Greetings all in Altercationland, from one of your substitute Erics, Eric Rauchway. Along with also-Eric Eric Boehlert and non-Eric Siva Vaidhyanathan, I'll be standing in for the traveling regular Eric over the course of the next week.
And for the first time in Altercation history, we guest Altercators will get to read your comments, almost as if this were a real-live 21st-century blog! So I thought I should post something guaranteed to provoke responses. Après ceci, lé luge des lettres...
Hillary Clinton's Senatorial campaign fund has " nearly $20 million in the bank." Her Senate race doesn't look too challenging at the moment, but for the sake of argument let's assume she spends big money on it anyway, big money like Rick Santorum (who faces stiff competition) is going to have to spend. Santorum has $9 million now. So maybe Clinton has twice as much on hand as she'll need for a Senate campaign. Why? Possibly because " [e]lection law allows anything left over from her Senate campaign to be transferred to a presidential campaign."
I have to ask again, why? As in, why does this seem like a good idea? Here are some of the reasons it gives me pause:
- If the lineup of our Presidents were to read Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton, that in itself would suggest that our republic is broken. I know, only old Catonians like me find it troubling that we'd evidently like to hand the Constitution over to two feudin' clans. But it's flat not right.
- One of the claims Democrats can credibly make is that at least since 1993, they look like the party of greater executive competence. Another is that they're vastly more likely to do something good to
reform healthcare. When you put "competence" and "healthcare reform" in the same sentence, what comes between that phrase and the name, "Hillary Clinton"?
- People I respect think it's not a good idea. Other people salivate at the possibility.
Add to that, it's a heckuva lot easier and more likely for the press to remember/dredge up various 1990s-vintage scandals and slanders than it is for them to brush up on the Keating Five.
Okay, write us and tell us what you think. Since Siva is an HRC partisan, I expect him to weigh in too. As a special bonus, here are some suggested rules for any exchange, from the New York Review of Books:
Both participants listen attentively to each other; neither tries to promote himself by pleasing the other; both are obviously enjoying an intellectual workout; neither spoils the evening's peaceable air by making a speech or letting disagreement flare into anger; they do not make tedious attempts to be witty.
SCENES FROM THE MALL
Last Friday I was in Washington, D.C., appearing on this panel, and enjoying hearing Sarah Vowell saying that she likes my book. (I mean, she said other smart stuff, too, and so did Kauffman and Weidman, and members of the audience. It was a real pleasure.) After the conference ended, I went over to the National Mall to see some museums. I specifically wanted to see the National Museum of American History one more time before it closes this September for a period of at least a couple years.
I always loved the entrance hall of the NMAH. You walk in, and in front of you is the real-live Star-Spangled Banner from Fort McHenry. In front of it is the Foucault pendulum, which hangs down fifty feet, marking time and the rotation of the earth. The pendulum superimposed on the flag is a powerful symbol of American science, engineering, history, patriotism, and a talent for artistic juxtaposition.
Or it was. The pendulum's gone. The Star-Spangled Banner is down, and off in a corner room, through the windows of which you can view it obliquely while it is restored. In its place is the flag hung on the Pentagon after 9/11.
So in place of a tableau representing our history and science, we have no science, and no history before 9/11.
I'm sure it's not intentional. But it is evocative.
Hey Eric, it's Stupid for Jeff Weintraub (and you, and others) to steal my theme for this week and urge everybody to attend the Rally for Darfur this Sunday in Washington D.C., and God bless you all for it. To anyone who is relatively close to D.C., please come. I'll be there: look for the guy with glasses in the Winona, Minnesota hat (of course, I'm not from Winona, but it is the prettiest place in the Midwest -- everyone should take a road trip there sometime in their lives). Besides, what better way to get 15 minutes of fame than for C-SPAN to catch you at an anti-genocide rally?
