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Altercation

March 31, 2004 | 12:32 PM ET

Speaking of viruses, what’s that one called where, um, you think you’re the only person in the world who sees the truth and everybody else is wrong?

"And the more I got of these," Mr. Nader said, "the more I realized that we are confronting a virus, a liberal virus.  And the characteristic of a virus is when it takes hold of the individual, it's the same virus, individual letters all written in uncannily the same sequence.  Here's another characteristic of the virus: Not one I can recall ever said, 'What are your arguments for running?'"  Let’s hope Nader’s narcissism is not communicable.  As Jon Stewart notes of Nader’s contention that he will draw more from Bush’s ranks than Kerry’s, “Conservatives for Nader.. Not a large group. About the same size as 'Retarded Death Row Texans for Bush."

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And we notice, with a nod to Barry R., that one group of people Ralph does seem to be resonating with are loyal Republicans, who, something tells me, do not plan to vote for him in November but like what he does for Bush's chances.

The Dallas Morning News, here, reports that "Nearly 10 percent of the Nader contributors who have given him at least $250 each have a history of supporting the Republican president, national GOP candidates or the party, according to computer-assisted review of financial records by The Dallas Morning News."

Barry adds, "Amusingly, Nader has 'won Ben Stein's money.'  Stein is a television personality and outspoken advocate for the Republican Party, who has 'contributed $500 to Nader and $1,000 to Mr. Bush this year.  Records indicate that over the last decade, Mr. Stein has given exclusively to the GOP.'  Stein made TV ads for Mr. Bush in the 2000 election, but they never aired."

(via The Joe Hill Dispatch)

Speaking of Jon Stewart, did you know you could read the Daily show, annotated with footnotes, no really, here

Your Tax Dollars—at work to elect George Bush:  "The Treasury tapped civil servants to calculate the cost of Sen. John Kerry's tax plan and then posted the analysis on the Treasury Web site.  A federal law bars career government officials from working on political campaigns."  (WSJ)

Quote of the Day, from the best “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode of the season:

COLBY: We had very little rations, no snacks.
SOLLY: Snacks, what are you talking snacks? We didn't eat, sometimes for a week, for a month....
COLBY: Have you even seen the show?
SOLLY: Did you ever see our show? It was called the Holocaust!

Related: Interesting essay here.

Air America starts here at noon.  At the party last night, I walked in behind Michael Stipe and Mike Mills but the big thrill for me was when Mr. and Mrs. Atrios came up and said hello.  He is surprisingly normal looking for an evil genius, but I will let him come out in public in his own good time.

In order to take a silly and ultimately meaningless swipe at Richard Clarke, failed academic George F. Will writes, "'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' published in 1852, quickly sold 300,000 copies -- equivalent to 3 million today -- and remains the only book to become an American history-shaping political event.”  Um, could someone send this smartass pundit a copy of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” which sold the equivalent of thirty million (!) copies in 1776 and enjoyed a far more significant impact on history than “Tom”—which is to take nothing away from the latter.  (Just as saying Clarke’s book is no “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is not saying much either.  Will’s books are no “George and Martha.”

Speaking of Brubeck... Brubeck Festival 2004: April 1-8

Brubeck Festival 2004 will open with the words of one Nobel Prize winner, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and conclude with the words of another, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., set to the music of Dave Brubeck in Brubeck's cantata "The Gates of Justice."
Presented by University of the Pacific and the Brubeck Institute from April 1-8, Brubeck Festival 2004 will observe the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act and recognize Dave and Iola Brubeck for their lifetime commitment to social justice and human rights. Events will be offered in all three cities where University of the Pacific is located - Stockton, Sacramento and San Francisco.
“The elemental message of 'The Gates of Justice' is Dr. King's statement, ‘If we don't live together as brothers, we will die together as fools,'” says Dave Brubeck. “All you have to do is look around to realize that this message is just as relevant today as it was when the cantata was commissioned by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in 1969.”

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Barry Ritholtz
Hometown: The Big Picture

Hey Eric,
The White House's exasperation with Richard Clarke stems from a simple problem: Condi is not particularly skilled at prevaricating.  It was a disastrous strategic decision to go after him so aggressively.  A simple "We Disagree/Best of Luck in the Future" would have served them much better.  But once they decided to attack, Condi was the wrong dog to lead the pack.

Hey, we admire a good liar as much as the next guy.  But of all the distorting, misleading prevaricators in the White House today, Condi is the least capable, least convincing, least likely to get away with a real humdinger.  She's simply not that good at it.

On 60 Minutes, she looked uncomfortable.  Her answers seemed "legalistic" or at times, simply evasive.  What make her lies so much worse is that she keeps insisting on repeating things which are verifiably false.  It's harder to accept falsehoods from a person when they keep rubbing your nose in statements which are demonstrably untrue.

Her most glaring falsehood is the insupportable notion that no one had any idea that commercial planes would be used as part of the attack.  Condi has said this repeatedly, and it has been shown to be false in several ways:

All the way back on July 26, 2001, CBS reported that Attorney General John Ashcroft, on the advice of his FBI security detail, stopped flying on Commercial Aircraft.  Previously, he had flown commercial, as did his predecessor, Janet Reno.

An edict to the AG that he NOT FLY COMMERCIAL AIRCRAFT is solid evidence that the FBI knew that aircraft were a potential target.  Given all the terrorist "chatter" which intelligence agencies have said existed in June and July of 2001, its clear that there was plenty of notice about commercial aircraft.  (Not that "we" heard anything about it at the time.)

San Francisco Gate columnist Harley Sorensen reported the same on June 3, 2002.  This is simply old news, still available on the Web.  It took me all of 30 seconds to find factual details on Condi's silly dissembling and refute it.  It has to make you wonder why she would tell so obvious a lie -- one that is so easily and verifiably false.  Only an extremely poor liar would do that; a Freudian would say she want to get caught.  I have no idea what her motivation is, other than pointing out she is not a skilled prevaricator.

The NYTimes noted today that in an August 6, 2001, President Bush was told that Al Qaeda might seek to hijack aircraft.  The 9/11 Commission  has found that U.S. intelligence agencies had some warning of terrorists using airplabes as missiles.

That's before we even get to Richard Clarke's testimony about 1996 Atlanta Olympics security detail.  He's commented that the security detail had fixed on ways to prevent aircraft from being flown into the Olympic stadium, creating a no fly zone, using helicopters, etc.
There are witnesses named to this discussion.  If Clarke is not telling the truth, then that should be easily provable.  Get the Special Agent in charge of the Atlanta FBI Office in 1996, or Cathal Flynn, a retired Navy SEAL who ran FAA security.  They are witnesses to this discussion, according to Clarke's book.

If there's a moral to this story, its this: John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan -- accomplished liars, both -- accepted responsibility when things went terribly wrong.  They didn't hide the truth, but accepted it, even embraced it.  JFK took full responsibility for the Bay of Pigs fiasco; Reagan shouldered the blame personally for the 233 Marines who died when terrorists attacked their barracks in Beirut.

For these acts of political responsibility and human decency, their approval ratings went up. There's a lesson in this for the present administration -- and perhaps for the next one as well.

UPDATE:
The White House has decided to let Condi testify.

