Oct. 10, 2003 | 12:15 PM ET
Trouble at The New Republic:
This week’s Forward tells yet another disturbing story about the editorial standards of The New Republic under Marty Peretz. It seems that the magazine was co-sponsoring a recent forum with Saudi Arabia and apparently allowed the terrorist-supporting, Jew-hating Saudis to blackball one of the invited guests.

Stephen Schwartz told the Forward that he was removed from the panel at the behest of Saudi Arabia, which co-sponsored the Oct. 2 panel discussion. Schwartz, a neoconservative convert to Islam and author of an extremely critical book on the Saudis, “The Two Faces otion to Terror.” The New Republic’s president and publisher, Stephanie Sandberg, confirmed that the Saudi government was granted some oversight in the formation of the panel. “What we want to do is have a panel which is acceptable to both sides,” Sandberg said.

TNR’s editor Peter Beinart tries to defend the magazine by claiming, “The New Republic’s positions on Saudi Arabia are crystal clear and will remain so,” Beinart said. “Anyone who thinks we will become an apologist for the Saudi government is just dreaming.”

That is obviously a canard. No one is accusing the magazine of selling its editorial position. What it is selling is what’s left of its good name. The Saudis earned themselves this panel discussion-and apparently the right to censor those views of which they disapprove - by buying 12 pages of ads. (TNR has made similar deals with United Parcel Service, the Nuclear Energy Institute and the American Gas Association.)

Even though Peretz has prostituted the magazines journalistic standards many times over since his ill-fated purchase of it-leading Michael Kinsley to quit as editor at least twice-this is really something special.

After all, if the Jews and Israel have any enemies anywhere, they have them in the Saudi government. What’s more, Peretz doesn’t need the money himself and has two co-owners now to take up the slack of declining circulation and ad rates. Really, even its constant critics such as myself would not have expected it to sink so low as to kowtow to the Saudis for the price of a few ad dollars.

This is to take nothing away from its many fine writers and editors whose work I frequently admire and cite in this space. It’s just a shame that jewel of American liberalism should be owned and directed by a man who gives aid and comfort not only to extremist neoconservatives but also to virulent anti-Semites.

Here’s from last Saturday night is Bruce on Bob: or as my tone-deaf friend David Remnick puts it, “Salieri on Mozart.”

“It was it was Bob’s work that when I was a, when I was first trying to write songs that — at a particular time in our country’s history, he was one of those fellas who came along and has been willing to stand in the fire and I remember when I was growing up in my little town, he just made me think big thoughts, you know, he...his music really empowered me, and got me thinking about the world outside of my own little town.

“And I don’t know if great men make history or history makes great men, but for me Bob, Bob’s one of the greatest — now and forever. So I’m gonna dedicate this one to him tonight. I want to thank him for gracing my stage and for being such an inspiration.

“And when I wrote this one, I was trying my best to follow along in his, in his footsteps. It’s a time right now in our country when there’s a lot of questions in the air about the forthrightness of our government. Playing with the truth during wartime has been a part of both Democratic and Republican administrations in the past. And, once again, the lives of our sons and our daughters are on the line, so it’s a good time to be good, vigilant citizens. And protecting the democracy we ask our sons and our daughters to die for is our sacred trust.

“Demanding accountability from our leaders and taking our time to search out the truth — that’s the American way. I learned that from Bob Dylan. This is ‘Land of Hope and Dreams.’”

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA.
I write this before Game Two, which the Fightin’ Plutocrats better win because Pedro’s going to roast them on a spit Saturday in Fenway. The most striking thing about Game One — other than the exquisite Fox slo-mo replays of exactly why Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball makes professional hitters look like Bob Novak trying to catch the truth — was how remorseless the Sox were. Mussina on seven days rest, and they slapped him around like he’d stolen something. Game was over at 4-0, and I was free to flip on over to the Bartlet White House in time to see them chicken out again, on a Veep choice this week. Manny needs to hit a couple more dingers to admire, just so Tim McCarver can keep doing his Bill Bennett imitation.

Did you catch that George Will column on the GOP Disaster That Is Arnold? That’s my favorite current Republican talking point — that Arnold seized the party just in time to save it from the conservative extremists within. Yes, and I am the Tasr of all the Russias.

p.s. — I note at my local Borders that Bill O’Reilly is looking out for me. I guess that’s cool, unless I am assailed by Terry Gross, who is too much, alas, for the fightin’ pride of the Westbury section of Levittown, whose upbringing is similar to mine in that I grew up in the Massachusetts section of Rhode Island.

And the Other Man:
Eric, it’s Stupid to cry over a TV show and an economics op-ed piece. Last week 21 million Americans were treated to a second episode of E.R. in the Congo, and once again they were given 30 seconds of trite soapboxing on the horrors of Africa by the show’s lead character. He bemoans how he reads the N.Y. Times and watches Nightline and never heard about the Congo. About how 3 million people have died there and the U.S. is “too busy watching Survivor.”

A guest star explains it’s because there are no resources there that the U.S. cares about.

Bull! There’s oil in the Sudan and the U.S. hardly cares any more about that civil war (or pays significantly more attention to Nigeria). We love diamonds too, but all the conflict diamonds movement got was a toothless monitoring measure. There was no oil in Kosovo and we were prepared to bomb Serbia into the 18th century. Do we really know more about Venezuela’s social problems than we do about Peru’s? Oh, and Nightline DID cover the Congo - they devoted five shows to it (including a show on Monday, Sept. 10, 2001) and the N.Y. Times at least writes about it at least occasionally.

Let’s be clear, so-called liberals. You know quite well that there’s a crisis in Africa. The reason you don’t pay attention to it is primarily because they are BLACK. The starving uneducated (frequently untrue but whatever) masses are viewed - perhaps subconsciously - as not fully human. You’ll find more celebrity outrage over cruelty to animals. It’s not because African doesn’t

have oil, not because America has stronger roots to southeastern Europe (?), and not because Africa isn’t strategically important. In fact, when it was a ‘white’ hand brutalizing Africans you managed to care plenty - the anti-apartheid movement is a highlight of international humanitarianism - but when it’s a ‘black’ hand you disappear. Free your mind and the assets will follow!

