April 14, 2006 | 12:19 PM ET | Permalink

I've got a new Think Again column called McCarthyism: Standard Operating Procedure, here and a new Nation column here called "AIPAC's Complaint."  Both deal with the reaction to the Walt/Mearsheimer report, and I'll have more to say about each next week.

Slacker Friday:

Joe Klein-
In his recent account of a breakfast book party at the home of Tina Brown and Harry Evans, Eric Alterman misquoted me slightly but significantly.  What I actually said was "the hate America tendency of the [Democratic Party's] left wing" had made it harder for Democrats to challenge Republicans on foreign policy.  Alterman had me castigating the "liberal wing" of the party, which I was careful not to do.  There is a crucial difference between liberals and leftists, especially on foreign policy--even though Republicans (and leftist-wingers) have successfully conflated the two over the past few decades.  The default position of leftists like, say, Michael Moore and many writers at The Nation, is that America is essentially a malignant, imperialistic force in the world and the use of American military power is almost always wrong.  Liberals have a more benign, and correct, view of America's role in the world and tend to favor the use of military force if it is exercised judiciously, as a last resort, and in a multilateral context--with U.N. approval or through NATO.  The first Gulf War, the overthrow of the Taliban and the Kosovo intervention met these criteria; Bush's Iraq invasion clearly did not.  That was the point I was trying to make at breakfast.

Eric replies:  Klein may or may not be right about his use of “left” vs. “liberal,” though I showed the item before it ran to someone who was sitting at his table, and received a note about it from another attendee who was sitting at my table and nobody noticed any inaccuracies.  This may be because it was accurate, or it may be because Klein is playing cutesy by making a distinction without a difference that nobody but him noticed.  In case he really does not know why this is the case, I’ll clarify it for him:  “Michael Moore and many writers at The Nation” are not a “wing” of the Democratic Party: They are not even in the Democratic Party, as far as I know.  (I also don’t accept that they “hate America,” well, except Alexander Cockburn.)  I know Moore was a vocal supporter of Ralph Nader in 2000 as were the people at The Nation to whom—I assume—Klein refers.  When one speaks of the “left wing” of the party—that is, people who are running for office which was the clear context of the discussion—one is clearly referring to the likes of Ted Kennedy, Russell Feingold, Barney Frank, and the late Paul Wellstone.  Those are the people whom everyone at the assembled breakfast understood Klein to be smearing, as he has done repeatedly in Time and elsewhere.  Go to my column here and Media Matters here for more examples.

And while we are on the topic, I'd note the following post-Florida 2004 quote from The Book on Bush:  

“Given the circumstances,” wrote the commentator Joe Klein in the liberal New Yorker magazine, “there is only one possible governing strategy: a quiet, patient, and persistent bipartisanship.” 

Got it?  Only one possibility.  If you disagree with Klein, you’re a moron, divorced from reality (and you probably hate America).  The same kind of hubris is on display here in the loving interview Klein gave Rory O’Connor.  After a series of ad hominem, personal attacks on me in which he answers my criticism of his work by saying they are “typical of his essential narcissistic laziness…just spews opinions without having any information or doing any reporting,…  It's what he does instead of working … He's so peripheral, I forget he's in the business until someone calls or e-mails me his latest attack!... written lots of inaccurate, foolish stuff…”  Klein announces, "People like me who favor this program don't yet know enough about it yet... Those opposed to it know even less -- and certainly less than I do."

Get it:  If you disagree with me, you’re stupid (and you Hate America.)  That's Time's most liberal columnist.

Name: Amy Billings
Hometown: Portland, ME
I've tried e-mailing letters@time.com since Thursday, 4/13, but it keeps returning, "mailbox full." Hey, maybe your legions of fans are swamping their mailbox.  Or, people are just very, very concerned about the topic of college drop outs.  I'll keep trying to get through.  I read the Media Matters article and it really got me going.  Thanks for helping me understand why I feel the way I do when I read Time, The Note, etc.

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to take on The Force.  You'd think when the New York Times and Wall Street Journal editorial boards agree on something it must be true.  You'd think wrong.  Both papers, along with a host of other newspapers/magazines, Dubya's favorite science advisor (Michael Crichton) and big business have launched a concerted attack against our current
patent system.  Nearly all of them are surprisingly clueless.  Patent law may seem like dry stuff, but it's critically important: if we're going to see a repeat of the 1990's economic boom, or simply undue this decade's long-term fiscal devastation, it will be a result of technological innovation.  The financial incentive of patents is especially important today because it’s never been easier to reverse-engineer products and processes.

Here's what's going on:  Big businesses are trying to make patents worthless to small businesses and individual inventors.  The system is already stacked in favor of big businesses because patent litigation is very expensive.  The average cost of enforcing a patent is over a million dollars.  One significant weapon for a patent owner is the "preliminary injunction," when a court evaluates a case and concludes the patent owner will probably win.  If the patent owner is willing to post a bond as insurance, the court orders the defendant to stop the alleged infringing activity.  Such injunctions are uncommon, but big business wants to make
them all but extinct by excluding anyone not actively practicing their invention.  They label investors who buy patents "trolls" and "predators," never addressing who else is going to fund the patent process for small businesses and individuals.

The other complaint is that patents are being granted for silly "business method" inventions.  This one has a bit more merit, but the problem isn't that such patents exist (why wouldn't you want to encourage genuinely innovative ways of doing business?) but that patent examiners are the business world’s equivalent of criminal public defenders, with insanely large caseloads and insufficient support.  Congress won't even let the patent office keep the revenues it generates: for years it's been siphoning off funds to spend elsewhere in the budget. The current system deserves a fighting chance before it gets thrown to the wolves.

From: Siva Vaidhyanathan
Hometown: "Say Hey" City
Hey, Eric.
I had some trepidation about making a joke about airport security on 9/11/01.  But I never thought it would be Bill Buckner fans who got offended!  For the record, I loved Buckner when he played.  I always started him on my baseball card All-Siva teams.  He and Bill Madlock made the Cubs fun for a lot of years.

I have been walking around New York City all week with a New York Giants cap on.  If the Giants had stayed in Manhattan they would be my favorite team.  Alas, on more than one occasion some young whippersnapper sought solidarity with me for being a Mets fan.  Why couldn't the Mets develop their own logo?  Someone should work on that.

This week I also started staying home with my three-month-old daughter three days a week.  We got to watch opening day games together.  Because I have agreed to raise her as a Red Sox fan (the compromises we make for love and family harmony), we watched the right-winger/hander Curt Schilling win his first game of the season while switching over occasionally to a half-empty Shea Stadium.

My daughter and I watched two teams I loathe, yet we loved every minute of it.  Every time Coco Crisp came up to bat I made her giggle by saying "COCOCRISPCOCOCRISPCOCOCRISP" really fast with a funny face.

I can't quite describe the joy of sharing a baseball game with my daughter.  So far, it's all about my self-indulgence.  She could be just has entertained by the Simpsons (which hypnotizes her).  It's really just me wishing for the day that she can sit next to me and keep score at a game and ask me about the first time I saw Barry Bonds jack two homers in a game.

Yeah.  I can even get excited about seeing Barry Bonds hit, even though we know what we know.  I can't help being willfully naive and embarrassingly sappy about baseball every opening day.  I hope I never lose that.  I don't ever want to be that smart and cynical.

Loving baseball and loving America are deeply intertwined for me.  They are both troubled and unjust right now.  But there is always hope and goodness in the details, the small things, the margins.

See, even though our government is corrupt, our air polluted, our ice caps melting, and our security and credibility eroded, I still believe that there is something powerful and beautiful about seeing the American flag wave over a center-field wall.

I still get the chills when we stand for the Star Spangled Banner before a game.

I still smile when I see a parent share a game and a bag of $5 popcorn with her child.

I still listen in awe as two people from completely different places and standards of living -- a Wall Street broker and a Bronx public school custodian, for instance -- engage in a high-level debate about whether the hit-and-run really creates runs efficiently.

These are among the things that first made me fall in love with this great nation.  Along with Texas barbecue, Los Lobos, and Stevie Wonder, these things keep my love for America alive and strong.

I hope my daughter loves America as much as I do. She can even hate the Yankees as my wife does.  I don't care.  Plenty of good Americans do.  They are just a lot less happy than those of us who support the Bombers.  That's their choice -- freedom of choice is what we are all about -- as David Brent of The Office would say.

But I know it's going to be harder for my daughter to feel as passionate about these little things.  Loving America will not come as easy for her.  My father and his eight brothers and sisters immigrated here.  They chose this place for all the right reasons.  Most of my relatives who did not immigrate were military.  They modestly risked their lives for the rest of us.  My entire life has been framed by these choices and sacrifices.  My daughter, on the other hand, will be distant from all that.  She won't know the risks my father took to establish a life here.  She won't understand what it meant that my grandfather volunteered for his third war at the end of his naval career to captain a small plastic craft in the Mekong Delta so that rich Republicans like young George W. Bush could get smashed every weekend in peace.

The America she is growing up into has already spent all her money on tax cuts for those same rich draft dodgers and on a futile war that has no good resolution.  The America she will get to know will be more economically stratified, more debt-ridden, more atomized, and more hated than even my own post-Vietnam, post-Watergate America.  How can I teach her about the beautiful things?  How can I inspire her to let America inspire her?

At a baseball game, we can rise above all that political pettiness (except when fans boo the great Carlos Delgado).  We can all be Americans.  We can all pay attention to the beautiful little things like a clean pick-off move or a perfect bunt.  We can all giggle when homophobes sing along with "YMCA" and "We Will Rock You," and those who would never be caught dead listening to a "Bonzo goes to Bitburg" chant "Hey, Ho. Let's Go."  It's the great unifier.

Sure, I wish baseball players were clean.  I wish tickets were affordable.  I wish the drunks would leave the stands and let the kids enjoy the game without having to hear "show us your tits" in the seventh inning.  I wish George W. Bush would resign from office to become baseball commissioner so he could clean up the game.  I wish the Giants had never left Manhattan and the Dodgers had never left Brooklyn.  I have a lot of wishes that will never come true.  That's part of being American as well.  At least we have dreams and wishes.  We can imagine a better life.  Around the world, billions of people can't.

As Paul Simon reminds us, "We come in the age's most uncertain hours, and sing an American tune."  It's all right.  It's all right.

I sing my daughter to sleep with that song.  And it makes me cry.

Name: Don
Hometown: Riverdale, NY
Hi Dr. Alterman,
Just a thought that I really haven't noticed anywhere else.  It seems quite curious to me that these generals who are now speaking out about Sec Def Rumsfeld are doing it from the safety of post-retirement security.  Where was their outrage before the war?  Where were the resignations from active duty officers to protest flawed plans and policy?  As I recall, General Shinsiki said before a congressional committee that an invasion of Iraq would require a half million men.  Rumsfeld quickly silenced him.  I think the "Honor" part of " Duty, Honor, Country" needs to be re-thought by some so that it has more meaning.  Have more than 2,000 American service members been killed because of careerism at the highest levels?  As I said, just a thought.

