September 8, 2006 | 12:10 PM ET | Permalink

I've got a new "Think Again" here called "Spun Dizzy."

Funny as hell (unless, I suppose, one of your loved ones died for these lies)...

...Or for these profits: $45 for a six-pack of soda? See Robert Greenwald’s  “ Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers.”

“Come on People Now, Smile on Your Fellow Technocrat Everybody Get Together and Make Policy Right Now.”  Brad DeLong Makes a Mistake here when he writes,

While I am profoundly, profoundly disappointed and disgusted by the surrender of the reality-based wing of the Republican policy community to the gang of Republican political spivs who currently hold the levers of power, I do think that there is hope that they will come to their senses and that building pragmatic technocratic policy coalitions from the center outward will be possible and is our best chance.

He is not factually mistaken, of course.  But he is mistaken in the sense that he is deluding himself and therefore misdirecting his efforts.  When I was a freshman in college, I took Philosophy 101, and learned, via David Hume I believe, that philosophically speaking, just because the sun had risen in the east and set in the west every day since time began—as far as anyone knows—that was no reason to conclude it would necessarily do so tomorrow.  I thought this brilliant at the time, but today I think it’s bullshit.  So is DeLong’s “best chance.”  There’s absolutely nothing in Republican Party politics driving its members toward the goal of  “building pragmatic technocratic policy coalitions” and lots of money, power, rewards and institutional arrangements doing just the opposite.  (See Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, here, and Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive For Permanent Power
by Thomas Byrne Edsall, here, if you doubt this.)  DeLong’s hope, while noble in principle, is emasculating in practice.  And it’s one of many reasons why liberals continue get their asses handed to them, again, and again and again. This is war, and the other side needs to be soundly defeated—drowned in a bathtub, to borrow a felicitous phrase-- before the sources of DeLong’s “disappointment and disgust” can be addressed as anything more than a dangerous delusion.

Take that, you bunch of immature sheep. Sprezzatura speaks.

Five years later and Little Roy still has not admitted he was lying in his McCarthyite accusations and insinuations.  Instead he has gone further saying anyone he criticized was “objectively pro-Al Qaeda.” Surprise, surprise.

The ABCs of Lying, continued:

From ThinkProgress:

Contact George Mitchell.

Over 50,000 ThinkProgress readers have written ABC in the last 48 hours about “The Path to 9/11.” We’re going to keep the pressure on ABC, but we’re also broadening our focus today to the Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC.

Disney’s Chairman of the Board is former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-ME). Senator Mitchell has a long and distinguished career both inside and outside government and he knows how important it is to accurately represent historical events.

We need to remind him that 9/11 was a national tragedy, and that politicizing and flagrantly misrepresenting the facts about 9/11 is wrong.

Senator George J. Mitchell
T: (212) 335-4600
T: (212) 335-4500
F: (212) 335-4605

(Remember to be polite, and please copy us at so we can keep track your comments.)

From the Benton Foundation:

[SOURCE: Reuters, AUTHOR: Richard Cowan and Thomas Ferraro]
Amid an election-year debate over who can best defend America, U.S. congressional Democrats urged ABC-TV on Thursday to cancel a miniseries about the September 11 attacks that is critical of former Democratic President Bill Clinton and his top aides. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada denounced the television movie, set to air in two parts on Sunday and Monday nights, as "a work of fiction." ABC issued a statement saying the production, "The Path to 9/11," was still being edited and that criticism of the film's specifics were thus "premature and irresponsible."

* Passions Flare as Broadcast of 9/11 Mini-Series Nears


[SOURCE: Editor&Publisher]
ABC is rejecting criticism of an upcoming miniseries about the events leading to the 9/11 terror attacks, but Scholastic, which had agreed to widely distribute a companion guide to schools, announced Thursday afternoon it had changed its mind. A Scholastic statement read:

"Scholastic, the global children's publishing, education and media company, today announced that it is removing from its website the materials originally created for classroom use in conjunction with the ABC Television Network docudrama, 'The Path to 9/11,' scheduled to air on the ABC Television Network on September 10 and 11, 2006. A new classroom discussion guide for high school students is being created and will focus more specifically on media literacy, critical thinking, and historical background. "'After a thorough review of the original guide that we offered online to about 25,000 high school teachers, we determined that the materials did not meet our high standards for dealing with controversial issues,' said Dick Robinson, Chairman, President and CEO of Scholastic."

* ABC and Scholastic release skewed Path to 9/11 "Discussion Guide" for high school teachers to assign to students

* Scholastic Pulls Teaching Material For 9/11 Show Faulted as Biased

* ABC to Alter Show on Pre-9/11 Run-Up

* ABC Will Only Make Minor Changes to Path to 9-11

* 9/11 Miniseries Is Bunk
[SOURCE:  Los Angeles Times, AUTHOR: Barbara Bodine, U.S. ambassador
to Yemen from 1997-2001]
[Commentary]  The ABC miniseries, "The Path to 9/11," opts for fiction when fact is needed and chooses mythmaking when the candor of history is called for. The 9/11 commission report tells the story with clear-eyed honesty, precision and studious impartiality. The ABC drama does not. The 9/11 commission spent hours interviewing virtually everyone connected not just with the events of that day but those involved in counter-terrorism over 25 years -- Republican as well as Democrat. ABC did not.

In a Nation cover piece, Tom Engelhardt suggests that Americans had, for over half a century before September 11, 2001, been primed to expect an apocalyptic attack on our country; that almost fifty years of Cold War fears and endless movie "previews" had prepared us to see not what actually happened that day, but what we had long experienced on screen and long anticipated.  Hence, the almost instant labeling of the site of the collapsed towers as "Ground Zero," a term previously reserved for the spot where an atomic explosion had occurred.  Keep in mind that most Americans experienced this "Day of Infamy" on screen, just the way we had experienced it for so many decades.

In a bit of what-if history he wonders what would have happened if the hijackers hadn't had such "dystopian serendipity," if the towers (while hit) hadn't come down and the look of the apocalyptic hadn't been created -- giving the Bush administration the opening it needed to create the world of "war" of their dreams (and our nightmares).

He concludes on a personal note:  "A few days after 9/11, my daughter and I took a trip downtown, as close to 'Ground Zero' as you could get. With the air still rubbing our throats raw, we wandered block after block, peering down side streets to catch glimpses of the sheer enormity of the destruction. And indeed, in a way that no small screen could communicate, it did have the look of the apocalyptic, especially those giant shards of fallen building sticking up like -- remember, I'm a typical movie-made American on an increasingly movie-made planet and had movies on the brain that week -- the image of the wrecked Statue of Liberty that chillingly ends the first Planet of the Apes film, that cinematic memorial to humanity's nuclear folly. Left there as it was, that would have been a sobering monument for the ages, not just to the slaughter that was 9/11 but to what we had awaited for so long -- and what, sadly, we still wait for; what, in the world that George Bush has produced, has become ever more, rather than less, likely. And imagine our reaction then."

Pigs fly.

Slacker Friday:

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to step back in time.  About a year ago I clipped some newspaper columns offering suggestions for improving the situation in Iraq.  Reading them a year later is both telling and depressing.

