Friday, August 15, 2008

Viral Video: Baraky II!

Number 1 with a Dagger

This report by the Obama campaign
exposes the blatant lies in the new book,
"Obama Nation," which will be #1 on the
New York Times Best Seller List, but with
a "dagger" to indicate that it got to be a
best seller because of "bulk sales," which
in this case means right wing organizations
buying up copies, just to get an anti-Obama
book on the list, and get the resulting media
coverage. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Unfit For Publication

The Obama campaign issued a 41 page rebuttal of the many deliberate lies in the book, Obama Nation, under the highly relevant title of "Unfit for Publication."

That the book, authored by a known liar who penned a similiar smear of John Kerry in 2004, is full of the most reprehensible lies and false charges, targeting the most basic fears of the uninformed, is already a matter of record. Even before the point by point refutations of the Obama document, Media Matters had debunked specific charges. Joe Klein of Time Magazine was more general but more direct--he called the book "swill," "sleaze," and "poisonous crap." Politico mentions some of the authors other whoppers.

While I am certainly concerned by the possible political effects, I am especially troubled by this book as an author and book reviewer: because it is being published by a major publishing house, Simon & Schuster, and its Threshold Editions imprint. Threshold is run by Mary Matalin, political aide to conservative Republicans, including Bush and Cheney. That she has become an editor with her own imprint is suspicious but not really the issue. What she has decided to do with that imprint, and what Simon & Schuster is allowing her to do, is to me a very basic threat to whatever is left of the integrity of American book publishing.

It's not simply that this book has not been "fact-checked," as if that means that some errors slipped in unnoticed. It is completely based on lies, from start to finish. It is, as a perceptive post called "Books That Attack and Mislead" at First Read notes, just another form of a negative political ad. After all, its author told the New York Times, “The goal is to defeat Obama,” Mr. Corsi said in a telephone interview. “I don’t want Obama to be in office.”

But no political advocacy organization is paying to print this political smear, which has no basis in fact. A legitimate major publisher, that obviously wishes its nonfiction books to be taken seriously, is paying people to write, edit and promote this book. Moreover, they are doing so with total dishonesty. Matalin told the Times the book “was not designed to be, and does not set out to be, a political book,” calling it, rather, “a piece of scholarship, and a good one at that.” She is lying, and she knows she is lying. She has no integrity whatsoever, and therefore, neither does the publisher anymore.

Yet the publisher is dressing this book up with a cover that emphasizes the author's supposed credentials (Phd), and with pages of scholarly-looking footnotes--that reportedly cite mostly right wing and hate sources, and the author's own publications or posts. Everything about this book is deceptive.

Even the book's widely reported status as a #1 Best Seller is a deception. By the NY Times own admission, this book has been bought in bulk--hundreds if not thousands of copies purchased by rabid right and GOPer organizations, in a deliberate, organized attempt to make it a "Best Seller." Those copies will be given away, and will shortly begin appearing on the shelves of Salvation Army stores. I suspect that Matalin and her bosses knew this from the moment they agreed to publish this book.

We've had plagarism scandals, and scandals about fiction being falsely claimed as non-fiction--but there apparently is no scandal, just profit, in this most morally corrupt attack on the integrity of book publishing. As Mark Murphy observed at First Read: "This is perhaps the greatest loophole for underground attacks to go mainstream. Forget blogs, the bookworld may still be the best place to push false truths about someone."

If readers cannot trust the integrity of books as a general rule, and the implied promise by major publishers that their books are what they purport to be, then publishing has become a sham, and books have lost their credibility. That affects me as an author and as a book reviewer. This book is clearly unfit for publication, and Simon & Schuster should be called to account for utter disdain for integrity and the accepted standards of legitimate publishing, however minimal they have become.

A Plan for the Future

The Obama campaign ad that will run during the Olympics next week. The first ad emphasized his energy plan and its economic benefits; this one focuses on his economic plan, which includes the benefits in jobs and economic activity of the energy initiatives.