Two views:
On how terrorism was treated before Sept. 11:  
Clarke:  "The Bush administration saw terrorism policy as important but not urgent, prior to 9/11."
-- From testimony for 9/11 Commission hearing, March 24, 2004

Rice:  "I would like very much to know what more could have been done given that it was an urgent problem."
-- 60 Minutes, March 28

On whether Bush pressured Clarke to find an Iraqi link to Sept. 11:
Clarke:  "I said, 'Mr. President, we've done this before... there's no connection.'  He came back at me and said, 'Iraq, Saddam; find out if there's a connection.'  And in a very intimidating way." 
-- 60 Minutes, March 21

Rice:  "I have never seen the president say anything to people in an intimidating way to try to get a particular answer out of them."
-- 60 Minutes, March 28

On whether Rice had demoted Clarke:  
Clarke:  "Rice decided that the position [Clarke held] of National Coordinator for Counterterrorism would also be downgraded."
-- In his book, "Against All Enemies"

Rice:  "He wasn't demoted.  We had a different organizational structure.  Dick was still the national coordinator.  He was still doing all of the things he had been doing."
-- March 24 press briefing

Source: WSJ:  Rice to testify publicly on attacks

Name: Dave Johnson
Hometown: Seeing the Forest
Don't forget John O'Neill, FBI's Deputy Director, who quit in frustration because he couldn't pursue bin Laden, and was killed at the WTC.  

Name: Pat Healy
Hometown: Vallejo, CA
Eric,
I know the Janet Jackson kerfluffle is a trifle old at this point, but the great Richard Thompson has a song about it that addresses the issue in an important, yet underreported, fashion.

March 30, 2004 | 12:32 PM ET

Attention Must be Paid:  E.J. Dionne touches on an interesting point about the Richard Clarke food-fight that continues to grip the Bush Administration.  On the one hand, the ferocity of the argument is odd.  Clarke is not really revealing anything we did not already know.  So far, I’ve not heard anything—absent insidery detail—that I did not include in my chapter on the subject in The Book on Bush, including for instance, the fact that Cheney’s alleged commission on terrorism never once met.  This is not news.  I read it in The Washington Post, I believe, which is why I knew it.  Anyone who examines the facts honestly cannot help but conclude that the Bush administration never took terrorism seriously before 9/11, and that they ignored the admonitions of the Clinton administration to do so.  Condoleezza Rice is particularly culpable in this regard, but so are they all.

What Clarke has done, however, is forced both the media and the nation to pay attention.  His credibility and masterful performance have made the story of the Bush administration’s awful response impossible to ignore.  When conservatives and some mainstream journalists wrote of the alleged ferocity of liberals who are said to “hate Bush” they were doing so in ignorance of the administration’s true record of mendacity, ferocity and incompetence. This is the record that Clarke reveals in all of its tawdriness, and the administration rightly fears that unless he is destroyed—by whatever means necessary—much of the country will come to see their record just as those of us who have examined it carefully already do. 

They have subverted the “War on Terrorism” with their obsession with Iraq and all but ignored homeland security. The next time we are attacked, we will be all the more vulnerable to catastrophe owing to their sorry record and refusal to take responsibility for their actions.  Clarke is laying the groundwork for the media—and the country—to finally examine that record with a clear eye.  Like John Diullio, Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame, Paul O’Neill, Anthony Zinni, Scott Ritter, Hans Blix, and David Kay, his credibility—and character—must be destroyed.

Next problem for Bush:  Lloyd Grove seems to think  Bob Woodward wants his reputation back.

Ironic Quote of the Day:  “Civil rights activist Robert Novak….”
-Jon Stewart, last night, and yes, he was kidding.

Quote of the Day II:  "But in my experience, dud theories die only to be replaced by new and even dumber ones."

Has any journalist discredited himself more thoroughly than my old friend Hitchens?  First he decides, Horowitz-like, that virtually everything he said in the past was wrong.  His former friends and heroes, Chomsky, Vidal and Cockburn are now crackpots for saying much of what he used to say.  (I agree with that, by the way, and used to tell Christopher as much every chance I got.)  Now that virtually everything he has said in the service of the Bush administration has also been discredited, what’s left?  I guess, um, nonsense, which for some reason, Slate seems to mistake for contrarian wisdom. 

"The current reigning favorite is that fighting al-Qaida in Iraq is a distraction from the fight against al-Qaida."  Um, Christopher, comrade, those of us who supported the effort to eradicate al-Qaida from the start never thought it was such a hot idea to pull troops and special forces out of Afghanistan to put them into Iraq, which was not causing us any trouble, and did not even possess the means to do so.

"When Leon Wieseltier was once asked to describe TNR, he famously replied, 'It's kind of a Jewish Commentary.'"  Can’t Little Roy get anything right?  The line belongs to Frank Mankiewicz, and is properly credited by Calvin Trillin, who first popularized it.

Get your fair and balanced news, right here

In the meantime, Knight-Ridder hates America.

Alter-reviews:  It’s a good week for jazz piano.  Blue Note has just released Bill Charlap’s “Somewhere,” a piano-driven tribute to Leonard Bernstein, Charlap is close to being the most admired pianist in jazz today, in part for his exquisite skill and in part for his flawless taste in both material and arrangements.  This record builds on that reputation and should expand it. 

Also out this week, in celebration of Dave Brubeck’s half-century on Columbia Records, is a box set of all of five of his “Time” records cleaned up and re-mastered.  If all you know about Brubeck is “Time Out,” then the rest of these, “Time Further Out,” and the long out-of print, “Countdown: Time in Outer Space,” “Time Changes,” and “Time In,” will be a necessary part of your jazz education as they have been of mine.  The box, and I imagine, eventually, the individual CDs, will be available shortly from Columbia Legacy.  And if you don’t know “Time Out,” well, there’s really no excuse for that.  Get thee to a CD store.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Carol
Hometown: Kettering OH
Eric,
You ask, "Democrats fail to make an issue of this practice for fear of …  WHAT?"

The wish by a party to garner as many votes as possible is no doubt leavened by an utter lack of concern about the welfare of felons and their families, shared by everyone in this country who hasn't got a felon in his or her immediate family. How else to explain why, for example, MCI can gouge felons' families for over 1 dollar a minute on a thirty minute phone call that is interrupted three times by a recorded voice reminding both parties that the call originates from a correctional institution?  This is a humiliating and, for many, prohibitively expensive way to keep in touch with an imprisoned loved one. Yet nobody gives a damn about it.

If the Democrats wanted to make an issue of former felons' voting rights, they would simply run up against the hostility directed at  "those people" by the majority of the population.  For crying out loud, even the article you link to dwells at great length on the crimes which were committed by the former felons appealing to Governor Bush to have their voting rights restored -these people are characterized in no other way than as scum.

March 29, 2004 | 11:45 AM ET

Random Thoughts on a Monday morning*

Compassionate Conservatism, Defined: “While Mr. Bush promised in his 2003 State of the Union address to spend $15 billion over five years on AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, his budget requests have fallen far short of that goal.  For the most recent donation to the Global Fund, he requested only $200 million, although Congress authorized $550 million.”  More here.

Bush owes Florida “victory” to illegally disenfranchised felons.  Democrats fail to make an issue of this practice for fear of … WHAT?  “In one lingering puzzle from 2000, an unknown number of legal voters were removed from Florida's rolls leading up to the presidential election, after a company working for the state mistakenly identified the voters as felons.  …Critics say that President Bush would have lost in 2000 if disenfranchised felons had been allowed to vote.” More here and here.

Chalabi, Black, and Sharon.  Are all neocon heroes crooks?

