The life of a book

Harvard’s erudite library director, Robert Darnton, has just written an optimistic book, The Case for Books: Past, Present and Future. Books are not dead, or even dying, Darnton believes. He cites data supporting his point: 700,000 new titles were published in 1998; 859,000 in 2003; 976,000 in 2007. He is confident the number will go beyond 1 million soon.


2009 is not 1929

The headlines in The Washington Post shows how entrenched the mainstream press is in the romance of Rooseveltism and the Great Depression. “The President Pulls a Jimmy Stewart Moment,” one read, referring to the Frank Capra movies of the '30s. But 2009 has no bearing on the 1930s, which was an era of total complicity and cooperation between government and the entertainment and information industries, and to pretend it does is dangerous and absurd.

Robert Samuelson, the economist at the Post, says economists should learn a little history. All the talk today relating to the fiscal crisis is of the crash of 1929. But the situation today couldn’t be more different.


News about healthcare negotiations

Because the media is now drenched by misreporting about what is happening on healthcare, here is the real story. This is written not as opinion, but as what has been called "news analysis" in blue-chip newspapers.

The issue currently being negotiated, in reality, is not whether a pure public option will be included in the bill, but whether a strong or weak provision to "trigger" a public option will be included.

Ignore all stories about "the president supports the public option" (in truth he does not; he always intended to give it up in return for Republican votes). And ignore all stories about "the public option is dead" (it is not; there are forms of a public-option trigger that will keep it very much alive if adopted).


Glenn Beck wins round 1

And you thought Rush Limbaugh was dangerous? Forget it. Rush was never able to force the resignation of a White House aide. For that, you can blame Fox News anchor Glenn Beck.

When I first heard Beck’s personal attack against President Barack Obama’s “Green Jobs” adviser Van Jones, I thought he was crazy. Seriously, what’s so un-American about pushing for green jobs, especially among young, unemployed minorities? For his work in that field, Time magazine named Jones one of the most influential people in America.


Two media myths

The long-espoused myth that the liberals control the media has been very effective for conservatives, despite it being totally at odds with reality. Look at last Sunday’s New York Times Best-Seller list for nonfiction for proof that the myth lives on.

No. 1 — Culture of Corruption, a Regnery book describing “revelations” about President Barack Obama’s team of tax cheats, petty crooks, influence-peddlers and Wall Street cronies. How do people say this stuff with a straight face?

No. 3 — Mark Levin, conservative think tank author’s conservative manifesto, Liberty and Tyranny. Just what conservatives need — another manifesto.


Why won’t Glenn Beck just apologize?

Real men never say, “I’m sorry.” At least, not if you work for Fox News.

You never heard Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity apologize for any of their outrageous statements, did you? Well, you won’t hear Glenn Beck apologize, either.

On July 28, appearing on “Fox and Friends,” Beck called President Barack Obama a “racist.” He didn’t just hint at it. He didn’t pussyfoot around. He used the word. He called him a “racist.”

Since then, responding to pressure from a grassroots organization called Color of Change, some 36 corporations have stopped advertising on Beck’s show. Big names, including Sprint, Wal-Mart, CVS, Clorox and Best Buy.

The Anonymous Source

The public realized as a result of the outing of Valerie Plame by Robert Novak and his source in government that the romantic view of anonymous sources in journalism was exaggerated. Intrigued by the surreptitious disclosures of Deep Throat in the Watergate scandal, most readers considered the anonymous source vital to investigative journalism. Journalists sought to take that power to constitutional proportions, claiming it was rooted in the First Amendment. But Novak and his leaker demonstrated that the anonymous source could be as mischievous as Woodward and Bernstein had shown it could be heroic. In the related case of Judith Miller, the federal courts confirmed the historic rule that, valuable as sources are to media, they do not have constitutional protection.

Norman Pearlstine, Time magazine’s editor at that time, changed Time’s procedures regarding anonymous sources after the Supreme Court ruled against the press in that case. He took a lot of criticism from his peers at the time, and wrote a book, Off the Record, explaining his reasons. Prompted by the notorious Miller case, respectable journalists have spoken out about the dangers of placing too much reliance on anonymous sources, and there has been some self-examination by the respectable press.

Fox Should Fire Glenn Beck

Fox News should fire Glenn Beck for saying that the president of the United States is a racist and for saying that the president of the United States hates white people. This is rhetoric that should be associated with the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party, not with a major television network using the public airwaves for private profit.

Beck has a right to say this and Fox has a right to put him on air. The First Amendment protects sick and demented speech as well as wise and noble speech. The degeneration of political discourse in America has sunk to such levels that pure hatred of the president and pure race-baiting in our media and politics have become increasingly commonplace.

The Disgraceful Mr. Dobbs

Pressure is building for CNN to do something about their resident conspiracy-theorist-in-chief Lou Dobbs. His nightly "reporting" on Obama's birth certificate drew fire today from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which called on CNN to take Dobbs off the air for "fanning the flames of racism." None of this should be surprising; for years, Dobbs has used his program to spread misinformation and paranoia.

Will There Be Another Walter Cronkite? Or Wolf Blitzer?

It's hard for today's generation to understand how powerful Walter Cronkite was as the mild-mannered but authoritative anchor of CBS News.

When John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Americans turned to him for comfort. As the Vietnam War dragged on, with no clear end in sight, they watched his broadcasts to understand what exactly was happening in those mysterious jungles thousands and thousands of miles away. When the Apollo landed on the moon, they looked to him to confirm what they were all feeling — that America had achieved something truly remarkable and otherworldly.