Monkey Media Report Archive

A North Carolina
news and arts Weblog
November 2003

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*****

12.11.03 - Well, well. Let's ponder what this says about the commitment of the mainstream press to U.S. democracy: The day after Dennis Kucinich called out Ted "I'm asking moronic questions but I'm not a moron, honest" Koppel during a nationally televised debate, ABC News pulled out its full-time reporter with the Kucinich campaign, and covered its ass by pulling similar reporters from the Sharpton and Mosely-Braun campaigns. Quelle surprise. "The candidate of media reform" [be sure to scroll down to watch his scathing dissection of Koppel] is punished by being shut out of the mainstream media.

Are we clear on this stuff yet? If not, here it is in red and bold:

There is no way in hell a major news outlet like ABC (or CBS, CNN or any of them) will ever be able to give left-wing candidates a fair shake, because left-wing candidates always raise questions about whether corporate media's rush to the bottom is really the best use of public airwaves in a democracy. Those outlets have been happily sacrificing long-term democracy on the altar of quarterly profit right before our very eyes, and will continue to do so until their power to do so is stripped away. Ta da. End of story.

And don't give me any of that "paranoia" crap, please, until you see just what the pathetically bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates is planning to pull this time. The collusion between media outlets and politicians at the top of the two major parties couldn't be more obvious as they prepare to offer U.S. voters only the most carefully winnowed field. What more do you need? Brit Hume crashing Christmas dinner and urinating on your turkey while tossing Constitution confetti over your family and friends?

Trust me, he's on the way.

You want to know the scariest part about this mess? The scariest part is the thought that Ed "A-blogging we will save the world" Cone might actually be right, and that weblogs - fucking weblogs - just might be the best tool we have against the coordinated corporate campaign to limit voter choice to those candidates who don't upset the intolerable status quo. Now there's a horror show for you. If it's really true that a mess of bloggers isolated in their homes and connecting via the thinnest of electronic threads is the best weapon at our disposal against the Cheney/Daschle/ABC axis - if that really is true - well, then it is time, brethren and sistren, for us to start praying like you-know-whats. Because we will definitely be needing divine assistance.

Oh, and would you send that email and make that call already? [link]

*****

12.10.03 - While I sit here wondering why anyone would still care what Al Gore thinks about anything, I'll thank the coworker who pointed me to Bob Herbert's succinct historical analysis of exactly how fucked up the new Medicare bill is. It's also a fine time to note (via a multi-faceted post at The Sideshow) Buzzflash's most recent pointed blast at Tom Daschle. They - along with many other smart Democrats - are particularly upset at the Senate minority leader's complete cave-in on the Republican energy and Medicare bills. Daschle's refusal to support a filibuster on the latter, a true pharmaceutical industry boondoggle, was made all the more disgusting by his subsequent introduction of a new bill to fix what he calls the "egregious" flaws in the boondoggle he just let pass the Senate. Someone obviously thinks Tom's strategy is smart, but from here it looks perfectly designed to do absolutetly nothing while protecting Daschle's campaign donations so he can get reelected in the oh-so-representative state of South Dakota. Buzzflash nails it:

Tom Daschle acts like a "Trojan Horse" Democrat -- whatever his real intentions -- who is helping out Bush more than he is positioning his party to lead a rebirth of democracy, prosperity and national community in 2004.

Amen. But what's with the "real intentions" bit? Why the hell is Buzzflash bothering to suggest that the Senate's minority leader has "real intentions" that don't involve selling out the left-leaning ideals of the Democratic Party? Good lord, how much more evidence do they need that Daschle's main interest in politics is protecting his own ass? Oh, I'm sorry; there is one other interest that does seem more important to ol' Tom: protecting his wife Linda's income as a lobbyist for Baker Donelson, a company that boasts of being called "one of the top 10 most powerful firms in Washington." It's headed by ex-Reagan chief of staff Howard Baker, by the way.

