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June 30, 2004 | 11:51 AM ET

Pot Calling the Kettle Atheist
I’ve been thinking a bit more about Tony Blankley’s attack on George Soros, along with those of Bill O’Reilly and the Republican slime machine that are apparently inspired and supplied them.  Aside from the hateful Nazi insinuations and the implications of anti-Semitism that I discussed in this piece, I did not have time to address two points.  (Being able to do so is one of the great things about blogs for journalists, by the way.) 

First, since when did it become OK to attack the presumably honest religious beliefs of an individual with whom one has political differences?  So Soros is a “committed atheist” as Blankley, O’Reilly and others never tire of alerting us.  So go**am what?  I was perusing Rick Hertzberg’s mammoth new lifetime greatest hits collection (box set would be more like it) called Politics and I share the admiration for this passage that David Remnick chose to quote in his introduction: Writing in response to some silly crack by the Bill “Blackjack” Bennett—in the days when we only intuited his hypocrisy—Hertzberg, a committed atheist demands:

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As a Judeo-Christian who has an aversion to religion, and who is an American as good as or better than any mousse-haired, Bible-touting, apartheid-promoting evangelist on any UHF television station you can name, I must protest.

Where is it written that if you don’t like religion you are somehow disqualified from being a legitimate American?  What was Mark Twain, a Russian?  When did it become un-American to have opinions about the origin and meaning of the universe that come from sources other than the body of dogma of organizations approved by the federal government as certifiably Judeo-Christian?  Is it American to believe that God ordered Tribe X to abjure port, or that he caused Leader Y to be born to a virgin, why is it suddenly un-American to doubt the prime mover of this unimaginably vast universe of quintillions of solar systems would likely be obsessed with questions involving the dietary and biosexual behavior of a few thousand bipeds inhabiting a small part of a speck of dust orbiting a third-rate star in an obscure spiral arm of one of millions of more or less identical galaxies?

(I copied all that from the book not only because it skewers the likes of Blankley and O’Reilly, and not incidentally, Bush, Cheney and Ashcroft, but also because it demonstrates another point.  Rick Hertzberg does pretty much one thing and one thing only which is to write short political essays.  But he does it better than anyone else alive—or at least anyone writing in the English language.  Politics has 650 pages of this stuff and it would be foolish economy on your part if you enjoy this site to deny yourself.)

Meanwhile, has there ever been funnier case of a pot calling a kettle black than Blankley?  I mean just who does Tony Blankley work for?  Sun Myung Moon, that’s who.  And what does Moon say about Jews and their mass murder by Hitler?  Moon claims that the Holocaust was payback for the crucifixion of Christ: "Through the principle of indemnity, Hitler killed 6 million Jews."  Is he just kinda kidding?  At his FAQ, Webmaster Damian Anderson warns of any politically correct dilution of Moon's attack on Jews.

"The fact is that the Jewish people committed a grievous sin in rejecting the Lord, and the world is today committing a grievous sin in rejecting the Lord," he writes. "I will not water down what Father said to please liberal constituencies within his own church."

And while we’re at it, what about gays?  Someone might want to get Little Roy on record about the guy who terms him to be a "dung-eating dog," while paying his salary. 

And there’s more on what an open-minded fellow O’Reilly is here, though note that Ol’ “Conflict-of-Interest” Kurtz does not mention yours truly in his discussion of John Podesta’s appearance, though that was the topic of the debate.  As far as I’m aware, Howie has not written the words “Eric Alterman” since the day What Liberal Media appeared and exposed the conflicted, conservative lapdog role he so frequently plays.  I knew and expected this would be the case when I wrote what I wrote, and it helps explain why so few people ever go after Kurtz for his obvious glass-house/stone-throwing sins, but for the record, that’s the way this game works.

Another thing that’s been bothering me about this nasty, dehumanizing political machine.  Remember when, during the California recall, Fox faux liberal Susan Estrich, went after Arianna Huffington for endangering the welfare of her own children by running for public office, thereby taking the position that all mothers should be disqualified from running for public office, or any demanding job for that matter?  I took no position on Arianna’s candidacy, which now looks like a pretty terrible idea, but I noted at the time that Estrich could hand in her “feminist” card at that moment, for it’s hard to imagine that even Phyllis Schlafly could take a more reactionary position regarding the rights of women in the workplace.  Still, I read the same attacks as everyone else and I did for a moment wonder how Arianna managed to handle doing everything she does and still be a decent mom.  Well, our families went out for some cheap Mexican the other night, and while, I still have no idea how she does it—and I suspect it involves having lots and lots of money—I can say that I found myself both touched and fascinated by her enviable and admirable relationship with her fun and charming teenage kids.  I’m not going to impose on her privacy to say anything more that that except that this is simply not the kind of thing one can fake, and well, if Susan Estrich had been raised half as well as Arianna’s daughters, she’d know when to keep her mouth shut about things she knows nothing about.

I don’t generally get involved in poll-Kremlinology, but I see Mickey is all over the Communist New York Times for allegedly pimping for Kerry by misreading the latest poll numbers, demonstrating that Bush has fallen to his lowest point yet in public esteem.  He writes

Nagourney and Elder seem to be relying on a technicality--that last month's poll was a "CBS poll" and not a "Times/CBS" poll.  Note the Clintonian clause they work into this sentence:
The 42 percent of Americans who say they approve of the way Mr. Bush is handling his job is the lowest such figure in a Times/CBS News survey since the beginning of Mr. Bush's presidency in January 2001; 51 percent say they disapprove.

But hey Mickey, that’s no “technicality.”  That’s the way to read a poll.  Reporters are obsessed by polls but ignore the flaws in their methodology.  Polls are only useful over time if you use the same exact poll.  If Nagourney and Elder are sticking to that rule—and not following this much, I can’t say whether they are—they deserve kudos for their meticulousness not working-the-ref-style harassment.

(And by the way, why has no one taken up the question that if the Times under Howell Raines was such a Bush-hating, peacenik-loving “leftist pamphlet” as I think Little Roy called it, why did Raines throw out the journalistic rulebook and allow Judith Miller to publish her war-loving, Saddam-hating, Bushite propaganda on the front-page, day-after day?  There would seem to be a logical inconsistency there, that ought to trouble anyone who takes even a moment to consider it.  I mean if this is the "liberal media," you can have it.)

