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April 30, 2004 | 11:18 AM ET

Slacker Friday

OK, so the idea of the SCLM has been a sick joke for a long time, but am I alone, as the saying goes, in finding myself genuinely shocked the administration's backers now say that to honor the dead is unpatriotic?

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P.S. McCain agrees.

We again extend our condolences to the family of Sgt. 1st Class Bradley Fox.

Note:  Eric will be debating media bias with the well known conservatives, Christopher Hitchens and Patrick Buchanan on Scarborough Country on MSNBC at Ten on Sunday Night, (following more trouble, no doubt, for Tony B).

Next on Oprah, right after the “salad-eating” segment: Liars and the Lying Liars Who Love Them

Create your own Tom Freidman column, here

The Treasury Department agency entrusted with blocking the financial resources of terrorists told Congress that at the end of last year it had just four full-time employees dedicated to investigating Osama bin Laden's and Saddam Hussein's wealth while nearly two dozen were working on Cuban embargo violations.   Feel safer now?

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Eric --
I feel about Slate's Dahlia Lithwick the same way I feel about the ESPN's Peter Gammons in that, for the rest of us, they immerse themselves in institutions -- Lithwick, the Supreme Court and Gammons, baseball -- so the rest of us don't have to.  Which is why I loved the tidbit she picked up from the arguments this week about Dick Cheney's House Of Bagmen.  One lawyer apparently cited the baleful influence of "unadorned allegations" culled from "media reports" on the properties of good governance.

Who made this argument with (apparently) a straight face?

None other than Ted (Arkansas Project) Olson.

Holy mother of God.

Speaking of whom, I continue to follow with interest the Papist issue in this presidential campaign, ever since the national political press began channelling Gregory VII a few weeks back.

Now, in my lifetime, the Democrats have elected one Catholic as president, are about to nominate another one for the same office, and have put up a third -- Geraldine Ferraro -- for vice-president.  (And that is not even to mention Michael Dukakis, who was Greek Orthodox, just so we don't have to re-open that whole Constantinople business again.)  By comparison, the Republicans have nominated exactly none -- despite being the home of all those ethnic Catholics who fled to Reagan, the fervently Catholic Cubans in Miami, and of anti-abortion zealots like Rick Santorum.

There is a reason for this, although the R's don't like to mention it in polite society.  It is because they depend so vitally -- especially in the South -- on the Christian fundamentalist community and, to those folks, the pope is pretty much still the "whore of Babylon."  (Google up Bob Jones University and Papacy some time, just for a laugh.)  A Catholic on a Republican ticket would quietly doom it in a lot of places where the ticket couldn't afford to be weakened. Now, the crowd at Crisis Magazine, and some conservative Catholic thinkers, have tried to make common cause with the political end of Protestant fundamentalism, but they look like idiots trying to do so.  It is preposterous -- even in politics -- to pretend that there is a single "Christian" view on, say, taxation, when there isn't even a single "Christian" view on Jesus Christ, let alone to whom he entrusted his message.

Eric replies:  Rejoice all ye faithful: Charles P. Pierce is now an online columnist for The American Prospect, ladies and gentleman.

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to 1) say, "Doh! The League of Women Voters -- great suggestion Victor!" and 2) try to enlist the help of Ross Perot.  You remember Ross, the patriot who cared so deeply about runaway deficits, the dangers of NAFTA, government secrecy and corruption - stuff like that?  Well, the deficit is at a record, the giant sucking sound of overseas job outsourcing is deafening, Presidential records (both Bush I and Bush II) are being sealed and not since Harry and Louise has special interest advertising played such a large role in politics.  If Ross was upset about shadowy GOP operatives publicly embarrassing his daughter, what must he think of the Valerie Plume scandal?  He's itching to take back that 2000 endorsement of Dubya, right?!  Ross, Larry King is on the phone, pick-up!  

I don't know if Kerry can convincingly pull a Perot and reach out to the hardcore cynics who made up his constituency.  But Kerry needs attention and he might try a principled Sister Souljah-like moment to get it.  I'd suggest one from his past: attack the teacher unions.  Dem catering to this group knows no bounds, and Kerry's record proves he has the guts to take them on.  I'm not saying he (or we) should demonize teachers, but merit pay and some real public school choice are nonpartisan ideas whose time has come.  Combine that with the best reforms from the left and millions of parents will be listening.  Just as it took Nixon to go to China, it might take Kennedy, or at least his protege, to go to the union hall. 

By the way, the Chicago Sun-Times reported the few local kids who won the "No Child Left Behind" lottery and transferred to better quality schools showed astounding gains in reading and math scores.  Some argued that you wouldn't get these results on a larger scale because if some of the "better schools" were flooded with struggling students it would harm the rest.  Still, it's amazing how good news gets buried. 