Name: Brian Donohue
Hometown: DailyRevolution.net
I think a few moments should be taken to remember one of the best among us, Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr. Your friend Ms. Vanden Heuvel has a nice piece on him at HuffPost, and I offer this small memorial here.

Name: Robert O'Malley
Hometown: Mount Laurel, NJ
Dr. Alterman,
Now that the Republicans are in some jeopardy of losing some seats in November, can we expect that we will have to elevate the terror alert level from time to time?  Funny how things have been calm since the 2004 election... Things that make you go hmmmmmm.....

Name: Hank Kalet
Hometown: South Brunswick, NJ
I am glad to read something about John McCain that is not fawning nonsense.  Not sure what it is about liberals these days -- or those who call themselves liberals -- but McCain is no friend.  He has done some useful things, but remains at heart a hard-right conservative militarist.  His evolution keeps him to the right of the center-right Clinton and he would have walked us into Iraq, though without the lies and deceit.  To think he presents some kind of new direction in American government is foolish.  Thanks for calling our nominally liberal colleagues out on this.

Name: George Cahelo
Hometown: Knoxville, Tennessee
From April 12, 2006:  "Do us all a favor and can the "maverick" crap. Ross Perot was a maverick. McCain is a right-wing Republican."  Mr. Alterman, what honorable Democrat do you suggest we elect instead?

Eric replies: Any of ‘em.

Name: Don Hynes
Hometown: Portland, OR
Let his example flow like a mighty river.  So well said.  Thanks Eric, and also, I'm with Josh from Nashville, "If we learned anything from the 2004 election, it should be that we can't afford to turn away anyone willing to help."  The peacemakers are usually the first voices obscured.  Regrets to Mike from Idaho, and keep the faith.

Name: Donald Johnson
Hometown: Yonkers, NY
Just read your Nation piece on the Israel lobby.  I agreed.  Two points- First, of course it's true that a great many American Jewish supporters of Israel favor a just solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, but the people who seem to have the loudest voices are the ones that constantly blame the Palestinians for everything that has happened. And those are the ones who seem to have the most influence.  (Something similar happens with Christians in America--the right wingers seem to drown out those of us with more liberal views.)  I suppose it's also like the Cuban lobby's influence on Latin American policy--not all Hispanics, I presume, are right wing, but right wingers seem to have a disproportionate influence.  I'll let others figure out the details of why that is.

Second, you might or might not be interested to know that Chomsky has a somewhat similar reaction to the paper as yourself.  He thinks the lobby has influence insofar as it goes along with what people in power already want to do.  So it's not surprising AIPAC might lose sometimes to the Saudi lobby--a lot of powerful people in the US seem to have close ties with the Saudis.  Seems to me this might include a certain prominent political family that has produced two Presidents.  I don't remember if Chomsky put it quite that way.  He does mention that Israel and the US were partners in some of the shadier aspects of what went on in the Cold War.  They were mixed up with Iran/Contra, for instance and I remember reading an Amnesty International report on the massacres in Guatemala where it was mentioned that Israeli Galil rifles were used.  My impression is that Israel sometimes did our covert dirty work for us.

Name: Nate
Hometown: Annapolis, MD
To Mike from Idaho: Your response to the occasionally overzealous posts from Altercation readers illustrates the very crux of the problem.  While you were in fact attacked by some, it's ridiculous to claim they were attacking you because of your Christian faith.  You were attacked for your right wing beliefs.  As long as you take political criticism as religious persecution, there can be no "solution" as you mentioned.  Furthermore, to what solution do you refer?  Your original writing had no call for compromise or solution, you simply mentioned that you may vote Democrat if it weren't for the issues of abortion and gay marriage.  I'm all for compromise, and you are correct that it will take that to reach a solution, a solution in which neither party has overarching control of the country.  In all seriousness, I would love to hear your (or anyone's) ideas for "compromising" on the issues of social liberalism versus Christian morality.  I don't think anything effective has been offered by either side, and I can't think of a way to reach middle ground. I'm all ears.

Name: Dave Jones
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Well, I hope some of you are happy for repelling a prospective Democratic voter (sigh).  To clarify, vigorous argument with colleagues and/or professionals, like Dr. Alterman does, is great, but Dr. Alterman doesn't eat the tourists.  Distinguish wisely; act accordingly.  Judging from Idaho Mike's reaction, some of us chose unwisely and acted abysmally.  Between now and 11/2008, we're going to be seeing a lot of disillusioned ex-GOP voters BEGGING for reasons to vote for Democrats.  Let's give them some instead of killing them.

Name: Robert
Hometown: San Diego
Mike from Boise feels attacked, again, but I notice he did not answer any of the critiques of his post.  Specifically, he was asked for examples of Dems attacking Christians, to which all he could reply was "look, you're attacking me now!"  No, we just feel like we've heard that a lot without evidence to back it up.  And no one was suggesting you didn't know the meaning of the word "insult," we just wanted to point out that maybe Christians who feel insulted are being a bit over sensitive.

Name: Matt Shirley
Hometown: Gurnee, IL
Mr. Alterman,
Oh boy, let the piranha attack continue.  What the doctrinaire critics of Mike and Brad completely misunderstand is that it is far less important whose views are "more correct" than others.  Mike and Brad are not asking us to agree with them; they are only asking to be treated with respect.  (And just to be clear, I find myself much more in agreement with the advocates of legally recognized homosexual relationships and reproductive choice than either Mike or Brad appear to be.)  Yet the deconstructionist brigade is only too happy to drag the conversation down to the level of whether voters worth courting believe in following "the holy gourd" or "the sandal."  If I can take a small liberty, folks like Col Bateman may well be receptive to arguments that their mission was doomed to fail through no fault of theirs by a delusional policy and fatally flawed strategy that they were expected to execute.  If only we on the left can just get past "Making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep."  It's all so reminiscent of the same blindness that caused Ralph Nader to see no difference between Al Gore and G. W. Bush, and thereby throw the election to the later.  If anyone is interested in how a politician can be true to his beliefs, yet still respectful of others, I would offer the junior Senator from Illinois--Barrack Obama.  If anyone has actually reviewed his positions, you'll find he is about as progressive as anyone in the Congress today.  However, he is accepting of the views of others who disagree on specific issues, and he has spoken out against Democrats unleashing destructive vitriol on fellow Democrats over one or two issues.  Moreover, he has also shown an ability to be thoughtful and substantive on issues like nuclear non-proliferation and protection hazardous industrial installations, where even Republicans share the same values.  I don't know if 2008 is too soon for him to be on the Party Ticket.  My gut is telling me he would be too inexperienced to be a Presidential nominee.  But, I wish to heck more of our Party's "leaders" would follow his example of thinking and talking about the issues.  So, for the critics, the way you are operating right now, you can "win" the argument with self-declared moderates, or you can win elections. You've set yourselves up where you can't do both.

Name: Brad
Hometown: Arlington, VA
Dr. Alterman,
My apologies for the sweeping generalizations regarding Christians.  However, my basic premise holds true.  From a quick review of official positions, the majority of Christian denominations flatly oppose same-sex marriage, regardless of their position on homosexuality in general.  The same is generally true regarding abortion in that most Christian denominations oppose or strongly discourage the practice.  Fred from New York points out the Roman Catholic church and the Southern Baptist Convention as two examples.  However, it is important to note that these two denominations claim around 80 million followers in the United States.  Interestingly, according to an ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll conducted in January, Catholics are actually somewhat more supportive of abortion than Protestants, with opposition being highest among evangelical white Protestants.  So while my hastily construed basic tenets of Christian dogma may have been overly generalized (and likely tainted by my Catholic upbringing), I do not think that it would be inaccurate to note that most devout Christians have strong views on the two issues and that the basic Democratic positions on them are often perceived as incompatible with the religious views of such Christians, and, yes, openly hostile to those of the more conservative denominations.  In any event, a quick look at the polls shows that, regardless of religious affiliation, the Democratic positions on these issues do not readily comport with those of the majority of Americans.

The ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll noted above found that 57% oppose abortion solely to end an unwanted pregnancy. That opposition climbs to about 69% for so-called "partial-birth abortions," and 86% oppose abortions conducted in the sixth month of pregnancy or later.  According to a Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll in November 2005, 69% would favor a law requiring women under 18 to get parental consent for any abortion and 64% would favor a law requiring that the husband of a married woman be notified if she decides to have an abortion.  A Zogby poll in March 2006 showed that 50% of Americans believe that life begins at conception while only 19% thought it began at birth.  More interestingly, 59% in that poll believed that abortion ends a human life while only 29% disagreed.  Finally, a Boston Globe poll of May 2005 found that 50% disapprove of gay and lesbian couples being allowed to get married, while 37% approved.  Take from these polls what you will, but from a purely political point of view, the numbers support what Mike from Boise suggests.  Namely, that a softening of the Democratic positions on these divisive issues would likely have a profound effect on the current political balance.

Name: Don Cybelle
Hometown: Rochester, NY
I agree with Mike from Idaho.  He's right when he says, when it comes to Democrats, "The bane are those who attack immediately with unfounded accusations."  Yet it was Mike who swept in the other day and immediately stirred things up by making broad, sweeping confrontational accusations that Democrats are hostile to Christians.  So I'm a bit confused: if Democrats follow Mike's own advice and discourage "those who attack immediately with unfounded accusations" in their party, then, considering what we've seen of Mike's tactics, why would it be a good thing to "lure" Mike to our side?

Name: John
Hometown: Milwaukee, WI
To Mike from Boise:  We are reading what you say, and for the most part I think the responses have been reasonable, although not as genial as they might be.  But listening goes both ways.  The feeling I get reading you is that you came here not to listen to Alterman and commenters, but to reinforce your own biases.  I see administration policies like cutting taxes for the rich, cutting Medicaid and privatizing Social Security as being profoundly opposed to Jesus' teachings.  The Bible says, over and over again: help the poor, and work for social justice.  Yeah, I think it's a reasonable guess that Jesus would not have been crazy about gay marriage.  But I think that universal health care would have been a much higher priority for him.  You say the Dems should move closer to Bush's position on gay marriage and parental notification.  But you didn't engage us on those issues.  You stated your opinion, and when people disagreed with you, you called them anti-Christian.  The lack of engagement is on your side, not theirs.  And on those two issues: In the heat of a close election, Bush pledged to push for an amendment outlawing gay marriage.  As soon as he was safely re-elected, he dropped that support.  Would Kerry have been that much worse?  As far as parental notification goes, I have a lot of questions, such as:  If the parents and the daughter disagree about getting the abortion, who has the final say?  What if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest (or both)?  Why the need to break doctor/patient confidentially in this case and no other (daughter getting contraception or becoming pregnant or contracting a STD)?  Tell us why disagreeing with your views is anti-Christian.

