Open Thread: John Nichols Smacks Down “Whiner in Chief”

Please don't hurt my feelings!

Please don't hurt my feelings!

This morning at The Nation John Nichols sternly reprimands the Obama administration for its attempts to control “left of left” bloggers with humiliating “off the record” remarks from anonymous administration sources, as well as its childish “war” with Fox News Network

Nichols writes:

…before the president and his inner circle go all Spiro Agnew on us, they might want to consider three fundamental facts regarding relations between the executive branch and the fourth estate

Next, Nichols discusses three main points about WH-media relationships: 1) media outlets have always been partisan; 2) “Presidents are supposed to rise above their own partisanship”; and 3) Obama is asking for trouble by “trying to ‘whip’ relatively like-minded” media sources “in line.”

Here are few salient exerpts from Nichols’ pithy piece:

Fox hosts do go overboard in their savaging of Obama and the Democrats — sometimes ridiculously so. But their assaults on the president are gentle when compared with the battering that Benjamin Franklin Bache’s Philadelphia Aurora administered to John Adams (appropriately) or the trashing that Colonel McCormick’s Chicago Tribune gave Franklin Roosevelt (inappropriately).

Obama should be better than [Dick] Cheney. But aides are not helping the president prevail in what ought to be an easy competition.

Cheney saw newspapers such as The New York Times and news channels such as CNN as little more than branches of his Democratic opposition.

…bloggers should…take [WH] criticism as confirmation that they are right when they suggest that this administration is increasingly out of touch with the progressive base that secured Obama the Democratic nomination and ultimately propelled him to the White House.

The fact is that the results of the 2008 election did not reveal “a closely-divided country.” Obama arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with the most muscular mandate accorded any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 landslide.

Please read the whole thing, and then come back here and discuss.

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Kanye West may Save Obama’s Presidency

(With apologies to Taylor Swift)

Kanye West may save Obama’s presidency. When President Obama said “He’s a jackass.”, the President confirmed a simple truth about civic virtue that transcended most political boundaries.

Importantly, he did so authentically. His statement was not the product of intense focus group distillation.

The comment leaked (hmm) and it met with significant approval. Unsurprisingly, given President Obama’s historic fall from favorability grace, the video was “released” by CNN.

In the video, the President is charming just being himself. His charm is but a bonus, however, because the People’s approval was based on his bare words.

Mr. West’s act could save Obama’s presidency, if “President Obama” recognizes the simple truth of why his comment worked. The people who voted for him did so because he promised to speak the truth and he promised to act on the truth. His statement both spoke and performatively acted on the truth of Mr. West’s behavior.  The People approved.

It’s remarkable that Obama has not realized the power of being honest, given that the promise of honesty carried him to power. Heck, he even disarmed the faux race angle of the incident, which delivers on the post-racial promise (that others made for him).

So, if President Obama realizes that being honest and keeping his promises (general as they were) will give him the best chance of having a second term, then perhaps he’ll adopt doing so as an election strategy. If he does, then his presidency will be historically important because he will be an example of how people benefit by doing the right thing.

UPDATE: Many of you think my modest proposal is not too swift. That is not a bad outcome.

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Don’t Expect Apologies From the Dark Minions of the Kool-Aid Kingdom

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Dear Riverdaughter,

There is an interesting parallel between the situation of anti-Obama Democrats and that of the members of the resistance in post-WWII France. Given these parallels, I think it unlikely that we will receive an apology from the dark minions of the Kool-Aid Kingdom, generally-speaking. I think it more likely that they will continue to attempt to diminish us, because our existence reminds them of their failings.

Preventative maintenance requires this rider. I know the situations are not equivalent. I’m noting something they share.

Furthermore, there is no doubt that the vast majority of Obama supporters were not engaged in scorched Earth politics. They are not the object of this analysis.

As France re-made herself after WWII, participants in the Nazi/Vichy structures were embarrassed by the very existence of those who refused to participate under Nazi power. They were even more embarrassed by the existence of those who fought the power. The existence of the Resistance stood in stark relief to those who participated in Nazi-esque collusion.

As establishment people, they overcame their embarrassment in two ways. The first thing they did was to deny and exclude access to the power structure to resistance participants. They also worked to remove resistance participants from the structure, where possible.

The second thing they did was fabricate resistance credentials and attempt to bury their collusion with the Nazis. They created the myth of their integrity. By preventing the possibility of comparison through their exclusionary activities, they safeguarded the myth of their integrity. Their large numbers, tied to the fact of their establishment ensconsement, enabled the myth to become reified.

