Nov. 7, 2003 | 11:45 AM ET

Lying about Jessica Lynch:

Jessica Lynch is pissed at her exploitation

by the military

. The rest of us ought to be angry at the way the media rolled over like a puppy dog getting its belly scratched for the dishonest propaganda offensive. The original front-page story, which appeared on April 3, ran beneath the headline, “She Was Fighting to the Death.” A number of “U.S. officials” had apparently informed

Washington Post

reporters that Private Lynch had “fought fiercely and shot several enemy soldiers after Iraqi forces ambushed the Army’s 507th Ordnance Maintenance company, firing her weapon until she ran out of ammunition.” In the words of one of these officials, she “continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die... ‘She was fighting to the death,’ the official said. ‘She did not want to be taken alive.’”

Much of the rest of this media took up the meme of Lynch’s spunky combativeness, transforming her into a heroic figure of nearly mythical dimensions, and her rescuers, veritable knights in shining armor. The New York Daily News ran a story of the “daring nighttime rescue,” informing its readers

”[C]ommandos stormed the hospital, facing gunfire from guards outside. The resistance was quickly snuffed.” In addition, its reporters explained, Ernie Pyle-like, “Once more, as the commandos slipped out of the building, came the enemy gun blasts.”

Alas, it was all fiction. Within days, Lynch’s father, two U.S. doctors, other military officials, and all of the Iraqi doctors involved, insisted she had been neither shot nor stabbed. Indeed, Private Lynch had not even been involved in a firefight. Her truck crashed in the Nasiriyah and she suffered numerous bone fractures. Eventually the story emerged of how well treated Lynch was in the Iraqi hospital in which she was allegedly captured. One of its doctors claimed that they attempted to turn her over to U.S. forces but could not owing to U.S. gunfire.

Interestingly, the Post‘s original April 3 story was co-authored by Susan Schmidt, the reporter who had proven so sympathetic to pro-impeachment Republicans and right-wing special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, often at the expense of the accuracy of her reports. Months later, on June 17, the Post redeemed itself with an enormous investigative piece that highlighted all of the errors it had made in its initial reporting. Of course the damage had long been done-or shall we say the propaganda victory had long been won.

How many Iraqis died in the 2003 Iraq war? What are the implications for stability in Iraq, the war on terrorism, and the “new warfare”? A report estimates total Iraqi fatalities and compares the experience of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Desert Storm. With two separate appendices:

The Wages of War: Iraqi Combatant and Noncombatant Fatalities in the 2003 Conflict. Project on Defense Alternatives Research Monograph 8. October 2003. HTML | PDF

Executive Summary: HTML | PDF

Appendix 1. Survey and assessment of reported Iraqi combatant fatalities in the 2003 War.

Appendix 2. Iraqi Combatant and Noncombatant Fatalities in the 1991 Gulf War.

We’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling: “You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips.” Is there a more beautiful, more heart-wrenching opening line to any pop song, ever?

Stupid is here:

Eric, Stupid,

America doesn’t want to hear any “I told you so’s” while our troops are being attacked (and I’ll still debate the merits of the decision to go to war, but leaving that aside...) What the Dems -can- do is offer significant variations on the current Iraq war/rebuilding. Here are a couple thoughts:

1) Expressly tie any additional aid above Dubya’s initial estimates plus the last $87 billion to domestic energy independence. For example, this could be a dollar-per-dollar match in subsidizing wind farms and hybrid automobiles, grants by a nonpartisan expert panel to researchers, or a fund to give to auto manufacturers to blunt the effects of raising CAFÉ’s. Or just tie it to an oil-price floor like the one Charles Krauthammer proposed. I’m not sure why the Dems think that the public is too stupid to “get” this issue, and all the GOP has in their quiver to fight back is ANWAR and some die-hard SUV drivers.

2) Insist on playing hardball with the Saudis and the Gulf States - get OPEC to loosen up oil prices during Iraq’s reconstruction. (By the way, how much is Kuwait contributing to this? After what we did to save their rich, disco-dancing behinds, they should be emptying the coffers to help us!) Since this would be a de facto grant to the entire world, we better get some more UN contributions too.