You thought the administration’s sources on bioweapons were thin?  You didn’t know the half of it.  More here

And by the way, this is par for the course for the heroic Colin Powell

And oh yeah, while they’re starting wars about phony threats, they’re not bothering to protect us from the real ones, something even Judith Miller can’t figure out how to spin for them.

The New York Times is a liberal conspiracy, huh?  Well, they sure fooled me.  On Saturday I picked up my paper to see an Arts and Ideas review by Commentary Editor Gary Rosen, who pushes the Norman Podhoretz keys embedded in all the magazine’s keyboards.  Oh look, he complains, the authors are taking “an alarmist mode familiar to readers of The New York Review of Books," and their unwillingness to endorse the Neocon jihadist view of the world, “suggests not just a failure of political imagination but a lack of confidence in the West itself."  (Podhoretz even made this lunatic claim in 1982 in support of Sharon's criminal negligence in allowing, and to some degree encouraging, the massacres of Sabra and Shatilla.)  More here.

I didn’t read this review but I do think that Commentary editors might wish to rethink their thesis that the Times represents the cutting edge of SDS/Weatherman ideological thinking….

Stop the Presses:  I got this in a press release from Time:

“KAREN HUGHES THINKS MORE HIGHLY OF PRESIDENT BUSH TODAY THAN SHE DID WHEN SHE FIRST WENT TO WORK FOR HIM, HUGHES TELLS TIME
‘And That’s Pretty Incredible,’ She Says” 

Actually no, what would be incredible would be if one of these people told the truth, for once. (Story here.)

And this:

“CONDOLEEZZA RICE IS GETTING ‘A BUM RAP,’ CHENEY TELLS TIME
On Clinton Administration’s Handling of Terrorism: ‘There Was a Sense [In the Bush Adminstration] That They Hadn’t Handled It Very Well’
On Richard Clarke: ‘I Don’t Hold Him in High Regard’”

See above. (Story here.)

The funny thing about this silly Page Six story about the “now legendary” Dennis Miller show is that, aside from its headline, it is more accurate than the Observer was.  But that’s not saying much.  I am not a “TV Pundit” as the headline claims.  Moreover this “lathered up lefty” specifically told the Page Six reporter, in an e-mail, that I did not think the Observer “had it in for me.”  I explained that I simply thought they had extremely low standards for accuracy for some of those reporters and my path happened to have crossed with two of them.  I don’t think they sit around saying, “How can we get that Alterman guy again this week?”  Thankfully, I do not rate nearly high on the gossip meter for that.  (And it must have been one hell of a slow “news” Sunday for Page Six.)  The paper’s editor, Peter Kaplan, tries to do the classy thing, without admitting that his reporters need courses in remedial journalism. 

Meanwhile, just to show you how full of it Page Six is—even on a conscientious day—after I heard from Kaplan on the phone on Friday, I e-mailed the reporter, Chris Wilson, back and said if he was planning an item on the thing, he should call me.  (I originally misunderstood his message to mean that his feelings were hurt over my referring to the “Page Sixish-crap” in the Observer.)  I’m still waiting.

And Speaking of Mr. Miller, he gets today’s special triple edition of “Quotes of the Day:”

"I don't have the vaguest pretension to journalistic ethics. I'm a comedian."

On GWB:  "I'm going to give him a pass. I take care of my friends."

On having Arnold as his first guest and having his consultant work as a producer:  "I'm sorry if it's violated anybody's bul**hit sense of journalistic ethics."

(These turned up in a newsletter I received from FAIR.)

Alter-reviews:  Here is Sal on the new Fleetwood Mac re-releases from Rhino:

FLEETWOOD MAC, whose three biggest-selling albums (1975's self-titled album, 1977's "Rumours," and 1979's "Tusk") have all been reissued with great new remastering, expanded packaging with new liner notes and rare photos, and lots and lots of bonus tracks.  Both "Rumours" and "Tusk" are two CD sets, featuring an entire disc's worth of demos, rough tracks, and unreleased material.  While not an easy listen, they shed new light on the creative process and how these albums came to assume their final form.  The self-titled record, on a single disc, tacks on six bonus tracks, two of them previously unreleased.  What makes these reissues so appealing is the outstanding sound quality of the new remastering, specifically on the self-titled CD.  Mick Fleetwood's cymbals on "Over My Head" could slice through bread. (Not sure what that means, actually.)

Eric adds: Sal is right. The sound quality on these is actually terrific.  I did an A/B thing with the box set to see which version to keep and the new versions jumped out of the speakers.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Dave Sikula
Hometown: Pacifica, CA
Dear Eric,
Assuming Stupid is right in his concern about graduation rates for college athletes, the solution he proposes seems too complex to me.  My proposal is that each school gets x number of scholarships for each sport.  Every time a player graduates, the school is allowed to reissue that scholarship.  If a player doesn't graduate, the scholarship expires.

Seems clean and simple to me.  But then, I also think that ballots should have boxes that get x'd by a pen for later counting.  Sure, the media don't get -instant- results, but we do get an accurate record of how many people voted for whom.
____________________

*Brought to you through the magic of dial-up because TimeWarner cable, which used to be much better than Verizon DSL, has really started to suck….

March 26, 2004 | 10:56 AM ET

Slacker Friday

A photo is worth how many words?  Here is a picture that the Times captions: “Iraqi youths celebrated Thursday after an American military vehicle was set on fire after a shootout between United States forces and guerrillas in the town of Falluja.”  No “rose-petals.”  No WMD.  No relationship to terrorists.  No security.  Just endless chaos, hostility, death, and dollars wasted.  What else, really, do you need to know about this catastrophically misguided adventure and the men and women who misled the nation to justify it?

I’ve got a new Nation column here.  It’s called “Widows and Orphans First" and it’s about another attack on those who question the administration’s use and abuse of 9/11.  In this case it’s an organization of victims’ families.

The great Garry Wills on The Passion.

And Geneva Overholzer catches Howie “Conflict of Interest” Kurtz exceptionally conflicted, even by Howie-standards, here (third item) he is violating the basic rules of decent journalism in allowing an anonymous source to slam someone without revealing his or her identity.  Oh wait.  He’s slamming the former Executive Editor of The New York Times.  Then it’s ok….

I saw Television for the first time last night.  Allmans again tonight, thanks to an Altercation reader.  (They are very similar bands in some ways.)  I’m seeing Van again next week.  Would like to catch Brad Mehldau or John Eddie or Toots and the Maytals this weekend but I've got a life to live.  This is the greatest music town on earth (especially if you’re stuck in the seventies).

On to Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Eric --
C-Plus Augustus told a joke the other night about not being able to find the WMD's.  Please, somebody, get the tape and splice in some footage from Iraq, and run the damn thing as a commercial every day between now and November.  Between this and Nino Scalia's corporate quackery, you have the distilled essence of the Avignon Presidency -- we can say (do) anything we want, whenever we want, with whoever we want, and to whomever we want, because we are the people who have been anointed -- Thanks for that, Matthews.  You tool. -- by God and by the luckiest of the lucky sperm.  These people care as much about democracy as they do about accountability, which is why they haven't yet noticed how the world changed on them this week.  From now on, there are the people who took the oath and the people who didn't. Hands on the Bible, people, or we have nothing to discuss.

As to the raucous heckling from the wonks in the peanut gallery last week, all I can say is that a compelling political biography has to be about a compelling political figure, and anybody who'd trade the stories of the Kingfish, J.M. Curley or old George Corley for those of Whitaker Chambers, or Walter Lippmann, or William Randolph Rosebud has no heart and certainly no soul.  And Caro?  Hell, folks, the guy's book isn't even FINISHED yet!

