Skip navigation


March 19, 2004 | 10:57 AM ET

Slacker Friday

Thanks to everyone who wrote in about Dennis. Given the show’s ratings, it seems as if seventy percent of the people who saw it thought to write. Anyway, I have a plane to catch. There’s a new “Think Again” column here on the media and the “War on Terror,” by Susan Moeller, author of the important new study on the media and coverage of the WMD issue. here. A summary is available here. And there’s a video of the bizarre Mr. Miller and myself here

Story continues below ↓
advertisement | your ad here

Update:  This just in:  Dennis Miller called my cell to apologize and to say that he was in the wrong and he is sorry.  I accepted his apology.

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Now I have lived long, and I have seen many weird things on my electric television machine. But that session with you and Dennis Miller the other night, well, boy howdy, that was one strange bit of performance art, that was.  First of all, and I say this with great respect, there are people who are Funny Voices On TV People, and people who are not, and you are not a Funny Voice On TV Person, for many of the same reasons that Mel Blanc was not a historian. However, I can see where you might have felt compelled to come vaulting out of character, given what you were dealing with out there.  I mean, Jeebus, I know the whole doomed exercise isn't drawing the ratings that "The Story Of Granite" puts up on Vermont Public TV, but I've never seen anyone display such manifest contempt for the 12 people who were watching his show, to say nothing of the passel of cheap bribe-takers there in the studio.  Dennis, cha-cha, Guthy-Renker's on the phone. They need an answer by Tuesday.

You have to love the Commonwealth. The Democratic National Convention is coming here next summer. (Why? Because Democratic politicians are idiots, but that's another story.)  Already, our governor, Mitt Romney (R-Bonneville Salt Flats), has tried to move the thing out of the FleetCenter downtown and into a seaside convention center that might as well be in the Azores.  (The Fleet presents its own spate of problems, not the least of which is the fact that holding the event there guarantees a traffic jam that will not resolve itself until well after Columbus Day.)  The Boston PD and the Boston FD both hate the mayor.  The protesters are going to be funneled into a tiny parking lot a dozen or so blocks away, and the Boston Herald, one of my several alma maters, has chosen this year to turn itself back into a screaming tabloid spit-sink. Have a nice time, lads. I'll be in Guam.

A personal Alter-Tribute: Marshall Frady died last week.  He was a scholar and an author, but he was a great reporter, first of all, and one of those Southerners who redeem all of us with his authentic commitment to the best instincts of the country.  If you can snag a copy of his "Southerners," do so, because it's terrific.  But Frady also wrote one of the three essential modern American political biographies.  They are T. Harry Williams on Huey Long, Jack Beatty on James Michael Curley, and Marshall Frady's "Wallace."  Read it, and wonder ruefully why people don't write about politics that way any more.

P.S. -- As you may recall, I was the honored recipient of the Media Research Center's "Quote Of The Year" Award for an uncomplicated sentence about Ted Kennedy that somebody at the MRC proved utterly incapable of reading.  The awards banquet was last night.  Alas, my invitation apparently got lost in the mail.

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago

Hey Eric, it's Stupid to wish I was a better writer.  But I'm not, so I'm asking your readers to bear with me on a dry, but important, subject. 

We all know gas prices are high.  Some of the causes are familiar ones: instability in Iraq and Venezuela, production/refinery problems here at home, etc.  But some reports have mentioned a new cause: increased Chinese demand for oil.  Oh-oh.  It gets worse: check out this editorial.  China's economy is at a turning point.  It will either invest in oil-hungry infrastructure and become dependent on foreign oil for decades or it will turn to more costly alternative energy sources. The implications for us are huge, including higher prices for everything and an emboldened Saudi Arabia, not to mention that little thing called global warming.

But how can we convince them?  China itself is wary of foreign dependency and has a track record of putting long-term national interests ahead of short term gains (often to brutal effect), but never on such a large scale.  Serious "dialog" is as likely to work with China as it is with North Korea.  I suspect globalization has tied our hands - can we threaten their imports with energy tariffs?  Even if we could, given the shame of the post-Tiananmen Square grant of "Most Favored Nation" trade status to China, I doubt Congress would have the will to say no to their corporate contributors over this.  But one thing we can do is set an example with that  (warning: boring repetition follows) energy independence Marshall Plan we keep hearing about.

Of course, energy independence makes an eloquent response to the Republicans' taunt, "What would the Democrats response to 9/11 be?" and Kerry's Iowa surge proved that good policy can be good politics.  How about this for a Fox News crawl: "Mission to Mars or Mission to the Gas Pump -- you decide."

Name: Pat Conner
Hometown: Forest Hill

Is Congressman Ney going to introduce legislation for D.C. bars to use "Freedom" olives in all martinis and serve "Freedom" peanuts as snacks?  Has Roger Ailes and the boys at Fox decided on whether to call the Spanish 1) Paella eating surrender monkeys 2) Sangria sipping surrender monkeys or 3) Chorizo chomping surrender monkeys?

Name: Eric Root
Hometown: Fryeburg, ME

The following is a link to the Association of Retired Park Service Employees where they have published internal Park Service memos instructing Superintendents to mislead the public and the media about their budgets and their level of services -  It's so commonplace as to be unremarkable, except for the clarity with which this puts the Administration's contempt for the public and the media, not to mention the career staff and the concept of their integrity.