Let's take a moment to refresh ourselves about the spouse of the person who's supposed to be the most powerful Democrat in the country. This Jan/Feb 2002 Washington Monthly story, "Tom Daschle's Hillary Problem, describes in detail Linda Daschle's pre-9/11 work to lower airport security standards as well as her post-9/11 work on the disgusting airline industry bailout. A year later, Doug Ireland summarized the Washington Monthly story in "The real reason Tom Daschle didn't run for President." Take a second to read how Linda and her hubby pushed a backroom deal "that forced the FAA to buy defective baggage scanners" from Linda's client L-3 International:

Under a provision Linda’s husband had slipped into the 2000 budget for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the FAA was required to buy one of L-3’s scanners for every one it purchased from the company’s competitors. The L-3 scanners were found to be substandard by DOT’s inspector general; FAA tests of the scanners showed high failure rates; and most have not yet been installed because of their defects (the one at the Dallas–Fort Worth airport — another of Linda’s clients — leaked radiation), which is a major reason DOT says it won’t be able to screen all luggage for explosives for years to come.

Nice, huh? There's no way those little tidbits wouldn't have come out during a Bush-Daschle matchup, and it's obvious that fear of exposure of his Washington game goes a long way towards explaining Daschle's withdrawal from the 2004 presidential race (a withdrawal, you'll recall, that "surprised even some of his closest aides"). It's certainly a more plausible explanation than Tom's stated desire to remain in the Senate to "shape the nation's priorities." As a minority leader who caves in at the drop of a hat. Yeah, whatever you say, Tom.

But back to Linda Daschle and L-3 International: L-3 happens to be the parent company of Military Professional Resources Inc., one of the largest of the military contractors currently making a killing by privatizing core functions of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Think about that for a second. If there's a single element that best encapsulates the obscenity of the Iraq war, it's the fact that shady companies - like Cheney's Halliburton, which routinely used Enron-style accounting practices - have used their close connections to government officials to profit from the decision to drop cluster bombs on Iraqi cities and place 19- and 20-year-old Americans on the front lines of a deadly, impossible occupation. What does the lead Democrat in the Senate plan to do about that? Oops. He's freaking married to someone who lobbies heavily for one of those very companies. Hello? What the hell is this guy doing anywhere close to a leadership position in the Democratic Party?

The failure of the mainstream press to examine the role that Linda Daschle's lobbying may have played in her husband's decision not to run for president is just crappy journalism as usual, but what's Buzzflash's excuse? None of the site's anti-Daschle editorials even mentions the fact that the man who's supposed to be leading the Democratic charge against Cheney & Co. is married to a high-powered lobbyist for one of the very military contractors benefitting most from the occupation of Iraq. Hell, Buzzflash actually bends over backwards to hint that Tom Daschle is hiding good intentions somewhere. Gosh. Maybe the good intentions are hidden up his ass, Buzzflash. While your head's there, would you mind looking around for them?

Yeesh. And you wonder why I stopped blogging this crap. Daschle's "real intentions" couldn't be more clear if he phoned them into Limbaugh: his wife's lobbying income is more important than his commitment to the principles of the majority of voters in his political party (feel free to take that as a sign of the feminist movement's effectiveness if you like). How could anyone be more of a Trojan horse to left-leaning notions of peace and justice than Tom Daschle? And it's not just Tom Daschle's wife who's a lobbyist: Check this op-ed that appeared last July in USA Today about the corrosive influence of Congressional nepotism:

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that at least 28 members of Congress have close relatives working as Washington lobbyists, some without experience. GOP Sen. Trent Lott's son, Chet, managed pizza restaurants and played polo before becoming a telecommunications lobbyist. The family of Senate minority leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., includes his wife, Linda, an aviation lobbyist; his daughter-in-law, Jill, a lobbyist for companies such as Aetna and Blue Cross; and his son, Nathan, a former labor union lobbyist.