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago

Hey Eric, it's Stupid to be tardy (let alone to step on Pierce's turf).  I run our office NCAA March Madness pool and I wanted to write about the unbelievably low graduation rates for most of the schools in the tournament, particularly for African-Americans.  The numbers are staggering.  Some schools didn’t graduate any African-American players and less than a fifth of their players overall.  But I put it off for a week and now Derrick Z. Jackson of the Boston Globe among others beat me to it. You can look up individual schools here.

I read a few of these stories and found one glaring omission: Bobby Knight.  The violent, racist, misogynistic monster we know and hate, is also legendary for graduating most of his players.  It makes you wonder who the real abuser of these athletes is?  The coaches who recruit high school athletes have full knowledge they will use these kids for four to five years and leave them with nothing.  The kids would be infinitely better off with Knight, neck choking and all.

In the past some have argued that tightening eligibility rules was racist because it would disproportionately deny opportunities to African-Americans.  It’s a valid point, but the goal should be results, not opportunities.  Say Bobby Knight only recruits students with a good chance to graduate anyway and as a result has fewer African-American players, (I have no idea - at Indiana he had an entire state that was nuts for basketball...), at the end of the day they still all have degrees.  My suggestion is to focus more on the coaches than on the entering students.  Set a minimum graduation rate per sport.  If a school falls below that number, they lose athletic scholarships (they must go to the general scholarship pool).  If they fall below that number for three years, they go on probation (no postseason play).  Any school serious about the student-athletes can recruit whomever they want as long as they are willing to develop their minds as well as their bodies.

Name: Barry L. Ritholtz
Hometown:
The Big Picture
Doctor A,
With all the focus on Richard Clarke's 60 Minutes interview/September 11 Committee testimony, an interesting story has slipped by the national news media almost unnoticed:  It seems a poll of Cuban American voters in Florida are weakening in their support for the Prez.

This is the second ethnic voting bloc in a swing state -- Arab Americans being the first -- that has begun shifting their alliances based upon the incumbent's track record:

From: Cuban Voters in Florida Wavering in Support for President

We had previously discussed that Arab American voters, supporters of Bush in 2000, were abandoning  the President in key swing states.  A parallel situation has been  developing among Cuban-American voters in Florida according to a recent survey of 1,807 Cuban-Americans conducted Jan. 30 through March 16 by Florida International University in partnership with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and NBC 6, and included registered voters and non-voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points:

"A recent poll of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, only 58.4 percent of registered voters said they would definitely or probably vote for Bush in November. About one-quarter said they were undecided, with the rest saying they probably would not or definitely would not vote to re-elect the president . . ."

Miami Herald columnist Michael Putney observes:

"Recent polls say that President Bush is in trouble with Cuban-American voters. The polls are interesting but fairly meaningless: The Cuban vote is Bush's to lose. My gut feeling is that this November, as in 2000, Bush will get most of it. The only question is: Will he get 80 percent, as he did four years ago, or about 60 percent, as a new poll indicates? The difference could swing the election in Florida."

Consider that Florida has over 400,000 Cuban-American voters. If Putney is correct -- if the President takes "only" 60% of the Cuban American vote, versus the 80% four of years ago -- that represents a potential swing of 80,000 votes.

There's a second poll by TV channel Univision. "The survey shows that more than one-third of South Florida Hispanic voters -- a group consisting primarily of GOP-leaning Cuban Americans -- disapproves of the job the president has done ''promoting democracy and regime change'' in Fidel Castro's Cuba."

When I tell you this race gets more interesting by the day, I am not fooling around . . .

Sources:
Cubans’ support for Bush declines, South Florida poll shows
By Rafael Lorente
Sun-Sentinel March 21 2004

Cuban-American vote is Bush's to lose
Michael Putney
Miami Herald, Mar. 24, 2004

Some South Florida Hispanics unhappy with Cuba policy
Peter Wallsten
Miami Herald, March 02, 2004

Related:
Elian swings Cuban voters back to GOP
After backing Clinton, Cuban-American voters are ready to punish Democrats for the Gonzalez situation
David Adams
St. Petersburg Times, November 5, 2000

Name: Jerome Clark
Hometown: Canby, Minnesota
My wife and I dropped everything and devoted our full attention to Dick Clarke's riveting testimony before the 9/11 commission.  As many have by now observed, he did a magnificent job.

It was especially amusing to me to witness the temper tantrum to which former Illinois Republican Gov. Jim Thompson gave vent, after Clarke explained to him that he was just following the President's -- his boss' -- orders when he put the best possible public face on the administration's terror-attack readiness while serving under Bush.  Thompson got all huffy -- my wife remarked that he appeared on the verge of a stroke -- and in effect called making your boss look good an unheard-of political crime which was all the proof one needs of Clarke's depraved character.

As it happens, my brother was a senior staff member to Thompson when he was governor.  At one point, when interviewed by a reporter, he spoke the blunt truth: that a proposed Thompson action wouldn't work and was essentially a political stunt.  Thompson went ballistic and, while acknowledging that what my brother had said was perfectly true, screamed red-faced at him for (if memory serves) close to an hour.  My brother nearly got fired for being honest.

The moral of the story: as usual, one set of rules for Republicans, another for the rest of us.

Name: David
Hometown: Houston

Eric - Don't forget Scott Ritter.  Remember, he is the lone "idiot" that stood up and told Americans they would find no WMDs in Iraq.  He had the nerve to suggest that *gasp* inspections might be working.  But, we were told how disgruntled he was and how he wasn't "in the loop" and how his criticisms were un-American.  Deja vu.

Name: John
Hometown: Houston, TX

Maybe it's just an Air Force problem.  Or maybe Eileen Bennett is wrong.  But here in this one Army post I asked about 50 of my coworkers about Iraq.  I'm not high enough in rank for most of them to feel intimidated into giving the "answer I want" so I'm confident in the strength of what I found.

There are people who don't want to go to Iraq because it's dangerous, they'll be away from their family, etc.  But I cannot find one, ONE, who is against it.  Of course maybe the Army is just made of some tougher stuff, or understands policy better than our flight-suited cousins.

March 25, 2004 | 2:27 PM ET

Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame, Max Cleland, Paul O’Neill, General Zinni, and Dick Clarke are all unpatriotic liars and weenies right?  Has to be true; otherwise, this administration is both incompetent and dishonest.  And that’s not possible.  I mean, on the one hand we have people who have given their entire careers to serving the American people and in many cases, paid dearly for it.  On the other, we have a guy who didn’t bother to show up for his cushy National Guard service during a war he supported, spent most of his first forty years drinking and carousing, and having been made wealthy by his father’s associates, fell into the job of president where he (undeniably) misled his country into a war based on falsified evidence.  Gee that’s a hard one.  No wonder Ron Brownstein thinks the Clarke testimony might be a turning point

The Clinton administration is obviously not blameless in failing to pursue Al Qaida as it might have but let’s keep in mind that a) the Republicans were impeaching him for lying about sex, and b) when he did try to take action, these same accusers were accusing him of “wagging the dog.”  Interesting that Iraq hawks like Christopher Hitchens were then taking the Chomsky line that this attempt to attack al-Qaida was a politically-motivated crime against humanity.

Meanwhile, Richard Clarke "warned seven days before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks that hundreds of people could die in a strike by the al Qaeda network and that the administration was not doing enough to combat the threat, the commission investigating the attacks disclosed yesterday." 