I’m sorry to go on so long, but something equally momentous popped up in Paul Krugman’s op-ed: he highlighted absolutely the most important issue facing our economy. I almost cried. Then I almost cried again, because he only got it half-right (yes, I realize the hubris in dissing Krugman on economics!)

Economists call this the “lumps of labor fallacy:” a belief that there is only so much work that needs doing in the nation. Thus, whenever you increase worker efficiency, you also increase unemployment. Krugman correctly notes that this theory is now being used to give cover to Dubya’s jobless recovery (hey, if machines are replacing all those laid-off workers, or if some

computer genius in India can do the same work for half of what an American computer genius can, that’s not Dubya’s fault).

Krugman also correctly notes that this kind of thinking leads to protectionism: “if the public no longer believes that the economy can create new jobs, it will demand that we protect old jobs from new competitors in China and everywhere else.”

What he doesn’t explain is why the “lumps of labor” theory is necessarily a fallacy. Wasn’t it Bill Clinton who sometimes (bravely) told audiences that their manufacturing jobs were gone forever? There really is a giant “tragedy of the commons” going on out there (see, I took Econ 101!): if a single business thinks “we can make more profits by hiring cheap foreign workers and

lowering my costs” it will increase its profits. If everyone does, there is mass unemployment and the economy goes into recession.

Krugman proposes some much-needed redistribution of wealth: homeland security spending, federal aid to hire teachers and cops, rollback tax cuts for the wealthy - but this seems to be treating the symptoms, not the disease. For the long-term we need what Clinton talked about: the federal government taking control of “the commons” and making sure someone looks out for the public interest.

That doesn’t have to mean protectionism - it can mean, for example, that profitable companies which lay off workers have to pay a “retraining tax” to cover the social cost of the layoff. Those funds could be used for adult education scholarships or

student loans. The government should also spend more on scientific research but put strings on resulting patents (e.g., products made under such patents must either be by American-owned companies or made in America - call it “enlightened protectionism” if you must!)

Name: Tim Francis-Wright
Hometown: Medford, MA
The problem in Tulare County was a potentially confusing three-column ballot. One used in Visalia is here:

In Visalia’s assembly district, McClain was #1 on the ballot, so it’s not surprising that he got 46 votes from the extra-lazy set.

On this ballot, though, notice where Palmieri, Kunzman, and Sprague are. Palmieri is one column to the right of Schwarzenegger; Kunzman is one column to the right of Bustamante; and Sprague is one column to the right of McClintock.

The problem is not so much, I suspect, in the optical scanning equipment as in the design of the ballot.

Oct. 9, 2003 | 1:35 PM ET
We’re seeing a lot of crowing about a recent Gallup Poll in which “forty-five percent of those polled said the media are “too liberal,” vs. just 14% who say they’re “too conservative”; 39% said “just about right.” Eighteen percent of self-described liberals said the media are too liberal; only 30% of liberals, 15% of moderates and 9% of conservatives said they are too conservative.” This is alleged to prove something to conservatives.

What it proves to me is that the 9/11 hijackers were all Iraqis. That false assertion receives roughly the same level of assent from pollsters, though not nearly as much as the no-less false assertion that Saddam Hussein personally plotted out the attacks on the World Trade Center. In other words, what do you expect people to believe?

They are instructed over and over by a media that has imbibed the false accusation lesson of their own liberalism-funded by literally hundreds of billions of dollars in ideological investment-and conservatives end up buying the answer they want from public opinion.

Here is what I wrote about a similar Gallup Poll, (with a slightly higher number claiming liberal bias), in What Liberal Media?

According to a September 2002 Gallup poll, 47 percent of Americans questioned believe the media is “too liberal.” The “millions and millions of people believe” is not a terribly convincing argument no matter what. Millions also believe in ghosts, extra-terrestrial visitations, and Osama bin Laden’s promise of 72 virgins. That “millions and millions” of people think (the media are liberal) is likely an indication that much of what the public sees and reads confirms their belief that liberal bias does exist. Or it could mean that most media reports believe that a great percentage of Americans share this view and so don’t wish to confuse them. Conservatives, lest we forget, are much more energetic and better-funded complainers about media bias than are liberals. They are extremely vocal and well-organized in their pressure tactics and they’ve done an impressive job over the years in convincing many people that any view that does not comport with a conservative ideological viewpoint is by definition “liberal.”

In a careful 1999 study published in the academic journal, Communications Research, four scholars examined the use of the “liberal media” argument and discovered a four-fold increase in the number of Americans telling pollsters that they discerned a liberal bias in their news. But the evidence, “collected and coded, over a twelve year period, offered no corroboration whatever for this view.” The obvious conclusion: news consumers were responding to “increasing news coverage of liberal bias media claims, which have been increasingly emanating from Republican Party candidates and officials.” [In another study],” four scholars writing in the Journal of Communication observed of the past three elections, “claiming the media are liberally biased perhaps has become a core rhetorical strategy by conservative elites in recent years.”

As a result, these unsupported claims have become a “necessary mechanism for moving (or keeping) analytical coverage in line with their interests.” In other words, the right is working the refs, and it’s working. And here’s a cute footnote, sent to me by Dennis Yedwab, from the Politicsnj.com website, which he describes as “an insider political gossip sheet.”

“The Asbury Park Press is looking for an Editorial Page Editor, according to a posting on the Gannett corporate website: “To lead three-person staff. Moderate to conservative views strongly preferred. Apply to Executive Editor SKIP HIDLAY.””

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the biggest baby of them all?” Good Enough for Saddam: Good enough for Fox. “The second-in-command at the information ministry, who spent his days reading the reports the minders wrote about visiting foreign journalists, has been employed by Fox News

Studies in Misplaced Confidence:
The Bush Administration on finding Osama Bin Laden in Central Asia: “We’re going to hunt them down one at a time…it doesn’t matter where they hide, as we work with our friends we will find them and bring them to justice.”

— President George W. Bush, 11/22/02

The Bush Administration on finding Saddam Hussein in the Mideast: We are continuing the pursuit and it’s a matter of time before [Saddam] is found and brought to justice.”

— White House spokesman McClellan, 9/17/03

The Bush Administration on finding the leaker in the close confines of the White House: “ I don’t know if we’re going to find out the senior administration official. I don’t have any idea.”