Daschle's wife, daughter-in-law and son have all been lobbyists? Holy shit, we are in serious trouble. Bottom line is that the centrist, Beltway-business-as-usual Dem strategy lost the Senate in 2002 - Joe Conason and Arianna Huffington both nailed that one at the time - and is almost certain to lose the Presidency in 2004. How many times are Democrats going to fall for this garbage? Daschle, Terry McAuliffe and the rest of the Republican-leaning, money-grubbing DLC crew should be run out of town on a rail for using such a clearly losing strategy when the stakes are so high. Instead, they're maintaining their chokehold on the Dem party machinery. There are only two words to describe the situation:

Goodbye, Presidency. [link]

*****

12.8.03 - Yeah, it's been a tough couple of weeks, and yeah, I'm still working out a Web-writing schedule that feels comfortable. Meanwhile, here's a little investigatory arts piece I wrote for the local alternative rag last week. I tried giving voice to some talented graffiti artists whose work had been blatantly ripped off by a mainstream Raleigh painter who knows next to nothing about graffiti. It was bad enough that the painter had managed to convince a gallery to draw extra attention to this kind of work, but when I saw that the alt rag's obviously graffiti-impaired art critic had inexplicably raved about the show, I was disgusted enough to get off my ass and do some journalism again. Thanks to the Indy for having the guts/brains to pay me for it.

Funny that it was graffiti that got me going, eh? Don't worry, political fans, once I find a few good sites about traitors to spice it up, I'll have a post about the horrid Tom Daschle for you. For now, I'm still staving off the predictably depressing U.S. political news with art and music. And history. Lots of history.

So, art lovers, do yourself a favor and find a way to watch the first three hours of HBO's "Angels In America" this week. I read and enjoyed Tony Kushner's play a decade or so ago, but this version (which coyly drops the - ahem - obviously queer subtitle "A Gay Fantasia on National Themes") also happens to be the best damn piece of filmmaking I've seen in ages. It's brilliantly directed throughout, a point that seems to have been misplaced in this New Yorker review, which focuses far too much on the alterations made to the stage version and far too little on the joys to be found in the film itself. (As if it's news to anyone that theater and film deal with questions of narrative in different ways - yeesh.)

Anyway, aside from being gorgeously shot and edited, the film is a marvelous vehicle for a host of great actors, including Al Pacino, who rips into the juicy role of 1980s-era Roy Cohn without turning the volume up to 11 as much as usual. And the film's fantastic elements - particularly Mary-Louise Parker's hilarious/heartbreaking descent into Antarctic hallucination and Ethel Rosenberg's return from the dead to dial 911 for Roy Cohn - work beautifully to keep jittery, genre-fiction-loving brains like mine captivated. Plus, you get Meryl Streep as a Mormon mom from Utah and an aged Jewish rebbe from the Old Country. Mike Nichols, I love you.

[Oodles of thanks to Wayne - and, obliquely, Natalie - for smacking me out of my "don't believe the hype" stupor on this one.] [link]

*****

11.24.03 - So John Edwards' wife Elizabeth sent me a thoughtful and challenging email a few weeks ago after watching an episode of my Raleigh cable access show - one in which I sharply criticized her husband's opportunistic stance on the Iraq war and questioned his ability to win the Democratic nomination. She took polite issue with some of my TV statements as well as points made in this post. If you political junkies can get over the fact that it's almost a month old - positively ancient in blog years - you might find our exchange interesting. And yes, Elizabeth gave permission for me to reprint her email here. I may be sharp and aggressively opinionated, but I know how to show basic online respect, thank you.

-----
From: Elizabeth Edwards
Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2003 9:05 PM
To: todd@monkeytime.org
Subject: From Elizabeth Edwards

Todd –

As a Raleigh resident who actually watched Monkeytime, I feel I have the room to comment on your blog, which, unless I missed it, does not invite comment. So where to start?

