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April 16, 2004 | 1:21 PM ET

Thanks to Pierce and Eric R. for terrific pinch-hitting.  We’ve just about got our technological problems solved here, though I do admit to betraying a little frustration in my voice when the Time Warner guy left a message on my voice mail saying he wouldn’t be coming for the second time this week, because I didn’t answer the phone, which I didn’t because I was on the phone with a Time Warner guy calling me to tell me that the guy would be there within five minutes.  (This just in: Time-Warner was just toying with us. True to form, the fix lasted only twelve hours and we are back to dial-up.)  And Verizon says they won’t be ready for me ‘til the 26th.  Still, like the entire city of Atlanta, I’m “too busy to hate.” 

The final chapter of "When Presidents Lie" goes into production today and this enormous article that’s driving me nuts and requiring me to fly across the country over and over is due on Monday, so, one hopes, there will be less chaos here all around.  In the meantime, this is actually a pretty good Slacker Friday, so I don’t think my actions require any further apologies, unlike your president….

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And I've got a new "Think Again" column called "Media Misunderestimates Bush... Again."

One More “We Told You So”:  The invasion of Iraq will complicate and likely undermine attempts to solve the far more significant crisis between Israel/Palestine.  Looky here.  “Iraqi Crisis May Hinder U.S. Reform Of Mideast,” writes Marc Perelman, in the Forward.  He notes:

“The unfolding chaos in Iraq is threatening the Bush administration's ambitious plan to promote democratic reforms in the Middle East, experts and diplomats said. The administration's so-called Greater Middle East initiative, which is to be presented formally during a meeting of the G-8 group of industrialized nations in early June, has already elicited criticism from major Arab allies and skepticism from the European Union.”

And I know I’m just some commie blogger, but Zinni told you so too.

Have I linked to this?  I don’t even remember.  “Public Believes Many Countries Still Secretly Pursuing WMD; Favors Addressing Problem by Enhanced Arms Control Efforts Rather Than Military Threats; Willing to Accept Intrusive Inspections and Limits on U.S. Military Capabilities as Part of Arms Control Agreements; Opposes Increased Defense Spending ” It’s here.

New, useful website from the Open Society Institute dedicated to tracking the actions of the Department of Justice.  "The mission of 'Watching Justice,'" says the press release, “is to keep a vigilant, long-term, and non-partisan eye on the way the Department and other agencies - including those offices in the Department of Homeland Security that used to be based in the DOJ - are administering justice in America.”

And I thought this piece in the American Prospect by Neil Gabler was worth pondering.

This from our “out to pasture” friends at MWO:  “It appears Condi's top national security assignment when Bush was in Crawford in August 01 was to monitor Gary Condit interviews for our fearless commander-in-chief...

“Bush did mention Rice at the session -- but only to say that she and White House counselor Karen Hughes had "briefed" him on the Chandra Levy matter after the two aides watched then-Rep. Gary A. Condit's television interview about the missing intern.”

It’s all here.

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Apologies to all the Maconites, there and around the globe, for putting the late Berry Oakley's scorching "Hootchie Cootchie Man" on the wrong ABB LP in yesterday's guest spot.  It actually came out on "Idlewild South," their second, and not on their eponymous debut.

One of the reactions to C-Plus Augustus's prime-time blithering that makes me truly angry is the notion that only elitist Blue Staters expect the president to get from a subject to an object without breaking an ankle, but that the good plain-spoken average American doesn't cotton to such book-larnin', consarn it.

What a huge steaming crock of beans.  One of the nice things about being a sportswriter is that you actually get to see a lot of the country and you get to meet a lot of its people, many of them living in places that people like David Brooks and the Crazy Dolphin Queen visit only in their smug condescension.  I have seen the sun rise over the Piedmont and I have seen it set over the Mississippi Delta.  I know the way Puget Sound looks on a clear morning, and the way the snow blows straight up off the surface of Lake Superior on a cold afternoon.  I know how the Ohio sounds, and how it sounds different from how the Fox River sounds.  I have played bingo in Wisconsin and I have played poker in Reno and I have gambled on horses in the sweet breezes of Keeneland.  I've seen Tracy Chapman in a subway, and Muddy Waters on a midway, and Bob Dylan at Bally's Grand on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. I  have seen Michael Jordan play.  I have been around.