"Evidence compiled by the commission suggests that before Sept. 11, the Bush team failed to put into place a comprehensive game plan of its own against the bin Laden network," here.

And in Sid Blumenthal's Salon.com column, here, he writes,

“Clarke was not the only national security professional who spanned both the Clinton and Bush administrations.  Gen. Donald Kerrick served as deputy national security advisor under Clinton and remained on the NSC for several months into the new Bush administration.  Kerrick wrote his replacement, Stephen Hadley, a two-page memo. "It was classified," Kerrick told me. "I said they needed to pay attention to al-Qaida and counterterrorism. I said we were going to be struck again. We didn't know where or when.  They never once asked me a question nor did I see them having a serious discussion about it.  They didn't feel it was an imminent threat the way the Clinton administration did.  Hadley did not respond to my memo.  I know he had it.  I agree with Dick that they saw those problems through an Iraqi prism.  But the evidence wasn't there."

Condi Rice argues that Bush took the Al Qaida threat seriously?  I don't think so.  More here.

Leaving Clarke aside, you just can’t believe anything, and I do mean anything, (and I really do mean anything), this administration says.

Chris Mooney did a fine job on media miscoverage of stem cell research for my Think Again column here.  Once again, the archives are here and you can sign up for the Progress Report here.

This is not the most important thing in the world, but Bill O’Reilly sure is a dope.  I imagine it’s on purpose, because I can’t believe he is dumb enough to be seriously outraged about what he termed a “private meeting” between John Kerry and a group of invited journalists at Al Franken’s last December.  Maybe it’s just the pins from Al’s voodoo doll, but O’Reilly has been going nuts—his producer called me for info—about the fact that a bunch of us met with Kerry to ask him questions. 

O'Reilly thinks it is impossible that President Bush would ever do such a thing and he would be raked over the coals if he ever did.  Oh please.  Bush does it all the time, except unlike Kerry, he lacks the courage to do so on the record.  Remember when he called in a bunch of suck-up columnists for a briefing just before Iraq and demanded that they all refer to him as a “senior White House official?” 

Take a look at Michael Kelly’s Washington Post column from the following day; pure, unedited propaganda.  And heaven forbid Bush ever took the kind of tough questions that Kerry took that day—once again—entirely on the record.  His presidency would be over.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Howard
Hometown: Seattle, WA
Actually, I don't think the Bush administration uses the term "revisionist history" incoherently. In their minds, whatever they say constitutes historical truth; ergo, any questioning of said "historical truth" becomes, in their minds, "revisionist history."

This is narcissism, hubris and idiocy all rolled into one, but it does have a coherence....

March 24, 2004 | 1:30 PM ET

David Sirota of the Progress Report picked up on the fact that Scott McClellan yesterday went in front of the cameras and tried to deliberately mislead the entire White House press corps.  In this interchange, McClellan categorically denied that the President signed a directive in October of 2001 ordering the Pentagon to prepare plans for an Iraq invasion immediately after 9/11.  What he did not say was that:

According to the 1/12/03 Washington Post (which quotes senior Administration officials) "six days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush signed a 2½-page document marked 'TOP SECRET'" that "directed the Pentagon to begin planning military options for an invasion of Iraq." This is corroborated by 9/4/02 CBS News report that five hours after the 9/11 attacks, "Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq." 

Sirota directs us to articles here and here as well as the McClellan transcript from yesterday.

We note once again for the record, the incoherent use of the term “revisionist history.”

Q He's right that in October -- in October of 2001, when the President signed this directive, the President was directing the Pentagon to prepare plans for the invasion of Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I said, that's part -- that's part of his revisionist history.

Q That's not true?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's part of his revisionist history, that's what I'm saying --

Q Are you saying it's not true?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, that's right. I am.

Q You are saying that it's not true?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's part of -- that's just his revisionist history to make suggestions like that.  He knows that at that point that our focus was on going -- was on Afghanistan and removing the Taliban and taking away the safe haven for al Qaeda.

Meanwhile,  The Daily Mis-Lead catches the following development: Despite what he and his gay supporters have claimed in the past, the president now supports the firing of gay government workers simply because they are gay.  Bush has insisted that homosexuals "ought to have the same rights" (1) as all other people, but according to the Federal Times, the president's appointee at the Office of Special Counsel ruled that federal employees will now "have no recourse if they are fired or demoted simply for being gay." (2) To carry out the directive, the White House has begun removing information from government websites about sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace. (3)

Sources:
1.    Debates, 10/11/2000.
2.    "OSC to study whether bias law covers gays", Federal Times, 03/15/2004.
3.    "Gay Rights Information Taken Off Site", Washington Post, 02/18/2004.

Quotes of the day:
"Elisabeth Bumiller, The New York Times White House correspondent, on criticism that reporters were too easy on Bush on the eve of the Iraq war:

'I think we were very deferential because ... it's live, it's very intense, it's frightening to stand up there.  Think about it, you're standing up on prime-time live TV asking the president of the United States a question when the country's about to go to war.  There was a very serious, somber tone that evening, and no one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time.'"

I really don’t know what to add to that, except it would nice if Times editors would take a position on whether its reporters should refrain from questioning the president because “it’s scary.”

Poor Eric Boehlert.  The guy works so hard, and when he drove in from deepest Jersey on Saturday night, we couldn’t find tickets on the street outside the Beacon for under $175 each, and gave up. He was too busy being the world’s greatest unsung journalist to try again last night and so he missed a set that opened with my three favorite ABB songs in a row: “One Way Out,” “Ain’t Waistin’ Time No More” and “Statesboro Blues.” The closer was a very strong “Whipping Post,” and Warren didn’t sound too terrible when he sang “Into the Mystic.” It was great, particularly young Derek’s playing, but I still miss Dickie.

Alter almost-reviews: I’ve picked up three books on the Holocaust recently that provide a corrective not only to Mel Gibson’s deluded dad, but also the crazy hoopla over Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners a few years back, which is the lalst time people were paying attention.

They are:

  • Christopher Browning’s The Origins of the Final Solution, published jointly by the University of Nebraska and Yad Vashem
  • Richard J. Evans’ The Coming of the Third Reich (Penquin)
  • And slightly more tangentially, Robert O. Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism (Knopf)

Browning provided the primary corrective to Goldhagen way back when and in my view, displays a great deal more care and discipline with his source material.  Evans’ work is volume one of what looks to be the most comprehensive history of these awful events yet written. And I remember being mightily impressed with Paxton’s history of Vichy France when I read it in college and this book seems to tie together decades of scholarship and synthesis.

Correspondents’ Corner (The first one is from me):

The New York Observer does another hatchet job on me, this one in relation to Dennis Miller. It’s here.  Because they refused to print my reply to the last one, after having acknowledged its reception, I’ve printed it below.