First we have Tom Friedman's column "The Endgame in Iraq."  Friedman gave the jaw-dropping advice that absent greater Sunni cooperation (yes, in "the next few months") "we should arm the Shiites and Kurds and leave the Sunnis of Iraq to reap the wind."  Arm the -Shiites-?!  Muqtada al-Sadr and the Iranian government weren't doing enough already?  Oh goodness.  Second was the Wall Street Journal editorial board. They figured the war was like business: just a matter of greed.  They proposed a Constitutionally created "oil trust" for individual citizens to share Iraq's oil revenue.  I think there's a morsel of truth here: we should have insisted from the outset that Iraq's oil wealth would be divided up in some pro-rata form, lest the oil-poor Sunni Triangle become economically unstable. One wonders where the Wall Street Journal was when Dubya/Brenner abandoned such proposals.  Regardless, the idea that by 2005 there were these large numbers of Iraqi civilians previously laying low but ready to become mercenaries for peace as long as the price was right makes Don Rumsfeld look like Henry Stimson.

Last up was David Brooks, drawing from retired lieutenant colonel Andrew Krepinevich.  His proposal was twofold: Stop "going after the insurgents wherever they are" because there are always more who take their place and the armed raids merely alienate civilians. Instead we should concentrate on protecting safe havens -- no more than you have troops for -- and slowly expand them.  His other suggestion urged embedding U.S. troops with the Iraqi security forces, and this stopped me cold.  I've heard it from others.  Joe Biden has advocated it and David Ignatius in the Washington Post cited a piece in the Marine Corps Gazette urging we make this a top priority.  It makes sense.  Yet as somebody who supported the war I can't endorse it.  Surely such a tactic would increase U.S. casualties.  If I were confident that it would be successful in the long run, perhaps, but I'm not.  Friedman might have been right -- there was a point even late in the war where listening to the experts and changing our tactics could have achieved "a good outcome in Iraq," but I won't throw my "weight" on any more gambles.

Name: Beth Harrison
Hometown: Arlington, VA
If you're collecting a database of independently owned ABC stations to call to complain about that 9-11 mockumentary, WJLA (Washington, D.C.) can be reached at 703-236-9552.

Name: Jack Compere

Hello -- A couple of times you've pointed your readers to -- asking us to give feedback to ABC regarding the righty Fantasia -- I did write a basically inoffensive to ABC at the site, saying that it isn't okay to portray events in a way described as "180 out" by participants.  Note I didn't say "and fuck you."  Small note, it was.  Hasn't appeared as of today.  Also, as of this moment, there are a grand total of 21 comments to the blog's last post, an inconceivably slight number given that the blog is likely causing a swarm. FYI.

Name: Steve
Hometown: New York, NY

The emphasis on the lies of commission in the ABC/Disney/Rove production misses what are to my mind the worse lies of omission: 1. During the last two years of the Clinton administration when they WERE ramping up the real war on terrorism, they were opposed in this by Republicans in Congress; e.g., missile attacks against Bin Laden derided as "wag the dog" to decrease attention to Lewinski. 2. Once Bush took office, they actively consciously and deliberately reduced the attention being paid to Al Qaeda; e.g., dismissing Clarke.  See: here, here, and here.  We should focus the message meme on this... that Republicans prevented a Gore administration from preventing 9/11. (Another thanks Ralph moment.)

Name: Roger Stude
Hometown: Bronx, NY
Eric, loved the list of misleading journalistic tricks, especially the lone anecdote bit with the Spacek/Witherspoon Oscar quote.  I wonder how Anthony Hopkins' "Silence of the Lambs" Oscar would fit into this article.  After all, it was a best actor award with maybe 20 minutes of screen time, tops, and he was playing a secondary character to *gasp* a woman!  I guess there was an unusual spike in feminist film in the 90's.

Name: Phil
Hometown:  NJ
>I really like Seger, but really, who in the world would sensibly argue.

While I agree the sentence you cite is a bad one, because it implies that Seger has had a greater impact on a greater number of people than Springsteen, and the Billboard charts just don't bear that out (and that's putting it charitably), I will state unequivocally that I have always preferred Seger's music to Springsteen's.  I feel like Springsteen rocks harder than Seger, but that Seger has more roll, more swing in his rhythm section.  Max Weinberg is a hard-hitting drummer, but he's not supple or subtle.  A beat like the one on "Born In The USA" is his natural territory - whomp whomp whomp.  I am actually excited/interested to hear the new Seger disc, where I have never been excited or interested by the prospect of a new Springsteen album, especially since he started singing in that passing-a-golf-ball voice he uses to convey Depth and Meaning and the Weight of the Working Man's Burdens Weighing on His Mighty Shoulders.  But hey, the best musical reaction to 9/11, in my book, was Disturbed's album "Believe," and the best musical reaction to the Iraq war, to me, is the new Slayer album. So clearly, I'm nuts.

Name: Joe
Hometown: Portland OR
Hi Doc,
Shawn Colvin does a great cover of your favorite Steve Earle song--"Someday."  She changes the line about not playing football, but, other than that, it's true to the lyrics.  One of her strongest recordings.  Thanks for your continued sanity.  Please keep turning up the heat on the hypocrites for the next two months.

Name: LTC Bob Bateman
Hometown: Capitol Hill, D.C.
A little more than three years ago Kate and I were driving back to Washington from a visit to my hometown in rural Ohio.  It had been a wonderful long summer weekend filled with friends, fireworks, barbeques and beer.  But all good things must come to an end, so we loaded up my decrepit sub-compact, I climbed through the window of the broken driver’s side door, and we set off down the road for D.C.

Once we passed out of range of the stations with which I was familiar from my childhood, we started that eternal traveler’s trial, The Search For A Station.  Being mostly addicted to NPR, the long drive through rural Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania can present challenges in finding a station on which we might both agree.  Eventually, while spinning the dial (no, before you ask, my car had neither a tape player nor a CD player, and the radio was analog) I heard the familiar strains of Bocephus as he wailed about, “all his rowdy friends” and how, semi-tragically, they had “settled down.”

Now, anybody who has listened to the radio south of the Mason Dixon line or west of the Alleghenies for more than about eight minutes knows what I am talking about.  Kate, however, was raised along the coast of Maine, went to college in Vermont, and really had not listened to the genre of music known as “country,” intentionally, ever before.  So when country music legend Hank Williams Jr. (aka “Bocephus”) finished his classic honky-tonk howl, “All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down,” I convinced Kate to leave the radio where it was. It would not kill her.

In some of the circles which make up my life there are those friends who would try to make the pleasure which I derive from country music something of a “guilty” pleasure. I reject these attempts without a second thought and unreservedly and openly indulge, every now and again, in the sheer emotionalism that comes with this genre.  I know, I know, it is not sophisticated. It is not “deep.”  There are no subtleties or shadings of meaning in either the lyrics or most of the music.  Country-western music is, essentially, a big wet loogie spit into the eye of post-modernism.  I do not care. For the most part these same words can also describe me, and I am happy with that.  Listening to most country-western songs makes me happy. Sometimes the corny lyrics can bring tears to my admittedly overly-sentimental eyes. And there is no other genre which has the capacity, in my opinion, to make otherwise rational adult human beings want to smash the top off of a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey, drain it from the neck, and howl full-throated at the moon. (And I don’t even like Jack Daniels.) Music that can do this is entertaining, and that is all that my simple mind asks when I do not feel like thinking overmuch.

