• March 12, 2004 | 12:23 PM ET
Not so Slackerish Friday
Hey, congrats to all my buds in the Bush administration for setting that new record for trade deficits. And they did it even with protectionist policies in steel and agriculture, rather than the easy way. Way to go guys. What’s up next? Here’s an idea, how about paying guys who lie to us about WMD in Iraq to keep lying to us? Oh wait.
All Times, All the Time… I’ve got a new Nation column about the flap over the Times’ firing of a gay stringer in what some are calling McCarthyism. I disagree, but you can make your own decision.
Meanwhile, remember when Led Zeppelin’s lawyers shut down that terrific parody of “Stairway” with the lyrics of Gilligan’s Island? You don’t? Well, see if you can find it. It’s great. [Found it! "Little Roger and the Goosebumps" -ed.]
I think Robert Cox is wrongheaded about Paul Krugman, but his parody correction page was funny and its overall point was on target. The Times is probably right that people will confuse it -readers wrote confused, but so what? The Times is big and strong enough to take it. Here’s the story. Tsk Tsk. It’s not like Cox was writing porno or anything.
And O'Reilly is picking a fight with another one of his betters. Let’s see, Frank Rich, Mike Kinsley, Bob Scheer, and Al Franken are all bad guys, but he’s down with Jayson Blair and Mel Gibson. (P.S What does a guy have to do to get a little love around here?)
MSNBC.com has a useful map of the Murdoch empire as a kind of birthday present to the evil master of the universe.
As if they didn’t have enough to worry about, Dennis Hastert just endorsed Paul Krugman’s view of the administration’s number crunching abilities. Don’t believe me, read this:
Q: You met with the administration yesterday. Did they say they would support the target number?
Speaker Hastert: We need to go forward, we need to go to conference with the Senate, and then if they want to be involved in that conference, they certainly will be able to be involved in it.
Q: But did they say they would sign?
Hastert: They didn't make a commitment.
Q: Did they say they would veto it?
Hastert: They didn't say they would veto it.
Q: Is that with the President or with the people?
Hastert: That is with the President. I don't deal with his people anymore.
Q: Sir, what did you mean by that last comment: That was with the President; I don't deal with his people anymore?
Hastert: Well, we weren't getting straight numbers from his people, and they changed their mind in the middle of the process. So we are going to do what we feel we need to do.
Q: Just on this issue or on --
Hastert: On this issue.
Q: Or in general?
Hastert: On this issue.
Q: Sir --
Q: What kind of numbers were you getting from them?
Hastert: Different numbers.
Q: Different from?
Hastert: Where they added up.
It’s all here.
Alter-events: Midnight Special Books on 2nd Street, between Colorado and Broadway (a few doors down from the Beppo's) in Santa Monica on Sunday at 2:00. (I’ll be filing from L.A. all next week.) I will also be speaking at the Strand Book store in Manhattan on 3/25 and appearing on Dennis Miller on 3/17. The Book on Bush is back up to number 25 on the Times best seller list this week, for those of you keeping score at home.
C-SPAN II - Book TV for THE BOOKS ON BUSH,
Sunday, March 14, 12:15 a.m. EST (Saturday, March 13, 9:15 p.m. Pacific Time)
Sunday, March 14, 4:15 p.m. EST (Sunday, March 14, 1:15 p.m. Pacific Time)
Pierce’s Corner (Stupid had technical difficulties this week):
Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
The stakes went up this week. Did you notice? Justice William (Penzance) Rehnquist announced he's considering hanging up his repertory costume, and you know that at least two more of the Supremes are waiting for C-Plus Augustus finally to win an election so that they can quit with a clear conscience. Ted Olson and John Ashcroft, vetting the Supreme Court for the next 20 years? Holy Mother Of God, Ralph, make that argument for your continued political existence to me again.
And then there was the money quote from The Junior Senator: to wit, "I have no intention of apologizing."
When Kerry said that, I remembered back to the previous evening, when Chris Matthews entertained that noxious suckfish David Bossie, for whom there ought not to be a place on the average garbage scow, let alone in national politics. This will now be the third election in which the Bush Family will attempt to subcontract the job of personal slander to the wide assortment of bottom-feeders that exists in Movement Conservatism. (And, note to all TV news directors, playing a Bush ad as a "news story" is a big step over the line into free advertising. Pass it on.) The Republican party has profited from its association with these goons and hoodlums for 20 years now and, if I read the Junior Senator correctly, he has explained to the Avignon Presidency that any attacks emanating from surrogate mucksavages will be repaid in full on the campaign itself.
Nice job by Rhino on the Jackson Browne collection, although I might've dug a little deeper into those earlier albums and replaced the overplayed "Doctor My Eyes" with "My Opening Farewell," and the execrable "Redneck Friend" with "Our Lady Of The Well." Back in my Melodramatic Undergraduate Blue Period, Jackson (with an assist from Jacob Leinenkugel and his family) got me through a great number of deeply self-absorbed Milwaukee evenings, and I thank him for that.
P.S. I will bet all the money that Lucianne Goldberg gives to her worthless spalpeen as an allowance that the case of The Spy Who Was Andy Card's Cousin dries up and blows away the way the earthshaking case of The Muslim Chaplain Who Threatened Our Kids But Turned Out To Be Just An Online Perv has.
On me, and l’Homme de Noir: (in that order):
Name: Manuel Cortinas
Hometown: Austin, TX
Hey, saw you mentioned on Hardball by Stossel. Good job. You should be proud. The face he made when he said your name…
MATTHEWS: Who are the worst liberals in our business?
STOSSEL: I‘m to name names?
STOSSEL: No, I won‘t do that.