To the Editor
New York Observer
March 24, 2004
OK, I’m an idiot.  For the second time in a year, I’ve made the mistake of talking to a New York Observer “reporter.”  First, George Gurley, Ann Coulter’s handmaiden in joking about the terrorist murder of every reporter, editor and janitor at The New York Times, lied to your readers in a bitchy hatchet-job, and you failed to publish my letter setting the record straight despite your editor in chief having acknowledged its reception.  Now someone name Joe Hagan tells the story of my appearance on Dennis Miller show hardly less smarmily and dishonestly.  If the few paragraphs I wrote about the Miller episode on my Altercation Weblog can fairly be considered “ruthlessly flogging” it, then Joe Hagan is A.J. Liebling, and The New York Observer is Harold Ross’s New Yorker.  As Mr. Hagan--whom I have never met--cannot help but note, Miller invited me on the show, ambushed me, and I responded with restraint.  I later accepted his apology without incident.  I wrote a few short paragraphs about this bizarre incident on my MSNBC Weblog, “Altercation,” linked to someone else’s posting of video of it, and printed only e-mails that were critical of me—as opposed to the four hundred or so I received in support.  I contacted no reporters and issued no statements.  Hagan called me and I politely responded to his questions.  And the result is this pathetic Page-Sixish crap.  I know why Rupert Murdoch’s “reporters” do this kind of thing, but really, what can be the Observer’s excuse?  Is this really what you people want to do with your lives?
Eric Alterman

Name: Paul Thompson
Dear Eric,
Thanks for the kudos to my 9/11 timeline in your most recent missive.

For people who are interested in knowing even more details about what Bush did on 9/11, you might want to point folks to this extensive essay:

An Interesting Day: Bush's Movements and Actions on 9/11

And there's this related essay:

The Failure to Defend the Skies on 9/11

I wrote both of the above to help others make sense of all the very complicated information on these topics. Thanks, and keep up the good work.

Name: Eileen Bennett
Hometown: Madison, WI

I enjoyed Chris Wallace's letter.  I am a member of the Air National Guard (25 years in the military.)  I recently attended an Air Force Tech School with another Guardmember (30 years) and 3 first-term active-duty Airmen.  All 5 of us are opposed to this war.  The airmen related that there is widespread opposition to the war among active duty Air Force.  So, don't believe everything you read.  (Ha! Ha!)

Name: Peter Ames Carlin
Hometown: Portland, Or.
Just a quick note on the Jackson Browne conversation from last week: The real dividing line in his career is the one running through David Lindley.  With Lindley on slide, fiddle, etc. JB's tunes had a whole other dimension of feeling, texture and sonic quirkiness.  Without Lindley (post "Hold Out") his records sound increasingly slick and generic.  Even the fiery political tunes of the '80s come with a denatured electronic sheen that make JB's civics lectures all the more grating, no matter how much you agree with him.  Then listen to his cover of Lowell George's "I've Been the One" from '99, re-teamed with Lindley on slide.  Lovely.

Name: Terry
Hometown: Los Angeles

Eric,
Sorry to hear you're getting grief from Jackson Browne's publicist.  Jackson himself is a kind and generous soul.  Ten years or so ago my family received a Christmas card from him.  Of course, we sent one to him by return post.  A few days later a tin of the most delicious ginger cookies arrived, compliments of Mr. Browne.  We have exchanged cards, and sometimes received cookies, every year since.  We've never met or spoken to him, but Christmas at our house isn't Christmas without him.  Strange, but true.

Conundrum:

Name: Rick Merrill
Hometown: Los Angeles

Eric:
It's funny how you only choose to print poorly spelled and poorly reasoned emails against your left wing drivel, as if no intelligent, educated person could possibly disagree with you.  Selectively posting opposing emails in a way to make your opposition look stupid is intellectually dishonest, and you know it.

And another:

Name: scott
Hometown: plant city, FL
Really big of you to print only the most idioitic rants from the right.

To address your, and mind-numbed robots who like what you have to say (all three dozen of them)Bush never said "imminent threat." He said, "...before Hussein becomes an imminent threat."

And are we talking about the same Clark who praised Bush for his actions following 911? The same Clark who let dozens of terrorist deeds occur during the Clinton Error?

I know you aint got the balls to print this, pal.

March 23, 2004 | 12:35 PM ET

Today is another of those days where I’m kind of superfluous, owing to the quality of the mail below.  In the meantime, Paul Krugman and Richard Cohen have useful perspectives on the White House’s campaign to destroy the character of Richard Clarke, its longest serving public official and most experienced counterterrorism expert. A great many of the charges made by Clarke can also be found in The Book on Bush, but of course, Clarke’s perspective adds invaluable information and an insider perspective.

Odds and Ends:  Bob Bateman touts efforts like this one to win hearts and minds.

The Jack Kelley case offers more and more arguments against affirmative action for white guy Evangelical Christians.

And another reader reminds me that the CCR webserver goes down a lot, but you can find another link to its incredible 9/11 timeline here. Or for all of them, here.

And there's a nice Arthur Miller essay here.

On a personal/political note,  except for a talk I’m giving  in the rare book room at the Strand Book Store, at 826 Broadway on Thursday at 7:00, (before seeing Television at Irving Plaza), I’m pretty much done with promotional stuff for The Book on Bush.  It was a rather weird experience.

The book got almost no attention in the media; the only significant review was the one published in The Washington Post, who gave it to Reagan/Bush/Fox News operative, James Pinkerton. Still, with next to no media attention, the book entered the Times extended best-seller list and stayed there four weeks.  I’ve never before published a book that was so thoroughly ignored in the media, nor one that started out as a best-seller.  Go figure.

In the meantime, I spoke in seven cities and without exception, every one of them was more fun than my talks of year ago when I was touring for What Liberal Media?  That tour took place just before Bush invaded Iraq.  It happened before the other liberal books began crowding one another on the best-seller list, before the creation of the Center for American Progress, before the Dean campaign took the lessons learned by Moveon.org and gave the rest of the party its instructions, before we had so many excellent blogs, before Air America demonstrated it was for real, before, in short, liberals felt they had a way to fight back.

OK, so I was only in blue states and the bluest sections of blue states, but I’m telling you, these guys may find a way to take this election too, but this time, there’s going to be another side fighting back. And fighting back just feels better, even if the mainstream media don’t like it.

Quote of the Day: "Now, being a little competitive, I noticed that while the E Street Band and I were sweating our asses off for hours, just to put some fannies in the seats, that obviously due to what must have been some strong homoerotic undercurrent in our music, we were drawing rooms full of men.  And not that great-looking men, either.  Meanwhile, Jackson was drawing more women than an Indigo Girls show!" 
-Bruce Springsteen at the RRHOF, here.

Alter-review:

When Altercation talks… When the last Dylan bootleg series was released, we talked Altercation amigo Sean Wilentz into giving us an exclusive review.  Somebody at Sony had a similar idea nearly two years later and now Sean’s written the notes for “Live 1964: Concert at Philharmonic Hall—The Bootleg Series Volume 6,” a concert Sean attended when he was 13.  (Dylan was 23.)  In addition to its unusually erudite essay—just about the best I can remember reading on Dylan since Pete Hamill’s liner notes for “Blood on the Tracks”-- it’s got some lovely duets with not-so surprise guest Joan Baez.  Anyway, there it is, back when Zimmy was so much older...  There’s plenty more about the CD here and it appears Sean is leading a panel that will be broadcast on WFMU.

Correspondence Corner:

(I decided to hold off on the angry e-mails I received from Jackson’s press guy, because I’m not sure it’s fair to cause Jackson, an artist whose work I revere, any tsuris during such a happy time for him just because he’s got a nasty fellow doing his press.

Name: Gene Duarte
Hometown: Olalla, Wa.

This is a response to Mr. Panu's letter, published in your column of March 22, 2004.
Mr. Panu: I have a son who is in Iraq, a well adjusted, bright kid who is one of the loves of my life. We did not go over to Iraq to ensure their happiness, nor did we spend upwards (MUCH upwards) of $87 billion dollars to build schools.  We spent that money because the Misleader and his Administration had indicated that there was an "imminent" threat posed to the U.S. by Iraq's WMD.  No "WMD theory," actual WMD's.  A thousand happy Iraqis are NOT worth my son's life.  Nor are they worth the life of those who have died in this crime perpetuated by this Administration.