According to one song, the “perfect” country-western tune contains at least two or more of the following elements: Rain, a pickup truck, a tragedy, a dog, getting drunk, and extreme emotion (love, anger, betrayal, etc).  Obviously, the more the merrier, and damn the logic.  But there is, if you listen to country-western music stations enough, something else which you can discern.  You can, I swear, touch the pulse of our nation.

When Kate and I took that long ride more than three years ago, roughly one out of every five songs contained elements of rampant nationalism.  Indeed, that is too weak a description for songs which described how America would “put a boot in yer ass” (directed towards Al Qaeda) because “it’s the American Way.” Call it rampant Belligerent American Nationalism, and at that time it was still rolling in waves over our nation.  We still felt major pain, and that pain was echoed and fed back to us through the de facto sounding-board of our national psyche, country-western music.

Two years ago I started to notice a shift.  Gone were the vengeful and angry songs of the two preceding years.  Instead what came through the speakers of my car were more sorrowful tunes.  Fewer male singers were dominating, and there were more female ballads telling tragic tales about falling in love with a “Soldier Boy” (who inevitably went away, and never came back).  Those male artists who did have songs in rotation were writing about “letters from home” or “letters to home,” and overall the tone was one of more considered and sustained pain.  True, many of the songs were nominally about service in World War Two, or Vietnam, but everyone understood the metaphor.

Fairly obviously, I have no idea what played on American radio stations in 2005.

Just recently I was driving through Virginia for an extended way.  Although I don’t often prefer music over my favored NPR station, I made the switch.  What I found was curious.  Hour after hour the songs were about the “traditional” subjects: love, betrayal, friends, family, God.  What was conspicuous by its absence, blaringly so, to me, was any mention of the one topic which had so dominated the airwaves of country-western stations for the previous four years: War.

You can write to LTC Bob at

September 7, 2006| 12:25 PM ET | Permalink

Tricks of the trade
Plus The Altercation Book Club

I've got a new "Think Again" here called "Spun Dizzy"

I’m taking the semester off from teaching, but it’s the first week of classes and I need to get a few things out of my system: One of the many, many problems with journalists’ attack on bloggers for lacking professional ethics is not only that many journalists lack any professional ethics—see under “television news, cable, entire,”—but that even when journalists at the top of their profession do their job entirely professionally, their practices often lead us no closer to the truth, and often mislead us away.  For instance:

The old “Ascribing Verifiable Opinions to Inanimate Objects,” Trick:

  • In a front-page Leisure Section story called, “New Shows for Old Stars,” The Wall Street Journal’s Brooks Barnes observes, “And some shows have hit the jackpot by casting veteran actors who just a few years ago were deemed unfit for anything but the retirement-home talent show.  Who does ABC credit with giving "Boston Legal" buzz on the Web?  Actress Betty White, 84.”  Here.

Hey, wait a minute.  How does an entire network, in this case, ABC, “credit anyone with anything?  Shouldn’t someone at ABC be quoted to verify this assertion?  And second, just what is “buzz on the Web,” in this context?  And how does that translate into viewers, in this particular case?  Barnes never bothers to explain, which is just as well, because the entire paragraph is so amorphous as to evaporate with even a millisecond’s scrutiny.  (I think “Boston Legal” is great, by the way, but now I may have to boycott it.)

The old “There Are Only Two Options, Here, Mine and Some Idiot’s” dodge:

  • In a Washington Post chat, an emailer asked reporter, Jonathan Weisman, “Dick Cheney said he was stuck with the grave decision of whether to shoot down the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania or not.  The recently released NORAD tapes confirm that the government first knew of the flight one minute before it went down.  Is Cheney lying, again, or was he thinking very fast that day, with his drama unfolding within 60 seconds? I've yet to read anywhere that Cheney has been queried about his story. THANKS.

    Weisman replied: If I can get him on the phone, I will query him.  Cheney's statements present a quandary for us reporters.  Sometimes we write them up and are accused of being White House stenographers and stooges for repeating them.  Then if we don't write them up, we are accused of being complicit for covering them up.  So, all you folks on the left, what'll it be?  Complicity or stenography?”  Here.

The contempt dripping from Weisman’s typist is evident but his logic is not.  Why would it be impossible for Weisman, even without getting Cheney on the phone, and ha ha, what a riot, asking a politician an impolite question—publish what Cheney actually said alongside the evidence that the man is not telling the truth?  That would not be “complicity.”  That would not be “stenography.”  (And by the way sir, in the case of this administration, “complicity” and “stenography” are synonymous.)  It would be solid, sensible journalism.  Has the Washington Post fallen so far from the ideal of actually trying to tell the public the truth when officials want it hidden that their reporters are actually unfamiliar with the practice?

The old “Fool Me Once, Fool Me A Thousand Times,” Story:

  • Continuing with the above theme, why, for instance in this story is there no room for even a mention of the fact that the Pentagon has a history of deliberately trying to fix these tests, over and over, in order to fool gullible reporters and keep the funding spigot on, and punishing those honorable whistleblowers who try to expose it?  Would that be bias to point out the word of the people you are accepting has proven worthless in the past, over and over and over?  See Frances Fitzgerald (2000), Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars, and the End of the Cold War for details.

The Use of the Word “Arguably” to Say Something Otherwise Indefensible as in “Paris Hilton is Arguably a Better Physicist than Albert Einstein Ever Was.”

  • In the New York Times Arts and Leisure Section, Alan Light writes, [Bob Seger’s] “brand of lunch-bucket rock ‘n’ roll has struck a universal chord, arguably even more than the music of peers like Bruce Springsteen.”  Here

Now, I really like Seger, but really, who in the world would sensibly argue…

Using a Single Anecdote to Make a Larger Point when the Anecdote Actually Proves Actually Nothing:

  • In the first few paragraphs of a cover story in The New York Times Magazine, Lynn Hershberg writes, “But it says something about the changes in the industry that when Sissy Spacek won the Best Actress Oscar in 1981 for portraying the musician Loretta Lynn in “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” she was the lead in the film, while Witherspoon was playing a secondary character in “Walk the Line.”  Here

Perhaps, Hershberg is right, but what it says to me is that one movie was about Loretta Lynn,  a woman, while the other one was about Johnny Cash, a man.  Call me sexist, but I too, would have shown “a growing reluctance” to cast a woman—even Meryl Streep—as the Man in Black.  (And by the way, Mary Steenburgen won the Oscar back in 1981 for Best Supporting Actress in a movie about, you guessed it, not one but two men: “ Melvin and Howard.")