3) Make a deal to get the Turks to guard the pipeline. I realize there is some unpopularity to Turkish troops in Iraq, but I wonder if they were limited to, say, a 10 mile zone of the pipeline, that might alleviate fears (it would surely lower their visibility). Dubya came this close to bribing the Turks into his coalition before, after all.

4) Ok, this one is a bit crazy, but I offer it for consideration. Decriminalize pot and tax it at 100%. Commute all pot-related mandatory drug sentences. Yeah, I know, but could someone crank some numbers on this? Between the revenue stream and the cost savings...

But if you need a reason to hate Dubya, try this. Just when I thought the Indian Trust litigation could be put to bed for a while, last week the Administration does something so odious that many Republicans publicly expressed their dismay. To bring things up to date: the judge in the case ordered the Interior department to conduct an audit to determine just how much money it (admittedly) owes to individual Native Americans. The Administration slipped in a rider to a bill which prohibits Interior from doing this for up to a year. To imagine how heinous this is, imagine if Congress sent a bill to Ike saying “we want you to ban the Justice Department from enforcing the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.” And it’s probably unconstitutional.

It gets worse. You see, the appropriations committee tried something like this before but once the committee on Native affairs caught wind it was dropped. So this time the appropriations committee sprung it during the house-senate reconciliation for....the bill to increase funds to fight the fires raging in California! Congress was forced to pick between delaying those funds or swallowing the rider (giving cover to many who voted for it, though it was a close vote in the House anyway). As John McCain and Tom Daschele said, if it was any minority but Native Americans this would never have happened.

And here’s Pierce:
Charles Pierce
Newton, MA
Eric —

Outside of the cash and the SCLM and Daddy’s Family Retainers, do you want to see why the R’s are now on the longest winning streak in recorded history? Just look at the D’s, acting like idiots over Howard Dean and the Confederate flag. Now, I don’t have any truck with the Banner Of Treason, but it is very clear what Ho-Ho was trying to say. It is stupid to imply that he is either a bigot or a condescending Yankee — and John Edwards should be ashamed of himself — and through this entire thing, have you heard a single Republican or conservative spokesdrone say anything about it? No, they’re letting the D’s roast on the D’s own spit. Meanwhile, the R’s are electing as governor of Mississippi the irredeemable Haley Barbour, career bagman, who spent a lot of the time unashamedly — and without apparent electoral consequence — hobnobbing with the folks who really love the Stars ‘n Bars, in both the Army of Northern Virginia sense and, most important, in the modern sense as the emblem of American Apartheid.

Note to the Democratic Nine — the Adversary is Out There. Really. Get your act in gear and make issues out of greasy, rum-fattened slugs like Haley Barbour, or out of that priceless photo of C-Plus Augustus signing the anti-choice bill surrounded by seven smiling old white non-uterine primates, then, well, they’ve got bigger problems than Howard Dean’s clumsy demographics. Rumors are that Becca Bramlett — daughter of Delaney and Bonnie — can flat wail. More to follow.

Nov. 6, 2003 | 11:29 AM ET
Remember the Congo: From the International Human Rights Law Group: “After a recent visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, a delegation of human rights and peacekeeping experts today issued a report, “Ending Congo’s Nightmare: What the U.S. Can Do to Promote Peace in Central Africa,” that calls for an increased commitment to Congo by the Bush Administration.”

“Since war began in Congo five years ago, more people have died there than in any one conflict since World War II. During the delegation’s visit, they saw first-hand the progress and set-backs Congo is experiencing since a fragile truce was formed this past summer. The delegation also met with Congolese who told them of the ongoing atrocities of rape, murder and children being conscripted to fight against their will.

Specifically, the 34-page report urges President Bush to:

Reinstate the U.S. arms embargo on Rwanda;

Demand that America’s allies in the region allow Congo return to peace;

Enjoin Rwanda and Uganda to cut their political, military, and financial ties to Congolese militias and make U.S. aid to these countries conditional on their doing so; and

Take the lead in supporting a real U.N. embargo on arms, ammunition, and military support to parties to Congo’s conflict.”

Copies of the full report are here.