The reflexive new comment to make about Darfur is "what better way to tick off Osama bin Lada?" now that he has linked support for the Sudanese government to fighting the United States. The reality is sadder and more complex -- while a moral person has no choice but to proactively engage the only declared genocide of the century, America is forced to consider what effect any action in the Middle East will have on the war on terror. The tragedy (upon Tragedy) is that Osama's latest tape should be a gift to us. What better propaganda opportunity for the United States than to show the wholesale slaughter of --Muslims-- to the Muslim World (Arab and elsewhere) and ask who they stand with? Isn't that exactly what "the Enemy" does with images from the Palestinian occupation? If we had that Radio/TV Free Middle East we were promised Darfur would make for a great campaign, but the Administration values intelligence ties with Sudan and relations with Sudan's protectors in the Arab league more than the thought of a direct appeal to the "Arab Street." In any event, although the ultimate Darfur cliche is to cite Nick Kristof, he got the Osama dilemma right: no backing down and a U.S. enforced no-fly zone, but any U.N. troops entering Sudan should consist primarily of forces from Turkey, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other Muslim nations.
Unhappy days are here again, again
I’ll be away in the Netherlands for the next week or so but I’ve got the usual line-up of all-star Altercators to take up the proverbial interim. In the meantime, I’ve got a new Think Again column called “Do as We Say…,” here. It’s about coverage and arguments regarding CIA leaks. And a new Nation column, here, “Bush’s Other War.”
Darfur Update: Bush Administration Darfur Policy: Incompetence or Disingenuousness? Here.
If you can't come physically to participate in the rally by the Save Darfur Coalition in Washington, D.C. on April 30, (i.e., this Sunday), then please sign up to support it as a "virtual marcher" here I think, and there’s more here. It’s really amazing that we are just letting this happen isn’t it?
COINTEL PRO Redux: Take a look at this report in The Wall Street Journal ($):
On March 19, 2005, about 200 mainly middle-aged peace marchers made their way through the streets of this city, stopping outside a Marine Corps recruiting center and a Federal Bureau of Investigation office to listen to speeches against the Iraq war. Close behind, police in unmarked cars followed them -- acting on a tip from the Pentagon.
For weeks prior to the demonstration, analysts at the Army's 902nd Military Intelligence Group in Fort Meade, Md., were downloading information from activist Web sites, intercepting emails and cross-referencing this with information in police databases.
The Army's conclusion, contained in an alert to Akron police: "Even though these demonstrations are advertised as 'peaceful,' they are assessed to present a potential force protection threat."
The Akron protest and seven others monitored by the Army that month turned out to be nonviolent. Pentagon officials later issued an apology, admitting that some of the information in military databases shouldn't have been there. But they called that a minor slip in a critical program to protect Americans….Now several parts of the vast Pentagon bureaucracy are building large databases of information from sources including local police, military personnel and the Internet. In doing so, the military is edging toward a sensitive area that has been off-limits to it since the 1970s: domestic surveillance and law enforcement.
One widely reported part of the new information battle is the National Security Agency's wiretapping of calls without a warrant between people in the U.S. and suspected terrorists overseas. The agency is part of the Defense Department. That practice is just one piece of a larger, less-discussed effort …According to documents seen by The Wall Street Journal, the Pentagon has monitored more than 20 antiwar groups' activities around the country over the past three years. It has reviewed photographs and records of vehicles and protesters at marches to see if different activities were being organized by the same instigators. Cmdr. Hicks says the point of this monitoring is to keep military personnel away from places where they might provoke demonstrators, not to interfere with anyone's right to protest.
Sure I trust ‘em, don’t you?
Does this explain Rove’s Potemkin demotion last week?
Who is George Allen? Ryan Lizza tells us, here.
Neil Young video, CSNY tour dates, here.
Is CNN’s William Bennett a liar? You tell me.
Who’s seen the Seeger Sessions band twice already, raise your hand.
Speaking of what’s worthwhile and from New Jersey, this new Roth book is really astonishingly good. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old but it left me, um, all shook up.
TV Quote of the Day: “Don’t fall for her Alan. She’s just a guest star,” the secretary on “Boston Legal.”
Real Quote of the Day: “Mark my words. . . When we visit, in September, the amount not yet done in New Orleans, it will be seen as a national scandal. They rebuilt San Francisco, Galveston, and Chicago after a hurricane, an earthquake, and a fire, faster than the planning process of the federal government in New Orleans," Believe it or not, Newt Gingrich.