The Phony Comparison With Someone or Something Insane to Make the Otherwise Outrageous Appear Sensible:

  • In The New York Times Book Review, Jonathan Rauch writhes: “This “party of death” — “those who think that the inviolability of human life is an outdated or oppressive concept” — is not perfectly congruent with the Democratic Party, but in Ponnuru’s words, it has made the Democrats a “wholly owned subsidiary.”  That distinction may seem less meaningful to many readers than it does to Ponnuru, who has been accused by his critics of political partisanship, and whose title and subtitle do their commercialistic best to give that impression.  He is, however, the soul of fair-mindedness compared with many of his fellow pundits.  (For instance, the conservative writer Ann Coulter, in her new book, “Godless: The Church of Liberalism,” distinguishes Republicans from Democrats this way: “We’re the Blacks-Aren’t-Property/Don’t-Kill-Babies Party. They’re the Hookup party.”  Now that’s partisanship.)  Here.

Now you see the service that Coulter provides to conservatives and that network brass provide to them by giving her a platform.  It’s impossible to be considered beyond the bounds of sensible discourse when your only standard is a screaming, hysterical dishonest lunatic, but that here, is what appears to be Rauch’s only allowable standard.

That’s all for today. Class dismissed.

Altercation gets results  (Has Joe been forced to answer the question directly?)

The ABCs of lying about 9/11, continued:

Boehlert notes: ABC's docudrama "The Path to 9/11" continues to draw heat from Clinton officials who claim the mini-series misrepresents the facts about hunting down bin Laden during the 1990's.  Now education publisher Scholastic is under fire for its online teaching guide to "The Path to 9/11"; a teaching guide that suggests to high school students that Iraq played a part in 9/11.

From the Benton Foundation:

[SOURCE: New York Times, AUTHOR: Jesse McKinley] (requires registration)

Three members of the Clinton administration -- former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, former national security adviser Samuel R. Berger, and former White House aide Bruce R. Lindsey -- have written the chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, ABC's parent, to complain that the network's coming two-part miniseries "The Path to 9/11" is fraught with factual errors and fabrications.  The letters ask that the five-hour movie, scheduled for broadcast Sunday and Monday, be either edited for accuracy or canceled, and ABC gave a small indication yesterday that some changes might be made.  ABC, meanwhile, continued to explain that the mini-series, though largely drawn from the report of the Sept. 11 commission, was a dramatization, not a documentary.  But the network appeared to be leaving the door open to last-minute changes in the film.  The series, which cost almost $40 million, is to be broadcast without commercials, but a network spokesperson said this had been planned, as a public service, and had nothing to do with any pressure that might have been brought on prospective advertisers.

* Clinton Administration Officials Assail ABC's 'The Path to 9/11'

* ABC 9/11 Movie Slams 'Wash Post' for 'Wash Times' Report  One of the most blatant factual errors in the ABC's miniseries next week on the 9/11 attacks is a claim that The Washington Post ruined a valuable form of surveillance of Osama bin Laden by disclosing that the U.S. was monitoring his cell phone calls.  Indeed, that charge has been made -- but the alleged wrongdoer was a different paper, The Washington Times.

Here are some facts.

Tell ABC to tell the truth

And here's a website with a list of advertisers to contact regarding the ABC docu-drama B.S.  We note that the Smart Boys at The Note relegate the news to the bottom of their Moby-Dick-like missive, ensuring that almost no one sees it.  They attribute the controversy to “Disney” rather than to the folks for whom they work at ABC.  Nice.

This just in: SONNY ROLLINS turns 76 today, September 7.  To celebrate his birthday, and the first anniversary of his Web site —as well as his new Doxy label and CD Sonny, Please— nine rare video performances will be posted on for one week, beginning today.

The nine performances took place over the course of five decades on three continents, with sidemen ranging from Henry Grimes in the late 1950s to Don Cherry (1962), Kenny Drew (1968), Stanley Clarke (1981), Jack DeJohnette (1982), and his current band in April of this year.

After viewing the videos, visitors are invited to post birthday greetings for Sonny in his guestbook.

Altercation Book Club:

E.L. Doctorow, “Composing Moby Dick: What Might Have Happened.”

I can claim a personal relationship to Melville and his works, having read MOBY-DICK  three and a half times. The half time came at the age of ten when I found a copy in my grandfather’s library --- it was one of a set of great sea novels all bound in green cloth—and it was fair sailing until the cetology stove me in.  I first read the book in its entirety, (and TYPEE, OMOO, BILLLY BUDD and the ENCHANTADAS, and BENITO CERENO and BARTLEBY THE SCRIVENER, for that matter) as an undergraduate at Kenyon College. Then, as a young editor at the New American Library a mass paperback publisher,  I persuaded a Kenyon professor, Denham Sutcliffe to write an Afterword to the Signet Classic edition of MOBY-DICK, and so  read the book again by way of editorial preparation. And now on the 150th anniversary of its publication (and after too many years) I have read it for the third time.

The surprise to me, at my age now, is how familiar the voice of that book is, and not merely the voice, but the technical effrontery, and not merely the technical effrontery, but the character and rhythm of the sentences…and so with some surprise, I’ve realized, how much of my own work, at its own level, hears Melville, responds to his perverse romanticism, endorses his double dipping into the accounts of realism and allegory, as well as the large risk he takes speaking so frankly of the crisis of human consciousness, that great embarrassment to us all that makes a tiresome prophet of anyone who would speak of it.


Literary history finds a few great novelists who achieved their greatness from an impatience with the conventions of narrative. Virginia Woolf composed Mrs. Dalloway from the determination to write a novel without a plot or indeed a subject. And then Joyce, of course: Like Picasso who was an expert draftsman before he blew his art out of the water, James Joyce proved himself in the art of narrative writing before he committed his assaults upon it.

The author of the sterling narratives TYPEE and OMOO precedes Joyce with his own blatant subversion of the narrative compact he calls MOBY-DICK. Yet I suspect that, in this case, the subversion may have been if not inadvertent, then only worked out tactically given the problem of its conception. I would guess that what Melville does in MOBY-DICK is not from a grand preconceived aesthetic (Joyce: I will pun my way into the brain’s dreamwork; I will respect the protocols of grammar and syntax but otherwise blast the English language all to hell.) but from the necessity of dealing with the problem inherent in constructing an entire 19th century  novel around a single life and death encounter with a whale. The encounter clearly having to come as the climax of his book, Melville’s writing problem was how to pass the time until then --- until he got the Pequod to the Southern Whale fisheries and brought the white whale from the depths, Ahab crying “There she blows --- there she blows! A hump like a snow hill! It is Moby-Dick!” She blows, I note, not until page 537 of a 566 page book – in my old paperback Rhinehart edition.

A writer lacking Melville’s genius might conceive of a shorter novel, its entry point being possibly closer in time to the deadly encounter. And with maybe a flashback or two thrown in. A novelist of today, certainly, would eschew exposition as far as possible, let the reader work out for herself what is going on, which is a contemporary way of maintaining narrative tension. Melville’s entry point, I remind myself, is not at sea aboard the Pequod, not even in Nantucket: he locates Ishmael in Manhattan, and staying in scene every step of the way, takes him to New Bedford, has him meet Queequeg at the Spouter Inn, listen to a sermon, contrives to get them both to Nantucket, meet the owners of the Pequod, endure the ancient hoary device of a mysterious prophecy…. and it isn’t until Chapter 20 which begins “A day or two passed” that he elides time. Until that point, some ninety-four pages into the book, the writing has all been, a succession of unbroken real time incidents. Another ten pages elapse before the Pequod in Chapter 22 “thrusts her vindictive bows into the cold malicious waves.”