MATTHEWS: Is that unfair?
STOSSEL: Well, Eric Alterman, clearly. But in the mainstream media?
But you have to see his face. You are in his head.
On a more serious note, didn't see if you saw this or have mentioned it, but Trio is going to have "Johnny Cash at San Quentin" for the better part of this month. Here's some links...
Here's hoping you have Trio. It's got really eclectic programming.
• March 11, 2004 | 6:16 PM ET
The Power of Audacity: I keep saying this but it’s true: the greatest asset this administration has is its ability to attack on so many fronts simultaneously with such audacity that nobody else can keep up with them. Precious little they say or do is defensible purely on the merits.
Think about it. Have the tax cuts accomplished what they promised re jobs? Did the invasion of Iraq accomplish what they promised re: WMDs? Willing to exploit 9/11 but can’t be bothered with homeland security or even explaining what the hell went wrong in the first place.
How’s their trade policy doing? Worse monthly trade deficit ever, despite their spate of protectionism in agriculture and steel.
What about missile defense? Remember, they were so worried about the imaginary threat from an as-yet undisclosed country when they first came to power that they ignored all the plans put before them to protect against a potential terrorist attack. And now they’re going ahead with deploying a system even though, again, there’s no real threat they can explain that the thing can possibly work against. But hey, that’s Ok, because it doesn't work anyway. The GAO warns, of the system they are already getting read to deploy, “that test plans through 2007 do not include sufficiently challenging targets and decoys. It said the first attempt at launching two interceptors against two targets is not scheduled until 2007. And no plans exist to assess the effects of severe weather on the system's performance or to conduct flight tests "under unrehearsed and unscripted conditions," And that’s not the half of it.
Here’s this week’s Think Again column, by Matthew Yglesias. It’s called “Spinning Social Security” and its not very nice to Alan Greenspan for extremely good reasons.
Here’s Todd Gitlin on that effete, elitist, leftist, European snob, loved by commies (and Coldplay), loathed by patriots, John Kerry. Stop him before he makes all eat brie and love Jerry Lewis.
- Bush is against campaign finance reform; then he's for it.
- Bush is against a Homeland Security Department; then he's for it.
- Bush is against a 9/11 commission; then he's for it.
- Bush is against an Iraq WMD investigation; then he's for it.
- Bush is against nation building; then he's for it.
- Bush is against deficits; then he's for them.
- Bush is for free trade; then he's for tariffs on steel; then he's against them again.
- Bush is against the U.S. taking a role in the Israeli Palestinian conflict; then he pushes for a "road map" and a Palestinian State.
- Bush is for states right to decide on gay marriage, then he is for changing the Constitution.
- Bush first says he'll provide money for first responders (fire, police, emergency), then he doesn't.
- Bush first says that 'help is on the way' to the military ... then he cuts benefits.
- Bush- "The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden." Bush-"I don't know where he is. I have no idea and I really don't care."
- Bush claims to be in favor of the environment and then secretly starts drilling on Padre Island.
- Bush talks about helping education and increases mandates while cutting funding.
- Bush first says the U.S. won't negotiate with North Korea. Now he will.
- Bush goes to Bob Jones University. Then say's he shouldn't have.
- Bush said he would demand a U.N. Security Council vote on whether to sanction military action against Iraq. Later Bush announced he would not call for a vote.
- Bush said the "mission accomplished" banner was put up by the sailors. Bush later admits it was his advance team.
- Bush was for fingerprinting and photographing Mexicans who enter the U.S. Bush after meeting with Pres. Fox, he's against it.
This job is getting easier and easier because of the quality of the correspondence. Keep it coming, people, and thanks.
Name: Barry L. Ritholtz
Hometown: The Big Picture
Once more into the breach, Dr. A:
Projected Impact of Nader on Close States, 2004
Our previous electoral discussion was based on Zogby polling data, with a minimum of political analysis. Let's look at similar electoral breakdown, only this time relying upon analytical forecasts from the widely respected Cook Political Report and incorporating the impact of Ralph Nader.
Charlie Cook published his research on this in the New York Times Tuesday -- next to Krugman's chart (which Brad DeLong first published weeks ago). I suspect Krugman's graphic so mesmerized readers that they overlooked Cook's article.
That would be a shame, because Cook lays out some very interesting -- and disturbing -- thoughts on the November election.
A look at current polls in the context of the 2000 state by state election results show that an independent Nader candidacy will impact the outcome of this election.
While Cook agrees with the conventional wisdom that Nader will get far fewer votes than the 2.7% of the electorate he received four years ago, the race between President Bush and John Kerry may very well be so close that "even a declawed Ralph Nader could tip the election to the incumbent."
In 2000, Green Party nominee Nader cost Al Gore Florida and New Hampshire, either of which would have given the vice president a victory. National polls that add Nader to the mix put the race at a statistical dead heat, or give the president a narrow edge. (AP and Ipsos Public Affairs: Bush 46%, Kerry 45%, Nader 6%.) Even if Nader garners only a third of his prior support, he could tilt the election.
GOP holds 23 states with 200 electoral votes; the Democrats can probably count on 11 states and the District of Columbia for 168 votes.
Sixteen states are "in play" where, based upon the 2000 results and the electoral map, Nader could shift the balance in favor of the incumbent.
Don't assume its just Florida and New Hampshire. There were 5 additional states that Gore barely won in 2000, where the margin of victory was less than Nader's votes:
Projected Impact of Nader on Close States, 2004
|State||2000 Margin of Victory||Nader's Vote Count||Electoral Votes|
In addition, in several states the margin of victory for either Bush or Gore was only a little more than Nader's totals. The margin of victory in Washington state (and its 11 electoral votes) for Gore was a little more than Nader's votes -- 139,000 lead to Nader's 103,000 votes. The margin in Missouri (11 electoral votes) for Bush was 79,000, while Nader had 38,500 votes. Similar result in Ohio (21 electoral votes) -- Bush won by 165,000 votes, and Nader garnered 118,000.