Altercation Book Club:
Jeff Manza and Chris Uggen's LOCKED OUT: Felon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy (Oxford University Press)
Democracy and punishment are inextricably, perhaps inevitably, linked. Governments choose how and whom to punish, and with what severity. Public passions, and the mobilization of such passions by political elites, have provided a critical source of support for the development of unusually harsh criminal justice policies in the United States over the past thirty years. As public fear of crime has grown, stoked and stirred on by opportunistic political entrepreneurs, a slew of policies have been adopted that have dramatically increased the numbers of people convicted of crimes, the size of the incarcerated population, and the length of sentences. Phrases such as “tough on crime” and “war on drugs” have been remarkably successful politically. No politician or elected judge that we are aware of has ever lost her seat because she was too tough on criminals.
While the path from democratic institutions to criminal justice policies is reasonably clear, the reverse path – from punishment to democracy – has received far less attention. Yet there are important ways in which the kinds of criminal justice policies adopted in the United States in recent decades are having an important impact on the institutions of democracy. As we show in our book, Locked Out, there over five million adult citizens currently denied the right to participate in democratic elections because of a past or current felony conviction. The vast majority of these individuals are not currently in prison. This group makes up about 2.5 percent of the voting-eligible population.
The disenfranchisement of such a large group of current and former felons from participation in democratic elections threatens the health of American democracy in a number of ways. First, it represents a failure to make good on the promise of universal suffrage. As democratic theorists have made clear, and the Supreme Court has repeatedly declared, the right to vote is “the essence of a democratic society,” one that “makes all other political rights significant.” Second, it likely has influenced election outcomes, and thereby shaped public policy. For example, the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of former offenders in the state of Florida – individuals who have completed their entire sentence – was a critical factor enabling George W. Bush to carry that state and win the 2000 presidential election.
Laws regulating voting rights of criminal offenders are far more extensive and punitive here than in other countries. No country other than the U.S. disenfranchises large numbers of former felons, or indeed, virtually anyone not currently in a prison. Further, disenfranchisement laws in the U.S. are often applied to relatively minor offenses. While the term “criminal” or “felon” often conjures up images of violence and brutality, people convicted of such offenses comprise only a small fraction of the total felon population. Most disenfranchised felons have not been convicted of violent crime. Murderers and rapists make up about 4 percent of the felons convicted in recent years. Since the onset of the “war on drugs” in the mid-1980s, a rising proportion of felons have been convicted of possessing or selling illegal drugs – sometimes in very small amounts. Drug offenders today represent about one-third of the convicted felon population. Others are convicted of property crimes (such as burglary), various white collar offenses (such as fraud or forgery), and even driving-related offenses (such as multiple drunk driving incidents). Possession of an ounce of marijuana can result in lifetime disenfranchisement in Florida. And at least five states also disenfranchise misdemeanants.
The practice of felon disenfranchisement in the United States raises other, related issues as well. America’s felon population has skyrocketed in recent years. We estimate that more than 16 million Americans now have a felony conviction on their record. The country’s felon population now exceeds the entire population of countries such as Cuba and Sweden, or medium-sized states like Illinois or Pennsylvania. Last year alone, more than 600,000 Americans were released from prison. This remarkable number of prisoners has led to growing (even bipartisan) concerns about how to help former offenders successfully reintegrate back into their communities.
Yet while the barriers faced by former inmates and, more generally, all convicted felons, are substantial, they are usually ignored in public debate. Ex-offenders face legal restrictions on employment, access to public social benefits and public housing, they are ineligible for many educational benefits, and they may lose parental rights. In many states, their criminal history is public record, readily searchable for anyone who wants to know. Research on the lives of ex-offenders has consistently demonstrated they have difficulty finding jobs and a safe place to live, reconnecting with their friends and families, and making their way in a world where they are branded, often for life, by the stigma of a criminal conviction. Given the broad range of restrictions that stem from a conviction, it is hardly an exaggeration to say that offenders are treated, at best, as partial citizens. Though they are denied the benefits of full citizenship, felons and former felons are nonetheless expected to behave as especially virtuous citizens. In addition to avoiding further illegal activity, many must also meet special conditions of parole or risk being returned to prison.
