January 6, 2006 | 9:37 AM ET | Permalink

I’ve got a new Nation column here called “Fool Me Once,” about the torture and domestic spying coverage.  There’s actual news in it.  And my Think Again column on right-wing excuses for the scandal, is here.

Mission accomplished.

Happy Birthday Edgar~

This popped up on my computer this morning from Answers.com And they left out how modest and good-looking he is…

Spotlight: Happy 75th birthday to author E. L. Doctorow. The writer of Ragtime (1975) and Billy Bathgate (1989), Doctorow is noted for his ability to blend fiction and fact in novels that are set in bygone eras in America's history. Both books were made into feature films and won Doctorow National Book Critics Circle Awards; he also won a National Book Award for World's Fair (1985). Two others of his books were made into films, and he has written numerous short stories, nonfictional essays and one play, Drinks Before Dinner.

Quote: "Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." – E. L. Doctorow

Word: ragtime: a kind of music using syncopated rhythm, written for the piano; in the book of the same name, the character Coalhouse Walker was a ragtime musician.

Also:

Cicero: Roman orator, writer, statesman (106-43 BCE)

Sun Myung Moon: founder of the Unification Church (86)

Peter Chatzky (12/31), former Mayor of Briarcliff, now single (45)

And speaking of prizes, here's Luke Menand.

Quote of the Day:  Pat Robertson on Ariel Sharon:

"He was dividing God’s land,” Robertson said.  “And I would say, ‘Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U., the United Nations or the United States of America.’ God says, ‘This land belongs to me. You better leave it alone.’”

Slacker Friday:

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to take you to the Bizzaro world.  Fans of Superman (or Seinfeld) know that the Bizzaro universe is just like ours except everything is reverse.  In Bizzaro Dubya world, there is this hostile dictatorship which the neocons label our "most serious challenge."  Bizzaro Condi Rice accuses this nation of aiding the proliferation of WMD's and seeking to change the balance of power in the region.  Bizzaro Dubya massages the intelligence about this nation before presenting it to Congress -- but he massages it to MINIMIZE the alarm!

Alas, this is what happened last year with respect to China.  The National Security Council repeatedly rejected drafts of a Pentagon report on China's military because they felt the report’s speculations on China’s intentions were too inflammatory.  The issued report is disturbing enough.  China has been rapidly bolstering its offensive military capabilities, particularly the ability to blockade Taiwan.  It has made quantum leaps in its ability to attack aircraft carriers.  Earlier in 2005 Donald Rumsfeld received a report on China's accelerating "defensive and offensive positioning" of its navy to create sea lanes across Asia.  China is spending $90 billion per year on its military.  That’s only a fourth of our defense spending, but China isn't supporting a Pax Sinica or rebuilding another nation.  It’s not just China’s military.  Last week Treasury Secretary John Snow urged Congress to increase the debt limit, like yesterday, lest the government default for the first time in history, ignoring China’s record holdings of U.S. debt.

The counter-arguments against us China worry-worts are 1) China and the U.S. are in a symbiotic relationship and any hostile moves would hurt them more than us and 2) the war on terror is more important.  But clearly China is trying to position itself out of the symbiosis and China can frustrate us on Iran just like they have with Sudan.  Heck, we’re still waiting to see all that help with North Korea Dubya promised during the 2004 debates.  The real tragedy is that both sides of Congress recognize that the long-term China threat is real (Nancy Pelosi was a forceful opponent of China MFN status).  This may prove to be the ultimate tragedy of the death of bipartisanship.

New Year, New Plea – you can still contribute to Major Bob’s Iraq Schools project at IraqSchools@hotmail.com, but there’s a new twist.  People have been so generous (I’m not just saying that, I’m truly moved) that we’re going to send the schools some basic used computer equipment.  In fact, if you know some good sources let me know at the above-address: I’ve got a couple of decent places near me but I think I’m going to need more.

Name: Brad
Hometown: The Woodlands, TX
Doc, For those who haven't been paying attention, it looks like we might have Curveball II, only this time it's the Syrian version .  Please tell me we're not thinking up another Middle East "Regime Change."