Don't tell me what this country and its people think -- and, especially, don't be using that "We" thing to do it.  Don't tell me that, as a nation, we can't distinguish courage from stubbornness, philosophy from platitudes, and an empty suit from a full one.  Don't tell me we prize simplicity when you really mean we prize the simple.  Don't tell me about my country and my countrymen, you smarmy, honorarium-fattened, makeup-encrusted hyenas.  Don't you freaking dare.  I been there.

And, by the way, all of her Beltway Heather pals should note that Peggy Noonan this week intimated that asking the president of the United States what in the hell he's doing makes you less of a real American.  Go on.  Go on the shows with her again, and know the contempt she feels for your craft.  Then, go home and break every damn mirror you own.

Name: Ming
Hometown: Altoona, PA

Dear Eric,
You need not take Pierce's techno-jibes lying down.  At least two of the links he set up for us on Thursday were duds.

Eric replies:  We’ve been run down. We’ve been lied to. And we let that brilliant writer Pierce, take us down and make us out to be a fool.  Still got the money, though, so we feel fine, thanks.

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to feel like the Bee Girl in Blind Melon's "No Rain" video.  You see, Wednesday I was in Washington D.C. on business (mostly as an overpaid mail room clerk) and I was thinking about Dubya's press conference.  It was so sad to hear him go on and on about the human rights justification for the Iraq war.  With the exception of Ronald Reagan, I doubt there has been a modern president less concerned with human rights than Dubya (and at least
Reagan could hide behind the cold war).  The same day Dubya is moralizing about Saddam gassing his own people, Dick Cheney was in China heaping praise on the butchers of  Tiananmen Square.  Dubya's administration has shown no interest in human rights anywhere else on the planet, let alone for Native Americans right here.  Imagine what could have been: say Dubya had moved aggressively in Liberia, challenged the U.N. to press harder for reform in Myanmar, and even spoke to Americans about conflict diamonds -- something most folks have never heard about.  Now he'd have a little credibility -- one day he might even claim to have done more for world human rights than anyone since, OK, he'd take the party line and say Reagan, but you know what I'm getting at.

Oh, my "No Rain" moment?  During the press conference on Tuesday, for some reason I kept thinking about the IRS tax cheating scandal.  Isn't corporate tax fraud an act of treason in the war on terror?  Dubya has gone out of his way to protect tax cheaters by muzzling IRS officials and disarming (so to speak) IRS auditors.  I had a self-conscious thought that it was weird to obsess about such things (it doesn't help that my significant other is fairly apolitical).  So I'm having lunch in D.C. and I overhear two women talking about going shopping after work and the Washington Post's lead editorial, which was on the same subject.  Like the Bee Girl, I'd found my home!  At least for a couple hours.

April 15, 2004 | 11:23 AM ET

In case you haven’t noticed, Doc’s still holed up in the AlterManse, continuing to be mystified by this Internet thing that the kids seem to enjoy so much. Anyway, Charles Pierce here, altercating alternately until Two Postgraduate Degrees can get himself untangled without blacking out the block and electrocuting the dog.

Holy Mother Of God.

"I wish I had that question in advance.”

God knows we’ve all made happy sport of the Avignon Presidency, especially in this little corner of the neighborhood, but I have never been afraid of the guy the way I was the other night.  Is there a single sliver of doubt left that the man couldn’t craft a coherent thought if you spotted him the subject, the verb, and the unlimited use of Peggy Noonan?  He marches blithely on, armed with his own invincible ignorance, like one of the idiots at the end of the bar who believes he was abducted by aliens in the employ of the Knights Templar.

“People who hide something are people who have something to hide.”

Jeebus Christmas, how do they stand there and listen to this scary charlatan?  I’ve heard athletes who never got out of high school evince more complexity of thought 10 minutes after losing a playoff game.  And without notes, too.

“I have some must-calls.”

You’re the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES – Excuse the shouting -- and you have to follow a script written down by the unelected hacks in the West Wing because, without it, somebody might ask you a question beyond the scope of the 15 or 20 cliches you brought into the room?  To embroider a line from a truly great Texan, Dan Jenkins, if he had a brain, he’d be on the South Lawn playing with it.  I no longer care whether or not he’s dumber than a bag of hammers, or whether he’s uneducated or uncurious, or whether he’s simple and plain or arrogant and foolish.  What is plain is that he’s not up to this job.

