situation…and it’s a damn shame.


Solstice 2012 Morning Reads

Winter_Solstice_Mistletoe_300Good morning and happy solstice!

Today is the shortest day of the year!!

In Washington, D.C., the winter solstice sun reaches a maximum angle of only 27.7º above the horizon at solar noon. In the more northern city of London, the sun takes an even shorter path, climbing only 15.1º in the sky. And just south of the Arctic Circle, the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik sees the midday sun climb no higher than 2.1º above the horizon.

Here’s some other ways that humanity has celebrated the day in the past from National Geographic.  

Throughout history, humans have celebrated the winter solstice, often with an appreciative eye toward the return of summer sunlight.

Massive prehistoric monuments such as Ireland’s mysterious Newgrange tomb (video) are aligned to capture the light at the moment of the winter solstice sunrise.

(Related: “Ancient Irish Tomb Big Draw at Winter Solstice.”)

Germanic peoples of Northern Europe honored the winter solstice with Yule festivals—the origin of the still-standing tradition of the long-burning Yule log.

The Roman feast of Saturnalia, honoring the God Saturn, was a weeklong December feast that included the observance of the winter solsticewinter solstice. Romans also celebrated the lengthening of days following the solstice by paying homage to Mithra—an ancient Persian god of light.

Many modern pagans attempt to observe the winter solstice in the traditional manner of the ancients.

“There is a resurgent interest in more traditional religious groups that is often driven by ecological motives,” said Harry Yeide, a professor of religion at George Washington University. “These people do celebrate the solstice itself.”

I like to remind people that Mithra is the real reason for the season.  Despite what Fox News says, the original happy holiday for the Romans on December 25th was the birthday of the virgin born Mithra.  Vatican City was built on his huge temple.  Too bad we might never get to excavate it.

Mithra, legend says, was incarnated into human form (as prophesized by Zarathustra) in 272 bc. He was born of a virgin, who was called the Mother of God. Mithra’s birthday was celebrated December 25 and he was called “the light of the world.”  After teaching for 36 years, he ascended into heaven in 208 bc.

There were many similarities with Christianity:  Mithraists believed in heaven and hell, judgement and resurrection. They had baptism and communion of bread and wine.  They believed in service to God and others.

In the Roman Empire, Mithra became associated with the sun, and was referred to as the Sol Invictus, or unconquerable sun.  The first day of the week — Sunday — was devoted to prayer to him.  Mithraism became the official religion of Rome for some 300 years.  The early Christian church later adopted Sunday as their holy day, and December 25 as the birthday of Jesus.

Mithra became the patron of soldiers.  Soldiers in the Roman legions believed they should fight for the good, the light. They believed in self-discipline and chastity and brotherhood. Note that the custom of shaking hands comes from the Mithraic greeting of Roman soldiers.

It was operated like a secret society, with rites of passage in the form of physical challenges.  Like in the gnostic sects (described below), there were seven grades, each protected by a planet.

Since Mithraism was restricted to men, the wives of the soldiers often belonged to clubs of Great Mother (Cybele) worshippers.  One of the women’s rituals involved baptism in blood by having an animal- preferably a bull – slaughtered over the initiate in a pit below.  This combined with the myth of Mithra killing the first living creature, a bull, and forming the world from the bull’s body, and was adopted by the Mithraists as well.

When Constantine converted to Christianity, he outlawed Mithraism. But a few Zoroastrians still exist today in India, and the Mithraic holidays were celebrated in Iran until the Ayatollah came into power.  And, of course, Mithraism survives more subtly in various European — even Christian — traditions.

So, somebody needs to remind Fox News that Constantine was the one that stole December 25th from the Mithraists.  They should direct their outrage at him.

Speaking of Fox News,  there’s something you should read on the Dread Pirate Murdoch and his attempt to install a US President.  The story gets some column space from Carl Bernstein writing for The Guardian. It’s about said dread pirate’s attempt to waylay the US presidential election by trying to get Petraeus to run. Bernstein’s big question is why weren’t the press all over this?