— President George W. Bush, 10/7/03

I miss Ari This McClellan guy is too nice to have to do this. (…and without Howie Kurtz running interference for him, either.)

Q: Why do you refuse to answer the question whether Karl Rove said that Joseph Wilson’s wife was fair game?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think we’ve been through this for now two days in a row.

Q: You didn’t answer the question —

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I did answer the question.

Q: But did he say it?

MR. McCLELLAN: I did answer the question.

Q: Did he say it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I answered that question, and we’ve been through it for two days now. And so, it’s been addressed.

Q: But what was the answer?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not going to go back through it again today, because we’ve been through it for the last couple of days. And I pointed out that there are some that are trying to politicize this investigation for partisan political gain, and that’s unfortunate. There’s an investigation going on and no one wants to get to the bottom of it more than this White House.

Q: But why don’t you just say ...

MR. McCLELLAN: So I’ve already addressed that issue.

Q: ... just say, I don’t want to answer that.

MR. McCLELLAN: Anybody else? Dana, you have one?

Quote of the Day: “If I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears, I think I would.” - Kendel Ehrlich, first lady of Maryland, ironically, at a conference to prevent domestic violence against women.

I felt the Sox were the Team of Destiny this year from the moment Mr. Ortiz hit that clutch double in the bottom of the 8th to even the series. Now look.

Sorry Mr. Steinbrenner, but evil is evil.

Alteradvice: Do you have a kid? Take him/her to see “School of Rock.” Don’t have one, borrow one. I would have liked it OK without a kid, but it was one of the greatest flicks of all time with a five-year-old who can identify snippets of the Clash and the Ramones. (Sorry, I don’t like to brag, but she knows all the words to “I Fought the Law.”) I have a few musical criticisms, which I’ll keep to myself, but I do object to the casting of my girl Sarah Silverman as a castrating bitch. (Note to ed: Can I say that?) Won’t someone in Hollywood give this genius room to move? Or at least an HBO special? Anyway, see the flick. You won’t be sticking it to the Man, but it won’t suck either.

Alterreviews: It’s a big month for Texas, music-wise, which, aside from chili, Bill Moyers and Molly Ivins, is why we keep Texas around. (We can get barbecue in Memphis.) Anyway, I’m listening to new CDs by Robert Earl Keen (“Fresh Farm Onions”), where he’s joined by Shawn Colvin and James McMurtry, Joe Ely, (“Streets of Sin,”) and double live CDs from Delbert McClinton, (“Live”) and Steve Earle, (“Just an American Boy,”) and a whole set of Willie Nelson re-releases, (“Always on My Mind,” “Pancho and Lefty,” “Tougher than Leather,” and “Greatest Hits, [and Some that Will be]”).

I also want to offer another plug for the lovely Ray Benson album that came out in the spring, which still one of my year’s favorites.

I recommend them all, but I think Steve Earle talks too much. All that talk works once, but not over and over and it’s a hassle to have to fast-forward all the time. McClinton’s is an excellent summing-up of the past few years, where’s he’s been making great, unpretentious music and hardly anyone’s been paying attention - at least until the Grammy. Ely and Keen are always smart and funny, but I need more time for each to sink in.

Re: Willie, “Always on My Mind,” has some wonderful readings of old standards; well, not really standards, unless you include “Whiter Shade of Pale” in that category, and “Pancho and Lefty,” with Merle Haggard, is pretty much an ur-outlaw country album that everybody oughta have.

Correspondents’ Corner:
I would like to have Pierce’s coverage of the series, but I’ll take him on whatever the boy dern pleases.

Name: Charles Pierce
Newton, MA
Because every tag iss der Slacker Freitag, Ja? Part XVI.

I think I saw it Tuesday night. The deepest circle of Pundit Hell. It was on MSNBC. They were all on the beach, grooving on Arnold, their eyeballs moving in swoony arcs parabolic and anabolic at the very thought of the electoral pectorals then flexing across town. Chris Matthews was there, caught in an awful psychological conflict between the tattered threads of his vestigial conscience and the obviously painful nipple erections that this whole thing had been giving him for a month. Next to him was the lovely and batsh*t Peggy Noonan, less blonde than she was when she was fondling the feet of President Dutch, thoughtfully laying a finger upside her head while pondering how far a good Catholic girl would have to go to get from May Processionals to melting like the dew over a lubricious chucklehead who had not yet asked her if he could put his tongue in her more interesting Near Occasions of Sin.

Next to her was Howard Fineman, whom I suspect was wondering much the same thing, and hoping the president never would find out that Howie was out there committing adultery in his heart. Also on the panel was Ben Stein, Nixon hack and deadpan moron.

(I specifically exempt Lawrence O’Donnell, who signed aboard to be the nutritious portion of this Idiot Sandwich — except for the capital crime of wearing a frigging Dodgers cap one day before the Red Sox and Yankees tee it up.)

Anyway, all of them — except O’Donnell — spent a lot of time disparaging the hard work of actual reporters at the LA Times. That’s where we’re at, Chief. Action Hero Governors and an elite performing media to both of whom the truth is, at best, an inconvenience and, at worst, a dirty trick.

Name: Rick D
Hometown: Taiwan
This may be a little early for the conspiracy theory season, but have you heard any word about weird disproportionate vote totals being tallied for also-ran candidates? Pardon the cut-n-paste job. Here’s some sample data from the recall from http://www.bartcop.com/100703tulare.htm - if it doesn’t seem credible, one could always “make with the journalism” and look into it):

Tulare County uses Diebold Opti-Scan equipment.

Tulare County gave ‘obscure’ candidates very high percents of their state wide totals:

Palmieri - 995 out of 3,717: 26.77%

Platform was “don’t vote for me or the recall.” Gay Rights activist who lives in LA.

Kunzman - 694 out of 2,133: 32.54%

Lives north of Oakland and favored increased social programs. Said he would fire all school custodians to save money and have the kids empty the trash and clean the carpets.

Sprague - 546 out of 1,576: 34.64%

Zero tolerance for discrimination. Lives near Sacramento.

McClain - 46 out of 2,463: 1.77%

Civil engineer, Berkeley grad, living in Bay Area.