I’m not exactly sure where I’d rank it on the roster of Terrifying Presidential Moments. Will Saletan wrote the best next-day wrap here, but I’d have to put it somewhere between the Saturday Night Massacre and Kennedy’s Cuban Missile Crisis speech.

It’s become rather plain that the Papist issue is going to be around the coverage of John Kerry’s campaign for a spell. (TIME had a nice survey piece about the issue two weeks ago – and, by the way, Perry Bacon, Jr. who’s covering Kerry for TIME and who makes me feel 130 years old, is going to be a major star.)  I mention this only because “Kit” Seelye  of The New York Times – one of the people who makes hearts go pitty-pat here -- put up a couple of stories last weekend that were, flatly, bizarre.

Kerry and his wife attend Mass at the Paulist Center on Beacon Hill, which is close enough to their home to qualify as their parish church.  As it happens, when I was a baby reporter at The Boston Phoenix, and lived in the city, I used to go to Mass there myself.  They were sufficiently children of Vatican II and of the Blessed John XXIII for me to feel comfortable there.  (Novelist and essayist James Carroll, a toweringly decent and humane man, once was a Paulist priest.)  Midnight Mass with the Paulists, and then a walk across the Common on Christmas Eve with the bells ringing everywhere is something I can recommend to anyone whatever their ecclesiastical inclinations.  Anyway, Kerry’s attendance at Mass there, and his taking of Communion, were remarked upon by the indefatigable “Kit.”

I, however, was bit baffled to find the Paulists described by Seelye first on April 11 as “a kind of New Age church that describes itself as a ‘worship community of Christians in the Roman Catholic tradition.”  On April 12, Seelye wrote pretty much the same story, except that now the Paulists were “a nontraditional church.”  To which I responded, as Augustine once did to the people of Hippo, “What the f**k is this?”

The Paulists date back to 1858 – which makes them roughly as old as a number of other orders. They were founded by Isaac Hecker, who started out as a Tammany reformer, of all things.  They have been consistently involved in Catholic education and in issues of social justice.  True, they’ve been more liberal occasionally than the local Archdiocese would have preferred, and the Jim-Caviezel Died-For-Our-Sins crew doesn’t like them very much.

However, they hardly deserve to be described as though they were founded an hour-and-a-half ago in somebody’s basement amid crystals and candles and the “Europe ‘72” album.  They preach the Gospels.  They officiate the sacraments.  They are in good standing with their bishop.  The Paulists are as traditional as any other order is -- unless, of course, you equate “traditional” with “theologically reactionary.”

(A note here to the American Catholic hierarchy: Now is probably not the time to reassert your baronial privileges in the secular realm, since your most previous experience in that realm should have had a lot of you departing in handcuffs.)

Clearly, with the Bush campaign continuing its outreach to conservative Catholics – which you can read about here (scroll down) – there’s going to be made an issue of Kerry’s relationship with certain noisy prelates.  (Archbishop Sean O’Malley of Boston pretty much has accused Kerry of a thought crime as regards abortion.)  If that’s going to be the case, and I wish it weren’t going to be, we all at least ought to know what we’re talking about.

MEOW!  Catfight! Catfight!

And in the Department Of Making New Friends And Keeping The Old Ones, we have this, which should surprise absolutely not a soul.  Is the road map still viable?  I have a vision of Colin Powell, off in a corner of the car, hopelessly tangled up trying to fold it.

Happy You're Paying Their Salaries Day!  And then there's this longtime boothead from Wisconsin.  And let's not forget everyone who thought this was a good idea.  Shouldn't you have a "stringent, well-defined" set of guidelines BEFORE you start trolling in the gene pool?

And Ted Olson is turning up everywhere these days in his dual role as Solicitor General Of The United States and 9/11 widower, possibly as counterpoint to the ongoing belaboration of the governing class by Kristen Breitweiser  Olson differs from them, of course, in that he is a career Republican dirty-tricks artist, and in that he's part of an administration that did everything it could to stonewall the examination of the events surrounding his wife's death.

Keep them all in mind while you're writing those checks today.

Elsewhere, The Dean keeps digging for the pony. 

And, of course, don't trust this murderous bastard as far as you can throw him.

There is no public figure so wasted in this country than Gary Hart. His hair’s been on fire over domestic security and terrorism for 20 years, and he’s still not invited to talk to the 9/11 commission.  He knows more about all these issues than anybody outside of the “intelligence community,” and more than a lot of people inside it, and he’s still largely on the margins.

