Joe Conason's Journal

In honor of Al Franken, Aug. 15 has been declared Fair and Balanced Day by freedom-loving bloggers everywhere.

Published August 15, 2003 9:26PM (EDT)

Fair, balanced, and all-American
In case you don't already know, Aug. 15 has been declared Fair and Balanced Day by freedom-loving bloggers everywhere, in response to the morally unfair and mentally unbalanced nuisance lawsuit brought by Fox News against Al Franken and his publisher. (Even the Wall Street Journal editorial page, print edition, is mocking Rupert Murdoch's lackeys for behaving like fools. Well argued, Mr. Gigot.) Among the scores of F-and-B Day entries on the Web, my favorite so far is Neal Pollack's tale of a passionate blackout encounter with a certain weepy, litigious blowhard. Nitpicker dissects Bill O'Reilly's hilarious defense of the lawsuit that he apparently engineered, much to Franken's profit. And it wouldn't be F-and-B Day without the other Roger Ailes ("More Fair and Balanced Than That Other Motherf-----"). Celebrate the occasion and consult the expanding collection of entries compiled by Blah3, and be patient while the page loads. America is the land of free speech, Bill: Love it or leave it.

Dimming down the presidency
The president's response to the blackout was predictable: Use the occasion to promote the interests of his supporters in the oil and electricity industries -- and to proclaim that he has been on top of this decades-old problem all along. According to the New York Times, the White House plans to use the blackout to promote its energy bill, written by corporate lobbyists and the vice president (but I repeat myself).

"Of course, we'll have time to look at it and determine whether or not our grid needs to be modernized," Bush told reporters. "I happen to think it does, and have said so all along."

Whatever he has been saying all along, his administration and its comrades on Capitol Hill haven't done much to address the decay of the grid -- an issue not easily solved by deregulation. David Sirota, former communications director for the minority on the House Appropriations Committee, sent around a note today pointing out that in June 2001, the White House and Congressional Republicans voted down a proposal to provide $350 million in federally backed loans for reconstruction and modernization of the grid. Its sponsor was Sam Farr, a California Democrat who commented at the time, rather prophetically, "without timely intervention from the federal government, the crisis is likely to spread to other states." On his Web site, Greg Palast -- who happens to be an economist with decades of professional experience in this field -- provides a barbed analysis of factors behind the outage. (The headline alone is worth the click). No coddler of Democrats, Greg concludes his lesson on the colorful history of American electric utilities with these reflections on the current situation in the Golden State:

"Californians have found the solution to the deregulation disaster: re-call the only governor in the nation with the cojones to stand up to the electricity price fixers. And unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gov. Gray Davis stood alone against the bad guys without using a body double. Davis called Reliant Corp of Houston a pack of 'pirates' -- and now he'll walk the plank for daring to stand up to the Texas marauders."
[2:30 p.m. PDT, August 15, 2003]

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