These were not local candidates. The “local candidate effect” can be seen with Doctor Macaluso from Visalia in Tulare County. He got 7.2% of his statewide total vote from his home county.

Name: DF-ckingA
Hometown: NYF-ingC

So, re: Bono and the bad words: Are we all now allowed to f-cking curse as f-cking well or are they just sh-tting us?

Oct. 8, 2003 | 11:15 PM ET
So Warren Zevon dies and the whole state does indeed slide into the ocean. I don’t know why I can’t get excited about the California recall. Back in April, I had breakfast with Tom Hayden at the Broadway Deli in Santa Monica and he told me it would unfold exactly this way. I thought it would be terrible then, but I had a hard time maintaining my sense of outrage. In the first place, there’s Gray Davis. I mean, who besides Gray Davis really cares about Gray Davis? Didn’t his wife say he was boring?

This is a lesson to Democrats everywhere. Don’t think you can win if you ignore your base. They will ignore you back. Clinton was a centrist but he understood his base. He spent a lot of time in black churches and he actually took some political heat from women on partial-birth abortion. Plus, Clinton was fortunate in his enemies. Davis wasn’t. I mean, Arnold is apparently an awful person-he appears to have a soft spot for Nazis, he gropes women at will, and he treats underlings with a sadistic viciousness-but he is not going to be an awful governor. Anywhere outside California and the Northeast, he’d be too liberal to be even considered a Republican. And I have to admit, the entertainment factor carries some weight here. If Arnold makes politics fun and interesting again, well then, I’m all for it. And if he screws up the state horribly, well then, tough luck. You people voted for him.

What about the principle of the abuse of the democratic process by monied interests working through the Republican Party? Well, I probably shouldn’t say this out loud, but I’m growing more and more convinced by Stanley Fish’s argument that “principles” are fictional stories we tell ourselves that are better left to children. Liberals and leftists are always crowing about their “moral victories.” I prefer actual victories. Another word for “moral victory” is “defeat.”

Yes, they stole the 2000 election and they are shamelessly manipulating the electoral process in Texas, but that has nothing to do with California and Gray Davis. And yes, Davis is being made to pay for failed policies in Washington and the dishonesty and financial chicanery of people like Ken Lay, but if there’s one thing my 5-year-old seems to know better than most grown-ups, it’s that life’s not fair-and that’s a lucky thing for most Americans, given that approximately half the world lives on two dollars a day or less.

But anyway, back to the recall, Californians apparently wanted a circus and they got one. The state will now be a bit more conservative, but also perhaps a bit less corrupt. It will also be more fun. Perhaps the Democrats will take this as a lesson that they need to do some of the unsexy grassroots work they’ve avoided since Tony Coelho hit on the genius idea of selling the party to the highest bidder. Their other option seems to be to start running their own stars. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see Warren Beatty pummel Arnold next time around? How about Sean Penn? Here’s a slogan free of charge: “Vote Penn: Mopin’ Ain’t Gropin’

Patriotism, Conservative style: It turns out Bob Novak and two White House operatives decided, for reasons of political retribution, to out a genuine spy: a “noc,” an officer with “nonofficial cover,” and just about the most important level of deep cover that the CIA has, short of secret defectors. I don’t think I really need to add anything to that.

Do you, like me, wonder when someone will finally figure out how to work Warren Zevon and Ahmed Chalabi into the same article? Our long national nightmare is ended.

No Fair: Fred Kaplan actually reads the Kay report and naïve fellow that he is, can’t believe what lame liars these guys are. Here is the entire text of the Gen. Zinni’s speech to which we referred a while back.

How to curse on TV (if you’re Bono): The FCC has ruled that when Bono went on the Golden Globes and yelled “This is really, really f—-ing brilliant” he didn’t meet the test for indecency. Instead, they ruled that it was so “fleeting and isolated” that it didn’t break the rules because it “did not describe sexual or excretory organs or activities.” (Via Salon)

Quote of the Day: “If you are going to act like Mexicans, you will be treated like Mexicans.” Real nice folks, those Texas Republicans. Perhaps they’d like their ex-governor back.

Not all news is bad: The first season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” comes to DVD on Jan. 13 just in time for all the important birthdays around that time of year.

In the CD player: “Where We Live: Stand for What You Stand On,” A collection for Earthjustice featuring lotsa great people. You can find it here.

Oct. 7, 2003 | 1:35 PM ET
Thursday, October 2: Lucinda Williams with the Jayhawks at the Beacon. This was a nearly impossibly earnest show, but also a wonderful one. I was never a big Jayhawks guy, but they sounded to me like an updated version of the Byrds, with first-rate musicianship, smart lyrics and a great deal more passion than I would have imaged from hearing their CDs, even the new one. Lucinda, was per usual, wonderful. She was only a little depressing but more than made up for it with the joy and appreciation she kept expressing at the popularity that has brought her a place where she can sell out the Beacon two nights in a row. (Actually, if there were any justice….) She skimped a bit on “Lucinda Williams” and “Sweet Old World,” focusing on post “Car Wheels,” stuff, but that makes sense. Anyway, if anyone in America — including the two guys I saw Saturday night — is writing better than Lucinda right now, I’m unaware of it. And seeing her perform these minor masterpieces live, well, it’s what music is for. Do it if you get the chance.

Friday, October 3: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Shea Stadium. This was an agreeably esoteric show. Lots of things you rarely hear, with the highlights being a pull-out-the-stops “Pink Cadillac,” plus “Brilliant Disguise,” “Another Thin Line,” and — it took me 80 shows to see this, “New York City Serenade.” What struck one about this show was how political Bruce was feeling. “Souls of the Departed” started with a 57 tape-loop of Bush lying about weapons of mass destruction. “Sunny Day,” featured a sing-along “if you wanna impeach the president.” I could have done without Al Franken’s appearance on stage. (Did he write a book about Bruce?)