Felon disenfranchisement laws raise troubling questions about American society in one final way. As we examine with historical and statistical evidence, the adoption and expansion of these laws in the United States is closely tied to the divisive politics of race and the history of racial oppression. Concerns about the role of race are not limited to matters of historical interest. The extraordinarily high proportion of African-American men in the criminal justice system today produces the shocking fact that more than one in seven black men is currently denied the right to vote, and in several states over one in four black men are disenfranchised. Just as felon disenfranchisement laws in several states can be traced to patterns of racial exclusion, their current effect in diluting the African American vote is no less significant.
Taking the long view, it is clear that the tide has begun to turn against felon disenfranchisement, albeit slowly in recent years. A major wave of liberalizing changes began in the early 1960s and stretched through the mid-1970s, during which time many states – but not all – ended laws disenfranchising felons for life. Although momentum for civil rights legislation has eroded since the mid-1970s, the pattern of liberalization in the states has continued, and a renewed civil rights campaign seeking to reform disenfranchisement laws is gathering momentum. A national public opinion survey we conducted for the book demonstrates substantial public support for restoring voting rights to all but currently incarcerated felons. But much remains to be done. Because the felon population has grown so rapidly in recent years, the size of the disenfranchised population continues to grow. While encouraging democracy abroad, America fails to practice it at home.
For more, go here.
Name: Steven Hart
Hometown: The Opinion Mill
Jersey boy Bruce Springsteen's new disc, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, is the best Pogues record I've ever heard. I mean that as a compliment, too -- I play If I Should Fall From Grace With God a lot more than I play Born to Run, and We Shall Overcome has that same perfect mix of folk directness and rock and roll energy -- all it needs is a few pennywhistles and you'd swear you were listening to "Fairytale of New York." On a couple of tunes, Springsteen even tries out a growly Irish accent that makes him sound like Shane MacGowan, only a Shane MacGowan who isn't about to puke into the bass drum and pass out dangling by his shirt collar from the mike stand. If you thought Springsteen doing an album of folk standards was going to sound like compulsory chapel and a side order of wheat germ with broccoli, then disabuse yourself of that notion immediately. This is a fun record. I bought it in Hoboken, put it in the Alpine on Observer Highway and was singing along full blast by the time I got on the Skyway. The mix of accordion, banjo and fiddle is too infectious to believe, and everybody on the record clearly had a whale of a time -- a joy they put across most effectively. This is the New Year's Eve celebration you always wanted to be invited to, the bar where juke box has nothing but great songs and everybody sings along, and the house party that gets rolling early and doesn't let up until the morning paper hits the front door. If a record can get me to sit still for "John Henry" again, you know it's got to be good.
Louisiana as you know is in quite a pickle since the hurricane destroyed a quarter of its economy. However the good news is that our legislature is on top of things. Just this week they passed two key pieces of legislation banning flag burning and cock fighting. If that is not illustrative of how our democracy now works…
Name: Richard Taylor
Hometown: Apollo Beach, FL
Thank you for the information about Phil Walden. I had missed it, but it is a great loss. Otis and the Allmans are both on my list of 10-12 musicians whose music will be with me on the desert island.
Jimmy Carter has always been to me the epitome of what a Christian is SUPPOSED to be. I always felt that he was trying to force people to live up to our professed ideals. Reagan and the others have always appeared to offer people excuses for why it's alright to hate. Is it because of the difficulties in doing things the correct way, i.e. as Jesus taught, that makes it so easy for the Ronnies and Dubyas of the world to hold sway? Too bad that Phil couldn't find another good man to try to get us out of the crap...
Altercation will be up later this afternoon owing to its author's travel schedule...
Solidarity without sentimentality: The power of one (woman) over history
For once, I am not going to complain about Times front-page obit placement, (though if you were judging purely on that basis you’d have to say that Jane Jacobs was not as important as Wendy Wasserstein but much more so than Edward Said, William Sloane Coffin and Izzy Stone, whose deaths were previewed on the front page, but not covered there. (Yeah, yeah, we know. It’s a judgment relative to the news of the day, not an absolute one.) Ms. Jacobs was a one-woman argument for the role of the individual in history; the ability of someone using her brain, her heart, and her pen to say “we’re not going to take it” and to create and lead a creative community to wage that fight collectively. Solidarity without sentimentality can be a rare and beautiful thing and if you read her life’s story, perhaps you will be inspired by her example. I sure was.