Name: Gabriel Murray
Hometown: Edinburgh, UK

Hey Eric,
The saga surrounding the attempted takeover of the Sierra Club reminds me of a similar issue being debated in Britain, prompted by an essay by David Goodhart, which led to outrage among many by suggesting that clamping immigration meant the preservation of the social system and liberal values, among other things that ostensibly define a nation.  Gary Young, the best of the Guardian writers, had the most excellent response. To paraphrase him in a way that applies both to Goodhart and the Sierra Club would-be mutineers, we do indeed have a problem: progressives who preach like reactionaries.

Name: Kevin Doyle
Hometown: Alexandria, VA
You liberals are sooooo angry!! Dennis Miller made you look like the America hating sap you are.

Name: Tom Stein
Hometown: Sayre, New York

Eric, you are such an angry young man.  When will the liberals/democrats come up with answers instead of attacks. Solutions instead of insults. This violent anti-american stance worked for a few years in the 1960s, but eventually dies out and 30 or 40 years later you can build yourselves back up again. Don't be so bitter!!

Name: Barry Evans
Hometown: Healdsburg

Altman, where do you get off saying that the war on Iraq was not about terrorism?  Rather than accuracy you spew lies (along with Rep Waxman).  Why do you not recall or identify the threats and plot to assasinate the 1st Bush as acts of terroism?

The natural progress for Kerry's socialism agenda is on to fascism, which will result in the demise of our democracy and freedoms.

Additionally, terrorists have sought and recieved protection in Hussen's rogue regimen.  Isn't the killing and torturing of his own people what terroist's would do?  The socialists in Viet Nam did the same as what is now happening in Iraq and Spain.  They killed and wounded innocent civilians, without hesitation to achieve their goal of control.  These socialst actions remind me of the Democratic Party's hate mongering rhetoric and unsubstanciated tirades against Bush. 

Please explain why the action of terroism in Spain was planned and supported by its socialist party?

You may fool some of the people most of the time, but you will not fool me with your guiled rhetoric!

Let freedom ring, and may we all carry the banner of freedom and peace.  Our flag is a symbol of our committment to world-wide freedom from oppressors.

March 18, 2004 | 1:12 PM ET

About last night….

Since my hotel here in Santa Monica does not get CNBC, I remain among the category of the vast majority of my fellow countrymen and women who have never seen the Dennis Miller show.  So I don’t know how it looked to its miniscule audience.  There is a description here, however.

Anyway, what was so weird about it was how professional it seemed until I finally sat down with Miller.  It was set up long in advance by the book’s publicists.  The car came on time.  In my dressing room, which was pretty elaborate as such things go, I met with a series of staff members who informed me that Dennis would be wanting to discuss topics such as George Soros and the funding of 527s; whether Bush was exploiting the 9/11 families, and I forget what else, just like a real talk show.  Then I go out there and what?  I’m talking to a stoned teenager, who can’t be bothered to say more than, “Whoh, man, you are so totally screwed up.  Like, you really believe that stuff, dude?”  I paraphrase, but really, Dennis did not say much more than that.  Everyone on staff was extremely apologetic afterward and the word “unprofessional” was used over and over.

I try to avoid most of these guys, though I’ve been on O’Reilly, and Scarborough and Michael Medved’s silly radio program a couple of times but never have I encountered a guy who could not be bothered to make his own case on his own show.  Really, what can CNBC be thinking with this guy?  His ratings are not just in the toilet they have traveled all the way to the septic tank.  And as we all know, they need to pay audience members to show up.  It has got to cost more than the Phil Donahue show to produce, given the size of the audience and the set and that was yanked even though it was then the highest rated show on MSNBC.

I used to think I should be given half of Joe Scarborough’s show.  His ratings aren’t so hot and we sort of get along and things could only improve.  Now, perhaps I should be patient and just wait for Miller to implode a couple of more times and then offer my services to the machers up at NBC News.  No need for lengthy negotiations.  I’ll take whatever Dennis was getting, plus money for liquor and food for my friends when they do the program.

Here we go again.  Howie Kurtz thought it bad luck for Kerry that he got booted off the TV because of the bomb in Iraq, and a coup for Cheney that cables carried his attack on Kerry via split screen.  But wouldn’t you call it a PR disaster?  As Eric Boehlert points out, while Cheney was telling a partisan crowd at the Reagan Library that the war in Iraq was “making the nation and the world more secure,” pictures of a Baghdad inferno flickered simultaneously on U.S. television screens.

And speaking of Cheney, did you know that he received four 2-S draft deferments -- granted to students -- from 1963 through 1965 while he was a student at the University of Wyoming. He married Lynne in 1964, and was thus banned from the draft.

But in October 1965, the Selective Service announced that married men without children could then be drafted.  Exactly nine months and two days later -- on July 28, 1966 -- his first child was born.  Cheney hadn't waited until her birth before he sought a 3-A deferment classification -- given to those with dependents.  He did so when Lynne was only 10 weeks pregnant.

Here’s an oldie on the topic which could use some more attention.

I review Michael Wolff’s book for The Atlantic Monthly, here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Barry Ritholtz
Hometown: The Big Picture
Hey Eric,

The Wall Street Journal had an unusual and insightful election report today (3/17): "Arab-Americans Sour on Bush."