Saturday, October 4:Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Shea Stadium. I don’t understand how anyone who has ever seen Bruce anywhere could have passed up the chance to see the last show of the tour. First shows are always the worst, or just about; last shows, the opposite. The dominant image of this show will always be the historic appearances of a growly fellow named Dylan to do “Highway 61,” backed by the E Street Band. (I would have preferred “Tweeter and the Monkey Man.”) Anyway, Bruce gave a touching tribute to Dylan before “Land of Hopes and Dreams,” and everybody was thrilled to see so much musical history in one place. The highlights of this — the longest show of the tour — however, were the full band “Johnny 99,” and the closer, “Bloodbrothers,” with the same new, moving, final verse that ended the 99 tour.

Sunday, October 5: No shows: Kol Nidre and I am still atoning for the “No-Nukes” show in ’79.

Monday, October 6: The Del McCoury Band with Leftover Salmon at the Bowery Ballroom. Actually I didn’t see the Salmon boys, though I like their name. But Del McCoury and company were on fire. A song like the Lovin Spoonful’s “Nashville Cats” showed musical, with melodic nooks and crannies I’m sure John Sebastian never even imagined. The band was tight and loose at the same time; thrilled to be bringing the greatest bluegrass on earth to its greatest city. This was music that made you glad to be alive.

It’s official: The more you watch Fox, the dumber you get.

Bush/Rove buddy Grover Norquist on estate taxes and the Holocaust. I kid you not. Here’s an excerpt: “The argument that some who play to the politics of hate and envy and class division will say is ‘well, that’s only 2% or 5% in the near future of Americans likely to have to pay that tax.’ That’s the morality of the Holocaust.”

Wanna get depressed? Try this.

I hear there’s some sort of voting going on in California today. Now that this Kaus fellow is finally paying attention to the recall, I think he may be onto something. Scroll down for his list of amazing coincidences.

Let’s Go Sox: Dear Mr. Most: Mess with Pierce and you’ll be hearing from us.

Name: Rob Davis
Hometown: Rumson, NJ
Hi Eric,

I am sure this won’t be your first after-sundown e-mail, so I will try to focus my comments.

The story out of Central New York today is that Carrier is cutting 1,200 manufacturing jobs from the DeWitt (Syracuse) plant.

I lived in Syracuse while getting my Masters at Newhouse. That was in ’93. I got to watch Smith-Corona leave Cortland for Mexico. It was just another in a string of job losses in CNY.

There are a lot of angles to cover, but the most stirring (at least to me) is exactly which jobs Carrier is sending off-shore: manufacturing.

Warehousing and engineering will stay.

That may sound like a silver lining, and it is for those families, but in the big picture this is another case where the good-paying blue collar jobs are the ones that dissappear, leaving behind the extremes: the low-wage/low-skill positions and the extremely skilled research jobs.

The middle class takes the hit.

And that’s been the story in Central New York for twenty years. If the rest of the country wants to look at social disaster, Syracuse is a good place to start. Once an industrial and transportation center, the economy has collapses and the middle-class vanished as the work went over seas.

Significantly, the products made in the Salt City weren’t passed by. This wasn’t a coal town, or one in locl-step with failed industries like canals. This was a city that moved past canals and railroads and into electronics and appliance manufacuturing. This is a city whose jobs still exist, albeit off shore.

Syracuse has a tremendously high rate of abandoned housing. In 2000, one in seven homes in the city was empty. These rotting homes once housed the middle class working families that labored in the factories.

The jobs went and the people went away or down. The abandoned homes in previously desireable locations tell us that no one came in. The middle class vanished.

Oct. 6, 2003 | 12:15 PM ET
It would actually violate my religious beliefs to publish my own Altercation entry today. But I gave myself whatever the Jewish equivalent of a papal dispensation is to send in Pierce and Stupid’s Slacker Friday contributions, as I know their many fans have had a hard weekend without them. See you tomorrow, Eric.

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown:  Newton, Mass.
Peter Beinart is one of those liberals for whom I wish we still had some use. I mean, he’s smart. He’s prolific. He’s completely sincere, and he’s really terrible on television — which, given the ignorami who seem to prevail in our media/political culture, I consider a great recommendation for both his intellect and his character. But, boy howdy, reading his review of the Krugman collection in yesterday’s TIMES, the man sounds like he’s spent the last 15 years floating amid the moons of Neptune. Consider this passage:

“Guest lists that cross ideological lines can help liberals understand the conservatives they write about. And many Washington conservatives genuinely don’t see the Bush administration as radical: they see it as having ratified a big-spending, culturally liberal status quo.”

Breathtaking, isn’t it? I mean, where does one begin? It isn’t like the conservative agenda is hard to discern; when Grover Norquist says he wants to strangle government in his bathtub, he isn’t speaking metaphorically. He means it. Tom DeLay doesn’t speak in code, and he runs the House of Representatives. The people who’ve our current foreign policy up on the rocks have plotted the course in public — and, occasionally, in Mr. Beinart’s own magazine — for the past 15 years. They didn’t act out their impeachment kabuki in the root cellar, and they didn’t muscle the Florida election in the dark.

And the fact that a lot of them haven’t yet gotten everything they wanted is hardly proof that the administration doesn’t want all the same stuff, too. It’s evidence that some Republicans — and even some Democrats — would rather not see the Republic taken all the way over a cliff. If it pains Mr. Beinart to know that some of his dinner pals want to demolish everything in which he believes, and that they are halfway there already, I am truly sorry, but the Krug is right and he’s wrong on this one. I don’t want these clowns understood. I want them defeated — permanently, the way the Whigs were — and the earth salted so they do not rise again.

His PBS series on the blues has bailed Martin Scorsese out from the capital crime of having once pissed off Levon Helm on camera. Highlights for me were king talking-heads Corey Harris and Chuck D, Cassandra Wilson’s chilling and oh-so-apropos reading of J.B. Lenoir’s “Vietnam.” and all that archival footage of Son House and Skip James and of the Chicago guys playing in the clubs. Who knew so many people had movie cameras back then? These are documents of a vast and wonderful damn country, and I want it back. Now.

Name: Stupid
Hi Eric, it’s the Mr. October of barstool punditry leaching, Stupid. First my sincere thanks to everyone who said a nice word about me to you in Missouri, as well as Sheila’s pleasant correction on the Texas redistricting mess (and even those who sent the not-so-pleasant ones).