Quote of the Day (not about Tony Snow): "When an entire field is headed in the wrong direction, when the routine application of mainstream thinking has produced disastrous results….then it probably took someone from outside to point out the obvious." —Alan Ehrenhalt
While we’re reading obits, let’s take a moment for Phil Walden, who made this a better country too, with his championship of Otis Redding, the Allman Brothers and Jimmy Carter. There are a lot of ways to improve people’s lives. And you’re allowed to have fun doing it.
Yesterday was Ed Murrow's birthday.
Tom Frank teaches Joe Klein a few things about politics.
Not the Eggman, not the walrus, but the decider. Koo-koo-gachu!
I see Christopher on the Sopranos on Sunday, which I didn’t watch until yesterday, got obsessed with the giveaway stuff to celebrities that also made me crazy at Sundance. How weird is it that Christopher is the voice of moral sanity, huh? Well, beating up Betty Bacall is not what I would consider an appropriate response, but still.
Clarification: Walter LaFeber is retiring form the Cornell history department after 47 years. Yesterday I said “more than 40” which is accurate, but imprecise. I was mistaken, however, when I said two of three last nat/sec advisers. It is two of the last three, including the current one, Stephen Hadley, who should have been paying more attention in class. My apologies.
Required reading: Richard Reeves on John Stuart Mill
Also, Lingua Franca lives (in a mirror web site anyway).
Hometown: Dayton, OH
I really like the open letter from John Brown and how it coincides with the 8 or so retired Generals and the top-level CIA agent (Michael Scheuer) coming out firmly against the war on Iraq (or as I preferred it - The War Against Terrorism - the acronym sums up the administration) and how intelligence was (mis-)used. I have a family member, strongly Democratic, who is a Foreign Services Officer in the State Department and it has been eluded to many times how many people inside those walls shake their heads at the policy and drivel being used to justify this war. On the other side, I work at a military installation and some of my best friends, hardcore Republicans, work in classified areas and love to throw around the "I can't tell you what I know" or the "I've seen the evidence" type comments because they know most of our group of friends doesn't have that access. However I think it is funny now that we know how much of this is false information that the family member at the State Department used to retort that "I too have access to information and the evidence isn't there." Seems that my friends must have received their talking point papers from the GOP, but they aren't talking about it any longer.
Name: Eric Root
Hometown: Fryeburg, ME
Eric, Re: John Brown: ... It is important that resignations in protest be kept to the minimum. There has to be someone left besides Bush's recruits when we are finally able to show these bastards the door.
Hometown: Los Angeles
Dr. A, excellent point on the way the Media treated Gore in 2000. After all, he was largely vilified for trying to demand an ACCURATE COUNT of the votes, meanwhile Bush was suing to stop the recount because it would cause harm to himself by calling into question the legitimacy of his victory...while they were still counting!!! I'm paraphrasing and simplifying, but the Bugliosi Nation article from Feb 01 tells it all rather nicely. And yet Gore was painted as the "sore loser" by many in the MSM. Anyways, just curious as to whether you have any theories as to why the media treated Gore this way, would it happen, would they be any better to Hillary? Just curious.
Name: Larry Cowan
Hometown: Temple, TX
I wonder what Al Gore's 2008 fav/unfav polling would be if he spent 2006 raising funds and getting some Democrat congressional candidates over the hump. After Nixon's California humiliation the MSM wrote him off, but with his laboring in the fields he returned in triumph. Bush still have two more years to remind some independent voters of their mistakes in 2000.
Name: Ed Tracey
Hometown: Lebanon, New Hampshire
Professor, here's a Profile in Courage....the freshman first baseman for Dartmouth College is named Mike Pagliaruo, Jr. - the son of Massachusetts native (and former Yanks 3rd baseman) Mike Pagliarulo Sr. As a writer for the Valley News notes, he has "achieved what man thought impossible for so long. Pagliarulo's gift, if properly nurtured and multiplied, could be a detente for baseball's version of the Peloponnesian War. You see, Pagliarulo pulls for the New York Yankees -- and the Boston Red Sox."