The article focuses on Arab Americans, a formerly solid G.O.P. voting bloc in "battleground states." The Journal reports on a new Zogby International poll of voters in four key states -- Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania -- reveals that "Arab-Americans strongly disapprove of Mr. Bush.  Only 28% favor his re-election, while 65% want someone new."

It should come as no surpise that Arab-Americans are not pleased with White House policies.  As a group, they are upset about "Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iraq war and the erosion of civil liberties for Arab Muslim immigrants in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks."

Oh, and running an advert with dark skinned Arab man as terrorists somehow didn't make the situation better.  Go figure.

(See chart)

I was surprised to learn where these voters are concentrated: In crucial swing states, there are over half a million Arab voters.  The Zogby poll discovered that Arab Americans who formerly supported Bush in 2000 are now abandoning the President -- and in large numbers.

Here's how the data shakes out:

"Under current trends, perhaps 170,000 voters in the four states who in 2000 supported Mr. Bush, might shift this year to the Democratic candidate, Sen. John Kerry.  That assumes Ralph Nader, who is Lebanese-American, stays in the race.  If he doesn't, 30,000 more Bush supporters from 2000 would switch to Mr. Kerry.  If the contest is as tight as last time, those votes could prove decisive. . .
The group most in flux is Arab-American Muslims, who represent 25% of the 510,000 Arab-Americans likely to vote in those four states, according to the Zogby poll.  In 2000, they preferred Mr. Bush to Mr. Gore 58% to 22%. But this year they are staunchly opposed to Mr. Bush, preferring Mr. Kerry 78% to 12% in a two-man race."

These are stunning statistics from crucial electoral States.

The GOP has been surprisingly lackadaisacal about pursuing this group of former supporters. Meanwhile, "Democrats have been working hard" at cultivating Arab-American support:

"If the election were held today, in a one-on-one race with John Kerry, 54% of Arab-American voters would back the Massachusetts Democrat, and 30% would support Mr. Bush.  Mr. Nader is a wild card; if he is on the ballot in the four states that Zogby International polled, Mr. Kerry's lead would fall to 43%, with Mr. Nader drawing 20% and Mr. Bush 27%. In the latest national poll, released this week and conducted by CBS News and the New York Times, Mr. Nader drew 7% of overall voter support."

(See chart)

The White House still has some hope with the group, which has been left wondering why they haven't been courted yet:

"It isn't a lost cause for Mr. Bush, Arab-American leaders say. While they are unhappy with the president, they have yet to fall in love with Mr. Kerry -- which explains the strong support for Mr. Nader, Mr. Zogby notes. The Democratic candidate voted for the Patriot Act, which Arab-Americans blame for some civil-liberties violations. Arab-Americans complain Mr. Kerry has sent mixed signals on Israel, particularly on the West Bank partition. Bush-Cheney spokesman Mr. Stanzel believes that Republican-leaning Arab-Americans will return to the Bush fold once they have had a chance to compare their choices."

As we have mentioned several times previously, Ralph Nader continues to be a surprisingly significant factor. The race, at this point, appears close enough in swing electoral states that if the consumer gadfly garners a mere 1%, he could swing the election.  That assumes, of course, that people will vote for a 3rd party candidate they claim to support.  In the past, that correlation has been less than 100%, and this election, it's likely to be significantly so.

Here's one last interesting coincidence: James Zogby is president of the Arab American Institute. If you recognize that name, its because his brother John runs Zogby International, the polling firm.

This race gets more fascinating every day.

Arab-Americans Sour on Bush
Bloc Carries Weight For Campaigns In Pivotal States
WALL STREET JOURNAL, March17,2004; PageA4

Poll: Bush losing Arab-American support 

Presidential Election of 2000, Electoral and Popular Vote Summary

Name: Marvin Lindsay
Hometown: Salisbury NC
Dear Mr. Alterman,
Congratulations on the paperback publication.  Eric, isn't all the handwringing about terrorists jerking around the Spanish electorate a bit disingenuous?  Terrorists routinely jerk around the Israeli electorate with a suicide bombing or two before Israelis go to the polls, but the difference is that Hamas bombs to punish the doves, and keep the war going, whereas the Madrid bombing punished the Spanish hawks.  Funny, but I don't remember Andrew Sullivan and David Brooks wringing their hands about the Israeli electorate handing Hamas another victory by putting Likud in power.  I've written more about this at my own little blog.

Name: Ray Lodato
Hometown: Chicago

Enough about 2004.  We nominated the Democrats' vice-presidential nominee for 2012 yesterday (assuming two Kerry terms).

It's rare for us progressives to be thrilled with an election result--it's often enough to keep the Republicans out.  But this genuinely feels as if one of us won.  I've known Barack since 1995, and I can say he's the best there is.

Another SCLM example last night--Bruce Dold, the editorial page editor of the Tribune, was on one of the local (Tribune-owned) cable channels last night, providing analysis disguised as reading from the Republican playbook.  As the results became clear, Dold continually touted the Republican candidate, Jack Ryan, as a viable alternative to Obama in the general.  While it's never smart to take your opponent for granted, let's look at the numbers:

  • In a seven-person primary, Obama got 53% and, most significantly, over 500,000 votes statewide.
  • In an eight-person primary, Ryan got 36% and just over 100,000 votes. 
  • Obama faced a candidate who spent over $20m in the primary, and another who was the Democratic machine's favorite.
  • Ryan faced the owner of a local dairy, who ran racist anti-immigration ads, and one respectable state senator. 
  • Neither party had a vigorous presidential primary.  I don't think Kerry was here in the last week, and the race has been over since, oh, New Hampshire.