The Murdoch story – his corruption of essential democratic institutions on both sides of the Atlantic – is one of the most important and far-reaching political/cultural stories of the past 30 years, an ongoing tale without equal. Like Richard Nixon and his tapes, much attention has been focused on the necessity of finding the smoking gun to confirm what other evidence had already established beyond a doubt: that the elemental instruments of democracy, ie the presidency in Nixon’s case, and the privileges of free press in Murdoch’s, were grievously misused and abused for their own ends by those entrusted to use great power for the common good.

In Nixon’s case, the system worked. His actions were investigated by Congress, the judicial system held that even the president of the United States was not above the law, and he was forced to resign or face certain impeachment and conviction. American and British democracy has not been so fortunate with Murdoch, whose power and corruption went unchecked for a third of a century.

The most important thing we journalists do is make judgments about what is news. Perhaps no story has eluded us on a daily basis (for lack of trying) for so many years as the story of Murdoch’s destructive march across our democratic landscape. Only the Guardian vigorously pursued the leads of the hacking story and methodically stuck with it for months and years, never ignoring the underlying context of how Rupert Murdoch conducted his take-no-prisoners business and journalism without regard for the most elemental standards of fairness, accuracy or balance, or even lawful conduct.

When the Guardian’s hacking coverage reached critical mass last year, I quoted a former top Murdoch deputy as follows: “This scandal and all its implications could not have happened anywhere else. Only in Murdoch’s orbit. The hacking at News of the World was done on an industrial scale. More than anyone, Murdoch invented and established this culture in the newsroom, where you do whatever it takes to get the story, take no prisoners, destroy the competition, and the end will justify the means.”

The tape that Bob Woodward obtained, and which the Washington Post ran in the style section, should be the denouement of the Murdoch story on both sides of the Atlantic, making clear that no institution, not even the presidency of the United States, was beyond the object of his subversion. If Murdoch had bankrolled a successful Petraeus presidential campaign and – as his emissary McFarland promised – “the rest of us [at Fox] are going to be your in-house” – Murdoch arguably might have sewn up the institutions of American democracy even more securely than his British tailoring.

An interesting  little survey result of university students  put a smile on my face for a variety of reasons.  It’s actually a few months old and I some how missed it.  That’s to BB for letting me know why my students always looked so sleepy on the way into the lectures for all those years.   I was an economics major so ….

In a survey of several thousand English undergraduates by Studentbeans.com, economics majors are more likely to have more sexual partners than their peers other fields. A budding Ben Bernanke had an average of 4.88 sex partners since college started. Compare this to the struggling Comparative Religion major who has had an average or 2.13 partners, or the mournful Environmental Science major who has slept with only 1.71 people. It is not even a contest.

Maybe it’s just be cause we’re great at data gathering and we keep count.  Or maybe not.

 Congressman Barney Frank in his last days in office and is giving many interviews.  He talks openly about a lot of interesting things.barney

Later, after recounting a controversy over an attempt by a male prostitute to blackmail him, he said, “I always have thought prostitution should be legal” and said that ultimately women were “worse off” without legalized prostitution.

Frank also believes that those who vote against gay and lesbian rights but who are in the closet deserve to be outed, explaining, “Yes, I believe the policy should be that people have a right to privacy but not to hypocrisy.”

Frank discussed recent comments made by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia when asked by a Princeton student about his writing on same-sex marriage and gay and lesbian issues. “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?” Scalia told the student.

“I was glad that he made clear what’s been obvious, that he’s just a flat out bigot,” said Frank, going on to call the explanation “quite stupid.”

This has to be the biggest taxpayer supported boondoggle in the history of boondoogles:  “The Cost of Romney’s Government-Assisted Transition: $8.9 Million”.

One of the less scintillating milestones of the 2012 election was marked by the General Services Administration, when Mitt Romney became the first candidate to take advantage of the Presidential Transition Act of 2010. The Act, spearheaded by former Sen. Ted Kaufman, provides resources for major candidates to start planning for their presidency long before Election Day. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, TIME acquired documents from the GSA that show the scope–and cost–of this unprecedented government-assisted transition.