Between a promising start to Survivor and the new Shelby Lynne CD I was feeling better. Then I had to advise a friend on finding a nursing home for his dad. I found an old Consumer Report article which had the following depressing/fascinating discovery: merely asking for the inspector’s report that a federal law requires be posted in a conspicuous place was arguably the best research you could do. Not reading the report - just asking for it. If they handed it over and it was legible (i.e., not an intentionally unreadable copy hung above eye-level on the wall) chances were good that, relatively speaking, the place was ok. (Consumer Reports.org has a watch-list of problem homes on their Web site and some good info from that article, which apparently has been updated and released as a book).

Even Pierce couldn’t solve this dilemma: the Chicago Cubs versus the Atlanta Braves (and their disgusting Native American cartoon characterizations). What is a liberal White Sox fan to do? Cheer for Atlanta of course - some things transcend politics. Or maybe not - speaking of sports, it’s time you took back that apology to Rush Limbaugh. I made the mistake of listening to sportstalk radio about his McNabb controversy and I didn’t hear anyone explain *why* Limbaugh’s remarks were so offensive. The argument that a quarterback was initially “overhyped by the media - he rode the coattails of the offensive line/defense/etc.” has been made thousands of times about white quarterbacks. Only somebody with a personal racial agenda would interject it here. It also showed he knows less about football than even I do - most teams would love to have McNabb, and Doug Williams ended whatever “we have to validate a Black QB” talk there was over a decade ago when he won the superbowl. Rush should go back to calling teenage girls ugly (especially the ones whose parents won’t let them fight back!).

So another week went by where I didn’t hear anything about how to make us energy independent, how to make the tax code more progressive, how to get more people health insurance, etc. I heard nothing except Iraq and the California recall. Now going after the leak of the CIA agent to Novak is one thing, but it’s hard to listen to the left’s Naderesque “politics of misery” when it comes to foreign troops and the burgeoning costs. Is nothing secondary to getting back at Dubya? The left seems to care about people in Iraq as much as they do Africans. Hey wait, maybe the Congo could pay Rush to dis them!

Oct. 3, 2003 | 10:45 AM ET
There’s a new Nation column-a tribute to the lives of Joe Strummer, Warren Zevon and Johnny Cash-here. I also have a contribution to Neiman Reports symposium on blogging here. It’s in PDF form. Also, I published an incorrect email for the Washington Post ombudsman yesterday in re Howie Kurtz. Write instead to ombudsman@washpost.com.

With apologies to Pierce and Stupid, I am going to hold their contributions until Monday, in order to offer up a special historical edition of Slacker Friday. Here is my discussion of Bob Novak from “Sound & Fury,” which was originally published in 1992.

Part I: The Rest and the Rightest:
It is impossible to determine whether the pundits provided the cannon shots that softened up the underbelly of respectable Centrism or the cavalry that broke through the final line to victory. Certainly no soldier in the conflict was given a more prominent position from which to declare victory. And none seemed to relish the fight more than the Mutt n’ Jeff combination of Rowland Evans and Robert Novak.

The dynamic duo had begun writing their column back in 1963 as strictly a news-gathering enterprise. Evans, a Main-Line Philadelphian who wears custom-made suits and throws Alsop-like dinner parties, took care of the diplomatic beat. Novak, a beer-bellied tough-guy who buys his suits off the rack, wore out the shoe leather in the Capitol. The column was ideologically balanced, treating insider politics the way Popular Mechanics treats cars and Stereo Review treats tape decks. Novak may have slugged a New York Times reporter at the 1964 Republican convention, but he also slugged a Goldwater Republican for balance.

As with the Neocons, the duo’s flight to the hard right was a reaction to the incipient leftward forces which they termed “McGovernism.” In the three months just before the 1972 election, 37 of their 93 pre-election columns assaulted either McGovern or his political views, accusing him, among other things, of consorting with “zealots with long hair, bizarre costumes and peace signs.” This strategy coincided perfectly with the political direction mapped out personally by Nixon to destroy the McGovern campaign, by associating him with, “Abby [sic] Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Angela Davis, among others,” whose support of McGovern “should be widely publicized and used at every point.”

Owing to their excellent sourcing inside the political establishments of both parties, the columnists’ anti-McGovern rampages had a considerable effect on the coverage, of the 1972 election. In one of the most influential columns ever to be written during a presidential election, Evans and Novak helped coin the famous phrase, “acid, amnesty and abortion,” to describe McGovern’s political positions. The quote was attributed to “a liberal senator whose voting record differs little from McGovern.” The speaker warned that “Once middle America—Catholic middle America in particular—finds this out, he’s dead.” The “Triple As” slogan, as it came to be called, was picked up by Reston and given much wider circulation as a slogan for McGovern opponents. With the McGovern campaign, Evans and Novak leaped over the line that allegedly distinguished straight reporting from avowed partisanship. In the admiring words of the Communist Alexander Cockburn, the journalists took Mao’s advice and “put politics in command.”

The same tendencies that marked helped create the “Triple A” political firestorm were also at work in a column that would have an equally important effect on the Carter-Ford presidential election of 1976. In this case, the authors wrote a blistering attack on an Kissinger aide named Helmut Sonnenfeldt. According to an Evans and Novak report of March 22, “Intense debate was set off when Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s right-hand man declared in a secret briefing that permanent ‘organic’ union between the Soviet Union and Western Europe is necessary to avoid World War III.” The column, based on a leak of Sonnenfeldt’s speech to a group of US diplomats in London, set off a political crisis for Kissinger both in Congress and inside the ethnic communities that Ford needed to sway to win the 1976 election. “Of all my columns,” Novak insists thirteen years later, “that is the one I am most proud of. It really showed the hypocrisy of the Kissinger State Department and it really nailed them.”

As Sonnenfeldt would later explain to a Congressional panel called to discuss the matter, however, his concept of an “organic relationship” was diametrically opposed the notion that the columnists sought to portray with the phrase, “permanent ‘organic’ union”—a phrase he never used. The speech implied a greater Soviet tolerance for diversity in Eastern Europe, rather than reliance upon the use of force.

As a result of the column, Sonnenfeldt and his patrons Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger were ceaselessly attacked in the Eastern European ethnic media, and the KGB even picked it up to try to show the Roumanians and the Poles that the United States supported their subjugation. Candidate Ronald Reagan attacked Ford relentlessly for his support of Eastern Europe’s “permanent enslavement.” Finally, Ford was asked at his second debate with Jimmy Carter if he accepted the permanent domination of Eastern Europe by the Soviet Union. “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe,” replied the soon-to-be ex-President.