Nader is no Progressive, Part XXXVI:

Corporate Front Group Supporting Ralph Nader
Citizens for a Sound Economy, a right-wing corporate front group opposed to everything Ralph Nader has struggled for, is working hard to help his 2004 presidential campaign in an effort to defeat John Kerry. "'Ralph Nader is undoubtedly going to pull some very crucial votes from John Kerry, and that could mean the difference in a razor-thin presidential election,' reads a script used by Citizens for a Sound Economy in its phone calls [to Republicans in the state of Oregon]. 'Can we count on you to come out on Saturday night and sign the petition to nominate Ralph Nader?' Russ Walker, state director of Citizens for a Sound Economy ... said the idea of helping Nader has been widely discussed among conservative groups and activists in Oregon. 'It's definitely an interesting scenario,' Walker said. 'We don't agree with Ralph Nader's positions on the issues - he's socialistic and we're free marketers. ... We think he'll take some of the more extreme votes from the other side.'"

More here.

Alter-announcement I.
The Princeton Review says Brooklyn College of the City University of New York is the sixth most beautiful campus in America and the third best bang for your buck, tuition-wise.  Well, it just got even prettier and ‘bangier’ as I was offered—and accepted—a full professorship in the English department, where I’ll be teaching history of journalism and some other things.  CUNY will also be starting a master’s program in journalism in Manhattan in 2006 and I look forward to participating in that too.  It’s a wonderful institution, one that makes the American Dream real for people who work hard and play by the rules, and I’m honored to be a part of it.

Alter-announcement II.
I’ll be even busier while teaching—hence the classified ad of recent times—because I also just signed a two book contract with my regular publisher, Viking, to do two books on American liberalism.  The first is tentatively entitled “Why I am A Liberal” and will be my contribution to the literature that recently includes E.J. Dionne, Robert Reich, and any minute now, Garrison Keillor, and loosely modeled on Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s “The Vital Center.”  The second, which I believe to be unique, will be a big, sprawling history of postwar American liberalism since the death of FDR.  It’s going to be called “The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism from World War II through the War on Terrorism,” or something.  It won’t be out for a while.

Alter-reviews:  I was lucky enough to catch the Herbie Hancock/Wayne Shorter show at Carnegie Hall last week which was part of the JVC Jazz Fest.  Seeing these two guys can be a little bit hit-and-miss in part because Shorter is kinda moody and Herbie is so versatile that his taste can get the better of his talent.  This show, however, was a joy from start to finish.  It seemed as if they were self-consciously re-entering the zone they shared as younguns when they constituted two-fifths of the second great Miles Davis Quintet.

The music was tasteful, thoughtful and quite demanding—not in terms of melody, but in terms of its subtlety and beauty.  Dave Holland and Brian Blade were also extremely important to ensemble and rarely was any kind of false note heard.  Even Bill Cosby struck the right note when he came on and introduced each member of the band and said not another word.  My only complaint is that I find it arrogant and counterproductive when jazz musicians refuse to introduce the songs they’re playing.  I find my enjoyment immensely improved when I know not only the name of a song, but also when it was written and under what circumstances.  But these guys were (like Miles) too cool.  The Times had a smart review here.

I also caught Jane Monheit one night last week taking a brief break from the JVC Jazz fest enjoying the luxurious fantasy-life seductions of the Oak Room at the Algonguin Hotel.  The woman is so sexy, self-consciously, I think, but sexy just the same, that it can threaten to overwhelm her talent.  But fortunately, it never does.  At 26, her singing is poised and passionate and her interpretations of the under-rated Arthur Schwartz oeuvre almost uniformly successful.  I’ve never thought she fully clicked on record yet, but I think she may be about to.  Don’t read this guy about her if you have any sensitivity at all.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Ed Sacharuk
Hometown: Edmonton, Canada

I just went through Paul Lukasiak's analysis of George W.'s military records.  This is an incredibly precise, meticulous, detailed and devastating piece of research.  I expect that all the big news media will pick it up and make it into a big story.  Right?  Right?

Name: Drew's Blog-O-Rama
Long time reader (book and web), but it's the first time I actually had something worthy for you.

The good news: I found a transcript of the first half of Fahrenheit 9/11 from a conservative Web site.  But, it perpetuates a flat-out lie that was started with an MSNBC/Newsweek article about Bin Laden family interviews and deliberately misquotes a key exchange in the movie.  So
I made a video clip of the scene so people could compare the transcript with the actual scene and get the truth from the horse's mouth.  I figured it might float your boat, check it out.

Name:  Sandy Goodman
Hometown: Rockville, MD

Dr A,
Stranger that Mistah Kurtz didn't have more to say about Limbaugh's promoting phony rumors of Vince Foster's "murder" since in his own book, "Hot Air," paperback edition, Kurtz takes Limbaugh to task for it at least twice.

On page 18, Kurtz writes:

In the world of talk, almost any spark can ignite a prairie fire.  On March 10, 1994, such a blaze swept Wall Street during the height of the Whitewater affair.  Stocks, bonds and the dollar all took a beating after rumors that White House lawyer Vincent Foster had committed suicide, in a private Virginia apartment used by White House officials, and that his body was later moved to Fort Marcy Park, where it was found.  Rush Limbaugh inadvertently [?] embellished this unconfirmed report on his radio show, saying the word was that Foster had been murdered and moved to an apartment owned by Hillary Clinton.

The source of the false report was a newsletter published by Johnson Smick International, a consulting firm headed by a former Reagan administration official.  The newsletter attributed its report to the staff of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, which denied it.  Research firms often peddle rumors to their clients, but this one got a powerful enough boost from Limbaugh and company to move the markets, and the Washington Post and other papers repeated the rumor the next day to explain the dip in the Dow.

And, on page 241:

Few subjects were more serious to Limbaugh than the Whitewater affair, which he believed confirmed his longtime view that the Clintons were conniving liars.  The tangled details of the couple's Arkansas finances were obviously fair game for critics.  Limbaugh, unfortunately, sometimes strayed beyond the facts.  When he got word of the Johnson Smick newsletter account of Vincent Foster's death, he told his listeners: "Brace yourselves.  This fax contains information that I have just been told will appear in a newsletter to Morgan Stanley sales personnel this afternoon...that claims that Vince Foster was murdered in an apartment owned by Hillary Clinton, and the body was taken to Fort Marcy Park."