I wouldn’t wonder if Melville at this point, the Pequod finally underway, stopped to read what he had written to see what his book was bidding him to do.

This is sheer guesswork of course. I don’t know what Melville himself may have said about the writing of MOBY-DICK beyond characterizing it as a “wicked book.” Besides, whatever any author says of his novel is of course another form of the fiction he practices and is never, never, to be taken on faith.

Perhaps Melville had everything comfortably worked out before he began, though I doubt it. Perhaps he had a draft completed of something quite conventional before his writer’s sense of crisis set in. The point to remember is the same that Faulkner made to literary critics:  they see a finished work and do not dream of the chaos of trial and error and torment from which it has somehow emerged.

No matter what your plan for a novel --- and we know Herman was inspired by the account of an actual whaling disaster (the destruction of the ship Essex in 1819) and we know how this was a subject, whaling, he could speak of with authority of personal experience abetted by research, and we know he understood as well as the most commercial practitioner of the craft, that a writer begins with an advantage who can report on a kind of life or profession out of the ken of the ordinary reader --- nevertheless I say that no matter what your plan or inspiration, or trembling recognition for an idea that you know belongs to you, the strange endowment you set loose by the act of writing is never entirely under your control. It cannot be a matter solely of willed expression. Somewhere, from the depths of your being you find a voice: it is the first and most mysterious moment of the creative act. There is no book without it. If it takes off, it appears to you to be self-governed. To some degree you will write to find out what you are writing. And you feel no sense of possession for what comes onto the pages ---- what you experience  is a sense of discovery.

“Excerpted from CREATIONISTS by E.L. Doctorow.  Copyright © 2006 by E.L. Doctorow.  Reprinted by arrangement with The Random House Publishing Group.” More here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Cindy
Hometown: Houston TX
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, emerged from the meeting and said, "These are very controversial provisions that the [Clinton] White House wants. Some they're not going to get." ....[Hatch] also said he had some problems with the president's proposals to expand wiretapping. -- CNN, July 30, 1996

So Bill Clinton, rather than just breaking the law as Bush did (then again, perhaps this is why Bush broke the law - he knew from history that the Republicans controlling the congress would oppose his efforts to expand wiretapping), decided to go to the Republican congress in 1996 and ask them for increased authority to do more eavesdropping in order to stop the terrorists - stop September 11. Senior Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, one of the GOP's top picks for the Supreme Court and a GOP committee chair, objected.

The Republicans stopped President Clinton from getting all the tools he needed to stop the next September 11 - well, no, actually they opposed giving President Clinton all the tools he needed to stop the actual September 11. Could September 11 have been stopped if the GOP had given President Clinton the tools he requested to stop Osama and Mohammad Atta from killing 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington? Maybe we need to ask the Republicans up for re-election why they wanted to appease the terrorists? Quote: President Clinton urged Congress Tuesday to act swiftly in developing anti-terrorism legislation before its August recess. "We need to keep this country together right now. We need to focus on this terrorism issue," Clinton said during a White House news conference. But while the president pushed for quick legislation, Republican lawmakers hardened their stance against some of the proposed anti-terrorism measures.--CNN, July 30, 1996

There's even an audio clip of President Clinton practically begging the Republicans to give him the tools he needed to stop Osama and the terrorists.  Trent Lott said no. Orrin Hatch said no. Do these men really deserve to run the Congress during a time of war?  How about addressing this?

[ Source]

Name: Jim Goydos
Hometown: East Brunswick, NJ
There's something I've wondered about for a while.  GOP donors have given money to green party candidates (most recently in the Pennsylvania Senate race I think), to Joe Lieberman, to Ralph Nader and who knows whom else.  The reason is usually to siphon votes away from the Democrat though who knows why in Lieberman's case.  I don't know of any episodes of this happening from the other side - Democrats giving money to right wing challengers to weaken GOP candidates.  A prime example is the Rhode Island Senate Race where Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey, an archconservative, is in a tight race with Lincoln Chafee for the Republican nomination.  The point is that only 10% of Rhode Islanders are Republicans and a tiny percentage of the population of the tiny State of Rhode Island will decide who the Republican nominee will be.  If Laffey wins it is very likely (almost a lock) that the Democrats will pick up the seat and that may decide control of the Senate.  The Bush folks know this and are pouring money into Chafee's campaign even though Chafee is just about the most liberal Republican in the Senate.  The whole State is only 1500 square miles and there are only about 1,000,000 people who live there.  If 2/3 are of voting age and 10% are Republicans and turn out is 50% (that would be higher than the turn out in the Connecticut primary), at most 33,000 Republicans will be voting (independents will also vote but I'm only estimating here).  That means 16,000 or 17,000 votes are all one would need to win the primary.  With control of the Senate in the balance (Justice Kennedy just had a stent placed in his heart remember), why wouldn't every concerned person in the country give money to Laffey's campaign?  The Republicans went after Senator Daschle's seat in South Dakota with a vengeance when they saw the opportunity. Are Liberals morally superior to Conservatives or just dumber?

Name: Debbie Ray
Hometown: South Bend, IN
Dear Doc,
I don't know who all these guys from Indiana are but they're wrong about IN-02.  Polling done by the South Bend Tribune in July shows Joe Donnelly ahead of Chocola by 10 points and the little rich boy hasn't released a poll of his own recently.... so that tells ya' something right there.  He also started his media campaign last month and the RNC isn't coming in with the calvary to save his butt cause' they've got too many other fires to put out. He's spending his own cash too.  ANNNNND when the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette prints an editorial about what a great guy the Dem is in the THIRD district, and how bad the current Rep. is...well it tells me that "something's happening here, and what it pretty damn clear."  Bush is supposed to come back to South Bend next month.  I have a feeling someone's going to get the flu or something because last time he showed up around here we had about 500 people from all over the state visit S.B. to run him out of town. It will happen again and it'll be even bigger.  I can't wait.

Name: Patrick Conner
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
After reading your post regarding "The Path to 9/11" I sent the following e-mail to Drew Berry General Manager at WMAR-TV in Baltimore. 

Mr. Berry,
I have been following closely the various debates on TV and the internet concerning the program "The Path to 9/11."  Watching interviews this evening with Richard BenVeniste of the 9/11 Commision and Roger Cressey CIA Counter Terrorism official, it is clear that this program, while purporting to be based on the 9/11 Commision report, is attempting to make a political statement regarding the effectiveness of anti terror programs initiated by the Clinton administration. It contains, based on observations of those who have seen the program, glaring factual errors regarding opportunities to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden during the Clinton Administration's time in office. So close to a national election I think this program is being used as a political weapon to garner support for Bush Administration policies. My personal feeling is that 9/11 is a time for somber reflection and not a time for fantasy re-enactments of events which never occurred. I understand artistic license, but the horrors of 9/11 do not need a politically motivated interpretation. It is my hope that you would choose not to air this program on your station. In that regard, I will be forwarding copies of this e-mail to the corporate offices of the local advertisers on your station expressing these views and my concerns that their products and services will be associated with this misleading, politically motivated piece of fiction. Thank you for your time and I await your response to the concerns I have raised.
Patrick D. Conner
Baltimore, MD

September 6, 2006| 11:37 AM ET | Permalink

Zeroing in on to the most important news in the history of the universe, Katie Couric read the news for a few minutes on CBS.  Hosannah.

