April 7, 2006 | 11:45 AM ET | Permalink

I’ve got a new Think Again column here.  It’s called: “Deconstructing the Attack on Jill Carroll.”

From the Benton Foundation:

ADELSTEIN SEEKS PROBE OF VIDEO NEWS RELEASES
[SOURCE: Reuters, AUTHOR: Jeremy Pelofsky]

Federal Communications Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein on Thursday called for an investigation into new accusations that television news broadcasts are not disclosing the source of video news releases they use. Two consumer advocacy groups released a study that found 77 television stations over a 10-month period ending in March failed to clearly tell viewers when they were using video news releases and said that violated FCC rules that require such disclosure. "We should immediately open investigations into these possible violations of our rules and prosecute them to the full extent of the law," Commissioner Adelstein said at a news conference sponsored by the groups, Free Press and the Center for Media Democracy. The FCC a year ago reminded television broadcasters and cable operators to properly identify the source of video news releases after incidents in which prepackaged news from government agencies was used by stations without proper sponsorship identification. Congressional investigators also concluded last year that prepackaged news stories created by the Office of National Drug Control Policy constituted covert propaganda.

* Text of Commissioner Adelstein's statement

* RTNDA Tells Stations To ID All VNRs — The Radio-Television News Directors Association wants stations to toughen up their VNR policies, including clearly identifying all outside material used in news programming.

LIBERAL DENOMINATION FIRES SALVOS AT RIGHT
[SOURCE: New York Times, AUTHOR: Neela Banerjee]

The United Church of Christ, in an e-mail campaign, is accusing the ABC News political program "This Week" of booking far more conservative Christian leaders than moderates for the Sunday morning broadcast. The network has called that assertion "unfounded and not based on fact." And after stirring up publicity in late 2004 with an advertisement about tolerance, the church is distributing an even more pointed commercial that shows people who might not be considered mainstream, like a single mother and a gay couple, being shot through the roof of a church from an "ejector pew."  "God doesn't reject people," the commercial says. "Neither do we." Critics of the United Church of Christ, including the Institute for Religion and Democracy, assert that the church tries to silence those who do not agree with its liberal interpretation of Scripture. The United Church of Christ appears to be battling two trends: the influence of the Institute of Religion and Democracy within mainline denominations and the influence of the religious right, particularly its influence with the news media.

( requires registration)

Christianity Today publishes a long, scholarly article on the “incoherence” of Hannah Arendt?  I dunno.  Someone read this and tell us if we need to pay attention.

In the earliest days of the invasion of Iraq, the "Q" word, that shortened, referential version of the infamous Vietnam-era "quagmire," was quickly brought up by pundits, military men and others.  Now, just over three years into the war (and civil war) in Iraq, a couple of letters that are closer to the ultimate ABCs of political life are making their appearance. The "F" word for "failure" and the dreaded -- for Bush's top officials almost unimaginable -- "D" word for "defeat."  Defeat was simply a possibility they never considered, not in their wildest dreams, and so never spent a day preparing contingency plans for.  Now, like it or not, believe it or not, they are in terra incognita and with their Iraqi policies in tatters and Robert Dreyfuss explains why defeat is now on the agenda.

Quote of the Day:  “Do you think al-Qaida thinks we’re retarded?” Jon Stewart.

This just in:  Lucky 13/Keeping up with the Steins, will be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival on May 2 and open in NY, LA, Chicago, Phila. and South Florida on May 12.  Trust me.

Slacker Friday

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to want free peanuts.  I'm writing about the Massachusetts universal health care initiative.  My homie Larry Howe (Oak Park, close enough) raises a good point about people who will doubtlessly flout the law and go without insurance, but I'm more concerned about what happens if people follow the law to the letter.  Remember when airlines
first stopped serving free meals on flights?  They were ridiculed and scorned, but after a while it was commonplace.  Now some don't even give you free peanuts and charge you extra for an aisle seat.  Now consider the Massachusetts plan: businesses with more than 10 employees can dump their health insurance and pay a yearly $300/employee tax.  That's a much lower cost than the cheapest HMO plan, so why wouldn’t they do that?  The only reasons I can think of are 1) employees would object and 2) the first to do so might receive bad PR.  But that’s Dubya chimera recovery-type thinking.  When the next recession comes you’ll hear  "we have to cut costs or lay people off" and how many employees are going to go job-hopping then?  Also, employers won't be draconian at first: they'll give a bonus to current employees to help cushion the blow.  As with the airlines, eventually the others will cite the need to “stay competitive.”  And for a clue as to the quality of private insurance, turn on talk radio and check out the ads for those cheap, no-name auto insurance companies offering to "keep you legal" (if you're in a mandatory auto insurance state).  Massachusetts might see a similar race to the bottom for all but the most in-demand professionals.

It's too much, too soon.  Universal health insurance plans should be limited, at least at first, to catastrophic injury and serious illness.  That way you've protected people from the things most likely to cause financial ruin, but with a far more manageable scope: such programs would have lower budgets, fewer cases, and less exposure to fraud (it's harder to game the system for things like a heart attack than for recurring back pain.)  This would also make it easier to identify flaws in the system and make corrections, and politically will be easier to sell than more
grandiose plans.

Oops, I'm late, but for the record:

NL East: New York
NL Central: St. Louis
NL West: San Diego
Wildcard: Philadelphia

AL East: New York
Al Central: Minnesota (This pains me -- and I give the Sox kudos for making good off-season moves, but I just have this feeling the magic is gone.  That's OK, they won in my lifetime and they're still better than the Cubs!)
Al West: Oakland
Wildcard: Toronto

Name: Colin
Hometown: GVL, FL
Doc, you are mistaken about older Macs running Windows.  You might have been running virtual PC.  Big difference.  Now you can actually boot Windows on a Mac (with Intel).  Virtual PC required you have a Mac OS and Windows.  Now you can have either one or both.  This means that people can buy the new generation of Macs instead of the crappy machines made by Dell, HP and others.  Bad news for them.  Good news for Apple.  Why anyone would want to install such a lousy OS on a Mac -- that's the real question.  Smart folk who don't like viruses and worms and want a clean, easy user experience choose Mac's OS anyway.  And with the massive problems Microsoft is having launching Vista, its update to XP, OS X looks even better.

Name: Phillip Davies
Hometown: Lafayette Hill, PA
Dear Eric,
Here is a little contrarian thinking about climate control.  Even if we get serious about it, guess how much of the world's oil and natural gas we are going to use?  All of it!  That's right, 100%. No matter how much we change our behavior, we will still use every last drop.  It may last fifty years, or it may last 75 years, but it is really a moot point.  And given the world's growing consumption and the dwindling supply, it is wishful thinking to believe otherwise.  The world should quit fighting about the use of oil and start thinking about the other dimensions to this dilemma.  Oil executives should quit worrying, no one is going to shut them down. And environmentalists should adjust their strategies as well. Conservation of oil and gas would be very helpful, but only to extend the time period to develop clean replacements. No matter how much we change, all the oil will be used. We should accept this fact as we map out our future energy strategies.