I say this only because he was on – at midday! – with Wolf Blitzer yesterday, and he kicked Wolf all over the screen for about 20 minutes.  The transcript doesn’t do it justice.  It was like watching Ali take apart Foreman.  Well, actually, it was like watching Ali take apart Elmo from Sesame Street, but no matter. Find this guy a job, please.

Of course, the Dolphin Queen can be counted upon to add just the right tone of McCarthyite condescension, historical ignorance, and Jesus-On-An-Taco-Chip lunacy here.  This is just a reminder for all you people with pretensions to actual journalism who sit willingly next to this screaming batsh*t word-whore on all the panel shows-- She Thinks You Want American Soldiers To Die.  Remember that when you loan her the tattered remnants of your own credibility.

A great time of year.  Playoff ice hockey at bedtime!  I am carrying a torch this year for the Nashville Predators, because my friend, Jordin Tootoo, with whom I once chased whales and polar bears from a small boat in the Churchill River in Canada, is in his rookie season with Opryland's favorite side as they take on the lordly Detroit Red Wings.  Jordin's the first Inuit to be drafted by an NHL team and, thus, the first one to make it up to the big club.  Pivotal Game Five tonight in Detroit.

Alter-Reviews:  This is something I don’t understand.  Long about 1968, when Cream’s live cover of “Crossroads” first put me on the ceiling, Eric Clapton introduced me to the deep-running haunt that is Robert Johnson.  (If, say, “Stones In My Passway” doesn’t shake your grip on things, then you have no soul, nor any true need of one.)  So now Clapton puts out an entire album of Johnson covers – "Me And Mr. Johnson," it’s called.  It’s respectful and modest, and bristling with virtuosity, and it’s approximately as exciting as watching somebody type their doctoral thesis.

This has happened to Clapton before; in his earlier "From The Cradle" set, he chokes on “Hootchie Kootchie Man,” turning in a stiff, mechanical performance of a Muddy Waters classic that ought to have been a slam-dunk.  (And it was for the original Allman Brothers on their first record. The late Berry Oakley lit the song on fire.)  I think Clapton’s come to love this music so much that he’s incapable of playing it  – the equivalent of watching someone carrying a Ming vase across an empty marble floor.

Consider his version of “Stop Breakin’ Down,” and the glorious, rowdy masterpiece that the Rolling Stones made of the song on “Exile On Main Street.”  Clapton’s recording is a museum piece.  The Stones make you smell the fish frying.

And as to The Master’s recent turn as a lingerie spokes-icon for Victoria’s Secret, people are still amazed when Bob Dylan does something strange?  (Jewels and bustiers, it seems, now hang from the head of the mule.)  Buy the gorgeous new “Live – 1964” set and listen to the stunned silence that surrounds the performance of “Gates Of Eden.”

Now what was THAT all about?

April 14, 2004 | 10:41 AM ET

Eric Rauchway altercates for Eric Alterman today.

My heart sank when the President said, "I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with [an] answer, but it hadn't yet."  Has ever a President uttered more demoralizing words in the course of seeking to reassure Americans and the world?  ("I am not a crook," maybe.)  I wish the President to stand by our troops now in peril on foreign shores.  I wish the President to protect us from terrorist attacks at home.  I wish the President to preside wisely over a vigorous and free economy and society. I wish the President were able to stand up to the pressures of those jobs.  But the President cannot even come up with an answer to a question he said, mere seconds before, he has "oftentimes [thought] about" over the last couple of years:  "You've looked back before 9-11 for what mistakes might have been made.  After 9-11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have learned from it?"  The President replied, "I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it."  And then he then explained about the pressure of press conferences.

Honestly, I was truly astonished to feel so saddened at that moment.  I hadn't supposed any appreciable confidence in the President's ability remained in me.  But it turns out I am enough of a Pollyanna to have held out some secret hope, at least till then.  There are more worldly people out there; apparently a Sky News reporter drily remarked of the President's answer to this question, "By his standards this was a relatively assured performance."

On that cheery note, we might move to the lighter question of what to do.  We know the generals want more troops in Iraq; we know they wanted more troops before they went in.  Fareed Zakaria says there should be more troops and that the RAND Corp. estimates there should be maybe 20 soldiers per 1000 inhabitants, or about 500,000.  Which is more than we can provide, more perhaps than we and any coalition, however willing, can presently offer.

