Archive for June, 2008
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More on Tim Russert, the late media hack who was described as a hard-hitting man of integrity by his TV brethren (and even some of my liberal friends) but who helped the Bush administration sell the Iraq war, can be found in a series of Daily Howler columns. Here is an excerpt. The non-italicized text is Howler editor Bob Somerby:
While everyone yodeled the flattering claims [in the days immediately following Russert's death], a few people poked at the truth.
One such person was poor hapless [Chris] Matthews, uncontrollably stating his view to Keith Olbermann last Friday night. It was perhaps the wrong time for such ruminations. But mere hours after Russert’s death, Matthews told Olbermann what he’d been thinking about his colleague and friend. We think his comments take us close to the actual truth about Russert’s real work. What Matthews says here is very important—and it’s profoundly unflattering to Russert. You still can’t find it on Nexis:
MATTHEWS (6/13/08): One other thing, and it may be tricky to say this and I’ll say it. When we went to war with Iraq, he and I had a little discussion about that and this is where he is every man. This is where Tim is Mr. or Miss America or Mrs. America. He is us as a country. I said, Why—how can you believe this war is justified? And he said, “The nuclear thing. If they have a bomb that they can use, we’ve got to deal with. We can’t walk away from that.”
And that to me was the essence of what was wrong with the whole case of the war. They knew the argument that would sell with Mr. America, with the regular guy, with the true American patriot. They used the argument that would sell, that would get us into that war. Tim was right on the nail. He was us, the American people. And that to me is something that has been coming in my head the last couple of hours when Tim and I had that conversation, that that was the thing that sold America. And the guys who wanted the war used that one thing that would sell the patriot in Tim Russert. [...]
It’s for the good of us all and Tim never forgot the purpose of truth in getting at it was the good of us all. We needed the truth. And boy, did I look up to him.
“We needed the truth,” Matthews said, back-pedaling furiously in praise of Russert. Moments earlier, he’d said that Russert had been a dupe—a stooge; a mark—for those who toyed with the truth in the run-up to war in Iraq. [...]
Somerby also quotes a Bill Moyers interview where Russert says he wishes someone had called him with information suggesting the nuclear claims were bogus. In response to this embarrassing admission of journalistic incompetence, Moyers noted that CBS’s Bob Simon had "just picked up the phone" and was able to air a report questioning the claims.
Being a "get along, go along" guy pays handsomely. Here's a Hartford Courant editorial about Russert during the Scooter Libby trial:
.... In his own trial testimony, Russert explained his own unique approach to the concept of "off the record" conversations with public officials. Russert said public officials do not have to ask to go off the record with him. They are always presumptively off the record. Then, if he wants to get them on the record, he revisits the point and asks them to go public.
This is a wonderful, generous strategy, and the only problem with it is that it represents a complete inversion of the standard operating practices of journalism. Every reporter who works at this newspaper, and pretty much every reporter professionally employed at any other reputable organ of the press has been instructed to do the opposite: assume that every utterance is on the record unless the utterer has explicitly gone off the record before uttering. ....
But Russert's policy is one of his own invention, and it's the kind of policy you'd have if you prized your cozy relationship with powerful people more highly than you prized your role as a reporter.
I mention all this because, here and there, you read comments about the prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and how much he damaged the First Amendment by sweating a bunch of journalists. Please. It's more like he lanced some kind of infectious boil.
And I mention it because now you don't have to watch "Meet the Press."
I'm sure that if Russert apologizes for pretending to fight a subpoena without telling us he had already sung like a canary or if he renounces his cozy relationships with the powerful, someone will tell you. Not me. ....
[Letter to Andrew Leonard published in Salon (prob. subscription-only) about his use of ANWR instead of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge]
Just a quibble, ANWR is a convenient abbreviation for a journalist but it's also a term that right-wing consultant Frank Luntz used with numbing, Goebbels-like repetitiveness in his infamous strategy report for Republicans (the one where he recommended using "death tax" for estate tax and "energy exploration" for oil drilling). He claims (crows) that "an incredible 87% of Americans" don't know what the initials stand for. Whether or not that's true, "drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge" sounds worse than "drilling for oil in ANWR." Using the full term reminds us of the undespoiled environment that powerful interests want to ruin (oil spills without punishment, anyone?) so that Americans can spend a few more hours in their cars.
(And while I'm not part of Luntz's 87%, I see ANWR so much I had forgotten that the A stood for Arctic and not Alaska.)
All mainstream media stories have the news about the first Martian soil tests. Guess how they spin it. (Answer follows this excerpt from an LA Times article.)
A sample of soil about the size of a sugar cube was delivered to the lab by the lander's nearly 8-foot-long robotic arm and mixed with water brought from Earth.