Name: Michael
Hometown: Anchorage, AK
To piggyback on Jerry Levin's comments on Alito's peculiar opinions on executive signing statements, the whole notion misses the point that what is being taken into account when reviewing the remarks of legislators is the notion of "Legislative Intent."  The Constitution makes it abundantly clear in Article 1 Section 1 that all legislative authority rests with the Congress, and so the President has no claim to such consideration under this doctrine, nor is there any similar provision or constitutional precedent granting the executive any say in the writing or intent of a law.  Hamilton made clear in Federalist 73 that the purpose of the veto was two fold: to shield the executive from being stripped of authority by the legislature, and to serve as a simple check on legislative authority (In both cases, a general constitutional check limiting the power of the legislature, not adding power to the executive).  It is an up or down approval or disapproval authority, not an amendment process (and again, not always necessary as the president's approval isn't necessary for a bill to become a law).  For a judge to say otherwise would be judicial activism of the worst sort.  If the president has constitutional objections to a law, it is his obligation to veto it, not say he doesn't think it's constitutional and hope the Supreme Court will pick up the slack later on.  Otherwise, he has an up or down vote and nothing more in the eyes of the law.

Name: Brad
Hometown: Arlington, VA
Dr. Alterman, Is this what Democrats have been reduced to?  Blaming the President for the condition of a small mine in West Virginia and, ultimately, the tragic deaths of 12 miners?  And to think the collective intelligence of all the liberal think tanks and the DNC cannot figure out why average Americans do not connect well with the Democratic party.  I humbly offer for due consideration the comments from your respondent Mr. Wieland from Sun City, AZ (which I've sadly heard parroted on talk radio and other blogs).  In a redux of New Orleans, again exploiting a tragedy to cast aspersions and blame for the sake of political gain.  While, neither side of the aisle is immune to this tactic (9/11 anyone?), it is equally deplorable when put into action.  Regarding the Sago mine incident, let's all wait to find out what actually happened before we let the political vultures pick at the carcasses.  If for no other reason than out of respect for the dead.

January 5, 2006 | 12:28 PM ET | Permalink

I’ve got a new “Think Again” column here called, “Spinning Spying.”

It’s a little early to make sensible predictions about Israel’s post-Sharon future.  Ehud Olmert has always impressed me with his political savvy but he lacks sufficient charisma to carry an entire party.  Peres belongs (thankfully) to history.  Netanyahu would be another Bush: corrupt, incompetent and ideologically extremist.  The best thing about Sharon’s party was its potential to marginalize that element of the right, particularly those driven by dreams of the messiah’s return and the expulsion of a million or so Palestinians from the future Palestine.  Meanwhile, polls do not give any indication of Labor’s trust level rising high enough to reach beyond its shrinking base.  Overall, there doesn’t seem to be anything good about this.  In the Middle East, the only luck is bad luck.  For more, keep your eye on this blog and this one too.

This just in:  Republican Scandal is Democrat's Problem:  One of the many annoying aspects of ABC News’ “The Note” is that it takes idiots seriously, even though it is obviously smart enough that it is talking about idiots, and therefore extends the power and reach of these idiots by giving them its Pravda-like seal of approval.  Do I exaggerate?  Try this: “It may be a stretch to some, but the New York Post's Deb Orin says the Abramoff scandal could negatively impact Hillary Clinton's 2008 ambitions because tales of "influence-peddling bring to mind Clinton-era scandals like fat-cat sleepovers in the Lincoln bedroom at the White House."

The Bush Administration says, “ Brownie is us.”

Alter-reviews:

“If you’re going to pick and choose your acquaintances on moral principles, you’d better clear out of this country, unless you want to cut yourself out of all decent society.”  Shaw’s character in Mrs. Warren’s profession was talking about 19th Century England of course, but the great man’s rules hold truer today than when he wrote them.  We in New York are currently blessed with two first-rate, extremely low-profile Shaw productions right now that are modestly staged and acted—which is exactly as it should be—because theatrical histrionics could only interfere with the genius of the man’s dialogue, which manages to combine Shaw’s own iconoclastic political philosophy with first-rate drama as no one on earth has done before or since.  Get thee right away, if you are unfamiliar with either “Candida” by the Jean Cocteau Repertory at the Bouwerie Lane Theatre or Mrs. Warren by the Irish Repertory Theater.  Neither one has aged a day.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Jerry Levin
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
The Bush-Alito notion that a President's signing statement carries legal weight goes against the clear words of the U. S. Constitution.  Article 1, Sec. 7. says a bill can become law even if vetoed by the President if 2/3rds of each house approves it.  Moreover, a bill can also become law if the President does not return it to the originating house of Congress within 10 days.  Unless his veto is upheld, the President's comments and opinions regarding a statute are Constitutionally irrelevant.  On related matter, the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional the line item veto act signed by President Clinton.  The President could not pick and choose what part of a bill he disapproved of.

