Set your TiVos to “torture”!

The panel I was on a few weeks ago discussing the torture scandal is going to be broadcast on C-SPAN 2’s “Book TV” this weekend. It airs at 9 PM eastern on Saturday, and repeats at 9:15 AM eastern on Sunday (because who really wants to watch those silly Sunday morning talk shows, anyway?).

Slush, or Mud?

For those of you in new York this weekend who aren’t tromping around through the melting slush in Central Park for a final glipse of those slightly campy orange gate thingies, you should check out a new production of Mud by Maria Irene Fornes. It’s put together by Zoo Theatre, an up-and-coming theater company put together by a couple of friends who attended the same left-coast school I did. I went to the opening last night, and it was great. This is their second production, and I’m sensing that they have a weakness for plots that involve firearms. But then, judging from what’s on television and movie screens these days, who doesn’t?

You can buy tickets here.

The day the blogosphere jumped the shark

I think that the blogosphere has officially jumped the shark.

I’m just grossed out by how frenzied everyone is over the “Jeff Gannon” and Eason Jordan brouhahas. In Gannon’s case, that’s taken the form of (as a colleague put it) metaphorically parading the head of vanquished rival around the village. And Jordan’s case is almost worse; the guy apparently said something pretty dumb, and then quickly walked it back. Heck, we still don’t know exactly what he said (and given that Jordan is pleading “context,” that strikes me as pretty critical). When the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, which is about as bloodthirsty as they come, thinks you don’t deserve to get canned, you probably don’t deserve it.

Apparently, what the blogsophere does best (and is proudest of) these days is taking scalps—Trent Lott, Dan Rather, the reporter formerly known as Jeff Gannon, and now Eason Jordan. And that, to my mind, isn’t productive or useful. It’s just vengeful.

Blogs are, increasingly, no better than the worst partisan pundits. I’m all for holding journalists accountable. But instead of a collective conversation elevating the discourse about journalism, blogs have become a vehicle for taking cheap shots and conducting personal attacks, justified by thiny disguised partisanship. It’s no better than the media bias folks, who are little more than glorified bullies trying to intimidate reporters into cutting their guy a break.

In some ways, of course, blogs have always been this way—but on balance, I tended to think they were a force for good. No longer.

It won’t be torture, I promise

I’ll be on a panel tomorrow (Wednesday) night to promote the new book The Torture Papers, a compilation of memos and reports related to the detention and interrogation of prisoners in the war on terrorism (broadly defined, just like the White House likes it).

It’s at 7:00 PM at the Barnes and Noble store at Union Square here in New York. And (hint, hint) I’ll be happy to sign copies of All the President’s Spin afterwards.

The State of the Union is free - free, I tell you, free!

According to the transcript of the (ongoing) State of the Union address, Bush has said/will say “free” or “freedom” 27 times (and that’s actually down from his inaugural address). (Addendum: There’s a fun State of the Union parsing tool at

Quick spin highlights/lowlights:

Bush says he’ll “cut the deficit in half”: That’s based on a year-old projection of what it would be, not what the deficit currently is (which is far lower than the projection). And that “half” claim doesn’t include the cost of the Social Security accounts Bush is pushing so hard (among other things).

Social Security: The system isn’t going to be “bankrupt” as Bush just suggested. In 2042 or 2052, depending on whose projections you like, the system will only be able to pay 73 percent of the benefits promised under current law. That’s a problem, but it’s hardly “bankrupt.” (And for more on the language Bush used to describe the accounts, check out this article on CJR Daily).

Finally, I find it somehow fitting that cable company Adelphia, on the eve of the SOTU, announced that it will begin selling triple-X porn on pay-per-view in Los Angeles (and credit to the LA Times for delineating, in detail, the differences between single-, double- and triple-X porn).

Blue states, indeed.

The soft bigotry of (extremely) low expectations

In perhaps the most skillful game of expectations management ever played, New York City Transit has managed to restore service on a damaged subway line five years faster than it had originally estimated. (A fire destroyed some 1930s-era switching equipment last week, and the transit authority said it would take three to five years to repair it.) It’s service like this that will have New Yorkers paying $5 subway fares and loving it!

Political segue: If you think about it, this is how John Kerry got to be the Democratic presidential candidate. No one expected him to do well in New Hampshire and Iowa, so when he won, it became “one of the great political stories of this decade,” as Judy Woodruff put it. Or, as a friend likes to say, “Underpromise, overdeliver.”

Perhaps Lawrence Reuter (head of the transit department) should be the new DNC chair—after all, Howard Dean was a miserable failure at managing expectations.

Page 1 of 1 pages

<< main page