Two Million Strong--and Counting

The number of contributors to the Obama campaign
passed two million on Wednesday, making it the
largest publicly funded campaign in American history. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Golden Spaceman

"He is just a normal person, but maybe from a
different planet." That's how a Russian competitor
described Michael Phelps of the U.S., after he won
his fifth gold medal in five events, for a total of 11
so far in his career: he's won more gold medals
than anyone in modern Olympic competition.Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Distress or Mirror Universe?

Just what is Bush trying to signal at the Olympics?
Maybe that electing another warmonger will get
the country in the same mess this one did, especially
when his condemnation of Russia for invading a
sovereign nation sounds like a pathetic joke. Posted by Picasa

Unlikely Allies

Before events totally overwhelm what I still consider the most significant story of the past month in terms of the future--the Obama energy plan--a comment on one fairly odd yet possibly pretty important sideshow.

You've probably seen the ad on TV--it was running constantly on the hot air cable channels for a couple of weeks: An old white man with a familiar name you couldn't quite place, except that he's clearly Texan, and incredibly wealthy --T. Boone Pickens--talking about the need for a new energy policy to make the U.S. energy independent by turning to clean energy sources.

Around the time that he announced his energy plan (as outlined in posts below), Barack Obama complimented Pickens and these ads, and he correctly picked out the single most important phrase in them:

"I've been an oil man all my life, and this is one emergency we can't drill our way out of."

Then after Obama's energy plan was announced, Pickens returned the favor and complimented it and Obama.

What's so extraordinary about this? Almost exactly four years ago, the Swift Boat Liars, with the willing connivance of the hot air networks, were vilifying John Kerry with patently false charges about his military service. Those Big Lie ads were largely financed by a billionaire oilman and hedge fund investor: T. Boone Pickens.

This year, Pickens is touting the need for a new energy plan in television and radio ads, at a budgeted cost (according to Forbes)of some $44 million.
The ad campaign has gotten a lot of free media attention as well. The first ad is already such a big deal that when Al Gore presented his proposal for carbon-free electricity within a decade, one of the first people the news media went to for reactions was T. Boone Pickens.

The first ad in the series was quite effective. Pickens makes the case that the U.S. is importing some 70% of its oil, leading to what he calls the largest transfer of wealth in history. He is basically touting wind power to generate America's electrical power, freeing up natural gas for a new generation of cars and other vehicles. While experts find lots of problems with the second part of his prescription especially, I don't think there is sufficient recognition for the power of this ad to change the dynamic, especially in one particular way, with one particular sentence.

For as usually happens in the U.S., high gas prices lead to talk of alternatives--alternative fuels, transport systems, conservation methods. But also talk of more drilling for more oil in America. Sure enough, Republicans and some craven Democrats are once again calling for off-shore oil drilling, and they've never really given up trying to open up wilderness areas.

Everyone is wondering how the politics of this will play out in this crucial election year. Then along comes the ultra-conservative, paradigmatic capitalist billionaire, and a Bush-financing Texas oil man to boot. And in this first ad, after laying out the problem of imported oil, he looks into the camera and in his Texas drawl he says this: "I've been an oil man all my life, but this is one emergency we can't drill our way out of."

Pickens stands to make lots of money from wind power, and so does Texas, which is rich in wind farms and recently the Texas state government made what they said is the largest single investment in clean renewable energy in U.S. history--a $4.9 billion plan for new transmission lines to bring wind power from those farms to big Texas cities.

But that's part of the point for Pickens--he says he wants the private sector to lead the transformation, and though he sees a major role for government, his metaphor isn't JFK's challenge to get to the moon within a decade (Gore) but Eisenhower's federal highway building program of the 1950s.

So whatever is right or wrong about Pickens' approach and specific proposals, I am fascinated with that one sentence--and what it might do to start this transformation from another direction, or at least blunt the argument that more oil drilling is the answer. And so for the moment (even though Pickens hasn't endorsed a presidential candidate), the two unlikeliest allies of the campaign so far are Pickens and Obama.