Call me, well, stupid, but doesn't it appear that in the absence of any other factors, people actually wanted to come out to vote for Obama, and that Ryan starts not as a viable candidate, but as one in a huge hole?

Anyway, for once, we win one.  As U.S. Senators are, to a large degree, national figures, I can only say to everyone outside of Illinois--you're going to love this guy.

Name: Daniel Smith-Rowsey
Hometown: Los Angeles

In the last month, Howard Stern has morphed into something of particular interest for Eric Alterman fans: the first left-leaning mirror image of the broadcast conservative media.  The conservatives may think that NPR and Pacifica are "liberal," but as we know, such stations always have a question on the table.  They don't sit there like Limbaugh and his ilk, methodically assassinating someone's character.  Howard Stern has turned into the Bizarro Limbaugh, the mouthpiece against Bush, and all Alterman readers should take a moment to notice what a "liberal media" might sound like.

Of course, Howard Stern is advocating his own interests in the post-Janet-Jackson-FCC-ClearChannel censornament.  But now that Howard has his target, he hangs on like a pit bull.  He harangues the administration on everything from gay marriage to job loss to stem-cell research to policies that fail to fight the "war on terror."  Beyond that, Stern constantly questions Bush's character.  Stern says, "the guy drove drunk into a tree," criticizes the smirk as Bush signed a bill helping drug companies, thunders about the family connections that saved him from failed businesses and national service.  In the next breath, Stern compliments Kerry not only for going to war but for having the courage to come back and tell President Nixon that the war was wrong.  He says, wouldn't it be nice to have an articulate president instead of this "idiot"?

Stern's show isn't all politics: one is as likely to hear D-list celebrities and strippers as ever.  But Stern and his audience of 10 million have been getting daily doses of an incipient, aggressive, broadcast "liberal media" that has as much use for subtlety as the conservative one.  It's worth a listen.

Eric replies: See this.

Name: Steve Palme
Hometown: New Orleans
Am I the only person who noticed on the 3/15 edition of Nightline that a representative of the new Spanish government responded to Ted Koppel's inquiry about world leaders wanting to see Kerry win?  His name was Valles, and he said bluntly that the new Spanish government certainly wanted to see that result, as did most of the other leaders in Europe.  I was surprised that this was never mentioned by anyone in the press after the White House started insinuating that Kerry fabricated the whole thing.

Name: Tim Estes
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ

Alterman is just this slimy little slug that truly represents the basic media of today.

He is so consumed with hate for Bush that he actually seems to be happy that terrorists were able to effect a government's election.  Hey what's the death of a couple of hundred people to terrorist or people like Alterman has long as it hurts Bush.

Name: Leonard Willens
Hometown: Green Valley

Why don't you move to France.  Your comments on Dennis Miller make it obvious you hate this country.  You are nothing but a fu**ing arrogant little prick.  A fifth columnist.

Update:  Charlie Rose is airing the Book on Bush segment tonight, Wednesday, March 17th.

March 17, 2004 | 11:32 AM ET

Today is the publication date for the paperback edition of What Liberal Media, which features a short new preface and a long examination of the coverage of the Iraq war.  Since so many of you bought the hardcover, I’m printing the preface here.  Don’t ask me for the Iraq chapter though; you’re not gonna get it. 

One thing I would like people to know, however, is that the new version was published with a cover that I specifically vetoed, and the publisher, Basic Books, ignored my wishes.  I think the cover can be read to imply that the book is a critique of The New York Times, which is not intended, since it is both praised and criticized in the book, and is not really that big a deal in most of it anyway. The Times treated the book quite generously, which I appreciated, and if I am going to criticize them, I’ll pick the time and place, like here

Anyway, given that this was probably one of Basic’s biggest sellers in years, I found it odd that they would overrule me on such a small point as removing the “ES” from the book’s corner, to make the typeface look more generic to the news biz, rather than the Times. They apparently didn’t care what I thought, and yes, I’m pissed.

Here’s the preface:

Preface to the Paperback Edition of WLM?
My publisher asks that I say a few words about the reception of the hardcover edition of this book and its implications for my thesis.  Lest I be accused of whining the way all authors whine—I do, but only in private—the reception for the book was pretty terrific.  Not only were the reviews largely favorable and intelligent, the mail was intensely gratifying.  I suppose ninety percent of life is timing but I was extremely lucky to have timed my message to a moment when so many people were eager to hear it.

Still, I don’t think the book’s reception offers much solace for those who dispute my thesis.  Much of the book’s early success, in my view, was attributable to the enthusiasm with which it was received not in the media, per se, but in the liberal blogosphere.  My argument that even the genuinely “liberal” media is not nearly so liberal as the conservatives are conservative, that it is not organized as a political movement—and that indeed, much of it has been cowed into adopting conservative assumptions and arguments if only unconsciously--was more than borne out by the collective yawn with which it was met in some of the media’s most liberal elements.  After all, if the media were so liberal, then the really liberal part of it would likely to have embraced a book designed to prove the opposite case—the better to get on with its work of being so liberal under the radar screens of the unsuspecting masses.  Alas, this did not take place.