Remember the Peace Process: Yossi Beilin, former Israeli justice minister and architect of the Oslo peace accords, explains why he conducted secret negotiations with Palestinian leaders to draft the Geneva Understandings, a new plan for Mideast peace made public three weeks ago. He writes:

“If we, the Israelis and the Palestinians, do not try - ourselves - to save ourselves, then no one else is going to do it for us. It simply cannot be that there are not enough sane people, on both sides, who want to save their lives and put an end to this never-ending, horrendous cycle of violence in which we are trapped. This is why those of us behind the Geneva Understandings decided to get up and do something.”

It’s here.

These people do: 100,000 Israelis Call For Peace at Rabin Memorial

Democracy Now! reports:

“In what the Guardian of London described as the largest left-wing demonstration since Gen. Ariel Sharon came to power, more than 100,000 Israelis gathered this weekend to denounce the occupation and call for peace. The gathering marked the eighth anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin was killed by Yigal Amir, an extremist Israeli who opposed the surrendering of any part of the West Bank to the Palestinians. At the rally former Prime Minister Shimon Peres called for the immediate pullout of Israeli settlers from the Gaza strip. In other news from Israel, workers have engaged in one of the country’s largest strikes to protest the proposed overhaul of Israel’s welfare system. Striking workers shut down government offices, banks, the international airport and trains.”

Remember the Enola Gay: Today from the History News Network:

”In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight, in December the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) will open its new facility, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport. Over 200 aircraft and 135 space artifacts will be displayed. The centerpiece of the new exhibit will be the Enola Gay — the B-29 super-fortress that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Fully restored, the Enola Gay will be displayed as a “magnificent technological achievement.” Some scholars contend that, given its role in the 6 August 1945 attack, the B-29 has gained notoriety and has a symbolic meaning that extends beyond its significance as an example of the technological advances in aviation in the 1940s.

A coalition of scholars, religious leaders, veterans, scientists, and citizen activists plan to protest the exhibit in its current form. They claim that it lacks historical context and fails to address the controversy surrounding the bombings or information on casualties. Arguing that the “celebratory nature of the exhibit gives legitimacy to the 1945 bombing,” the coalition joins other groups that have already objected to the exhibit. According to Peter Kuznick, professor of history and director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University, who drafted the committee’s statement, “We are not opposed to exhibiting the Enola Gay...we welcome any exhibition that will spur an honest and balanced discussion of the atomic bombings in 1945 and of current U.S. nuclear policy.”

The coalition, called the “Committee for a National Discussion of Nuclear History and Current Policy,” has issued a statement of principles to which several prominent historians have already added their signatures of endorsement.”

For more, go here.

Forget about Andy: Andy is upset that in my most recent column, I refer to him as a ”wannabe Ayatollah.” He writes:

“That’s how Eric Alterman describes me in his latest screed in the Nation, defending Paul Krugman’s limited defense of Mahathir Mohamed. Now I’m not unused to insults but this one is bizarre. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know I don’t pull a lot of punches in exposing what I think is dumb or malign or just wrong out there in the media and politics. If such criticism means I’m an ayatollah, then I guess Alterman is entitled to his opinion. But I’m a First Amendment absolutist, an opponent of all attempts to control people’s thoughts and ideas, a long opponent of religious fundamentalism of all kinds, an anti-theocrat, a supporter of the war against Islamist terror, and a strong proponent of gay rights. How this makes me like the theocrats who run Iran is beyond me. Alterman needs to find some wit to equal his bile.”

I wonder how Andy’s demand that no editor ever even publish Ted Rall because Andy was offended by one of his cartoons fits in with his “first-amendment absolutism.” I wonder how he justifies comparing my work to the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” which would have had the effect of deligitimizing me if anyone took him remotely seriously.

The Center for American Progress has a “Progress Report” every day that you can sign up for here. It’s truly an amazing resource and is about to pass “The Note” in its number of subscribers. The think tank website also features a daily column here, of which mine, “Think Again,” about the framing of issues in the media appears on Thursdays. If you miss it on Thursday it’s archived every week here. Today’s column is, surprise, surprise, about the cancellation of “The Reagans.” (PS. I’ve been writing these columns myself so far, but my aim is to get them written by others and merely edit them. So far my team of “contributors” has been mostly a team of slackers. Get to it, people.)

Correspondents’ Corner:

(I did not see a signature on this letter, but it seems smart.)

Eric— I enjoyed reading your column yesterday, puncturing the Linda Tripp myth being perpetuated across the SCLM today. I wasn’t able to see the CNN article to which you linked (the link was dead, and a search on turned up only old news), but if it’s like the Post story, it leaves out some important details.

Specifically, the $595,000 cash settlement is in addition to retirement adjustments that would make any federal employee salivate (speaking as one myself). As you can see from the attached settlement stipulation, DOD is agreeing to retroactively give Tripp four “step increases”— from a GS 15, Step 5 to a GS 15, Step 10, before calculating the amount of her retirement annuity. Perhaps this is a bit complex for the media to look at, but think of it this way. A GS 15, Step 5 in the DC area makes $108,785 this year (see A 15/10 (the highest civil service pay level in the entire government) makes $124,783. So, for retirement purposes, they’re bumping her up immediately to the highest classification possible (a process that probably would have taken 10-12 years under normal criteria).

What makes this particularly galling is that to accomplish this, they’re giving her four Quality Step Increases (and one Within Grade Increase). The QSI is an incentive program, that is typically awarded only to a handful of employees in each office once a year to recognize outstanding effort or achievement (the WGI is just a routine raise). In most agencies, it’s the highest standard award that can be given to recognize employee competence and hard work. They can’t give out more than one of these to her for each year, so they’ve stipulated that she deserved them for 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000. What were her duties during this period? Screwing (metaphorically) the President, of course, and contributing to an attempted constitutional coup.

I know, this seems like small potatoes, but it’s just a big layer of turd icing on the cake, and of course, it’s not reported in the press at all.

Name: Darwin
Hometown: SLC, Utah
This debate over Lochner v. New York is particularly interesting and highlights the intellectual dishonesty of the Right. The Lochner Court is usually viewed as the high water mark of judicial activism—that is court’s striking down democratically determined legislation on the grounds that the legislation conflicts with the court’s own views. It is odd that the right would champion judicial activism after spending the last forty years arguing against decisions they don’t like on the grounds that they are the result of judicial activism. However, the cases the right finds objectionable tend to be those where the courts have intervened to protect individual rights such as the right to privacy. Evidently, judicial activism is ok with the right when the cases involve economic rights such as the right to contract in an unregulated economy. Will the right be turning to the judiciary (recently appointed by Bush) to declare that the Constitution requires further deregulation and reverance for freemarkets unleashed?

UPDATE: The New York Times today printed additional biographical information about Mark Medish, whose interest in Iraqi debt, discussed in yesterday’s posting, went unmentioned when his Op-Ed article was originally published.

Nov. 5, 2003 | 1:00 PM ET
Sy Hersh writes in The NEW YORKER: “Last month, the Blade, a mid-sized family-owned newspaper published in Toledo, Ohio, devoted fifteen pages over four days to an exhaustive exposé of an élite Army unit, known as the Tiger Force, that spun out of control during the Vietnam War. The platoon, a forty-five-member, all-volunteer reconnaissance unit attached to the 101st Airborne Division, was ordered in early 1967 to take the fight to the enemy by setting up ambushes deep inside areas controlled by North Vietnamese and Vietnamese nationalist forces. Instead, it took the fight to the unarmed civilian population.” Perhaps someone can explain to me why an enormous atrocity and official cover-up-described in this Pulitzer quality investigation by the Blade-is not viewed as sufficiently important to rate a single story in the allegedly liberal New York Times. Has someone been working the refs? It sure feels like a conservative conspiracy from here.

Speaking of The Times, read below:

Name: Issandr El Amrani
Hometown: Cairo, Egypt
Here’s a little NYT nugget I picked up today. I’m not sure how big of a deal this is, but I’ll share it with you anyway.

The august newspaper of record ran an Op-Ed column today arguing against forgiving Iraq’s foreign debt to both private and state creditors. The basic argument is that Iraq should not forego its responsibilities to the international community, and be encouraged to negotiate directly with its creditors. The case for canceling Iraq’s debt because it is “odious debt” is growing, and has been endorsed by the likes of The Economist and Joseph Stiglitz, as well as several NGOs. It’s a compelling argument, since the Iraqi people had absolutely no part in the decision-making that led to this borrowing.

You can read the piece here.

The piece was written by Mark C. Medish, who is described in the following manner at the bottom of the article:

“Mark Medish, a lawyer, was deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury from 1997 to 2000.”

Now, I was curious exactly why a lawyer and former Clinton official would go out of his way to write an Op-Ed about this. A quick Google search told me that Medish works for Akin Gump, one of the biggest law firms in the world (also home to that other Clintonista, Vernon Jordan). Akin Gump does a lot of different things, including working for countries that are negotiating their debt with the Paris Club, such as Jordan and Georgia. It also turns out that Medish is representing the Korean firm Hyundai, which along with eight other Korean creditors is owed over $1.7 billion.

I sent an email to Medish asking him to clarify whether he was in fact representing any of Iraq’s creditors. This is what he answered:

“Please note that the Paris Club (official) creditors have political discretion to do what they want. The US is a minority official creditor — behind Japan, German, France, Russia — and seems to push for

“radical” forgiveness. The others may or may not agree. As to the various classes of private, non-military creditors, my point is that the Paris Club would be unreasonable to simply dictate a radical

result. Indeed, they (PC) do not really have the legal power to wipe out other creditors’ claims. My group serves as strategic advisers to private corporate creditors who seek negotiated solution(s) to their valid legal claims.”

Now, the point of this is that Medish is perfectly entitled to defend his client’s interest in Iraq, and despite the appeal of canceling all odious debt, he may be right that this might not be the best way to go. I’m no expert, so for a counter-argument go to, an organization devoted to canceling odious debt in Iraq.

But shouldn’t have the NYT described him as more than just “a lawyer” and a former Clinton administration official? Shouldn’t it be mentioned somewhere, for the sake of the paper’s readers, that Medish is not an unbiased observer but actually working for one of Iraq’s creditors?

Failure in Iraq; the utterly predictable continuing saga as told by the hawks themselves, HERE and HERE. We are going to miss the truth-telling FRITZ HOLLINGS for more reasons than just this kind of thing.

I saw EMMYLOU perform last week at Carnegie Hall with Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Patty Griffin and Buddy and Julie Miller. It was as warm and bittersweet as it sounds. Read the above Guardian profile to get a feel for this remarkable musician.

Pierce’s Corner:
Eric —

Because every day, even Opening Day for the Chickensh*t Broadcasting System, is Slacker Friday, Part The XIX.

Please tell me you didn’t miss this. Chris Matthews was chatting up the abject collapse of CBS in the face of several mouthbreathing yahoos — Used to be you had to be at least the tobacco industry to get CBS to go in the water. Times, they do have changed — and my gal Annie Coulter just started making it up. Her argument — now stop me if you’ve ever eaten mushrooms and heard this one before — was that George C. Scott refused his Oscar for Patton because the movie made Patton too much of a hero and the American people loved it, so Scott hated it and refused to come and pick up his andiron.

Well, glorioski, you should have seen the set. Poor David Corn looked like he’d been shanghaied into serving as Yeoman Purser on the Big Ship Of Fools and Matthews actually said, “The facts just don’t matter to you, Ann.” Now, to most of us, this statement would mean that, maybe, she shouldn’t be in the big old rolodex to talk about really serious stuff on national television — but, rather, under a tree in the park, shouting about Vince Foster in between sets by the anti-Masonic fellow and the lady with the alien woodchips in her brain.

My bet is she’ll be back on Hardball within the month.

Nov. 4, 2003 | 1:00 PM ET
Damn! There’s that face on my AOL pop-up screen again. Oh to be free of Linda Tripp and her lies. This CNN report is a complete bunch of crap; a perfect example of how to spin a lazy reporter. The piece totally swallows the garbage put out by Tripp’s attorneys — part of a long-running spin campaign that turned all coverage of her upside down. Tripp was arrested on grand larceny charges as an adult, and in a court plea bargain, she pled guilty to reduced charges, of loitering. The case involved her alleged theft of a wrist watch from a guy whom she spent time with one night.

She subsequently applied for top security clearance for a job at the Department of Defense. The security form demands that anyone who has ever been arrested, regardless of the outcome of the case, must disclose this to the government. Tripp lied on the form, saying she had never been arrested. The form explicitly states that to lie about one’s arrest record is potentially a felony offense. Tripp nonetheless lied, and signed the form, swearing that everything she had said was true.

When her name surfaced in the news in connection with the Lewinsky affair, reporter Jane Mayer was assigned a profile of her by the New Yorker. I interviewed Mayer about her reporting and learned that during the course of her investigation, she tracked down numerous friends and family members of Tripp, without any help, she assures me, from the White House or anyone else in the government.