In 2010, legislators said the main goal of the Act was to bolster national security by ensuring that candidates are prepared to take office, and that they don’t shy away from transition planning for fear that they’ll look presumptuous. To that end, the law stipulates that the federal government will provide certain resources to non-incumbent candidates after their nominating convention. The GSA says final costs are still being tabulated, but the initial estimated cost for Romney’s pre-transition phase is around $8.9 million.

 It seems the Romney campaign also seriously overbilled their press pool for the privilege of covering the Romney/Ryan Dismal Circuit.

Last week, the Romney press corp wrote a formal complaint regarding the charges that they say far exceed any other campaign. Today, after getting no response from on high, some of the press corp alerted American Express that they are contesting the charges.

Citing examples of “exorbitant charges” for food and holding costs, the press corp detail in their letter to the Romney campaign, “Some examples: $745 per person charged for a vice presidential debate viewing party on Oct. 11; $812 charged for a meal and a hold on Oct. 18; $461 for a meal and hold the next day; $345 for food and hold Oct. 30.”

These are no small outlets fighting back against the Romney campaign; signing the letter are the higher ups from the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Agence France-Presse, Washington Post, Yahoo, Buzzfeed, and Financial Times. This isn’t their first rodeo.

They also have questions about food ostensibly provided for them but eaten by the campaign staff. “These costs far exceed typical expenses on the campaign trail. Also, it was clear to all present that the campaign’s paid staff frequently consumed the food and drinks ostensibly produced for the media. Were any of the costs of these events charged to the campaign itself, to cover the care and feeding of its staff?”

Earlier Buzzfeed reported that the campaign went all out at the viewing party, providing massage tables and lavish food and booze. Unfortunately, these perks weren’t discussed with all of the media that are now being charged for them.

That certainly sounds like the way an enterprising CEO screws their projects to me.  Good thing he didn’t get his hands on the national treasury.

So, that’s it for me this morning … Carry on!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list this morning?


There Should be a War on Faux News

ailes5

There is absolutely no reason why the Fox Propaganda and Lies Network should be allowed to call itself a News channel.  Even more evidence has come out today that FOX is more interested in Republican Politics than it is anything that remotely resembles journalism.

Bob Woodard dropped a little revelation on how Roger Ailes tried to recruit General Patreus as a presidential candidate in 2011.    There’s audio evidence so it’s not even a debatable story.

So in spring 2011, Ailes asked a Fox News analyst headed to Afghanistan to pass on his thoughts to Petraeus, who was then the commander of U.S. and coalition forces there. Petraeus, Ailes advised, should turn down an expected offer from President Obama to become CIA director and accept nothing less than the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military post. If Obama did not offer the Joint Chiefs post, Petraeus should resign from the military and run for president, Ailes suggested.

The Fox News chairman’s message was delivered to Petraeus by Kathleen T. McFarland, a Fox News national security analyst and former national security and Pentagon aide in three Republican administrations. She did so at the end of a 90-minute, unfiltered conversation with Petraeus that touched on the general’s future, his relationship with the media and his political aspirations — or lack thereof. The Washington Post has obtained a digital recording from the meeting, which took place in Petraeus’s office in Kabul.

McFarland also said that Ailes — who had a decades-long career as a Republican political consultant, advising Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush — might resign as head of Fox to run a Petraeus presidential campaign. At one point, McFarland and Petraeus spoke about the possibility that Rupert Murdoch, the head of News Corp., which owns Fox News, would “bankroll” the campaign.

The analysis of this should be self-evident.  Eric Wemple has some great points to make.  Most of them come under the heading of Fox News is corrupt and nasty.

To listen to the exchange between McFarland and Petraeus is to come away with the distinct impression that McFarland was under specific and binding orders from Ailes. She repeatedly invokes Ailes’s name, his advice and his interest in the career of Petraeus. The mandate to return to Ailes’s New York office with a mouthful of feedback from Petraeus rings from these words of McFarland’s: “So what do I tell Roger when he says…?” She continues spelling out the rules of engagement — how she was supposed to present the advice, and how she was supposed to report back.

Given that dynamic, have a look at how Ailes responded when Woodward asked about the advice-giving mission:

In a telephone interview Monday, the wily and sharp-tongued Ailes said he did indeed ask McFarland to make the pitch to Petraeus. “It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have,” he said. “I thought the Republican field [in the primaries] needed to be shaken up and Petraeus might be a good candidate.”

