Lives in Granbury, Texas.

mark.finkelstein@gmail.com 

Twitter: @markfinkelstein

Pilot, parrots, dogs, tennis.

Latest from Mark Finkelstein
August 6, 2008, 7:42 AM EDT
Could the NBC honchos be a tad touchy about criticism of the Beijing Olympics—especially when it comes from its own talent pool?  Was there a kernel of truth in Mika Brzezinski's light-hearted warning that MSNBC's Morning Joe crew would "get a call" if it persisted in its mocking of the games for whose broadcast rights the Peacock Network has over the years paid billions?

When the subject of the Olympics arose during the opening segment of today's show, the panel went into an extended coughing fit, coupled with cracks about tanks in Tiananmen Square.  Mika joined in the joshing for a while, before finally putting her foot down . . .

View video here.

Mika touched things off with a news item about the Olympic torch.
August 5, 2008, 5:38 PM EDT

Forget Hardball. Dodgeball's more amusing . . .

As we'll detail below, David Shuster literally laughed in the face of a senior Republican today, and earlier on MSNBC Andrea Mitchell blithely dismissed the McCain energy plan as unrealistic. But there was one point of light, you might say, during the network's afternoon coverage.  When Shuster briefly held a Dem congresswoman's feet to the fire on the question of Obama's vote for the 2005 Bush energy bill, what ensued was one of the more hapless—and ergo entertaining—dodges of the political season. Shuster's guest was Allyson Schwartz, a Dem congresswoman from Pennsylvania.

DAVID SHUSTER: Congresswoman, during the event in Ohio today, Barack Obama attacked the Bush-Cheney energy policy.  But didn't Barack Obama vote for the 2005 Bush-Cheney energy bill?

Schwartz's first foray was the old politician's standby: ignore the embarrassing question and give your canned spiel on something you want to discuss.

View video here.

August 5, 2008, 7:12 AM EDT
Somebody call the Epidemiology Branch at the NIH.  It's looking as if we're on the verge of a full-fledged epidemic of Obamania.  As we noted here, NYT columnist Bob Herbert suffered an acute bout of the malady on live national TV yesterday, seeing visions of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Washington Monument where none existed in the McCain  Obama/Spears/Hilton ad. By yesterday evening, Keith Olbermann had contracted the affliction in aggravated form, claiming, as NewsBuster Brad Wilmouth has noted, to see no fewer than three phallic symbols in the same commercial.

Now, yet another variant of the dread disease can be reported, affecting mental rather than visual acuity. In When "Skinny" Means "Black" at his "Chatterbox" column at Slate, Timothy Noah [file photo] claims to see, yes, racism, in mention of the fact that Barack Obama is thin.
August 4, 2008, 2:11 PM EDT
Warning: excessive adulation of Barack Obama is harmful to the vision and can in extreme cases cause hallucinations.

We're all familiar with how an Obamania overdose produced strange tingling sensations in Chris Matthews.  A new, virulent strain of the affliction has now emerged, claiming its first victim in the person of Bob Herbert, who on live national TV saw visions of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Washington Monument where none existed.

The NYT columnist, a guest on today's Morning Joe, expanded on the theory set forth in his column of this past Saturday, Running While Black, that the McCain campaign ad mocking Obama as a Paris Hilton/Britney Spears-type celebrity was actually "designed to exploit" racist anxiety about black men and white women. Herbert lumped the McCain ad with the "call me" ad the RNC ran against Harold Ford, Jr. in his Tennessee senate race.

It was in describing the McCain ad that Herbert's symptoms surfaced.

View video here.
August 3, 2008, 8:59 AM EDT
You'd think a guy who has demonstrated such flexibility on everything from campaign finance to NAFTA to the Second Amendment to the surge could find a way to wangle some townhall meetings with John McCain into his schedule. But gosh darn it, that would just be too tough for Barack Obama, explains George Stephanopoulos.  The "This Week" host made his excuses for the Dem candidate on today's Good Morning America.
BILL WEIR: The Obama campaign just agreed to three debates after the McCain campaign called for ten or so townhall meetings.  Given his oratory skills, why won't Obama answer that townhall challenge?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I think a lot of it had to do with the primary calendar. The primaries ran so late that by the time they were all wrapped up, the Obama campaign felt that if they got into these week-by-week town They wouldn't have been able to go on the European trip; they wouldn't have been able to do their bus trips through the Midwest.  He wouldn't be able to take his vacation in August, which he's really looking forward to, from the 8th to the 15th.  