I really couldn’t care less who reads the news, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Katie, particularly since I worked with her late husband on MSNBC when the station first began ten years ago, but our affair ended last night when she said that she wanted to help restore “civility” to the public discourse and then announced she would have Rush Limbaugh help with the job.  I guess that’s the last time I can believe anything she says—or at least make sense of it.  I wonder which of Limbaugh’s comments led the poohbahs at CBS, who, like NBC’s “Meet the Press,” decided to give Limbaugh this honor.  Could it be:

  • When the shocking photos at Abu Ghraib were published, Limbaugh voiced his enthusiastic agreement with a caller that what was done at Abu Ghraib was no worse than “a college fraternity prank that stacked up naked men. Exactly,” Limbaugh replied:

    Exactly my point! This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off?”

  • Could it be Limbaugh when he went into business to make money making fun of the torture; selling souvenirs for what he joshingly called “Club Gitmo,” where he sold mugs, bumper stickers, and “soap on a rope?”

  • Could it be when he said “the religious left ... hates and despises the God of Christianity," because "Liberals consider themselves more powerful than God?"

  • Could it be when he opined that a letter to President Bush from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—the very same one who previously advocated "wiping Israel off the map," has referred to Israel as a "rotten, dried tree," and has dismissed the Holocaust as a "myth."-- contained, in Limbaugh’s scholarly view, “some liberal Hollywood Jewish people talking points?"

  • Could it be when he said John Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz, was called “one of the nation’s leading wackos…in love with a dead man?”

  • Could it be when he said the Supreme Court “expelled gas” in striking down antisodomy laws in Texas.  Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is a “racist” for upholding affirmative action programs?

  • Could it be when claimed that women "actually wish" for sexual harassment?

  • Could it be when he said Democrats believe "the more deaths in Iraq the better?"

  • Could it be when Limbaugh told a black caller, “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back?”

  • Could it be when he said, “The NAACP should have riot rehearsals?”

  • Or what about when he announced on another occasion, “They should get a liquor store and practice robberies?”

  • Could it be when he asked  “Have you ever noticed how all newspaper composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?”

  • Could it be when an environmentalist died of breast cancer in 1997, Limbaugh played the sound of a buzzsaw and said the woman had “finally been cut down to size.” And "she’ll never be able to bark up the wrong tree again?”

  • Could it be when he compared then-teenage Chelsea Clinton to a dog?

Let us know, CBS, which of these comments were the ones that convinced you that Limbaugh was the right guy to “restore civility” to our political discourse.  We’ll wait ….

Moving on to ABC, I’m not sure. Is this worse?

Tell ABC to tell the truth  (What %$#R@ Liberal Media?)

Tell ABC to tell the truth  (Again) Tell ‘em twice.

Tell 'em here.

(And how about some resignations in the news division, Smart Boys, if they don’t, or do the million dollar babies up there believe it’s right to exploit 9/11 for the purpose of partisan, political lying?)

(We are equal opportunity network bashers, here.  Send me some NBC, particularly MSNBC horror shows and we’ll print ‘em too.  I just don’t have any handy right now.)

Heroes or Schmucks:

Five years ago, we thought they were heroes.  Today, they must think themselves schmucks.  Who but a schmuck would believe the word of George Bush and company when they say it’s safe to breathe the air at Ground Zero?  Ok, we didn’t have all the information back then.  Like a schmuck, I supported the invasion of Afghanistan, trusting Bush not to screw that up, or at least be honest about it.  Ha.  These people (and here) went in to rescue the workers and are now paying the same price that everyone who has ever trusted Bush has paid; betrayal.  They are paying with their health.  In Iraq and Afghanistan, our soldiers and are paying with their lives.  Too bad for the Iraqi schmucks (and here) who trusted this president’s words too.  (I’ll bet Tony Blair secretly wishes he had been less of schmuck, too; if he had been, he’d not be resigning in ignominy these days.)  The failure, by the numbers, here.  And the joke is, when they tell us of a threat, they’ve become impossible to believe except to the members of the media, who hype these threats for their own, indefensible reasons.

Rest in Peace, Dewey Redman and Bernard Wohl, great New Yorkers, both.


As we all know, there are some artists who rate a single CD “best of,” some who rate a double, and some who rate a whole lot more.  Universal has been putting out a “Definitive” single series of late which, in some cases, is plenty, in some cases, is too much, and in a few, is kind of crazy.  I’m fine with single CD collections of Kathy Mattea, Tanya Tucker, and Humble Pie, for instance.  With Steve Earle it is not nearly enough.  The Gold series, which has new ones from Lynyrd Skynyrd which is just about enough, though I’d want the live double record too, and the Mavericks, which doesn’t seem to me to be nearly enough, but is an excellent place to start.  There’s a bunch more but you’ll have to do your own research.  Also on the ‘old stuff made new,’ Capitol has a fancy new edition of “Pet Sounds” to commemorate its 40th anniversary.  If you read this section, you already have “Pet Sounds,” so the question is, do you need the mono and stereo mix (like the Beatles’ re-releases) the dolby digital 5.1 surround sound mix, and the documentaries?  There’s also a colored vinyl version.  I dunno.  There’s a great record underneath there somewhere.  Also on Capitol, if you’ve waited this long to get to know Merle Haggard—well, you need help, and it’s here in the form of  Hag: The Best of Merle Haggard, which I’m recommending on the grounds that you use it only as an appetizer to decide into which period of the man’s career you want to delve first.  There’s hardly an artist for which one disc is so not enough.

On the new/but-sounds-old front, we have one of Stupid’s faves, The Kennedys who’ve done an album of folk standards not altogether unlike that great Matthew Sweet Susannah Huff’s album but more folky, and with really great guitar work from the great Pete Kennedy.  Excellent song selection too.  You might think that the production is a little too pristine, but I don’t believe in that kind of thing.  They're at Joe’s Pub October 5 if you’re lucky enough to live here.  Also, I need to second Sal’s endorsement of the beautiful new Linda Rondstadt/Ann Savoy album, Adieu False Heart on the folkie label, Vanguard.  It’s impossible to ruin “Walk Away Renee,” but it’s great nevertheless.  I guess I’ll have to get their French album now, too.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Richard
Hometown: Valpo, IN
I would agree the GOP has its act together when it comes to polling and finding issues to stir its base, but I think Stupid overlooks a couple of important issues.  The first issue is that too many Secretaries of States were also chairing State Republican Campaigns. That should be a conflict of interest- especially when a couple of these special people (Ken Blackwell in Ohio for one) was willing to go on record as saying that as the 04 Chair of the Bush/Cheney Campaign in Ohio, our strategy will be to slow down the vote. So Ohio's defender of voting rights said the Republican strategy was to slow down the vote by challenging voters. He wasn't saying there was massive voter registration fraud that needed to be addressed, he was concerned about massive voter turnout! Ken Blackwell was scared that Ohio citizens would exercise their rights to vote! Oh, good luck to Ken in his race for governor- right! The second issue was exhibited in the CA-50 race. Not only were there irregularities (people taking voting machines home- unsupervised), but the chilling act of Denny Hastert. The Speaker of the House swore-in the winner of that race before the county election officials certified the election. The courts have ruled that since Hastert swore-in the person he believed to be the winner, any pending legal challenges are now moot. Since Electronic voting has been partially or fully implemented in 37 states and there are still questionable acts surrounding the hardware and software, we need to be on guard. We still have a couple of months before the election, and we need to keep plugging away.