It is unsurprising that the dark minions among Obama’s enablers, who practised scorched Earth politics within the Democratic party and beyond, continue to assault those who worked against his ascendance. We are living examples of their moral and/or intellectual shortcomings.

They are tied to the power structure of the party. The re-writing phase of their autobiographies is underway. Expect some to engage in rearguard, credential boosting actions, like shearing the hair of the less powerful, more identifiable members of the Kool-Aid Kingdom.

These actions will mean little, however, until the history of the Resistance is co-optively revised. To do so, they will need to make us disappear from the public eye, through means that deny our power or diminish our voice.

I expect no apologies from the dark minions of the Kool-Aid Kingdom. I expect they will attack us because it is the only way for the myth of their integrity to take root.

gandalf

Yours,
Steven

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THE most serious question at Sotomayor’s hearing was asked by… Franken?

Holy Hemiola, Republicans are a repetitive bunch.  Did any one of them ever have an independent thought?  The way they zeroed in on her “wise latina” word combination was like some SETI scientists looking for meaningful patterns in vast field of verbal graffitti, like none of the other billions of words Sotomayor has ever uttered made sense.  In some very no-so-subtle ways, they managed to communicate that a latina woman should show more deference to a southern white gentleman, that life experiences are strictly forbidden for Democrats but perfectly OK for Republican nominees like Concerned Alumni of Princeton Alito and “high tech lynching” Thomas, and that with 7 white men out of 9 members of the court (that’s 78% for those of you who are keeping track), this is a population that needs to be protected, the poor things.  Let me get this straight:  white males are the downtrodden of the earth, put upon and underpriveleged and that’s why we need so many of them on the court.  Women?  ehhhhh, not so much.  I would hope that women voters in Republican districts would keep this in mind when they go to the polls in 2010 but as my mom says, people have short memories.  They will forget what empty headed, arrogant, clueless, condescending jerks Jeff Sessions and Lindsay Graham were.

Franken, on the other hand, will be known for his Perry Mason moment instead of the most important question asked at the hearings.  Here’s the question:

Now, you may be wondering why Franken would be concerned with “net neutrality”.  I’m going to take a guess here that it’s for the same reason he was a founding member of Air America.  Back in 2003, corporate media controlled the horizontal and the vertical.  Well, it still does.  The propaganda might be coming from a pseudo-Democratic White House but it’s still propaganda and there are precious few sources of push back.

Air America’s flagship station was a tiny station in NYC, WLIB, with a very weak signal.  In central NJ, just 36 miles away, I could barely pick it up on my car radio.  During some of the more critical news stories of 2003-2004, I couldn’t get it at all.  There was a competing station from Indiana, of all places, that was a superbroadcaster.  The Indiana station would crank up the volume up to 11 and blast right wing talking points, overwhelming that tiny whisper from Air America.  I noticed that Indiana wouldn’t always be blasting away.  It only happened when I wanted to hear a different opinion on an important news story.

That left me with live streaming Air America from the internet.  Now, I might live right in the heart of telecommunications R&D central, not far from ATT and Lucent and all the rest.  But my internet providers are very, VERY limited.  There are days that I swear they are blocking access or slowing down the download speeds to sites I want to access.  I’m sure I’m just being paranoid but isn’t this Franken’s point?

Who owns the internet?  Is it the corporations who laid the cables or us?  Do we have a right to access it to exercise our first amendment rights or is it possible for a Supreme Court judge to say, “I said you have a right to free speech.  I didn’t say Verizon FIOS had an obligation to carry your words to the rest of the world.  If you want to be heard, buy a megaphone and try not to get arrested for disturbing the peace”

The corporations might say they own the cables but *WE* paid for them.  Everytime we made a phone call or emailed our mothers or purchased that electric raclette grill from amazon or downloaded Lady Gaga from iTunes, we pay for laying down new lines through the hefty fees added to our bills every month.  Isn’t that the excuse that these companies are always making for raising the rates?  They have to add new lines, update the technology?  Ok, we paid for that.  Did we forfeit our right of free speech when we entered into an agreement with these companies?  That is essentially the question Al Franken asks.  Sotomayor responds that it depends on the policy established by Congress.