Analysis showed that the soil is alkaline, with a pH between 8 and 9, Kounaves said. This was a surprise to the many scientists who had argued that Martian soil was probably too acidic to support life.
With that level of alkalinity, "you might be able to grow asparagus very well," Kounaves said. Strawberries, on the other hand, require more acidic soil.
The test also turned up magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride, all of which are useful in organic processes.
The test did not turn up the prize that the $420-million mission was sent to find: complex organics indicating that the cold, dry planet once was, or still might be, habitable.
Organic compounds, made up of carbon in combination with nitrogen, hydrogen and other elements, are necessary to build the elaborate chemical scaffolding of life, at least as we know it on Earth.
Furthermore, even though the soil chemistry would provide some nutrients for life, any future crops would have to be grown underground, because the meager atmosphere lets in too much of the sun's destructive ultraviolet rays.
If the story were told in true inverted pyramid format (most important info first) the headline and lead would be:
No Life on Mars
NASA's $420-million mission has not found the complex organics indicating that Mars once was, or still might be, habitable.
Instead, the headline and subhead are:
Mars soil capable of sustaining plant life
Surprisingly alkaline, it could support green beans and asparagus, say Phoenix mission scientists, who are 'flabbergasted' by the findings.
We all know Mars is a dead world, but newspaper articles always tease us with the possibility of "life" because most people will not want to pay $420 million for some boring old data about rocks and stuff.
Slightly connected links in search of a theory:
The Meanderthal, a new species of urban flâneur. No longer merely out for a stroll through the streets, the Meanderthal has become a threat to the efficiencies of urban life and to the flows of pedestrians, vehicles, and capital taken for granted in the urban everyday. Whether he/she is chatting on a cell phone, standing on the wrong side of an escalator, cycling on the sidewalk, or dangerously jaywalking, the Meanderthal obliviously causes that most frustrating of urban traffic jams: the pedlock
The following was originally posted as a comment to the somewhat fruitless Net Art 1.0 vs Net Art 2.0 discussion at Rhizome.org. The "old guard" Internet art crowd has been characterizing the art on the newer group blogs such as Nasty Nets as "ironically posting links to existing media on a group blog" and asking for more explanation of why this was art, or Internet art, while at the same time saying that NN was just a later version of stuff they'd been doing for years. You can't really take both positions. The following stabs at the issue by examining a specific post from Nasty Nets on April 1. It's been rewritten slightly.
Petra Cortright had this post by Javier Morales onscreen for a while during the recent Net Aesthetics 2.0 panel, and I think it's brilliant. Using very simple means (screenshots of Google search results and some html scrolling), it tackles sexual content in a very distanced, fetishistic way--the words "penis" and "vagina," in boldface, slowly move towards and away from each other in a configuration that is both a mirror and conflict. It is a snapshot of current culture: some earnest websites such as democraticunderground.com, cybersleuths, and cvcorner are captured only because they use the word penis or vagina and google finds them. There are accompanying thumbnail images that seem to have no connection to the words underneath them--did google do this or the artist? Plus snippets of text, moving just slowly enough to be read: "or is the penis a very large clit?" "the craze for designer vaginas" that somehow have to be accounted for in the overall clash of contexts. And it's nice to look at, with its suprematist squares collapsing into each other.
This was not submitted to Rhizome for institutional sanction as far as I know. It existed "out there" with 4Chan and all the other mashup sites. It's true that Rhizome gave approving coverage to Nasty Nets but there is no link on NN to Rhizome or any other signifier that it exists in an approved stream of processing "art" content.
Perhaps you hate this piece but I don't think you can reduce it to "ironically posting links to existing media with your friends on a group blog." Perhaps you like it but I don't think you can claim it is what Net Artists have always done since the means (blogs, Google caches exploding with content) didn't exist in the early days of the web.
I personally believe this is a new taxonomic class to be evaluated. The fact of it being on a blog, a blog that blends into the Internet "street," existing "outside" the world of grants for technological innovation, where the surrounding posts may very well be found material (but you have to figure it out), the fact of it using Google to generate a snapshot of the present moment, using search features (images, etc) that were not commonly available in 1999, while maintaining old school simplicity, means it is different, and I think better. More complicated, more real than XYZ tech art where algorithm Y converts raw material X into social solution Z. Morales can't be blamed if some Rhizome staffers think what he is doing is important enough to rate a new version.
But regardless of whether I'm right about it being different, you can't both claim it and repudiate it.
In response to this one of the commenters said, in effect, "yeah we already did that" but continues to characterize the piece as "ironically posting links to existing media on a group blog." I officially give up.