Ailes added, “It sounds like she thought she was on a secret mission in the Reagan administration. . . . She was way out of line. . . . It’s someone’s fantasy to make me a kingmaker. It’s not my job.” He said that McFarland was not an employee of Fox but a contributor paid less than $75,000 a year.

Such noble and classy details there from the head of Fox News. Woodward nails you sullying your employer and the industry of journalism, and you tar the messenger. That’s outrageous enough that it could dog someone as untouchable as Roger Ailes.

The details of the exchange are frankly beyond belief.  You can listen to them yourself .

Ailes’s craving for the respect and admiration of a military hotshot like Petraeus emerges with Memorex clarity in this recording. For instance, McFarland tells Petraeus that she has a request “directly from [Ailes] to you: First of all, is there anything Fox is doing right or wrong that you want to tell us to do differently.”

Unpacking the depravity in that one is a multi-part process.

No. 1: Real journalists don’t act as supplicants, no matter how wonderful and powerful may be the official they’re interviewing. Real journalists publish their journalism and move on to the next story. If people have problems with or plaudits for the work, they can send an e-mail.

No. 2: Note the promise in McFarland’s proffer. She invites the general to “tell us” to adjust coverage in whatever way he may see fit, in effect soliciting an order from a general. What an affirmation of journalistic independence.

No. 3: To which individuals has Ailes “indirectly” advanced this offer?

It’s no wonder the Brits are working to get Murdoch thrown out of the journalism business in the UK.  This is the behavior of a propagandist and kingmaker.

McFarland begins by promising Petraeus absolute discretion, saying that Ailes’s “deal with me was that I was only supposed to talk to you – and he is a little paranoid, so believe me.” However, the 90-minute conversation was recorded, and a digital copy of it somehow made its way into Woodward’s hands.

“I’ve got something to say to you directly from Roger Ailes,” McFarland is captured saying on the recording that has been posted in edited form on the Washington Post website. “I’m not running,” Petraeus snaps back.

McFarland, a Pentagon adviser to the Reagan administration, does not take no for an answer. The next time Petraeus is in New York, she says, he should come and “chat to Roger and Rupert Murdoch”, to which Petraeus, for whom this conversation is clearly not the first of its kind, replies: “Rupert’s after me as well.”

“Tell him if I ever ran … ” Petraeus laughingly says as the meeting is wrapping up. “I’d take him up on his offer. He said he would quit Fox.”

McFarland says that “the big boss” would “bankroll” the campaign – a clear reference to Murdoch. “The big boss is bankrolling it. Roger’s going to run it. And the rest of us are going to be your in-house.”

Something should be done about this, however, I’m not sure what can be done about it in a legal sense.  One hopes some of the Fox faithful would get the message but I’ve got no hopes there.   Any one who calls themselves a journalist–if they haven’t already–should disassociate themselves with this outfit quickly.  The rest of us just need to keep telling other people about  this business.  Fox news is biased, depraved, and deeply connected to right wing politics.  It is nothing more than a propaganda outpost for the worst of Republican policies.


Saturday Reads: Obsessive Poll-Watching Edition

Good Morning Sky Dancers!!

Just three more days before the election, and I’m starting to get excited. I’m so looking forward to seeing Mitt Romney go down in flames along with Richard Mourdock, Scott Brown, and–I hope–Todd Akin. I plan to be riveted to the news until all the races are settled. It will really help that MSNBC is going to run real programming this weekend instead of prison videos. I know this is serious business, but I’m having more fun than if the Red Sox were in the World Series.

So let’s see what’s happening out there this morning.

Rupert Murdoch was pontificating on Twitter again yesterday. He’s not happy with Chris Christie’s gratitude for President Obama’s emergency response.

@rupertmurdoch Thanks Bloomberg right decision.@Now Christie, while thanking O, must re- declare for Romney, or take blame for next four dire years.

Mitt Romney had an “all star rally” in Westchester, Ohio last night, and Politico was wowed!