Let me start at the end of the story (well, not the end because we are not there yet, but start with the present.) John is leading the polls in South Carolina. In the most recent poll in New Hampshire, he is continuing his rise and is now alone in third place behind the candidates from contiguous states. New Hampshire will be a two-primary-state: the contest between Kerry and Dean and the contest among the remaining candidates. And have you been to Iowa? The people are a lot like the people of North Carolina, and John wins supporters whenever he is there. Now he hasn’t been there as often as some candidates, so he has only moved up to fourth (third in one poll only, so I will stick with fourth here), but within a couple of points of a candidate whose support has seen erosion. If trends continue, John will rise in Iowa too. Unless you believe that the race is over after Iowa and New Hampshire, you have to concede that two or more candidates will come out of that first seven days. It is not only plausible but reasonable to assume that John will be one of those candidates.

Now he has set a bar for himself that absolutely no other candidate has done in his neighboring state: he has said he has to win South Carolina. At the same time, he is also campaigning and organizing across other February 3rd states. He has attracted key supporters in these states, and although the press is keyed on South Carolina, John is in every contest. It’s pretty easy to understand how John builds on his rise in the first states and his victory in South Carolina.

I think that the best way to analyze this race is analyze each candidate’s “path to the nomination.” I am not certain that you can get a final answer that way, but you can narrow it down considerably from nine candidates. And when you do that analysis, I think you will find John in the mix at the end of the story.

Now to the television ads and your comment, which prompted this email. Now you may object that in the two ads of John that you featured, John is stating lines in a televised ad and that there is a tinkling piano in the background. That is certainly true. But you don’t mention two things. You don’t mention that some of John’s ads on that same website you visited are shot during a spontaneous town hall. Not a town hall where the participants were given questions. (One of them took place at Big Ed’s; you can ask there whether any questions or answers were choreographed. In fact I was frustrated that one particularly fabulous interaction took place when the cameraman was changing batteries. No attempt was made to recreate the moment.) And second, you appear to lump John’s ads into the criticism of Dean’s ad as “absurdly vague.” In one of John’s ads, he has specific proposals to eliminate tax advantages for corporations that move jobs overseas and to use the tax code instead to encourage businesses to stay in this country. In the other ad, he talks about his college-for-everyone program, a novel program to cover state college tuitions to students willing to work the first year. (It won’t be “novel” long; Dean mentioned that he was introducing the exact same proposal in the next week or so.)

So. Was there anything else? Oh, I know. I cannot apparently post on your blog, but you are welcome to post on John’s. http://blog.johnedwards2004.com/ We look forward to hearing from you.

Elizabeth Edwards
-----

From: Todd Morman
Sent: Friday, October 31, 2003 11:21 AM
To: Elizabeth Edwards
Subject: RE: From Elizabeth Edwards

[Do I have permission to reprint your letter at the site? It's not clear and I like to be careful about that sort of thing.]

Thanks for writing, Elizabeth. It's nice to know that you watched the show; I hope some of the thoughts about the idiocy of the center-right corporate takeover of the Democratic Party filter over to your husband as well. And the part at the end about the Pentagon report of poor post-war planning is, I think, a key point of attack on Cheney's administration.

Re the campaign: I assume you prefer honesty to spin, so I'll be honest in my reply: John's vote on the Iraq invasion was a truly unconscionable move - one clearly driven by presidential ambition and the DLC's ridiculously misguided 2002 election strategy rather than any sober analysis of the threat posed by Saddam. I find it half hilarious and half insulting that a smart lawyer like John is still defending his decision to preemptively invade another country, particularly now that the country [the USA, I meant] knows exactly how the Cheney/Rumsfeld axis cooked the intelligence to justify dropping cluster bombs on the Iraqi people. John's "I have secret knowledge about Saddam's threat from the Senate Intelligence Committee" defense has become nothing but an example of just how far the DLC will go to pander to right-wing voters. None of the nominees thrills me, but it's obvious we'd be better off with Howard Dean running a less aggressively stupid foreign policy and your husband as something like Attorney General.