Cook concludes: "Make no mistake: Nader will probably earn fewer votes than last time, but he still could make the difference."
The Next Nader Effect
NYTimes, March 9, 2004
Name: Carl Ungar
Hometown: New York City
Life is funny, it seems that if the presidential election were held tomorrow those states most in danger of a terrorist attack will likely vote for Kerry. Those states that have nothing to worry about will likely go to Bush the protector.
Name: Jo Albright
Hometown: Houston, Texas
I just read the New Pentagon Papers by Karen Kwiatkowski at Salon.com. I believed this stuff was going on but never dreamed that someone was going to come out publicly and sign their name - this was one of the most amazing things I have ever read. I am stunned. I hope all of your readers will read it. My son is serving in Iraq, I didn't want him to join the Army in the first place but that is another story. He is good, decent and honest, which is a lot more than can be said for those idiots that sent him there.
Eric replies: The article in question is here.
Name: Christopher Carroll
Hometown: Oklahoma City
In light of Sunday night's season premiere, the parallels between the Bush and Soprano families become ever clearer. Most striking, of course, is the role played by the increasingly obvious George W. Bush proxy, A.J. Soprano.
George W. and A.J. are third generation scions of families prominent in their respective fields, but the "hair apparent" (thanks Christopher) in both cases seems unlikely to add further glory to the family name. These lazy, intellectually incurious offspring are plenty mean-spirited and petulant, but they seem to have inherited little of their respective families' gifts for crafting even the shadiest ambitions. Even if Tony can buy A.J.'s way into Andover and/or an Ivy League college, will it take a mid-life conversion to Christian fundamentalism to straighten out this wayward dope? Can we look forward to a confrontation later this season when an inebriated A.J. crashes the family car into a mailbox and provokes an Oedipal confrontation with Tony, "mano a mano"?
Plant the boorish, bullying, largely affectless A.J. in Midland, TX, in the early 60's with a trust fund leaking with oil wealth, and forty years on down the line behold the President of the United States. Perhaps the the ominously threatening bear in the backyard in Sunday's allegorical episode is the John Kerry stand-in? The AK-47 wielding henchman guarding the swimming pool, Karl Rove? I'll stop before the unfortunate Barbara/Carmela comparisons bubble to the surface.
Name: Michael Roberts
Spaulding Gray played a part in my wife and I meeting each other. In a room full of people who wouldn't know him from a fire plug, I quoted a line from Swimming to Cambodia and she countered with another. We looked at each other for a moment while the rest of the room had that, "uh, what just happened" look. We still have the chopsticks (reusable plastic, not wood) from the free chinese food that lured us into the same room that night.
Name: Rick Chapman
Hometown: Holiday, Florida
I made a small mistake when I said the voting machines in Florida were left in the church ladies room on Sunday evening. I just assumed since she was at church it must have been Sunday. I was wrong. This was on Thursday, so they were sitting in there 3 days longer than I thought
Derek from I forget where says I should appreciate the Pixies:
I guess the Pixies hold a little more significance to someone who knows that in a couple months I'll get my last paycheck and will be three months from losing my house, my kids' daycare, and the health insurance that helps me buy insulin. Maybe to someone who feels every scream and disjointed lyric as a rebellion against the Republican ruling machine that is punishing those of us who spent our lives working our nuts off in pursuit of a dream only to have it ripped away and run over by an H2. The Boss worked for many years, but there's a primal instinct for self-preservation that is fueled by Black Francis and the gang. I just wish they were coming anywhere near Lincoln, NE
And from Bill Salter, “You can order Bramblett's first two albums on one CD from RandallBramblett.com."
• March 10, 2004 | 12:43 PM ET
I just finished Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile. It’s one of the most amazing books I’ve ever come across. I would have liked more complete sourcing, but I am hard-pressed to come up, off the top of my head, with a more incredible non-fiction story. It has characters that are so much larger than life they burst off the page into your imagination. And the story it tells is one of world-historical importance, if slightly overplayed and told from the perspective of some people of questionable morals. Still, it stunned me.
And by the way, does this remind you of anywhere?
“It was strange when the tin coffins began coming home in the special airplanes known as Black Tulips. These couriers of death would deliver their harvest with very explicit instructions for their mothers they were not to note on their gravestones the fact that their sons had died in Afghanistan. A mother would be told that her son had not died in combat in Afghanistan and that he couldn’t be awarded a medal for valor because there was no war.”
Calpundit caught this funny/ridiculous story about Richard Perle months ago, before I reached that part in the book. Read it and weep.
Meanwhile, from the sublime to the ridiculous, I picked up a copy of the new book, “Hollywood Interrupted,” by Andrew Breitbart and Mark Ebner, for an assignment I’m working on. It is, and I do not say this lightly, almost as bad as anything Coulter—or her male doppelganger, David Horowitz-- has ever published. It's the kind of book that makes you feel dirty just for being in the same room; ashamed to be a part of the species that produced it.
I note for the record it contains enthusiastic blurbs from Ann Coulter, Jonah Goldberg, Mickey Kaus, Glenn Reynolds and William Bastone. (Where was Andy? Fighting off V-C raids in P-Town?) Anyway, draw your own conclusions.
Excellent WP Campaign contribution page here to complement Tom Edsall’s terrific coverage.