Note from Eric: I borrowed the letter below from H-Diplo:

From: Ellen Rafshoon

Re: Presidential candidates and the Vietnam War

Regarding the controversy over John Kerry's post-Vietnam protest activities, I recommend that readers of this list read The Autobiography of Lewis B. Puller, Jr. (1991)  Puller, Jr. was the the son of Korean War hero Lewis "Chesty" Puller, Sr. and wanted to emulate his father's military career.  But Puller's own experiences as a young platoon leader in Vietnam had tragic consequences.  He returned home after three months legless and missing most of his fingers.  (He also became an alcoholic and 3 years after winning the Pullitzer for his book, committed suicide.)  His autobiography traces his grueling rehabilitation and gradual realization that "I had given myself to a cause that, in addition to having robbed me of my of my youth and left me crippled and deformed, allowed me no pride for having been a participant."

Puller's book is worthwhile on many levels, but is particularly relevant now for his observations on fellow veterans who joined the anti-war movement.  Puller himself was ambivalent, but eventually found himself swayed by the protesting veterans.  He is unambiguous in his praise for John Kerry (1971).  "One articulate young combat veteran named John Kerry delivered a moving address before a special session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that, for me, summed up the sense of betrayal and the disillusionment I felt toward the administration and the leadership that had directed the course of the war from the safety of its Washington power base."

As for Kerry's participation in protests where veterans symbollically discarded their medals, Puller says such acts helped strip him "of my remaining self-delusions" about what he concluded was a "wasted cause."  Puller, however, chose to keep his medals out of respect for the "dignity and the caliber" of his service and his fellow veterans.

If a man like Puller was at peace with Kerry's actions, it seems to me that other less qualified critics should think carefully before questioning them.

April 29, 2004 | 3:10 PM ET

America Wises Up About the War:

“Just 32 percent, the lowest number ever, say Iraq was a threat that required immediate military action a year ago.  Less than half, 47 percent, now say the U.S. did the right thing taking military action in Iraq, the lowest support recorded in CBS News/New York Times Polls since the war began. 
There are growing concerns about the long-term impact of the war. 41 percent now think the war increased the threat of terrorism against the U.S. 71 percent say the Administration’s policies have worsened the U.S.’s image in the Arab world.”

Well, well well: You can only fool most of the people some of the time.  See the poll numbers.

Gallup has just published a new poll of Iraqis by the way.  They found:

“Forty-two percent believe the country is in a better situation than before the invasion (31% "somewhat better off," 11% "much better off"), but nearly as many (39%) hold a contrary assessment (24% "somewhat worse off," 15% "much worse off"). Similarly, the third of Iraqis (33%) who say the coalition invasion of Iraq has "done more good than harm" are offset by a larger proportion (46%) who say that thus far, the invasion has "done more harm than good." 

Moreover, when asked how they view the U.S. presence, “71% of all Iraqis choose the description "mostly as occupiers" while 19% say "mostly as liberators"; another 8% volunteer that they view coalition troops as both occupiers and liberators. Within Iraq's 15 non-Kurdish governorates, just 7% say they view coalition forces mostly as liberators, while 81% view them primarily as an occupying force.” 

Fifty-seven percent would like us to leave immediately.

I've got more to say about the uses and abuses of poll data, particularly with regard to the presidential race, in my Think Again column.

Quote of the Day: “We will be greeted as liberators.”
-Dick Cheney

In the meantime, ten more soldiers died today and four more were wounded: They were victims not only of car bombs and rocket-propelled grenade attacks but also of an administration that did not value their lives sufficiently to level with the country about the reasons they were sent off to fight.  The deaths raise to 126 the number of U.S. service members killed in combat in April.  The next time someone asks you if you if the world isn’t better off with Saddam Hussein in captivity, ask them if it wasn’t better off before the children of those men and women were orphaned, and their parents, heartbroken.  Raise your hand if you want to be the last person to die for this mistake…

The Center for American Progress has created an incredibly detailed “Claim vs. Fact searchable database.  It’s here.  Too bad the members of the 9/11 commission will not have instant access to it when our self-infantalized president George W. Bush makes his chaperoned visit there today.  We note, for the record, that unlike just about everyone else who is appearing before the commission Bush and Cheney have argued that they are incapable of answering for themselves, or allowing their answers to be recorded.  (Can anyone doubt the toothlessness of an investigatory body that allows them to get away with it?)

Why are they insisting on the one-hour/no transcript babysitting set-up?  The Center offers a few suggestions:

  • Eliminates the chance of differing stories.
  • Allows passing the buck.
  • No outside fact check.
  • No national discussion.

Have you noticed how little defense we’ve read anywhere of this pathetic performance?  Really, it’s beyond belief.  The man can start a war against the good opinion of humankind but is incapable of answering questions about his own actions with regard to the most important attack on the United States in half a century. 

At least we are safe from the drawings of fifteen year olds.

Say one thing for the extremist right-wing, they take care of their own.  Brett Kavanaugh co-authored the widely discredited (and heartily mocked) Starr Report.  By the same calculations that made Ted Olson Solicitor General, that means he’s qualified for a lifetime court appointment.

Confused about the president’s National Guard record?  Take a look at these:

  1. Deception by memo
  2. Personnel file problems
  3. The document dump

They should help clarify.

