January 20, 2006 | 1:30 PM ET | Permalink

Matt Ygelesias did the honors for “Think Again” this week. It’s here and it’s about the misreporting of the earmarking process and the Abramoff scandal. My new Nation column is here. It ought to ruin Joe Klein’s day, at least. (Alternative title: Time is on THEIR Side…”

Um, What Liberal Media?

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to invoke some words of wisdom against Dubya's erosion of the rule of law in the war on terror.

"We hear a lot about this. "Hey, the other guy's not playing by the rules."  Well yeah, you're right...[b]ut the reality is for us it doesn't change anything because in democratic countries the political impact is always going to be important.  And the fact of the matter is that our
public wants us to do things the right way.

In a democracy, if it looks like we're doing something wrong or doing something the wrong way, if we don't fight the right way, then no matter how important the political objective is, support is going to erode....Does this put us at a disadvantage?  Not really. I would invite you look at a couple of books. Victor Davis Hanson, controversial author.  He's a classicist, historian and basically he examines the stereotype that totalitarian, barbaric societies have an advantage militarily.  He goes back in history and proves that's not the case.  The more democratic
values you have, the more adherence to the rule of law, the more militarily successful you are

Another book I would recommend is by Caleb Carr, a very short book....He makes the point that societies that wage war on civilians -- the fundamental issue in the law of armed conflict -- he says not only are not successful, a lot of them don't exist any more."

So who is this?  Some war-wobbly pundit?  Joe Biden?  John McCain?  Nope, it's Air Force Brigadier General Charles J. Dunlap, Jr. (emphasis added). I love General Dunlap – in 1996 he wrote a dystopian future cover story for the Weekly Standard, "How We Lost the High-Tech War of 2007", which was stunningly prescient. That WMD which reaches American
shores?  It’s not a dirty bomb, it’s a crop-killing Mediterranean fruit fly.
More recently Gen. Dunlap has been writing about “lawfare" -- the use and/or misuse of international law in asymmetrical warfare.  What surprised me was that Dunlap (both here and in other writings) doesn't go Bill O'Reilley on the ICC or the like.  Dunlap sees the rule of law as "a pragmatic consideration and not just a nice thing to do" and stresses "legal preparation of the battlespace."  Senior military leaders need legal education, JAG advisers on the ground and more credibility when presenting to "external audiences" (us).
As long as most voters see torture, secret kidnapings in Europe, warrant-less wiretapping, etc., as effective, our righteous complaining is counter effective.  During the 2004 campaign we lamented not listening to our military experts.  Nothing has changed.
Name: John Rainey
Hometown: Southern Iraq
Concerning the Jan 19th Iraq column. Reconstruction happens everyday, I know, I see it. We just should not have started with the large super projects. We should have worked our way out from projects that impact the people to bigger ones. I ended a meeting with some local Iraqi officals. As everyone was filing out a old, grizzled looking man approached me, his job was to pick up the tea cups and coke cans. He ignored the Iraqi political types, the US government civilians and came right up to me, the only US uniformed military in the room. With a tear on his cheek he simply clasp my hand in a stoute grip, clapped my back with his other hand and went back to work. I can't see his face with my minds eye and not think it was worth it, even with our losses. Thanks for the chance to speak my mind.

Name: Kyle Childress
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Your posting yesterday reminded me again of why there is one simple reason we should leave Iraq as soon as possible: The folks that started this mess are still running it. If you think they are going be successful with anything in Iraq, you likely believe that there were WMDs and that Saddam was a front for Al Queda. I completely understand that the US has a strong interest in a stable Iraq, and if I thought we could acheive that, I would be for staying, even though I have opposed the war from the very beginning.
We can easily point fingers and say we shouldn't have gone, but the situation today is what we need to deal with, and in a more perfect world, we would stay and straighten things out. Sadly, we still have Rumsfield, Cheney and the rest of the cabal running the show, and I have no faith whatever that they can get this right. The most charitable view of our journey to Iraq is that mistakes were made: mistakes regarding the intelligence, mistakes in planning for the war and the post-war, mistakes regarding the Iraqis' anticipated attitudes towards us.
To be sure, I don't hold that charitable attitude. I believe they knew the intelligence was bad, and I look forward to the war crimes trials. Nonetheless, even if you assume that Bushco's and the NeoCons' intentions were noble, you have to admit that they completely missed on each and ever major decision they have faced. How "optimistic" [read: delusional] must you be to have any confidence that these folks will produce a positive result in Iraq? They can't, they won't. So we should stop asking our troops to die for their failure. It's by no means a good solution, but it's the best we have.

January 19, 2006 | 12:34 PM ET | Permalink

So we’ve gutted the budget for reconstruction in Iraq, something that may make sense, given that we’re not really conducting any, and are incapable of providing the necessary security to do so, but at the same time, we’ve destroyed what was a functioning country.  True it was a totalitarian dictatorship run by mass murderer, but it functioned for most people.  It no longer does.  As unbelievable as it appears, we seem to have made Iraq a worse place than it was before.  Look here and here if you think I exaggerate.  (And keep in mind, as my young friend Paul McLeary demonstrates here, that it is damn hard and dangerous to do any solid reporting in that chaotic environment.)

Remember, I opposed the war even though I calculated at the time that it would include what I called the “liberation” of the people of Iraq.  (Leftists attacked me for using that term unironically.)  As a realist, I didn’t think what I then believed was that their liberation would justify its cost.  Well, amazingly, the Bush administration was too incompetent to accomplish even that—and this is outside of the fact that they had to lie to the country to get us in there.

Really, there is nothing, nothing that justifies this war any more and nothing that justifies the faith anyone has that the Bush administration can make it any better.  (Take a look here at what Eliot Weinberger heard about Iraq in 2005 if you doubt that.)  Perhaps it will happen.  But that would sure be a break from the past.  I seem to recall from freshman philosophy that somebody big, David Hume, argued that just because the sun has risen in the East and set in the West every day since time immemorial is no argument for the fact that it will necessarily do so tomorrow.  Still, I think it’s a good bet.  And I think it’s a good bet that the Bush administration will continue to screw up Iraq even worse than before.  Discredited Neocon war cheerleader Lawrence Kaplan tries to argue that because certain liberals have embraced realism, here, they have abandoned liberalism.  Bull**it.  He is purposely confusing “idealism” with “utopianism.”  Without realism, idealism is mere vanity.  (See under “Nader, Ralph.")  It’s a healthy sign that liberals are embracing realism more and conservatives demonstrate that they couldn’t care less about creating an effective foreign policy—rather than posing as trying to do so—when they mock it.

So now they want to go and do the same thing against a country that may really have nukes—and has democratically endorsed its own leadership.  Kristol makes the audacious case here.  (Does he mention that our benighted invasion has played into Iran’s hands by the way?)  Anyway, Fallows does the hard reporting here and we should have listened to him about Iraq, I think we can all agree.  Let’s listen to him now.