View video here.

August 3, 2008, 7:52 AM EDT
The Cornell golf club championship is next weekend, and I had been planning [brag alert] to defend the senior men's title I won last year.  But now, I just might have to think about entering the women's division instead.  The field is much smaller, not nearly as tough, and playing from the red tees should give me quite an advantage.  But what if tournament organizers balk at my entry, you ask?  No problem.  I'd just toss down a copy of Jennifer Finney Boylan's New York Times op-ed column of today.  The thesis of The XY Games is that "gender is malleable and elusive," and that since "most efforts to rigidly quantify the sexes are bound to fail," the Olympic authorities [and surely the Cornell golf club] shouldn't really bother to try.

Finney Boylan goes so far as to assert that the Olympic medals Stella Walsh won in women's sprint events shouldn't be stripped posthumously despite an autopsy revealing that Walsh had male sex organs [and an ambiguous set of chromosomes.]

Writes Finney Boylan of Walsh [emphasis added throughout]:
She should be celebrated for her accomplishments as an athlete, not turned into an asterisk because of a condition beyond her control.

The triumphant fact of a life lived as a woman made Walsh female, and the inexact measurements performed by strangers cannot render her life untrue.
August 2, 2008, 7:27 AM EDT
There's no current wisdom more conventional than that which has Hillary Clinton entirely out of the veepstakes.  Take the opening of yesterday's Hardball, for example, with Mike Barnicle sitting in for Chris Matthews.
MIKE BARNICLE: It didn't get much notice in the media and it didn't show up in any newspaper obituary pages, but the idea of a Democratic ticket of Obama and Hillary Clinton died a very quiet death this week.  How did the dream-team ticket disappear so fast and so quietly?
Introducing a later segment, Barnicle displayed a statement from a group that had been pushing the idea of Hillary for veep now saying that it's abandoned its effort "because it seems that Senator Obama has made his decision to offer the slot on the ticket to another candidate."  The subsequent schmoozefest with Dem consultant Steve McMahon and Air America honcho Mark Green took it as a given that Hillary would not be the VP candidate, focusing instead on what other role she might play in the campaign.

View video here.

But not so fast . . .
August 1, 2008, 12:50 PM EDT

Calm down, you neo-conservative warmongers.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's no more a threat than Congressman Joe Blow back in Cleveland, trying to appeal to the good folks who make up his base. So suggests Brian Williams.  Hat tip jazr.  Fresh from his trip to Tehran, where he scored a big exclusive with the Iranian president, Williams sat down with Jon Stewart on last night's Daily Show.

JON STEWART:  Tell me about this guy.

BRIAN WILLIAMS: He is a lot of things.  He's a Ph.D. He's the former mayor of Tehran. He's got an election next year, and, after all, at the end of the day, he's a politician. And he may very well know that the religious folks who, some would argue, more in charge than he is, have perhaps decided that embracing the West, the US, while these talks are going on in Geneva, wouldn't be a bad idea.  You enter that country and you see what sanctions do.  You see that the city streets remind you of a cross between Havana and Baghdad. Kind of a used-to-be Eastern Bloc nation that hasn't had a cent invested in years.  Where we're staying in what used to be a Hilton until the revolution, and it has just gone to hell.  Walls of the hotel are scraped and it's dirty and awful --

View video at Daily Show website [16 minutes in].

August 1, 2008, 9:12 AM EDT

And I thought David Shuster was in the tank . . .

Thank you, Andrea Mitchell.  No, really, I mean it.  Thank you for providing some of the clearest evidence yet of just how much the press corps following Barack Obama has blinders on for its man.  Mitchell has let it be known that "the people covering the campaign" don't think Obama played the race card with his currency crack. Andrea appeared on Morning Joe today just before 8 AM EDT.