What Liberal Media? went unreviewed in three genuinely liberal newspapers—The Boston Globe, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and The San Francisco Chronicle—even though it made it into single digits on all three of those newspaper’s local bestseller lists.  It also went unreviewed in even The New Republic. The neoliberal Washington Monthly turned the book over to a writer whose work I strongly criticized, both in the book and elsewhere.  Harper’s’ Gene Lyons was less than crazy about it, while over at The Atlantic, my good friend, its terrific literary editor, Ben Schwarz, let it pass without a word.  Not a word in New York, neither.  Slate gave it to its dyspeptic media critic, Jack Shafer, who ignored its contents, except to take a swipe at a silly online debate in which I participated on National Review Online.  (The latter, by the way, appeared bent on welching on the $100 plus a fleece sweatshirt I was promised for my participation, until its editors were inundated with e-mail missives from loyal Altercation readers. Thanks guys.)  The New York Observer assigned a front-page, hatchet-job profile to the very writer who found himself charmed and delighted by Ann Coulter’s joke about how much fun it would have been if Timothy McVeigh had blown up The New York Times.  He quoted me referring to women as “chicks” when I was actually pointing to the baby chicks painted on my daughter’s wall, among a few no less egregious misrepresentations.  Remember these are the actual liberals in the media, where I have actual friends.  If the genuinely liberal media worked in any way remotely comparable to the conservative media described in this book, little of the above would have been even theoretically possible. 

Meanwhile, with the exception of an extremely thoughtful review in Columbia Journalism Review, the alleged alpha males of watchdog journalism also saw fit to ignore the book, for reasons upon which I can only speculate.  Washington Post and CNN media reporter, Howard “Conflict-of-Interest” Kurtz, doubly ignored it.  (I was a regular in Howie’s media notes column before the book was published.  Nevermore.)  American Journalism Review‘s editors did not think it merited a review.  Fox News’s fairly balanced media program, “Fox Media Watch,” could not spare a moment to mention it; ditto, Communist NPR’s media program, “On the Media.”  Given the (gratifying) attention that the book’s argument received on Jim Romenesko’s Media News website, as well as the favorable reviews in places like The New York Times, The Sunday New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times, and The New Yorker—see front and back cover blurbs--it’s hard to argue that these decisions were not conscious ones.

Meanwhile, the conservative media certainly did their job.  What Liberal Media?, I am proud to say, completely stinks in the opinion of Andrew Sullivan, Jonah Goldberg, Bernard Goldberg, David Horowitz, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Commentary, American Enterprise, the American Spectator, The Hill, all of right-wing talk radio and most of cable TV (where I was almost always paired with an extremist conservative, lest my views infect viewers if not disputed within thirty seconds).  Whatever else it may have accomplished, the book was certainly a boon to the face-time media careers of the likes of William McGowan and the folks at Brent Bozell’s Media Research Center.

On broadcast television, and in the national newsweeklies, the book was again, unheard of. Nothing at all on any of the networks, nor PBS, save for an excellent, forty-minute debate on the Iraq war with Christopher Hitchens on The Charlie Rose Show.  Again, this might not be so remarkable were it not for the fact that Ms. Coulter was embraced by this particular constituency despite the fact that she frequently jokes about how funny it would be if journalists were murdered by terrorists and compares Katie Couric--a mom and a widow—to both Eva Braun and Joseph Goebbels.

All in all, I repeat, I have precious little about which to complain.  I remain extremely heartened and encouraged by the manner in which the book was initially received and discussed in many significant media circles.  Given the ever decreasing role that books are allotted in our tabloid culture, most serious authors would have to be thrilled with the degree and quality of the attention the book received and I am certainly no snob on this score.  But whatever notice the book did receive—favorable or unfavorable—it would be more than a bit nutty to blame (or thank) “liberals” for it.  That’s all I want to say.  That, and--oh yeah--I hear O’Reilly wears a rug.  If you don’t like it, big guy, sue me.
November , 2003, 
New York City,

Alter-appearance:  Dennis Miller tonight at 9 p.m. ET.

***Update:  Eric reports after taping:  People, watch this.  Dennis Miller is really weird.

Stairway to Gilligan can be found on this page. Thanks to all who let me know.

Here’s Pierce:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Eric --
Because Every Day, even Himself's Day, is Slacker Friday, Part The XXXII.
And a hearty slainte to the extended Altercation family.  As our buds in Black '47 sing, "Oh, Mammy, dear, we're all mad over here. Living in America."

OK, so it was snowing last night, and I was fairly riveted to the couch as the National Broadcasting Company -- in its various acronymic identities -- lit the fuse and fired itself so far into the Gomersphere it may never come back.  First, we had uber-hackette Lisa Myers -- embroiderer of jailhouse tapes, phone pal of David Brock, and onetime Lamb Chop to Ken Starr's Shari Lewis -- with some Exclusively Leaked CIA footage of Osama bin Laden, and a chorus of Bush-aligned spooky types all ringing changes on Lisa's favorite of all tunes, "It Was All Bill's Fault."