Insofar as this becomes an issue of Liberals and Iran, this is pretty interesting, though ultimately, methinks, wrongheaded, because, of course, Matt Y is right.  You just can’t trust these people to do anything at all, much less anything that is as sensitive and dangerous as Iran.

Bin Laden determined to attack U.S. — Bid Laden says.  Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to let him get away at Tora-Bora or pull people out of Afghanistan and Pakistan to send them to Iraq where, as the CIA explained before the invasion, no terrorist threat previously existed.

Wiretaps were illegal says CRS, again.

“Just how crazy do you have to be to be a New York Post columnist/much admired font of wisdom for ‘The Note’” Quote of the Day,   here:  “Ann Coulter represents the Democratic mainstream better than Al Gore on this one." —Dick Morris.

But while I’m reading Kristolania, I’d like to take a moment to praise Milton Himmelfarb, 1918-2006, here.  I learned a lot from reading Himmelfarb in Commentary over the years.  I disagreed with him, mostly, but he always provided the data to back up his arguments.  He was a quiet Jewish liberal-turned-neocon, but never one, insofar as I can remember, who engaged in the kind of vituperation in which the Podhoretz clan so specialized.  He lived an honorable life and it’s nice to learn that so many people also thought he was a nice guy.  (The single thing I love about the Kristol clan, by the way, is how crazy they must drive the Podhoretzes by being, in every generation, more admired, more effective, wealthier, and, alas, better-looking.  They also have better manners, although because of the more effective part, they’ve also done more damage, again, alas...)

Tucker and I seem to have started a useful argument over at Romenesko here, with this one making the the clearest argument, methinks.  By the way, I don’t argue that reporters are not culturally liberal.  They are.  I argue that the news is not culturally liberal.  Proving one does not prove the other.  Read all about it in What Liberal Media?

Speaking of “What Liberal Media,” part xxxviii, Oh, great:  “Former Rep. J.C. Watts Jr., Oklahoma Republican, will join CNN as a regular contributor to offer analysis on politics and policy for programs throughout the network, CNN announced yesterday.  "J.C. is one of the most respected and effective conservative communicators in the nation's capital," CNN-U.S. President Jon Klein said.  …  Mr. Watts served as chairman of the Republican Conference, the fourth-ranking leadership position in the majority party in the House.”

I don’t know if this should qualify as part of our “Police State update” feature.  It’s not a state action.  And it appears to be the work of just a few crazies—although one of these crazies, Linda Chavez, was nominated to be in George W. Bush’s cabinet.  Still, some of you right-wingers might wish to earn yourselves some easy cred by denouncing this the way most of you did with that stupid Ed Klein Hillary book that, as I recall, only Fred “ Brown-nose” Barnes would defend.

K Street Project, what K Street Project?  For years the press played dumb.

Look what we missed here.  What a guy, huh?

Altercation Book Club: Literary Journals

Even though I paid for it at the news store, and it’s not online anywhere, my conscience dictates that I let you good people know of the two, absolutely terrific essays I read in the new edition of N Plus One, the most important new publication in English since McSweeney’s, and together with McSweeney’s for decades before that.  The first one is “Radiohead, or the Philosophy of Pop” by Mark Greif and the second is “The Neoliberal Imagination” by Walter Benn Michaels, which argues, “The function of the (very few) poor people at Harvard is to reassure the (very many) rich people at Harvard that you can’t just buy your way into Harvard.”  I’d be proud to have written either one.  Another pretty good, but not quite as magnificent as above, essay in that issue is “What Independent Film?” by Andrew Bujalski.  I’ll rip it off when I’m schmoozing in the bar in Park City next week.

And while we’re on the topic of McSweeney’s, this is funny, huh?  And Mr. Eggers’ latest project deserves a mention, and our admiration.

Surviving Justice: America's Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated
Edited by Dave Eggers and Lola Vollen

After spending years behind bars, hundreds of men and women with incontrovertible proof of their innocence -- including 120 from death row -- have been released from America's prisons. They were wrongfully convicted because of problems that plague many criminal proceedings -- inept defense lawyers, overzealous prosecutors, deceitful and coercive interrogation tactics, bad science, snitches, and eyewitness misidentification. The lives of these victims of the U.S. criminal justice system were effectively wrecked. Finally free, usually after more than a decade of incarceration, they re-enter society with nothing but the scars from a harrowing descent into prison only to struggle to survive on the outside.

And I guess if we’re still sort-of on this topic, the newest issue of Salmagundi is a double and is pretty great.   Here, Benjamin Barber picks up where young Jeddiah Purdy left off.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Bob Mangino
Hometown: Seattle
Along with Wednesday's theme of accountability comes this report of 9/11 rescue and recovery workers dying of respiratory illness.  Thank you, Mrs. Whitman, hamstrung EPA, Rudy, Pataki, and of course, the Big W himself.  Not too long afterwards you mentioned in the blog that you took your daughter (about 2 at the time?) to see it and alarm bells went off in my head.  I thought you may have been rash.  When in went in December, I kept my one year-old blocks back and we were there for all of two freezing minutes.  I hope that even that was not too much exposure to the toxic mess.  Did I forget to thank Ralph?  Musta been an oversight.

Name: Damion
Hometown: Denver, CO
Doc, I realize I'm a little late here, but I was hoping you could help me out - After Gore's speech the administration decried it as hypocritical and said basically that on a day celebrating King's life we should not be "preaching hate."  This has left me a bit confused, and perhaps a better educated MLK scholar than I could help me understand, but as I understood Dr. King's messages about Civil Rights and Equality, I find it very difficult to believe that this man would in any way, shape, or form support this administration's efforts to dissolve our constitutional civil liberties.  In fact, it is my belief that he would not stand idle nor sit quietly were he alive today.  I would like to hear the opinion of someone better versed in Dr. King's philosophies and see what the man's opinion might truly be.  Perhaps someone from his inner circle.  Personally, I don't believe it was inappropriate at all for Gore to state what he felt on the day he said it, and I have a strong sense that Dr. King might agree.  What do you think?

Name: Robert Rothman
Hometown: Providence, RI
I'm not surprised Carlson brought up suicides when you talked about the Finnish education system.  I used to work for an organization that did quite a bit of research on other countries' education systems, including Japan's, and when the group's president would talk about their findings to American audiences, he would invariably hear, "Oh, we can't do that here; Japanese kids commit suicide."  So he would talk about the Danish system, and he would hear, "Oh we can't do that here; Japanese kids commit suicide."  Incidentally, the Finns not only provide universal access to education, they also get good results.  In an international study of reading literacy conducted in the early 1990s, Finland came in first among both 9- and 14-year-olds. (US 9-year-olds came in second.)  One explanation I heard for their strong standing was the fact that Finland has (or at least had at the time) no Finnish-language television; kids learned to read by watching close-captioned television.