Later in the show Limbaugh refined the account to say "that Vincent Foster committed suicide in an apartment in Washington owned jointly or rented jointly by a number of Arkansas people who came to Washington to serve in the administration, and the body was then moved to Fort Marcy Park...the original rumor was that Foster was murdered in this apartment and then moved."  Limbaugh said he had talked to a skeptical New York Post reporter, "So there are those who disbelieve already the Johnson Smick International report.  But that's the big news today."

Limbaugh says he merely passed on the report, "along with a thousand million other people...I don't apologize for the way that was handled."  He seems to believe he has no personal responsibility if he merely repeats unsubstantiated claims made by others.

Apparently Kurtz forgot what he wrote in his own book, or for some other reason didn't see fit to correct Laura Ingraham.

Name: Barry Ritholtz
Hometown: The Big Picture

Hey Doc,
While the Monday NYT poll showed the President's poll numbers reaching a dismal nadir, the bigger picture is where his support is faltering:  among traditionally GOP strongholds. This cannot be the sort of news that makes Rove & Co. happy. (The link below includes supporting charts as to why execs are so unhappy).

While it's still early in the election cycle -- we have 5 months to go -- this trend certainly bears close watching right after the Democratic Convention to see if it has legs.

Bush Slipping Among Corporate America  (mirror)

Two recent polls/anecdotal surveys reveal disturbing realities about what should be near automatic support for the president among GOP voters in the upcoming election.  They are not good news for the incumbent.

The first is a 1H 2004 CNBC poll of 30 professional money managers.  This group manages over $320 billion dollars -- a third of a trillion bucks.  They were questioned about the market, the economy and the upcoming election.  While 92% of these pros thought the stock market would do better under Bush than Kerry, a surprising 37% of them were supporting Kerry anyway.

For the incumbent, this amounts to a very large vein of discontent running through what should be a heavily GOP stronghold.  Republican presidents do not typically get re-elected when they are only polling a 63% support on Wall Street.

Adding support to this survey was an article from Tuesday's WSJ: "Chinks Appear in Bush Business Armor."  Again, we see a strong vein of discontent among what should be a GOP stronghold: VCs, technology execs, and corporate executives.

The article took quotes from participants at the Wall Street Journal's recent "All Things Digital" conference of senior technology executives.  "An informal show of hands revealed many more planning to vote for Mr. Kerry than Mr. Bush.  Even "Undecided" beat the president."  The audience included large and small company execs, Wall Street Analysts, and Venture Capitalists.  In the high-tech sector -- a younger and less-traditional set of players -- is where the Journal suggests Mr. Kerry will find the most fertile ground for support.

This development is yet another example of a demographic voting bloc that should be a lock for a GOP President -- but isn't for this one.  As we have seen in the recent past (Cubans, Arab-Americans, etc.), the incumbent should not lightly assume that traditional GOP voters will be fully behind him in November:

Though George W. Bush has been a decidedly pro-business president, a few cracks are surfacing in what had been a solid wall of business support.

Those small cracks, some stemming from dismay with record budget deficits, others from fears that his foreign policies are clouding the global business climate, have grown wide enough for Sen. John Kerry to launch a behind-the-scenes effort to woo business executives.  While the Democratic candidate has no chance of matching the incumbent Republican's business support, even a few notable defectors could help blunt Mr. Bush's advantage, raise doubts with swing voters and draw more money into the Kerry coffers.

The upshot is a mostly quiet but significant struggle over business's allegiance.

For Mr. Kerry, last week's endorsement by onetime corporate icon Lee Iacocca, the former Chrysler Corp. chairman, was only the first of what his campaign promises will be more such staged appearances with business leaders.  Mr. Kerry already had won backing from Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett and Apple Computer's Steve Jobs.

As we mentioned back on March 10 (Market Adapting to Ugly Realities), there is a brewing backlash against Corporate America to the foreign policy adventures of the present administration.  I'm glad this meme is gaining traction in the mainstream media -- hopefully, before too much damage is done to U.S. brands and reputations:


Among Kerry supporters is Eric Best, a managing director at Morgan Stanley, who says Mr. Bush's tax cuts go too far at the expense of mounting deficits. "I was raised as a fiscal conservative, and I think his fiscal policy is scary," he says.  Mr. Best, who remembers Mr. Bush as an upper-class dormitory proctor at Phillips Academy Andover boarding school, says that what really motivates him to stump for Mr. Kerry is the hostility the global strategist finds as he travels.

"I can testify to the extraordinary destruction of 'American Brand Value' accomplished by this administration, from Europe to Hong Kong to Shanghai to Tokyo, and beyond," he wrote in a recent e-mail that he widely distributed.  "If any CEO of a global multinational had accomplished this for his enterprise as quickly and radically as George Bush Jr. has done for the U.S., he would be replaced by the board in no time."

Fascinating stuff.

Source :
Chinks Appear in Bush Business Armor
Kerry, Sensing an Opening, Tries to Gain Political Capital By Courting 
Corporate America
June 29, 2004; Page A4

Name: Robert Earle
Hometown: Torrance, CA

I was able to find the Greg Miller Zarqawi piece from 2003 here.

(I love the Internet!)

June 29, 2004 | 12:45 PM ET

The Constitution to GWB and Co: “I’m Still Here.”

Today we are indeed fortunate to feature Professor Eric Rauchway's analysis of yesterday’s SCOTUS decision: Take it away, Dr. R.:

I suspect Monday's package of Supreme Court decisions will become known collectively as the "habeas corpus cases," as I believe they're the most significant and sustained rulings on that writ since Milligan, possibly ever.  The bottom line is, the Supreme Court thinks habeas corpus is still pretty darned important -- which is good news for those of you who like freedom better than unfreedom -- and that it applies to pretty much every aspect of government behavior unless the Congress invokes the suspension clause of the Constitution -- which it hasn't, yet.  Breakdowns of the three major opinions follow; warning:  although I'm in the middle of reading about thirty-five books on legal history for a review essay, I am not a lawyer, so take this simply as the observations of a tolerably educated layman.