Name: Chris Wallace
Hometown: West Des Moines, Iowa
Dear Dr. A,
First off, let me say that, in the beginning when I first started to read your blog, I flat out hated you.  Over and over again, it was Gore got cheated this, Gore got shafted that.  Now, however, even as that Supreme Court decision will be etched in our memories for quite some time, I've come to take a second, more open minded look over the last two years on your writings.  I still find you very opinionated, but also very informed while backing up what you say with other sources and research.  In a world where fabrications are somehow fact, I hold your methods in great respect.

Now, that said...I find it extremely disheartening (and also somewhat darkly humorous) that the attack dog e-mails from stark conservatives look like nothing more than nonsensical drivel, most notably the two you shared with us from yesterday's edition.

Specifically, to the "fact" that Bush had the "BALLS to FREE A NATION", I can only say the following:

  • No WMD.  Funny how we would have looked much more credible to the world if ol' Colin would have pulled evidence, a la Adlai Stevenson on Cuba.
  • No terrorist connections found.  I once had a lady ask my opinion if Saddam might have terrorist connections.  I said I didn't think so, simply because it didn't fit a logical (even for a madman) profile for a despot looking to hold an iron fist on his country.  Did we honestly think he'd be stupid enough to give any U.S. president an excuse to finish the job left over from 1991?
  • Daily occurrences of terrorist attacks on our troops that make Hamas' attacks on Israelis look pale in comparison, or at least the numbers that we hear about.
  • "We're not in the business of Nation Building."  Remember that little phrase, Mr. Bush?

So, yes, you may now count me among the commie liberals living in this nation.  And I don't know about anyone else, but I'll admit it here and now:

I care enough to remove Bush.  It's the best thing this country can do for itself before we tear ourselves apart.

Keep up the great work, Dr.

Have a great day,
-Chris...Navy vet, Desert Storm vet and proud free-thinker

Name: Richard Harvey
Hometown: Austin
Let me get this right...According to the Bush White House: Former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke is wrong, former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill is wrong, former top U.S. weapons inspector David Kay is wrong, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring/Verification and Inspection Commission Dr. Hans Blix is wrong, the CIA is wrong, the FBI is wrong, the librul media is wrong, blogville is wrong, protesting a pre-emptive unprovoked war is wrong, hunting bin Laden 24/7 with everything our military forces have is wrong (unless it's an election year), John Kerry is wrong, John McCain was wrong down in S. Carolina, Howard Dean is wrong, Max Cleland is wrong, Valerie Plame is wrong, thinking we should all pay a little more income tax when our country is engaged in a war on terrorism is wrong, a solvent government is wrong, taking as much time as necessary to fairly recount votes in a close election is wrong, and for having relied upon any of the aforementioned individuals for advice relating to their field of expertise - the White House was wrong.

Name: Arik Elman
Hometown: Jerusalem
Eric, the question "How many more innocent Israelis and Palestinians will be killed" now that Ahmad Yassin has been dealt with is a frivolous one.  Dearly beloved (at least by enlightened Europeans) sheikh lived to kill Jews, as simple as that, no "ifs", no "buts."  He encouraged, blessed and promoted unprovoked and unlimited attacks on Jews, regardless of what kind of retribution they might bring and what collateral damage it may do to a Palestinian life and property.  He wrecked even the naive hope of Oslo.  Since the days of Jozef Goebbels and Julius Schtreicher he was the greatest inciter for the murder of Jews that ever lived.  He wasn't any kind of "moderating influence," far from it.  Killing him can't make matters worse - if anything, his apparent immunity gave additional nerve to his movement, and if today they are shaken to the core, so much the better.

Yassin and his movement aren't the threat to be contained, or a possible partner for compromise.  From Jewish-Israeli point of view they are the virus, which cannot be dealt with except by elimination.  Left unchecked, they spread, replacing the nationalistic mindset of Palestinian majority with a Jihadist one, making the conflict unsolvable and untractable.  Yassin's death should have come sooner, but maybe even now it would serve the greater purpose of splintering the Islamic movement.

Oh, and could you please ask Mr. Straw on my behalf: How is an unprovoked invasion of a foreign country well within the international law, but a liquidation of a known bloody terrorist isn't?  Straw's attack on Israel reminded me of the old joke about this kid who watches his parents making love and grumbles to himself: "And to think that THOSE PEOPLE give me a hard time for PICKING MY NOSE!!!" :)

Name: Jon Gardner
Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland

Liberal NPR?

I was listening on a road trip Saturday morning, and I heard the following:

  1. Daniel Schorr declaring the Spanish elections a "victory" for al Quaeda. Daniel Schorr!!!!
  2. On the news-quiz show "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!" I heard the following:
    1. Jokes about John Kerry and botox
    2. Jokes about John Kerry and the next thing he would regret saying
    3. Jokes about Al Gore and the Internet

I never heard anything bad about C-Plus Augustus.  Can we all agree that indicates that the old line about liberal NPR is no longer operative?

Name: Edward Panu
Hometown: Atlanta
Eric,
You must marvel at your own ignorance these days, because anuthing you hear that even little to do with in a negative way, you are all over it and with great delight. Again, if you really do reseach( like any great journalist should do ) you'd be laughing at these kind of stories, especially after what this administration has done to ALQuada( as opposed to the previous one led by your heavenly father Clinton). Ask yourself, Do you really think American people are that dumb, or that hate filled like yourself????? Well, keep marveling at your ignorance, and one of these days you will actually leran something.\

March 22, 2004 | 11:46 AM ET

AWOL on al-Qaida:  Let’s get this straight before the White House propaganda machine twists it with pretzel logic:  The Bush administration ignored the al-Qaida threat before 9/11 and panicked (WSJ) on 9/11 when confronted by the deed itself.  We still have never received an honest accounting of what took place, and the media—until this Wall Street Journal story--has been remarkably complicit (and complacent) in its pursuit; this is all the more amazing when you consider the fact that this is just about the most written about event in all human history.

I spend a lot of time on this issue in The Book on Bush, but rarely, if ever, have I seen it explained or even addressed.  Take a look at this incredible timeline upon whose sources I relied when I wrote this chapter and see if you can figure out what’s really going on. (Note: When I wrote my Nation column on this topic last year, which is drawn from the book, I did a lousy job of crediting this terrific research.  I made sure to do it in the book, but I regret having failed to so as well in the column.) 

P.S. There’s more here and some of that piece’s sourcing can be found here.

… And Homeland Security, Too.  Homeland security is yet another egregious failure of this administration.  Time reports:

"The vast majority of the $13.1 billion was distributed with no regard for the threats, vulnerabilities and potential consequences faced by each region. Of the top 10 states and districts receiving the most money per capita last year, only the District of Columbia also appeared on a list of the top 10 most at-risk places, as calculated by AIR for TIME.  In fact, funding appears to be almost inversely proportional to risk. If all the federal homeland-security grants from last year are added together, Wyoming received $61 per person while California got just $14, according to data gathered at TIME's request by the Public Policy Institute of California, an independent, nonprofit research organization. Alaska received an impressive $58 per resident while New York got less than $25."

TIME’s story also includes a map that shows how risk is almost inversely proportional to the level of funding: the less at risk your state is, the more money you are likely to get per person to spend on fire, police and emergency readiness.

I despair of Israel’s decision to kill the founder of Hamas.  I don’t dispute the justice of it, but surely the wisdom.  How many more innocent Israelis and Palestinians will be killed, how many children will be made orphans, how many limbs and eyes and will be lost as a result of this cycle of vengeance is unknowable. The only thing of which we can be certain is that it will be many, many more.  The blind men are surely king in Middle East.  How wise of President Bush to decide to disengage from the peace process upon coming into office….

Enough Affirmative Action: 

"A team of journalists has found strong evidence that Kelley fabricated substantial portions of at least eight major stories, lifted nearly two dozen quotes or other material from competing publications, lied in speeches he gave for the newspaper and conspired to mislead those investigating his work. 
Perhaps Kelley’s most egregious misdeed occurred in 2000, when he used a snapshot he took of a Cuban hotel worker to authenticate a story he made up about a woman who died fleeing Cuba by boat. The woman in the photo neither fled by boat nor died, and a USA TODAY reporter located her this month."

I’ll tell you what the Kelly story proves. It proves that the media have been too easy on White guy evangelical Christians in their midst.  How many worthy individuals have lost their jobs to lesser-quailfied White guy evangelical Christians promoted not on the basis of merit, but because of the political goals of these do-gooder social engineers trying to rectify what they term to be the “historic wrong” of anti-white-guy-evangelical-Christian-racism?  Take it away, Mickey and Andrew….

Congrats to Robert Cox on his victory over the Times’ Op-Ed page’s unwillingness to address its columnists’ errors. 

We eagerly await William Safire’s admittance that it is something less than an “undisputed fact.” ([New York Times, 11/12/01]

Quote of the Day, “Why would people listen to Winstead and company when liberals already populate much of the media?”
-Howard “Conflict of Interest” Kurtz

And here’s our man Boehlert on Howie and Bono.

The media, backstage, part I:  A lot of people have e-mailed me asking about the contents of Dennis Miller’s apology.  It was short, largely because I had no interest in talking to the guy.  I never did in the first place, save for the fact that he has television cameras rolling when you do.  Anyway, Dennis said he had been in the wrong and then started to explain that we were both “contentious guys.”  I was interviewing someone at the time, and wasn’t really interested.  I accepted his apology and hung up.  That’s it.

The media, backstage, II:  Last week I got an e-mail from George Gurley asking me to please respond to the fact that Dorothy Rabinowitz called me a cretin.  I probably would not have responded anyway, I mean what do I win?  But I sure as well wouldn’t respond to Gurley who has made his name, in my house anyway, by a) sucking up to Ann Coulter for joking about how much she’d like it if terrorists would blow up the New York Times and b) did a dishonest hatchet-job on me.  So I went with “no comment” and it worked.  I’m not in this piece, which we learn that Ms. Rabinowitz gets her hair cut for $385.27 (plus tip, I’m assuming) and Mr. Gurley--or is it Ms. Rabinowitz? it’s hard to tell--considers Mel Gibson to be a member of the “lefty Hollywood.”

I had a part III, about Jackson Browne and his counterproductive publicist, but it’ll keep until tomorrow.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Eric:
Because every day, even the second day of Spring, is Slacker Friday, Part The XXXIII.
One question -- shouldn't last night be enough?

Even with Lesley Stahl wasting everybody's time with silly questions about "loyalty," and the Kennedy School, and "Didn't he bring us all together?" which is SCLM-speak for "We pretty much all went in the satchel for the guy 'cause we were really a'scared," if Richard Clarke's interview last night wasn't enough to end the Avignon Presidency then nothing will be and we should just bag the whole business right now.

This was chapter and verse of a monumental crime of omission -- the most effective public burial job of a presidency since John Dean raised his hand in the Senate -- and if John Kerry's hair, or John Kerry's wife's money, or any other silly damn thing is made into an issue between now and November, then a whole lot of somebodies in the media deserve to be fired.  Richard Clarke's interview is the only issue worth discussing, and the only issue worthy of determining how anyone votes.  Black background.  White letters for the money quotes.  The only commercial worthy to be aired.

And, God, is the guy merciless.  Stahl begs him to say something nice about C-Plus Augustus and his performance in the Immediate Aftermath.  "Do you give him credit for bringing us together?" she asks plaintively.

He gave a nice speech, says Clarke.

I don't know about al-Qaida, but I don't want this guy after MY ass.

I am not so naive as to believe that a lot of this won't be spun into a fine thread by election day.  Perhaps even by this evening.  What I do know is that, very soon, Clarke is going to repeat most of this under oath.

How about it, Mr. Hadley?
Wolfie?
Dickie P.?
Condi?
Dickie?
Dickie C.?
Dear Leader?
Hello?

Put up or shut up.

Name: Darren Cahr
Hometown: Chicago

Dr. Alterman,
Pierce is crazy.  He says that the three essential political biographies are T. Harry Williams on Huey Long, Jack Beatty on James Michael Curley, and Marshall Frady's "Wallace."   Boy, its almost as thought Pierce (normally a pretty bright fellow) has not noticed (a) Robert Caro (whose colossal "Master of The Senate" and "The Power Broker" are tied for the Greatest Political Biography title), and (b) Seymour Hersh, who wrote this book about Henry Kissinger a few years back that you may have read.  Jeez, Pierce, you know better than to make sweeping generalizations like that, especially when you're wrong.

Eric replies: To say nothing of Ron Steel on Walter Lippmann, David Nassaw on Hearst, Sam Tanenhaus on Whitaker Chambers (though I have my differences).  But if Pierce is crazy, he’s crazy in a good way.  And while Hersh’s Henry book is great for what it was, it is surpassed as a full work of history by Walter Isaacson’s terrific book, (though I also have my differences).

Name: Ricky Wyrick
Hometown: Cocoa, FL
Eric, is it me because I'm a Military Brat that notices, or are we not supposed to talk about it?  The fact is that we have a War Veteran running for President, who is being portrayed as some limp wristed fool who couldn't fight his way out of a paper sack, when the two War leaders espousing this crap did their damndest to avoid the war of their generation.  When they say we have to stay the course and lives will be lost, it's okay as long as it's someone from that lower class.
-A proud Military Brat.

Name: Edward Panu
Hometown: Atlanta

Eric,
You and your liberal readers have just confirmed one thing about yourselves- hate filled hate filled hate filled. It does not matter that thousands of innoncent lives were taken by Saddam with biological weapons, thousands more tortured, thousands of families displaced and an entired nation taken hostage by one tyran; yet what matters is that Bush said that they were weapons that were not found; and at the same time YOU blind liberals call yourselves compassionate for the cause of Democracy and freedom??? PLEASE, I have lived in these cultures, and let me tell you something: YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT PEOPLE, and sure enough YOU CARE TO JUST REMOVE BUSH. What gets me is this: YOU don't have the balls to ADMIT IT. YOU hide therefore behind this so called WMD theory. Question: Do you think  the people of Iraq are happy to have been liberated ?????? If yes, then act like mature adults, and find a way to make life even better for these guys, since you are the People's Party. At least Bush had the balls to take a chance at REMOVING this disgrace of Saddam, who was feared by all your friends(Europeans), including your old BOSS CLINTON, who had the balls to FOOL AROUND, but not enough BALLS to FREE A NATION. Thank YOU.

Name: R. Darren Brewer
If you don't get it from your email, you came off like an as**ole.  Get it?  However, since you subjective, pomo nihilists can rationalize any desire or behavior, I doubt you will learn anything from the experience, you f-ing self-delusional as**ole.


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