Name: Betsy
Hometown: Alameda, CA
Just a quick note on your first point above regarding the memo which concluded that the sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq in 2002 was unlikely.  You pointed out the 16 words spoken in the 2003 State of the Union: "Saddam Hussein had sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."  Unfortunately, this gives GW an area of deniability, he said they sought, not that they had.  Of course it was just another of the scare tactics used by the administration to lead us into the war.  I too am tired of the lack of accountability and even more, I don't understand the people who still think we are a safer nation with GW at the helm.  They buy the whole package hook, line and sinker and that for me is the most disappointing and frightening thing of all.  Thank you for being redundant, and please continue to speak out on all of the misleading and fabricated facts that are issued by this adminisatration.

Name: Barb K
Hometown: Brooklyn Park, MN
To Tirebiter in Section R:  How can you believe that God's on your side if you never ask questions?  That's not faith, that's blind faith, something we have way too much of in this country.  The people I know with a deep, abiding faith, (Christian or otherwise) the ones I believe have integrity, always ask questions, and somehow get an answer they can believe in, whether it's from a pastor, someone they trust, or God itself.  That's something I work on everyday.

Name: Francois
Hometown: Princeton, NJ
This is in reply to Stupid's argument about the dangers of letting Iran have nuclear weapons.  First of all, it's questionable if a nuclear Iran would be that much worse than a nuclear Pakistan or a nuclear Soviet Union when Stalin was in charge.  But, in any cases such a discussion is right now irrelevant.  As some columnist pointed out, you should think of it this way [I paraphrase]: "Can you trust THIS admistration to do something about it that won't cause a disaster down the line?"  In short, I would take my chance with "waiting it out."

Name: Brad Harris
Hometown: Vancouver
Hello Mr. Alterman.
Apologies for the over the top letter directed at fundamentalist Jews and for those moderates who were offended I'm sorry. Obviously Stereo typing a group of people is never fair but it's an easy way of working in a much needed introspective in a group of people. Given the current nuclear brinkmanship in the Middle East and the consequences to 6.1 billion human beings and all, it would seem someone has to call a truce between the tribes.

January 18, 2006 | 3:06 PM ET | Permalink

I’m getting more than a little tired of writing this, as I’m sure you are of reading it.  But I persist, boring even myself, because I feel strongly that deliberately misleading a democratic nation into war is not just wrong, but a crime—an act of evil that taints everyone whom it touches.  You may convince yourself that you “know better”  than the people’s representatives because of how dangerous the world is, and how smart you are, but if you have to lie to them to convince them of the rectitude of your cause, well then, you’re a despot, not a democrat.  And you’ve no right to turn this nation into a despotism simply because 3000 people were killed on September 11, 2001.  Take a look at this story buried in the Times today: 

A high-level intelligence assessment by the Bush administration concluded in early 2002 that the sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq was "unlikely" because of a host of economic, diplomatic and logistical obstacles, according to a secret memo that was recently declassified by the State Department.

Among other problems that made such a sale improbable, the assessment by the State Department's intelligence analysts concluded, was that it would have required Niger to send "25 hard-to-conceal 10-ton tractor-trailers" filled with uranium across 1,000 miles and at least one international border.

The analysts' doubts were registered nearly a year before President Bush, in what became known as the infamous "16 words" in his 2003 State of the Union address, said that Saddam Hussein had sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

The story by itself is only one piece of the puzzle, but really, when you add it all up: the various memos that have since been revealed, the reliance on Chalabi and “Curveball,” that drunk, lying Czech spy who made up the “Prague” meeting, the blackballing and smearing of all internal critics who raised questions, the Downing Street Memo and the deliberate BS-ing of Powell and his people, the illegal wiretaps, the refusal to release the content of the transcripts demanded by Bolton, etc., the refusal to acknowledge the many, many ambiguities in the intelligence on WMDs, the refusal to plan for an insurgency or even the maintenance of law and order, the decision not to go after Zarqawri, I could go on and on and on, and I do, all the go-__am  time, as I said, earlier, boring even myself.  But what drives me the craziest is that the very people who are supposed to protect us from irresponsible leadership don’t seem to give a damn.  Look at the placement of the above story in the alleged ground zero of the so-called liberal media.  Look at the fact that this is the newspaper that, more than any other, stands guilty of passing along the lies discussed above under the byline of its “run-amuck” reporter Judy Miller.  Ask yourself where is the accountability in this system of ours?  And how can you call us a democracy when it is literally nowhere to be found?

John Diiulio, (one of the conservatives I most admire), predicts, here:

[Bush’s]’s 2006 State of the Union Address will begin to reverse his 2005 political slide.

Unified Republican government will continue to split conservatives, but most political media mavens will continue to peddle the usual pat stories about left-right, red-blue partisan warfare and miss the more interesting intraparty stories.

A New Democrat will win the presidency in 2008, but not by much, not with coattails that carry Democrats into majority status in Congress, and not for reasons reflecting any new realities or fundamental shifts in the body politic.

And finally, the pundits will nonetheless dress the next Democratic presidential victory in some silly new conventional wisdom ("New Blue Nation"? "The Bush Backlash"?) that will be widely forgotten, save by academic nerds or curmudgeons like me, before the decade is out.

But this James Webb fellow is giving him a strong run for his money.  Look at what this proud Reaganite writes here:

It should come as no surprise that an arch-conservative Web site is questioning whether Representative John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who has been critical of the war in Iraq, deserved the combat awards he received in Vietnam.

After all, in recent years extremist Republican operatives have inverted a longstanding principle: that our combat veterans be accorded a place of honor in political circles. This trend began with the ugly insinuations leveled at Senator John McCain during the 2000 Republican primaries and continued with the slurs against Senators Max Cleland and John Kerry, and now Mr. Murtha.

Yet another Bush accomplishment, according to Bloomberg: “American workers have rarely taken home a smaller share of the nation's prosperity, a condition that is undermining bipartisan support for free trade and creating friction between President George W. Bush's administration and the Federal Reserve.”  Here.

There is a down-the-middle account of my debate without Chicken Novak and with Tucker Carlson here in the UCSB student newspaper, but I was pleased to receive this blog item about the debate.  I genuinely like Tucker and think he’s a fine conservative journalist, when he’s not “hurting America” on TV,  But he did that stupid, stupid thing in that debate which was when I expressed awe at Finland’s educational system—which, by the way, was all I said, contra this item—in which every citizen is guaranteed the full cost of her or his education from birth through graduate school including a living wage—and where nobody has the unfair advantage of private school—Tucker countered with that idiotic line about suicides which would be irrelevant even if it were true, which I knew it wasn’t.  I offered to let him defend it here.  Let’s see.  In the meantime, well, you get the point.  And remember, Tucker is genuinely among the least of lesser offenders in the conservative talk-show host world, God save the Republic.