Shorter Hamdi:  
The President may or may not have the Constitutional power to bung you in jail; we're not going to address that question because Congress gave him the power to bung into jail people associated with the 9/11/01 attacks.  But even so, if he does that to you, you can sue.

Less short Hamdi:
The Court does not address the question of whether Article II grants the President an inherent power to designate and detain enemy combatants: 

The Government maintains that no explicit congressional authorization is required, because the Executive  possesses plenary authority to detain pursuant to Article  II of the Constitution.  We do not reach the question whether Article II provides such authority, however,  because we agree with the Government’s alternative position, that Congress has in fact authorized Hamdi’s detention...

Which is to say that under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, Congress "authorize[d] the President to use 'all necessary and appropriate force' against 'nations, organizations, or persons' associated with the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 115 Stat. 224."  So he can designate and detain such people under that law.

The Court asks, how long may Hamdi be held?  Answer:  Traditionally, prisoners of war may be held for the duration of the conflict.  But will the "war on terror" ever end?  The Court construes the relevant conflict as being the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, which it notes is ongoing.  If, when that conflict ends, Hamdi isn't let go, there may be grounds to sue for release. 

[W]e understand Congress’ grant of authority for the use of “necessary and appropriate force” to include the authority to detain for the duration of the relevant conflict, and our understanding is based on longstanding law-of-war principles.  If the practical circumstances of a given conflict are entirely unlike those of the conflicts that informed the development of the law of war, that understanding may unravel.

So if this goes on forever -- which is "two generations," the Court suggests -- we might want to revisit this understanding.

The Court also addresses the question of what relief may be available to Hamdi; i.e., should we simply accept the government's word that he is an enemy combatant when it puts him in the brig.  Here things get vague. 

We therefore hold that a citizen-detainee seeking to challenge his classification as an enemy combatant must receive notice of the factual basis for his classification, and a fair opportunity to rebut the Government’s factual assertions before a neutral decisionmaker.  

Does that mean an actual court hearing or other judicial procedure?  Would regular rules of evidence apply?  Apparently not:  "Hearsay, for example, may need to be accepted as the most reliable available evidence from the Government in such a proceeding."

But whatever the rules, the courts get a say: 

In so holding, we necessarily reject the Government’s assertion that separation of powers principles mandate a heavily circumscribed role for the courts in such circumstances.
Any process in which the Executive’s factual assertions go wholly unchallenged or are simply presumed correct without any opportunity for the alleged combatant to demonstrate otherwise falls constitutionally short.

But the best part is Scalia dissenting, joined by Stevens.  (No, that is not a typo.)  I confess a definite emotional susceptibility to an argument that begins, "The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive."    The history lesson goes on, including:  "The writ of habeas corpus was preserved in the Constitution—the only common-law writ to be explicitly mentioned."

And, "without exception, the only constitutional alternatives are to charge the crime or suspend the writ."  Thus, "[i]t follows from what I have said that Hamdi is entitled a habeas decree requiring his release unless (1) criminal proceedings are promptly brought, or (2) Congress has suspended the writ of habeas corpus."   In conclusion:  "If civil rights are to be curtailed during wartime, it must be done openly and democratically, as the Constitution requires,  rather than by silent erosion through an opinion of this Court."

Shorter Padilla:
He sued in the wrong jurisdiction so we're not touching the question of whether he should get off or not.

Less short Padilla:
In filing for habeas you have to file against the custodial person, who's the immediate turnkey, not whoever's giving orders.  So Padilla should've filed in South Carolina against Commander Melanie Marr, instead of in New York, against SecDef Rumsfeld.  You might think this would give the government the opportunity to keep someone indefinitely in jail by simply moving them from one jurisdiction to another ahead of the filings, but a concurring opinion by Kennedy, in which O'Connor joins, anticipates this:  "if the Government did inform the lawyer where a prisoner was being taken but kept moving him so a filing could not catch up to the  prisoner, again, in my view, habeas jurisdiction would lie in the district or districts from which he had been removed."

Note one thing:  Scalia joined the majority here.  But in his dissent in Hamdi, he explicitly included Padilla in the same category as Hamdi.  So presumably if Padilla had filed in the right jurisdiction, Scalia would have supported his release.

Shorter Rasul (aka Guantanamo Bay):
The courts do so have jurisdiction over Guantanamo.

Less short Rasul:  A onetime colleague of mine named his dog after Lord Mansfield, which is partially why I identify this sentence as the key idea: 

As Lord Mansfield  wrote in 1759, even if a territory was “no part of the  realm,” there was “no doubt” as to the court’s power to  issue writs of habeas corpus if the territory was “under the  subjection of the Crown.”


What is presently at stake is only whether the federal courts have jurisdiction to determine the legality of the Executive’s potentially indefinite detention of individuals who claim to be wholly innocent of wrongdoing.  Answering that question in the affirmative, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand for the District Court to consider in the first instance the merits of petitioners’ claims.

Here, Scalia (joined by Thomas) dissents:  "today’s opinion, and today’s  opinion alone, extends the habeas statute, for the first time, to aliens held beyond the sovereign territory of the  United States and beyond the territorial jurisdiction of its courts."   If they were citizens, it might be different.

My summary:  The Court flinched from ruling on the Nixon-at-war version of presidential wartime powers (if the president does it, that means it's legal) that we have recently seen asserted in various administration memoranda and in briefs on these cases.  It ruled that Congress gave considerable power limited to warring on and apprehending persons associated with the 9/11/01 attacks, and this is good enough to hold people as enemy combatants.  Such detentions are challengeable in court, though by what standard of evidence it's not clear.  Guantanamo Bay too comes under federal court jurisdiction for these purposes.  In other words, the President can do a lot of stuff if Congress lets him and maybe otherwise; the Court won't say), but in all cases discussed today his actions are subject to judicial review.