Stop the presses:  Loudon is giving it away.  “President’s Day”

The White House today announced it would be spending another $18 million of taxpayer money on television ads promoting its new Medicare bill.  As David Sirota points out, that puts the Administration on track to spend more Medicare money on television ads than would be necessary to create a safe system to import cheaper, FDA-approved prescription medicines from abroad.  The White House is so desperate to protect its drug industry backers, it has deployed federal agents to search and intimidate low-income seniors traveling to Canada in order to fill their prescriptions.  On top of that, Pfizer CEO Henry McKinnell - a top Bush fundraiser - "vowed to continue efforts to cut off supplies" of medicines to Canada in an effort to starve U.S. and Canadian seniors of medicine until they stop their push for a re-importation bill.

Name: Courtney Harrison
Hometown: Elk Mound, WI

Thank you.  Last October my battalion returned home from a seven month deployment in Kuwait/Iraq.  Thankfully, none of our guys were lost, but we heard about those that were.  They were the few people that had money, or the one that someone picked to be the hero of the war.  Many of our brothers and sisters in arms gave the ultimate gift to our country and were soon forgotten.

Name: Zach Neal
Hometown: winona,mn

Missing from much of the Pat Tillman hype is the fact that Tillman hated such stuff.  When he and his brother, who gave up a professional baseball career and is still in the Rangers, decided to join the Army they did so without talking to the media.  They realized that everyone joining the Army was risking the same thing, their lives, for their countries.  Pat Tillman most likely would have agreed with Mr. Bateman.

Name: Mary Manyen
Hometown: Copperas Cove, 4th ID Fort Hood, BAMC Fort Sam Houston (BAMC) TX and Aviano AFB, Italy

Thank you for your service to this wonderful country and thank you for expressing the true meaning of hero.  Our family has been a part of Fort Hood since 1992.  I very well may have met both you and SFC Fox.  I feel such enormous pride in knowing that some of the soldiers I may have come in contact with are not being forgotten.  After serving 24 years, my husband retired.. we chose to stay at Hood.  We feel more attached and patriotic and firmly support all of the men and women in the military - to include both of our sons and son-in-law.  Our family appreciates your kind words and thank you. 
"HO-AH'.. First Team

Name: Chantel
Hometown: Sumter
As I sit and read this amazing article, I am honored to be a military wife.  I am so proud of my husband and all of those connected to the military.  Sometimes I sit and just pray for all of the soldiers associated with the U.S. military.  Once upon a time it was thought that if a person joined the military, they must have been terrible, or they couldnt' hold down a (real) 9-5 job.  On today, I write this message to ask that everyone who comes across this little insight stop for a moment and pray for all U.S. military personnel.
Prayer changes things.
God Bless

Name: SFC Anthony P. Harbison
Hometown: New Albany, Indiana

I too am a Sergeant First Class in Iraq right now.  I feel this story is right on time and target.  We should honor all who have fallen; but never honor one more than the other based upon social status prior to joining the service.

Eric replies:  I got a lot of mail, some of it nasty (and therefore turned into spam) from people who felt that Bob Bateman was inappropriately criticizing Pat Tillman in the context of praising his late friend SFC Fox.  I’m not publishing any of it because it misses the point.  Bob had nothing against Pat Tillman, and his point of comparison was obviously regarding the degree of media attention that a celebrity death receives relative to that of an unknown soldier.  There was no disparagement of Pat Tillman in the piece.  If there had been, I wouldn’t have printed it.  A man lost his friend and picked a context in which to celebrate his life and the (ultimate) sacrifice he made for his country.  Those who found this offensive ought not to take everything in life so literally; indeed, they might wish to take this moment to consider their own good fortune.

Name: Jordan Barab
Hometown: Takoma Park, MD

April 28, was the 15th Annual Workers Memorial Day.  Each year, more than 60,000 workers die from job-related injuries or illnesses and another 4.7 million are injured.

Check out Confined Space for commentary about how the Bush administration is turning OSHA into a voluntary society of safety assistance:  Workers Memorial Day 2004: OSHA: Protecting Employers From The Hazards Of Standards and Enforcement

Name: Barry Ritholtz
The Big Picture
Hey Doctor A,
There was a very interesting article in the WSJ by Alan Murray. It explains why the Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack" is actually the White House's first choice -- with all due respect to you -- as the preferred  "Book on Bush."

The White House's first choice for "The Book on Bush"
(Mirrored at BOP News)

The WSJ's Alan Murray had a very interesting article yesterday:  "Woodward's Portrait Of Bush Nails Down The Man as He Is."  Murray sought to explain why Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack is the number one book on the White House's suggested reading list. Note that:

Rush Limbaugh called it an "anti-Bush, antiwar screed" in The Wall Street Journal.  Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution calls it a "deeply disturbing indictment of the president and his policy," while MSNBC's Bill Press says it would cause presumed Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry to "win by a landslide" if widely read.  It is fast becoming a staple on the Bush-hater's bedside table.  According to, those buying "Plan of Attack" also bought John Dean's "Worse than Watergate" and Al Franken's "Lies and the Lying Liars Who
Tell Them."

All this leads to the obvious question: Why is the "White House giving Mr. Woodward such a warm embrace?"

