Unlike a lot of people, I don't have a problem with certain kinds of superficial campaign coverage. Take, for example this recent Boston Globe story that analyzed the "Leave it to Beaver" language used by Mitt Romney on the campaign trail.

"Whoop-de-do!" he says of John Edwards's proposal to let Americans save $250 tax-free. "Gosh, I love America," Romney said during one GOP debate. After hitting a long golf drive in one of his campaign videos, he shouts, "Holy moly!"
Romney often sounds as if he has stepped out of a time machine from 1950s suburban America...

Okay, fine. That's not really interesting, but whatever. If a reporter and an editor want to put in the time to dissect this sort of stuff, that's their choice. If you or I, as serious consumers of news, want something more substantive, we can just find it somewhere else. Right?

Wrong! This campaign season, we have not seen the Globe or anyone else publish a dissection of Romney's language one day and a dissection of his Iraq policy the next. No one is paying attention to the complete and utter lack of substantive issue positions from the Republicans. They have no serious ideas on Iraq, on health care, or on climate change — they're running on rhetoric, personality, and resume. The Democrats have all of that, plus incredibly detailed plans for America's most pressing priorities. Until that truth appears in the mainstream media regularly, superficial coverage like the Globe's remains troubling.

One possible exception here, by the way, is the American Prospect, which has written about this once and blogged about it as well. (We've noted it too.)

Bay Area residents: don't miss author, filmmaker, and Mother Jones contributing writer and blogger Julia Whitty ("Gone," May/June 2007). She'll be speaking tomorrow at the California Academy of Sciences about "wonders and warnings from the oceans." Time: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Location: 875 Howard Street, between 4th and 5th Streets. Admission price: $8 for non-members.

Scariest headline of the day comes from Army Times: "Iraqi Dam Expected To Burst, Engulf City, Air Base Any Day."

And they're completely serious. You can read the entire article at the link (it's about Mosul), but here's just one of the many quotes.

Almost every conversation in Mosul — over card games, coffee or even out on patrol — leads to speculation about when the dam will finally go.

Jeepers.

If you're interested in a hip-hop take on faux news, global warming, and America's culture wars, check out Chamillionaire's "Evening News." It's pretty excellent. Chamillionaire, who's always had a lot to say about swearing in rap music (see below), announced earlier this month that he's going cuss-free.

Here's your fair and balanced news story of the day. According to the Daily News, Sean Hannity recently introduced Rudy Giuliani at a closed-door, $250-per-head fundraiser in New York City, committing what many at real journalism outfits would call an unpardonable ethical sin. Even for FOX, this blurs the lines between its standard journalism-cum-advocacy and outright advocacy. The defense from FOX's senior vice-president of programming? "Sean is not a journalist — Sean is a conservative commentator." That's true, he's not a journalist. In fact, FOX News talking heads are proudly anti-journalist.

The Hannity-Giuliani nexis should surprise no one. Hannity's crush on Rudy is well-documented.

The Hotline, a political journal, has noted that through July 15, Giuliani had enjoyed 115 minutes of free face time on Fox - more than half of that on "Hannity & Colmes." His airtime on Fox was 25% higher than any other Republican candidate, data show.

Fair. And. Balanced. No doubt about it. If I was Mitt Romney, I'd be pissed.

I would consider this a direct rebuke of Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack.

VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal... The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework...
Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, "We need security, not free food."
In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Read the full thing here.

Update: There is a really good reported piece on life in Baghdad in Newsweek today. Here's the passage with the most direct summary, but the rest is filled with captivating details and personal stories:

While security is returning to some areas of Baghdad, modern conveniences aren't necessarily following. The Iraqi capital is no longer the place described in the old guidebooks, a metropolis of casinos, culture and Western-run hotel chains, although vestiges of that city can still be found. Instead, unceasing violence has thrust Baghdad back to a more primitive era, forcing its people to take up pre-industrial occupations and rediscover almost forgotten technologies. The collapse of municipal water services has revived the profession of well-digging... Donkey and horse carts are increasingly common on the capital's streets...

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been fishing for a deal for a book that would justify the Iraq war. There's just one problem, the New York Post reports. Publishers aren't very interested.

IN the latest development in the quest by Donald Rumsfeld to snag a book deal, a well-placed industry source said the former Secretary of Defense has received only tepid interest from a handful of publishers.
As a result, he now plans to make it a full-blown autobiography rather than simply a treatment of his six years in the cabinet. ...

So the Times has gotten around to a story on Wikiscanner, the new online tool that allows you to look up Wikipedia edits made from computers at various organizations, companies, etc. (Check out our favorite editing wars here, and our interview with Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales on politics 2.0 here.) It's got some choice tidbits—someone at the Gray Lady edited the entry for Condoleezza Rice to change "pianist" to "penis"—but overall, the BBC take a couple of days ago was more amusing (h/t to our own Cameron Scott). There's the CIA bit Bruce blogged on:

On the profile of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the tool indicates that a worker on the CIA network reportedly added the exclamation "Wahhhhhh!" before a section on the leader's plans for his presidency.

There's also this:

The site also indicates that a computer owned by the US Democratic Party was used to make changes to the site of right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

The changes brand Mr Limbaugh as "idiotic," a "racist", and a "bigot". An entry about his audience now reads: "Most of them are legally retarded."

[...]"We don't condone these sorts of activities and we take every precaution to ensure that our network is used in a responsible manner," Doug Thornell of the DCCC told the BBC News website.

And the list goes on... someone at Diebold removed a reference to the company chairman Walden O'Dell being a top Bush fundraiser... the Vatican edited an entry on Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams... But why let other people have all the fun. Try it yourself. (A "Mother Jones" search, sadly, finds no entries. But why is someone at the Republican Party editing the "Baking" entry to add a citation for "bottom broiler"?

Jonas Phillips, a native of Asheville, North Carolina, sometimes stands at an Interstate overpass near his workplace and holds a sign that reads Impeach Bush-Cheney. Wednesday morning, he'd been standing there about ten minutes when he was approached by one Russell Crisp of the Asheville Police Department. Crisp asked Phillips how long he intended to stay in his spot, and Philips said not long--he had to be at work shortly. The officer then asked Phillips for his ID. Phillips asked if he had done anything wrong, and Crisp said only that a sergeant was on the way.

Sergeant Randy Riddle then appeared, told Phillips to put his sign down and to place his hands behind his back. He then arrested and handcuffed Phillips, and—when asked—informed him that he was in violation of County Ordinance 16-2, and that he was obstructing the sidewalk. Phillips replied that Officer Crisp had witnessed a man walk by him and his sign and could therefore attest that the sidewalk had not been obstructed.

According to Phillips, Riddle then yelled "You were obstructing the sidewalk!" "I'm sick of this shit!" and "Here's your fifteen minutes of fame, buddy." (Do you think Crisp has a working knowledge of Warhol?)

Once at the jail, Phillips says he was repeatedly questioned about his memberships in particular groups—Veterans for Peace and the Southeast Convergence for Climate Action. He was then searched, photographed and given a court date.

Phillips reports that in Asheville, it is legal to stage a protest on a city sidewalk without a permit. According to his wife, he has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union for help. Also, the police are considering changing the charge to a state violation of endangering motorists. After all, he must be guilty of something.