Is this a question merely of quantity, or are there qualitative concerns -- i.e., is it a question of more or of different?  Niall Ferguson has something approaching an apoplectic fit when he realizes the architects of this occupation did not study the previous occupation: "What happened in Iraq last week so closely resembles the events of 1920 that only a historical ignoramus could be surprised."  The British had taken Iraq fairly handily with the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force, hailing themselves as liberators.  Then, to their dismay, the disparate ethnicities of the country united to oppose them:  "Contrary to British expectations, Sunnis, Shi'ites and even Kurds acted together."  Rather than learn the lessons of the mandate era, though, the administration has relied instead on "superficial economics" to predict a happy translation to Iraqi democracy.

Ferguson is not as surprised as he is angry; he knows it is typical of Americans to imagine wars, once won, will take care of themselves.  Consider a few of our occupations, successful and otherwise.  After mustering unprecedented manpower and technology to win a grueling war, the United States stinted on the subsequent occupation and reconstruction in the 1860s and 1870s:  the U.S. dissolved a million-man army within a year, leaving only about 20,000 soldiers in the South, a number which had dwindled by 1870 to 8,700 (which at a quick estimate looks to me like not quite one per 1000 inhabitants of the eleven states of the former Confederacy, if the RAND Corp. is looking).  The terrorist insurgents of the Ku Klux Klan were sufficiently active and a threat to democracy to draw Congressional ire and special legislation in the early 1870s -- but not to draw more troops.

The U.S. waged what one of its principal historians, Brian Linn, calls "the most successful counterinsurgency campaign in U.S. history" on the cheap, as far as manpower was concerned:  at its peak the American force occupying the Philippines in the early 1900s amounted to only about 70,000 soldiers (again, back-of-the-envelope, maybe 10 per thousand Filipinos, with an eye again on the RAND ratio); for most of the 1899-1902 war it was closer to half that.  However ultimately successful as a military counterinsurgency effort, the war was marred by atrocities, news of which deterred even Theodore Roosevelt -- a president never at a loss for words or action -- from pursuing it wholeheartedly.

Indeed the conventional argument has been that the American unwillingness to commit substantial numbers of troops for lengthy occupation and pacification has produced lengthier and more violent insurgencies; generals on the Western plains -- whose army was, Phil Sheridan complained, "obliged, in some places, to protect white people from Indians, while in other places it is protecting Indians in their persons and property from the whites" -- thought that more soldiers would make the West less wild.  But no such reinforcements came; the President reflects a long tradition of American insistence when he says, "We're not an imperial power."

Ferguson scoffs slightly at the idea of greater UN involvement:  the 1920 Iraq revolt "began in May, just after the announcement that Iraq would henceforth be a League of Nations 'mandate' under British trusteeship.  (Nota bene, if you think a handover to the UN would solve everything.)"  But:  the United Nations in 2004 has at least slightly greater legitimacy than the League of Nations in 1920 -- and the United States has a greater role in the UN than in the League.

Are there powder-blue berets lurking behind the President's suspense-building previews?

"Q:  And, Mr. President, who will you be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30th?

THE PRESIDENT: We will find that out soon."

Stay tuned.

April 13, 2004 | 11:16 AM ET

Ashcroft on the Hot Seat: We are still in Spring break mode here at Altercation owing to deadlines and de facto sabotage by Time Warner cable.  (I am switching to Verizon DSL next week, which may also suck, but will cost less, and will allow me to dump AOL which also costs, for MSN, which is free with the DSL.)  Eric Rauchway will be back tomorrow and Pierce on Thursday.  I’m hoping to have my bearings back after Slacker Friday.  In the meantime I thought these sections of The Book on Bush relevant to the 9/11 Commission’s proceedings.

What did George Bush do after receiving his terrifying second warning of imminent danger to the nation whose protection and defense he was sworn to uphold?  According to The New York Times, “Bush "broke off from work early and spent most of the day fishing."  Even though Attorney General John Ashcroft had already taken the precaution of ending his flights on commercial jetliners, the president apparently did not allow the threats we faced to interfere in any way with his month-long August vacation.  Major airline carriers were not even given any special alerts to watch out for potential hijackers.  If Bush took any action at all, there’s no evidence for it.