Some suggest that the Bush administration does not want to repeat the mistake of making another "all-out attack on former U.S. terror adviser Richard Clarke," which only served to increase book sales.  "By endorsing Mr. Woodward's [book]" Mr. Murray suggests, perhaps officials think it might "get less attention."

The really interesting part of " Portrait Of Bush " is, as Murray terms it, the simpler explanation:

"This book gets it right. The president is exactly as Mr. Woodward portrays him: a man who judges his counterparts by their character -- he often uses an earthier term -- rather than their intellect. A man so certain of his positions that he loses no sleep to doubts. A man who talks to God about key decisions, but avoids long discussions with advisers who disagree. Love him or hate him, this is the real George W. Bush. And the presidential election of 2004 is less about defining him -- Mr. Woodward has done that very well -- than it is about defining us, the voters who will either re-elect him, or not."

I find that to be an astute observation.  But where I disagree with Murray -- where he simply goes off the rails -- is his indictment of Bush's political opponents using a strategy of trying to accurately depict the President as who he is:

"There is a tendency among Mr. Bush's critics to think that if word just gets out -- if Americans find out what he is really like -- they will toss him from office. An example of that kind of thinking slipped onto the front page of Sunday's Washington Post, in a story arguing that the president's "skillful use of language and images" had enabled him to retain high poll numbers despite misadventures in Iraq. The story seemed to suggest that Americans were tricked by clever public relations into supporting Bush and his war.

Hogwash. That's "Blue America" elitism at its worst. By now, all Americans have taken fair measure of their president. And their sharp disagreements have less to do with who he is and what he has done than with who they are and what values they hold. Mr. Bush has become the ultimate Blue America-Red America litmus test. Your response to him determines which side of the great divide you populate."

Here's why I disagree with Alan Murray (for whom I have a wealth of respect): The public doesn't really know this President.  This has been the most secretive administration since Nixon.  Rove & Co. have displayed an ingenious ability to use misinformation and propaganda.  Why do 57% of Americans still believe that Iraq was responsible for 9/11?  This degree of prevalent false belief persists, despite Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield admitting Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11.

Of course, the fact that the book places all of the WMD blame on CIA Director George Tenet certainly didn't hurt. Indeed, Woodward quotes Bush as initially not buying into the WMD argument: "One of the book's best moments is when the president reacts skeptically to intelligence suggesting Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Tenet shuts the discussion down by rising up, throwing his hands in the air, and saying: "It's a slam-dunk case!"

Whether that actually happened or not is irrelevant to the White House.  Bush has boxed in Tenet via Woodward, who has given the President a "fall guy" for the catastrophic failures in intelligence. Any Democrats who question the President's intelligence or political acumen would do well to pay attention to this brilliant bit of manuevering.

Indeed -- number one on the Bush Campaign reading list -- with a bullet
. . .
Woodward's Portrait Of Bush Nails Down The Man as He Is
Alan Murray
WSJ, April 20, 2004; Page A4

Name: Steve Zorio
Hometown: Richmond, VA
Dr. Alterman,
The world may never know what a colossal mistake HBO made when they axed Mr. Show.

P.S. Last night's win notwithstanding (and an ugly win at that), I think we can officially start the countdown clock for Joe Torre.

April 28, 2004 | 11:04 AM ET

A Soldier's Soldier
By Robert L. Bateman

On Friday morning we heard the news of the death of Pat Tillman, formerly of the NFL, but most recently of the 75th Ranger Regiment.  After September 11 Tillman turned down a renewal of his NFL contract for $3.6 million.  Instead he joined the Army and became a Soldier.

America will continue to mourn Tillman.  There will be numerous tributes in his honor.  Already countless sportswriters have expounded on his truncated career.  I would be surprised if the NFL does not trot out some memorial to him come the beginning of the season.

This is all well and good.  His was honorable service.  He placed his life on the line when he did not have to, for reasons wholly unselfish.  That is something I respect.  Tillman had it all, the American Dream, and he chose to join those of us serving on the ramparts.  He did so solely because that was what he thought was the right thing to do.  I did not know him.

I did know Bradley Fox.

Bradley Fox was about five foot six.  He probably weighed 140 pounds soaking wet.  He was raised by his mother alone, his father was not around.  He was a high-school dropout.  He had dark brown hair which he wore fairly long for an infantryman.  But then infantrymen often shave down to the skin on their scalps, so even an inch of hair looks shaggy to us.  Fox was his own man.

His grin was infectious.  He had this tightly compressed smile, even when he was pissed.  You could tell when he was mad because the grin expanded a tad and tightened at the edges.  Almost a grimace, but not quite.  But even that usually passed quickly.  Fox was irrepressible.

Tillman might have been a millionaire.  He was probably a good soldier too.  There are no bad soldiers in the Ranger Regiment.  But Bradley Fox, well, he was the best infantryman I ever saw.

Once upon a time I was his commander.

Fox was a buck sergeant and I was a brand new Captain when we first met.  We were both new to our unit, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, part of the First Cavalry Division.  At the time I was waiting for a company command and Fox was the vehicle commander of a Bradley in one of the line companies.

