Blogs

The Death of MLK Jr.: RFK Said It Best

| Fri Apr. 4, 2008 11:38 AM EDT

It's been four decades since Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot and killed. On the occasion of this anniversary, there's much media coverage of his life and his death. In all the years that have passed since that tragic moment, a flood of commentary has flowed. Yet it remains hard to improve upon what Bobby Kennedy said on the night of that assassination in Indianapolis, where he was campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination. He spoke extemporaneously and had the hard task of informing the crowd of King's violent death. Here is the audio of Kennedy's remarks accompanied by a photo montage:

As many commentators have noted, there were riots in cities across America when people learned of the news of King's murder, but there was calm in Indianapolis that horrible night.

Two months later, RFK would be shot and killed. If you want to see actual footage of Kennedy speaking to the crowd in Indianapolis (with Italian subtitles superimposed), you'll find it after the jump:

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"A PhD in Strippernomics"

| Thu Apr. 3, 2008 10:03 PM EDT

The always thought-provoking Gary Kamiya, at Salon, posted a column this week asking whether America's puritanism might just be waning in the wake of Spitzer, Paterson, men's room foot-tapping, mother-daughter pole dancing, and the like. He writes:

America seems to be slowly but surely weaning itself from its addiction to shrill moral judgments. Only 10 years ago, former President Bill Clinton was almost removed from office because he fooled around with a White House intern. Ten years before that, Douglas Ginsburg lost his shot at the Supreme Court because he admitted he had smoked marijuana. But when New York Gov. David Paterson recently copped to having had extramarital affairs and doing cocaine, the public reaction was a collective yawn. Admittedly, Paterson chose the best possible time to make his public confession: after the Eliot Spitzer train wreck, he probably could have revealed that he had dabbled in necrophilia while high on smack and gotten away with it. But still, Paterson's get-out-of-jail-free card would have been inconceivable just a few years ago.

I've been trying to convince my journalism students of this very point, and that the media deserves the lion's share of the credit for America's maturation on morals issues. Exhaustively covering these issues (Religious Right, anyone?) allows America to look itself in the mirror and ask questions like: Is it really my business if Paterson and his wife took a 'vacation' from their marriage? No. Mr. "Morals" Spitzer's 'hoing? Yes. But I'm swimming upstream trying to sell them on the notion that the media is our only way of figuring out which conversations we no longer need to have.

Mapping Media Attention

| Thu Apr. 3, 2008 9:46 PM EDT

Here's a great series of cartograms—maps distorted to reveal a bias. In this case media attention by region. You can click on the buttons to see how newspapers warp their coverage of world news according to parochial interests. Nicolas Kayser-Bril first published this online on L'Observatoire des Médias, and later in expanded form in the Online Journalism Blog. Below is a newer cartogram, made in partnership with Gilles Bruno, of the coverage of the blogosphere. Their hope is to update these maps daily or weekly to pressure editors into covering more diverse issues.

blogosphere.gif

As for the cartographers' bias, where are the data for coverage of the world-ocean, accounting for more than 70% of Earth's surface? Where's Antarctica?

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

FAA Inspectors Overstretched, Inspections Overseas, Oversight Overlooked this Long?

| Thu Apr. 3, 2008 9:10 PM EDT

Recent revelations about the FAA and Southwest Airlines (you may be free to move about the country, but at your own risk), and further inspection shenanigans highlight what we already knew but were too focused on getting through security without contracting athletes' foot to notice: The FAA as a regulatory agency is about as reliable as the old man in the exit row.

And it's not just inspectors cozy with airline execs; the regulatory system was outsourced years ago, to the aviation industry, leading to a dangerous lack of oversight and conflicts of interest, in short, trouble waiting to happen.

(NTSB warning that inspections are "on a slippery slope" after the jump.)

The Right's Quest to Marginalize Obama Supporters

| Thu Apr. 3, 2008 2:52 PM EDT

This essay from conservative Michael Barone about how Obama supporters are "academics and public employees" while Clinton/McCain supporters are Jacksonians (aka red-blooded Americans) is popping up around the web. Aside from being an overly simplistic reading of America's culture wars, parts of it are downright loony ("Warriors are competitors for the honor that academics and public employees think rightfully belongs to them," writes Barone. "Jacksonians, in contrast, place a high value on the virtues of the warrior").