Ashcroft said in his May 2001 Senate testimony that "Our No. 1 goal is the prevention of terrorist acts."  In fact, the AG was expending much of his time and energy focusing the bureau’s efforts on such pressing problems as cancer patients’ use of medical marijuana in California, and the operation of New Orleans whorehouses at the time of the attack.  When he first met with FBI chief, Louis Freeh, as Attorney General, Ashcroft explained that his priorities would be two: “violent crime and drugs.”  According to a participant in the meeting, when Freeh tried to direct the conversation toward terror and counterterrorism, “Ashcroft didn’t want to hear about it,” according to a former senior law-enforcement official quoted in Newsweek’s investigative report.

More significantly, Ashcroft refused to devote significant resources to the anti-terrorist cause.  Just  few months later—September 10 to be exact—the attorney general refused an F.B.I. request to add 149 field agents, 200 analysts and 54 translators to its counterterrorism effort. He did so despite the fact that the F.B.I. International Terrorism Section had more than 100 fewer Special Agents working on international terrorism on Sept. 11 than they did in August 1998.  The Counter-Terrorism Center had only three analysts working full time on Al Qaida during 1998-2000, and only five on September 11.

The Justice Department’s lack of concern for terrorist threats—like that of the White House itself—had consequences down the chain of command.  One month after Ashcroft’s testimony, in June 2001, veteran FBI agent Robert Wright authored an angry memo charging:

Knowing what I know, I can confidently say that until the investigative responsibilities for terrorism are transferred from the FBI, I will not feel safe... The FBI has proven for the past decade it cannot identify and prevent acts of terrorism against the United States and its citizens at home and abroad.  Even worse, there is virtually no effort on the part of the FBI's International Terrorism Unit to neutralize known and suspected international terrorists living in the United States.

Wright would also claim that the "FBI was merely gathering intelligence so they would know who to arrest when a terrorist attack occurred" rather than actually trying to prevent the attacks themselves.  (We should note that Wright asked, and was denied permission to speak entirely freely about what he knew to be taking place.  Unlike Cowleen Rowley, he did not go the whistleblower route, and so only a portion of what he said has so far been revealed.)  Later in the month, CIA Director Tenet, like Clarke a Clinton holdover, authored an intelligence summary for Condoleezza Rice in which he warned "It is highly likely that a significant Al Qaeda attack is in the near future, within several weeks.”

You can also find updated info on much of this here.

Update: Congratulations to my friend Tom Hayden and the Los Angeles school board for adopting a sweeping anti-sweatshop procurement measure impacting $600 million in goods and services, and establishing a policy of preventing public dollars from subsidizing poverty wages.  The victory came after 14 months of negotiations with a coalition of garment workers advocates, unions, religious and student groups coordinated by the No More Sweatshops!  The campaign included Sweatshop Watch, UNITE, the AFL-CIO, Progressive Jewish Network, Progressive Christians Uniting, the California Council of Churches, United Students Against Sweatshops, Southern California ADA and many other local groups.  There’s more here including an organizing kit.

There’s an interesting new blog on legal politics here and check out the Kensington Review  also.

Quote of the Day, Give him a break: John Stossel: “Alterman's argument is ridiculous. He even calls me a conservative when I think drugs, prostitution and flag burning should be legal and homosexuality is perfectly natural. His comments say more about his narrow world than it does the liberal media”

Correspondents’ Corner:

From: Sal
Hometown: NYCD
I thought you'd want to keep this on hand for when you're looking for something fresh and exciting to listen to. My fave jazz releases of the last 2-3 years. (in no order)


April 12, 2004 | 1:45 PM ET

We plan to remain in a bit of chaos here at Altercation, due to a convergence of book deadlines, major magazine deadlines, additional travel, (Adrian College in Adrian, Mich., on Wednesday for a lunch-time talk) and the now-usual problems with the horror known as Time-Warner Internet cable service, which remains a figment of my imagination at the moment.

Since we didn’t get Friday’s column up until the end of the day, and it contained most of Wednesday’s column, I think we can all relax today.

Meanwhile, as the DSL service in my Los Angeles hotel didn’t work either, I am about 350 Altercation e-mails behind and see no prospect of catching up. Sorry to those of you who wrote in the past few days.

In the meantime, I’ve got a Nation column about the O’Reilly/Kerry/Franken flap here and Husain Haqqani did a "Think Again" column about what’s up with Bush, Rice and Afghanistan here.  I’ll also point out that this New Yorker profile of the Boondocks guy answers the question so many of you asked a few months ago when I referred his foolish talk to the Nation Institute dinner.

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