Name: Larry Epke
Hometown: Richton Park, IL
Actually, O'Reilly's most off-the-deep-end comment is here.  ("They ought to hang this Soros guy.")  Here we see the champion of the personal attack suggest executing someone who disagrees with him.  It's hard to get much lower than this, but if anyone can, I'd bet on the "No Truth Zone."

Name: Dave Wieland
Hometown: Sun City, AZ
Dr. A,
While my heart goes out to the families of the miners that died, they should remember that the last mine disaster in 2001 brought the President to the site who talked of investigations, etc. and then promptly cut the funding for mine inspectors.  I note that this mine had a series of violations that were not corrected yet was allowed to remain open and miners stated that this mine was dangerous.  While the families' anger is directed at the company, it should also be directed at the President for allowing this to happen through funding.  After all, in this case the buck does stop there and I wonder how many bucks he received from this coal company?

Name: Harrison Hogan
Hometown: New York, NY
OK OK, this is the latest crack about Chomsky; so, will you please clue me in?  I read you because I respect your opinions.  Ditto Chomsky.  I will freely concede that I do not have your information and, I'm sure, your informed perspectives; but I'm not getting it.  The last time you cited Chomsky you had a link to a British publication, wherein it was eventually reported that they (the paper) had had to retract negative statements made about Chomsky--comments not unlike yours.  Can you enlighten me, perhaps?  I find Chomsky, in print and in word, to be thoughtful and honest.  WHAT AM I MISSING?  Thanks a lot.

Eric replies:  Fair enough.  A decent review of the Faurrison affair appears here and here.

Name: Bob Mangino
Hometown: Seattle
Eric,
Regarding comments from Chaz from Phoenix, I'm what is probably a "typical American Catholic" (what the pope would call an atheist, no doubt) and agree with most of his comments.  No, my problem with Mel Gibson, and I assume with 90% of intelligent Catholics is that he's a nutcase who does not even recognize the current Catholic church.  As things have evolved in the past 50 years, Mel's belief--and I think his faith is admirable, if misplaced--is mired in theology of about 200 years ago.  The world has changed, the church has changed, and Mel is the figurative loony standing on the street corner screaming about things in Latin.  (Woody Allen's cliche for this is, "the guy who delivers flowers and wears a wool hat in the summer." i.e. he's a little touched and may just be dangerous.)  The fact that he has a great media pulpit makes me dislike him all the more, because anything he or his truly "unusual" dad blurt, is instant "news."  I'm trying to be polite here and pull my punches. 

Adding to my distaste, and that of many liberals, is the pure random juxtaposition of a wholly corrupt Bush administration and congressional herd that wears Jesus like a kevlar vest, yet bends and breaks so many of His teachings as to give new meaning to the word "hypocrite" with Mel's Christ movie.  Mel's big hit came out when these folks were in power and they all marched in lockstep for a few months--they helped pimp his movie to make them seem more pious and rack up a few more votes, and he allowed it to happen to make him more money.  They got their votes and damn if he didn't make a boatload of money.  I'd have really really admired his huevos if he only said "I appreciate Senator X's support of my movie, but I don't think he truly understands Christ based on his vote for the Iraq invasion and drilling in the ANWR and his whorish sucking up to Jack Abramoff for some misappropriated and potentially illegal campaign contributions."  But Mel didn't say that, now did he?  In my mind, right or wrong, he will forever be linked with the Bush administration and the religious right's attempted hijacking of Washington.  It's probably pure chance, as I said, but there it is, Chaz.

Name: Stephen Hirsch
Hometown: Passaic, NJ
Oy boychik, not a good day for the Jews...first, the image of the day is Mr. Abramoff in a Borsolino, which happens to be the hat I wear on Shabbos.  Not a credit to the tribe, he may have been "Orthodox", but he certainly wasn't Torah-Observant.  To answer the well-meaning CHAS from AZ, one, we don't hold that the P'rushim (i.e., Pharisees) were the bad guys, and two, Mr. Gibson's movie was the latest in a long, dishonorable history of Passion Plays.  My friend's mother still remembers her childhood in Poland when the local populace would get stirred up against the Jewish community after seeing a Passion Play.

January 4, 2006 | 11:41 AM ET | Permalink

How Now Dow Jones?

But first, Police State Update: The Boston Globe reports that although President Bush recently signed an anti detainee torture bill last month, a top senior official commented that the President "may have to waive the law's restrictions to carry out his responsibilities to protect national security."  Here.