The failure of 'Transformational Diplomacy'
Walter LaFeber, my mentor on college, is retiring this year from the history department at Cornell, after at least forty years there. Appropriately, he’s marking the occasion tonight by giving a lecture to his former students—one that had to be moved from the Museum of National History to the Beacon Theater owing to ticket demand. I don’t hold against Walter that he’s trained three of the last four Advisers for National Security, plus a top member of Dick Cheney’s staff any more than they should blame him for me. I’ll save the sappy stuff for the tribute book, but here is a short essay Walter wrote about the one recent National Security Adviser he did not train—the one who is secretary of state. It concludes:
Rice’s Georgetown speech is less a movement back to the realism and multilateralism exemplified by her old mentor, Brent Scowcroft, than it is a repackaging of failed neoconservative policies that seeks to disguise regime change with the rhetoric of Wilsonian democracy, and that hides a lack of actual multilateralism (and badly needed legitimacy) with such misleading phrases as “coalition of the willing,” or, in this case, “partnership.” If the second Bush administration does understand the historic mistakes made by the first Bush administration, it cannot by proved by Rice’s appearance at Georgetown. Acheson advocated the Marshall Plan and NATO. In stark contrast, Rice advocates nothing that might institutionalize “partnership.” She offers only the suggestion that the United States “localize our diplomatic posture” and create more “virtual presence posts” in which American diplomats can exchange computer messages with the target audience. It is not a bad idea, just irrelevant to the need for rethinking and radically readjusting U.S. foreign policy. To rephrase, the Rice doctrine revealed at Georgetown never confronts the administration’s failed assumptions about human nature, spreading Wilsonian democracy, and what true partnership with allies should mean.
By the way, Mike Kinsley notices much the same thing here and Stephen Kinzer has written the relevant text here. This history meanwhile is exactly what’s missing from our debate, and exactly where the tough-talking liberal hawks and neocons demonstrate their fatal ignorance. Too bad so many brave soldiers had to die for it.
I guess my take on some of the last experiences we've had," Springsteen says, "is that a small group of men with a very particular ideology found their way into power and pressed themselves on an immature president. They were able to literally get what they wanted: They got their tax cuts, they got their war, they got their money going to the places they wanted it to go to. I don't think that's being cynical.
By the way, the kid and I saw The Man last night in Asbury Park. We were thrilled to run into our friend Dan Zanes outside, who my kid, the fan, recognized, and watched the show with Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez. Anyway, here’s how great it was. The album’s terrific too. A real relief, if you ask me…
The Dog Whisperer — The New York Times Book Review offered a capsule review of a new book by TV dog trainer Cesar Millan (host of the show Dog Whisperer):
Millan likes to talk about the importance of being a pack leader and projecting what he calls "calm-assertive" energy around your dog. The thing to avoid, he writes, is being "angry-aggressive," a trait he identifies in Bill O'Reilly of Fox News. This type of person "would not make a good pack leader," Millan writes, "because the other dogs would perceive him as unstable." (Our presidents are often unable to control their dogs, Millan said in a recent lecture. He added, "We are the only species that follows unstable pack leaders.")
Name: Jeff Weintraub
Dear Eric Alterman,
I'm sure a lot of the people who read your blog are within traveling distance of Washington, D.C. So I wonder whether you might be willing to put in a plug for the rally by the Save Darfur Coalition in Washington, D.C. on April 30 (i.e., next Sunday)? I'm going there myself, and it has been quite a while since I felt the urge to participate in a big demonstration--but this is an exceptionally urgent and morally compelling cause.
Governments are not going to take serious action on this without political pressure, and right now the US is one of the few countries where at least some sectors of public opinion have gotten aroused about the killing in Darfur. But I believe that the rally next weekend will be the first large-scale public demonstration about Darfur that has a chance of getting national publicity. If turnout is not very large (which it seems might happen, according to articles like this one and this one), that could send a terrible message. So giving people a reminder, at the very least, would be a good deed.