What Liberal Media? continued. Part , XXXVIII

Paul McLeary is in Iraq, reporting on the reporting here.

Alter-adjustment.  Yesterday I linked to an NRO piece by Byron York to illustrate the right-wing habit of calling Al Gore “nuts” whenever he spoke the truth or called on the administration to respect the Constitution.  I misread the article, however, and later in the day, removed the link and replaced it with one to David Horowitz’s Web site, which did just that.  My apologies to Mr. York.

Alter-reviews:  I was able to catch an acoustic performance last week by Dion at Joe's Pub as part of a benefit for my friends at the Housing Works Bookstore/Café and it was thoroughly charming.  The guy went through all that horrible teen-idol-rock-star-drug addict-Behind-the-Music crap and came out the other side, forty years later, with his sense of humor and perspective well intact.  The music was also a pure delight.  It’s odd to think that this former ‘teenager in love’ could do justice to Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf with anything like the requisite authenticity it demands, but Dion can and did.  The only gimme of the night was a cool acoustic “Wanderer,” and that worked too.  I’m really sorry Sal, below, does not like the album better, but you know we don’t censor our experts here, unlike some administrations I could name.

Sal writes:  I don't know about you, but I was looking forward to a new record by Dion DiMucci.  One of the great voices of rock 'n' roll, Dion has sung some of the most memorable hits of the 50's & 60's.  The teen idol sounds of "A Teenager In Love" and "I Wonder Why" with his band The Belmonts, right through "The Wanderer," "Runaround Sue," and "Ruby Baby," Dion has been part of some of the greatest rock 'n' roll songs of all time.  And thanks to these songs, Dion gained respect across the board, influencing artists such as The Young Rascals through Bruce Springsteen.

"Bronx In Blue," Dion's first new recording in 6 years, is a semi-acoustic run through of the blues that started it all for DiMucci.  His voice sounds great.  Unfortunately, the versions of these songs that we've heard a thousand times before, are not very compelling.  Dion seems to be walking through all 12 songs which include "Who Do You Love," "Walking Blues," and "Baby, What You Want Me To Do," and the arrangements are pretty much the same throughout.  I do think it's worth a listen.  Maybe two or three listens will change my mind for the better.  I like Dion too much to give up on this one.


The song list can be found here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Catherine
Hometown: New York, NY
Hi Eric,
I called Mr. Gore's Tenn. office yesterday, during his speech.  I was so excited to see a Democrat actually spell something out, without hemming and hawing, stumbling all over themselves not to "offend" anyone.  I told the person who answered the phone that I was calling to beg Mr. Gore to please enter the '08 race.  He thanked me, but said he wasn't "planning to run."  I can only hope he changes his mind.  I cannot support Hillary.  I watched Mark Warner this weekend on a Sunday talk show, and while I didn't think he was a disaster, I wasn't very impressed.  I'm so bummed over our "choices", as they stand now.  I can't see any of them I would contribute money to either.  But I would to Gore.

Name: Bill Skeels
Hometown: Raleigh, NC
Taylor Branch's NYT Op-Ed on King's broader legacy.  This is certainly worth bringing to the attention of your readers, inspired and inspiring. 

Selma released waves of political energy from the human nucleus of freedom. Ordinary citizens ventured across cultural barriers, aroused a transnational conscience and engaged all three branches of government. After the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, Dr. King claimed that the distinctive methods of sharecroppers and students had revived nothing less than the visionary heritage of the American Revolution. "The stirring lesson of this age is that mass nonviolent direct action is not a peculiar device for Negro agitation," he told the Synagogue Council of America. "Rather it is a historically validated method for defending freedom and democracy, and for enlarging these values for the benefit of the whole society."

This effusive axiom went unnoticed, but the blessings of freedom did ripple far beyond the black victims of caste. As Dr. King predicted, the civil rights movement liberated segregationists themselves. The integrity of law enforcement rose with a stark decline in racial terror. The Atlanta Braves joined the first professional sports teams to spring up at integrated stadiums, and business radiated Sun Belt growth into a region of historic poverty. In elections, new black voters generated the 20th century's first two-party competition to displace the ossified regimes of white supremacy. The stigma of segregation no longer curtailed a Southerner's chances for high national office, and fresh candidates rose swiftly to leadership in both national parties.

Name: Jane Flanagan
Hometown: Brookline, MA
Very interesting, your item about the Vatican recasting the Judas betrayal as merely part of God's plan.  In that vein, everything George Bush does is part of God's plan.  Cheney's five deferments?  Part of God's plan.  Instigating terrorism in Iraq? That's right...God's plan. Supreme Court appoints Bush...God's plan, that explains the hanging chad's and all that confusion in Florida.  And the same goes for priest pedophilia...God's plan.

Name: Peter Sturges
Hometown: Honolulu, HI
Just a note on Lingle.  Her Jewish support team includes a cabal of car dealers and the likely-to-go-to-jail-for-racketeering former head of the Hotel Workers Union.  Not exactly Jewish pride material. (Google Tony Rutledge)

Name: Matthew Saroff
Hometown: Owings Mills, MD
Notwithstanding Brad Harris's accusation of money grubbing, I think that attitudes from towards Jews, Israel, and Zionism stem from the fact that many people find Israel and Zionism personally offensive on a cultural level.  Since the emancipation of the Jews in post revolution France there has been an assumption among society that there is a place for Jews in a progressive society.  There is a belief that they would be valued members of society on the basis of their contributions to that society. The premise of secular Zionism, and it is clear that secular Zionism is responsible for the founding of the state of Israel, is that this is not true.  There is the belief that Jews need a safe haven, because a society can turn on them in a Kangaroo court (Dreyfuss), or a Genocide in the most civilized nations on earth (Germany and France in the above examples).  Zionism says that the enlightenment we perceive is a thin veneer that is easily cracked, and that Jews need protection from that underlying reality.  At its core, secular Zionism implies that the comfortable progressive societies with "civil rights" and "safety nets" are in fact savage and brutal, and that the lid is on only for the moment.  If you believe that your society is past the savagery that was habitual until the 1700s, then Jews should be content to rely on that society for their protection.

Name: Steuart Liebig
Hometown: Culver City, CA
Doc and readers, the question may not be whether or not western states will vote for jews for major office. rather, i think it's more appropriate to think on what might happen in the bible belt. think about gore losing tennessee in 2000 - - might it have something to do with having lieberman on the ticket? to my mind, yes. also, why is it that conservatives always have to go to class warfare - - beaujolais and volvos and hollywood stars? the real elite are the guys at the top of the food chain who write the checks for the "stars" and who have chauffeurs driving them to and from their big deals - - and who can buy the media and congressmen/women.