The news about DowJones is a good news, bad news story:  The good news is that the Kann/House regime was a nightmare from a news standpoint.  Both were right-wing ideologues, who, like the paper’s extremist editorial page, felt no compunction about contradicting the reporting of their own top-notch news staff to fit their own pro-Bush prejudices.  Kann, as we have noted repeatedly in this space, ignored his own newspaper’s poll to pretend that the Iraq debacle was far more popular than it is; something that reflects the bias of much of the mainstream media despite so many misinformed complaints to the contrary.  And House, according to New York Magazine, humiliated the entire news staff by bigfooting a correction into the paper wherein the Wall Street Journal went on record insisting that Fox News does not lean rightward.  Perhaps she was greasing the wheels for a sale to Murdoch, but she might well have insisted that ignorance was strength, and freedom, slavery.  (I would not bring up either of these examples were they not endemic….)  The mere fact that Kann/House tolerated the journalistic irresponsibility of the editorial page—not merely tolerated but embraced it, means his overthrow is a good omen for the profession overall.  (If you want to see what a genuinely responsible business newspaper looks like editorially, try The Financial Times.)

But the bad news is the continuation of the trend of putting lawyers, accountants, etc. in charge of journalistic institutions.  Wall Street likes it, but it is a rare business person who understands the underlying power of the “brand” of journalistic integrity and comprehensiveness.  The Journal’s news pages are in many ways the best anywhere; they are what give the hysterics and ideologues at the editorial page their platform.  (Has anyone noticed that the Times charges for its editorial pages while the journal charges for its news but gives away its editorial pages for free?  Their net value, in other words, is zero.)  We have no idea whether Richard F. Zannino will be up to the task of maintaining the quality of the Journal news pages, much less begin the task of restoring credibility to its edit pages—now comfortably ensconced in Rupert Murdoch’s empire on Fox News and sitting on a $4 million taxpayer fund, but we wish him well.  Journalism is too important to be left in the hands of either extremists or bean-counters.

Quote of the Day:  “I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap.”  David Letterman to O’Reilly, here.  Meanwhile, O’Reilly goes even crazier.

“Abramoff was the GOP machine.”  — Atrios Josh is good too.

Chomsky’s Homies:

World scholars support Ahmadinejad's stance on  Holocaust

Tehran, Jan 3, IRNA

Iran-President-Support

A number of  world prominent figures and scholars have, in separate letters to  President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, supported his recent comments on the Holocaust, it was reported here on Monday.

The president has recently said that Holocaust was a "myth" fabricated by the West and Europe.  According to Mehr News Agency, Robert Faurisson, a former professor at Lyon
University in France, sent a letter to the agency  expressing his full support for the president's remarks.

Faurisson, who was repeatedly attacked by the Zionists for his anti-Holocaust statements, also called on world thinkers and scholars to back Ahmadinejad, the news agency added.

I saw “Munich” last night by the way.  I vote yes…. For now.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Major Bob Bateman
Dateline: Baghdad, Iraq

Baghdad Holidays IV

Saturday: 31 December, approximately 19:10

The sun set a few hours ago.  Contrary to what you may have heard back home, when night falls Baghdad does not go dark due to the lack of efficient national power infrastructure.  Some blocks are dark, but the majority of the city blazes with light tonight, as it does every night.  Local generators are the norm here, not the exception.  Though gas prices have recently risen, from five cents per liter to roughly thirty cents per, this has not, to my eye, changed the overall brightness of the city.

The shooting started to pick up a little while ago.  These are not firefights.  The pop-pause-pop-pop-pause-pop sounds are too sporadic and decentralized. No, this is “happy fire” again, though without force or direction as of yet.  Most of what I hear seems to be coming from the east right now, beyond the Ministry of the Interior it seems, perhaps all the way over in Sadr City.  Tough to tell right now.

20:44

You know the sound that microwave popcorn makes when the bag is just about done cooking?  That is what Baghdad sounds like right now.

23:55

And now the real fun begins…White Phosphorous drifts down on the city, as soldiers at one of the Iraqi Army bases to the east start firing parachute flares into the sky.  Each one of these flares, dangling beneath a parachute, gives off something like 10,000 candle-power of light for about 20 seconds. (Larger ones, fired from mortars or artillery, might pop a few thousand feet up and last up to a minute before they burn out.)  Now green and red tinted White Phosphorus are added to the mix as other Iraqi soldiers dig into their stocks.