Name: Michael Wilkerson
Hometown: Bloomington, Indiana
Wm. Weissbeck of Schererville has it wrong about Indiana as an example of bad district-making. Three seats are in play here -- his South Bend #2, and the southern Indiana #'s 8 and 9. Most observers think 8 and 9 are more likely to switch to Democrats than is 2. These districts were drawn by Democrats, actually, though they haven't been able to hold most of them for very long. Still, he makes a good point in that if Dems took the moral high road and demanded fair, compact districts, the Congress would be decided on a fairer basis, which in the current moment would hurt the GOP.

Name: Don Hynes
Hometown: Portland, OR
Hi Eric,
The NYT went front page on the 9-11 injured rescue workers story after Newsweek put it out front.  Makes me wonder.  The data's been around but suddenly it's front page? The worst part of this "story" is unwritten by either Newsday or NYT which is that the Bush administration and EPA knew full well the risk they were putting the rescue corps into.  EPA knew the air quality but were pressured to falsify the level of danger.  Also, what was the hurry?  "Saving" or "rescuing" trapped individuals.  Who was going to be rescued from that fallen holocaust of a building?  Not one.  Nonsense.  However, once you ask this question "what was the hurry" without accepting the established story line you're assumed to be heading down conspiracy nut lane or whatever the derogatory ad hominem argument de jour.  Thanks for your fine work and the consistent quality of your journalism.  It's almost a lost art.

Name: Jim
Hometown: Colorado
(I guess I already know the answer to this question, but....)  Sam Seder is as I read your blog replaying the clip of Brian William's asking The Only President We've Got why he hasn't asked non-military Americans to sacrifice for his splendid little war, and TOPWG responds "Americans pay a lot of taxes, and wait in line at airports."  This seems to me more newsworthy (and blogworthy) than his claims of having read "three Shakespeares."  Where did this story go?

September 5, 2006 | 3:36 PM ET | Permalink

Poor, indeed
The census poverty data debate, continued

The Mickster jumped on a small mischaracterization in a New York Times article here to attack me, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and anybody else that highlighted the new Census data on the percentage of the poor living in extreme poverty, here.  The Times reported that some advocates for the poor pointed to a "sharp increase" in 2005 in the percentage of poor people below half the poverty line.  While that percentage did increase in 2005, the increase was not statistically significant, so characterizing it as a "sharp increase" is not right.  On the other hand, this figure has increased sharply over time, reaching a record high level in 2003 and remaining at that level since then.

I've now had time to go over the data with some friends of mine who do this kind of thing for a living and here's what I understand: In 2003, 2004, and 2005, the percentage of the poor living in deep poverty stood at 42-43 percent, higher than in any prior year on record.  The percentage of the poor who are below half the poverty line has risen steadily over the last two and half decades:  from 34 percent in 1980 to 39 percent in 1990 to 43 percent this year.

Further, other data confirm this troubling trend of the poor becoming poorer in recent years.  What analysts call the per-person "poverty gap" — the average amount by which someone who is poor falls below the poverty line — also is at record high levels (though the measured increase from 2004 to 2005 was not statistically significant).

I quoted this aspect of the Times article, and Mickey said I made a mistake.  Brad DeLong citing Kaus says I made a mistake and Kaus, again, here citing DeLong citing Kaus accused me of making a mistake.  Did I in fact make a mistake?  Well, I quote Lyman accurately and that was a mistake.  I promise to be even less trusting of The New York Times in the future.  But hey, we all know that that technical detail is not what is at issue here.  Mickey's larger goal, in support of his crusade on behalf of the success of Clinton's Kaussian welfare reform bill is to deploy the Times quote as evidence of a concerted effort on the left to distort the Census poverty data to make things look worse than they really are.  Well good luck on that, bub.  The poverty rate is higher in the fourth year of an economic recovery (2005) than it was in the previous recession (2001), and median income for non-elderly households was $2,000 lower in 2005 than in the 2001 recession year.  Both of these developments are unprecedented in economic recoveries (with available data going back to the 1960s).  They are bad news for the poor, indeed.

Back on the "deep poverty" issue, Kaus discounts the figures noted in the Times piece that 43 percent of the poor lived in deep poverty in 2005.  He would have us look instead at the percentage of all people who live in deep poverty.  That figure is important, and it is not at an all time high.  It rose to 5.4 percent in 2003, and stayed at this level in 2004 and 2005.  Yet as Brad DeLong noted, four years into an economic recovery, this figure, as well, remains higher than its level during the 2001 recession.  This, too, is not good news.

The upshot is this: The percentage of the poor living in extreme poverty is at an all-time high - coupled with the fact that overall poverty itself has risen markedly in recent years - shows that we have an economy and a safety net that leaves too many people deep in poverty.  Whatever else the effects of welfare reform - both salutary and not so - one consequence appears to be that significant numbers of people are being left behind.

And my authority is not strong enough to carry this point, and I’m OK with that, perhaps Mickey might like to check in with the views of those, like the conservative Ron Haskins, the chief House staffer in 1996 on welfare reform.  He notes, “The most important of these challenges is the finding that there is a group of mothers at the bottom of the income distribution who appear to be floundering under the new and more demanding welfare system.”  And here when asked, “Would you agree, Ron Haskins, that there is a part of the population that has not done well?,” he replies, “Yes. That definitely is the case. It's undeniable, because we can see it very clearly, again in Census Bureau data, and there have been a number of very, very good studies.

And here.

Oh, and Mickster, The Pentagon is reporting that "Conditions exist for civil war in Iraq," here .  Are you really so sure Chris Matthews—God, it hurts to have to defend him—required a script change for saying "All signs point to a continued degradation of our situation in Iraq," because of a note posted on a blog hosted by a 24 year old "Reason" intern on Andy's blog, of all places?  Just asking…

Bush Lies, Heroes Die, Bin Laden Hides, Taliban Strides, Heroin Flies… [ permalink ]

I used to think the absolute worst thing the Bush administration ever did was lie to the heroes who rushed into the World Trade Center to try to save people about their knowledge of the relative safety of breathing the air there.  Now, five years later, I think that lie was merely emblematic of their modus operandi.  Newsday's story focuses on the fact that respiratory function has been so severely compromised in some World Trade Center rescuers that even as the fifth anniversary of the attack approaches, experts are reporting a dramatic aging effect in the lungs of firefighters and others, and this Times story focuses on how "government officials have only recently begun to take a role in the care of many of the 40,000 responders and recovery workers who were made sick by toxic materials at ground zero."