Name: Eric Roth
Hometown: New York, NY
Hey Eric...
Give Steinbrenner a break man.  This "let's not build absolutely anything in NYC until every social problem is fixed" attitude that you are perpetuating is stupidity plain and simple.  One thing has nothing to do with another.  Those funds are earmarked for urban development (you know, keeping the city an economically viable place where people want to live and spend money) and not one thin dime of it would be spent on schoolkids if the vote went the other way... it would just go to some other construction project.  Scatterbrains like you who don't understand how running a city really works defeated the Jets' Stadium on the same nonsensical argument.  I count on you to set people straight, not feed them paranoid nonsense.  Please correct yourself and apologize... you sound like Helen Lovejoy ("Oh please won't somebody PLEASE think of the CHILDREN!!!").  This city belongs to more than just children and we have to spend on other kind of urban development.  Anyone who says anything different just doesn't understand what they are talking about.

Name: Mike
Hometown: Boise, ID
"That's who fifty percent of your voted for.  What the hell were you thinking?"  To answer that, the Democrats have been openly hostile to my beliefs.  The only group the left feels OK to insult is some Christians.  Insulting, belittling, loud and ignorant.  At least the incompetent-in-chief will pretend to care what I believe.  You want my vote?  Earn it.  I am more than willing to jump the Republican ship.  Give me a reason to jump to yours.  Otherwise it is just out of the frying pan and into the fire.  Kerry and Gore both were a waste and I would never vote for them.  I'd vote for Jackson or Sharpton or Obama before those 2 clowns, because they at least have an OBVIOUS passion.  You want my advice?  Restrict abortions (even if it's just parental notification) and stop pushing gay marriage (give them something similar with a different name - civil commitment or something) and Dems will have a majority.  Bush is only propped up by our fear of how Dems will treat us and our views.

Name: Rich Gallagher
Hometown: Fishkill, NY
After viewing the faux news story which WSYR in Syracuse ran about the dietary supplement chondroitin sulfate, I decided to do a little research on Dr. Nicholas DiNubile, the orthopedic surgeon who endorses the supplement in the report.  Dr. Nick, as he likes to be called, appears to be more of a salesman than a physician ( his website quotes him as saying "Sales is a contact sport.").  He has published a book with a forward by Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Of particular interest is the fact that his website notes that "DrNick.com has been made possible in part through an educational grant provided by Nutramax Labs."  And what, you may ask, is Nutramax Labs?  According to the company's website, Nutramax is "the company that started the glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate revolution."  So, WSYR not only failed to disclose that the report had been produced by a manufacturer of chondroitin sulfate, they also failed to report that the physician featured in the piece has financial ties to a major marketer of the supplement.  Amazing.

Name: Peter Alaimo
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
Eric, your first observation of the day actually answers your first question of the day.  Katie "giggling with celebrities" and "reading the news" is what provides most of this country with what passes for knowledge of politics, history, and international affairs.  That answers how 50% of this country voted for Bush.  Frightening, yes, but also true.

Name: NancyP
Hometown: San Francisco
Hey Eric, Re: TV stations and VNRs ...
I looked at the Free Press's list of the stations running corporate press releases as news, and they include one SF station, the CBS affiliate.  But it seems there's a lot more of this (and at least one more flavor) than even they realize.  Here was the headline in Wednesday's SF Chronicle: "Cash-strapped KRON is letting advertisers buy into news broadcasts. The boss says it's just a sign of the times."

Curiously, one of the quotes in the story comes from an exec at the very CBS affiliate nailed by Free Press.  "We draw a strict line between news and sales, and we don't do product placement on our news," said Dan Rosenheim, news director at CBS 5-TV (KPIX).  He added that the station does not accept any kind of freebies, including travel.  "If this policy is violated we would reimburse, and it might be a disciplinary issue internally."  Of course, this is a *totally* different situation, not at *all* analogous to the VNR kerfuffle, and to suggest otherwise merely confirms our lack of understanding of TV news.  I think I feel a song coming on (with apologies to the Buggles): "VNRs killed the news stations' star ..."  Keep up the good work!

April 6, 2006 | 11:55 AM ET | Permalink

What the hell?
Plus the Altercation Book Club

There were only fifteen, links to stories about how Katie Couric will now read the news on CBS in the evening instead of giggling with celebrities on NBC in the morning on Romenesko at 8:45 a.m. EST this morning.  This is an outrage.  I demand a recount.  How can America survive with only 15 stories to read about Katie this morning?  (Though to be fair, you can always re-read the nine that were posted yesterday and remain up today.)  Thank God for the blog world where this unfairly ignored story can be given the attention it so richly deserves.  (Actually, Mediabistro readers will have to survive, somehow, with only twelve, stories though unfairly, some of these are more about Meredith Vieira.)

More things I still don’t understand:

Anti-intellectual liars who are sabotaging our future and contemptuous of free speech and scientific inquiry.  That’s who fifty percent of your voted for.  What the hell were you thinking?

And what the hell was Tony (“I’m with Stupid”) Blair thinking too?  Wasn’t this the predictable result?

And do the people who think Bush didn’t lie about Iraq really believe their own bul***it?  What about this?

Here’s a Quote of the Day:  "The mission was to insulate the president," said a former senior government official who was "personally familiar with the damage-control effort."  "It was about making it appear that he wasn't in the know,” here.

Where’s the MSM follow-up on Murray Waas’s terrific reporting?  You tell me.

And here’s this from The New York Sun, via Josh Marshall:

A former White House aide under indictment for obstructing a leak probe, I. Lewis Libby, testified to a grand jury that he gave information from a closely-guarded "National Intelligence Estimate" on Iraq to a New York Times reporter in 2003 with the specific permission of President Bush, according to a new court filing from the special prosecutor in the case.

Shouldn’t this be the subject of a Justice Department leak probe?  Or is it OK because Bush, undoubtedly, was lying…

For more on the Libby leaks-- go here

And start hassling your local MSM editors, for God sakes.  There's no way the administration can justify this stuff to anybody but Fred Barnes...

And this? 

Did you ever imagine in your wildest dreams that after Vietnam we'd be doing this again?" one top State Department official remarked to another last week.  Inside the department people wonder about the next "strategy" after the hearts-and-minds gambit of sending diplomats unprotected to help secure victory turns into a squalid, overlooked fiasco. "Helicopters on the roof?" asked one official.

And what’s up with this?  Why is it that during the Clinton era U.S. newsrooms showed no hesitation broadcasting grotesque battle images from Somalia, but under Bush those kinds of clips from Iraq are shielded from viewers?