23:57

The firing has not exploded as it did two weeks ago when Iraq beat Syria in soccer, but the volume overall seems similar.  At least a thousand people are launching lead skyward.  I am not sure why, but for some reason it seems that the majority of the firing is still focused over to the east.  Tracer rounds, luminous dots of red light (dyed phosphorous again), arch into the sky.

24:01

Fireworks, honest-to-goodness fireworks, are going up somewhere north of the Ministry of the Interior.  Nothing major, just the sort that you might see from that excessive neighbor on the Fourth of July, but fireworks nonetheless.  This strikes me as mildly surreal as the light acts as a counterpoint to the multiple machinegun bursts criss-crossing in the sky.  Happy New Year everyone.

Sunday, 1 January 2006

08:51

Two blasts now, in quick succession.  WHumPH. WHumPH. We all know this sound, recognize the resonant thumping feeling we get in our chests when a VBIED goes off.  A third.  Pause. A minute. Five, six.

We are all later relieved, and perhaps a little bemused.  Six VBIEDs, well coordinated, and “only” thirteen wounded.  Nobody was killed.  I refuse to read anything into that fact.

Baghdad within Earshot:

If you have not heard, a young man from Florida named Farris Hassan showed up here in Baghdad about a week ago.  He is 16, idealistic, imaginative and resourceful.  His parents emigrated from Iraq decades ago, so he was raised in Florida and does not speak Arabic.  Google his name to learn more.  My only observation is that if there is anybody in the Army’s personnel system reading this site, they ought to contact this kid, and when he gets to college, offer him a full-ride scholarship, no questions asked.  True, his “wisdom” quotient is a tad low, but that comes with experience.  If my Army has a clue, in six years he will be commissioned as an officer.  His is the idealism from which leaders are made.  Everything else we can teach.  But the ability to care, with all your heart, to the degree that you will put your life on the line…that, even we, cannot teach.

You can write to Major Bob at Bateman_Maj@hotmail.com.

Name: Brian P. Evans
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Eric,
I'd like to pick a nit with Mark from Cincinnati: You can, indeed, prove a negative.  Mathematicians do it all the time.  In "indirect proof," you assume the opposite of what you are trying to prove and then logically work yourself into a contradiction.  Since the contradiction is the direct result of the erroneous assumption, you have just proven that it is not true.  However, this only works with well-defined objects behaving in well-defined ways.  I daresay that "god" is not such an object.  The only way you could possibly hope to "prove the non-existence of god" is to come up with a definition of god that everybody agrees on and I highly doubt that will ever happen.

Name: CHAS
Hometown: PHX, AZ
Re "Bad Day in History, II" - Mel Gibson's birthday - Dr. Eric, while, in the interest of full disclosure, I note being a R. Catholic, I agree with you 85% of the time and think most "Christians" either don't want to get or don't understand the actual meaning of Christianity, I also don't understand the pure hatred aimed at Mr. Gibson.  I have had this argument with my wife in the past, and while I understand as a Jewish person, you don't want to celebrate the life of Christ, I don't see why this movie poses such a threat to anyone.  Jesus spoke out against Jewish leaders/elders at the time who were hypocritical and cloaked themselves in religion to protect financial and political power, just as He probably would now speak out against those in power, especially in our country, who use His name to further political power while acting and legislating in a matter that is in direct contrast to His teachings.  Why is it an issue if Gibson in his directorial role wanted to make the point that those elders/leaders were probably inspired by evil, when as Catholics we believe the source of evil is based in the Devil. I have seen the movie and to me it appeared that he treated the Romans with as much or more disdain, showing that Christ's main tormentors were in fact the Roman centurions, while many Jewish persons actually felt sympathy and helped during the carrying of the Cross.  I did find the movie violent, but Gibson's movies are always violent, as seen in the closing shots of "Braveheart". 

Let me also note that I also don't agree with my own Church telling me what movies I may or may not see, I am not going to skip "The Last Temptation of Christ" because I am told there may be things in that movie that are heresy or not true.  Rather, I am going to see the movie and appreciate the writer and director's point of view, and make my own determination based on my own religious beliefs.  Similarly, I am not and don't understand boycotting a movie because you don't agree with 100% of it or his point of view.  Leaving his father's ignorant comments aside, I just don't see what evils Mr. Gibson has perpetrated.  I don't agree with comments made by FOX-News types about Hollywood or the movie industry, with several celebrities who are more generous and more "Christian" than the GOP and their corporate sponsors, but at the same time, if you don't like or appreciate that one movie, don't go see it, but why call for censorship and treat adults like children telling them that its not good to see it because it may give people bad ideas?  I realize you may not publish this its not a current issue, but even if you could provide a brief response, so I can try to step outside my RC beliefs and see the issue from another point of view.