Name: Justin Robinson
Hometown: College Park, MD
I've been following the discussion over Mike from Idaho's comments and I can't help but get the feeling that there really is no solution to this problem.  Josh suggests that we should do everything we can to accept the "olive twig" he has offered but can we really do that without betraying the principles that make us members of this party?  Unfortunately I can't re-read Mike's original comments (an archive feature for this blog would be great) but from what I recall he cited a perceived lack of respect for his faith stemming from Democratic positions on abortion and gay marriage as reasons for his support for Republicans.  As much as I would love for Mike to recognize the values of progressive politics and become a Democrat that simply will not happen because on the wedge issues we just don't agree, unfortunately it really is that simple.  I don't mean to sound so cynical but the Republicans gave up moderate politics years ago and yet for some reason we still insist on bringing a knife to this gunfight.  We're never going to be better at pleasing their base than they are unless we give up what I see as the core values of our party, so maybe its best we just worry about our own.  When the Republicans took control of House they didn't do it by moving to the center, they motivated their base and showed why they were different.  I think if Democrats stopped tip toeing around the issues out of fear of offending the other half they'd be able to gather much more support from their own party.  It's very similar to the paradox we face in the war on terror, is winning really worth giving up what we believe in? I hope not.

Ed Note:  The first Mike from Boise mail was in the April 7 Slacker Friday .

Name:  Josh Silver
Hometown:  FreePress.org
Hi Eric,
Lots happening in media reform. Last week, we launched a major expose on the epidemic of “fake news” in local television newcasts. Working with the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), we found 77 television stations using 36 separate “video news releases,” or VNRs: fake news stories produced by PR firms for corporate clients touting their products and services. News directors looking to cut costs plug them into local news programs without disclosure. The practice is illegal. Some 80% of the stations snared in the investigation are owned by large conglomerates. The list of the worst offenders includes Clear Channel, FOX, CBS, Tribune Co. and Sinclair Broadcast Group - whose Oklahoma City affiliate was caught airing VNRs on six separate occasions. See the campaign and watch the videos here.

Free Press and CMD filed a formal complaint with the FCC and held a press conference last Thursday with FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, who is now calling for a crackdown. Despite repeated claims from broadcasters that they do not air VNRs as news, the new report likely represents just the tip of the iceberg.

The future of the Internet took a shot across the bow last week in the House. We lost a serious vote against the issue of network neutrality in the Energy & Commerce subcommittee, with 6 Democrats voting with all but 1 Republican. It’s far from the end of the story, but this is an inauspicious start. The bill will now sit idle for 2 weeks while the Congress is in recess, and come before the Full Energy & Commerce committee in late April or early May.

Here’s why net neutrality matters:

  1. In a few years, your computer will be the same device as your TV, and nearly all video, audio, web and phone service will be delivered via broadband. This represents a revolutionary opportunity to get independent, critical journalism and other content into every home because the Internet can deliver thousands of video channels, not just the ones the cable companies choose for us. (Nearly 60% of Americans get their primary news from TV, and over 70% of TV viewers use cable.)

  2. As a result of a disastrous FCC ruling in 2005, the law no longer requires the Internet to be open and nondiscriminatory, the foundational principle that has catalyzed the Internet boom. Today, broadband providers (cable and telephone companies) are making plans to discriminate. They’ll do this by creating a “tiered” Internet. Major content providers who cut a pay-for-play deal with the network owners will enjoy super-fast downloads, high quality of service, and the lion’s share of the audience. Everyone else will be in the slow lane. Say goodbye to online equality; say hello to Internet gatekeepers.

  3. The largest media companies are using this policy to position themselves as the lords of tomorrow’s digital media networks. Much like current cable TV companies: they would decide what channels and websites are available at high quality. They will create a cartel of Internet giants and relegate much of today’s rich cyber-culture to second class citizenship. This maintains the conglomerates current stranglehold over media access and distribution.

  4. If we win on network neutrality and restore the foundation of the Internet, tomorrow’s digital media platforms will remain nondiscriminatory. There will literally be infinite numbers of digital channels available, and anyone with a server can create and distribute content.

The legislation coming out of the House subcommittee is the first round of a legislative dogfight that we’ll be waging for the next year - at least, and the next few months will be particularly intense in Washington. There are several other important provisions, such as unlicensed spectrum, red-lining and anti-municipal broadband legislation, but I’ll fill you in on that another time.

Last Monday, New York AG Elliot Spitzer said that federal regulators were negotiating behind his back with radio station groups to settle allegations of illegal payments for airplay (payola), helping the companies avoid serious punishment. Spitzer said the talks between the FCC and four radio conglomerates, which would result in very modest fines and reforms, would undercut his efforts to force tougher sanctions and rules on the industry. Spitzer’s situation is exhibit A for the corrupt policymaking that permeates the FCC as well as Congress: the largest radio conglomerates are making backroom deals to ensure that their payola fines are so low that they can be written off as a business expense rather than a deterrent.

Finally, there is a hold on the confirmation of the final GOP Federal Communications Commissioner, and rumor is it could delay his confirmation for some time. We’re watching this closely because FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is widely expected to move to eliminate public interest limits on media ownership once the new commissioner is in place. We have prepared extensive research on current media ownership structures FYI.  Also telecom.

Name: Rick Coencas
Hometown: San Jose, CA
Hi Eric,
Thanks for linking to the piece on the Workman's Circle.  My maternal grandparents were active members after they came to America before the Russian revolution.  I didn't even know the organization still existed.

April 13, 2006 | 12:07 PM ET | Permalink

Here we go again?

Iran, reports The New York Times, is believed by those in the reality-based community to be years away from achieving its nuclear ambitions.  That leaves an awful lot of time to deal with the problem, short of war, which is likely to be a counter-productive way of dealing with the problem in any case.  Will the Bush administration care?  Will the media force its members to answer difficult questions about the quality of their answers?  I know Vietnam was too long ago to remember but, um, hasn’t something like this happened more recently than that?  Take a look at Sidney Blumenthal’s column here and see what happens when presidents lie and lie and lie and lie and lie…

We further note, from today’s L.A. Times, here, “Americans are divided over the prospect of U.S. military action against Iran if the government in Tehran continues to pursue nuclear technology — and a majority do not trust President Bush to make the "right decision" on that issue, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found."

Regarding the above poll, this sure is annoying: “Asked whom they would support today in a rerun of the 2004 presidential election, 39% of registered voters picked Bush, whereas 49% said they preferred the man the president defeated only 17 months ago," writes Brownstein, failing to include any Electoral College analysis that might show the President still winning 270 electoral votes under this scenario.”  What, people, do you know now that you couldn’t have known then?

We Heart McCain.  The smart, right-wing boys at The Note term Jake Weisberg’s apologia for beltway hero John McCain “brilliant, right-on."  No surprise there.  The Note and Slate are very nearly the same publication.  But what these and almost all insider journalistic analyses ignore is the fact that we don’t elect just a president, we elect an entire administration and that administration is drawn from a particular political party.  McCain may or may not be pretending to be horrible or wonderful—I really don’t care.  The fact is, if he becomes president, the Republican party that has been destroying everything of value in this country for the past eight years will remain in a position to do so, working through the executive branch, the Supreme Court, and in all likelihood, Congress.  Do us all a favor and can the “maverick” crap.  Ross Perot was a maverick.  McCain is a right-wing Republican.

And what, once again, is up with the Washington Post edit page, which looks and sounds more like the WSJ every day.

Take a look at the life of William Sloane Coffin, one of my favorite public people and the most Jewish-sounding preacher I ever met.  If you examine his life story, you’ll see that he was raised very much like George H. W. Bush.  But because he possessed a powerfully independent mind and spirit, he rose above the narrowness of his privileged upbringing, escaped the sinews of his class, and made himself into an American hero.  Our sympathies and deepest admiration go out to his family.  Let his example flow like a mighty river….

Little old Jewish men and women of the Workman’s Circle and pro-commie world unite.  You have nothing to gain but a bit more circulation.  Cute story, here.

Let’s get this party started.  Media Matters has some more evidence for those at Time who doubt the claim that its columnists regularly slander liberals and asks for a bit of balance.  Call it ‘working the refs’ if you like.  As the past forty years of right-media pressure has demonstrated, it works.  Digby is quite interesting too.

And while we’re picking on Time, let’s not be too big to point out that we told you about the wonderful Rebecca Drysdale and the Flight of Conchords sixteen months ago, in this space.

Altercation Book Club

Elias Khoury, “Gates of the Sun”

Jo-Ann Mort profiled the Lebanese editor and novelist, Elias Khoury, in the Forward here.  In light of the magnificent reviews his novel "Gates of the Sun" has received—Lorraine Adams termed it “an imposingly rich and realistic novel, a genuine masterwork” in the New York Times Book Review, I asked Jo-Ann to expand on the interview she did with Khoury for this week’s Altercation Book Club.  You can learn more about the novel, here.

Interview with Elias Khoury by Jo-Ann Mort

Elias Khoury is the editor of the cultural supplement of An Nahar, a daily newspaper in Beirut.  I talked with him recently in a Greenwich Village café, near the NYU campus.  Khoury teaches at NYU each spring as a Global Distinguished professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.

Associated with the secular elite in that city, An Nahar is fiercely independent, and has always editorialized against the Syrian stranglehold in Lebanon. The journalists at An Nahar are precisely the type of democrats that the U.S. should be seeking out if they really want to create democracy in that part of the world. Two of Khoury’s colleagues, popular columnist and leftist activist Samir Kassir, and publisher Gebran Tueni were both assassinated by car bombs, presumably put there by Syrian operatives. “At An Nahar we paid a price, two colleagues, friends of mine, were assassinated,” Khoury told me. “It’s not easy. Really sad and terrible. Their only crime is writing and defending freedom of speech and independence of Lebanon. But it also gives you the feeling that the separation between writing, living and dying is no more. We are also in the vanguard. This gives us a deep belief that it is worth it. Death is terrible. This absence of people you worked with and loved, but freedom is so precious, you are willing to die for it. Everybody like me, intellectuals who are still playing a part in the struggle for independence and against the dictatorship of Syria—people like us are in danger.”

A graduate of the University of Paris in social history, Khoury, a fierce secularist, though a Christian by birth is still marked by his radical student days in Paris in the 1960s. A leftist and a democrat, he has been engaged with the Palestinians, since then.

In addition to his journalism, Khoury is a novelist, best known for his novel, Bab al-Shams, which was recently published by U.S. publisher Archipeligo Books, under the title Gate of the Sun. It is a mammoth story about the Palestinian “Naqba,” based on stories Khoury heard from refugees in the Lebanese camps like Shatila where Palestinians have lived since leaving Israel in 1948 and 1967. The novel’s three main characters are Khalil, a young Palestinian who lives in the Shatila refugee camp while caring for his mentor, Yunes, a weathered Palestinian fighter who, before his sickness, fought alongside non-fictional characters like George Habash and Yassar Arafat and Yunes’s wife, Nahila who remained in the Israeli Galilee with their children.