Name: Leila Abu-Saba
Hometown: Oakland, CA
You'll probably get dozens of e-mails about this - according to a Stanford student diarist at Daily Kos, the protesters DID NOT block access to the Hoover Institute - but they did line the drive, so that the motorcade would have to pass by all those protesting students - some accompanied by parents who were there for pre-freshman orientation. We like this story better because it shows what a coward the man is - he'll do anything to avoid seeing dissent.
Hometown: Dallas, TX
Re John Brown: ...Despite the millions then demonstrating worldwide, Brown was part of a rather lonely crowd in American officialdom. (Only three State Department officials resigned in protest.) ... As the sister of a Foreign Service Officer, I have to respectfully disagree with you. Many, many people in State (especially FSO's) were dismayed by Bush's tactics. They continue to be so. However, they have made the decision to continue on, and hopefully mitigate some of the harm with their own diplomatic actions. Certainly, people could have left in droves....but how would that help? We should be thankful for the excellent work of our diplomatic personnel who stayed despite deep personal misgivings. That being said, I must agree that from the rest of "American officialdom," the silence has been deafening.
We made the country safe …for sex slavery (and contract fraud)
The Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq, based in Baghdad, estimates from anecdotal evidence that more than 2,000 Iraqi women have gone missing in that period. "A Western official in Baghdad who monitors the status of women in Iraq thinks that figure may be inflated but admits that sex trafficking, virtually nonexistent under Saddam, has become a serious issue. The collapse of law and order and the absence of a stable government have allowed criminal gangs, alongside terrorists, to run amuck. Meanwhile, some aid workers say, bureaucrats in the ministries have either paralyzed with red tape or frozen the assets of charities that might have provided refuge for these girls. As a result, sex trafficking has been allowed to fester unchecked," Time reports.
Quote of the Day: “It is a problem, definitely," says the official, who has heard specific reports from Iraqi aid workers about girls being kidnapped and sold to brothels. "Unfortunately, the security situation doesn't allow us to follow up on this."
We also made it safe for contract fraud as well. (WSJ$)
On March 10, 2003, diplomat John Brown wrote an open letter to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell submitting his resignation in protest against the onrushing invasion of Iraq. He wrote in part: "The president has failed: To explain clearly why our brave men and women in uniform should be ready to sacrifice their lives in a war on Iraq at this time; to lay out the full ramifications of this war, including the extent of innocent civilian casualties; to specify the economic costs of the war for ordinary Americans; to clarify how the war would help rid the world of terror; to take international public opinion against the war into serious consideration." And he added that this administration in its "unjustified use of force" was "giving birth to an anti-American century."
Despite the millions then demonstrating worldwide, Brown was part of a rather lonely crowd in American officialdom. (Only three State Department officials resigned in protest.) But how on target he proved to be. Now, viewing the ruins of the Bush project, all those wasted lives, and the trillion-dollar or more Afghan-Iraq wars, he writes directly to the President, calling on him to take some responsibility for what he has wrought. It's a powerful, moving, distinctly undiplomatic statement of reality. Here.
My alma mater (One of ‘em. And we note that the smart boys at The Note somehow missed this…)
Tony Snow, the perfect man for the Bush White House that ignores the reports of men like this because, well, who knows why, all we know is that they’ve gotten a lot of people killed, will get a lot people more killed, and treated all that is most valuable in our society with undisguised contempt.
Arthur Schlesinger Jr.; Hope dies hard
Speaking of which, it’s pile-on-Joe-Klein time, here, and here and particularly here by Mr. Chait, though it would have been improved by my favorite of Mr. Time’s-most-liberal-columnist quotes: “There is only one possible governing strategy: a quiet, patient, and persistent bipartisanship.” (Mr. Chait should really be reading this blog, given how often I give the guy props without even ever having met the guy…) On Klein’s book, well, I’ve read it and while I did not expect to agree with it, I was surprised to find virtually nothing of use in it, particularly since it contains no source notes and with Klein, you can’t trust a thing he says given his well-known hatred for liberals, leftists and populists of any stripe. I don’t like to nitpick book authors since mistakes are inevitable and of course I make ‘em myself. Still, they can sometimes be revealing. For instance: What does it mean that Joe Klein professes to have liked Garry Wills on a campaign trip a long time ago but today does not even know how to spell his name? I dunno, maybe nothing. Maybe but if Klein had been reading Wills’ brilliant coverage of American politics for the past two decades more carefully, he’d have written a book that was a damn sight more thoughtful and interesting than this one.