And why the hell are television stations still running government propaganda?  Free Press finds that all told, they caught 77 local stations slipping corporate-sponsored "video news releases" — segments promoting commercial brands and products — into their regular news programming.  These advertisements, flogging everything from vitamin supplements to porn-free search engines, were passed off to you, their viewers, as legitimate news reports.  This deception is illegal, and it's a serious breach of the trust between stations and their communities.

And shouldn’t this guy be working in the DHS? (I hear there’s an opening in the press office.):

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- British anti-terrorism detectives escorted a man from a plane after a taxi driver had earlier become suspicious when he started singing along to a track by punk band The Clash, police said on Wednesday.

And what the heck is wrong with these people giving Steinbrenner and his evil spawn hundreds of millions of dollars, destroying historic parkland, when he has already busted the salary cap, many times over, and has no choice but to stay in the city?  This is just stupid.  We can’t afford to educate our children decently in public schools but we give money to this evil man?  How about you just pay your go**am taxes like the rest of us, or aren’t Mr. Bush’s giveaways (discussed yesterday) enough for you, you greedy, Cleveland, criminal carpetbagger?

And what the hell is wrong with the people who haven’t released this movie yet?  I saw it at the Aspen Comedy Festival over a year ago and it was, like, the greatest movie of all time.  (Plenty of gratuitous female nudity too.)  It used to be called “Lucky 13,” which was a better title, than it now has which is “Keeping Up with the Steins,” here too.  This movie is so great, it will make you want to hire a Neil Diamond impersonator.

No seriously, Miramax guys… you want a plug?  Call me.  I loved this movie so much I was practically engaged to the woman sitting next to me when it was over.  What the hell were you waiting for?

Finally, what the **** is the big deal about Macs running Windows?  They already ran Windows.  I taught in a classroom in Brooklyn in September 2004 that was completely equipped with Macs running Windows.  What’s the big deal today?  More good press for Apple?  What, there wasn’t room for more stories about the fact that Katie Couric will be reading the news at night on CBS instead of giggling with celebrities in the morning?

One more thing I don’t understand:

When I was at Sundance, I went to a dinner thrown by the Creative Coalition and was seated next to Cynthia McKinney, who sat down next to me for a second, got up, disappeared, and never appeared again for the entire evening.  What the hell was that about?  Was she afraid that if she stayed, she might beat me up?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY EVE ROSE ALTERMAN!, a proud eight-year old member of what Steve Waldman terms the religious left (though not, we are saddened and amazed to report, a Yankee-hater… yet.)

Watch OUT Alfonso Soriano (Vice President Cheney will throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals home opener next Tuesday April 11 at RFK Stadium.  Game time is 1:05 p.m. ET against the New York Mets.)

Altercation Book Club:

The following are some excerpts I’ve culled from Take Care of Freedom and the Truth Will Take Care of Itself: Interviews with Richard Rory, edited by Eduardo Mendieta  (Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2006).  Because it is a series of separate interviews, I’m using this unusual format for the club today.

  1. “What is important is the contrast between fundamentalist religions and nonfundamentalist ones, because it is the difference between fanatics and nonfanatics, fascists and democrats. The members of the fundamentalist churches in the U.S. tend to be fanatically prejudiced and fanatically violent, and they are just not trustworthy citizens of the country.”

  2. “[Foucault] was a remarkable man, he had a great imagination, and he wrote memorable books. Foucault has been the most influential figure on the culture of the American left, but his influence has been dangerous. The result has been the “disengagement” of intellectuals: the idea was to resist the biopower exercised by capitalist society, but without any political notion of how to resist, without any political program, without any political utopia. Foucault’s effect on the American intellectual community has been one of profound resentment.”

    …The Foucauldian left is about 2 percent of the faculties at American universities, and it isn’t very important, except that it gives the right a terrific target. It’s enabled the right to generate an enormous amount of hostility against the universities because it can point at those few cases.”

  3. “Literature is more important [thank philosophy] for moral progress, because it contributes to the widening of the moral imagination. It makes us more sensitive by deepening our understanding of the motivations of, and of the differences among, our fellow humans. Philosophy is useful for summarizing previous moral insights in the form of moral principles, but it doesn’t do much creative work. For example, philosophical reflections did not do much to eliminate slavery, but narratives about the lives the slaves were living contributed a lot….“Something that has actually worked, instead, is identification across boundaries by imaginative projection—by coming to acknowledge that the members of a despised group are very much like the members of one’s own. Uncle Tom’s Cabin worked fairly well, and so did stories by Alan Parton and plays by Athol Fugard about the lives of blacks under the apartheid regime in South Africa. If we really believed that all human beings are brothers, or that they are tied together by the pure ideas of reason, then we wouldn’t allow the poor to suffer as much as we do. The rich sometimes help the poor, not because of abstract philosophical or religious convictions about human solidarity, but because the rich sometimes feel sufficiently secure to be able to share part of their wealth, and because they have enough imagination to grasp what it is like to be poor.

    “In other words, it is not a matter of finding something that is common to all, but of understanding that existing differences (among blacks and whites, heterosexual and homosexuals) are less important than we used to think. An increased acknowledgment of this unimportance is not the result of having heard better philosophical arguments.”

  4. “Our clients, like Marx’s, are the poor and wretched. Marx was practicing a sophisticated type of public relations. So was Dewey. What we need is more and better public relations agencies working for otherwise underrepresented clients. We do not need attempts to predict the future. Marx made himself look silly when he claimed to know what was going to happen next, as opposed to making suggestions about what ought to happen next. A good public relations agency helps make the future different from the past.”

  5. “Sometimes moral progress takes the form of a downward descent from the intellectuals to the masses. But sometimes the masses themselves are the vanguard.

    I can think of two contrasting examples. After the abolition of slavery, white intellectuals in the U.S. think much about blacks. So, a hundred years later, guided by their religious leaders (who, for the most part, were not intellectuals), the blacks themselves rose up and initiated the civil rights movement, the single best thing that happened in the United States during the twentieth century. Although white intellectuals supported the civil rights movement, it mostly worked from the bottom up, as had the labor union movement a generation earlier. The black masses showed greater courage and initiative than the white intellectuals ever did.

    The gay rights struggle, on the other hand, was mostly a top-down movement. Poor and uneducated gays couldn’t affirm their homosexual identities—and couldn’t speak out about being mistreated—without losing their jobs. For these reasons, virtually all of the activism came from the top. The demand for the repeal of the antisodomy laws and for recognition of marriages between homosexuals, for example, came out of the universities, and worked its way down to the college-educated middle class.”

More here.