Name: Dave
Hometown: Toledo
I second the motion from Matthew in Ark. about reading the article in National Geo about the Kurds.  Good stuff.  I've seen a lot being written about the Kurds lately.  Based on such facts and information, it seems like the Kurdish Peshmerga army has shed their colors to join the new Iraqi Army for nothing more than training, intel and arms.  Once the U.S. occupation forces leave, they will disband from the Iraqi army, go back to Kurdistan, and begin to consolidate their culture and state by invading Kiruk and other oil rich portions of their territory.  But I don't want to sound like an anti-American and a defeatist, so I'll not be basing conclusions on facts and information anymore.  Forget I even brought it up.  So, does anybody have any predictions on when Britney and Kevin are going to get divorced?

Name: A. Lisa Swift
Hometown: Lemoore CA
I find it difficult to understand why some people cannot understand the difference between science and religion.  Religion is a system of beliefs, while science analyses natural phenomena and subjects them to rigorous proof, a proof which must be repeatable.  One cannot prove any religious belief to be fact, much less prove it multiple times.  As for the "gaps" in evolution: Paleontologists and archaeologists are constantly making finds which fill in some of those gaps, and even, in some cases, showing where a previous find has been misinterpreted due to assumptions by prior scientists.  For instance, it was long thought that the development of a complex large brain preceded the ability to walk upright in prehuman hominids.  We now know that assumption to be false.  The discovery of Lucy, a prehuman hominid who walked upright, yet had a small, primitive brain, blew the previous assumption out of the water.  The science involved with evolution is constantly changing with new discoveries and the adjustment of the lineages of the fossils being discovered.  For instance, it was recently discovered that Tyrannosaurus Rex is closely related to the raptors, rather than to other predators with similar outward physiognomy.  T. Rex can be regarded as a giant raptor, in fact.  But can we prove, by the scientific method, the existence of God, angels, devils, heaven, hell, etc.?  No, we cannot.  They are all beliefs.  Beliefs cannot be proven by scientific or any other method.  I do not denigrate anyone's religion.  Everyone has the right to his/her own beliefs.  I do object when pseudo-scientific beliefs, such as ID, are forced on our school children in science classes. It is a blatant attempt to introduce religion as scientific fact, and does not belong in science classes, much less in science texts.

Name: Michael
Hometown: Anchorage, AK
Eric,
In regards to the post on the drop in support from the military for the war, I wonder why no one bothers to look deeper into these numbers and their real implications.  Republicans have long held that despite the falling numbers at home for support of the war, strong support from the troops was an indicator that those "on the ground" and thus apparently in the know still supported the war and thus everyone else should get in line behind that.  What is never noted is the partisanship in today's military.  The most recent surveys I have read date to 1996, but they show a very conservative officer corps.  In 1976, the officer corps was 46% Independent and 33% Republican, while by 1996 the numbers shifted to 67% Republican, 22% independent, and 11% Democratic.  Besides the questions readily discussed (and with good merit) as to the potential danger of an overly partisan military, what does it say that a group so heavily skewed toward the Republican Party is only a bare majority in favor of the war?  How does the gap in military Republican support for the war compare to the civilian Republican support for the war?  And, if the demographics in the military are shifting since 1996, what does that tell us?

January 3, 2006 | 12:09 PM ET | Permalink

Rove and Grover at one time?  I’m beginning to believe in Intelligent Design.

One of the nicest things about Communism was the constitutions it produced.  Everything was love, freedom, sharing, rule of law, etc.  Too bad these were used by dictators who ignored what they said, ignored the laws that were passed on their basis, often for the purpose of torturing people based on nothing more than their own whim.

Hey, … wait a minute: (Stolen from Today's Papers):

Yesterday's Post noted President Bush's penchant for "signing statements," which give the White House interpretation of a law being, well, signed.  The idea is to have challenges to a law on paper and thus give the administration a potential leg up in future court cases.  The signing statements are an attempt to "address specific provisions of legislation that the White House wishes to nullify," said one presidential historian.  He added that they are "also in an effort to significantly reposition and strengthen the powers of the presidency relative to the Congress."