I met him on a freezing day in the field at Fort Hood, Texas.  It was the winter of 1993/4.  Fox had one Bradley M2 and a few dismounted infantrymen with him.  That day he was the "Opposing Force" working against a platoon of four Bradleys about to "attack" his position in training.  Using lasers and receptors we would replicate combat.  I was the evaluator.

From a distance I watched him do the most incredible things with his Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and his crew.  I watched, and that day I learned, quietly.  There was nothing I could do to make him better.  He was a natural.  Fifteen minutes after the start of the exercise all four of the vehicles attacking Fox's outgunned OPFOR were "destroyed" and their dismounted infantry were pinned down.  Fox was preparing a counter-attack.  I had to stop it there.  There was nobody left to continue the attack against this dynamo.

It was 4-1 odds.  He was not supposed to be able to win.

Three months later I assumed command of one of the companies.  The reconnaissance platoon was part of my company.  They were short a sergeant.

Despite the fact that he was the "wrong" specialty for the Scouts I appealed to the battalion commander.  I wanted Sergeant Fox in the Scouts, and Sergeant Fox wanted to be a scout.  My commander acceded and Fox became one of my soldiers.

Fox was a natural and his soldiers followed him with the sort of devotion that men reserve for true leaders.  He was a winner.  He was the best this country, or any country, could possibly make.

Bradley Fox and I parted ways, as Soldiers do, when we each moved on to new assignments.  We both made the Army our career.  I became a Field Grade officer and now work in the Pentagon.  Fox climbed the enlisted ranks to Sergeant First Class and was assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment. 

On 14 March Fox was in the turret of his Bradley on a road in Baghdad when an IED went off.  It sent shrapnel into his brain stem.  He was evacuated to Germany.  He never regained consciousness.  On 20 April Sergeant First Class Bradley Fox died in the hospital in Germany.

Pat Tillman was a great football player, and he was doubtless a good soldier.  I honor his service.  But it takes nothing away from him for me to say...he was no Bradley Fox.

Robert Bateman is professional soldier and historian.  He is the author of No Gun Ri: A Military History of the Korean War Incident

April 27, 2004 | 12:06 PM ET

Kerry’s VP:  More Uniformed Speculation:  One more speculative point about Kerry’s VP choice.  A complication that is difficult to discuss in the mainstream media is that both Bill Richardson and Tom Vilsack are, like Kerry, Catholics.  Now this could help and it could hurt.  It hurts because it "lacks balance" and a lot of people, particularly in the South, will not vote for a Catholic.  They may think they would, but once the folks who ran Bush’s campaign in South Carolina last time around get ahold of this issue, they won’t.  When it comes to the politics of religious prejudice, you can certainly fool some of the people all of the time.

It helps if you think Kerry is going to simply write off the land of Bob Jones University and fight tooth and nail for the white and Latino ethnic vote in the battleground states.  I tend to think that’s what the campaign would like to do, but it would condemn the party to certain catastrophe in the senate, which is probably not wise and does not yet appear to be necessary. 

The safest choice, by the numbers and by tradition remains Gephardt, though judging by the extremely unscientific sampling of mail we received yesterday, he is perhaps the least favorite of Altercation readers.  Still, when you think about it from the point of view of Kerry’s advisers, they will probably lose no one with Gephardt as the choice, and they become more competitive in the Southwest, energize labor, and get a seasoned pro who can certainly take on Cheney in a debate and quite possibly win.  Everybody else (save the Golden Fleece/Holy Grail of John McCain) is a question mark in one way or another.

Quote of the Day:  "Frankly, I must admit that I was surprised and disappointed that Mr. Cheney chose to step off the high ground and resort to Kerry-bashing for a large portion of his speech … The content and tone of his speech was not provided to us prior to the event; we had only been told the speech would be about foreign policy, including issues in Iraq."  Fletcher M. Lamkin, President of Westminster College.

Is justice (duck)blind?

And just one question, Mr. Cheney: Which one of these guys volunteered for Vietnam?

God bless the children of Iraq.

What follows is from the regular National Coalition for History update published by Bruce Craig. For more information see their Web site.


On 12 April 2004, plaintiffs party to the suit to overturn President Bush's Executive Order 13233 which relates to the administration of the Presidential Records Act (PRA) filed a motion to "alter or amend" the judgment entered 29 March 2004 that dismissed the plaintiffs case on standing and ripeness grounds (see "Court Issues Decision on Presidential Records Suit" in NCH
WASHINGTON UPDATE, Vol. 10, #13; 2 April 2004).

Scott L. Nelson, the attorney handling the case for the Public Citizen Litigation Group, filed papers on behalf of historical, archival, and government openness organizations requesting that the court reconsider its dismissal.  Nelson cites two reasons in the motion: first, "that the Court's decision appears to overlook the uncontested fact that EO 13233 is currently being applied on an ongoing basis to all releases of Reagan presidential documents and Bush vice-presidential documents" so that the plaintiffs injuries "is by no means speculative or hypothetical"; and second, that the court's opinion seems to rest in part on "a misapprehension of fact" as 74 pages of materials "are still being withheld under the Executive Order."