Jeebus alive, do you suppose it might be possible -- let's not dream crazy dreams and ask if it's worth reporting -- that the fact that these Ultrasecret Tapes were Obtained Exclusively specifically because its 9/11 stonewalling was beginning to catch up to the Avignon Presidency?  Where was the part of the story in which the Bushies cut back the flights of the very drones that took the Super-Double-Secret video that Lisa Obtained Exclusively in the first place?  Brokaw promised some Bush stuff tonight. I feel safer now.

Then, elsewhere in the empire, to discuss the putative Democratic nominee, Chris Matthews pulls a panel out of his ass that includes Howard Fineman (whose hair apparently has gone into business for itself) and the unspeakable John Fund.  He followed that up by rolling away the stone and bringing forth Thomas (Enron) White, which must have had our friend Josh Marshall reaching for the wooden stakes and silver bullets.

God, I need a pint.

Name: Mark Pollock
Hometown: Chicago
Add this one to the long file of gaping holes in the Bush Administration's efforts to protect us from terrorist attacks: no funding or standards for training guards at nuclear power plants.  You can't make up this stuff, nobody'd believe it.  Read it and weep.

Name: Alan Lewis
Hometown: San Francisco

I understand that Congress has just passed a resolution, and henceforth the aphrodisiacs supplied to our troops in Iraq will be known as "Freedom Fly."

Name: Jimmy G
Hometown: Lake Worth, FL
So I got to meet Bruce again the other night while playing an acoustic gig down here in an unnamed Palm Beach County club that the Boss frequents.  It seems that my hero likes eating at this establishment for a few good reasons:

  1. The people in this equestrian community respect his space and privacy and
  2. The food is pretty good and it's close to his house.

Well... I opened with "Shut Out The Light" a "B" side to the Born In The USA single (I think) and later on played "The New Timer" from The Ghost of Tom Joad.  Bruce said he thought I sounded good and was surprised to hear those songs down here in Florida. 

Ya know that saying about how you should  never meet your heroes?  Well as far as Bruce Springsteen is concerned he debunks that theory big time and was even better than I ever could have imagined him to be in person man to man ya know?  Oh yea the waiters here love him too, he's a %50 tipper.

Everybody likes the guy down here and as for me, I'm still walking around on a cloud - thrilled to have been able to let my teacher hear the results of his 30 years of lessons.

P.S. I gave him my card and told him if he ever needs anything, a pick, a set of strings, a hamburger at 4 in the morning, anything, just call -he said "that's nice man."  Democrats are like that.

Name: Tommy Johnson
Hometown: Boston

Alterman hates America and is a traitor.  He needs to move to someplace like North Korea where he would feel much more at home.

March 16, 2004 | 1:36 PM ET

Spain: Genuinely Tough on Terrorism:  What is being lost in all this bare-chested breast beating about Spain’s allegedly going soft on terrorism is the fact that the war on Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism; just ask the CIA.  Check that.  It’s not that it had nothing to do with it.  It has inspired quite a bit of it, as Bush was warned in advance.  His obsession was so strong however that he was willing to place the nation in greater danger, while simultaneously falling down on the job when it came to the real business of fighting terrorism, be it in tracking down Al Qaida and Taliban remnants in Afghanistan or protecting the nation’s security here at home.  If Spain pulls out of Iraq, that will allow their security forces to better protect them from terrorism, just as Americans would be better protected if we had never gone to Iraq in the first place.

This from The Book on Bush:

“While no one could produce any credible evidence of an Iraqi-terrorist connection during at least the previous decade, it did seem quite likely that Bush’s proposed invasion would likely lead to a resurgence of anti-American terrorism rather than its diminution. The National Intelligence Estimate predicted that the scenario Bush claimed to be intervening to prevent might actually take place because of his invasion. It found that Hussein was then “drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks," but that if Hussein considered a U.S. invasion imminent "he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions." It warned, "Saddam, if sufficiently desperate, might decide that only an organization such as Al Qaeda" could help him strike the US homeland.  He might take this "extreme step" of joining with Al Qaeda in a terrorist attack against the United States if it "would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him." And even if this worst-case scenario did not emerge, the US would still likely increase terrorism in the long run with its unprovoked war.”

Meanwhile, let’s keep turning over millions of dollars to the very people who provided us with phony intelligence that helped delude us into war.  Here is a list of stories in which the so-called liberal media passed along the INC's deliberate lies and misrepresentations with various degrees of caution and content.  Editor and Publisher notes, “In at least one case, the reporters reveal, the INC made a defector available to a reporter even before the information had been vetted by U.S. officials. That defector claimed in a Dec. 20, 2001, article by Judith Miller in The New York Times that there were biological, nuclear and chemical warfare facilities located underground in Iraq.  Nothing of the sort has since been found.

And while we’re at it, why not further soak tax-payers for some pro-administration phony Medicare ads, here also bought and paid for by your tax dollars  The dishonest ad has run 53 times

Just how much of this can the media take before they either demand paychecks from the White House press office or start to do some thinking of their own?

For the Record:  "The Iraq on the Record Report, prepared at the request of Rep. Henry A. Waxman, is a comprehensive examination of the statements made by the five Administration officials most responsible for providing public information and shaping public opinion on Iraq: President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.
This database identifies 237 specific misleading statements about the threat posed by Iraq made by these five officials in 125 public appearances in the time leading up to and after the commencement of hostilities in Iraq. The search options on the left can be used to find statements by any combination of speaker, subject, keyword, or date."