Name: Leila Abu-Saba
Hometown: Oakland CA
re: Brad Harris and the Jews, I guess you ran that letter to show...that nuts write to you? That anti-Semites write to you? But all I can say is .... eeeewww.
Signed, an Arab-American and fellow Semite

Name: Tim Francis-Wright
Hometown: Medford, Mass.
"Is, for instance, Reason columnist Cathy Young on the payroll of Bibi Netanyahu? Of Pat Robertson? Inquiring minds want to know."  Frankly, it would make more sense if she were in the employ of one of those "fathers' rights" groups, given her recent scribblings on such important topics as male victims of domestic violence.

Name: Jack McCarthy
Hometown: Oswego, Ill.
Tucker Carlson proves again and again that he's an idiot.  His latest ill-considered, sweeping generalizations come via a story about your debate with the MSNBC host in the Daily Nexus, the UC-Santa Barbara student newspaper.  "Carlson contended that three issues - abortion, the second amendment and gay marriage - are always presented from a left-leaning point of view in American media," according to the Daily Nexus story.  "On average, Carlson said, journalists tend to be white, come from liberal, coastal areas, graduate from liberal colleges, and as a result have the same culture and perspective of the world."  I've written for newspapers large and small for the past 25 years.  But I'm just a Midwest boy who went to a public university and I don't move in those same elite coastal circles. So I find it hard to actively work in that lefty pro-abortion and anti-gun stance when writing on zoning issues on the latest City Council agenda.  And there just wasn't room to mention gay marriage in that college basketball game I covered over the weekend.  Maybe next time. I do, however, plead guilty to being Caucasian.

Name: Mrs. Tarquin Biscuitbarrel
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Dr. A-- When David Horowitz recently stated that George W. Bush was the first prez to observe Chanukah parties in the White House, he was just... plain... wrong...  During his first Chanukah as President, Bill Clinton welcomed his Jewish staffers' children, as well as a bunch from the DC/JCC after-school program, to come light the chanukiot.  The kindergarten-age a family I know got a little too close to the candle flames and her hair caught fire.  President Clinton, also father to a long-haired daughter, reacted immediately and patted out the flames. The little girl subsequently appeared in a brief interview with Jay Leno on the "Tonight" show that was widely publicized.

Name:  Toby Fallsgraff
I just wanted to call your attention to the launch today of a new organization, ReadtheBill.org, which is calling for all congressional bills to be posted online 72 hours before any floor action can take place.  The founder, Raphael DeGennaro, who was the co-founder of Taxpayers for Common Sense, says the group was inspired by bills such as the Patriot Act passing Congress without anyone – legislators and citizens alike – having had the chance to read it.

Name:  Sandra
Hometown:  Dallas, Texas
Regarding the allegation by Tom in Providence that liberals are bad tippers: when dubya was Governor I ran into him at a car wash in Dallas.  The place is upscale, with a store and shoe shine guy inside the building to give you something to do while you wait.  Dubya was getting a shine and after he got it and went out to get his car I chatted with the shoe shine guy who shined my shoes next.  I asked the guy how dubya was as a tipper and he said "cheap."  After my shoe shine I gave the guy a $10 tip and told him it was for my shine AND for the cheapo's shine.  'Nuff said.

Name: Bill Strachan
Hometown: Enfield
First it was WMD where there weren't any.  Then, it was a great, quick military victory followed by a complete disaster of an occupation followed by complete abuse and corruption in reconstruction in Iraq.  Afghanistan, a justified invasion, has now lapsed into disarray by reason of neglect.  Current account and federal deficits spiralling out of control with the administration's complete complicity.  Our trade policies in complete shambles. FEMA and Homeland Security are any thing but with disastrous results.  The Republican Congress running amok with hubris and corruption.  Illegal electronic eavesdropping on US citizens. The military is on the brink of denegrating to less than 75% combat ready. Social Security, fortunately, has been left alone for now, but Medicare/Medicaid Plan D is in a major freefall.  Is it my imagination or am I just out in the wilderness to feel that this Republican Government is a complete train wreck and the country is oblivious?  Polls show voters are disgusted with it all, but they seem to feel that their own Congressman and Senator are OK?  Hopefully, as the Abramoff scandal unfolds, and other scandals brewing come to greater light (not optimistic given the corporate leanings of the MSM), maybe an '06 purge is in the offing. My guess is economy will slow precipitously, hurricanes will strike, and we will remain powerlss to do anything about Iran or North Korea because of our preoccupation with Iraq and the War on Christmas.  Glad I am trying to avoid riding the rails with this bunch at the controls.

Name: Brad
Hometown: Arlington, VA
Dr. Alterman, Your respondent Dan from Greer, SC picks up on the previous misguided attempts to censor Major Bateman's contributions to this blog or question his motives.  In particular, Dan is "troubled by the cumulative impact of the posts by Major Bob" (which would be what exactly?).  Despite his admission that "Major Bob gives insight to things about which I have no clue," Dan is "perplexed by the singular lack of real violence that is encountered."  Dan leaps to the conclusion that Major Bateman is being monitored (which he likely is, per regulation) or is part of some larger propaganda effort, on account of "the complete absence of death on a regular and persistent basis."  Basically, it appears that Dan is simply struggling with the profound disconnect between his perceived reality of the situation in Iraq, of which he has admitted ignorance, and the perspective offered by Major Bateman, who is actually in Iraq.  Dan would do well to explore as many sources of information as possible, particularly those that challenge his perceived truths.  Someone much smarter than me once told me that information truly is power, but its strength is only found in its breadth.  While somewhat esoteric, it simply means to step back, look at the big picture, and collect as much information as possible. Isolated facts from a solitary perspective carry little weight.  Sadly, it appears that ideologues on both sides of the aisle have long forgotten that there is much to learn from those with whom we may disagree.  From my experience, such people often have the most to offer because, if nothing else, they offer a different perspective.  Regarding, Dan's suggestion that we "find a way to work with some of these crackpot countries, as, in the long run, they will not be denied, as no country will, the self determination as to it's domain," I defer to the teachings of history. Namely, consider our previous attempts to "work with" the likes of Stalin in WWII, Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war, the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan, the Contras in Central America, which is to say nothing of our current dealings with Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Pakistan (to name a scant few).  Stupid correctly notes that in the current (and bygone, for that matter) geopolitical atmosphere, you need to pick your dance partner wisely. In any event, working with "crackpot nations" has rarely, if ever, provided long-term solutions to any problems, and often ultimately exacerbated the original problem.  Stupid's self-proclaimed naivete may in fact be a deeper grasp of the realities of our world than the likes of Dan would care to realize.