The motion was filed just days after Public Citizen was notified of a denial of its  FOIA appeal on some 74 pages of materials (11 separate documents) of Reagan era records that have yet to be released to scholars under constitutionally-based privilege provisions of the PRA.  Among the records being withheld: a six-page 8 December 1986 memo to the President and Director of Public Affairs entitled, "Talking Points on Iran/Contra Affairs"; a series of memos dated  22 November and 1 December 1988 for the President entitled, "Pardon for Oliver North, John Poindexter, and Joseph Fernandez"; and a two-page memo for the President from the Attorney General, "Appeal of the Decision Denying the Enforcement of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987." Other withheld memos relate to the extension of claims of Executive Privilege over the release of Justice Rehnquist's papers and materials relating to "Use of Military Aircraft by Mrs. Reagan."

The privilege claims asserted on these documents were originally claimed by the legal representatives of former President Reagan and were concurred by President George W. Bush (for the list of withheld documents see item "Special Postings Withheld Reagan PRA Papers" posted on the NCH webpage at:  Scholars who believe that these materials have potential research value and would be interested in being listed with other researchers on an affidavit proclaiming the importance of these materials are urged to contact Scott Nelson at .


Controversy continues to mount over the Bush administration's nomination of Allen Weinstein to succeed John Carlin as Archivist of the United States.  Press coverage in major newspapers including the Washington Post, New York Times, and other major publications and wire services such as the Associated Press has helped heighten public awareness of the issue that focuses on an apparent attempt by the White House to replace John Carlin as Archivist of the United States with a person of its own choosing.

Due in part to the publicity and to a statement of concern issued by nearly two dozen historical and archival organizations (see, the White House effort to confirm the nominee through an "expedited" appointment process appears to have been thwarted.  The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee – the committee of jurisdiction that will be making a recommendation to the U.S. Senate about the
qualifications of the nominee -- indeed will give the Weinstein nomination a full and proper hearing in coming weeks.  According to committee spokesperson Leslie Phillips, "We're just beginning the vetting process...But we will examine him [Weinstein] carefully as we do all nominees."

In the meantime, evidence that the nomination was initiated more by the White House rather than by Carlin's desire to step down prior to summer 2005 continues to grow.  When reporters queried about allegations that Carlin was being forced out, the White House issued a 19 December 2003 letter signed by John Carlin in which the Archivist states his intention to resign in the future and urges the White House to begin a "smooth transition of leadership."  NCH sources inside NARA report that the letter was requested of Carlin by the White House with some critical parts being "essentially dictated."  When asked by reporters whether the 19 December letter was generated by the White House, Carlin declined, through a spokesperson, to comment whether he is leaving voluntarily.

Statements to the press by the nominee himself, however, are suggestive of the reliability of the insider's assertion.  When asked by Washington Post reporter George Lardner exactly when the nominee was approached by the White House, Weinstein stated that he was contacted by the administration about his nomination in the "fall" of 2003, weeks if not months prior to the crafting of Carlin's intention to resign letter.

While the selection may well be partly driven by politics, in interviews with press representatives Weinstein declared that "I am not in anybody's pocket and I am committed to maximum access."  He states he is a registered Democrat -- "a raving moderate" and that "the National Archives as far as I am concerned, works for the American people and is not a creature of the administration."

Critics note that while Weinstein may be a registered Democrat, The Right Web, a watchdog group that profiles right-wing organizations and includes on its lists Weinstein's Center for Democracy, documents the nominee's ties to conservative groups and funding institutions and notes that his wife Diane Weinstein, is legal counsel to former Vice-President Dan Quayle.

In the past, the nominee has been criticized for his record on providing access to his research notes used in writing two controversial books about Soviet espionage.  According to American University history professor Anna K. Nelson, "his history of sharing information is not all that great."

In an interview with New York Times reporters, Weinstein did not address allegations regarding his records practices and opted to reserve discussion of that until his Senate confirmation hearings.  He did, however, forthrightly respond to the widely publicized allegation that he or his publisher paid the KGB some $100,000 for special access to records that facilitated the writing of his latest book, "The Haunted Wood."  "That's a total slander," declared Weinstein, though he admitted that his publisher Random House did pay a retired agent's group for "access to files" that contributed to the writing of four books, including his own.  But, "no personal money passed hands" he stated.  Critics continue to question the ethical ramifications of purchasing access and note that Weinstein continues to restrict access to his research notes based on those restricted files.

The Weinstein nomination will undoubtedly continue to spark lively discussion through the spring and possibly summer months.  Hill insiders report that the upcoming November presidential election, coupled with accusations from Democrats that the Bush administration is too secretive in general, could spell difficulty for the Weinstein nomination.  Even if the nominee is deemed qualified by the Senate committee assessing his qualifications, his confirmation could be held up until after the election by a single senator who could put a hold on the nomination.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Clarke Cummings
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Hello Dr. Alterman,
Last week a fellow reader wrote their opinion that the press was finally standing up to this administration.  I think that prognostication was a bit premature. 