OK. One last thing about Klein. The politicians he claims to admire in this book are McCain, Rudy, and Chuck Hagel. Last week he wrote a mash note to Newt Gingrich. All are Republicans. And yet in the Media Matters study of the Sunday shows about which I wrote here, Klein was coded “progressive.” I understand that they were extra careful about coding so as to make their argument air tight. And I think they were right to be so. But when you add up the idea that it is necessary to pretend Klein is a progressive and add in the fact that Tomasky felt compelled to term the Washington Post editorial page “liberal” when he did his study at the Shorenstein Center, the very idea that anyone could seriously argue that the mainstream media are liberally biased makes me want to shoot someone (accidentally, of course), in the face.
I am naïve about Al Gore’s appeal—or lack thereof, writes the inimitable Mr. Somerby, here. Maybe he’s right. And right now, it looks like it’s not gonna matter.
Fukuyama on Kristol, et al, bloggerheads, here.
An announcement from Free Press.org:
The SavetheInternet.com Coalition is made up of dozens of groups from across the political spectrum that have banded together to save the First Amendment of the Internet: network neutrality. No corporation or political party is funding our efforts. This is the first genuine, public interest grassroots effort to fight for network neutrality, in a debate that’s become increasing crowded by talking points from so-called “Astroturfs” (here, here and here) – front groups for industry.
Hey, if you’re at Convention Hall tonight, come over and say hello to me and the kid.
We saw The Fab Faux last night. They were, um, fab. No actually, they were better than that. What these guys do is play all the complicated stuff the Beatles never played live, with a five piece band, four horns and two-player string section. They play like the Beatles (and in the case of “While My Guitar…,” Clapton), but they don’t sing like the Beatles and they sure don’t look like them. Still, they are good humored, and good players, and the music, well, it takes some imagination but not that much.
While we’re on the nostalgia beat, let’s take a moment to take a look at Rhino’s recent re-release of That's Entertainment! The Ultimate Anthology Of M-G-M Musicals, a six CD box here. There’s a songlist here. It’s pretty great stuff, you have to admit. And it’s been nicely cleaned up from the original release, plus there’s a sixth CD of rarities including full version of Sophie Tucker's "Some of These Days" from Broadway Melody of 1938, a demo of Kay Thompson performing the title song from Weekend at the Waldorf, Lee Wiley doing a demo of "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" from Showboat, and Fanny Brice's doing "My Man" from The Great Ziegfeld. The question is whether it makes you hungry for the films or works all on its own…
James Hunter live, by Sal, NYCD
Sal, Tony and Rob made the pilgrimage down to Mo Pitkin's on Ave. A to see the 43-year-old British R&B phenomenon who sounds like a cross between Sam Cooke and Georgie Fame, and looks like a British Tab Hunter, if Tab Hunter looked like a slimmed-down Oliver Reed. What can we say? We've raved about the record right here in the newsletter, and we know we've turned a lot of our readers on to him as well, because we saw you all there at the club. But brilliant as his record is, nothing prepared us for the so-good-it-was-ridiculousness of his performance. The upstairs room at Mo Pitkin's was no bigger than a New York City tour bus, and set up almost exactly (perhaps purposely?) like the legendary Max's Kansas City. Once the band kicked in, the room heated up, and if you closed your eyes, you might as well have been in the Cavern in Liverpool in 1962, listening to the Beatles, if the Beatles had played British R&B like Georgie Fame. Needless to say, we are still reeling from the best live performance we've seen since anything by Ashanti on any televised awards show. The band was tighter than Dick Cheney's sphincter, and they didn't shoot any of us in the face. So go see James Hunter live, last night at Mo Pitkin's! You'll have an amazing time. We did!
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