Suzzy Roche is hard not to love as an artist, and even harder not to love as a person; well, OK, equally hard. That’s why I’m OK with the fact that when she asked Meg Wolitzer, Margo Jefferson, and Patricia Williams to join her and Maggie in her new project on writers and songs, she meant it, and they got to write songs with her, but when she asked me, well, she forgot.
I’m going anyway, and if you’re in town, so should you. It’s this Friday at Symphony Space and, as the great Levi Stubbs used say, all she has to do is reach out, 'cuz I’ll be there. (And pick up a copy of Zero Church until this one’s ready.
While you’re listening, pray that I am allowed to remain left behind just so long as Chris Matthews isn’t. Jon-o and I can hang until the final moments….)
More ABB slogans: ABB: The High Cost of Low Livin’
The Oprah Winfrey Show is redoing apartment 4FN of my building, according to a note slipped under my door yesterday. New York Times reporter Jesse McKinley got into trouble for allowing Oprah to redo his apartment, but I’m pretty sure if the Oprah people wanted to redo our place, MSNBC.com would be ok with that. Right guys? I particularly could use some help with the lighting….
Name: Rick Chapman
Hometown: Holiday, Florida
My name is Rick Chapman, and I'm a Democratic candidate for Congress in Florida's 9th District. I was standing outside a polling place today in Pasco County, getting petitions signed to get on the ballot. A friend showed up, who is also getting petitions signed to get on the ballot for Pasco County Supervisor of Elections. He said that his wife went to church the Sunday night, and went into the ladies room. Stacked all around were about 50 unsecured touch-screen voting machines. The church (polling place) was in Pinellas County.
Name: MJ Rosenberg
Hometown: Washington, DC
I'm glad you aren't falling for the phony idea that the Jewish vote is in play in 2004. It isn't. Gore received 79% in 2000 and Kerry should do just as well. We know that because Jews have voted overwhelmingly for the Democrats in every Presidential election since 1928. The only election in which an overwhelming majority did not vote Democratic was in 1980 when Carter carried the vote but did not receive a majority (and that was because a liberal third party candidate, John Anderson, was in the race). So there is simply no drama here. Jews vote Democratic for president and remain, like it or not, with African-Americans and non-Cuban Latinos, the most predictably liberal segment of the electorate.
Name: Tim Kearney
Hometown: Bellevue, WA normally (Guadalajara, Mexico presently)
My African wife is currently 3 months pregnant and we'd very much like for the baby to be born in the U.S. (around family; albeit, mine). The problem is getting a visa takes so long right now that the baby will be born in Mexico where we currently live. I think this goes against so-called family values.
What makes this even harder to take is that a recent report said that 7000 Liberian refugees were going to be invited to the U.S. Well, my wife's country (Ivory Coast) is in the middle of civil war also, which is why we left there. Do you think we have the Homeland Security Act to thank for our problems?
Name: Gabriel Murray
Hometown: Edinburgh, UK
I just wanted to follow up on the link to the Observer story about the Pentagon's report on global warming. The NPR program Living on Earth has an interview with one of the co-authors of the report; hopefully we're seeing the first hints of the media noticing this dire report.
Name: Frank Lynch
As a New Yorker (who was employed across the street from the WTC on September 11), I think it's important that we connect President Bush with September 11 images. It is from them that we realize his true leadership qualities. My favorite imagery comes from the film of his reactions for the first five minutes after hearing, from Andy Card, that the second jet had hit the WTC. Not the first jet, but the second. As you look at his face while he continues to listen while the 1st graders read aloud to him (for five minutes), you get a true sense of his dynamic qualities. (And let's not forget, not only was he in danger, but by his staying there with those children, so were they.) The video is at The Memory Hole.
Name: Tim Francis-Wright
Hometown: Medford, Mass.
Spalding Gray even made his name on Sesame Street, in a way: one of the Monsterpiece Theatre segments parodies "Monster in a Box." (The skit is in some ways a retelling of a classic Kermit and Grover skit from the first season of the show.)
Spalding Monster starts on his box, then next to the box, then Alastair Cookie yells, "You wrote this, and you don't know *in*? Spalding!" and proceeds to put him, forcibly, in the box.
Name: Clay Landon
Hometown: Los Angeles
A shout of thanks to Larry Love! It's fun to talk baseball with fellow Altercators since the conversation is usually a lot deeper than what you find on AM Radio. And let's not open the can of worms about right-wing sports talkshow hosts, of which there are hundreds. It's something about that AM dial; you've got to sign a form, I think, that stipulates the host can only address issues with shallowness and salaciousness. Anywho...
Not to sound like Blazing Saddles but Larry's right about my being half-right: I overstated that eight Sox had career years but if he's banking on Ortiz sluggin' .600 again, well, I'll be cheering right along side him but I ain't bettin' on it.
The weakest part of his argument is when he says 'pitching wins or loses, period.' Uh, no. It's scoring runs and preventing runs that wins games. The argument that baseball is 80% pitching is silly and should be treated as such. I agree that Kevin Brown is an injury risk (for all I care about him, I hope his arm really DOES end up in the visitor's dugout), but when healthy and happy, he's an upgrade over an aging Roger Clemens. And I love Andy Pettite--genuine nice guy. But Vazquez isn't Pettite-like or Weaver-like. He's better then both of them put together and everybody's who's seen him pitch marvels at his fiery competitiveness--he's the perfect New York player.
Finally, it was Joe Torre who needed medication last season because his sorry middle relievers couldn't get the ball to Rivera. It was their biggest weakness by far. Now, it's a source of strength.