Several events of the past few weeks stand:

  • Over the weekend, MSNBC ran a story about Kerry's wife.  The gist of the headline was liability or benefit.  Imagine a story like that on Laura Bush, or Cheney's wife (who leads the wonderful initiative against college professors.)
  • In the middle of a dangerous month in Iraq, they stopped all prominent mention of troops losing their life. 
  • Last night CNN's Brown referred to Kerry's Vietnam service as "however brief."  The man did 2 tours, 6 months on a frigate and 4 months in one of the most dangerous jobs there.  In the navy, a Lieutenant is the 3rd step in an officer's career (or second, in the case of LT Junior Grade.)  It is not like the Army where it is the first two steps (2nd LT, then 1st LT.) 
  • You never hear how many deferments the Bushie's cabinet had.  Their legitimate, decorated soldier is out of the loop (Powell) and another former soldier is a convicted criminal (Poindexter).
  • With a handful of exceptions, the media allows Bushies to take credit for all the things they initially opposed: DHS, 9/11 Commission, etc. 
  • Bush's environmental record went unchallenged, even as he was taking credit for cleaning up the environment. 
  • Media does the "he said/she said" style of debate, providing 0 analysis and never challenges blatantly false assertions (however, I've noticed them challenging Dems more on factual matters.)
  • The Republicans are putting forward dubious data for their attacks on Kerry.  No one challenges their "new math" formulas.  No one mentions that many of those bills he voted for were Republican sponsored bills.
  • Several news outlets reported the march from this past weekend as several thousand.  Try several hundred thousand (500,000-800,000 according to park police).  Several outlets seemed to give equal play to both sides of the issue, though turnout was very one-sided.
  • Portryal of the 9/11 commission as partisan, even though it was the Repulican commission members who started attacks on Richard Clarke.
  • Lame performance by the WH press corps during his prime time press conference. 

I think we have a long way to go before the media is doing their job. 

April 26, 2004 | 10:17 AM ET

Kerry’s VP:  What I’m hearing: Some days I hear Edwards or Gephardt; the idea being someone is needed who can both go on the attack and stand up to Cheney in a debate.  Gephardt is thought to be stronger by the latter criteria and Edwards in the former.  Gephardt gets a leg up, in addition, because Missouri is in play.  Other days I hear, no, we need to neutralize the “values” issue, which leads the discussion to Tom Vilsack of Iowa, who gets good reviews, but to be honest, I have a hard time imagining it. (The difficult-to-pronounce-name-issue cuts both ways.)

Nobody’s eliminating Bill Richardson either, but I don’t exactly see the calculation whereby he is a stronger choice than Edwards or Gephardt by the first set or criteria or how he gets you Ohio, though I suppose an argument can be made that he would help in Florida, and obviously in the Southwest.  Of course if people are talking to me, they don’t really know nothin’; the only person I know who knows something for sure, would not come across no matter how many drinks (s)he downed.

Vice President Dick Cheney is set to give a speech attacking Sen. Kerry and others for supposedly wanting to cut defense spending in the 1980s.  Yet, as David Sirota has found, it was Cheney who verbally chastised President Ronald Reagan for not cutting defense in the 1980s.

The Bob Woodward and Don Rumsfeld Mutual Admiration Society will be meeting here.

A sampling:

To get ahead, Mr. Woodward repeatedly offers Mr. Rumsfeld encouragements like "I agree," "Well said," "That's great," "Thank God," "No question," "I am totally in sync with you on that" and "I totally understand exactly what you're saying." When Mr. Rumsfeld mentions the "enormous numbers of hours" spent by Mr. Bush deciding on the war, Mr. Woodward replies: "It's an exercise in patience, not impatience. Would you agree with that?" He gets no quarrel.

When all else fails, drop the big one. After listening to Mr. Rumsfeld complain about his questions, Mr. Woodward resorts to the classic I'll-tell-the-teacher technique. "I have a good relationship with President Bush," he says, "and he wants me to do this, I think, as you know."

Taboo Tunes; a history.

Just when it seems there’s no justice left anywhere…

One more war, please


I saw “Jumpers,” the other night.  With the exception of Tony Kushner, I can’t think of any other playwright alive who combines so many literary qualities simultaneously.  Jumpers is an old play, written in 1972, but it is being presented on Broadway by the National Theater of Britain.  It has everything a play should have: philosophy, politics, acrobatics, incredibly witty dialogue, great music, brilliant staging, gratuitous female nudity…  If you live in the city, and you don’t see it for any reasons other than financial, well, that’s silly.  Just go.  Ditto Kushner’s “Caroline or Change,” which the Public Theater has just taken to Broadway.  It only has a few of the above, but is so interesting, challenging and innovative, both structurally and musically, I don’t see how you can justify missing it either.  There’s a fine review of “Jumpers,” by John Lahr in this week’s New Yorker, which suffers only from its brevity.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Rich Gallagher
Hometown: Fishkill, NY

Dear Eric:
As recently as Thursday, Kelly Wallace of CNN was still giving out incorrect information about the criteria for earning a Purple Heart. Here is the transcript:

WALLACE: A Purple Heart, military experts say, is awarded to a soldier wounded by enemy fire. The documents provide details of the injuries which earned Kerry his second and third Purple Hearts.  Shrapnel wounds when he came under fire, more shrapnel wounds and contusions when a mine detonated in another incident.  But regarding his first Purple Heart, Kerry's military records don't specify his injuries or how he was wounded.  His former commanding officer told the Boston Globe he had questioned whether Kerry's boat had taken enemy fire.