Khoury has always been an outspoken advocate for the need for Israelis and Palestinians to accept each other’s painful narratives, the impact on Jews of the Nazi Holocaust and on Palestinians, of their expulsion and dispersion after Israel’s founding. Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, he believes that there must be a two-state solution based on the 1967 border and believes that for Arab and Israeli writers to come together, “Israeli writers will have to struggle with us to total retreat to the 1967 borders including East Jerusalem. This is not to be nuanced, total withdrawal and acceptance of two-state solution. With this, everything is possible; without this, nothing is…If the Israeli occupation of Palestine will continue, nothing will work. The occupation is destroying us and the occupation is destroying both communities.”

I asked him about the significance of the Hamas victory among the Palestinians. “Hamas is part of the wave of Islamists all over the Arab world. Hamas continues to have huge financial aid, especially from the Saudis.” Hamas also benefited from Fatah’s corruption and the death of the peace process.” He adds, “Fatah needs to regroup. Hamas should be in charge of the government to see what they can do. Already the Palestinians regret their vote. They didn’t think that Hamas would win.”

In asking him about the plight of secular intellectuals in the Arab world, Khoury harkened back to the U.S. role in propping up the Taliban predecessors in Afghanistan, an incredibly short-sighted strategy to dislodge the Soviets from what was then a Soviet-satellite state. “Secular intellectuals are the majority in the Arab world. We are struggling against this wave of madness in the Arab world and realize that this struggle is tough, but we are paying the highest price in the ending of the Cold War because of the U.S. diabolical alliance between the U.S. and Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan and we are paying the price but we are not pessimistic. It is our duty. Fundamentalists, through the aid of the Saudis and the Americans became very strong, but their cultural production is nearly zero. Most cultural production in the Arab world is secular. This gives us hope because you cannot be an historical movement if you don’t occupy the intellectual scene. Islamism is not the issue...The invasion of Iraq didn’t create change. On the contrary, it created new waves of terrorism and the problem is how to struggle against regimes of dictatorship and oligarchies.”

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Josh Cochran
Hometown: Nashville, TN
Eric,
Larry Howe not only missed the point in his comments, he demonstrated the very essence of the problem with the current extreme polarization of American politics.  He decries the actions and policies of the current administration while rejecting Mike from Idaho's attempt to provide insight into the feelings of the middle-of-the-road voters who could help remove Bush and company from office.  What a way to shoot yourself in the foot.  Clearly it's going to take more than hard line liberals to change the direction of this country.  It's going to take liberals, middle-of-the-roaders, free thinkers, and semi-conservatives disgusted by the Bush crowd to effect change.  The hard liners like Larry have a lot to gain from listening to the feelings of people like Mike from Idaho, rather than dismissing them because their political beliefs have a religious origin.  Real change is going to take a coalition of people who might not normally be allies.  It's going to take compromise.  When someone like Mike reaches out an olive branch, or even an olive twig, we can't afford to reject it.  Larry pointed out the folly of abortion and gay marriage being the wedge issues that allow Bush-ites to win elections.  Liberal, heal thyself.  If you truly believe those issues shouldn't divide people when there are more important issues to deal with, don't flatly reject someone's input simply because they disagree with you on those issues.  If we learned anything from the 2004 election, it should be that we can't afford to turn away anyone willing to help.

Name: Mike
Hometown: Boise, ID
If you can't lure me - and people like me - to your side, you will never win.  As for proof of the hostility towards certain Christians (yes, not all are the targets) read the replies in this column.  One said I was lying.  Others put words in my mouth.  Others accuse me of not knowing the meaning of simple words.  I was accused of not listening unless I am told what I want to hear.  I do listen.  Would I read this column if I didn't?  I read it - and others - daily.  The hope of your party will be the people able to listen and discuss.  The bane are those who attack immediately with unfounded accusations.  Unfortunately the whole debate has been about winning and not finding a solution.  That makes a solution hopeless as both sides become too intent on winning to focus on solving.

Name: Ace
Hometown: Riverside, CA
Anyone who believes that Iraq is considered a failure by the Bush Administration is missing the point.  From an electoral perspective as of April 12, 2006, Iraq has been a smashing success -- for the GOP.  Since the runup to the war started on the eve of the Congressional elections in '02, the GOP has solidified its hold on both houses of Congress, installed two right-wing ideologues on the Supreme Court, and re-elected the Doofus in Chief.  George's approval ratings may be in the toilet, but he is still the President and will be until January 2009, hands on the levers of power, and they are going to remain there even if his approval rating bottoms out at 20% (i.e., in Cheneyville, where the bamboozleable remain happy with the direction the country's taking).  Make no mistake -- before votes are cast in November 2006 the boys in the White House will be bombing Iran, painting their domestic opponents as traitors or terrorists, and planning on running the same game plan in 2008.  We will look on in dismay and raise our voices in protest and astonishment, but those with the power intend to use (and abuse) it. War without end, Amen.

Name: Marty
Hometown: Boulder
Eric,
I'd like to second Sal's recommendation of the new Beatles boxed set, THE CAPITOL ALBUMS, VOL. 2. As Sal said, the sound quality of this boxed set is excellent. Furthermore, with the release of this set, we finally get CDs with stereo versions of songs that had previously only been available in mono on the PLEASE PLEASE ME and the BEATLES FOR SALE compact discs. And, as Sal said, with this boxed set, we get to hear the Beatles' music the way it sounded when it was first released in America in the 1960s.  (Before the release of SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND in 1967, Beatles albums released in the US were significantly different than those released in the UK.  The CDS, released worldwide in 1987, correspond to the British albums.)  But, in addition to these three reasons, I can think of four other reasons why Beatles fans (and music collectors) should be interested in this boxed set. They are: 1. "Please Please Me" with alternate lyric: In the last verse of the mono version of "Please Please Me," John Lennon sings, "I know you never even try girl." This is the version of the song that was originally released as a single, as well as the version released on the America Vee-Jay album, INTRODUCING THE BEATLES. On the stereo mix of this song, however, John incorrectly sings "I know I never even try girl" in the last verse. The stereo version with the incorrect lyric is familiar to many of us, as it is the version that appears on the American album, THE EARLY BEATLES, and it is the version that appeared on the vinyl pressings of the Beatles' 1973 greatest hits package, THE BEATLES/1962-66 (often referred to as the "red album." When the Beatles' albums were released on CD, however, the first four CDs were in mono, and, thus, the mono version of this song, with the correct lyric, was released on CD. And, when the "red album" was released on CD in 1993, the mono version of this song was also used. Therefore, this boxed set marks the first release of the stereo version of "Please Please Me" (with the alternate lyric) on CD. 2. "Help!" with the 'James Bond' Intro: For the incidental music used in the Beatles' film, "Help!" the Beatles employed Ken Thorne to write and record instrumental music. One piece of instrumental music Thorne recorded for the film was Monty Norman's "James Bond" theme. This fit nicely in the film for three reasons: First, both the Beatles' music and the James Bond film series were popular at the same time. Second, like the Beatles, James Bond was British, and so, to American minds, there was some type of link. And, finally and most importantly, the plot of "Help!" featured espionage, intrigue and exotic locations that were reminded one of a Bond film. When Capitol Records released the HELP! Soundtrack album in 1965, it included several instrumentals from the film, including Thorne's version of the "James Bond Theme." The British version of the HELP! Album, however, did not include the instrumentals from the soundtrack, instead filling out the album with Beatles songs that were not included in the film. Capitol opened their version of the soundtrack album with a sixteen second excerpt of the "James Bond Theme" that segued nicely into the film's title song. The intro worked so nicely that Americans began to think of the "James Bond Theme" as the natural introduction of the song, even to the extent that, when Capitol released "red album" in 1973, the version of "Help!" with the 'James Bond' intro was included on the American pressings of the album. As British fans were not as familiar with Thorne's instrumentals, the British pressings of the "red album" did not include the 'James Bond' intro. When the CDs were issued in 1987, they followed the British model and, hence, the 'James Bond' intro was not included on the HELP! CD, nor was it included on the CD version of the "red album." Thus, this boxed set finally gives us a CD version of "Help!" with the 'James Bond' intro restored. I've missed this introduction. It's nice to have it back. 3. "I'm Looking Through You" with false start: For some strange reason, the American stereo pressings of the RUBBER SOUL album included a version of "I'm Looking Through You" with a false start. This false start is not available on the British version of the album (and, hence, it is not available on the RUBBER SOUL CD), nor was it available on the mono pressings of the American RUBBER SOUL vinyl album. (As Sal mentioned, due to a mix-up, this boxed set includes the false start on both the stereo and mono versions of the song, but Capitol is supposedly working to rectify that problem. Replacements have been promised for people who have bought the boxed set.) The false start provides a very nice, warm acoustic guitar introduction to the song, and it is welcoming to be able to finally hear it on CD. 4.

Finally, the British RUBBER SOUL album and the American RUBBER SOUL albums have a very different "texture": Although the core tracks on both versions of RUBBER SOUL are the same songs ("Norwegian Wood", "You Won't See Me", "Girl", "In My Life," etc.), Capitol Records had a habit of changing the track listing of Beatles' albums as a way to squeeze as much material as possible from the group.  (Most British albums featured 14 tracks and usually did not include songs previously released as singles.  Most American albums featured only 11 tracks, and included songs previously released as singles.)  In most cases, the Capitol-reconstituted albums did little to improve the group's catalog. In the case of RUBBER SOUL, however, Capitol's tampering (unintentionally) produced a very interesting album. In order to retain some the album's tracks for future release, Capitol left "Drive My Car", "Nowhere Man", "What Goes On", and "If I Needed Someone" off of their version of RUBBER SOUL. (These four songs were issued in the US several months later on the infamous "YESTERDAY"... AND TODAY album.) The four songs left off the American album were in the folk-rock genre (or, in the case of "What Goes On," the rockabilly genre), and all four of them feature prominent electric guitars. In their place, Capitol substituted the more acoustic-sounding "I've Just Seen a Face" and "It's Only Love." Both of these songs had been included on the British HELP! album, but, as they were not included in the film, they had been left off the American HELP! soundtrack album. As a result, the American RUBBER SOUL album had a completely different "feel" than the British album of the same name. The American album sounds like an acoustic folk album, sort of a "Beatles Unplugged," while the British album (which is the version released on CD) is an electric folk-rock album in the style of the Byrds of the Buffalo Springfield. Both albums are excellent -- masterpieces even. But each album is different. It is nice to finally be able to hear both versions of RUBBER SOUL on CD. As I said, I would agree with Sal's recommendation of this boxed set. And, when listening to it, I would urge Altercation readers to keep these differences in mind when comparing this set to the previously issued Beatles compact discs.