Jonathan Chait, who efficiently shreds Barone's argument, calls this what it is, "a conservative anti-intellectual slur." I think a better way to understand what Barone is getting at is something I linked to in my "dating map" blog post yesterday — Obama takes his support from young voters, African-Americans, and what Richard Florida calls "the creative class." The creative class is composed of "inventors, entrepreneurs, engineers, artists, musicians, designers and professionals in idea-driven industries." By Florida's calculations, the creative class makes up about 35 percent of the working population, while the "working class" as traditionally understood makes up just 23 percent. To prove his theory, Florida did some fancy polling with John Zogby that you can check out here. It's pretty persuasive, though we don't know their methodology.

The Grandma Behind Obama

| Thu Apr. 3, 2008 2:40 PM EDT

The Boston Globe has a lovely piece this week about Michelle Obama's mother—the Grandma who's making Obama's historic race possible.

A steely 70-year-old matriarch with a raspy voice and seen-it-all laugh, Robinson manages the family while Obama and his wife, Michelle, venture to the far reaches of the campaign trail. Amid the daily chaos of the marathon primary campaign, it often falls to Michelle's mother to keep the Obamas' two daughters—Malia, 9, and Sasha, 6—grounded, not to mention fed, bathed, and in bed by 8:30 p.m.

"The whole time I'm raising [son] Craig and Michelle, I am telling them that, 'Look, you see, I am raising my kids, so don't you all have any kids that you expect me to help you raise,' " Robinson said with a laugh last week, in her first extended interview of the campaign. "And look at what I'm doing!"

Grandma Robinson comes off as the delectable, quintessential matriarch, blithely criticizing her daughter in the media and chuckling about ignoring all her jack-booted instructions.

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More Questions for Petraeus

| Thu Apr. 3, 2008 11:43 AM EDT

Yesterday I posted tough questions that a dozen national security experts would like to pose to General David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, when he testifies before Congress next week. And two retired generals have additional queries to add to the list. Here they are:

Retired General William Odom, former National Security Agency director:

-- What historical example is there for rebuilding a collapsed state from the bottom up except by civil war in which a single leader wins?

-- Why is Iraq not on the road to Balkanization? Fragmentation?

-- What historical example is there of the U.S. military building an army for a government whose leaders have neither the power to rule nor the capacity to bring warring factions under their control?

-- Do you propose to string out the surge although the Army simply does not have forces to continue?

-- Why did the Iraqi forces you trained a few years ago fail to emerge as an effective fighting force that survives and serves as the core of the Iraqi army today? If you succeeded, then why do we have this problem with standing up an effective Iraqi Army?

John McCain's New Ad: War War War Glory Country War

| Thu Apr. 3, 2008 11:00 AM EDT

John McCain's new web video entitled "Sacrifice" is 2:45 of non-stop war-fetishizing. His campaign might as well have played a loop of an American flag waving with fighter jets screeching past. Or heck, even 2:45 of Gladiator starring Russell Crowe.

Here's a word count:

"War": 7 mentions
"Duty": 2
"Honor": 2
"Valor": 2
"Country"/"nation": 5
"Loyalty": 3
"Glory": 5
"God": 1 (just for good measure)

The grave voice-over in the ad says that soldiers' claim on a nation's success in war is "shorn of all romance, all nostalgia." Funny, considering the whole ad is romance and nostalgia for war.

John McCain and "war" is the new Rudy Giuliani and "9/11."

Update: Video of the ad is after the jump.

Report: Jack Bauer "Gave People Lots of Ideas" at Gitmo

| Thu Apr. 3, 2008 10:26 AM EDT

bauer-torture.jpg Great reporting from Vanity Fair on how administration officials were involved in developing the interrogation techniques to be used at Gitmo. This tidbit is particularly disturbing:

The first year of Fox TV's dramatic series 24 came to a conclusion in spring 2002, and the second year of the series began that fall. An inescapable message of the program is that torture works. "We saw it on cable," Beaver recalled. "People had already seen the first series. It was hugely popular." Jack Bauer had many friends at Guantánamo, Beaver added. "He gave people lots of ideas."

I don't know what's more disturbing: the fact that torture had become so acceptable that folks within the military were taking ideas from TV shows, or the fact that there were so few instructions on how to torture that folks within the military were taking ideas from TV shows.

Immorality plus incompetence. And there's your Bush Administration in a nutshell.

Please Please Go Away, Joe Lieberman

| Thu Apr. 3, 2008 9:48 AM EDT

If you thought Joe Lieberman would campaign for his traveling buddy John McCain without taking nasty shots at the other candidates in the race... well, think again.

As for Lieberman's argument that McCain "misspoke," consider the fact that McCain made the Iran/al Qaeda gaffe over and over. That's a lot of "misspeaking."

(H/T Jane.)