The Post did a great job burying the above trend: "ALITO ONCE MADE CASE FOR PRESIDENTIAL POWER."  Also, what the WP didn't pick up on—and what nobody else seems to either: The White House issued just such a signing statement—an apparent attempt at nullification—for Sen. McCain's anti-torture amendment. The statement says:

The executive branch shall construe [the amendment] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President ... of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks.

The president acceded to the McCain amendment just a few weeks ago and ended up praising it. Anybody care to ask the White House whether, given the above language, it considers the government absolutely bound by McCain's ban?

Never Mind: Interesting how Janet Jackson’s nipple is the bigger threat to America than Bin-Laden one day, and then … not so much.

Stolen from Benton Communications: FCC INDECENCY ACTIONS A NO-SHOW [SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable 12/30, AUTHOR: John Eggerton]

For the first time since 1993, the FCC did not propose any indecency fines in 2005. That's a sharp contrast to the $7,928,080 in fines proposed in 2004 -- and the attention the issue received from federal policymakers. One reason that no actions were taken earlier in the year is that a lot of the complaints went away.  A number of major media companies--including Viacom, Clear Channel, and Emmis Communications--had already settled a host of both proposed fines and outstanding complaints through consent decrees with both dollars and pledges to crack down on content the FCC doesn't like.  Still, 189,362 complaints were filed in 2005, more than in any year except 2004, when the Super Bowl pushed that number to over a million. And the 2005 complaints were against 720 broadcast and cable programs, according to the FCC's last published count, which is more than twice the number of shows complained about in 2004.  (Free access for Benton's Headlines subscribers.)

You can fool some of the soldiers some of the time….

He sends you to war without body armor, tells you to “build a nation,” destroys recruitment ability, forces you to re-up through a “stop-loss” program, cutting your pension and health benefits, and oh yeah, getting you killed in a dishonest, counterproductive and possibly illegal war.

So finally:

Support for President George W. Bush's Iraq policy has fallen among the US armed forces to just 54 percent from 63 percent a year ago, according to a poll by the magazine group Military Times.  In its annual survey of the views of military personnel, the group reported on its website that support for Bush's overall policies dropped over the past year to 60 percent from 71 percent.

Oh good, because there were not enough hypocritical right-wing virtue czars on television to tell people how to behave while blowing eight million bucks on gambling; eight million that could have gone to say, scholarships for poor kids…

2006: A Media New Year, here.

People who (perhaps together with their respective mothers) are the only people in the world who believe they might be president in 2008: George Pataki, Joe Biden, Rudy G., John Kerry .

Bad day in history, I:  The Curse of the Bambino began with sale of Babe Ruth by the Red Sox to the Yankees (1920).

Bad day in history, II: Mel Gibson was born, 1956.

I admit to having a little thing for Ms. McKay, here, charmed by her nuttiness as well as her talent. I was looking forward to her new album, but hell, I can wait.  Cute quote: "I think for both sides, it's liberating," she said. "You have no idea how much of a pain I can be."

The History of the Upstage, here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Richard Horn
Hometown: Bremerton, WA
Dr. Alterman:
I am glad you linked to the Post story, "Covert CIA Program Withstands New Furor," but it raises this question: Why can't we progressives get behind a serious plan to abolish the CIA, moving what intelligence gathering and analysis we need to the State Department?  One of the arguments against the CIA creation was this:  What if a power-hungry and unscrupulous presidential administration controls this covert power?  Well, it's happened at least twice (Nixon and Bush II), and it's going to happen again unless you are going to guarantee me that this country will never again elect a president even half as rotten as George W. Bush.  Former Senator Moynihan brilliantly preached the danger and ultimate counterproductiveness of the CIA and its juvenile culture of secrecy.  This is not just some off-the-wall idea.  There comes a point where liberals have to say that if we support the continued existence of the CIA, we cannot be shocked, saddened or angry about these abuses.  So how about it?  Would be for getting behind a campaign to abolish the CIA?  Thanks!

Name:  Mike Siegel
Hometown:  Portland, OR
Hi Eric. Steve McGady from Philadelphia thinks that the Bush campaign wouldn't spy on the Kerry campaign because the fallout if they were caught would be "unmanageable."  I can't imagine why he thinks that.  Nothing these thugs do is beyond "management."  That is, as long as you have a snoozing or complicit press, and a credulous public.  He also says that none of the Kerry campaigns strategic moves were preempted by the Bush campaign.  First of all, how does he know that?  Anyway, I don't really think the Kerry campaign was capable of putting together a strategy about which the Bush campaign would worry.  It's entirely possible that the Bushies knew every detail, every strategy, every plan of the Kerry campaign.  But that they saw it for what it was.  Namely, an incoherent, spineless, empty shell.  Maybe Rove knew everything about the inner workings of the Kerry/Edwards dog and pony show, and he thought it was a sure loser.