Aside from its arguable electoral impact, the defection of Evans and Novak to the far-Right end of the spectrum was crucial in the shaping of insider political dialogue for a number of reasons. The fact that they were so powerfully wired into the main currents of the Republican party and the national security bureaucracy made their column impossible to ignore for inside dope purposes. Its appearance three times a week on the Washington Post op-ed page gave its far-Right ideological interpretations the establishment seal of approval. Moreover their breathless, Pearson-like prose, coupled with Novak’s well-rehearsed Joe Sixpack television persona, gave Washington insiders the impression that Evans and Novak spoke for (and with) that elusive silent majority for whom everyone in Washington always seemed to be looking. This fusion had the effect of softening up the Right-Wing borders of polite insider society, and creating an opening for their intellectual betters to exploit and expand.

Part II. Attack of the McLaughlinites:
Unlike McLaughlin, Novak was well-liked by his peers and it was generally understood that politics aside, he was a pretty harmless fellow. On the tube, however, the only clear difference between “Robert Novak” and Archie Bunker was that the former got more air time. Despite—or perhaps because of its bellicosity—The Novak character seemed to go over well in the heartland, earning Novak in the area of $7,500 a lecture. But the reason insiders continued to read his column was not the television shtick but his continued devotion to the kind of inside dope that political junkies mainline.

The Evans and Novak column played a crucial role in helping to form and execute what it called the “Reagan revolution.” As “pragmatist” battled “ideologue” for the limited attention span of the president, the column worked as a kind of tribal drum for the warrior faction. From David Stockman to Ollie North, important administration principals could read the column in the Post three mornings a week and determine their own standing in the grand struggle. Stockman told stories of posting notices on what he called the “Bob Novak Bulletin Board” in order to manufacture the appearance of a “David Stockman for OMB Director” movement. “At the time Mr. Novak wrote it, it was a movement of 3 or 4 people, if you include the minority of my staff that favored the idea,” wrote Stockman. By the time it was over, Stockman had the job and went on to become the most influential member of the Reagan cabinet.

Congressional bomb-throwers like Phil Graham, Malcolm Wallop, Jack Kemp and Newt Gringrich received millions worth of free public relations from the column. Barely a week went by without some “brave,” “tough,” “canny,” or “strong” action by one of these men, usually accompanied by some previously unrevealed tidbit designed to portray them in as favorable light as was humanly conceivable. Among the most historically significant of these morality plays was a column published in May, 1986, in which a hitherto unknown “star player in the long, hard fight to keep alive the Nicaraguan contras” found himself endangered by “the gray and faceless officials” of the Reagan National Security Council staff. Oliver North, about to be re-assigned back to the marine corps by his gray, faceless and certainly luckless, boss, John Poindexter, managed to retain his job in large measure as a result of the Evans and Novak column (along with another by Suzanne Garment of the Wall Street Journal). There, he could continue his sideline business of selling arms to the Ayatollah and funnelling the profits to the Nicaraguan contras undisturbed.

In most cases, Novak and his partner went to the trouble of getting most of their facts down right, only to explode them in a wildly imaginative interpretation. But they could be mighty careless at times. An unsuspecting reader who accepted everything Evans and Novak have reported in recent years would find himself believing, as Michael Massing once demonstrated, in the reality of a “direct Soviet intervention in Poland” during the 1981 Solidarity crisis; an “imminent move by the Soviets from Afghanistan into Pakistan” in September, 1984; and the sad fact that as of January, 1985, “Mikhail Gorbachev is no longer considered the heir apparent” in the Kremlin. Somehow, Novak’s popularity and influence only seemed to increase with the outlandishness of his views and reporting.

Oct. 2, 2003 | 2:19 PM ET
First Michael “You should only get AIDS and die, you pig” Savage, then Rush Limbaugh. The great thing about putting these right-wing radio nuts on television is that everybody gets to see the racism, homophobia and hatred they regularly spew under the radar screen to only their devoted listeners.

Here is what Limbaugh said on ESPN about quarterback Donovan McNabb, who is African American: “I don’t think he’s been that good from the get-go. I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. They’re interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there’s a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he really didn’t deserve.”

Shocking, huh? Well, not really. If you read What Liberal Media?, then you are already aware that this kind of thing is par for Rush’s course. He once told a black caller, “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.” On another occasion, he announced, “The NAACP should have riot rehearsals. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.” When then-Sen. Carol Moseley Braun’s name was mentioned on his program, Limbaugh played the theme song “Movin’ On Up” from the ’70s black sitcom, “The Jeffersons.” “Have you ever noticed how all newspaper composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?” he once asked listeners.

Apparently, Rush may have a serious drug problem. I won’t make fun of that except to note that it makes his moralizing even more hypocritical. I wonder what odds Bill Bennett would give on the future of Rush’s career….

Mr. Wilson’s Revenge, continued:
Eric Boehlert notes how Bob Novak’s story keeps changing so fast, even he can’t keep up.

Jim Marcinkowski, a former case officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, notes that until the Bush administration, “The United States government has never, to my knowledge, publicly identified one of its own undercover intelligence operatives as a deliberate political act.”

And John Ashcroft notes that people like him should not be trusted with investigations like this one-at least when it’s someone else:

October 4, 1997 CNN’s “Evans & Novak”JOHN ASHCROFT: The truth of the matter is that if the law’s been violated, we should be able to ascertain that.We can, if we have an independent person without a conflict of interest…ROWLAND EVANS: …The attorney general has shaved down all the allegations that Vice President Gore apparently down to one single allegation — which telephone he used to make these fundraising calls from.Do you really think that alone is worthy of a special prosecutor?ASHCROFT: …you know, a single allegation can be most worthy of a special prosecutor.If you’re abusing government property, if you’re abusing your status in office, it can be a single fact that makes the difference on that.So my own view is that there are plenty of things which should have caused [Attorney General Janet Reno], a long time ago, to appoint a special prosecutor, an independent investigator.We asked for that on March the 13th of this year in letters from Republican members on the Judiciary Committee. And she’s in a bad position……The man who signs her check is the man that she’s investigating, and she hasn’t been very aggressive about it. Meanwhile, while the Bush administration was declaring war on the intelligence community for the sake of its debacle in Iraq, North Korea was quietly preparing to threaten the peace of the world with deliverable (and sellable) nuclear weapons. But never mind that…

The Groping Governor?
Oh, come on, this Arnold stuff is way worse than anything Bill Clinton ever did. But of course that “wasn’t about the sex” and Arnold has never actually said he was not a complete and total pig who had no respect for women as anything but personal playthings. Oh wait, he did. Let the re-recall begin.