On a frigid fall night — you could see your breath in the air, and organizers handed out fleece blankets and hand warmers to the press — 100 GOP all-star surrogates gathered in this key state, some throwing red meat to the sprawling crowd and stressing that Ohioans hold the fate of the election in their hands.

It was an awesome visual. Those appearing with Romney and Ryan included former GOP rivals Rick Santorum and Rick Perry, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte. They lined up in rows to Romney’s right in matching red or blue fleeces.
Organizers of tonight’s mega-event said the goal was to create the feeling of a week-long party convention in one night — complete with the the GOP’s rising stars and stalwarts, as well as a performance by Kid Rock.
The crowd loved it. Many waved small Ohio flags. Romney supporters wearing red, white and blue T-shirts positioned themselves behind Romney to create a human image of Ohio’s flag.

Quite a few of those “all stars” were holdovers from the Bush administration like Condi Rice and has beens like Rudy Giuliani, who expressed his frustration at the state of the race by bashing Obama in Ohio yesterday.

Not long after taking a few seconds of silence for those affected by Superstorm Sandy, Rudy Giuliani began ripping into President Barack Obama on Friday while speaking at major campaign event for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in Ohio.

The former New York City mayor delivered a series of blistering zingers against the president, rallying the massive crowd with line after line of reasons why Obama should “resign” and faulting him for “incompetence” over the Libya consulate attacks.

Giuliani attacked Obama on the unemployment numbers, while ignoring the 171,000 jobs added in October.

“He should resign! He told us he would resign if he did this poorly,” Giuliani said, referring to a 2009 interview in which Obama vowed to turn the economy around in three years, otherwise there would be a “one-term proposition.”

Giuliani continued to fire off: “He lied. He has been a disaster. The worst president for our economy in our lifetime. He doesn’t want a second term. He wants a second chance, because he screwed it up the first time.”

Mitt Romney himself began the wrapup of his campaign by once again twisting Obama’s words.

The Republican presidential nominee criticized President Barack Obama, who during his own visit to the Buckeye State said voting was the “best revenge.” The Democratic incumbent altered a traditional refrain from his stump speech when he receives boos from the audience.

“No, no, no – don’t boo, vote,” Obama said Friday in Springfield, Ohio. “Vote. Voting is the best revenge.”

That evening, in West Chester, Romney responded, “Our big dreams will not be satisfied by his small agenda that already failed us. Today, did you see what President Obama said today? He asked his supporters to vote for revenge – for revenge. Instead I ask the American people to vote for love of country.”

Doesn’t he ever tire of fake outrage? This is the guy who shipped thousands of jobs to China and hides his money in multiple foreign tax shelters.

In New Jersey, state officials are struggling to make sure residents hard hit by Hurricane Sandy will still be able to vote on Tuesday.

Polling places too far from people’s homes or shelters. Emergency ballots running out. Voting machines breaking down and no one to service them. Poll staffers unable to work on Election Day. Mail-in ballots stuck in a crippled postal system. Results delayed for days.

Those were the logistical nightmares county clerks, political leaders and election lawyers sorted through Friday as they scrambled to piece together a plan for Tuesday. Details, however, changed by the hour and remained sketchy by day’s end.

“Right now, it’s a lot of if’s, maybe’s, we hope, keep your fingers crossed,” said Hudson County Clerk Barbara Netchert, whose office and all others in the state will be open this weekend.

In New York, the absentee ballot deadline has been changed and it’s possible voting could be extended to two days.

New York State extended the deadline for absentee ballots to be received and counted to 13 days after Election Day, from seven days, to allow for postal delays caused by the storm. But they must be postmarked no later than Monday, said John Conklin, a spokesman for the state’s Board of Elections, which has been trying to help local boards get power restored or, failing that, get generators, fuel and extension cords.

A little-noticed New York State law allows counties to seek permission for a second day of voting if they determine that voter turnout was less than 25 percent “as the direct consequence” of a disaster, but several election lawyers said that they did not believe it had ever been invoked and that it was unlikely to be used next week.

There could also be hurricane-related problems for voters in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and even Ohio. Most of these problems won’t affect the outcome of the presidential election, since NY, NJ, and CT are all blue states and Obama has been leading in PA all year, but there is concern about downticket races and early voting in Ohio.