Correspondence Corner:

A friend writes:
Hey Doc --
This was all over the Internets yesterday.  The common interpretation was that the apparently permanently supine Matthews was thanking his good l'il buddy for giving him the scoop on the post-resignation interview.  But let us dig a little deeper, shall we?

Let us return to those glorious days when was joined the noble battle to save the Constitution from furtive hankies and secret pankies.  Of those days we know two things: a) that Chris Matthews was in the front rank of the ensemble Hibernian sex-panic that overcame the likes of Russert, Dowd, and the late Mr. Kelly, and b) that Tom Delay had the key to the room where was kept all the unexpurgated (and unverified) accusations that came foaming out of Arkansas and elsewhere and that he was fairly free about showing the stiff to any waverers in his caucus.  Is it too much, then, to wonder whether or not ol' Tom showed some of that swill to some of his favorite television friends, just for their own edification, doncha know?  They were awfully damn chummy the other night.

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL
Eric-- The NYT report on the Massachusetts health insurance plan heralds some good news but not as much as one might think.  The new law mandates that people buy health insurance.  That's good news for the insurance companies, but what if someone doesn't do so?  When someone doesn't have car insurance and they have an accident, we penalize them legally.  Is this the model for the health insurance mandate?  Anyone who arrives at the ER without health insurance will be jailed? fined? or just denied treatment?  The Massachusetts plan has the virtue of covering more people, but nearly all of that is compromised by the plan's adherence to insurance industry profits.  No amount of Mitt Romney's sorry boasting--"The single-payer canard is gone."--will alter obscure that fact.  And since when is the system that most other industrialized countries finance health care at a fraction of U.S. costs a canard?  This plan, much like the defeated Clinton plan, is still driven by profiteers and not the realities of health care.  As long as treatment is prioritized as a cash cow for non-providers, the results, albeit less onerous than other plans, are dubious.  The more telling characterization in the report is from Paul Ginsburg, of the Center for Studying Health System Change: "This is probably about as close as you can get to universal [coverage]."  Well, not quite; if there's a real will to do it you can get to actual universal coverage.  What Ginsburg should have said is that the plan is as close as you can get to a real humane system and still be more committed to insurance company profits than to a national health policy.

Name: Mike
Hometown: Indy Blue
Okay, so how come no one in the press is asking why Delay submitted his resignation via videotape?  Is that common for ELECTED OFFICIALS?  To quit under what looks like a real doppelganger of an investigation, and instead of standing up and fielding questions that his constituents might like answered slink away after submitting a self-serving videotape?  Why was this campaign going to be more brutal than any other he ran?  Did he ever use the tactics in a political campaign that he's now so desperately trying to avoid?  This strikes me (Delay's videotape) as deceitful and cowardly at the very least.  Yet I haven't seen any questions about it in the press, only stories about what's next for Delay and the GOP.  Ladies and gentlemen of the press, I urge you to grow some guts (thanks Ms. Krantz).  And then use them -- sooner rather than later.

April 5, 2006 | 11:15 AM ET | Permalink

Nothing about Katie Couric

The smart boys at The Note say this story is “sure to be overlooked while the spotlight focuses on DeLay.”  Well, not here.  Peter Baker reports:

While President Bush vows to transform Iraq into a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, his administration has been scaling back funding for the main organizations trying to carry out his vision by building democratic institutions such as political parties and civil society groups… Some organizations face funding cutoffs this month, while others struggle to stretch resources through the summer.  The shortfall threatens projects that teach Iraqis how to create and sustain political parties, think tanks, human rights groups, independent media outlets, trade unions and other elements of democratic society.

Remember Bush’s second inaugural?  The word "freedom" passed Bush's lips twenty-seven times and "liberty" fifteen.  Fred Barnes, writing in The Weekly Standard, explained that the President's address had triumphantly ended the centuries-long ideological conflict between foreign policy idealists (meaning Woodrow Wilson and Ronald Reagan) and realists (George Kennan and Hans Morgenthau).  "Boom!" wrote Barnes, "The wall between the two schools is gone, at least in the president's formulation."  As he explained, "The policy of idealists will lead to the goal of realists," because Bush had declared that "America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one."  The media ate it up, but I wrote about it here.

Surprise, surprise:  "The first data to document the effect of President Bush's tax cuts for investment income show that they have significantly lowered the tax burden on the richest Americans, reducing taxes on incomes of more than $10 million by an average of about $500,000."  The New York Times analysis "found that the benefit of the lower taxes on investments was far more concentrated on the very wealthiest Americans than the benefits of Mr. Bush's two previous tax cuts: on wages and other noninvestment income." 

Here’s some more:

The analysis found the following:

¶Among taxpayers with incomes greater than $10 million, the amount by which their investment tax bill was reduced averaged about $500,000 in 2003, and total tax savings, which included the two Bush tax cuts on compensation, nearly doubled, to slightly more than $1 million.

¶These taxpayers, whose average income was $26 million, paid about the same share of their income in income taxes as those making $200,000 to $500,000 because of the lowered rates on investment income.

¶Americans with annual incomes of $1 million or more, about one-tenth of 1 percent all taxpayers, reaped 43 percent of all the savings on investment taxes in 2003. The savings for these taxpayers averaged about $41,400 each. By comparison, these same Americans received less than 10 percent of the savings from the other Bush tax cuts, which applied primarily to wages, though that share is expected to grow in coming years.

¶The savings from the investment tax cuts are expected to be larger in subsequent years because of gains in the stock market.

And The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, notes new Treasury numbers concluding that the richest 1 percent of Americans "held 33.4 percent of the nation's net worth in 2004, up from 32.7 percent in 2001, but still lower than a peak of 34.6 percent in 1995."

And who says they’re not putting their best people into Homeland Security?  (This is my favorite part: “Doyle was online at the time awaiting what he thought was a nude image of a girl who had lymphoma.”  Feel safer now?)

WHY JOHNNY CAN'T BE BOTHERED
[SOURCE: Chicago Tribune by Thomas Geoghegan and James Warren]

“The crisis in America, where ironically we have the world's highest rate of bachelor's degrees, is that if people don't read papers, they generally won't vote.  The crisis of the press here is a crisis of democracy too.  The single best indicator of whether someone votes is whether he reads a paper, according to political scientist Martin P. Wattenberg in his book, "Where Have All the Voters Gone?"  But the converse is also true.  Whether one votes is a much better indicator than a college degree as to whether one is reading a daily paper.  The reaction between these two trends, a decline in voting and the decline in the reading of dailies, is what scientists call autocatalytic.  One drives the other in a downward spiral.  The under-30 young read far less, and vote far less--and according to their teachers, have fewer opinions.  Not reading, not having political sentiments, they aren't especially capable of voting intelligently anyway.  What can we do now?  Teach our kids to read.”

More here.

This could be funnier, but I don’t know how.