And speaking of Arnold…
Dear Mr. Washington Post Ombudsman:

I have a question. I know Howard Kurtz is the only newsman in the world who is encouraged to cover the very same company from whom he receives a paycheck, but is there a special “conflict of interest” policy that applies to his wife as well?

Today, you will note, in Howie’s media column, he runs interference for Arnold on this sex stuff, pooh-poohing all the charges against Arnold, predicting that voters “will probably see this as a late hit, six days before the recall,” and posting, sans evidence, that such charges, “seem to have been discounted by much of the electorate.” Might it help readers to know that Howie’s new wife, Sheri Annis, was until recently, Arnold’s press secretary? Isn’t this the kind of thing that disclosure policies, at the very least, are supposed to cover? Or is Howie simply exempt from the very concept of conflict of interest?

Inquiring minds want to know.

The folks at Altercation

Speaking of unresolved but consistent journalistic conflicts-of-interest, check out this piece on the Times’Judith Miller from Editor and Publisher.

And finally a small piece of Alter-advice:
Mamas, don’t let your daughters grow up to be lobbyists, ABC news analysts/buckrackers, and presidential advisers.

Oct. 1, 2003 | 1:17 PM ET

So what’s new?

Remember when administration apologists were aghast at the mini-media explosion over just “sixteen words” in the State of the Union address? They had a point, as I believe I said back then, when they argued that the case for war did not rest on just the Niger-uranimum story. It rested on many arguments, including: the threat of WMD; the relationship between Saddam and al-Qaida; the nascent Iraqi nuclear program; the certitude that the U.S. would bring democracy, not only to Iraq but also to much of the Arab world; and the ability of Iraq to pay for its occupation-having welcomed the invasion as a “liberation” and therefore citizens would be thrilled to do so.

In other words, it wasn’t just 16 dishonest words that misled the country into war. It was closer to 160,000. The Niger story was just business as usual. Much the same is true of the Wilson affair, part deux.

Many allegedly smart people are expressing shock and outrage over the behavior of the administration honchos who were willing to compromise national security for the purposes of carrying out a political vendetta. The editors of The Washington Post expect Bush to mean it when he says he wants to get to the bottom of this because “leaks are wrong.”

Andy Sullivan, as if taking a wrong turn from the mens’s room in Rick’s American Café and discovering a gambling den in the back, writes, “If this pans out, it really is an outrageous piece of political malice. I may have misjudged this one at first, because I couldn’t quite see the motive behind it.” If this pans out? Hello? “This” is the way they do things in the Bush administration. Somebody crosses them and bang, nothing — not even the identity of CIA personnel and the laws of the United States — is going to stand in their way of trying to ruin him. Did you see what they did to the triple-amputee Max Cleland? Did you see how they used McCarthyite tactics against Tom Daschle?

I seem to recall John Ashcroft saying that anyone who even raised any questions about the administration’s conduct of the war on terrorism was giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Can anyone imagine that this same loyal Christian soldier in Bush’s holy war is going to get to the bottom of this if it leads all the way to Rove? Wanna buy a bridge?

And finally, Bob Novak, surprise surprise, thinks he’s done nothing wrong. Again, this is not exactly news. Novak has made a career of doing the bidding of extremist right-wing politicians seeking to smear those who oppose them. He has reported many things that turned out to be false during his long career but virtually nothing that does not serve his ideological agenda. When I was profiling Novak, and writing my book on the punditocracy, he was always going off the record with me to say nasty things about his friends and colleagues. You can read some of them, here.

And Novak’s most famous scoop, the one where an alleged Democratic colleague of George McGovern’s in the Senate termed his candidacy to be one of “acid, abortion and amnesty” — that pretty much sank the entire campaign — has never been confirmed. When I appeared on Crossfire with Novak once he slandered Izzy Stone as a Soviet spy when that base accusation had already been disproved, knowing that dead men can’t sue. (The Weekly Standard has invited him repeatedly to repeat this scurrilous slur, to its dishonor as well.)

That Novak, too, after wrapping himself in the flag, would allow himself to be used for so sleazy a purpose is perfectly consistent with the rest of his career. The fact that he has remained so prominent, at the Post and CNN, is itself a kind of indictment of the Washington media establishment and its willingness to bend the rule for its own kind.

More “historical revisionism”: James McPherson, president of the American Historical Association, writes: “The administration’s pejorative usage of “revisionist history” to denigrate critics by imputing to them a falsification of history is scarcely surprising. But it is especially ironic, considering that the president and his principal advisers have themselves been practitioners par excellence of this kind of revisionism.”

P.S. We note The American Historical Review on Stanford University Assistant Professor of Political Science, Condoleezza Rice, The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army, 1948-1983, in December, 1985. Rice “frequently does not sift facts from propaganda and valid information from disinformation or misinformation.” In addition, she “passes judgments and expresses opinions without adequate knowledge of the facts” and her “writing abounds with meaningless phrases.” (p. 1236)

You know you’ve got a stupid war if you can’t even get Maggie Thatcher to get behind it. I know what Bush’s problem is, but what in the world could have possessed Tony Blair?

Why does it appear that Nick Kristof the only American journalist who cares enough about the death of millions in Africa to write about he subject with any frequency? Is this in any way comparable to when the U.S. media ignored the Nazi genocide of the Jews?

If only Ralph had had an ounce of the class and sensibility of Arianna, we’d not be in this mess today. I don’t think it will really end up mattering, but way to go, girl.

God proves existence; Falwell, Robertson confirmed.

More evidence: Terry Eagleton declares post-modernism dead.


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