Ahhh, back to those bastards.  So, if Congress gives away the store to ATT, FIOS, Embarq and the like, is our only recourse to vote them out of office?  And if we want to run alternative candidates, how to we make sure these candidates get a fair hearing?  The internet has the capacity to change the electoral landscape by allowing candidates to circumvent the corporate media gatekeepers.  But if you don’t have free, unfettered access, is this really possible?  Is it possible that in 2010, we will see candidates who want to primary incumbents blocked by service providers from doing so?

The problem is not a hypothetical “maybe”.  It could happen now.  The question goes to the very heart of our system of democracy.  The right to free speech, to be heard, to foment insurrection if necessary, was the first right that was granted to us in the Constitution by people who knew what it means to need to overthrow your government.  These days, we would prefer to overthrow our government at the ballot box. But if you can only make your voting decisions based on disinformation, if it is legal for corporations to promote disinformation for its own benefit and if those corporations are granted the protection of “personhood”, doesn’t this infringe on the rights of the individual to be heard and have the power of full citizenship?

We need only look to Iran for the answer to this question.  Their election was highly questionable, so highly questionable that they demanded a recount or a new election.  Instead, the government cut off their access to the internet, their ability to organize and then ruthlessly suppressed the protestors.  Could it happen here?  Hell, yes.  All we need is a bunch of hyperbolic blowhards on cable news networks terrifying people into thinking it could provoke another 9/11 and we’re there, baby.

How do we prevent that from happening?  That’s essentially what Franken is asking.  How do we exercise our free speech when someone else has our voice and can turn down the volume?  Does that old playground boast, “It’s a free country, I can say whatever I like” still have any real meaning?  Sotomayor’s answer, to me, was less than satisfying.  I think she will be deferential to the corporation’s lawyers when the issue finally makes it to the USSC.  I’ve been wrong before but let’s just call it a hunch.  It’s like her answer on abortion.  Yes, women have a right to privacy with their doctors- under certain circumstances.  Maybe I’m dense or something but if someone else is setting the “circumstances” under which you have a right to privacy, then there isn’t much privacy.  But I digress.

The more important issue is freedom of speech.  It precedes all others.  It allows you to question authority and persuade your fellow citizens.  Without it, there would be no discussion of abortion or gun rights or health care.  Or at least, no competing opinions.  And as technology has changed the way we access our information, allowing us to benefit from the internet’s advantages of speed and relational information, those of us who do not control that access will be at a severe disadvantage as citizens.  We might as well be wearing a gag.

Which is just how the monopolies like it.

Podcast of the day: Control of the media has been going on ever since there was a printing press.  Check out Melvyn Bragg In Our Time’s Seventeenth Century Print Culture.  King Henry VIII was one of the first to crack down on the press by banning the vernacular bible and forbidding women and servants from reading it.  They might get the notion that they knew what it meant.  Sounds like Lindsay Graham’s kind of guy.


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“On Being Sane in Insane Places”: Sarah Palin and the Rosenhan Study

The media doesn't "get" genuine

The media doesn't "get" genuine

In 1973, David Rosenhan, a sociologist, conducted a study (Warning, PDF file, scroll down) of the difficulty people have in overcoming being labeled as having a mental illness. Rosenhan and seven colleages got themselves admitted under false names to different mental hospitals around the country by claiming they were hearing voices, a common symptom of schizophrenia. Once they were admitted to the hospitals and diagnosed as schizophrenic, these “pseudopatients” behaved completely normally and were completely truthful about their life histories.

Despite the fact that these people did not act “crazy” in any way, they were kept in the hospitals for periods of time ranging from 9 to 52 days. None of the mental health professionals who examined the pseudopatients ever detected that they were sane, although other patients noticed and sometimes accused the pseudopatients of doing undercover research.

Once they had been given the schizophrenic label, everything the pseudopatients did or said and even their personal histories were interpreted by psychiatrists and other hospital staff as reinforcing their diagnoses. For example, some of the pseudopatients took notes during their time in the hospital. This innocuous behavior was interpreted as delusional and a sign of deep psychological disturbance.

So how does this relate to the situation Sarah Palin finds herself in? Palin is a perfectly normal person who got sucked into the insane world of presidential politics. It has been determined by the talking heads and media mavens of Washington and New York that Sarah Palin wants to be President. No one knows for sure if this is true, but now that she has that label, everything she says or does is interpreted to relate to her supposed presidential ambitions. Based on their assumptions about Palin, various talking heads, reporters, and bloggers have also labeled her ignorant and unqualified. Continue reading

Sarah Palin and the Bitch-Slap Theory of Electoral Politics

PDS

Don’t hate/blame/flame me for the sexist term in the title.  Blame Josh Marshall (the real one) for coming up with it.  Back before he was kidnapped and replaced with a Kool-aid zombie he was a pretty astute blogger.  In 2004 he discussed the Swiftboat attacks being made on John Kerry by the Bush/Cheney campaign and came up with the Bitch-Slap theory of electoral politics:

It goes something like this.