John's remaining possible "paths to the nomination" are obvious enough, particularly now that the other 2nd-tier candidates have dropped out of Iowa and Kerry is looking more and more superfluous. Lieberman has been obviously sputtering for months, and Clark has no reason to be in the race other than the fact that the DLC thinks the public will only vote for a Democrat if he's a military daddy figure. But even though John has nowhere to go but up in the first two primaries, his massive media spending has produced limited gains at best. The strategy still seems paper-thin to me (similar Jim Andrews campaigns have failed repeatedly in the past [see this post for details]), and I stand by my opinion that John doesn't come across well in the ads he's relying on to carry the day. I'll leave the fundraising discussion for another time.

Re comments: I've always used a very simple HTML setup for my blog, and have never bothered with comment packages. If I get around to switching to Moveable Type, rest assured I'll turn comments on. For now, it's simply an occasional outlet for my own thoughts. (And, to be honest, I've grown a little burned out by the whole daily blogging thing; this morning is the first time I checked the computer since Wednesday afternoon.)

Thanks again for writing and for watching the TV show, and good luck to you and yours. You can count on my vote in November 2004 in the unlikely event John wins the nomination, but not before. His political career has been too much of a disappointment for a left-leaner like me to get excited about now. I do enjoy his recent rhetoric about the war on work, though. Perhaps he'd make a good Labor Secretary.

Best regards,
Todd

P.S. We sure could have used John in that Senate seat for another term or two.
-----

A cordial enough exchange, no? Particularly given the gulf that separates the Edwards' politics from mine. The conversation was the subject of much of the following week's show, of course, with viewers calling in to add their two cents. It was surprisingly immediate local television, I've been told.

Oh, for a country where lefties don't wait for the Democratic Party to create a TV network for them.

Update: I meant to note that Elizabeth Edwards has been making interesting posts at her husband's blog for months now, and has also been offering regular comments at Greensboro journalist Ed Cone's blog. Is this sort of online presence radically different from the role candidates' wives played in pre-Internet elections? I'm not sure about that. But an obvious willingness to engage in discussion is always a good sign in a presidential campaign. [link]

*****

11.24.03 - Oh, good; the Web's still here.

Let's see...how do you cook spaghetti squash in the microwave again?

Ah. Delicious.

Apologies to my sistren and brethren of the First Church of Wintermute for not doing my part lately, but a monkey needs an occasional break from daily massive injections of information. For what it's worth, I like life as a non-blogger just fine, and remain unconvinced that most bloggers (myself included) have any clue how to drive this neat new invention in a direction that effects change as real as, say, volunteering to teach poor kids to use computers. I also remain convinced that for all the blather about blogging, insuring that local municipalities demand public access television channels from cable conglomerates and then seeding those channels with smart shows would be infinitely more helpful than 99 percent of whatever comes out of blogs this year. But what the hell, I'll keep flinging my bottles into the void. I'm sure I've missed a lot, and nothing much at all, in the month I've been gone.

Three things got me back to the keyboard this morning: 1) the ongoing parade of hilariously tepid and ignorant editorials from the local daily, 2) a series of embarrassing goofs from the local "alternative" weekly - including a distorted campaign by one of its columnists for a Raleigh city council candidate and an absurd gush from its art critic over a gallery show that was nothing but a blatant theft of ideas from local street graffiti, and 3) Zez Confrey. More to come. [link]

*****

10.28.03 - Well, now, here's a smart move. Particularly given the absurdly vague and tepid loser commercials we're seeing from the mainstream ad folks now advising the Democratic field. And it's not just Dean, whose people really should be sending their candidate to basic "How To Appear Human On Television" classes. A similar problem can be seen in this John Edwards classic, or this one, both of which feature an obviously over-rehearsed candidate and gently tinkling piano. How quaint.

Does anyone think that soft-focus silliness like that will be able to dislodge someone like Dick "I'd sell my mother for a dollar" Cheney? I know these are primary ads, but is there any reason to believe that centrist Dems will risk running more pointed ads during the campaign itself? Nah. That's when they'll be sure to blather mightily about a phantom need to tone down their message and "aim for the middle." And that's when they'll lose yet another gimmie election. So I applaud MoveOn.org's attempt to get some non-DLC-approved thinking going on the ad front, and hope the Dem leadership takes its head out of its ass long enough to learn something from the rank and file. (They won't, of course, but we can always hope.)