In addition, public health specialists David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz offer a blistering reconsideration of how the Bush administration dealt with public-health matters at Ground Zero in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and created the first "Katrina moment."  Amid much ineptitude and incompetence before — and on — September 11, 2001, there was at least one shining story of efficient, on-the-spot government: the public health system in New York City.  Though few noticed (until Katrina arrived four years later), the administration started to undermine and sabotage that system almost immediately.

They write:

One of the great ironies of 9/11 will pass unnoticed in the various memorials and remembrances now descending upon us: In the wake of the attacks, as the Bush administration claimed it was gearing up to protect us against any further such moments by pouring money into the Pentagon and the new Department of Homeland Security, its officials were also reorienting, privatizing, militarizing, and beginning to functionally dismantle the very public health system that made the catastrophe of 9/11 so much less disastrous than it might have been.

No doubt a number of those heroic first responders are wishing they sat back and hired Jack Abramoff to get them some contracts, instead heeding their government's call for help… like good Republicans.

And finally, we let the bastards in Afghanistan get away, here, so that our soldiers could be sent to fight and die chasing phantoms in Iraq.

Shame, shame, shame.

My old friend Rick Stengel continues his predecessors' policy of keeping liberals out of the magazine and even invites a few new conservatives to contribute like the equally overextended LA Times columnists Niall Ferguson and Max Boot to complement the hysterical liberal-hating Joe Klein.  Don't feel you have to buy this magazine on Friday, Monday, or whenever, until Rick hires a liberal for the actual magazine and one who's specialty is not posts on as***ucking.

Sorry Mr. Legendary Power Forward but Newsweek's a lot better.  Fareed, for instance, would be a left-winger at Time.  At Newsweek, he's the sensible center.  "Look at your calendar," writes the future Secretary of State—something I called back in 1996 or so, by the way, "it's 2006, not 1938."  Here .

(Remember not long ago, Time's Klein was talking about what a great idea it was to threaten to nuke these people.)

What no "Ann Coulter?"  Roll over Bill Paley, tell Bill Murrow the news.

"Lee Siegel is my Hero…"

You know it ain't good news when they put it up on Friday night before Labor Day.  The backstory is here and the greatest hits are here.  They are all particularly rich material for a psychological case study, but this one is particularly interesting/weird/frightening: someone in the comments section of the "lawyers, guns and money" website found this from Lee's diary entries on Slate:

As for the dark Internet tales, maybe Stephen Glass has his finger on the viscera of the time.  He has sensed that in a commercial society that constantly stimulates the libido and makes satisfaction the highest criterion of success, any shortcut to satisfaction is permissible. Lies become a consumerist tool. Their effectiveness as a tactic earns them the quality of truth. And the libido makes no distinction between past, present, and future. It exists in an eternal present, in which each successive lie displaces the previous one and becomes the only reality. In a different age, Glass would be like one of Nabokov's madmen, deranged frauds who have an artistic temperament but not the artist's rational will. In our moment, the Glass-type is becoming more and more common. The Internet must be full of them.

An aside:  I know Siegel a bit and I once referred to him as "brilliant but crazy" on this blog (and long before he declared war on "Blogofascism").  He came up to me in the Green Room of the LA Times Book Festival when I was eating bagels with the kid and demanded, in a not friendly or ironic fashion, "Crazy? Crazy? Give me one example." "How about this, Lee," I said and went back to the bagel.

Can you believe I forgot the bagels?  My list of great non-arts related aspects of this country, in the service of the Silvermans, is here.

My favorite song of Steve Earle's is the one that goes:

There ain't a lot that you can do in this town
You drive down to the lake and then you turn back around
You go to school and you learn to read and write
So you can walk into the county bank and sign away your life
I work at the fillin' station on the interstate
Pumpin' gasoline and countin' out of state plates
They ask me how far into Memphis son, and where's the nearest beer
And they don't even know that there's a town around here"


Dontcha think this story is all about that song, or vice-versa?

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Wm. Weissbeck
Hometown: Schererville , IN
To comment on Stupid's analysis.  It is too true that Democrats have allowed their individual state parties to gerrymander themselves into majority Black or Hispanic districts.  Even if there is dissatisfaction in the suburbs, there are no Democrats there to represent them.  The analysis of Illinois is right on. If anything, the Democrats stand a better chance of losing a seat rather than retaining it (it's Phil Crane's former district). The same is true in Indiana, only one seat is in play, around South Bend. Any wonder why George Bush has visited there 4 times this year? Democrats cannot become credible until they tell their Black and Hispanic conferences that they must risk losing those seats if they are to expand to reach moderate suburbanites. Plus there is another evil of gerrymandering. It actually increases the power of a central party structure. If the only contest is the primary, especially at the state legislature level, then the party leaders slate the candidates and punish anyone who does toe the line. In Illinois, the Democrats would rather have a 50-50 split where the generals such a Mayor Daley can control the power and the troops, rather than a majority with the potential for a bunch of non-conforming independent minded types running things. In addition, Illinois may be a Blue State and even a moderate GOP state, but they also know which side their bread is buttered on. It is far more important to Chicago to have local boy, Denny Hastert with his controls on the federal "cookie jar," than to rock the boat with some silly ideological discussion of a war in Iraq. Sad, but true.

Name: Jay Stebley
Hometown: Emeryville , CA
Hello, Eric,
I think Stupid is spot on about the dismal prospects for the 2006 elections and for all the reason he stated. The Dems and those to the left seem to believe that the increasing amperage of discontent over the debacle in Iraq is an indication that the country will throw the bums out. But consider this - despite the fact that gas prices rose to 'shocking' levels in the last 4 years, there doesn't seem to be any dramatic change in our driving habits. Oh, a few people mothballed their SUVS or bought one of those mock hybrids but basically the roads are jammed with idling commuters and Sunday drivers. In other words, they reacted with dismay and anger as gas prices seemed to go through the roof and then realized the cost in their daily lives wasn't that painful and continued with their old, wasteful ways. Hardly patriotic. Similarly, the average American expresses his or her dismay and anger over the way things are in this election year and then heads for the mall - this administration, eh, it'll be over in two more years. There's no urgency in the streets anymore. It used to be said if you wanted to wake up Americans, hit 'em in the pocketbooks. That doesn't seem to work anymore. I think we've gotten the status quo we want. Pitiful.

Name: Michael Bowen
Hometown: Monroe , NY
More great things about America (non-artsy edition): Public libraries and the people who work for them. The Chiles Rellenos at The M&J Sanitary Tortilla Factory in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Hell, just the idea that there's a great restaurant called The M&J Sanitary Tortilla Factory. The roadrunner - is this a cool bird or what! Rebel Yell Bourbon. State Fairs. The Bill of Rights.

Name: Robert Earle
Hometown: Torrance , CA
Tom DeLay is writing a book, the working title of which is " No Retreat, No Surrender: The American Passion of Tom DeLay."  I find myself wondering what our Mr. Springsteen, and his lawyers, might think about it.

Name: Martin
Hometown: Grand Rapids , Michigan
Hi Eric,
Is this the greatest 'lost' music video ever?  Apparently they knew that this footage existed, but somehow no one really knew that it was the Beatles playing "Hey Bulldog" until recently. It was pasted together with the album audio by a fan using footage played on ABC's 20/20. Enjoy.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive


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