Mayer found Tripp’s step-mother, who blurted out that Tripp had been arrested. The step-mother, who has confirmed that she was the source of this information, and gave Mayer sufficient detail to allow her to file an FOIA request, and to track down Tripp’s arrest record from the local police station where she was busted.

Armed with a facsimile of her arrest, Mayer then called the Pentagon, to see whether the Defense Department had any record of her arrest, and to see whether she had properly disclosed it, as is required under the law. The press office at the Pentagon checked her record, and reported back to Mayer that Tripp had no arrest record, as far as they knew.

This was the ostensible infringement of Tripp’s privacy. The government did not disclose her arrest record. The government attempted to suggest she had no arrest record. It was her step-mother who blew the whistle on her, not the government. And it was old-fashioned, factual reporting that disclosed that Tripp lied to get a top security clearance.

But with the help of a huge network of right-wing lawyers and press outlets, Tripp turned her potentially felonious lie, and her felony arrest history into a cause celebre, shifting all blame for her own miserable conduct onto the Pentagon, and claiming falsely yet again, that somehow the government had released her arrest record and tarred her name. She tarred her own name. The government (incorrectly) denied she had an arrest record. Mayer wrote the story, straight.

The CNN story in question makes a zillion mistakes, every one of them in Tripp’s favor. It says she was a minor, when arrested. She was an adult. It says the government leaked information about her arrest. It did not. It says the case involved drinking - it was a grand larceny charge, which as George W. Bush, could tell you, is much more serious. They say she was never charged. She was charged in an open court with Grand Larceny, and then, in a plea agreement, she pled guilty to a reduced charge of loitering. The case was adjudicated, not dropped.

And no one until this day has ever prosecuted her or disciplined her for lying and covering up her arrest, in order to get an undeserved top security clearance. Instead, the government is paying her $600,000 despite the fact that she clearly lied about her status.

The media has done a completely miserable job at holding its own against her spin-meisters. The press seems to have been incapable of getting the facts of her case right - over and over she’s portrayed herself as a juvenile, and claimed she was never charged, when all you have to do is go to look at The Smoking Gun.

Now back to Bush s lies: Here’s our man, Eric Boehlert.

On my Real Player: Amazon has an exclusive video montage of Bruce and the band doing Diddy Wah Diddy at Fenway.

In the CD player: Light Of Day, a two-CD set featuring Elvis Costello, Nils Lofgren, Graham Parker, Dion, Elliott Murphy, Garland Jeffreys, Joe Grushecky and Joe Ely, among many others doing Bruce songs to benefit the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation and the Kristen Ann Carr Fund, which fights Sarcoma, a rare cancer. For more info visit: and

By the bed table: The New Updike collection from Knopf, The Early Stories, is 838 pages of what makes life worth living and free time worth having. It’s a perfect bedside book because you can read one story a night and feel a sense of accomplishment even if you had a crappy day.

Meanwhile, two publishers have issued 50th anniversary editions of Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March, one of the signal achievements of 20-century American literature. One is from Viking, which is publishing both The Book On Bush and When Presidents Lie , so perhaps you should buy it from them, as my books will need the profits for their publicity campaigns.

On the other hand, it’s just Augie, and they insult us by allowing Hitchens to write the introduction. (Couldn’t they have used the classic old Alfred Kazin essay? I think I found it on the Atlantic Monthly’s site once but I couldn’t this morning.) The lovely Library of America edition, in addition to being its usual handsome self, however, also contains Dangling Man and The Victim, and will eventually allow you to make your way through Bellow’s entire oeuvre in chronological order, though feel free to skip a few of the later ones. The book is said to be “edited” by James Wood, but there’s no editing involved; just three Bellow novels slapped into one book. Can I have a job like that?

Correspondents’ Corner:

Dear Eric,

Have you noticed the discussion going on between blogs on the left and right about the views of Bush judicial nominee Janice Brown? Volokh blogger and George Mason University law professor David Bernstein wrote a piece defending her and her fondness for the nearly century-old case of Lochner vs. New York after a Washington Post editorial critical of Brown’s views.

Since then, there has been a lot of blogging going on involving many of the most widely-read bloggers on the right and left. A summary of the back-and-forth through yesterday is here.

The whole controversy illustrates a process with which we have become very familiar over the past two decades. First, the Right either develops new “theories” or resurrects old ones that most progressives find laughable when they first encounter them. The Right persists and uses the resources of its think tanks, press connections, a growing presence in academia and now conservative bloggers to “mainstream” these ideas by force of repetition.

Before too long, these theories that first struck most as extremist or oddball crowd out the previously dominant progressive views and become the new settled wisdom. This has happened in the area of tax policy where the idea of progressive income and estate taxation is barely alive while ideas like “supply side economics” and the flat tax are in the ascendancy. A similar evolution is taking place in foreign policy spurred by PNAC and in the areas of labor and environmental law as well. A supporter of Lochner and the related Hammer case would have been laughed out of a law school class 20 years ago since the “theories” of constitutional law that underlie it would invalidate wage/hour laws, the Wagner Act and the Civil Rights Act. Now a Bush judicial nominee hails Lochner as a bulwark against “kleptocracy” and Bernstein, Volokh and Reynolds defend her.

The value of blogs has been demonstrated once again by this discussion. It is not as easy as it once was to preach only to the converted. Bernstein gets read by Nathan Newman, Jeanne at Body and Soul, Kieran Healy and the rest of us, and the opportunity is presented to expose and critique these ideas before they become settled wisdom. While the scholarly community uses journals and conferences to accomplish this same process of the testing of ideas, blogging offers an openness of access, speed and “frankness” not typical of those venues. It gives progressives a place where we can learn about these ideas, analyze them and confront them. It’s a tool that can help to stop what almost seems to be an inexorable slide into some bizarre combination of plutocracy and theocracy.
Allen Brill
The Right Christians

Nov. 3, 2003 | 11:50 AM ET
According to CNN, RNC chair Ed Gillespie “asked CBS to allow a team of historians and friends of former President Ronald Reagan and his wife to review a miniseries about the couple before it airs... Gillespie said that if CBS denies the request, he will ask the network to run a note across the bottom of the screen every 10 minutes during the program’s presentation informing viewers that the miniseries is not accurate... Gillespie added that print and television ads are being prepared to rebut the miniseries and that Republicans may try to buy time to run the ads during the miniseries.”

I have to say I find this whole flap hysterical. I was asked to go on a cable show on Friday to argue about it but I fail to see the point of fighting about a TV program I’ve never seen with other people who’ve never seen it. I’d rather be trick-or-treating. What’s more, I’m sure it will be a whitewash of Reagan’s legacy, which unarguably includes the promotion of genocide in Central America and the arming of terrorists there and in Iran, among many other awful things.

But the silliest part of it is that the conservatives are crying about inaccurate treatment of the historical record for entertainment purposes. Just when is it ever treated accurately? And when have they cared before? When one of the networks did a ‘docudrama’ about Ollie North, based on Ben Bradley Jr.’s biography, they had to invent a character to be the voice of morality in the Reagan administration because, in real life, it had none.

Quote of the Day: “He is either deceiving the public or himself, or both, and should be fired,” Blair said. Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton. You might say the same thing about his boss.

Runner-Up Actor Hayden Christensen to Charles Lane, “I have a newfound respect for what you guys do. To report on something without putting your own bias in is hard.” From New York magazine’s intelligencer. (PS Did they know he was making a joke?”)

My “Think Again” column for the Center for American Progress may have disappeared by the time you clicked on it last week. Its permanent home is here.

SLCM Tales: A continuing saga

Please pass the Kool-Aid, I (And do you happen to remember the word they use for it in Vietnamese?) Why does the White House even need to employ a press office when it has the editor of the Washington Post editorial page to write stuff like this: “For whether or not you believe this was the wrong war, it is clear that America is on the right side. Failure would delight not only the Saddam Hussein henchmen and al Qaeda terrorists battling American troops but also the ayatollahs of Iran, the wahhabis of Saudi Arabia, the secret police of Syria. And the losers would be many - among them the people of Iraq, most of whom want nothing more than to be part of a peaceful, free and stable nation

Please pass the Kool-Aid, II. Or this? “As we were flying back to Washington in a lumbering C-17, I asked Wolfowitz if he ever worried that he was too idealistic - that his passion for the noble goals of the Iraq war might overwhelm the prudence and pragmatism that normally guide war planners. He didn’t answer directly, except to say that it was a good question.

