Five Ways of Looking at the Egyptian Revolution, and All of Them Wrong

Honestly, I don’t know what’s going on with American elites in politics and the media as they struggle to talk about the Egyptian uprising. If I hear “Muslim Brotherhood” or “threat of terrorism” one more time, I’m stepping out into the yard to scream with the blackbirds.

Here are a few of the widespread misperceptions here. (more…)

The Fraudulent Piety of The Huffington Post

Arabs taking to the streets from Tunis to Cairo and Alexandria and on to Beirut, Dems and Reps and pundits revving up for the State of the Union–it’s a full news day.  So I can hardly believe I’m tearing away from my Egyptian Twitter feed to write about The Huffington Post, but some comments from HuffPost’s business editor Peter Goodman have whipped me into a froth of incredulity.  Goodman’s comments appear in a piece by Joe Pompeo on “The Cutline,” Yahoo’s media news column, entitled “HuffPo ‘fires’ unpaid blogger for participating in labor demonstration.”  The title, as is often the case with internet stories, is misleading.  Blogger Mike Elk lost his blogging privileges at HuffPo not because he participated in the demonstration but because he gave his press pass to a labor organizer so that the latter could get into a mortgage bankers event to stage a protest.

HuffPo’s Goodman tells Pompeo, “‘We are simply not OK with anyone accrediting themselves as a Huffington Post reporter without prior clearance from an editor.'” (more…)


If you want to read an intriguing article about the Obama Administration, take a gander at Peter Baker’s piece in the Sunday New York Times magazine:  “Inside Obama’s Struggle to Bring Down Unemployment.”  You want details on the internecine warfare among the economic team? The timeline for the administration’s misjudgment of the intractability of jobs numbers?  I give you the inestimable Peter Baker.

Like Spanish moss to oak, in typical blogger fashion I’m going to epiphyte a few comments on Baker’s work.  As I see it, Obama’s struggle with jobs raises only two important questions.  How does his failure over the last two years to convince the American people that he is jobs-centric educate us (and him)?  What do we (and he) need to do going forward? (more…)

The Hard Truth about Guns in America

An important news story broke big a week ago, and by early last Monday every major media outlet had it.  This is reportage on a development that will have consequences for American policy and well-being over the next decades.  No, I am not talking about the shootings in Tucson, Arizona.  I am referring to the news that China has rolled out a stealth fighter jet that is technologically more advanced than anything in the American arsenal.  The dominance of American air power has been a given for half a century; now that reign is crumbling.  We can not even begin to imagine the consequences.  But one thing is sure.  Just as the former Soviet Union did not have the economic underpinnings to compete with us militarily at the end of the last century, so we are not going to have the money to do the same with China in this one.  I keep thinking back to all those times during the 2008 race for the Democratic presidential nomination when Hillary Clinton alluded, darkly, to the ways in which China has begun to challenge us and our allies in the South China Sea.

Now this is a story to which aficionados of military history, and I count myself as one, are drawn. And, of course, the end game here is violence and death.  What is military hardware for, but to kill?  And yet there is a grandness to this saga.  Why?  Because killing, or the possibilities for killing, in the service of a nation or cause (democracy & human rights, or that “more perfect union”) are part of a larger story–an apotheosis, if you will, of the very nature of that nation or cause. (more…)

Media Stumbles over the Shooting in Tucson

Why did our press stumble badly over telling the story of  a Saturday morning shooting spree in a Tucson, Arizona shopping center?  This is the question I keep asking, particularly in light of my last week’s rumination on the need for American media to find a new geography of trust with readers.  The extent of the carnage–several days out it is six dead and fourteen wounded, including Arizona Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords–invited chaos.  Of course.  But American media has reported on such events often before–after all, ours is a gun-empowered, sometimes violent society– and done a better job.  What went wrong this time?

Here are a few of the things I’ve noticed.  Because there has now been much coverage of the shooting, and because I have gulped down a lot of those reports and opinion pieces by now, I’m going to use my own email inbox starting 10:21 AM PST Saturday through the next 6 hours for illustration. Keep in mind that I live in California, and my email dates accordingly.  Tucson, at Mountain Time, is an hour earlier.  Therefore, 10:21 AM in Oakland was 11:21 in Tucson, an hour and 10 minutes after the shooting began. (more…)

The Geography of Trust: American Media for a New Century

For the first time in many years, I watched White Christmas this December. I recalled, correctly, that it’s not very good. What I did not remember, however, is that the old musical is much a war movie. The narrative is driven by the specifically American (as opposed to European or Russian or Chinese) experience of World War Two:  the disjunction between “over there” and “back here.”

The opening scene is a minor masterpiece. In the ruins of Monte Casino, a few American soldiers are staging some holiday entertainment for the rest of their squadron.    The contrast between the demeanors of the Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye hoofers, balanced between composure and spiritedness, and their audience, brethren-in-arms, shell-shocked, dramatizes, however glancingly, the healing power of art. The gorgeous coloring of the Technicolor Vista-Vision cinematography, introduced with this 1954 film, captures the surreal experience of respite in the midst of devastation. The camera moves in on Crosby and Kaye at the close of a Cossack-like dance number. Then a soldier crouched stage right begins to turn the crank on a large, fine (and therefore suggestively German) music box as accompaniment to Crosby, singing “White Christmas.”  The young men, listening, embrace their rifles and machine guns, hanging on as if for dear life. (more…)

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