Name: Mark
Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
Eric,
I've got some nits to pick with Michael Breland's comments re Dennett.  The tit for tat conclusion that "disproving the existence of God is also something that cannot be done scientifically" (which he then uses to bash anyone that sees it differently as an irresponsible hypocrite) is a logical non starter and a rhetorical bit of three card monte.  A basic premise of logic is that you cannot prove a negative, ie. that something doesn't exist.  Further, since existence of a god is not something that has been hypothesized, proven, and reviewed by science, it ain't science, and so it is hardly the responsibility of science to even address the matter, much less attempt to prove or disprove it.  It is a frequent tactic of the religious to use superficially fair - seeming reversals to try and put science and totally arbitrary, theoretical, unprovable notions with no particular evidence to support them on the same plane in an attempt to give them a rhetorical equivalence.  That's not the way it works; if you want to say you like something else as much as science, fine, but that doesn't make it the same thing.

Name: Jake Robert Claro
Hometown: Sunderland, Vermont
I think many of Dennett's observations are astute and to a great degree correct.  However, if Kuhn, and philosophers of science like him, have taught us anything, it is that often a scientific paradigm determines the way in which we perceive the world; that is, the paradigm precedes perception itself.  Now, this must not be confused with skeptical claims that perception itself is unreliable, but rather perception is conceptually "loaded". Dennett is what some have called, most notably Steven J. Gould, a hyper-Darwinianist.  Dennett, and others like him, attempt to explain all phenomenon according to natural selection, while Gould argues that many human functions have evolved as contingent spandrels. Cultural phenomenon fall under this category, and even language as well. Strangely, Dennett has been a strong, at times militant supporter of Richard Dawkins memes. Memes can be thought of as cultural "units", independently working within the human minds that they inhabit. It baffles me at times that Dennett would so strongly support an idea that seems as unprovable as intelligent design. Yet the greatest danger of evolutionary thinking, and I believe it is the underlying danger that creationists may be fighting (though in the wrong manner because they attempt to fight evolutionary thinking on its own terms which is ultimately futile) is the idea that evolutionary interpretations of life, and evolutionary ways of thinking will become the ONLY ways of interpreting and thinking about life. This in my mind is where Karl Poppers demarcation of science and pseudo-science becomes extremely relevant. Popper for the record, did acknowledge evolutions scientific status. However, some hyper-Darwinianists would like to interpret all present phenomenon according to the evolutionary paradigm. They proclaim to know the reasons for current cases of rape, war, and even aesthetic trends. This is problematic because by purporting to explain everything, they have in essence explained nothing to us at all. In other words, in attempting to explain and even direct social policy, Hyper-D's views are immune to falsification. And this very fact is what Popper himself was wary of. This is why we have the social sciences, this is why we have art, and this is why we have philosophy. They are all methods of thought that provide insights about our experience of life, and about life itself. As Heidegger recognized, limiting ourselves to mere scientific thinking will ultimately reduce our thinking to thoughtless-ness. What is true is what we reveal in the world, and science is just one way in which to do this. All types of thought subject the world to a particular paradigm. Additionally all science subjects the world to its method of instrumentation. We must understand and define not just science's role in society, but evolutionary science's role in society as well. Hopefully, in doing so, the debate between ID and evolution will itself evolve to a debate between the roles that each way of thinking provides for a worldly society. How ironic that it all comes back to political discourse as the mediator between conflicting ideas of order and human fulfillment.

Name: Matthew
Hometown: Little Rock, AR
Eric:
I highly recommend an article in the January 2006 issue of National Geographic entitled "The Kurds In Control" by Frank Viviano to you and your readers.  It gives the reader some real insight to the cultural divisions in Iraq, and the dreams and aspirations of Kurds to have an independent state.  Happy New Year to you and all those who contribute to this format.  Keep up the good work.

Name: Ian Wilson
Hometown: Santa Monica, CA
Match Point has a few decent moments but by and large it's dreadful.  What a waste of the excellent Brian Cox.  Allen, of all people, lets plot dictate action rather than character and so the characters behave in ways that lacks all credibility.  Worse, he hammers us with the bouncing ball of luck metaphor, then Crime and Punishment, etc.  Why not a ticker underneath explaining what's really going on for those who find it hard to follow?  The best thing about the film is that he's not in it.

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