I did a Buzzfllash interview:  It’s here.

The Times gives up and let’s Robert Cox keep his Op-Ed corrections parody page.  (Now if we could only get an mp3 of “Stairway to Gilligan.”)

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Stephen Anderson
Hometown: Los Angeles

On 1/23/02, President Bush said, " I have no ambition whatsoever to use [national security] as a political issue." [Link]

From Time:

"Administration sources tell TIME that employees at the Department of Homeland Security have been asked to keep their eyes open for opportunities to pose the President in settings that might highlight the Administration's efforts to make the nation safer. The goal, they are being told, is to provide Bush with one homeland-security photo-op a month." [Link]

"At long last, Sir, have you no decency?"  The hypocrisy continues to rise to heretofore unimaginable levels.

Name: J.B. Howard
Hometown: Baltimore
Iraq and the Third Punic War:
Given the focus of your blog,  I thought that you might find this brief discussion of some parallels between the genesis of the Third Punic War and the attack on Iraq to be notable.  Here is the text, which is also posted on my blog:

Pinpointing the causes of any war is notoriously difficult.  But often one can find that at least part of the impetus involves a touch of the irrational--inexplicable human urges, personal obsessions, private hatreds.  These undercurrents can lead politicians to exaggerate threat to justify a preemptive attack.

The Third Punic War (149-146 BC) is a case in point. Adrian Goldsworthy's The Punic Wars describes the possible causes for that war between Rome and Carthage in terms oddly resonant with the politics of war circa 2002-03. A summary of Goldsworthy's account:

By 150 BC, Rome had firmly established itself as the unrivaled power in the western Mediterranean; there could be no real question of Carthage mounting a challenge to Roman military and political dominance.  Nevertheless, a number of influential Romans apparently regretted that Rome had not dealt even more harshly with Carthage at the end of the Second Punic war.  And now Carthage was becoming wealthy, again.  Returning from visits to Carthage, Roman senators began speaking of the growth and prosperity they had seen there. Cato, a fierce antagonist of Carthage during the Second Punic War now in his old age--began to rail incessantly against the renewed threat from Rome's traditional enemy. During one Senate debate, Cato was said to have dropped a huge fig from his toga, claiming that it had been grown in the monstrously fecund orchards of Carthage.  He, together with other conservative senators, were also expressing concerns about the rising Greek influences then corrupting Rome's younger generations. They worried about the general decline of morals and republican virtues, the loss of martial vigor in the society. Perhaps due to this sense of spreading social decay, Cato became increasingly obsessed with the growing strength of Carthage and the need to act preemptively to stop a ripening threat. To rally support for his pro-war policy, Cato is reported to have exaggerated the speed with which the nonexistent Punic fleet might cross the Mediterranean to attack Rome itself. In the end, he took to concluding every speech he made in the Senate with the phrase Delenda est Carthago -"Carthage must be destroyed."  For reasons still not clearly understood, Rome allowed itself to be persuaded. An invasion force was patiently assembled, a suitable pretext was found, and Carthage was, at last, annihilated..

Name: Don Voyles - answer me if you have the guts
Hometown: Worland, Wyoming and damn proud of it

You Commie Son of a Bitch!  When you say something, how about backing it up with one or two facts?

March 15, 2004 | 2:34 PM ET

The media are in decline by all measures of influence with the public, according to a thorough new report by the Pew Center for Excellence in Journalism that I have not read yet.  I can’t get the link to work but the USA Today report is here.

“Imagine a business in which a guy who reports for a top newspaper takes a paycheck from one of the companies he reports on.”  Howie Kurtz leaves one potential example out of his story on the new Pew report ont he state of journalism.

Look at what contempt the administration holds the media in the first place. This took place yesterday on CNN:

Blitzer:  “...Looking back, was it a mistake to go to war at that time instead of giving the UN more time to continue their own inspections?”

RUMSFELD:  “Well the UN inspectors were not in there.  The UN inspectors were out."

Wolf at least followed up, by pointing out that Rumsfeld was spouting nonsense, and the inspectors were only out because the Bush administration told them to leave.  But the president has made this nutty claim now twice.  Remember he said after the war, “Did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program?  And the answer is: absolutely.  And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in," and repeated this claim in January while hosting the Polish president at the White House.

Rumsfeld’s is a third.  How can we continue to take any of their assertions about Iraq seriously when they don’t even bother to lie in believable ways?  (Eric Rauchway adds, “How do they  not laugh when they say this:   "I believe to this day that it was an urgent threat," White House  national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said on NBC's "Meet the
Press" program.  "This could not go on and we are safer as a result  because today Iraq is no longer going to be a state of weapons of mass  destruction concern.")

When I read Andy on a day like today, I wonder how anyone can take him seriously as anything more than practitioner of the politics of Joe McCarthy, with a little Stalin thrown into the mix.  Spain's population votes to remove a political party that defied the will of ninety percent of its population and engage in a disastrous foreign adventure, and he terms this “a spectacular result for Islamist terrorism.” 