April 12, 2006 | 12:46 PM ET | Permalink

Page Six Nation

The thing about Page Six, which if you read the New York Times or the New York Observer, is the biggest story since, well, the president had sex with an intern.  I am not a prig about gossip, I eat it up, as a matter of fact, and they sure do take it seriously at P6.  What annoys me about the page is that it is, like John Bolton, essentially a “kiss-up, kick-down” enterprise, which is perfectly antithetical to my belief that journalism should seek to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”  In any case, I am about as low-level a celebrity as exists anywhere.  And yet whenever see my name on P6, it’s always something nasty and often something inaccurate.  Once upon a time, I went to the trouble to have an eyewitness to the events they were describing write them to correct their false rendering of what took place.  (It’s too complicated and silly to go into the details, but because the eyewitness was also the allegedly aggrieved party, there could be no doubt that the item was false.)  But it didn’t matter, because I’m not important enough or powerful enough to make trouble for them in places they care about.  I suppose I could have played nice and fed them items instead, but life’s a little crowded for that.  That’s why Monica was treated so badly there.  She had no way to make them pay, either by getting to Murdoch, as Burkle did, or by doing a deal.  My friend Katie Rosman—congrats on the kid, Katie-- once wrote a profile of Richard Johnson for Brill’s Content that was all together too kind for my taste as a matter of journalism, but still gets to the bottom of things—at least until Stern.  On the other hand, every time I’ve ever met Richard Johnson, he’s been quite decent.  And I went to ski school a couple of years back with his now wife, and she was nice too.  And compared with the ethics one sees in the rest of the Murdoch empire, particularly Fox News, well, even Stern comes off looking pretty benign. (So says Joe Conason too in a newspaper that is otherwise, one long Page Six….)

P.S.  Too bad the Times is ending its Boldface Names column.  It was only nice gossip, but still, some of the cleverest writing in the paper.

Speaking of journalistic ethics, things get murkier the closer you look.  Take a look at this line on the front page of today’s Times, here.

Police Seize Top Mafioso After 43 Years
... Corleone spawned a vicious Mafia family, currently led ...”

Now why is the Times characterizing an entire family as “vicious.”  Isn’t that, you know, libelous or at least really, really unfair?  Well, the answer lies in what the late J. Anthony Lukas termed “the Afghanistan Principle.”  I’ll let Victor Navasky explain, as he does in  A Matter of Opinion, here:

J. Anthony Lukas, then a staff writer for the magazine, identified what he called the Afghanistan principle. He formulated this principle while covering the 1969–70 trial of the so-called Chicago Eight. That was the trial where Judge Julius Hoffman brutally ordered the manacling of the black defendant Bobby Seale.  When Lukas filed his copy, which reported that Judge Hoffman had brutally ordered the manacling of the black defendant Bobby Seale, his editor told him he couldn’t use the word “brutally.” Why not?  Because that would be editorializing in the news columns and this was supposed to be an objective job of reporting. Lukas said he didn’t understand:  When he had been reporting from Asia he had frequently filed stories with leads such as “Today, the Wali of Swat brutally put down the uprising of 2,000 peasants . . .” and nobody on the foreign desk complained. The Afghanistan Principle held that at The New York Times, at least, one’s ability to tell the truth was inversely proportional to one’s distance from West Forty-third Street.

One more point on journalistic ethics:  Not that Diane Sawyer needs any help from yours truly, but this is a silly piece in the first place; a new low in the How-to-over-cover-Katie-Couric sweepstakes, but I thought I’d point out that within this article--linked to by both Romenesko and Mediabistro--is a transparently dishonest journalistic technique.  Read this sentence: “The fact that Ms. Sawyer's name surfaced several times in recent months for anchor jobs - in stories that looked suspiciously like she'd leaked them herself - made clear her true ambitions.”  Excuse me, accused in the first half of the sentence, convicted in the second, but not a shred of evidence is presented in between.  If this were one of my students, that’d rate an “F.”

OK, once more, back to Time and Joe Klein:  Since I genuinely like and admire Jim Kelly, it pains me to point out just how unjustifiably unfair Time is to liberals, but there’s no denying it. Klein, as I mentioned yesterday hates liberals and regularly slanders them.  So, obviously, does Time blogger and columnist Andrew Sullivan, who questioned all liberals’ loyalty in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and regularly uses the same “hate America” trope that Klein employs.  So too, does its back-page columnist Charles Krauthammer.  I don’t feel like it now but this is easy to document and I’ve done so at length in both Sound & Fury and What Liberal Media?  OK, here’s one Krauthammer quote from the days they thought they ruled the world: "The only people who think this wasn't a victory are Upper West Side liberals, and a few people here in Washington."

Then there was that horrific love letter on the cover by John Cloud to Ann Coulter, in which this evil McCarthyite liar—and read Al Franken here if you doubt any of those words—was celebrated as some sort of fashionable ‘It Girl.’  And then Margaret Carlson, who was only just a tiny bit liberal, but liberal nevertheless, was fired.  What gives?  And why is it justifiable to have only columnists who slander liberals and not one who defends them?  Write to Time and ask them why this is OK letters@time.com.

Irony watch:  Since I was not BS-ing when I said liked Jim Kelley personally and admired him as a journalist, I can’t help mentioning that I do wish he’d read Altercation a little more often, or at least pretend to.  In the past month, my buddy Jim has invited me to two parties at his apartment: one in honor of Andrew Sullivan and one for Joe Klein.  Ouch! ( Here is the column I wrote about Klein’s methods that led him to call me lots of unpleasant things.)

And while I’m using the blog to speak to my misguided friends in high editorial places, hey Ben, giving Beinart’s book to Hitchens is another sin of the same “Let’s slander the liberals” nature.  Let him show off his public school education on the classics all he wants, but keep him away from politics.  But while we’re on the topic of the May Atlantic, everybody should read Jim Fallows on why attacking Iran is insane.

Also on this topic, sort-of, is it just a coincidence that the smart, right-wing boys at The Note write that the right-wing New York Sun’s Josh Gerstein is “showing his ownership of [the Fitzgerald] story"?  I think any fair-minded, non-ideological reading of who owns this story would wish to give at least some credit to the incredible reporting of Murray Waas, (but that would mean The Note would have to give credit to a liberal, soo never mind)...

It’s official, Baghdad is the worst place on Earth.

Quote of the Day:  "'We have found the weapons of mass destruction,' President Bush, May 29, 2003.  But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.”  Here.

New Bruce videos, here.

Alter review:  The new Beatles box by Sal, ( NYCD)

WE LOVE THIS, YEAH YEAH YEAH!

What if we told you that the BEATLES' entire 1963-65 output -- the material that got the most complaints when it was initially issued on CD -- has been newly remastered for the first time in almost 20 years, in both stereo and mono?  You'd jump at the chance to get it, right?  So why were so many people so skeptical about "THE CAPITOL ALBUMS, VOL. 1" box set when it came out a year or so ago?  Was it the stupid packaging?  The gimmicky vibe that the set projected?  Who cares?  It was vintage Beatles, sounding better than ever.  Just out is "THE CAPITOL ALBUMS, VOL. 2," featuring the American albums "BEATLES VI," "THE EARLY BEATLES," and the American versions of "HELP!" (with the soundtrack music as well, just like the American LP!) and "RUBBER SOUL."  The sound is great, the music is great, and if you grew up listening to the American LPs, the sequencing and track listing is "correct" at last.  What's not to love?

Now, some of you may have read in the Times about the mastering mix-up, in which the mono mixes on two of the albums are not the exact mixes that were used on the original 1965 LPs.  To die-hard Beatles fans, that may mean something.  But if you can't explain to your child what the false start on "I'm Looking Through You" is, then you're not going to care.  Plus you can get your copy replaced by Capitol if you really do care!

Correspondence Corner:

Name: LTC Bob Bateman
Dateline: Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.

Guilt

I have now been home for a shade over two months.  Since my return my Army promoted me and I received the de facto reward of a truly fascinating new job.  I experienced the joy of seeing my oldest daughter, Morgan, just about every other week since I returned, and my other daughters almost as often.  I was bathed in joy when seeing my mother and father, twice.  I have been basking in the happiness of union with my fiancée, and her parents, and had great fun in planning our wedding. I tilted beer with my friends, and engaged in the small pleasures of tending to minor repairs around the house.  (Truly, my friends, do not knock this last until you know what it is to live without.)  In all ways I am blessed by his noodly appendage.

So why do I feel guilty?

In my own case, I have had the fortune that I have not experienced any side-effects from my service in Iraq.  Oh, yea, sure, on a few occasions I noticed that my adrenal glands reacted unpleasantly to sounds to which they were conditioned while I was in Iraq, but which mean nothing here Stateside.

This fades.  At least it has for me.  And yes, on my first day driving on a highway I noted in an almost abstract way that I was looking at some things which have absolutely no meaning in the United States (overpasses, how loaded down a particular car might be, trash on the side of the road, etc.).  But again, my intellect recognized these things and compensated.  Beyond a
slight, and fading jitteriness, I have not been affected.  I think.  But more deeply I am aware of something which my mind cannot erase.  Guilt.

I am not accustomed to failure.

I failed, completely and spectacularly, only once in my life prior to this point.  I failed in a former marriage.  For whatever reason, chemistry, poor analysis, personal evolution, my daughters now suffer the effects of my intolerance.  This pains me.  But it does not seem to be the same as the niggling feeling which I have now, and which I strongly suspect many of my peers feel as well.  We in the active military are, after all, a subculture of America which is not conditioned to accept failure.  Hell, we are not even very good at compromise.  I suspect that this is simultaneously both our greatest strength and our greatest weakness. But it is also probably at the core of why I am feeling guilty.

I failed.

I failed my Iraqi friends.  I failed my Army.  I failed my nation.  I did not solve the problem of Iraq in the year that I was there, and therefore I failed.

Is this rational?  No.  Not in the least.  Intellectually I know this.  I know that the effort to bring Iraq into this century is not contingent upon the actions of any one soldier, or statesman.  I know that political decisions, when dealing with an insurgency, matter more than military ones.  I know that our efforts require more than just my best efforts.  I know that while I was in Iraq I was just one more pissant Major.  (Now, of course, I am of the exalted rank of Pissant Lieutenant Colonel).  I know these things.  It does not seem to matter.  I feel responsible.  It is my fault. I failed, and my buddies are still there, dealing with that which I failed to solve. It makes me want to go back.  Hell, it makes me feel like I should not have
left.

That, of course, is irrational.  It makes no sense. Three times, like Peter, I have denied to my fiancée any such emotions.  I think that I was telling the truth, but not the Truth.  Lying, for me, is a major issue, so I do not take this admission lightly.