But enough of that. I'm cheering for the Sox hard to beat the evil empire because, well, the Yankees are evil and like Larry, it keeps my mind off the other evil empire in the White House. And evil has a way of catching up with you. Yesterday, Bush was at 44% in one poll and Sheffield busted up his hand--he's out 'till June. As Affleck said in one of his movies, "Am I happy? You see me smiling?"
• March 9, 2004 | 12:14 PM ET
Death in the Family. I first met Spalding Gray in the lobby of the Intercontinental Hotel in Managua in 1987 or '88. (He was on one of those fact-finding tours and I was reporting.) We had dinner that night, and would do so again every few years whenever we ran into one another and it was easy to do. When I lived in Washington, he would leave me tickets for his monologues.
I don’t think any of this qualifies me to call Spalding my “friend,” though his remarkable openness and eloquence both onstage and off meant that I felt like I knew him, however distant our relations. He had some amazing insights into my life—including one sort-of life changing one—for which I’ll always be grateful. And I always felt like I came away with a deeper insight into some of the universals of the human condition than before I spoke with him or watched him speak. This was true even for the roughest monologues I would go see when he would workshop them at P.S. 122 in the East Village, where I lived when I first moved back to the city.
The last time I saw Spalding—at a July 4th picnic on Long Island this summer—I thought I was looking at his grandfather, or his ghost. He seemed to have aged decades in the period since we’d last seen each other. It shook me up, and for the first time I hardly knew what to say to him. I admired the way his wife Kathy talked about his depression and his mental illness as if no stigma were attached to it simply because none should be. His abbreviated life was a gift to so many people that words fail me here.
Sure, this belongs on p. A19. “The United States unsuccessfully tried to pressure the United Nations' then-chief weapons inspector to tell the Security Council that Iraq was in violation of U.N. resolutions just two weeks before Baghdad was attacked, according to the inspector, Hans Blix.”
You know what this means? "A majority of Americans -- 57 percent -- say they want their next president to steer the country away from the course set by Bush, according to the survey. Bush's standing hit new lows in crucial areas such as the economy (39 percent support him), Iraq (46 percent) and the budget deficit (30 percent).”
It means somebody in the Democratic Party better be investing in making sure those voting machines are kosher. (If I had gotten that part on the Sopranos, maybe I couldda done something about this Nader fellow, who, more and more, is looking like the last best hope of the Bush people.) See below for more analysis on this stuff.
OK, maybe it won’t be so bad. Look here.
A comparison of support for the two candidates by the results of the 2000 election show that among likely voters, Bush is barely ahead in the states he won four years ago by more than five percentage points (which Gallup calls "red" states). He leads Kerry by just 50% to 47%. In the "blue" states, which former Vice President Al Gore won by margins of more than five percentage points, Kerry leads Bush by a substantial margin, 55% to 42%. In "purple" states -- where the margin of victory for either candidate in 2000 was five percentage points or less -- Kerry also leads by a substantial margin, 55% to 39%.
With Nader in the race, the picture changes only a little. In the red states, Bush leads among likely voters by six points, 51% to 45%, but he trails badly in the purple states (52% for Kerry, 39% Bush, 4% Nader) and in the blue states (55% Kerry, 43% Bush, 1% Nader).
Jews for Bush (all two of them): From Salon,
Today in the New York Post, reporter Deborah Orin follows up on her "exclusive" from Monday that took John Kerry's writing from 1997 about Yasser Arafat out of context. Today, Orin presents reaction from Jewish leaders who "voiced concern" about Kerry. Who are these Jewish leaders? Well, there's Mort Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America, known in the Jewish community as a right-winger, hostile to the Middle East peace process, and a reliable supporter of right-wing Republicans. Orin also quotes American Jewish Congress president Jack Rosen, but fails to note that (although he has given money to the Democratic Party in the past) he is now a major Bush financial supporter and gave $100,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2002 alone. Now, is that a fair and balanced assessment of the opinion of Jewish leaders?
(We note also that the smart folks at The Note let Murdoch and company get away with this, uncommented upon.)
Are Republican Senate staffers criminals? We may just get to find out.
Score one for Ben Affleck. Lloyd Grove has what you young people call “the 411,” (or so hipsters tell me….)
The TNR Homeland Security link.
Alice Marshall comments that she dunno know about TNR, but Computerworld has a blistering editorial here.
Alter-review: Let’s return for a moment to Country in the Rockies. Concerts by songwriters work best for me when you get one of those, “wait, he wrote that?” moments of recognition. At the Country In the Rockies closing night show, Jeffrey Steele’s seven-song set had plenty of those moments, earning him a huge response from a crowd that acted like they were discovering someone.
Steele moved to Nashville in the early 90s after his California-based country band Boy Howdy folded, and continued to accumulate and lose record deals before concentrating on writing.
With over 200 cuts in the past three years and Songwriter of the Year titles from both BMI and the Nashville Songwriters Association International [big deals in the Music Row world], his name is still mostly unknown to country fans. Forgetting he was just an opening act for something called Lori Morgan—thank goodness for a wonderful closing set by, and I mean this, Kenny Loggins, Steele got everybody all shook up with old-sounding new stuff like “The Cowboy In Me,” “These Days,” “My Town” and “Hell Yeah” – songs conveniently made famous for him by major label stars. You can check him out at JeffreySteele.com.
P.S. I’d be even more enthusiastic if the terrific response Steele received didn’t give him permission to cut into Robert Earl Keen’s time. Robert looked pissed and so was I, even though Steele was, admittedly, great. Anyway, do yourself a favor and don’t make the same mistake imposed upon the CITR crowd. Mr. Keen’s ouvre can be found here.