Wallace is wrong -- it is not necessary to prove that the wound was caused by "enemy fire." The only requirement is that the wound occur in "action against an enemy." Here are the criteria:

Key Criteria for Awarding the Purple Heart

The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the president to any member of the armed forces or U.S. civilian who, while serving in the U.S. armed services after April 5, 1917, has been wounded or killed, or who has died or may die after being wounded:

(1) In any action against an enemy of the United States.

(2) In any action with an opposing armed force of a foreign country in which the U.S. Armed Forces are or have been engaged.

(3) While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

(4) As a result of an act of any such enemy of opposing armed forces.

(S) As the result of an act of any hostile foreign force.

(6) After March 28, 1973, as a result of an international terrorist attack against the United States or a foreign nation friendly to the United States...

(7) After March 28, 1973, as a result of military operations while serving outside U.S. territory as part of a peacekeeping force.

Source: Military Order of the Purple Heart

The bottom line is that it doesn't make any difference whether the shrapnel came from enemy fire or friendly fire. He sustained the wound during action with the enemy, so he earned the Purple Heart.

I also have yet to see a single reporter point out the discrepancy between the statement of Kerry's former C.O., who claimed that the wound was a "scratch on the forearm," and Kerry's medical records, which show that a Navy doctor removed the shrapnel from Kerry's arm, above the elbow.

Name: Steve Smith
Hometown: Cary, NC

Regarding the buzz the Bushies are trying to build relating to Kerry's first Purple Heart:  It is important to keep in mind he did not win one, he won THREE PHs in addition to a Bronze Star and a Silver Star for bravery in COMBAT.  (Check out the citations on and imagine doing what he did.  Better yet, try and imagine W, Cheney and rest of the duck and cover crowd that found it inopportune to serve in harms way.)  The guy volunteered to go to 'Nam, in contrast to all the chicken-hawks of the current administration (which is everyone except Powell).  The smear only works if people forget those details.

Name: Victor Harbison
Hometown: Chicago

Tell Stupid that he should volunteer with the League of Women Voters.  They are always short of volunteers and often can't even get the "problem" wards/districts covered, let alone all of them.

The LWV is a real class act and needs our support

Name: Natacha
Hometown: Washington, D.C.

The Alliance for Justice has launched a new website urging Justice Scalia to recuse himself from the Cheney energy case! Check it out:  Scalia can recuse himself anytime before the Supreme Court renders its decision.

There is a great flash animation that goes with it too. You have to see "Quid Pro Quack."    Duck 'em!

Name: Bill
Hometown: Geneva

To Christopher Choate:
"...and then Ritter comes out saying that Hussein is disarmed?"

He didn't say that.

Interview with the TIME, Saturday, Sep. 14, 2002

Time: In 1998, you said Saddam had "not nearly disarmed." Now you say he doesn't have weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Why did you change your mind?

Ritter: I have never given Iraq a clean bill of health!  Never!  Never!  I've said that no one has backed up any allegations that Iraq has reconstituted WMD capability with anything that remotely resembles substantive fact.  To say that Saddam's doing it is in total disregard to the fact that if he gets caught he's a dead man and he knows it.  Deterrence has been adequate in the absence of inspectors but this is not a situation that can succeed in the long term. In the long term you have to get inspectors back in.
End quote

Name: Barry Ritholtz
Hometown: The Big Picture

Hey Doc,
While researching an upcoming analysis of the music industry (you can see previews here), I came across a very interesting discussion with Patti Smith, in of all places, "The Scotsman."

I recall you  mentioned Smith briefly in briefly in "It Ain't No Sin to Be Glad You're Alive."  The article is "Rock'n'roll was revolutionary":

"Smith is proud to be an unfashionable and unreconstructed 1960s radical. "Rock’n’roll was revolutionary for me," she says. "It always was. Songs were weapons. People were afraid of rock music - they called it the devil’s music.  And they were right.  It was the music of the revolution.  Rock’s spiritual, political and emotional content was stirring and important, and it gave us strength. That’s the history of rock’n’roll."

Yet her description seems to bear little relation to the music scene today.  What went wrong?  She refuses to take the easy option of blaming the greed of corporate record companies.  Indeed, as her new album is released on Sony, she would court accusations of hypocrisy if she did.  Instead, she spreads the blame out.  "That rock’n’roll has evolved into something else is everybody’s fault," she rails.  "It’s the artists’ fault.  It’s MTV’s fault.  We’re all guilty of forgetting what a great and powerful weapon rock’n’roll is."

Interesting stuff; The whole article is a worthwhile read -- not the typical fawning Rock n Roll piece.

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