On one level, of course, the aim behind these attacks is to cast suspicion upon Kerry’s military service record and label him a liar. But that’s only part of what’s going on.

Consider for a moment what the big game is here. This is a battle between two candidates to demonstrate toughness on national security. Toughness is a unitary quality, really — a personal, characterological quality rather than one rooted in policy or divisible in any real way. So both sides are trying to prove to undecided voters either that they’re tougher than the other guy or at least tough enough for the job.

[...]

One way — perhaps the best way — to demonstrate someone’s lack of toughness or strength is to attack them and show they are either unwilling or unable to defend themselves — thus the rough slang I used above. And that I think is a big part of what is happening here. Someone who can’t or won’t defend themselves certainly isn’t someone you can depend upon to defend you.

Demonstrating Kerry’s unwillingness to defend himself (if Bush can do that) is a far more tangible sign of what he’s made of than wartime experiences of thirty years ago.

Hitting someone and not having them hit back hurts the morale of that person’s supporters, buoys the confidence of your own backers (particularly if many tend toward an authoritarian mindset) and tends to make the person who’s receiving the hits into an object of contempt (even if also possibly also one of sympathy) in the eyes of the uncommitted.

[...]

So hitting back hard was critical on many levels.

Did you really think that all the unhinged attacks on  Sarah Palin were just misogyny gone wild?  Think again.

Until we manage to change it we live in a sexist, patriarchal culture.  Our culture devalues “feminine” attributes and equates “female” with “weak.”  That was the purpose behind calling John Edwards the “Breck Girl” and MoDo’s “practically lactating” comment about Al Gore – to “feminize” the candidates.

One of the problems that Hillary Clinton faced was establishing her toughness.  She had to vote with the hawks on military issues and with conservatives on “law and order” issues or run the risk of being portrayed as weak.  She built up a solid record in the Senate and more than held her own in debates yet nonetheless she was attacked for allegedly crying up in New Hampshire.

But Sarah Palin came to the table with two advantages that Hillary didn’t have.  First of all Sarah is a Republican, and GOP candidates enjoy the presumption that they are tough on crime and military issues.  But she also grew up hunting, fishing and engaging in other “manly” activities.  Sarah can easily out-macho the chickenhawks and drugstore cowboys – how many men in this country have actually killed and eaten a moose?

Continue reading

Thursday: The problem is still the media

Beware innocent looking paperboys

Beware innocent looking paperboys

We don’t know what they’re up to but they got the candidate THEY wanted, not the candidate WE wanted. They did it in 2000 and 2004 and they only way we will ever have a choice going forward is if we neutralize their toxic messages.   The progressive blogosphere was supposed to be the cure to that but they failed utterly, eventually being subsumed by the media itself.  Had Clinton won the primary, the media would have suffered a devastating blow and I think the political power brokers knew that.  So, I think we can assume that they maintained the current system so that they could use it in the future.

Who do we trust?  First hand accounts are always valuable.  There are also indicators that can’t be spun by the networks.  The Dow, for instance, reacts to economic data, not media commands.  We could also keep an eye on the foreign press, which if not necessarily more reliable will certainly present a different point of view.  InsightAnalytical has a page of foreign press resources.

It would be nice to think that now that the media got what it wanted that it will do its job and report on the presidency of Barack Obama with a more critical eye.  Anyone who is thinking that should pass the bong because I don’t think that’s going to happen.  The people who elevated Obama are going to want something in return and if what Biden reported a few weeks ago is true, it’s a good bet that the rest of us peons are going to hate it with such intensity that we’ll be sharpening the pitchforks and lighting the torches by this time next year.

Keep alert.  Keep skeptical.  Find a buddy, hold hands, look both ways before you cross the street.  We’ll still be here.  We’ve got lots of friends and we’re going to work together to fix the misogyny in the media, broken election systems, the scarcity of women in political office and the millions of broken hearts in the GLBT community who were let down by the same people who put their favorite in the White House.  The country needs to be inclusive of all of its citizens.

The media needs to be reminded of that.

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