Name: Tirebiter in Sector R
Hometown: Corvallis OR
More of the same: You never ask questions / When God's on your side

January 17, 2006 | 1:46 PM ET | Permalink

"What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently."

This man could have been president… but hey, Nader preferred Bush. Thanks Ralph.

Naturally, the Right’s response is to call him crazy.  (Raising the fact that we have a constitution will do that every time.)

Meanwhile, that illegal domestic spying thing, well, it didn’t work out so well.  Virtually without exception, the wiretaps “led to dead ends or innocent Americans.”  Here.

Michael Kinsley writes,

“Here, once again, the Bush administration helps to make the softies' case.  They could have jumped through the required hoops and be wiretapping away about five minutes later.  Or if they didn't like the way some court was interpreting the law, they could have gotten a law tailor-made from Congress just the way they liked.  ("I'll take it medium rare, with cuffs but no pleats, and hold the right to a jury trial.")  But that was too much trouble.

And Hitchens makes the case that Bush wanted to blow up Al-Jezeera, here

The memorandum is actually a five-page transcript stamped "Top Secret."  It describes a meeting at the White House on April 16, 2004, between President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair.  At that meeting, which took place while desperately hard fighting was in progress in the Iraqi town of Fallujah, Bush mooted the idea of taking out the headquarters of Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar.  The network's correspondents inside the city had been transmitting lurid footage of extreme violence.  The exchange apparently puts Blair in a good light, in that he dissuaded the president from any such course of action and was assisted in this by Colin Powell, who was then secretary of state.

And thanks again, Ralph.

Oops, I invaded the wrong country.

We destroyed the country in order to destroy it.

A Nightmare Prediction:  I was about to allow myself to be in a good mood about the fact that Mr. Casey is going to kick Mr. Santorum’s posterior in the next election, here, but then I realized that if you were John McCain, and you wanted to re-assure your party that they could depend on you to be just as extremist and unreality-based as they can, (and of course, you weren’t), plus you had fought cancer in your life and were already older than seventy, and plus, Santorum, who is from another part of the country, is going to lose anyway, then who would you pick to be your VP?  It’s another “Ashcroft manages to lose to a dead man” all over again.  Of course the worst of all possible worlds is that McCain’s medical troubles make it impossible to serve during that period and this guy takes over.

I still say “Gore/Obama 08,” but I think McCain will be nearly impossible to beat and I’ve changed my mind about him being un-nominatable.  (Jeb is the wild card, by the way.)  But if McCain does turn out to be the nominee, maybe Democrats had just better nominate Hillary and get it over with….

I think with all the difficulties facing Knight-Ridder these days, we should take a moment to praise their Washington Bureau.  My impression during the run up to the war in Iraq was that they bought less of the BS coming from the Bush administration than any other major news outlet, and backed it up with inspired investigative reporting, shaming the employers of Judy Miller and Bob Woodward.  Ditto the story mentioned here in re Alito’s historical record.  Merely doing such conscientious journalism these days invites bad-faith charges of “liberal bias” as part and parcel of the right’s strategy of “working the refs.”  But these guys stick to their guns, do the difficult gruntwork, and then stand by their story.  Dammit, it’s inspiring.

I was always impressed with Michael Fumento for writing perhaps the worst predictive book of all time, entitled “The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS,” a “myth” that is killing tens of millions of people in Africa.  Now I see from BusinessWeek that

Scripps Howard News Service announced Jan. 13 that it's severing its business relationship with columnist Michael Fumento, who's also a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute.  The move comes after inquiries from BusinessWeek Online about payments Fumento received from agribusiness giant Monsanto (MON ) -- a frequent subject of praise in Fumento's opinion columns and a book.
In his career at Hudson, Fumento has carved out a specialty debunking critics of the agribusiness and biotechnology industries.  In 1999, he says, he solicited $60,000 from Monsanto to write a book on the business. The book, entitled BioEvolution was published in 2003.
The book's acknowledgements cite support from The Donner Foundation and "others who wish to remain anonymous."  Fumento didn't disclose the payment from Monsanto either in the book or in at least eight columns he has written mentioning Monsanto since 1999. He explained in his recent column that he focused exclusively on Monsanto due to a "lack of space and because their annual report was plopped onto my lap while I was hunting for a column idea."

We note that Fumento is, surprise, surprise a contributor to Reason Magazine, like Doug Bandow another pay-for-play pundit.  How much of their staff is on the take?  Is, for instance, Reason columnist Cathy Young on the payroll of Bibi Netanyahu?  Of Pat Robertson?  Inquiring minds want to know.

This just in:  David Horowitz admits, for once, that he is full of it, and makes wild accusations about academia for which he lacks any evidence.  (You knew it already but did you know that he knew it?)  Somehow I think he’ll still get his hugs from that “ strong... slim and trim”  good-looking president of his at the White House Hannukkah party.  Read all about it here.

Is Bright right?  Is Merken smirkin’?  You be the judge, here, (and what the hell does my critique of the liberal media study have to do with vaginas?  Inquiring minds want to know.

St. Bob, ahead of the curve
Posted by Chris Bertram

Bob Dylan, 1963:

In a many dark hour
I’ve been thinkin’ about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can’t think for you
You’ll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.

The Vatican 2006:

JUDAS ISCARIOT, the disciple who betrayed Jesus with a kiss, is to be given a makeover by Vatican scholars.  The proposed “rehabilitation” of the man who was paid 30 pieces of silver to identify Jesus to Roman soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane, comes on the ground that he was not deliberately evil, but was just “fulfilling his part in God’s plan”.

Alter-Appearance:  Sundance on Monday at 3 pm at the YARROW HOTEL THEATRE

“Traditionally thought of as a 'check' against injustice and abuses of power, the media has recently been criticized for being absent in that role.  Corporate consolidation, a devotion to ratings and the bottom line, and the influence of government all leave the public wondering whether the traditional media has given up its investigative credentials and become too embedded.  Is it really covering important stories courageously and without bias, or has alternative media (blogs, documentaries and satirical spins on hard news) assumed the role of speaking truth to power?  In a celebrity-driven culture, are news organizations driving content or is the audience?  Co-presented by the Center for American Progress."  Panelists are: Eric Alterman, Farai Chideya, Matt Cooper, Stephen Gaghan, Jehane Noujaim, John Podesta and Todd Purdum.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Dan
Hometown: Greer, SC
Doctor, as a long time reader and admirer of your essays into political, cultural & historical matters, I am troubled by the cumulative impact of the posts by Major Bob, as well as the comments of Stupid.  Major Bob gives insight to things about which I have no clue.  His efforts to aide the youth via his school supplies drive clearly represent a true soldier/philosopher, a role played by others throughout history.  I am perplexed, these many months of reading the Major's comments, by the singular lack of real violence that is encountered.  To read these comments you would think that Iraq is replete with school openings, distant thumps of irrelevant, ultimately, motor, or gunfire following a soccer match.  However, we have lost over 2000 soldiers, thousands maimed for life...the Iraqis clearly have daily mayhem and we clearly have daily attacks against Americans, but little if any of that is represented in the Major's comments.  Is this because, like the Green Zone, he is under close control?  Otherwise, why the complete absence of death on a regular and persistent basis?  I just do not get it.  Where did the war go?  Where is the insurgency?  If its all as Major Bob describes, why not come home now, the country is full of patriotic Iraqis, smiling school children and kindly merchants. Am I missing something here?  Like balance? 