Alter-reviews: Sugar Pie DeSanto and Etta James by Sal, NYCD

Sugar Pie DeSanto, aside from being a cousin of Etta James, made some great records in the 60's.  Not unlike her cousin Etta, she would tear up the clubs with her fiery brand of sexy R&B.  She & James even scored a hit duet with "In The Basement," a classic on Chess records.  But while Etta James continues to make records, Sugar Pie DeSanto disappeared off the musical radar until she released a couple of mediocre records in the 90's.

Now, 6 years after her last release, Sugar Pie, born (get this) Umpeylia Marsima Balinton in Brooklyn, USA, gives us "REFINED SUGAR."  This is not a comeback soul record like Solomon Burke's.  It is not a comeback R&B record like Bettye Lavette's.  It is simply a fun, jump blues record of mostly original material, from a singer, whose voice has aged gracefully.  The fire in DeSanto's voice is long gone, but what we get on this release is a respectable and welcome return to the scene by this great lost voice.

As for Miss Etta, she gets a "Definitive Collection" from Universal.  Released back in January, this 23 tracker is as solid as a single disc anthology gets.  From the early single "Dance With Me Henry," on through the Muscle Shoals recordings of the mid-70's, every one's a winner.  Sugar Pie is here and Etta James is here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Steve Scott
Hometown:  Santa Cruz, CA
RE: George Will's deception on global warming.  His quote that "The National Academy of Sciences says the rise in the Earth's surface temperature has been about one degree Fahrenheit in the past century," should continue with the NAS' full quote "... has been accompanied by retreating glaciers, thinning arctic ice, rising sea levels, lengthening of growing seasons for some, and earlier arrival of migratory birds.  In addition, several other data support that conclusion, the report says."  Seems to me that although humans can't tell the difference, birds, glaciers, and Mother Nature CAN tell the difference in a one degree change!

Name: Tom
Hometown: Seattle
Hey Doc,
I DID catch Dr. Dennett with Moyers, and as a long-time fan of the professor, I too spent the hour wishing that this program could be piped directly into the skulls of our uninformed populace.  Repeatedly.  Apparently discussion of the place of religion in society and politics doesn't conveniently fit into a 20-second soundbite or a Chris Matthews' closing comment.  The program helped me recall those wonderful roundtable discussions from the 70's and 80's hosted by Fred Friendly on PBS - many of which are STILL relevant today.  Real people being pushed to deal with real-world conundrums and forced to give credible rationales for their positions.  Moyers must feel some affinity with the late, great Mr. Friendly.

P.S. - If you saw the program and liked it, you might want to show your local station some love - I did and it feels good.

Name: Marianne Krantz
Hometown: Willows, CA
I find it interesting that while discussing a woman reporter (Jill Carroll), the writer at Huffington says he wouldn't have the balls to be a wartime reporter.  Since Jill Carroll is a wartime reporter, maybe he might consider the possibility that it is guts not balls that make people brave.  And that men do not have an exclusive when it comes to bravery.  The bravest person I've ever known was my Mother who had MS for 20 years or more until her death.  Balls just were not involved.

Name: Bob Mangino
Hometown: Seattle
Eric,
Please do not edit out Siva's future baseball comments. The Yankees get enough bashing here (which isn't much, really) and everywhere else (which is a lot) so it's good for a fan to be able to slap at the old rivals every once in a while.  It helps keep the rivalry alive for the fans. cough cough.  As if that's needed.  I don't think he's ever tried to mislead us that he's being objective in his sports commentary.  I can disagree with him on UT football and agree with him on NY baseball and that's part of discourse.  While I feel sorry for Bill Buckner, that kind of thing comes with the job... money, praise, scrutiny, jeers, endorsements.  One would hope that "fans" could avoid the threats, but there are screwballs in every walk of life.  Anyway, it's more fun to jab at Barry Bonds; after all, Buckner's legacy is due to a simple one-time error, but Bonds' will be remembered for what certainly appears to be years of conscious, willful "grab records at any cost" cheating.  And choking in the post season.

Name: Steven Bean
Hometown: Salt Lake City, UT
Congratulations to Col. Bateman.  It's good to know that sometimes, though infrequently in this day and age, those who speak truth can actually move up in this world.  You make all of us proud.

Name: Steven Blowney
Hometown: Phila.
Congratulations to Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Bateman!  I wonder if hell freezing over will have an affect on global warming.

April 4, 2006 | 12:44 PM ET | Permalink

Climate getting hotter, journalism getting dumber

Why is global warming a forbidden topic for most TV weather reporters?  Climate change is "controversial" and bad for ratings.  Salon reports here.  And while we’re on the topic, isn’t it irresponsible for newspapers and ABC News to promote the views of a man like George Will who has no expertise whatever about global warming but seeks to disarm us in the face of its threat, here?  What about the unchallenged scientific consensus of people who actually know what they’re talking about?  Well, Time (and here and here) did a nice job last week, but columns like Will’s empower phenomena like those described in "Corporate Governance and Climate Change: Making the Connection," a report by Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmentalists, which is here.

The Times reported last week that the Ceres report

...scored 100 global corporations — 74 of them based in the United States — on their strategies for curbing greenhouse gases.  It covered 10 industries — oil and gas, chemicals, metals, electric power, automotive, forest products, coal, food, industrial equipment and airlines — whose activities were most likely to emit greenhouse gases.  It evaluated companies on their board oversight, management performance, public disclosure, greenhouse gas emissions, accounting and strategic planning. … Dozens of U.S. businesses are ignoring the issue with 'business as usual' responses that are putting their companies, and their shareholders, at risk," said Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres and director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a group whose members control a total of $3 trillion in investment capital. ‘When Cinergy and American Electric Power are tackling this issue, and Sempra and Dominion Resources are not, that should be a red flag to investors.’

A few random observations:

More bad news here.  Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has estimated that over 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and about 4000 children die every day from water borne disease.

Taking another look at the decisions the Bush administration made in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Tom Engelhardt concludes that its officials badly misread the U.S. position in the world at that moment, blindly believing their own hype about the United States as the planet's only "hyperpower."  Imperial overreach is too fancy a term for the results.  While Bush officials talked a great game when it came to 'victory' in Iraq and exporting democracy to the Middle East, its main exports have turned out to be mayhem and ruins."

A modest proposal:  Perhaps Howard Kurtz could fly to Iraq and offer himself up as a hostage for three months, and then we can take his judgments about what Jill Carroll had to say a little more seriously.

Jackson Lears on Michael Kazin’s Jennings Bryan is here.

If Leon Wieseltier were actually the editor of TNR, or took a firmer hand with his protégé, Marty Peretz, it would have a much more sophisticated discussion of Israel and the Palestinians, as evidenced by articles like this one on the history of the settlement movement.

Who caught Bill Moyers' (disclaimer, etc) interview Daniel Dennett for an hour on PBS last night?  It just made me feel bad about how little of the potential of TV is actually realized, even with a gazillion channels.  (It was also a useful antidote to Leon Wieseltier’s viciously unfair review in the NYTRB.)

Announcing LitPAC

Couple of useful interventions on immigration:  Long piece by John Judis; op-ed by Doug Massey.

What Liberal Media?   Continued…

And here too.  (Dart to the Cincinnati Inquirer for deceiving their readers with government propaganda.)

The new Spike Lee film is a near perfect movie-going experience, save for a complete lack of gratuitous female nudity.  (25th Hour was even better, however, for the record.)

There’s a new movie coming out about Rosanne, here.

There’s a video of Bruce singing John Henry, here.  The new edition of Backstreets is a fanatic's dream, here.  (European tour dates for the 17 piece band are there too.)

Alterreviews:

I caught a bit of the SFJAZZ Collective’s tribute to Coltrane last week at Zankel Hall, which is a wonderfully intimate space in the basement of Carnegie Hall.  The New York Times reviewer who attended the show mistakenly wrote that the group was devoting “this year’s” shows to Herbie Hancock.  In fact, one night was devoted to Herbie, one night to Coltrane and one night to Ornette Colman.  The band features the vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, the trumpeter Nicholas Payton and the alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, the pianist Renee Rosnes, the bassist Matt Penman and is led by the tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman.  These guys are good; reminiscent of the late, lamented Carnegie Hall Jazz band, in terms of both their creativity and discipline.  They play both original compositions plus the masters, which is brave, too, since it inevitably invites comparison.  Their new CD on Nonesuch, here is quite good too.

I also caught the revival of 'Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well' in the cozy and quite fun Zipper Theater.  It runs a little long, but it’s nearly impossible not to like.  I bought the CD the next day, in part to remember the experience, in part just because it’s so great.  It’s a period piece, sure, but what a period!  Terrific cast, too, made up of Robert Cuccioli, Rodney Hicks, Natascia Diaz and Gay Marshall.  Read the Times Review here and then go if you can.

And I wish I could recommend the Cocteau Repertory’s gender-bending double-performance of “The Maids” with New Orleans’ food in between, since I read in the Times that they’re in dire need of funds.  Alas, I’m sorry, I can’t.  I tried but I can’t.

But maybe you’ll feel differently if you read about it here.

Correspondence Corner:

Breaking News:

Yesterday, in a small room in the Pentagon, definitive proof was presented that Hell has indeed frozen over.  I was promoted.  Contacted at his headquarters in the Underworld where ice skating, snowboarding and various other winter sports are experiencing a surge of interest, a shivering Satan commented, “Damn, I never saw that one coming.”

In related news, several small and obscure religious sects located deep in the Ozarks, for whom this event is considered one of the Seven Signs of the coming of the Apocalypse, issued a collective statement of concern.

You can write to Colonel Bob at Bateman_LTC@hotmail.com.

Name: Peter Webb
Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii
Mr. Short's comment on the misleading nature of my reference to Germany's guest worker program proves my point -it is of course true that Germany made no attempt to integrate their Turkish "guests."  Exactly!  The whole point of a guest worker program is that the workers are never intended to become permanent residents, so there is no incentive to acculturate them, or for them to acculturate.  But, as Germany's program also shows-as does the last 50 years of US history-migrant workers don't all leave.  Large and growing numbers-11 or 12 million is the current figure-stay here, without any stake in the civic life of the country in which they live.  Simply re-labeling these people as "guest workers" solves nothing, but allows us to pretend that we believe that these 12 million people will hop on the bus and head back to Honduras when their contracts at Wal-Mart are up.  I will boldly predict that this will never happen. Mr. Short also hopes that a guest worker program, by granting workers legal protections, would make them "more likely to seek to protect their rights and whistleblow abuses."  But wouldn't that make guest workers more expensive to employers, and create an incentive for employers to hire illegal immigrants again?  And, without decent border security, those illegal immigrants will be right there.  So we're back where we were before.  I agree that sending Mom and Pop to the federal pen for 10 years for hiring a few illegal immigrants to pick lettuce seems unreasonable.  But as long as Mom and Pop can hire people for $2 an hour to pick lettuce, that will be the wage lettuce pickers earn.  If we have 12 million people willing to work for sub-minimum wage, minimum wage is a joke.  The way to ensure that agricultural workers and others at the bottom of the wage scale are paid decent wages and given decent treatment is to greatly reduce the number of workers willing to undercut those demands.  That means lettuce will cost more at the grocery store.  Fine.  I'm willing to pay more to help ensure that the US has integral borders and control over its economic system.

Name: Brad
Hometown: Arlington, VA
Dr. Alterman,
I respectfully submit Exhibit 2 showing why rational and substantive discourse on the issue of illegal immigration may actually be impossible.  Mr. Short, once again, discounts any opposing thoughts or opinions on the issue as disingenuous, unworkable, foolish, or simply the ill-informed fruits of "high-minded discourse."  While I claim to be a paragon of nothing (and certainly not eloquence), any derision to be found in the tone of my original post was (supposed to be, at least) directed toward the disingenuous and overly political nature of the debate in Congress on the issue, particular on the Republican side.  Mr. Short appears to have made the profound (and incorrect) assumption that I fall into the "TRULY conservative" segment that would round up and deport all illegal aliens.  I simply recognize that a very real problem exists and, like so many others, am struggling with a workable solution.  That said, blanket legalization so that we can "study" the community like an anthropological experiment seems rather disturbing and Orwellian to me.  If for no other reason, such a "solution" would only entrench the permanent sub-class of society that Mr. Short fears and, sadly, already exists.  Like so many in this debate, Mr. Short tries to blur the line between immigration through the proper channels and illegal immigration.  The latter is (to most) the perceived problem, while the former is roundly embraced by the vast majority of Americans not named Pat Buchanan.  Indeed, I believe that the greatest, most-pluralistic, multicultural, multi-ethnic nation in the world does embrace a higher standard of immigrant care and concern than all the other countries.  Unfortunately, that standard has been ignored in the name of profits for far too long.

Name: Greg Massey
Hometown: Jackson, Tennessee
I always learn from Siva's contributions to Altercation.  As a college professor, I especially appreciated an account he penned several months ago, in which he described how he promotes open discussion of ideas in his own classroom.  His most recent post, on airport security, addresses an important, timely subject.  But did we need the gratuitous reference to Bill Buckner in the first paragraph?  Please let Buckner, a fine player unfortunately remembered for one muffed grounder, enjoy his retirement in peace.  Why not write the following digs instead?:  At least John McNamara is no longer responsible for personnel at the Department of Homeland Security.  At least Calvin Schiraldi is no longer our relief man in Iraq.  At least Bob Stanley is no longer pitching plagiarized ideas on the Washington Post's online edition.

Name: jackmac
Hometown: Oswego, Ill.
Doc, Hasn't Bill Buckner suffered enough?  In Monday's Altercation, Siva Vaidhyanathan maligns a solid player who had the misfortune to have a great career defined by an ill-timed World Series gaffe.  Bucker averaged .289 at the plate over a more than 20-year career -- including seven seasons batting above .300.  And he was also a solid infielder despite gimpy legs with a .982 fielding percentage as a first baseman.  Maybe not quite Hall of Fame numbers, but still pretty damn impressive.

April 3, 2006 | 12:21 PM ET | Permalink

From:  Siva Vaidhyanathan
Hometown:  La Manzana Grande
Do you feel safe flying in the United States these days?  Certainly, security procedures are omnipresent and intimidating.  And the fact that we have such a thing as the Transportation Security Agency is a vast improvement over the days when private firms paid immigrants minimum wage to keep weapons off of planes.  At least Bill Buckner is no longer working security at Boston Logan Airport.

But is it really better?  Has the Government Accountability Office issued reports on the effectiveness of TSA or the Department of Homeland Security?  As a matter of fact, it has .  And the results are very disturbing: Between November 2001 and February 2002, screeners missed 70 percent of knives, 30 percent of guns and 60 percent of (fake) bombs.  More recently, testers were able to smuggle bomb-making parts through airport security in 21 of 21 attempts.  That's right.  Bomb making parts.  Think about it.

According to security expert Bruce Schneier, author of the important and brilliant book, Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly about Security in an Uncertain World:

It makes you wonder why we're all putting our laptops in a separate bin and taking off our shoes. (Although we should all be glad that Richard Reid wasn't the 'underwear bomber.') ... Remember the point of passenger screening. We're not trying to catch the clever, organized, well-funded terrorists. We're trying to catch the amateurs and the incompetent. We're trying to catch the unstable. We're trying to catch the copycats. These are all legitimate threats, and we're smart to defend against them. Against the professionals, we're just trying to add enough uncertainty into the system that they'll choose other targets instead.

The terrorists' goals have nothing to do with airplanes; their goals are to cause terror. Blowing up an airplane is just a particular attack designed to achieve that goal. Airplanes deserve some additional security because they have catastrophic failure properties: If there's even a small explosion, everyone on the plane dies. But there's a diminishing return on investments in airplane security. If the terrorists switch targets from airplanes to shopping malls, we haven't really solved the problem.

What that means is that a basic cursory screening is good enough. If I were investing in security, I would fund significant research into computer-assisted screening equipment for both checked and carry-on bags, but wouldn't spend a lot of money on invasive screening procedures and secondary screening. I would much rather have well-trained security personnel wandering around the airport, both in and out of uniform, looking for suspicious actions.

All of that might make you wonder why we have to show IDs before boarding planes.  What purpose does all that ID flashing solve (besides occupying our hands so that we can't take our laptops out of our cases and untie our shoes without falling over)?  Can't you get a fake ID for about $200 around any college campus?

And what if a bad guy did not even bother getting a fake ID?  Could he board your plane without a government-issued photo ID?

Last weekend we were flying back from Miami, where my three-month-old daughter Jaya went swimming with her grandparents and saw her first spring training game.  Just before we left my parents' place for the airport, I discovered that I had failed to retrieve my driver's license from the place from which I had rented a kayak the day before.

How was I going to get on the plane back to New York without a government-issued ID?

Well, we know from following civil-liberties-activist John Gilmore's suit against the TSA, there is no public law that requires us to show IDs before boarding planes.  There is apparently a SECRET law that no one may read yet many must enforce (and many more must obey).  This being a republic, we are not supposed to have secret laws.  But we do.  And that's one of them.

So should I take this opportunity to make a stand for my rights?  Not if I don't want to see Melissa and Jaya take off for home, leaving me to build a life for myself in Florida ... or in federal prison or Guantanamo or some place.

I figured I should take the opportunity to see if I could talk my way onto the plane instead.  I would test the security assumptions.

So I approached the Delta counter at the Fort Lauderdale airport and told the ticket agent, "I have a little problem.  I lost my license yesterday."

"That's been happening to a lot of people.  Do you have any other photo ID?," she said.

"This is my work ID," I said.  "And I have a baby here who looks a lot like me."

"Do you have an insurance card?," she asked.

I did.  I showed it.  It has my name on it but no photo.

She scribbled on the bottom of my boarding pass:  "Documents shown were sufficient -- Delta agent."

The security guard let me right through after I showed her the scribbling.

Amazing.

I suppose I should once again be thankful that I have health insurance.  I guess that if I were among the 45 million Americans who lack health insurance, I would have had to stay in Florida.

Next time you want to board a plane without ID (and remember, the 9/11 hijackers all showed legal ID when they boarded), just print out your boarding pass at home and scribble something about how your ID checked out or something and sign it with the name of the airline you are using.  Simple.  Easy.  Apparently legal (with a secret law, who is to tell?)

So I got home with no problem at all.  My sister sent my license to me the next day.  And now I know that I am safe in the skies.  Everyone else feel better now?

The story gets more absurd.  Check out this article by Sarah Lai Stirland from National Journal's Technology Daily.  It seems a civil liberties investigative group involved with Gilmore ran a test. They found that Transportation Security Administration officials often do not enforce the agency's own rule that travelers must present government-issued identification at airports.

So there is a secret law that says you have to present a government ID.  You can't see it so you can't be sure you are obeying it.  You can't be sure what your rights are if you are pulled aside for secondary screening.  Yet the TSA is not very interested in enforcing it anyway.

Are we safer?  Is this any way to run a government?

Extremely long Quote of the Day: Bernard Henri-Levy, here.

I can understand how free-thinking intellectuals would line up with some aspects of a president's policy, including his international policy. Furthermore, I can understand that, not content with just offering support, they set out to shift the emphasis, inspire and prompt the policy of an administration that everything had separated them from up until then (after all, that's exactly what I did at the time of the Bosnia crisis). And I find nothing shocking—though this time it was not my personal choice—that people like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle or Bill Kristol, who are, broadly speaking, Wilsonians—have been found for some years now treading along the lines (with regard to Iraqi issues) of the Jacksonians surrounding George W. Bush. But what I don't understand is that in the process they decided to accept everything else. What I don't understand, and what upsets me, is that just because they came together on one issue—granted, a key issue—they felt compelled to line up on every other issue and to endorse the Administration's entire agenda. What I won't accept—and what I see as a big mistake—is this way you decide, just because you agree on Bosnia, Afghanistan or Iraq, that you also have to agree with the ethos on the death penalty, on abortion, on gun control, on the neurotic fixation on gay marriage, and on all sorts of other issues. When I met Bill Kristol in Washington, I asked him: "When you go to a restaurant, do you order a dish or the whole menu?" He looked at me quizzically. Yet the problem is right there. When I go to the restaurant I choose a dish, maybe two. He takes the entire menu. And that's absurd, even dangerous, for at least three reasons.