And remember the whole week was about raising money for cancer research, sponsored by the T.J. Martell Foundation at the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Nashville. All of that is an eminently worthy cause, and so none of us need concern ourselves with petty, unimportant details like the fact that Club Med in Crested Butte, where I was staying, and which is run by a man named “Gus” has:
- A housekeeper who comes into your room even with the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door and will “disturb” your (admittedly extremely fragile) laptop into non-existence and prevent you from filing “Altercation” for a couple of days. (Thanks again to Eric Rauchway for yeoman stand-in service);
- A head of housekeeping who will promise to find you a replacement laptop and then forget about you;
- A “Village Manager” (Gus) who will also promise to find you a replacement laptop when the head of housekeeping forgets about you, and then proceed to forget about you;
- A “Village Manager” (Gus) who will apologize profusely about all of the above, and then promise to send you your skis that you are trying to auction off to make a donation to the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Nashville, but will forget about that too, despite repeated phone calls.
I’m sure that my experience with Gus is in no way a reflection of the rest of the fine staff at Club Med, Crested Butte, Club Med everywhere else, and of course, the great work being done by T.J. Martell Foundation for the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Nashville.
The Numbers Never Lie:
Name: Barry L. Ritholtz
Hey Doctor A,
If you want to understand exactly why the White House is scrambling so, this chart explains it all. (Source: The Dismal Scientist)
The intersection between economics and politics continues, with this rather fascinating chart via The Dismal Scientist. They note:
"The jobs situation under the current President Bush is looking more like it did under his father, who failed in his reelection bid in 1992, than in the successful reelection campaigns of Presidents Clinton (1996) and Reagan (1984)."
Other data should also be concerning the White House. Polls continue to show the President lagging Kerry by 1 to 6 points. Some GOP strategists have been dismissive of this early polling data, suggesting that incumbents often lag behind their challengers for extended periods of
time. And that argument is somewhat appealing right about now -- after an opponents' primary campaign has run, but before the incumbent's reelection campaign has started up.
The problem is, its not true. The Economist magazine cites the pollster Gallup, which reviewed the historical correlation between polling data and Presidential electoral success:
"According to Gallup, every incumbent since Truman has been ahead of his eventual challenger at this point in the cycle -- all except Gerald Ford, who lost."
Combine that little polling factoid with the graphic above, and its not too hard to understand why the White House strategists are starting to get a little concerned.
John Kerry Grabs the Prize
March 6 - 12th, 2004 (p 25)
Bad News for Bush
The Dismal Scientist, May 5, 2004
Running on Low:
Name: Michael Rapoport
I think you're being at least a little harsh on Jackson Browne's post-"Running on Empty" output. Granted, it's a lot more hit-and-miss than his earlier stuff, but all the albums he did in at least the 10-12 years after "Running on Empty" have some gems on them. "In the Shape of a Heart," in particular, is just a beautiful, ineffably sad song.
I think you've got a point about the paucity of The Book on Bush reviews. I did a little database searching, and it looks like the Kevin Phillips and Molly Ivins books got pretty decent numbers of reviews in their respective first months in the bookstores. (So did "What Liberal Media?" for that matter.) Maybe it's anti-Bush-book fatigue on the part of book-review editors; I imagine a paper that's reviewed Phillips and Ivins and Corn and Krugman and Suskind might be going "oh no, not ANOTHER one" upon seeing Alterman/Green. Not that that's fair, but who ever said life was fair?
Eric replies: Don’t get me started on this. Well, it’s not as if the book is as well argued, reasearched and footnoted as Ann Coulter’s. I got a call from a CNN producer the other day asking me to please come on Wolf Blitzer’s show to debate Ms. Coulter. I politely declined. But I did remind them that the last time they called me, they asked me to please debate Rich Lowry on the topic of his awful Regnery book. I agreed and Wolf said, on the air, “We’ll have you back Eric when yours comes out.” Um, What liberal media? (Not coauthored by Joseph Nye, by the way.)
And speaking of which, How great is this?
Speaking of Sox:
Name: Larry Love
Hometown: Mt. Tabor
Well Eric, I know there are plenty of other things to pay attention to, but I need to pull an Affleck and speak on behalf of Red Sox Nation. We have nothing to be concerned about if we listen to Clay Langdon. His first point about the Sox line-up having the best years of their career is only half right. With the exception of Mueller, all of the Sox were on typical career arcs. It would not be unlikely that Nixon, Varitek, Millar, and Ortiz to have even better years this year. Damon could not have a worse year offensively, so he should improve (or be replaced), and Garciaparra and Ramirez (barring the emotional drama of the offseason that Yanks fans think means something) will just be great as usual.
His second point is undone by his first. The Red Sox had the greatest offensive season since whenever, and it didn't get them to the World Series because pitching wins (or loses) games, period.
Which brings us to the third point, if you take a longer look at the stats you see that Brown took a couple years off because his arm is one slider away from ending up in the visitors dugout, and that Vazquez has pitched in exactly zero meaningful games. He could be Pettitte-like, he could be Weaver-like. Those are rather big questions at the front of the rotation. Questions the Red Sox faithful don't have until their number five starter. And if anybody really starts to worry about middle relief, they need to be medicated. The Sox and the Yanks both have very good bullpens. Let's leave it at that.
I'm sorry if I have turned Altercation into the Sons of Sam Horn, and I know I didn't have to ease Pierce's mind, but I can't wait for this season to start to watch it all go down. And it keeps me from wasting my time thinking about completely stupid constitutional amendments proposed by cowards who have nothing to do with the process of amending the Constitution.
Name: Hillel Schwartz
Hometown: Brookline, MA
I'm delighted that you quote from Bob Park's always enjoyable "What's New" newsletter, but I noticed that you failed to give its URL. It’s here.
Name: Dave Kelley
Hometown: Austin, Texas
I, too, liked Kinky a lot better before he fell in love with Shrub. Down here in Austin (where we know that being born in Connecticut, and going to school at Andover, Harvard, and Yale, means you're not a Texan, no matter how well you fake a drawl or how many pairs of cowboy boots you own), we've been forced to witness the Kinkster's transformation from renegade prankster to Bush courtesan by reading his column in Texas Monthly. At least when Willie stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom he had the decency to climb up on the roof for a spliff - exactly the sort of behavior Kinky would've once applauded, but now studiously avoids.
• March 8, 2004 | 1:55 PM ET
From the Communist Financial Times (I think):
It is hard to overstate the contempt with which Bush is viewed in some circles in Europe," reports Business Day. "He is regularly portrayed as irrationally belligerent, disdainful of allies, in thrall to special interests and rather stupid.
French President Jacques Chirac knows relations with Washington will not really improve until there is a new administration in the White House. Meantime, Bush's chumminess with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder last week seemed rather strained. Even Britain's Tony Blair is aware it would be easier for him if Bush were removed by the US electorate before Blair's own voters punish him for being too close.
They may hope a demonstration of the US's functioning democracy will counter the simplistic anti-Americanism prevalent in Europe. While it may not have functioned perfectly in 2000, it now has a chance to rectify the error.
(The author is Lawrence Freedman is professor of war studies and vice-principal (research) at King's College in London.)
How evil is Robert Novak? Hard to say, really. I guess about as evil as the Washington establishment is corrupt. I mean who cares about a little thing like “national security” when it’s all in good fun between fellow right-wing warriors?
“CNBC blew it,” CNN Employee Howie Kurtz writing in The "We can't afford a media reporter who is not in the pay of one of his major subjects" Washington Post.
“Kerry Concerned Over Flip-Flop Image,” Husband of Republican operative, Howard Kurtz offers Republican spin on election, free of charge.
Courts to Ashcroft: “Stay out of women’s uteruses, bud.” AP reports:
A federal judge ruled Friday that an abortion provider's affiliates do not have to turn patient medical files over to the government in a battle over the Partial-Birth Abortion Act….
The judge strongly urged the government to end its pursuit of medical files from Planned Parenthood affiliates in Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., New York City, Kansas City, Mo., San Diego and Los Angeles.
Quote of the Day, “If class warfare is being waged in America, my class is clearly winning."
-- Warren Buffett
I hear there’s a terrific TNR piece on the Bush’s administration’s horrific failures in the area of homeland security, but they’ve cancelled my subscription and so I really don’t know for sure.
This is borrowed from a Robert Parks' (Univ. of Md. physicist) weekly newsletter:
ADVERTISING: WHAT IF AN ENEMY MISSILE HAD JUST BEEN LAUNCHED?
The question is asked in the new Lockheed Martin ads that appeared this week on TV and in newspapers. An inbound missile is shown, with a cloud-shrouded 'target city' far below. 'What
would it take to stop it?' the ad asks. Answer: 'Information, speed and accuracy in a multi-layered system that integrates all three. Decisive action. Missile Defense.' But there is no missile defense, and for that matter, there is no missile. The only place a missile could be coming from is Russia, and that's why we still maintain a deterrent. The Lockheed Martin ads just happened to coincide with the first commercials of the Bush campaign.
[Update: link here.]
“[Aristide] was democratically elected but he didn't govern in a democratic manner…I'm happy he’s is gone.”
- Vice President Cheney, 3/2/04 here.
“President and Mrs. Bush will welcome President Hosny Mubarak of Egypt to their ranch in Crawford, Texas on April 12. The President looks forward to discussing with President Mubarak a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, including...our shared goal to see the spread of freedom.”
- White House announcement, 3/4/03 here.
David adds: Mubarak was recently chastised by Bush’s own State Department, which noted the Egyptian dictator “was elected unopposed to a 4th 6-year term in a country where "the electorate is not presented with a choice among competing presidential candidates."
Texas Name Drop: "Traditionally Texans have been known for having a lot of wide-open spaces between our ears. But because of the expanse of geography, we have a real independent spirit, which creates some original thought once in a while," he said.
More lists: Rock Star vs. CEOs
Alter-reviews: I can’t help it. I love Jackson Browne. By this I mean, early Jackson Browne. I’m not weird enough to go much beyond say, “Running On Empty,” but I treasure every one of those early records for reasons that Nick Hornby explains much better than I can in “Songbook," which is now out in paperback, though without the accompanying CD.
A reason I shouldn’t like Jackson is that he was a bit of a dick to me. The day I interviewed him two years ago, I was to meet him in his suite at the Plaza Athanee for a catered lunch from Le Cirque, according to his press guy. Instead he met me, a half-hour late—as I waited outside the suite—and we talked over the disgusting remnants of someone else’s breakfast, with no apologies or acknowledgement. Plus, he went back and forth between pretending to be familiar and admiring of my work, and admitting he never heard of me—either one would have been fine, but both together do not work. All of this is a long way of saying two things:
- Rhino has just put out a terrific-sounding thirty-two song two CD set of his best work, which sounds as wonderful today as it did when we were all young enough to embrace it unironically. You can find the excellent song selection here. And...
- Over that disgusting, half-eaten food, Jackson went on and on about this Kris Kristoferson record about U.S. policy in the Third World that he loved so much but was unfindable, but that I really must find if I wanted to write about the connection between music and politics. I didn’t find it, but I just got one in the mail from Oh Boy, the John Prine/Steve Goodman label, and it is the most leftist record I can ever remember hearing. It’s a period piece, but one inspired by a foolish, illegal and destructive war, and it’s got real power. The album is called Third World Warrior and it comes with another one called “Repossessed,” which was released in 1986 and is just as angry. The double CD won’t be available until April 27 but it’s a real find.