ANDREA MITCHELL: I have to tell you that the people who heard Barack Obama say what he said Wednesday night—and it's very similar to things he's said in Paris and Berlin and a lot of other stops—it's very self-deprecating. He says "I don't look like other people who have been President of the United States," most people who watched that, I don't know very many people who've watched that, and the people in the audience, the reporters, have never interpreted it, have never inferred from that, that he is making some kind of racial statement, but that's the way the McCain camp says that they took it, and Rick Davis by putting it out there, sure --

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Andrea, excuse me for a minute. How can it be self-deprecating when he says, when Barack Obama says, that John McCain's camp is going to say "I look different"? Or when he says they're going to try to scare you because I'm black. How is that--because I've heard "self-deprecating" a couple times--how in the hell is that self-deprecating?

View video here.

August 1, 2008, 7:23 AM EDT

David Shuster surely knows better. Wherever you come down on the issue of who's playing the race card, one thing is glaringly, blindingly, incandescently obvious: when Barack Obama says McCain will point out Obama doesn't look like the other guys on the currency, the Dem candidate is doing much more than making the innocuous point that he is the first black major-party presidential nominee. Yet that is precisely how Shuster chose to misinterpret Obama's remark on today's "Morning Joe." Fortunately, Tiki Barber was there to run to daylight through the gaping hole in Shuster's line of logic.

The show began with a clip of Obama intoning his stock line that Bush and McCain will try to "make you scared of me" by pointing out, among other things, "he dudn't look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills. You know?"

View video here.

July 31, 2008, 7:14 PM EDT

You might say nothing could be more unsurprising than a panel of political pundits admitting the obvious: that Barack Obama is playing the race card when he accuses John McCain of saying the Dem candidate "doesn’t look like the other presidents on the currency."

But what makes the punditry panel's unanimity notable is that no one would accuse them of being McCain backers, and what's more, that they turned up on Hardball.  Surely Chris Matthews, were he not on vacation, would have found one diehard to deny reality.  But with Mike Barnicle guest-hosting, a consensus of truth-telling broke out.

Barnicle began by playing a clip of McCain, interviewed by CNN's John King, saying that it is legitimate to accuse Obama of having played the race card.  The video is worth viewing if only to watch McCain end the interview by shaking a surprised King's hand and walking away. Then the panel commented.  Perry Bacon of the Washington Post said he would decline to answer directly, but his answer left no real doubt as to his view.

View video here.

July 31, 2008, 11:46 AM EDT

Disclaimer: Yes, Joe and Chris.  We know Jim was joking.

Money maven Jim Cramer is a self-described Democrat, one who idolized Lenin back in his Harvard days [Cramer's, not Lenin's] and was on the verge of tears over the downfall of his old college buddy Eliot Spitzer.  But one Dem not high on Cramer's list is Jimmy Carter, so much so that Cramer feigned dismay to be informed that—contrary to his [tongue-in-cheek] belief—the former president is still among the living.

The host of CNBC's "Mad Money," a guest on today's Morning Joe, was buoyant about the economy, saying the surge in oil prices is over and that happier, if not downright happy, days are ahead.  It was when he cautioned people about being sure not to exceed FDIC insurance limits on their bank deposits that Carter came up . . .

View video here.

July 30, 2008, 12:01 PM EDT

Rush Limbaugh likes to joke that he has "half my brain tied behind my back, just to keep it fair." But there's no sign Michelle Obama [file photo] was anything but serious when she said something similar in a current People magazine interview, h/t Michelle Malkin. Mrs. Obama claimed she could be "very competent" on policy putting in only a 70% effort. 

Throw in a few more statements from Mrs. Obama during the interview attesting to her own intellect, and a picture emerges of a woman either very sure--or insecure--about her smarts.

Excerpts [emphasis added]:

July 30, 2008, 9:15 AM EDT

Chuck Todd has some advice for John McCain: embrace Ted Stevens' demise. The NBC News political director made his suggestion in the course of kibitzing McCain campaign strategy with Joe Scarborough on today's Morning Joe.

CHUCK TODD: Joe, why isn't McCain jumping on this Ted Stevens thing?  He hated Ted Stevens.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: He did!

TODD:  He should be dancing on this guy's political grave today.  This is the John McCain Republican party versus the Ted Stevens Republican party. And he ought to be, he ought to be gloating today. And he's not touched it.

View video here.

July 29, 2008, 8:58 PM EDT
Q. How can Scott McClellan tell he's pushed his turncoat trip a tad too far?

A. When even leading media liberals suggest his reputation's in tatters.
Say what you will, but I like Joan Walsh, editor of Salon.com.  Liberal? No doubt.  But also a grownup.  On this evening's Hardball, Walsh had the integrity to acknowledge that by accusing Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly of regurgitating Bush White House talking points, McClellan was looking "worse for wear."

View video here.

Sitting in for Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle [who I must say does a more "fair 'n balanced" job than the regular guy] rolled video from the this past Friday's show in which McClellan leveled his accusation.
July 29, 2008, 5:10 PM EDT
Whoops.  On the very day that the New York Times takes President Bush harshly to task for failing to promote human rights in China, the president meets at the White House . . . . with five Chinese human rights activists.

Railed the Times in this morning's editorial, Past Time for Speaking Out:
Two weeks before he goes to the Beijing Olympic Games, President Bush remains unacceptably silent about China’s crackdown on basic human rights.

[H]is refusal to speak out publicly and clearly about China’s repressive behavior is an abdication of leadership and a blot on his record.
But just hours later, the president was hosting the group of Chinese activists, in a meeting that had been planned in advance.  The White House press secretary put out this statement on the meeting:
July 29, 2008, 7:19 AM EDT

UPDATE:  The original version of this item reported Joe Scarborough's statement, as transcribed below, that there were no Republicans on his MSNBC staff, with  executive producer Chris Licht confirming Joe's assertion. Joe has been in touch to say he and Chris Licht were speaking tongue in cheek and that the remarks about there being no Republicans on the Morning Joe staff were a joke.

Mika Brzezinski is appalled to learn that the Bush Justice Department had a hiring preference for politically simpatico people.  And Mika apparently believes Joe mischaracterizes her as a liberal.

The jumping off point on today's Morning Joe was Mika's reading of a news item on an article in today's New York Times about an internal Justice Department report concluding that "senior aides to former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales broke Civil Service laws by using politics to guide their hiring decisions."  Scarborough saw this as SOP in Washington.

View video here.

July 28, 2008, 9:41 PM EDT

Update: An NB reader contacted Mike Allen, author of the article, to complain about the photo choice. Allen indicated he was unaware of, and not involved in, the photo selection. The accompaning photo was subsequently changed to one of the condemned solider.

Of all the millions of photos of George W. Bush, that displayed here is the one Politico.com chose to accompany its story, Bush Approves Soldier's Execution, of the president's authorization of the execution of a soldier convicted of four murders and eight rapes in North Carolina.

Was this a photo taken of Pres. Bush as he announced his decision? Apparently not. The story indicates that the president did not announce his decision in person, but did so via a statement from White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

Does Politico have evidence that the president made his decision in anger? If so, it didn't report that. To the contrary, Dana Perino's statement says the decision was "difficult" for the president.

July 28, 2008, 5:58 PM EDT

Between now and Election Day, we're sure to see—and chronicle at NB—plenty of MSM sycophancy for Barack Obama.  But between the thrills going up assorted media legs, evidence is emerging that some in the media are beginning to assess the Dem candidate in a clearer light.  Take for example, Gabriel Sherman's piece at the New Republic which as its title—End of the Affair—suggests, has as its thesis that at least for some of its members, the MSM's puppy-love stage might be coming to an end.

Today comes Howard Fineman's admission, hesitant as it might be, and mitigated by his suggestion that Obama came close to hitting an absolute home run with his European trip, that yes, well, after all, the guy is—how can I put this?—arrogant.

Newsweek's senior DC correspondent was a guest on this afternoon's Hardball, with Mike Barnicle sitting in for Chris Matthews. The jumping off point was Obama's cancellation of his plans to visit injured American troops in Germany.

View video here.

July 28, 2008, 2:14 PM EDT
May he live to be 120, but when Bob Shrum eventually goes to his reward, his epitaph could read "Here lies Shrum. He thought he was great.  But his presidential record . . . was 0-8."