As to Stupid complaining about the Bush Administration about its wimpy or drifting policies towards Iran, my only comments are..here we go again, ready to confront the dire enemy of Israel, and to calm the choppy waters in the area, just like Iraq.  I have a message for the world conquerors like Stupid: modern technology is not going to remain dormant, with or without the like or dislike of the GOP towards science in general.  When will the day arrive that nation states, via simple, as to date unimagined weapons will have the capacity to eviscerate any nation?  What are the Stupids of the world going to do then?  Pakistan might teeter, what then, do we or the Israelis take them out?  When do we stop this political and economic adventurism, and face up to reality: the world stands on the brink, always, and you will someday find a world which you can no longer control via troops and cruise technology or cia teams dropped into an offending nation.  What shall we do then?  We might want to find a way to work with some of these crackpot countries, as, in the long run, they will not be denied, as no country will, the self determination as to it's domain.

Major Bob replies:

Name: Major Bob
Hometown: Baghdad, Iraq
I appreciate Dan's comments, and it is certainly not my intent to paint a rosy picture of events here.  Indeed, in almost every posting I mention something about gunfire, mortars, rockets, or suicide bombs.  Those who have read my contributions over the year know that I have described (at various times) what it feels like when multiple suicide bombers detonate a few hundred yards away, how it feels to attend the memorial ceremony for a comrade who is going home in a box, what it sounds like when there is nervous post-blast rifle fire from the police vs. the sounds of a full-on firefight, and the anus-clenching fear you feel driving down some particularly nasty stretches of road.

But, in this war as in all wars, most of the time those things aren't happening.  Most of the time things are "normal."  That really is the reality here.  Even veterans of previous conflicts have described war as "long stretches of intense boredom, punctuated by short bursts of abject terror."  This war is like that as well.

We have, indeed, lost more than 2,100 dead and more than 15,000 wounded.  I have known and served with (either here or previously) several people in both categories.  But I have not personally witnessed anyone getting hit, so I haven't written about anyone getting hit.  My friend Jim was gobsmacked by an RPG a few months ago, for example, but because I was not with him, I did not write about it here.  (I did consider writing about visiting him in the hospital, but something else also happened that week, so that idea got bumped.)  Because I want to stay focused, I write only what I see.  Because this is not my blog, but I am a guest, I only write in about once a week, schedule permitting.  As a result, you get but a small window into life here.  If you would like to read about mayhem, death and destruction, there are several wonderful blogs by both soldiers and Iraqi civilians, from which to choose.  I encourage you to seek them out.

Finally, I am not a reporter. I am an observer, to be sure. And I guess, loosely described, you could say that I am "journaling" here, but that is not my role. I am just telling you one small tiny part of the story, because I am just one small tiny part of the story. That's all.

...and as for Mr. Hawk's query, I am in entire agreement with regard to the sentiment.  While Hugh Thompson was eventually vindicated with the highest medal possible, the fact that it took so long to come through is a disgrace to my service.  On the other hand, what some Altercation readers might not know is that Hugh Thompson has been immortalized in a way that very few in American military history have been before.  I submit that for Chief (later 1LT) Thompson, the eventual vindication might have meant far more than just a ceremonial rank.  Hugh Thompson, you see, was honored as only a few others have ever been...it is his story which is used in our field manual about leadership.  (For those who want to look it up it is FM 22-100).  His is the example which every NCO and cadet read when studying to advance.  Hugh Thompson is the case study the Army holds up to teach within our own ranks the true meaning of moral as well as physical courage for the entire United States Army.  That might seem hollow to you, and perhaps you think posthumous promotion would be more appropriate, but as it stands it is his name, and story, which is used alongside the likes of Joshua Chamberlain (of Gettysburg fame), SGT York (in WWI) and Audie Murphy (in WWII).  For a professional soldier, well, I cannot think of a much higher acknowledgement, nor one that might last longer.

With regards from Baghdad,
Bob Bateman

Supid replies: My response to Dan (as he wrote about me) is that I think we have to do both.  I agree we need to think about "the day" when any crackpot nation can destroy the world.  That's why I've urged (to the point of naivete) a foreign policy that more supports democracies with human rights rather than blindly follows globalization, whine so much about the need for energy independence and believe the stagnant USAID budget is tragic.  I also don't favor unilateralism, though I do think the United Nations isn't set-up for the work that is needed (I've suggested an additional group made up of democracies -- maybe an expanded G8).

But nobody wants to live in a town without a police, and for now that's us.  Iran is more like a notorious gang stockpiling weapons than some survivalist doing the same somewhere out in the woods (e.g., North Korea).  You might leave the survivalist alone, but you sure hope the cops will raid the gang first rather than hope they'll be reasonable later when they're shooting up the neighborhood.  (For what it's worth, I'm not calling for immediate unilateral military action in Iran, but I think U.N. sanctions alone, even if achieved, will be futile).

Look at the history of those now governing Iran.  During the Iraq-Iran war they demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice their population for the sake of their war goals (Yes, Iraq was the original aggressor in that war, but by the middle of 1982 it was Iran refusing all cease fires and
continuing the war, sending waves of boys and old men to slaughter in the process).  One of these leaders, former president Rasfanjani, called for a future nuclear war with Israel with the reasoning "we can take out all of Israel, but they can't kill all of us."  Look, I'm all for pressuring Israel into settlement with the Palestinians (let alone removing the illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories) but it's not the cruelties of the occupation that drives these religious ideologues, it's nonbelievers in control of holy land.  And even if Israel wasn't there, the region is far too unstable (e.g., the suppression of Shiites in Saudi Arabia, the anti-Shia strain of Wahhabism) for Iran to have nukes, and good luck keeping each every oil-rich Sunni nation from acquiring them soon afterwards.  Nor could we sit out such a regional fight: imagine the effect of one detonation at a key gulf port city on the world economy.  When you have this kind of announced agenda on the part of Iran, why would you simply wait for it to come to fruition?  (Answer: if you think there will be a change of government in the interim -- and I think this is what we should be working for, but given the record of the reform movement you
better have a contingency).