This is not optimal.  I recommend the book The Centurions. As a French officer friend of mine once pointed out, there were unintended second-order effects when the French Army was ordered to leave North Vietnam.  I pray that we are not witnessing the beginning of the same social-political dynamic today, but I acknowledge that humans are humans.

CAPITOL HILL WITHIN EARSHOT:

My fiancée, who almost never reads this blog because she is so busy, is “a first year student in south Asian studies” at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).  She has, happily, no qualms about questioning authority. This is one small part of why I love her.  Those who are curious can connect the dots for themselves.

My daughters are on Spring Break with their mother’s parents in Florida. I miss them.

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

Name: Roger
Hometown: Marlton, NJ
Eric,
I must comment that Brad from Virginia shows the same lack of understanding of Christian beliefs that the media pundits do when he says "the unconditional support of abortion and promotion (or even tacit acceptance) of gay marriage by many on the Democratic side is often perceived as insulting and belittling to devout Christians."  I am a devout Christian, Deacon in my denomination, and I am pro choice AND pro gay marriage. There are many others like me who believe the Christian Right is, in fact, wrong about Christ's message. My Lenten study this year pointed out that Jesus railed against the Purity system, so embraced by these people who practice hate and bigotry while hiding behind the claim of being religious. The writings of Bishop Spong or Jim Wallis or Desmond Tutu represent true Christian beliefs.

Name: Terry Fletcher
Hometown: Tukwila, WA
Brad from Arlington writes "These (life begins at conception and that marriage is a sacred institution) are not fleeting notions, but rather are important components of the bedrock foundation of devout Christian dogma."  I attended Christian churches when I was a young man, and these "bedrock issues" were never even discussed.  I learned that Christians should use their beliefs as a mirror to examine their own behavior, not as a magnifying glass to examine the behavior of others.  In a democracy, we must defend the rights of others in order to protect the rights to our own beliefs.  I do not 'unconditionally support' the rights of others, but defend them none the less, as I do not think I have the right to deny them their own beliefs.

Name: Fred Nicholson
Hometown: New York, NY
In response to Brad of Arlington: To say that the idea that life begins at conception and that marriage is a sacred institution are "important components of the bedrock foundation of devout Christian dogma" is really very misleading.  While these may be part of dogma in some Christian denominations, they are far from "bedrock" and have been changed, revised, re-interpreted, etc., both over time and by different groups, even within "devout Christian" circles.  Unless, of course, you're speaking of current dogma in, say, the Roman Catholic church or the Southern Baptist Convention or some other specific Christian sect, it's pretty hard to make general statements about the "Christian" point on view on most topics -- particularly topics that Christ himself never specifically addressed.  And even there, there are differences of opinion.  There are many devout Christians who do not believe that life begins at conception (except in some biological sense), and whether marriage is really a sacred (as opposed to civil)institution has been debated at many times within the church.  The degree to which organized churches have taken it on themselves to make statements on these issues should be clearly distinguished from statements about the views of "devout Christians" as a group.  There are probably few groups whose individual views are more varied (although often quite vehement) as "devout Christians." I don't believe there is a "Christian" view on either of these topics -- only the many and varied views of many and varied Christians.

Name: Avedon
Hometown: The Sideshow
Dear Eric,
Your correspondent Brad from Arlington, referring to "beliefs these Christians hold dear," says: "Namely, that life begins at conception and that marriage is a sacred institution. These are not fleeting notions, but rather are important components of the bedrock foundation of devout Christian dogma." The idea that "life begins at conception" is not part of the Bible.  The Catholic Church itself did not always oppose abortion and birth control - even Thomas Aquinas did not ban abortion.  Most other Christian sects had nothing to say about these things until pretty recently.  The bedrock of Christianity is not based on trying to make life more difficult for people; it is rather the reverse.  Like most Americans, I was raised as a Christian, with Christian values and Christian beliefs.  In my experience, even most members of other religions, as well as atheists and agnostics, hold those same values.  They aren't about hating gays or making women have unwanted pregnancies.  My brother, who still sings in the church choir, has a bumper sticker on his pick-up that says, "Hate is not a family value."  It's not a Christian value, either.  And that's why many liberals are hostile toward the evangelical right.  It's not that they're Christian that bothers us.  It's not that they're religious.  It's that they are downright unChristian.

Name: Beth Harrison
Hometown: Arlington, VA
Since my neighbor, Brad from Arlington, is a self-professed agnostic, maybe he needs a wider view of what Christians believe.  Speaking only for myself, as a Christian I am far more concerned about poverty than abortion and gay marriage, which, by the way, are not "important components of the bedrock foundation of Christian dogma."*  And fifty years ago, supporting civil rights for African Americans was considered by some people to be "openly hostile to fundamental Christian beliefs."  Doesn't make that belief right.  Now, just for argument's sake, human life may begin at conception, but pregnancy begins with the implantation of the fertilized egg into the uterine wall.  And as for "unconditional support of abortion", I'm for cheap and easy access to all forms of birth control, including over-the-counter emergency contraceptive, as well as comprehensive, age appropriate sex education (no abstinence only). Why is that considered "pro abortion?"  But the Republicans have cut funding for sex education, unless it is abstinence only. Yes, teenagers should not be having sex.  But who are we kidding: you had sex (or knew people who did) when you were a teenager.  And if Brad says he didn't know anyone who had sex, he definitely wasn't paying attention in high school. Would Brad want his teenager to have unprotected sex? Or does he think it's better that his daughter contract genital warts (which will soon be prevented by a vaccine unless the fundies have their way) and die later of cervical cancer?  And Brad is unable to answer the question as to which Democrats are pushing gay marriage.  What I see is Republicans attempting to criminalize consensual behavior between adults that they find distasteful (why the Log Cabin Republicans are still in existence is beyond my ability to comprehend). The dozen state referenda passed in 2004 not only bar any sort of contractual relationship approximating "marriage", but also destroy the ability of some states to enforce domestic abuse statutes because the people involved are not married.  Can Brad please explain how that is a good thing?  And is Brad also telling large corporations that they cannot offer benefits to the same sex partners of their employees?  And here I thought Republicans were "pro-business" and against the government telling companies what they can and cannot do.

*Here's the bedrock belief: Jesus was the Son of God, he died for our sins, and rose from the dead after being crucified by the Romans.  To quote Elizabeth I, "There is but one Lord Jesus Christ.  The rest is a dispute over trifles."

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL
Eric-- Dave Jones may have a point about the piling on of those responding to Mike from Idaho. But I'm not sure I share his confidence that Mike can be lured to the left.  His original message was replete with the same kind of dismissive cant that we hear from many like him. If you don't say explicitly what they want to hear, and how they want to hear it, then they're not going to listen; how else could you explain his willingness to vote for Bush because he "pretends" to believe what Mike believes.  I find little reason to try to "earn" a vote from someone who doesn't seem to know the meaning of the word.  The same can be said of those whom Brad from Arlington defends as seeing their religion belittled and insulted by Democrats who simply hold a different view than theirs.  This kind of intolerance doesn't avail itself of persuasion. I'll respect their right to practice their religion, but I won't stand for having their tenets dictated to me. The impasse, in other words, stems from the fact that we think it's fine if they don't want to marry gay people or don't want to have an abortion; but we think that those who do have that right.  The really galling point about this is that these wedge issues become the detonator for electing politicians who are conducting an immoral foreign policy and restructuring the economy so that the "haves" are sure to be the "have mores"--those are Bush's words; well at least those gay people won't be married.

April 11, 2006 | 11:56 AM ET | Permalink

Believe it this time, buster

My friend Fred Kaplan can’t bring himself to believe that the Cheney administration is, pick your adjective (sufficiently crazy, irresponsible, evil, uncaring about human life, happy to encourage terrorism against the United States, whatever) to launch a pre-emptive nuclear war against Iran.  He writes:

Or maybe there's no gamesmanship going on here, maybe Hersh [which is here by the way] is simply reporting on a nuclear war plan that President Bush is really, seriously considering, a "juggernaut" that might not be stopped.  If it's as straightforward as that, we're in deeper trouble than most of us have imagined.

I recall that Fred has publicly acknowledged his inability to judge the awfulness of this administration in deciding whether to support war in Iraq.  Isn’t it about time we all stopped underestimating these people?  Bush called it “wild speculation.”  What was it called when anyone speculated that Cheney, much less Bush might be behind the anti-Plame leak, here?

And I was talking to a former Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East (under a Republican administration) last night at a cocktail party and his position on Hersh was, “Who the hell knows with these people?”  It could be a bluff, as it would be with any sensible, remotely responsible administration, but then again, if they want to inspire countless terrorist attacks against the United States and kill all these people, a little thing like reality is not going to stop them.  (I paraphrase.)

This just in:  I went to a breakfast this morning sponsored by HBO and the Council on Foreign Relations where Tina Brown interviewed Julia Sweig, author of Friendly Fire: Losing Friends and Making Enemies in the Anti-American Century, here, before a small gathering of media and foreign policy bigwigs.  Sweig, a Latin America specialist, has written a subtle, historically-informed study about the phenomenon in which she sought to distinguish between those aspects that are structural and destined to plague our relations with the rest of the world as long as we are the world’s only superpower—which actually, is not as long as it sounds—and those aspects which are purely the fault of the incompetence, malevolence, dishonesty, etc. of the Bush administration.  It was a useful discussion with many useful tributaries and give and take with the audience and we all felt better for it.

That is right up until the very last moment when, after someone brought up the question of the whether the Democrats will be able to present an effective alternative to Bush in the next election, Joe Klein shouted out, “Well they won’t if their message is that they hate America—which is what has been the message of the liberal wing of the party for the past twenty years.”

Excuse me, but I think this is worth some attention.  It’s not about Klein per se, who after all, is best known to most Americans as the guy who lost his job at both Newsweek and CBS News for purposely misleading editors, readers and viewers in order to increase his own personal profit as the allegedly “anonymous” author of “Primary Colors.”  (He also [classily] attacked the reputation of the linguist who figured out his identity in New York Magazine.)  What is important, however, is the fact that Time is America’s highest circulation newsweekly.  And since it fired Margaret Carlson, Joe Klein, believe it or not, is its most liberal columnist.  That’s right.  The most liberal columnist at the America’s largest weekly newsmagazine pretends that the message of liberals for the past twenty years has been that they “hate America,” just as if he were reading from talking points issued by Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter.  (Don’t get me started.)

Once again I am forced to say, “What the hell is going on here?”  How about a little noise in the blogosophere politely asking Time to hire a genuinely liberal columnist?  (Newsweek has three Jon Alter, Eleanor Clift and Anna Quindlen.)  My nomination would be Josh Marshall, but that’s not important.  What matters is that the magazine has four million readers and sets the agenda for much of the media, globally.  And it not only won’t allow any liberals in the door, it continuously slanders them, both in its cover stories and in its columns.   Forty-seven percent of Americans strongly oppose George Bush.  Twenty nine percent say he deserves to be impeached.  And yet these many tens of millions of people are treated with complete contempt by the pundits who are invited to determine the course of the political discourse.  Why do we have to take this lying down?  The address for letters to the editor is letters@time.com.  [ permalink ]

On a related point, Boehlert asks us to Note to Dems: Pundits are not your friends.

I also caught the rest of what’s below on the HuffPost this morning.  Happy Holidays everyone.

Stephen Elliott smartly writes:

...Two years into the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity, with millions of dollars spent on investigating this serious breach of public trust, after reporter Judy Miller spends 80 days in jail, after George W. Bush promises to reckon with anyone in his administration responsible for the leak, we're told George Bush is actually responsible for the leak after all.

So why have the investigation? Why this egregious irresponsible use of tax money from an administration so adamant about tax cuts? If the information was declassified and the president authorized it, what were we investigating? This administration is so used to not being held accountable that it means nothing to them to waste millions of tax payer dollars investigating a leak that they knew all along was their own.
...
To hold an investigation into a coverup knowing all along where it was coming from and who was responsible. One can only shake one's head at the boldness, the gall, the absence of principles or conscience. To stall the truth at the taxpayers expense. To finally not care about the truth at all as if truth was not an ideal, not a value, but a nuisance, something that gets in the way of the greater good.

We're told in today's New York Times that "still unclear is the nature of the communication between Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney" over the declassification of pre-war intel.  Unclear?  Please.  Does anyone really believe that the president, a man who wouldn't testify in front of the 9/11 Commission without Cheney by his side, suddenly woke up one morning and thought: "I need to selectively declassify the paragraphs at the bottom of page 24 of the 2002 NIE so we can perpetuate the myth that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure' uranium from Africa. Let me get Cheney on the phone and give him his marching orders."?

Dayenu, dammit.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Dave Jones
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
For being opportunists, we sure miss plenty of them.  Example: Confronting Mike from Idaho and beating him to dust over his views is a very poor way to attract him as a supporter.  I vote Democrat and agree with almost everything fact-wise and policy-wise the correspondents say, but I disagree with their confrontational approach toward our new friend, Mike from Idaho.  It took a lot for Mike to turn sour on Mr. Bush, someone he believed in.  It's rough sledding to be disillusioned, to have trust betrayed by faithless incompetents.  Yet, all of the correspondents who made print stepped on Mike's pain and ignored the subtle overtures.  They merely attacked his statements without caring what was behind them.  "Which Democrats have attacked Christians, huh?  What were their names, what were they wearing?  Well?!  You don't know!! Ha!"  Nice.  We win on "Jeopardy!", and all Idaho votes for the GOP in '08.  Look, if Mike and others believe that Democrats are unfriendly to people of faith, then maybe we're doing a crappy job of communicating.  For whatever reasons, Democrats ended up frustrating and offending Mike and others.  I don't pretend to understand their whole life, but we might understand better if we really listened instead of just attacking non-conforming statements with our trademark pettiness.  Someone in Democratic authority should take some ownership for driving people like Mike into GOP arms; it wasn't inevitable or necessary.  It's inconceivable to me that we would do anything but welcome Mike into the tent.  He's who we need to add to the party, not me of Minneapolis, not Jim of Madison, and not Bruce Springsteen of Greater Freehold, NJ; we're already in.  Idaho can be a blue state, as can any other where we're willing to put in the time to listen.

Name: Ken Stephens
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
The issue here has gone way off course.  I will say that I am a little hesitant to add my e-mail address due to the nature of the current administration's notorious seeking out of those who oppose them.  I would consider myself more of a Republican than a Democrat yet adhere fully to neither but the current administration may be the most corrupt in the history of the office.  Why is it when an oil man is in office, the price of oil goes through the roof?  Both Bushes had ties to oil and both times the price shot up...  Bush seems to reward corporate America for sending work overseas and destroying the ecosystem.  There are so many points to go off on with this administration it is hard to focus but the most egregious was the war in Iraq and the many who have paid with their lives for what?  Bush keeps using the religious rhetoric to make people think he is just when he was running around doing drugs, philandering and robbing the public with the S&L's while his daddy was in office.  But then again we, the fodder, have forgotten that because the media does not seem to question this man...

Name: Brad
Hometown: Arlington, VA
Dr. Alterman,
Pat from Indiana notes that "I keep hearing this from the right, but what I don't seem to be hearing is Democrats insulting and belittling Christians."  I am an agnostic (at best), but it would appear that Pat disregards many beliefs these Christians hold dear.  Namely, that life begins at conception and that marriage is a sacred institution.  These are not fleeting notions, but rather are important components of the bedrock foundation of devout Christian dogma.  Thus, the unconditional support of abortion and promotion (or even tacit acceptance) of gay marriage by many on the Democratic side is often perceived as insulting and belittling to devout Christians.  Indeed, "overt Democratic Christian-bashing" may not be rampant (or even common), but the pre-eminence of these issues in the political arena comes off (to many) as being openly hostile to fundamental Christian beliefs.  Whether actually so or not is of little moment to this portion of the electorate.  Basically, issues such as these cut much deeper than the superficial and political manner in which they are often treated by both parties.  Case in point, Don from Lake Tapps asks (rhetorically?) for enlightenment as to which Democrats are "pushing gay marriage" and suggests that "pro-gay legislation has happened at the grass-roots level, meaning that *your neighbors* are responsible, not legislators."  While Don clearly is confused as to the differences between referendums and legislation, a quick review of the various referendums in several states across the country on the issue of gay-marriage have been rather one-sided, which speaks rather clearly to the relative dearth of actual legislation on the issue outside of defense of marriage acts.  As for the political positions on the issue, the dividing line lies somewhere to the left of center.  Let us not forget who signed the federal DoMA into law.  In any event, the grass-roots do appear to be speaking on the issue, just not in the manner suggested by Don.

Name: Bob Mangino
Hometown: Seattle
Doc,
Don't believe the hype!  Although I am dancing at the news of Bush's plummeting poll numbers, I noticed this in a WaPo article today: "A majority of registered voters, 55 percent, say they plan to vote for the Democratic candidate in their House district, while 40 percent support the Republican candidate.  That is the largest share of the electorate favoring Democrats in Post-ABC polls since the mid-1980s."  I know this refers to the House and not the White House, but I have to point to the sobering fact that in the aforementioned 80s, Reagan won in 80 and 84, and his "third term" was won by Bush 1 in 88.  So, while the poll numbers may be promising, and I'm as eager as the next liberal to kick a GOPster when he's down..... there's a lot of time and mileage to cover before it's all over.  And from the party that brought you the phone jamming scandal (among others), there are plenty of dirty tricks out there to trip the Dems up.  Sorry to be so dour; as you well know, the "Republicans versus Democrats" news these days is generally pretty good.  But I won't rest easy until Cheney invites the Prez quail hunting, or Michael Corleone invites him for a little fishing trip.

Name: Rich Levy
Hometown: Cambridge, MD
Eric~ Here's a link to a music oddity, for ya.  It is down the page a bit.  This is a 1964 Rice Krispies commercial from Great Britain.  Written and recorded by The Rolling Stones!  Pretty cool, too!

April 10, 2006 | 11:11 AM ET | Permalink

The unavoidable conclusion

It’s this simple.  They are even worse than we’ve allowed ourselves to imagine.  George W. Bush and Dick Cheney use classified information about vital national security matters for naked political purposes—often character assassination—and when they do so, they feel free to lie about it.  That is the unavoidable conclusion of this story:

But if the new court filing is correct, the next day, Mr. Libby, on behalf of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, provided an exaggerated account of the intelligence conclusions.

As well as this story

...Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald for the first time described a "concerted action" by "multiple people in the White House" -- using classified information -- to "discredit, punish or seek revenge against" a critic of President Bush's war in Iraq. 

Bluntly and repeatedly, Fitzgerald placed Cheney at the center of that campaign.

Moreover, these dishonest and dishonorable liars take these nefarious actions of policies that, inevitably, prove disastrous, owing to their incompetence.  And when, on those rare occasions, reporters are willing and able to address the truth of their actions, they can find their loyalty and patriotism under attack and have even been faced with criminal investigations over the reporting of exactly the same sort of leaks Bush, Cheney and company feel free to employ—except that these sometimes turn out to be true.  And yet, somehow, the men and women who run our media establishment, think none of this is as bad as Bill Clinton fooling around with an intern.  Even worse, they continue to report the things they say stenographically, rather than employing the skepticism they have so richly earned, over and over, and over.  Even more terrifying, these very same dishonest incompetents are planning another war even as the world continues to pay the price for their dangerous and irresponsible failure in the current one.

P.S.  And the democracy talk was always childish, dishonest nonsense as well.

P.P.S.  The U.S. military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program.  The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, here .

P.P.P.S.  They’re destroying the military, too here.

P.P.P.P.S.  Does Fred Hiatt even read the Washington Post?

P.P.P.P.P.S.  Former Federal Prosecutor Elizabeth De la Vega recently considered the latest news in the Plame/Libby Leak case and, in a brilliant analysis of this Toad's Wild Ride of an inside-the-Beltway Imax 3-D extravaganza in which, it looks increasingly apparent, Bush and Co. have lost their way, she suggests why the typical media questions of the moment -- "Is what the President did legal?" or "Does the President have authority to declassify information at will?" -- aren't the right ones to ask.  The real one to ask, she suggests after reviewing the history of the case in detail is this:

Is a President, on the eve of his reelection campaign, legally entitled to ward off political embarrassment and conceal past failures in the exercise of his office by unilaterally and informally declassifying selected -- as well as false and misleading -- portions of a classified National Intelligence Estimate that he has previously refused to declassify, in order to cause such information to be secretly disclosed under false pretenses in the name of a "former Hill staffer" to a single reporter, intending that reporter to publish such false and misleading information in a prominent national newspaper?

P.P.P.P.P.P.S.  Now that Josh Bolten has been promoted after overseeing a budget process that turned a massive surplus into exploding deficits, isn’t Tom DeLay about due for a Presidential Medal of Freedom? 

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S.  Whenever I think of Joe Klein lecturing me, through his good buddy Rory O’Connor about how smart he is to believe his “intelligence sources,” here, that tell him how great illegal wiretaps are at catching terrorists, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

A Bunch of Quotes of the Day:

Pentagon's Top Operations Officer, Now Retired Marine Lieut. General Greg Newbold:

"After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq-an unnecessary war.  Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense.  And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable…I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy.  Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I've been silent long enough,” he writes in Time.

“I am driven to action now by the missteps and misjudgments of the White House and the Pentagon, and by my many painful visits to our military hospitals. In those places, I have been both inspired and shaken by the broken bodies but unbroken spirits of soldiers, Marines and corpsmen returning from this war. The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood. The willingness of our forces to shoulder such a load should make it a sacred obligation for civilian and military leaders to get our defense policy right. They must be absolutely sure that the commitment is for a cause as honorable as the sacrifice,” writes Newbold.

“With the encouragement of some still in positions of military leadership, I offer a challenge to those still in uniform: a leader's responsibility is to give voice to those who can't-or don't have the opportunity to-speak. Enlisted members of the armed forces swear their oath to those appointed over them; an officer swears an oath not to a person but to the Constitution. The distinction is important,” writes Newbold.

“To those of you who don't know, our country has never been served by a more competent and professional military. For that reason, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent statement that 'we' made the 'right strategic decisions' but made thousands of 'tactical errors' is an outrage. It reflects an effort to obscure gross errors in strategy by shifting the blame for failure to those who have been resolute in fighting. The truth is, our forces are successful in spite of the strategic guidance they receive, not because of it …. What we are living with now is the consequences of successive policy failures. Some of the missteps include: the distortion of intelligence in the buildup to the war, McNamara-like micromanagement that kept our forces from having enough resources to do the job, the failure to retain and reconstitute the Iraqi military in time to help quell civil disorder, the initial denial that an insurgency was the heart of the opposition to occupation, alienation of allies who could have helped in a more robust way to rebuild Iraq, and the continuing failure of the other agencies of our government to commit assets to the same degree as the Defense Department. My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions-or bury the results … Flaws in our civilians are one thing; the failure of the Pentagon's military leaders is quite another. Those are men who know the hard consequences of war but, with few exceptions, acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard. When they knew the plan was flawed, saw intelligence distorted to justify a rationale for war, or witnessed arrogant micromanagement that at times crippled the military's effectiveness, many leaders who wore the uniform chose inaction. A few of the most senior officers actually supported the logic for war. Others were simply intimidated, while still others must have believed that the principle of obedience does not allow for respectful dissent. The consequence of the military's quiescence was that a fundamentally flawed plan was executed for an invented war, while pursuing the real enemy, al-Qaeda, became a secondary effort,… To be sure, the Bush Administration and senior military officials are not alone in their culpability. Members of Congress-from both parties-defaulted in fulfilling their constitutional responsibility for oversight. Many in the media saw the warning signs and heard cautionary tales before the invasion from wise observers like former Central Command chiefs Joe Hoar and Tony Zinni but gave insufficient weight to their views. These are the same news organizations that now downplay both the heroic and the constructive in Iraq,” “We need fresh ideas and fresh faces. That means, as a first step, replacing [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld and many others unwilling to fundamentally change their approach. The troops in the Middle East have performed their duty. Now we need people in Washington who can construct a unified strategy worthy of them. It is time to send a signal to our nation, our forces and the world that we are uncompromising on our security but are prepared to rethink how we achieve it. It is time for senior military leaders to discard caution in expressing their views and ensure that the President hears them clearly.”

Harry Taylor, the guy in the Audience at one of those usually phony town meetings, here:

Q You never stop talking about freedom, and I appreciate that. But while I listen to you talk about freedom, I see you assert your right to tap my telephone, to arrest me and hold me without charges, to try to preclude me from breathing clean air and drinking clean water and eating safe food. If I were a woman, you’d like to restrict my opportunity to make a choice and decision about whether I can abort a pregnancy on my own behalf. You are –

THE PRESIDENT: I’m not your favorite guy. Go ahead. (Laughter and applause.) Go on, what’s your question?

Q Okay, I don’t have a question. What I wanted to say to you is that I — in my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of, nor more frightened by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency, by the Senate, and –

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Booo!

THE PRESIDENT: No, wait a sec — let him speak.

Q And I would hope — I feel like despite your rhetoric, that compassion and common sense have been left far behind during your administration, and I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and the grace to be ashamed of yourself inside yourself. And I also want to say I really appreciate the courtesy of allowing me to speak what I’m saying to you right now. That is part of what this country is about.

THE PRESIDENT: It is, yes. (Applause.)

Hey, according to this ABC/WP poll we’re all wild about Harry—or at least most of us agree with him.   Thank Harry here.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in the New York Review, Volume 53, Number 7 April 27, 2006:

Sometimes, when I am particularly depressed, I ascribe our behavior to stupidity—the stupidity of our leadership, the stupidity of our culture.  Thirty years ago we suffered military defeat—fighting an unwinnable war against a country about which we knew nothing and in which we had no vital interests at stake. Vietnam was bad enough, but to repeat the same experiment thirty years later in Iraq is a strong argument for a case of national stupidity.

Another guy, upon being elected into the Freehold Regional High School Hall of Fame:

I'd like to thank everyone for the honor.  It's especially nice coming from my hometown and my old alma mater.  It's kind of funny, really.  I spent my years at Freehold Regional pretty much as an outcast and at best a very mediocre student.  I would probably have been voted 'Least Likely to Succeed.'

"My only advice to teachers and the administrators would be to keep your eyes on the ones that don't fit in.  They're the ones thinking out of the box and reimagining this place we live in... our hometown.  You never know where they're going.

So, thank you once again and please show my mother a good time.  Without her I may not have survived Freehold Regional High School.

"Go Colonials!"

Here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Linda B
Hometown: Akron, OH
Hi Eric!
RE: the letter from Mike in Boise, I am also a devout Christian.  I have read the Bible and believe in the Scriptures as the Word of God.  I, too, want the government to have respect for my religious beliefs.  This is why I cannot bring myself to support the Bush administration and the current Republican party.  Their pro-war, pro-racist, anti-middle class and poor, anti-environmental, anti-compassion beliefs and statements are in direct conflict with the teachings of Jesus Christ.  The GOP's behaviors include lying, pandering to corporate interests to the detriment of the common people, and enriching themselves instead of serving those whom they supposedly represent--how do these things fit in with the Gospel message of peace, charity and goodwill toward men, loving one's neighbors AND enemies, and serving God rather than mammon?  And Mike says it's the Democrats who don't respect Christian beliefs?  The Democrats don't make religion the ultimate arbiter of their policies, but anyone who thinks the Republican party gives Christianity anything other than pandering lip-service has been sold a bill of goods.

Name: Jim Polewski
Hometown: Madison, WI
Mike in Boise: you ask for a reason to jump off the GOP ship, but you identify the two most obvious reasons yourself:  the "incompetent-in-chief will pretend to care what I believe."  Once a person recognizes that the President is incompetent, and a liar who "pretends to believe" there is no reason to stay on the ship.  The GOP isn't willing to admit that the ship is on the wrong course, and isn't even willing to ask "the incompetent-in-chief" to look where's he going.  (God forbid he use a map, or ask for directions.)  The GOP is not willing to admit that its leader has not yet told the truth about any serious matter facing the Republic.  What more reason could a person need?  But, I have one: the GOP, in pretending to care what you believe, trashes everything the Christian church holds dear.  Lip service to protecting the unborn weighs far more heavily than caring for the sick, the hungry, the cold, or even stewardship of this planet, all so that the rich, fat and happy can be more so.  My vision of the Christian faith in action in this world is to work to see that those who have too little get enough before those who already have an abundance get more.  Conveniently, that's also the Democratic ideal.  The Republican ideal is to give bigger tax breaks to the rich.  My Christian faith says faith without works is dead, and by our acts shall they know us.  What acts of the Republican party can the Christian church point to with pride when judgment arrives?  War on false pretense?  Increases in hunger and illegitimate children, and decreases in the taxes paid by the most wealthy people on the planet?  That doesn't seem very close to the Beatitudes to me.  Man is imperfect, and no human institution will ever meet the ideal of Christian faith; the best one can do is get as close to it as you can.  Because I count myself a Christian, I'm a Democrat as the best available choice.  Tell me, Mike, why is it that abortion and the manner of recognition of gay relationships are so much more important to you than competent government, just and honest government?  I ask because I know that you are not alone; that large pluralities of the Evangelical branches of our common faith agree with you and hold me in contempt as a backslider or dupe of Satan.  I don't understand why, and I don't understand why those two issues are the ones that drive your vote.  I'd like to understand that.  I understand that your reason is faith based, as is mine, and that we share at least the outlines of a common faith.  What I don't know is the reasoning that leads you down your path.

Name: Don
Hometown: Lake Tapps, WA
Mike of Boise, when have "the Democrats" insulted Christianity?  Please cite examples / provide links.  Which Democrats?  When and where?  I have *never* witnessed Democratic policy-makers taking pot-shots at Christians because of their faith.  Perhaps we need to re-define the meaning of the word "insult"?  Also, could you please enlighten me as to which Democrats are "pushing gay marriage"?  In my experience, pro-gay legislation has happened at the grass-roots level, meaning that *your neighbors* are responsible, not legislators.

Name: Pat
Hometown: Indiana
Mike from Boise repeats something I keep hearing from right-wingers: that Democrats are hostile to Christians and insult and belittle Christian beliefs.  I keep hearing this from the right, but what I don't seem to be hearing is Democrats insulting and belittling Christians.  I suppose there may be some Democrats somewhere who do so, just as I'm sure there are some Republicans who do so as well.  But where is the evidence of all of this overt Democratic Christian-bashing the right keeps harping about?

Name: Nate
Hometown: Annapolis, MD
Mike from Idaho needs to reexamine his grasp of left-of-center politics.  As a Republican voter, he probably has not considered the "brittleness" of the Democratic party as compared to the GOP.  Were any candidate to run on a platform consisting of restricted abortion, no gay marriage (since the name is half of the issue anyway), and probably other conservative issues such as reduced gun control and et cetera, he would be instantly shunned by the liberals and special interest groups of the party and most likely lose at the primary level.  In my experience, Republicans often don't consider this fact, since the GOP has the luxury of appealing to the moral values of the Christian populace.  Many people are willing to vote for one candidate over another to resist change, to resist gays getting married and women utilizing their right to choose.  Many a citizen votes Republican simply over these issues and these alone.  They don't see the obvious disconnect between the conservative goal of small government and the conservative practice of telling citizens what they can and cannot do and say.  The unfortunate reality of the US political scene is that values seem to trump issues any day of the week.  Plenty of Republican voters are quick to claim "I'd vote Democrat if only...," but those "if only"s are often the antithesis of the Democrats' platform in the first place.  Besides, as soon as a Democratic candidate satisfying Mike from Idaho's "if only"s popped up, Mike would be quick to offer up more.  It's always something.  Enjoy the column, as always.  Keep fighting the good fight.

Name: Jeff Cassens
Hometown: Edwardsville, IL
Eric - Mike from Boise clearly illustrates the thinking of the Right, which seems to think that the only moral issues are gay marriage and abortions.  Poverty is a moral issue.  How we treat the least among us is a moral issue.  War is a moral issue.  Business and political ethics are moral issues.  I've been participating in a study group that is reading Jim Wallis' "God's Politics" for the last several weeks.  I would highly recommend it to anyone on the Right or the Left that is interested in taking the conversation beyond gay marriage and abortion.

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