Additional alter-item: The audition I was asked to do for “The Sopranos” last year turns out to have been for the small part that opened the show last night, with the bald-headed guy on TV, pundicizing on the topic of Mafioso types being released from prison. When I read for Mr. Chase and company, the anchor was supposed to be Connie Chung. Anyway, I was under the impression that Leon Wieseltier had gotten the part, but apparently, they liked Leon so much they gave him a real part later in the series. Thus begins and ends my acting career, alas.
Name: Matt Shirley
Hometown: Scott AFB, IL
Mega-props to your man Charles Pierce. I've been a critic of his sometimes cryptic correspondence, but today, OH WOW! Naming the current Administration the "Avignon Presidency" was a bon mote worthy of Voltaire. But on top of that, he served up the delicious visual image of the NYPD called out to arrest NYFD protesters, and ties it in to similar activity by a younger Kerry at an earlier Convention of the Party in Solidarity with Monopolistic Capiltalists, Politically Connected War Profiteers, and Third World SOBs (but they're OUR SOBs). Verily, he doth slay me. Great work!
Name: Michael Rapoport
I think this is it, though I'd verify it with Pierce to be sure:
[Removed for copywright reasons but feel free to google it for yourselves... -Eric]
Hometown: White Plains
Eric, I can't help but comment on the shockingly sparse coverage of memogate -- the infiltration and theft by Republican staffers (at least that's the story so far) of thousands of computer files from the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding Bush judicial nominees. Even more shocking is the lack of any sense of outrage in the SCLM over this subversion of the democratic process. Compare the coverage of this highly significant issue with the coverage of the fairly insignificant House post office imbroglio a few years ago, which brought down the Democratic leadership of the House. Just another example of the double standard in the coverage of the parties.
Hometown: Sacramento, CA
I believe the jobs Mr. Cheney was referring to are in the oil and defense industries, and the American public may be unaware of them because most of these new jobs are located in...Iraq. Mr. Cheney merely forgot to qualify his statement. Happens from time to time.
Name: Arik Elman
The New York Post has 'revealed" that in his book of 1997 Kerry called Yasser Arafat "an exemplary leader and a statesman." Using my impeccable credentials as a staunch opponent of the peace :), I would like to point out that in this year the Israeli prime minister Netanyahu shook hands with the said Arafat and called him "a partner," "a man to deal with," and "a man of peace." So, while Kerry sure isn't a prophet, he wasn't a PLO sympathizer, either...
Eric replies: And here’s more from Salon.
When context is inconvenient
The New York Post is touting an "exclusive" story by Deborah Orin in today's issue, claiming that John Kerry called Yasser Arafat a "statesman" and a "role model" in a 1997 book. According to Orin, what Kerry wrote in his book "The New War" contradicts what he said eight days ago "when he told Jewish leaders in New York that he shares President Bush's belief that Arafat must be isolated because he's not a 'partner for peace' -- much less a statesman." The Bush campaign is already sending out copies of the Orin story, and other news organizations, like NBC News in its daily campaign update First Read are also spreading word of Orin's "scoop."
But John Kerry's campaign tells Salon that it gave Orin passages of the out-of-print book, which put the Arafat comments into context. Perhaps Orin, undeterred by the context of Kerry's writing, hoped that no one could get their hands on the book to check the facts.
Here's what appeared in "The New War," from pps. 113-114:
"In his contribution to a symposium-like volume published in 1986 under the title Terrorism: How the West Can Win, the noted historian Paul Johnson writes, 'What has the PLO, the quintessential terrorist movement of modern times, achieved? After the PLO and the other
terrorist movements it succored racked up an appalling total of lives extinguished and property destroyed, how far have they progressed toward achieving their stated political ends? Not at all; in fact they have regressed. The Palestinian state is further away than ever.'
"Only eleven years have passed since those words appeared in print. If nothing else, this indicates the velocity of change in the late twentieth century. Terrorist organizations with specific political agendas may be encouraged and emboldened by Yasser Arafat's transformation from outlaw to statesmen, while those whose only object is to disrupt society require no such 'role models.' In fact, what most encourages and emboldens terrorists now are the unprecedented opportunities inherent in the new world of porous borders, instant
communications, and access to weapons of mass destruction. Like everything else, global terrorism is mutating at a very rapid rate. Failure to prepare for the new strains verges on the suicidal …
"With the end of the superpower struggle, increased attention has fallen on radical Islam. It was twenty-five years ago that the world was treated to the murder of Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich by a group of hooded Palestinian terrorists. Since then, we have witnessed
dozens of other horrific incidents ... Under U.S. leadership, nations have arrayed themselves to discourage state sponsored terrorism. We have made such sponsorship a very risky business, as Libya, Iran, and Iraq and their peoples have learned through bitter experience. But as French interior minister Bernard Debre observed in the summer of 1996, today's terrorist networks are far harder to target, owing to their autonomy, lack of clear strategy, and rapid rate of reproduction. Debre concluded that what was necessary to stop them was for states to focus on monitoring banks, computer networks, and weapons trafficking as
essential components of detecting terrorist networks as they emerge."
-- Geraldine Sealey
And speaking of the P.A., for once, here’s a Correction to an Incorrect Correction:
Sorry to mislead you, Eric, the Four Seasons in Paris is the George V. I see the Plaza Athenee--you were correct, of course--is bragging about the "Sex in the City" episode on its hope page!
Eric replies: Correction to the corection to the correction: Er, I think you meant "home page."
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