Please pass the Kool-Aid, III. NYT News analysis hed: “As Casualties in Iraq Mount, Will Resolve Falter?” How about: “As Stupidity of Invasion becomes Obvious, Will Common Sense Eventually Triumph?

From “the Note:” Leading Democratic Party officials tell The Note that they are angered over yesterday’s “Meet the Press.”

In their view, Sen. Zell Miller got half the program to attack his own party and pronounce its death in the South less than 48 hours before polls open in two Southern governors races, with no equal time given to someone to paint a different picture.

Said one Democrat: “This is the type of treatment Democrats say they have come to expect from Fox,” which just might make Neal Shapiro happy.

Anybody see Howie Kurtz send the love Rich Lowry’s way on CNN yesterday. Do the Google. I got 564 hits. Impressive but nothing compared to “Howard Kurtz” and “Andrew Sullivan” - 37,200. Hey Howie, is this service only available to conservatives, or can you be bought by liberals as well?

Is Bush Jesus? AP seems to think so, but he sure seems to have a pretty different attitude about the poor. According to a Census Bureau survey of 50,000 households, 3.8 million American families were hungry last year to the point where someone in the household skipped meals because they couldn’t afford them. That’s an 8.6 percent increase from 2001, when 3.5 million families were hungry, and a 13 percent increase from 2000.

Cable TV was not right-wing enough, apparently…. Here is some of the crap to which we can now look forward (Note, the author here is quoting this stuff admiringly, I think):

“Miller, like Quinn, is unapologetically hawkish in the War on Terror. Dismissing the effectiveness of U.N. weapons inspectors in the run-up to the Iraq war, he says: “Watching the U.N. in action makes you want to give Ritalin to a glacier.”

On war opponents France and Germany, he’s acid: “The French are always reticent to surrender to the wishes of their friends and always more than willing to surrender to the wishes of their enemies” and “maybe Germany didn’t want to get involved in this war because it wasn’t on a grand enough scale.” Lately, he’s been campaigning with President Bush, crediting W. for making him “proud to be an American again” after the “wocka-wocka porn guitar of the Clinton administration.”

Alterreviews: The Strokes:
The Way It Is by Eli Lehrer (a young person).

The first Strokes album was a near classic. A bunch of young punks from Manhattan got together and cherry-picked the best of the Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop, New Wave, and 80s Pop and mixed it all together in a way that sounded like every classic New York rock song you ever heard but absolutely nothing that been on the radio since April, 1982. If you don’t own it, go out and buy it right now.

If you do have that album, this new one, Room on Fire, might seem a little anti-climactic. While it doesn’t suffer from the typical failings of a second album - no complaints about the perils of fame, no radical re-imagining of the band’s sound or subject matter - something about it leaves you wondering... is this it?

Sure, it’s got a couple of songs that could match up with the best of the first album. The Way It Is is as catchy as anything the band has done; 12:51, the first single, has a instrumental hook that’s hard to get out of your head; Meet Me in the Bathroom would be memorable based on the title alone; and Under Control, the group’s first semi-ballad, shows that they’ve got the soul of an R&B revue buried somewhere under the distortion. But the rest of the album, while more than respectable, feels just a little disappointing.

Where Is This It was filled with hooks that were undeniable, Room on Fire has a bunch of songs that are well-constructed, well-produced, and... just not quite as catchy as the first time around. The lyrics also suffer by comparison. The first album was like a favorite drunk friend talking to you in a bar - a lot of attitude, but still pretty witty and observant. The new lyrics are like listening to that friend five drinks later, as he fights with his girlfriend outside the bar - you know you should be amused, but you just can’t quite figure out what the hell anybody is talking about.

That said, this album is still better than 97.3 percent of the rock albums that will come out this year. In fact, after a few more listens, it may climb into the top 98 percent. And while it will never be as great as Is This It - not many albums are

Correspondents’ Corner:
Name: Dan Tompkins
Hometown: Haddonfield, N.J.
Readers should not miss Charles Pierce’s impressive piece on conservatives - especially inside-Beltway conservatives - in the Catholic Church here. Eric has smart friends.


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