Name:  Brad Harris
Hometown: Vancouver
Hello Mr. Alterman, why doesn't anyone constructively discuss why Jews raise the ire of so many of us around the world.My take on it is simply the look in the eye's of many a Jewish follower that exposes the structural weakness of the cult in that they believe they are the chosen ones above all others and are constantly thinking about acquiring material wealth only for themselves.A little tweak of the religion here and there wouldn't hurt.

Name: Bob
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Kazin gets it just right: "white Americans from the lower and middle classes no longer expect presidents to do much that will improve their material lives. . . . Many liberals still harbor a nagging contempt for the God-fearing, the unhip, and the poorly educated -- a weakness that GOP strategists from Lee Atwater to Karl Rove skillfully exploited."  But the Democrats' deeper problem is that we have no well-defined core constituency.  The GOP, whatever else it has been for the last 100 years or so, has always been the party of the corporate elite.  That has given them financial, organizational, and ideological stability whether they were in or out of power.  The Democrats, on the other hand, have been the party of everyone else, and everyone else isn't a constituency.  The revolt of Midwestern, Western, and Southern farmers gave Bryan a constituency at the turn of the last century, and produced state-level victories for Democrats. But it took a split in GOP ranks in 1912 to put a Democrat in the White House. The Depression gave Democrats their next national victory, and organized labor gave them the core constituency they needed to keep their majority into the 1970s.  But who's our core constituency now?  If Bryan were resurrected today, he'd have to speak to "everyone else." That may be enough to win an election at a time when GOP overreaching has alienated big chunks of the electorate. But it doesn't solve the Democrats' long-term problem.

Name: fafner1
Hometown: Tacoma, WA
I generally agree with Adam Upper West Sides' contention that a Jew could be elected president, but the election of Jews to public office in western states with large Mormon populations (Utah, Nevada, and Idaho) is really a special case. The Mormons consider themselves to be descendants of the "Lost Tribes", and, in a peculiar sort of way, view themselves as closer to Jews than to mainstream Christians.  A Jewish friend who lived in Salt Lake commented to me that the Jews were the only non-Mormons he knew that the Saints to not proselytize.

Name: Arthur C. Hurwitz
Hometown: New York, NY
I would describe the difference in the attitudes towards Jews in the United States and France in the following manner: France: "To the Jew as an individual, everything, to the Jews as a people, nothing."  The United States of America:  "To the Jews as a people, everything. To the Jew as an individual, nothing."  Personally, I would prefer the latter.

Name:  John I.
Hometown:  Honolulu, Hawaii
FYI. Just to add another Jewish governor, Hawaii's Linda Lingle.

Name: Chris Mohr
Hometown: Raleigh, NC
THANK YOU for your column about the dubious UCLA media bias study ("Rigging the Numbers"). I've been engaged in some vigorous debates about this study with conservative friends who've stubbornly latched onto it as being purportedly a methodologically sound, objective proof of bias.  I've been able to figure out for myself more or less what the severe methodological flaws are - though you articulated them much better and with much better detail and background.  However, before your column, I didn't know the true Heritage Foundation background of these authors - their UCLA faculty connection is frequently cited by the right to seemingly give the "study" weightier objective credibility than if say, the Heritage Foundation itself had produced it.  In fact, one smoke screen the authors used was to have purportedly enlisted a "balanced" group of research assistants, with at least as many who voted for Gore in 2000 as Bush, to do the legwork behind the study.  But when I've countered with the facts about why the basic assumptions and methodology of the study are hopelessly flawed and invalid, my rightie friends counter along the lines of "the authors statistically corrected for the relative proportions of Democrats vs Republicans in Congress", etc. [since it's congressional committee report citations that are a large part of the basis for the study].  This "study" is academic fraud nearly as egregious as the fictitious stem cell results recently reported.  The allegedly neutral academic authors should be exposed for exactly what they are: ideological partisan hacks. Thanks for providing better ammo the next time this discussion comes up.

Name: Thom Odell
Hometown: Moab, UT
Regarding the UCLA Media Bias "study", Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting reached an opposite conclusion looking at ten years of data.  From the May/June 2005 issue of FAIR: "Conservative or right-leaning think tanks garnered 50 percent of citations among the 25 most-cited think tanks, the same percentage as last year, and near their 10-year average of 51 percent of citations.  Centrist think tanks declined slightly this year, garnering 33 percent of the citations, compared to 37 percent last year and 36 percent as their 10-year average. Progressive or left-leaning think tanks had the greatest percentage increase this year, receiving 16 percent of citations, up from last year's 13 percent and their 10-year average of 14 percent. ( link)

Name: Dick Price
Hometown: Mt. Washington, California
A note on the comment from Bob Hawkes on the passing of Hugh Thompson, the helicopter pilot who put himself in harm's way to stop the killing at Mylai.  Thompson doesn't need posthumous promotion to lieutenant colonel or anything beyond what he was.  It's enough that he went to his grave -- and lived all those years after the Vietnam War -- as an offical Honorable Man in Dishonorable Times.  Can you imagine the sense of rightness he must have carried deep in his heart all those years?

Name: Tom
Hometown: Providence
While you sip beujolais in recent years and spit out your hatreds from the comforts of your "open style" kitchens in Amagansett, you very wealthy elite all-white liberals would often call up a certain hero from overseas to assist in Bush bashing.  Gorgeous George.  Tears ran down my cheeks as I read this story of one of the truly greatest clown figures of our time.  A clown.  Clownie!!  I imagine your horror over morning ginsing teas and baked items bought from some nearby and "quaint" store. Money is no matter in Amagansett but I bet you still short changed the serving person on the tip. I found in years of bartending that rich white liberals were in fact the worst tippers, bar none. Cheeeeep! But you might overhear sonorous mots about "the working class" and the "underclass." But tips...didn't dawn on my patrons. You people in your wonderful latte universe are soooo funny! Poor George, it is curious, no? I mean he can't get enough of himself, like a cat chasing its tail. With his appetite for his own ferocious self adoration gone onto such heights, perhaps he shall devour himself in front of a British national audience. If he does, tears of laugher will drip down my Irish Catholic face. You elite wealthy white liberals in the medias will have found your crown prince buffoon. Thanks so much George, for making yourself and your need to "connect" so transparent. Always, always, always, it is about you. You Eric Alterman, you Maureen Dowd and you Gorgeous George. I would love to buy Hitchens a drink after this and watch his own tears from laughter. Priceless. Stay white, wealthy, elite and fashionably liberal! Imagine the music from the west wing show when you write your words. A clown for all ages!! Gorgeous George, INTERNATIONL CLOWN-MAN OF MYSTERY! Honest to God, the laughter lasted till it hurt. Thanks.

Eric replies: Beaujolais? That hurts.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments