Puro Teatro

Here’s an impressionist painting of Joel Klein in the back seat with the Murdochs. The story this is linked to finally explains some of his ties with the Empire, as well as Barbara Walters. Is it me or are we tired of hearing about the thorny contradictions of apparently liberal or moderate figures like Klein involving themselves with policies and moguls that tear the heart out of ordinary people? Are we to feel sorry for a “well-meaning” corporate lawyer stuck in a nefarious world he never made?

The tell-tale sentence in the piece, as it always is in cases like these:

“Mr. Klein declined to be interviewed for this article.”

And Now For a Brief Explanation of the Debt-Ceiling Crisis

Richard Wolff is a terrific economist who dares to challenge the idea that capitalism is unquestionably the best economic system for us to live under. His analysis of the transfer of wealth from the working and middle class to large corporations and the rich is simple but effective. Amy and Juan do a nice job asking questions, but the only thing that bugs me is how Wolff twice referred to the Tea Party as an understandable reaction to economic crises, not acknowledging that it is largely manufactured by wealthy PACs to support the point of view of those corporations and the rich. Still this segment rocks.

Al Sharpton Race-Baited by Liberals

It’s a little dismaying to report that two left-leaning journalists who I ordinarily find compelling have engaged in something of an Al Sharpton pile-on this week, just because little-known fledgling MSNBC host Cenk Uygur was canned recently by the Comcast-owned network. Jason Linkins of Huffington Post (recently merged with that cutting edge media force, aol.com) says that Sharpton is pretty much clueless in his new slot on MSNBC, says he brings “baggage, conflict of interest, and no discernible talent” to the network. The legendary Wayne Barrett, who was kicked upstairs from the Village Voice to Tina Brown’s mediocre Daily Beast website (recently merged with that radical rag Newsweek) makes an interesting case that Sharpton is being rewarded by Comcast for being the first African American to come out in favor of its recent takeover of GE-owned NBC. In fact Barrett says that Comcast told (his intern, I guess) that the cable monopolists have given Al’s National Action Network $140,000 since 2009.

Let’s go through this point by point. Linkins’ accusation that Sharpton has “no talent” is amazingly short-sighted, since Al’s nationally syndicated radio show, “Keepin’ It Real,” despite its limitations, is the site of many fascinating debates within the African American community over a wide range of political issues. Unfortunately Linkins gives the impression that he’s never bothered to listen to the show. It’s one of the few places where you can hear black America talk to itself, and Sharpton, though no Keith Olbermann, does a very good job reigning in the debate.  If he’s not exactly shining on MSNBC yet, he deserves some time to acclimate to the format.

As far as Barrett’s piece is concerned, he again displays his unparalleled reporting skills and there’s no doubt that Sharpton’s relationship with Comcast is highly problematic, and the cooperation of minority leaders (African American, Latino, gay and lesbian to name a few) with telecoms by supporting media consolidation just for some kickbacks is absolutely counterproductive. Linkins had previously and insightfully pointed to Al’s inadequate ramblings when confronted by Cornel West  on MSNBC. But Barrett’s signing off on this headline: “Sharpton’s Affirmative Action Win” is a painful reminder of the rumblings any minority journalist will at least hear in the background if he or she is lucky enough to be promoted to a spot previously held by a white male journalist.

Guess what? There are pitifully few minority journalists even in a position (i.e., high-profile media-criticism columnist) to react to these stories! The valid critique of Al Sharpton is that he is refusing to criticize Obama because as a black person who has waited all his life to see a black person in such a position of power in the US, he doesn’t want to do anything to undercut him as long as Obama’s position is not reactionary or overtly conservative. But just because he has said this before, does this mean he will hew to this now that he is in this new spot? Won’t he have guests that will challenge him on this? Have all previous MSNBC talking heads cut their teeth as serious print journalists before being allowed to host a show?

This position, and his decision to take money from Comcast or whatever corporate ogre, should be the essence of the critique. Not that he is a black man who is not qualified or talented enough for his job.

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