But even when elections officials get the polling sites up and running, many voters may stay away as they grapple with lingering damage to their homes, power failures and gas shortages. With turnout projected to be down in all these states, Mr. Obama could see his share of the national popular vote reduced.

The storm may have already affected the early vote, which could be important, given that analysts estimate that more than a third of the votes this year will be cast before Election Day. Early voting was temporarily halted in some states. In Ohio, the crucial Democratic stronghold of Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, had more people vote early every day this year than in 2008 — until Monday, the day of the storm, when the daily tally began to lag from its levels of four years ago.

Republicans are still trying to convince themselves that Romney can win on Tuesday, although the latest polls show Obama leading in just about every swing state. Even the Wall Street Journal admits that Obama is ahead in both Ohio and Florida now.

The Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist Poll surveys of likely voters released Friday show Mr. Obama maintaining a foothold little changed from four weeks ago, when the Journal surveyed voters in both states just after Mr. Romney’s strong debate performance in Denver.

The surveys found the two battling neck-and-neck in Florida, with Mr. Obama drawing 49% support among likely voters to Mr. Romney’s 47%.

Mr. Obama held a firmer lead in Ohio—51% to 45%, unchanged from mid-October—where the relatively more buoyant economy and the federal bailout of the auto industry appear to have solidified his support among a wide swath of voters.

In both states, Mr. Obama got high marks from all sides for his management of recovery efforts after the storm Sandy hit the East Coast. That tracks an array of polls taken in the past week suggesting that Mr. Romney’s rise may have flattened out just before Sandy landed, an event that sucked national attention away from the campaign trail. In the Florida and Ohio polls, even a majority of Republican voters approved of Mr. Obama’s handling of the storm’s aftermath.

But conservatives like Michael Barone are still trying to create their own reality. He predicts Romney will carry North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania!

We’ll see on Tuesday. But Jonathan Chait notes the signs that Republican “poll deniers” are beginning to face reality.

You may have noticed that the election is getting extremely close, and President Obama’s electoral college lead appears pretty solid. One lagging indicator of the state of the race is the rate at which conservative pundits begin edging slowly out of the Mitt Romney bunker and admitting that maybe the polls aren’t skewed. Dick Morris, last seen predicting a Romney landslide, still insists Romney is likely to win, but now sees “sudden danger signs.” Jennifer Rubin opens a paean to the beautiful poetry of Romney’s closing message by observing, “If Mitt Romney wins Wisconsin, it may be because of the speech. If he loses the election it might be argued it was because he didn’t give that speech at the convention.”

Sorry for my obsessive focus on the election today. I’ll end with a think piece (still election related) by Rick Perlstein, highly recommended by Paul Krugman. It’s called The Long Con: Mail Order Conservatism. It’s too long and involved to excerpt, but here’s what Krugman says about the piece:

The estimable Rick Perlstein has a fascinating essay about the seamless continuum from direct-mail marketing scams to direct-mail right-wing fundraising, and from there to the whole character of modern movement conservatism. Go read. I didn’t know, for example, that heroes of direct-mail fundraising like Richard Viguerie ended up delivering hardly any of the money to political causes; somehow it ended up swallowed by overhead, otherwise known as the fundraisers themselves….

Remember how Rove and others were supposed to raise vast sums from billionaires and corporations, then totally saturate the country with GOP messaging, drowning out Obama’s message? Well, they certainly raised a lot of money, and ran a lot of ads. But in terms of actual number of ads the battle has been, if anything, an Obama advantage. And while we don’t know what will happen on Tuesday, state-level polls suggest both that Obama is a strong favorite and, much more surprising, that Democrats are overwhelmingly favored to hold the Senate in a year when the number of seats at risk was supposed to spell doom….

Well, what if we’ve been misunderstanding Rove? We’ve been seeing him as a man dedicated to helping angry right-wing billionaires take over America. But maybe he’s best thought of instead as an entrepreneur in the business of selling his services to angry right-wing billionaires, who believe that he can help them take over America. It’s not the same thing.

So was it all just about making money for Rove? What did Romney expect to get out of all this?

Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today?