A quick word of caution about MoveOn.org, however, for those of you who rush to join movements controlled by people whose politics you don't really know. It should be clear from MoveOn's awful performance during the Davis recall that the group probably won't run any ads during the 2004 campaign that aren't pre-approved by the stupidly centrist Clinton/DLC crowd. Let's return to the blog-ancient days of early October, and read the LA Weekly's smart, bitchy Marc Cooper discussing MoveOn's willingness to shill for a corrupt right-wing Dem like Davis:

Woe to the next person who forwards me an e-mail from some East Coast Democrat front group like MoveOn.org breathlessly warning us Californians of the hell we face with Arnold in power. MoveOn, showing its true partisan colors, is distributing posters that read — can you believe it? — “I love Gray Davis.” Having just paid a $508 car-registration fee this week after paying my kid’s hiked tuition last month at a school that just had to cut two-thirds of its class schedule, and remembering how the governor blithely played dialing-for-dollars as the energy crisis mounted and the lights went out, I’m hardly in the mood for pro-Davis lectures from simpering liberals...

[P]eople really at the bottom...are just as shut out from the system under Davis as they will be under Arnold. The tens of thousands who languish in the state’s bloated prison gulag will not miss Gray. Welfare mothers forced into demeaning workfare while their kids get prepped for that same system will suffer little change. Women’s choice and gay rights will remain the same under Arnold.

Stay with me for another jittery second and watch Cooper nail MoveOn.org in his immediate post-recall column:

Face it. Just about everything liberal activists said about the recall, just about every Cassandra-like prediction spooned out by the party hacks at MoveOn.org, failed to materialize. Far from being a Republican "power grab," the recall election culminated as a raucous festival of direct democracy. Turnout was much greater than in November. The voting system didn’t collapse...

Refusing to validate or even recognize the raw voter resentment against the political cesspool of Sacramento, liberals wound up pinned up against the wall, on the losing side of an historic voter revolt. As the insurgency swelled, the best that liberal activists could do was plug their ears, cover their eyes and rather mindlessly repeat that this all was some sinister plot linked to Florida, Texas, Bush, the Carlyle Group, Enron, and Skull and Bones. By bunkering down with the discredited and justly scorned Gray Davis, they wound up defending an indefensible status quo against a surging wave of popular disgust.

...Fortunately, much of the Democratic base is so much smarter than its leadership. Exit polling reveals much of it just plain refused to buy this crap and outright refused to lift a finger, or punch a chad, to save Davis.

Here's the kicker:

But for the moment, let the Democratic Party and its "progressive" satellites deeply, richly and slowly feel the painful consequences of allying with and defending — to death itself — the likes of Gray Davis. The harder the Democrats now have to work to hold on to constituencies they’d rather take for granted, so much the better. One day they may actually get it.

Get the point? When push came to shove in the California recall, the rhetoric coming from MoveOn became embarrassingly partisan and completely out-of-touch with the majority of clearly furious reformist voters. What a lost opportunity to begin building a new kind of cross-spectrum coalition capable of taking both of the major parties down a notch or two.

Again: It's clear that liberals like the ones behind MoveOn.org aren't going to be running any ads in 2004 that haven't been approved by central Democrat HQ. It's also clear, given central Democrat HQ's horrible recent track record, that we'll be in dire need of some truly independent - not to mention wealthy - lefties to produce and air our own "special interest" advocacy ads. DLC be damned. [link]

*****

You can't stop now.

November 2003

October 2003

September 2003

Second half of August 2003

First half of August 2003

July 2003

Second half of June 2003

First half of June 2003

May 2003

April 2003

March 2003

2nd half of February 2003

January and first half of February 2003

December 2002

November 2002

October 2002

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