My question:  If the Court believes the President's extraordinary wartime powers result from the act of Congress authorizing him to use “'all necessary and appropriate force' against 'nations, organizations, or persons' associated with the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks," then does the Court perhaps believe that those powers do not apply in Iraq?  What does that mean for persons held at e.g. Abu Ghraib?  As Scalia points out in his dissent in Rasul:  "parts of Afghanistan and Iraq should logically be regarded as subject to our domestic laws," according to the logic of the majority opinion (with which he of course disagrees).  I don't know the answer here, I'm just asking.

Nader is no Progressive, Part I

Nader is no Progressive, Part II

Atrios has a few examples of what the Communist New York Times calls William F. Buckley’s “characteristic playfulness” here

And he does a pretty good job of demonstrating again, what a sorry example Howie “Conflict of Interest" Kurtz is of a journalist, when it comes to correcting the lies of the far Right.  Take a look here.  (Could someone please start paying this boy to do this full-time?)

Quote of the Day, Michael Ignatieff: 

Someone like me who supported the war on human rights grounds has nowhere to hide:  we didn't suppose the administration was particularly nice, but we did assume it would be competent.  There isn't much excuse for its incompetence, but equally, there isn't much excuse for our naivete either.

Some Transfer of Power, Part XVI, from "The Daily Show," (Where else?): 

But Bremer didn't leave before taking care of some last minute odds and ends, like completely changing the Iraqi legal code to include 97 new edicts on subjects ranging from the death penalty to the Iraqi tax rate which he says can be no higher now than 15 percent. And also -- this is true -- drivers can only use their horns in the case of an emergency and must always keep both hands on the wheel, he says, God forbid you lose control of the car while you're driving into an embassy.

Follow-up here.  We note that the WSJ, alone, had the good sense (WSJ--again--had the good sense) to go A1 with SCOTUS ruling, while putting the phony, ceremonial transfer-of-power inside.  (I will not rest in my campaign to get that unknown news source the renown it deserves.)

Does the world need 3,000 more words on Wilco?  Boehlert thinks so.  Don’t write me about it, though, I don’t care.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Paul Lukasiak
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Hi Eric!
For the past four months I’ve been examining Bush’s military records within the context provided by the relevant statutes, DoD regulations, and Air Force policies and procedures of that era.  (I’ve scanned them and posted them here.)

I've finally started publishing my findings on Bush's military records.

My first piece is on what happened to Bush AFTER he left TXANG.

As it turns out, when you compare the records to the laws, regulations, policies and procedures of that era, there is only one conclusion to be drawn...

The Air Force itself designated Bush a deserter (technically, a "non-locatee", which is the term they used when, instead of court martialling someone who had a draft-deferment, they certified him for immediate induction through the selective service system).

This is the ONLY way to explain that AF 526 that shows that Bush was placed on "Inactive Status" effective September 15, 1973.

The piece is fairly long, because I figure I needed to cross all my t's and dot all my i's....

Name: Barry Ritholtz
Hometown: The Big Picture
Hey Doc,
Since posting the 9/11 Fahrenheit Presidential Indicator, I've been thinking about what actual political impact the film might have (if any).

In light of some of the comments and private criticisms -- including a few people I respect who termed it "the worst idea you've come up with to date" -- I've been mulling this over for a few days. Here are my conclusions:

F9/11: What political impact? (mirror)

There are 3 audiences Moore may be "speaking" to, each of which could potentially impact the November elections:

1) 50%
That astounding number is the percentage of eligible voters who didn't think it was worth their time to cast a vote in the 2000 Presidential election.  That's right, half of the electorate couldn't be bothered.  (So much for democracy.)

Motivating this group -- not just Independents, but Democrats and Liberal Republicans -- could certainly be part of the impact of Moore's polemic.

In the future, whenever you see this statistic, keep in mind that there are many political scientists and theorists who posit the entire point of negative campaigning is to keep this group at home.  (Call it self-disenfranchised by disgust.)

If Moore gets 1 out of 10 of these people off their sofas on November 3rd, he will have effectively overcome all the votes Nader received in 2000.

2) Motivating the Base
While hardcore Democrats are certainly going to be voting in the Fall, the borderline, "lazy" or soft party members could see their fervor wane if the polls start sliding against them.  Rank & file Dems simply don't have the same religious fervor GOP partisans do.

The question is how will the party members handle an occasional setback between now and November?

3) Naderites
The film would be politically influential -- not if it persuades the centrist or swing voter, but instead if it convinces the 4-6% of Nader voters from 2000 that a vote for Ralph is a vote for the incumbent.

I wasn't thinking in those terms when I wrote this, but considering that Moore was a Nader supporter in 2000, and then backed Wesley Clark in the '04 Democratic primaries, it makes some sense.  Of course, that won't show up as part of our 9/11 Fahrenheit indicator thesis, but . . .

Here's a quote from USA Today: 

Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, says the savage portrayal of Bush "could convince some Naderites" of the need to vote for Kerry.  Moore, who backed Nader's independent candidacy in 2000, says that's one goal.  "I hope to have a significant impact on the 4-6% who now say they're going to vote for Ralph," he says.

-- 'Fahrenheit 9/11': Will it change any voter's mind?

Bottom line -- the film may have an impact on the margins.  In a race this tight, a 1 or 2% shift or increased participation can be the margin of victory -- or defeat.

Name: Cliff Hutchins
Hometown: Rochester, WA
On Monday, on Crossfire, Bob Novak said that Fahrenheit 9/11 shows Michael Moore to be anti-American.  This is the height of irony, coming from a man who revealed the name of a CIA operative, and not showing an ounce of remorse for what he did.

Name: Micah Sifry
How does J.D. Hayworth as governor of Arizona sound to you?  For people who want to help keep the state's full public financing system going:

Name: VP Jim Cerullo
Hometown: Boynton Beach, Fl.

I am not sure if you ever run into Nader or Dumbya but if you do please them I said to go f--- themselves.  I feel better having said that.  I do not regret saying it and I'm sure many others would agree it should have been said.

Eric replies: My six-year-old asked me, “Daddy, the vice-president of the United States said the F-word on the floor of the Senate.  Does that I mean I can say the F-word wherever I want?”  What was I to say, but, “Sure, honey, if the vice-president of the United States says the F-word, then you can, too.  Just don’t lie about sex.”

Name: PK (yes, that's my real name)
Hometown: Olympic Peninsula (no, I don't live in a town, I'm rural)

Lisa Myers broke with the Zarqawi story?  What a weird idea.

Actually, it was a multi-step sort of thing, with Joe Biden being one of the first on the record questioning why the chimp pack hadn't taken out Zarqawi's camp (his question to Colin Powell after Powell announced the camp's existence at the U.N.)--this statement was picked up by Greg Miller, who covered it in the Los Angeles Times in February 2003.  Feinstein also questioned why it wasn't "taken out."  Powell had no answer to give...

Later (much later, like a year later) Jim Miklaszewski (NBC), on March 2 of this year, mentioned it again.

If you want the link to the 2004 NBC article, it is here.

Fred Kaplan has also written an easy-to-understand article here.

Name: Robert Earle
Hometown: Torrance, CA

I was able to find the Greg Miller Zarqawi piece from 2003 here.

(I love the Internet!)

June 28, 2004 | 11:23 AM ET

Fahrenheit 2004

We’re going to give Pierce the floor today, as we solve some computer issues.  Per usual, our boy comes through with more than most of us deserve.

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:
Because every day -- even the second day of my daughter's second decade -- is Slacker Friday, Part The XXXVII.

OK, so I went and saw Fahrenheit 9/11 on Friday night.  Bought the tickets two hours ahead of time and still had to wait in line in the rain.  Also brought my son, the Brandeis sophomore, because I needed to be with someone with some fresh book-larnin'.  The lights went down and the audience cheered.

Two immediate thoughts: 1) Even if that hellspawn slug David Bossie has his way with the FEC, this movie isn't going to NEED television ads by the end of July.  It's selling itself, and events are selling it even harder. 2) There is something in this movie to outrage just about everyone.  The Brandeis sophomore was mightily offended -- as was the Boston Globe's reviewer, BTW -- by the use of the Gold Star mother in Washington.  I thought it eloquently laid the whole sorry enterprise at the proper doorstep.  We argued on the way home about this which, I suspect, is what the director had in mind.

Frankly, as a movie qua movie, I thought the thing was kind of a hash.  My eyes glazed at the endless Bush-Carlyle-Harken-Saudis-Hallburton segment at the beginning, and I'd heard most of it before.  The "Bonanza" thing was really dumb -- and I mean FILM-SCHOOL dumb -- and it used the wrong theme music, besides.  However, he does make up for that with a music cue during C-Plus Augustus's aircraft-carrier stunt that put me on the floor.

That having been said, the good stuff is really good. The American soldiers are strikingly eloquent, both here and Over There, and anybody who accuses Moore of undermining Our Troops has to argue that he does so partly by giving the grunts a voice.  The Senate sellout of the outraged members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the wake of the 2000 election scam should make Tom Daschle and Al Gore lock themselves in a closet for a month.  (Not one Democratic senator would stand with John Lewis?)  There's a nice package involving the weird Be-Afraid-But-Go-To-Epcot mixed messages.  And there is, of course, the terrifying Seven Minutes.  This is often described as a deer-in-the-headlights moment, which is an insult to the intelligence of our hoofed brethren, and all by itself, it's worth nine bucks.

And we must never lose sight of the film's real value -- it kicks over and dances upon the phony anesthetic consensus -- Call it The Big Russ Effect -- that has replaced vigorous skepticism and has infantilized energetic self-government through media lassitude and our own connivance.  Don't seek to learn anything from Michael Moore unless you learn that.  In fact, the most heartbreaking thing about F 9/11 is that we are now engaged in the national argument over a film that we should have had about going to war.

Eric adds:  How interesting for SCLM fans that the alleged inaccuracies in Moore’s movie—which I’ve not yet seen—appear to be considerably more upsetting to the mainstream than say, those in the president’s State of the Union messages, press conferences and requests to Congress for the power to go to war with Iraq.

Everybody Else:

Name: Blake Thompson
Hometown: Denver, CO

It's stupid to think that Britney Spears knows what the words Sudan, genocide, Jim Crow, Vietnam, Capital (sic) Hill, or Rwanda refer to.  It's also stupid to think that Ms. Spears knows what is meant by the phrases "The Diary of Anne Frank" or "The Grateful Dead."

Besides, Ms. Spears is clearly busy planning her next wedding.  I propose a pool to guess the date when the engagement ends, or alternatively, whether she will make this marriage last ... as long as Cher and Greg Allman's.

Name: Andrew Cohen
Hometown: Syracuse, NY
Dear Eric--
People should also be careful not to cede Nader the progressive ground he claims.  As anyone who has worked for Ralph can tell you (I'm a Public Citizen alum, 1991), Ralph simply has no interest in cultural issues that represent a major portion of the modern Democratic Party platform.  This includes matters of gender, sexuality, race, religion, expression, and that have for thirty years drawn new voters to the party.  His position stems from his age and origins.  Nader is a sixty-something year-old man raised in a household that trained him to revile the decadent pleasures that most of us enjoy.

The most famous story is that Ralph's mother refused to serve him a frosted cake for his birthday, believing it unhealthy.  After years of begging, Mrs. Nader agreed to bake the children such a delight.  She constructed a beautiful cake, let the children see it, then removed all the frosting before allowing them to eat it.  Parents take note: this is how to raise a bitter, twisted child.

There are many examples of Ralph's contempt for culture.  However justified his war against the automakers, Nader's disdain for beautiful design runs throughout "Unsafe at Any Speed."  Any Naderite will tell you that Ralph opposes his D.C. employees forming softball teams, viewing sports as an incomprehensible waste of time (he lost that battle).  Ralph apparently eats the same thing for lunch every day (tuna on lightly toasted wheat, skim milk), demonstrating a lack of interest in cuisine.  Ralph, of course, has not been married, and his social life remains a mystery.  There's nothing wrong with that, but it demonstrates his broader alienation from the lives of most Americans, for whom gender and sexuality are crucial concerns.

Some people may agree with Ralph that it's sad that issues of class and poverty have had declining importance in American politics since 1968.  But one cannot simply assert that those issues are more authentically progressive than gay marriage, the right to safe abortion, equal opportunity in employment, civil liberties, and the separation of church and state.  It's a matter for debate, not a fact to be ceded.  Even taken at face value, Ralph campaigns not for progressivism per se, but for a version of progressivism that denies the legitimacy of much of what we value.

Name: Michele Dostert
Hometown: Santa Clara, CA

Dear Eric:  Excuse me, but did Fox News buy the AP while I wasn't looking?  If not, why is the AP carrying the Bush campaign's water, by attacking Al Gore?  In the AP coverage of Gore's speech, note the negative editorializing in the paras below:  

Mostly sidelined from the presidential race, Gore emerges every few months with another stinging review of the Bush administration. The former vice president, who has grown irate and bellowed in previous appearances, took a more tempered but highly sarcastic tone on Thursday.


With a smirk, Gore then added: "So when the bipartisan 9/11 commission issued its report finding 'no credible evidence' of an Iraq-al-Qaida connection, it should not have come as a surprise.  It should not have caught the White House off guard."

If "smirking" has now become newsworthy, will coverage of Bush's speeches now begin "President Bush, with his trademark smirk....."?

Note that the AP did not feel it worthwhile to examine whether Gore was simply pointing out the unvarnished Truth - Bush has been lying to the American People.

Eric replies:  Good thing Gore didn’t walk up to a senator on the floor of the world’s most august debating body (not) and tell him to **$* himself.

Name: Vaughan Dawson
Hometown: Delray Beach, (soon to be Blue) Florida

Good morning Dr.A,
I note this story in Newsweek about what a super-badass al-Zarqawi is, and how the current administration is struggling to understand him.  Andrea Mitchell also had a long 3-4 minute story last night on his techniques, and the havoc he is wreaking.

Now, I usually hold my breath waiting for at least a one sentence note that Bush had 3 separate chances to take him out before the invasion, but neglected to do so, out of fear that it would undermine his case for invading Iraq.

Not once have I seen this mentioned in the many profiles of al-Zarqawi.  But this was Andrea Mitchell!  Lisa Myers (who broke the original story back in March) works in THE SAME BUILDING WITH HER!  Why wouldn't she mention this exclusive and very salient fact?

That's it, the last straw.  There can be no other reason for disappearing this story, other than the fact that someone high up in GE/NBC food chain did not like the implications of this story, and had it sent down the memory hole.

I know you have mentioned this fact in the past.  I request that you please re-post a link to the story from March, and continue to do so, until somebody, somewhere, picks up this little connection.

June 25, 2004 | 10:51 AM ET

Slacker Friday:  Readers Pile on Ralph.

Rumsfeld is responsible: 

Nearly word for word, the harsh methods detailed in memos signed by Mr. Rumsfeld -- which even administration lawyers considered violations of the Geneva Conventions -- were then distributed to interrogators at Abu Ghraib.  The procedures in turn could be read to cover much of what is seen in the photographs that have scandalized the world.  How did this spread of improper and illegal practices occur?

Now talk about lowering the bar, Post editorialists write:

But President Bush deserves credit for accepting that some administration policymaking was, as his counsel put it, "controversial" and "subject to misinterpretation….” 

Good thing none of these guys ever invested in Arkansas real estate….

Bill Scher has a fine “Think Again" column on the media’s anger with Americans for not recognizing their good fortune.

Rush continues to wrestle with reality.  Boehlert has the details, and looks into whether taxpayer funded American Forces Radio will ever find room for a liberal talk show host.

Back to Ralph:  A lot of you people objected to my linking to a David Horowitz Web site yesterday.  Do you really think what Web site I link to is more important than the information contained in it?  That’s just silly.  This election is just about the most important thing in the world.  Grow up. 

Goodness, even Medea Benjamin opposes Nader and thinks his campaign to be "disastrous" in effect.  Hey Nader voter, Are you really more "idealistic" and "progessive" than Medea Benjamin? Or are you just a lot sillier?

And in the American Prospect, Web exclusive, Max Blumenthal reveals that Ralph Nader’s Arizona ballot tactics are even worse than this week’s Democratic lawsuit alleges.  Some petitions piggybacked on a reactionary anti-immigrant initiative—and others were paid for by a former executive director of the state GOP.  It's here.

Meanwhile UCLA Professor of Policy Studies Mark A.R. Kleiman has an interesting Nader post here and there’s plenty more in Slacker Friday.

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Hey Doc:
I've just about given up on them. I've made peace with the fact that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court once served the cause of white supremacy at polling stations in Arizona, and that Justice Thomas probably did everything of which he was accused, and that Justice Scalia spends his odd moments dressing up as Pope Julius II, and that, as an ensemble, they treated the last presidential election as though it was a $2000 claiming race at Suffolk Downs. I long ago became painfully aware that a majority of the nine members of the current Supreme Court should be charging $50 an hour in some truck stop outside Laughlin, Nevada.  But, consider this gem from Thursday:

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said the federal district court judge who ordered records opened to the public had issued too broad a release of documents, without giving appropriate deference to the White House.

The president is not above the law, Kennedy wrote, but there is a "paramount necessity of protecting the executive branch from vexatious litigation that might distract it from the energetic performance of its constitutional duties."

Holy Mother of God.

So, a spurious sexual harassment complaint can proceed ahead at full throttle, dragging the country through a ridiculous Kabuki impeachment driven in part by a sniggering passel of adulterous hypocrites, because, God knows, that couldn't possibly distract the president from the duties of his office.  But an attempt merely to obtain documents that might shed light on a second-story job masquerading as a national energy policy would overly inconvenience the inside man on an inside job.  And not only was Jones v. Clinton unanimous, which means Kennedy then thought the Jones decision wouldn't be too much of a drag on the president's time, but that decision was read by John Paul Stevens, a putative "liberal" who joined with the majority in this most recent foolishness.  Had this argument prevailed in 1998, Bill Clinton's book might only be, oh, 700 pages or so.

(Note to the Big Dog: Voted for you twice.  Agree with you about Starr.  But, sir, with all due respect, you are that most dangerous of people -- someone who can't write who thinks he can.  Find a ghost you can live with.  It's OK.)

For all the talk about how Clinton's book would take the air out of the Kerry campaign, it also provided us all with another look at the vengeful idiot death's head of movement conservatism.  The book's made them all crazy all over again, and the Supreme Court has now reminded us all that it's been open for political business since the polls closed in Florida four years ago this fall.