First, it's an insult to intellectual freedom. An intellectual is someone who never puts himself or herself at someone's service. An intellectual is no one's puppet. An intellectual may join the powers that be on a specific issue, but nevertheless continues, with regard to the other issues, to defend not only his or her colors, but also the different hues of those colors.

Second, when neoconservative intellectuals took the full-package approach, they took the risk of compromising a beautiful concept we had in common, and I'm not sure in what state it will emerge from this venture. That concept is the "right to intervene" or "duty to step in." This is a key concept, a genuine enhancement of applied Western political philosophy. But to see it associated with pathetic attacks on Clinton's privacy, with absurd religious crusades or to confuse "reasons of state" with lies of state, is a sad sight. It raises fears that this cherished concept might emerge deeply corrupted and weakened from all this.

And third, by eating the entire menu, they diminish American intellectual and political life; they soften whatever sparkle, diversity, conflicting or contradictory nature it might have. Diversity will send a wake-up call on the very day when the true Bushites realize they have nothing in common with idealistic and adventurous neoconservatives and drive them out—which, in my opinion, will come soon. But for the moment, that's how the matter stands. And neoconservatism, which once invigorated the ideological debate in this country, is now rarifying and simplifying it instead.”

Alter-reviews by Sal, NYCD

PRETENDERS - "PIRATE RADIO" (BOX SET).  The only true rock goddess, except for maybe Lorna Luft, gets anthologized thanks to Rhino/Warner Bros.  The remastering would be enough, since their early CDs sound like they were pressed on slices of baloney.  But not only do you get 4 CDs worth of remastered goodies, you get a ton of rarities like an early demo of "Precious" and the killer cover of the Small Faces' "Whatcha Gonna Do About It," early UK singles, soundtrack-only covers, a fine version of Warren Zevon's "Reconsider Me," B-sides, the far-superior single mix of "Talk Of The Town," and three songs that our good friend "Steve With The Knee," America's most fanatical Pretenders fan, had never heard of.  It also includes a bonus DVD featuring a ton of super-cool TV appearances, most of which are from early on.  NO complaints at all about this set.  Nicely done.  Good packaging too.  More here.

Correspondence corner:

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL
Eric--
Your catalog of SCLM quotations from 2003 about the success of Bush's Iraq war was breathtaking.  But we don't have to restrict that list to the likes of Scarborough, Matthews, and O'Reilly.  Thomas Friedman was out front in support of the Bush vision as well.  I'll give the latter a little more credit than those others because he hasn't continued to provide cover for a policy that is as flawed as its critics knew it to be from the start.  But Friedman could be a little more forthcoming.  In his NYT column today, he assesses Iraq's deteriorating political and security situation with the following stunning observation:  "When politicians decide they can get ahead by appealing more to fear than to hope, national reconciliation goes up in smoke."  For a moment I forgot that I was reading about Iraq's faltering political system.  If only he had offered this kind of insight, say, three years ago, instead of joining so many of his fellow commentators in extolling the wisdom of invading Iraq.  None of that alleged wisdom stands up to scrutiny today.  Then he seems to be headed in the right direction, the only thing that will earn Friedman, and indeed any of them, a modicum of respect is if they admit they were wrong; they were duped by the administration's lack of analysis and planning (it's far too much to expect that they'll undergo an ideological transformation and see an invasion like this as illegal).  One other thing: though I don't expect it to happen, anyone who ridiculed those who opposed this foreign policy as wrong and unworkable owes an apology to those who got it right.

Name: Patrick
Hometown: Arlington, VA
Dr. Alterman,
I am sure others have pointed this out, but in your article, "Prescient and Patriotic: America's Honor Roll" published in The Nation, you commend a soldier, Maj Gen Anthony Zinni.  "Soldier" is the term that describes a member of the U.S. Army.  Maj Gen Zinni is a member of the United States Marine Corps and is thus referred to as a "Marine."  I realize the distinction may appear small, but for us in the military it is important.  On a separate note, thank you for all you do in focusing attention on what is really happening in our country and in these wars.  Your efforts are appreciated.  Semper Fidelis.

Name: Bryan Short
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Dr. Alterman:
I would like to address two issues that were brought up in response to my post on Thursday.  First is Brad of Arlington's disingenuousness.  Brad, ever the paragon of high-minded discourse:

It's actually rather humorous (in a sick, morbid way) to watch these "conservative" congressmen (and women) trample each other in the ridiculous effort to get out in front on this issue in a disingenuous attempt to pander to the Latino voting bloc
...
It amazes me to no end how some myopic politicians will so readily alienate large sections of their bases to court a few extra votes.

I am sorry if I interpret that previous passage as anything but approval for a more TRULY conservative take on immigration; one more in tune with what the vast majority of conservative Congressmen's constituents (so far as Brad is concerned) would like to see implemented.  It was not Brad's "simply mention[ing] that the issue poses a problem for the Republican party," it was Brad's tone: derisive.  It was with equal derision that I chose to respond to Brad's post. 

In response to Mr. Webb's more eloquent and informed post, Mr. Webb is also misleading.  Mr. Webb cites Germany as an example of guest worker programs gone awry.  Germany should not be treated as a test case in this instance.  It was only a short while ago that Germany gave citizenship to all persons born from non-native parents within Germany's territorial limits.  Under such a rubric, it would not seem that Germany sought to integrate guest workers and failed; it would seem that Germany did not even try.  True, guest worker programs have a tattered past, but what is the alternative?  Imprisoning mom and pop growers in the southern states as Stupid suggests?  That seems first unworkable and second as foolish as the war on drugs (remember what a great success that was/is?).  As an aside, the mandatory minimums for drug possession are not a light sentence as Stupid seems to imply.  Trying to certify a job as unwanted by Americans seems also likely fraught with complication and delay.  No, guest workers typically do not want to integrate if you ask them.  True.  But, should we as a nation create a permanent sub-class of "non-people" solely because we are us and they are them.  Instead, what does it hurt to lower the transaction costs to entry for guest workers?  It creates a pool of cheap labor that will accept migrant worker conditions.  Legalized guest workers are more likely to seek to protect their rights and whistleblow abuses.  Also, legalizing this community will allow us to study it better.  What are its real costs/benefits? 

Finally, a day does not go bye that I do not hear it professed from the rooftops that we are "The Greatest Nation in the World!".  Should not the greatest, most-pluralistic, multicultural, multi-ethnic nation in the world also embrace a higher standard of immigrant care and concern than all the others?  Should we not be the most welcoming?  If we are truly the "most" anything we should start acting like it.

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