I call it “democracy,” and I thought it was what our soldiers were supposed to be fighting for.  Later, Little Roy writes, “If the appeasement brigade really do believe that the war to depose Saddam is and was utterly unconnected with the war against al Qaeda…”  What he means when he says “appeasement brigade” are people who actually pay attention to evidence, since we all know that nothing of any significance connects Iraq to Al-Qaida except the propaganda efforts of the Bush administration, its supporters and the administration apologists to imply or assert otherwise.  Really, the fact that Andy has any journalistic reputation left to lose is a mystery to me.

Then again, so is Bill O’ Reilly.  I mean the man is quite simply stoking anti-Semitism in his campaign on behalf of Mel Gibson’s slasher-fest, “Passion.”  Here is O’Reilly, quoted in The Forward, “OK, it’s a very, very difficult question. And I’m asking this question respectfully.  Is it because the major media in Hollywood and a lot of the secular press is controlled by the Jewish people?”  Um, respectfully Bill, we also enjoy a little blood of Christian children with our matzoh. Promise you won’t tell.

Hey look, Kerry owes us a royalty: Kerry Ad Says Bush ‘Misleading America.’

Was Bush un-Reliable?  Could be…..

Sweet piece.

Check out this other story from this morning's NYTimes.

It concerns a small book from a small press. The book is titled "How to Get Stupid White Men out of Office."

... The book, a low-budget paperback written by a group of political activists, is not to be confused with 'Stupid White Men,' a HarperCollins best seller by the filmmaker and author Michael Moore, which remains in hardcover.

But HarperCollins has been concerned about just that sort of confusion. In November, HarperCollins wrote to the Brooklyn publisher, Soft Skull Press, demanding that the title be changed and stating that the similarities would cause 'irreparable damage' to Mr. Moore and his book."

Although the reporter, David Carr, mentions that titles are not copyrightable, at no point does he question HaperCollins about what cause of action they are alleging. And at no point does he raise concerns about the bleed-over between principles of copyright and principles of trademark.

The problem here is not just one of rabid efforts of protection. It's also a matter of the conflation between these two distinct areas of law that we unfortunately (and harmfully) combine under the meaningless phrase "intellectual property."

After all, "intellectual property" is neither.

Here is the problem. When a lawyer trains herself in trademark law, she gets brainwashed to do everything to prevent "dilution" of the mark, inflation of its use, and deflation of its market value.

When misapplied to copyright, this principle of "dilution" has horrible consequences: squelching speech, criticism, and what we might call "semiotic democracy."

I wish Carr had raised the distinction and the problem of conflation. Instead, he contributed to the problem by raising the ridiculous Bill O'Reilly flap over Al Franken's book title. The cause of action there was clearly an accusation of infringement of trademark. And it was clearly politically motivated. And it was easily dismissed. So it's really not relevant to this case.

However, someone at HarperCollins (which I thank every day for selling my publisher, Basic Books) should realize that the company (owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation) not only depends on semiotic democracy to do what it does, it was actually founded as a pirate press.

Harper Brothers was one of the most notorious pirate presses in late 19th century American publishing. It got big and rich by publishing sets of works by major British authors without permission or compensation.

I am not the first person to point out that a big media company owned by Murdoch is being hypocritical and counterproductive by bullying other voices. But this example is particularly galling.

Like Microsoft, most of Hollywood, and the United States itself, HarperCollins would be nowhere if today's copyright, trademark, and patent laws worked these ways a few decades ago.

Posted by Siva Vaidhyanathan to SIVACRACY.NET: Siva Vaidhyanathan's Weblog at 3/15/2004 11:24:37 AM

Correspondents’ Corner:
Hey Eric,
Very interesting -- and surprising -- set of observations from Barron's today on the Presidential election.  Since it is subscription only, I have reproduced all the good bits in a chart at the link below.

One would think this publication would be in W's back pocket, but one would be wrong. Apparently, even the conservative press has a liberal bias (HA!)

BARRONS: Turnabout: Which party is better for the markets? Kerry and Bush are changing the rules
-Barry Ritholtz

Name: Michael Rapoport
You think O'Reilly is down with Jayson Blair? Check out this transcript of last night's "Hardball," featuring Blair:

(Scroll about 3/4 of the way down.)

Money quotes from Chris Matthews re Blair: " are such a damn good writer, a creative force.  You have fluency and life. ... I'm not saying buy this book.  I'm saying, look at it in the book store, pick it up and read a couple of pages.  It moves.  It's got air.  It's got oxygen, the thing you always look for in a writing.  What's it like to be that creative?  You are obviously a guy who can knock out 120,000 words in a month.  ... You're up there with Johnny Apple.  You're one of these guys who can do it magically.  Do you know that?"

Name: Mark
Hometown: Madison, WI

I may be the 10 millionth person to report this, but "Stairway to Gilligan" can be found on the CD "Laguna Tunes".  Check the All Music Guide for more info.  Don't know if it's still in print.  It's been on my list of CDs-to-eventually- buy-one-of-these-days for some time now.

Name: Joe McBride
Hometown: Fort Walton Beach

I saw you on c-span book tv this pm.  I was astonished that so much hatred and ingnorance could reside in only six individuals.  Worse than that was you telling a story about how you have intentionaly instilled a blind hatred for GWB in your 5 year old daughter.  If there is a hell it will most certainly be your final and perpetual destination.

Sponsored links

Resource guide