P.S. -- Another example of Can't-Write-But-Thinks-It-Can.  In this case, however, almost complete lunacy.  Jeane Kirkpatrick's still-saucy eyes?  "Hugh Sidey, historian of presidents, tall and gray."  (Presumably it's Sidey who's tall and gray.  Otherwise, we're not going to let him write about Nixon any more.)  Is there anybody at OpinionJournal who ISN'T on mushrooms?

Name: Harry G. Levine
Hometown: New York
I'm Harry G. Levine, author of the essay "Ralph Nader as Mad Bomber" that you have linked to.

You should know that a much abbreviated version of it was published in the Village Voice in May.

Tarek Milleron, Nader's nephew and top campaign aide, wrote to the Voice claiming I misrepresented and misquoted him -- and in so doing essentially granted my main point: that Nader wants to punish Democrats.  Milleron's letter and my reply are here.

The Voice article also contains a bit of additional information, including Michael Moore's statement in the last chapter of "Stupid White Men" that Moore refused to join Nader's final barnstorming through the swing states.  (The NY Times also reported that Moore had sort of apologized to Al Gore on one of the first of the Al Franken "Air America" shows.  Indeed, Moore's film can be read as his effort to make up for what he did in 2000.) 

After writing the essay, I talked with Ronnie Dugger who nominated Nader at the Green Party convention in 2000.  Dugger told me that he did not know about Nader's focus on the swing states until he read about it in Moore's book.  As far as I know, nobody has yet traced Nader's campaign activities in the final weeks of the campaign after the New York super rally.  That's a story to be told in depth.

In the Jan/Feb 2001 issue of Tikuun, Danny Goldberg reported that in 2000 Nader had promised many people that he would not campaign hard in the swing states, and then did so anyway. And Goldberg admits what Justin Martin also says -- that in the 2000 campaign Nader pounded Gore much harder than Bush.  Incidentally, the fund raiser party where I met Tarek Millerson and Michael Moore was held at Danny Goldberg's Greenwich Village home. 

In short, there is a HUGE story to be told about all the politically sophisticated, prominent and well connected people who supported Nader in 2000, but who have refused to support him now, and what they knew and have come to know.  Most of them are now probably confused by Nader, and I do not think it is necessary to blame or demonize them.  Nader is brilliant and ran a terrific con.  As is common with other cons, the marks who got taken are embarrassed to talk about it.  But should SOMEBODY be writing this important story about all those who got close to Nader, learned and understood something, and now refuse to be associated with him?  And then there is the story of smart, thoughtful people like Molly Ivins and Barbara Ehrenreich who praised Nader in 2000.  What do they say now? 

Bravo for "Reveal Ralph Nader day."  I hope you keep at it, but if you can't systematically get at these large stories, maybe you can find others who can.  As you note, the stakes are huge.

Harry G. Levine

Name: Michael Kelly
Hometown: Livermore, CA
Dear Mr. Alterman:
If there are any residual progressive supporters of Ralph Nader's candidacy after your excellent take-down, then they ought to check out David Neiwert's blog, Orcinus, about Nader's association with the New Alliance Party.  Here's the link.

And, if that doesn't do it, they ought to go to Pat Buchanan's interview of Nader in "The American Conservative."  Again, here's the link.

Nader's play for the votes of right-wing conservatives should curl the toes of any progressives who are still impressed by this fraud.

Name: Alice Marshall
Hometown: Fairfax, VA

Thank you.
There is a whole Web page devoted to Nader's dark side.

We should have gone after this a long time ago.

Name: Ed Tracey
Hometown: Lebanon, New Hampshire

Re: The "Real" Ralph Nader - Eric, don't forget Jonathan Chait's wonderful New Republic report from earlier this year.
(P.S. - you are quoted in the first paragraph, too).
- Ed

Name: John Boyle
Hometown: Abilene, Texas

Not only is Nader a union buster, but he has a record of using litigation to stop free speech.
How's that you ask?

In the mid-80's the editors of Car and Driver magazine printed a letter from a reader, "signed" by Nader that said he shopped at K-Mart and drove a Chevette.  Although clearly satirical and fictitious, Nader sued saying it damaged his image (like he ever had a positive image from the car buffs who read Car and Driver).  The magazine settled with humorless Ralph to clear the books before the magazine was sold to a group of new owners.  I thought satire was a protected form of speech.  Not I guess if you're Ralph with a bunch of lawsuit hungry lawyers at your disposal.

Name: fafner1 (aka Jeff Tonn)
Hometown: Tacoma, WA
Being a consumer advocate means never having to say you're sorry.  That's because Ralph Nader is perfect.  He has never been wrong in his life.  If you don't think so just ask him.

A few years ago The New Yorker ran an article about the results of Nader's opposition to mandatory seat belts laws in favor of air bags.  Nader maintained mandatory seat belt laws would be ineffective, while air bags would provide passive protection.  In fact Ralph's over-powered air bags (necessary to protect unbelted passengers) proved excellent at breaking the necks of babies and short people, while mandatory seat belt laws, when finally implemented, turned out to very effective.  The net result was thousands of traffic deaths that might have been avoided.  The most interesting part was Nader's subsequent letter to the New Yorker.  Did he admit to making an honest, albeit tragic, mistake?  No, he was right all along and the people challenging him were dupes of the industry.  Criticize Bush and you're a traitor, criticize Nader and you're a dupe of industry.

This whole scenario was prequelled in the seventies, when Saint Ralph opposed the introduction of catalytic converters.  Ralph championed the now long discarded alternative CVCC technology introduced by Honda.  His argument was that converters were an inferior technology being forced on us by Detroit and Big Oil.  Their motivation?  To force consumers to buy expensive unleaded gas while allowing Detroit to crush the little upstart, Honda.  In this case Ralph was spectacularly wrong on every count: converters proved to be effective, Honda did just fine, and spewing leaded exhaust into the environment proved to be a bad thing for consumers and consumer advocates alike.  Still, at the time one sensed Ralph didn't care so much about the technology, but more about sticking it to his enemies.  As they say, Ralph Nader, a legend in his own mind.

Name: Linda Lamb
Hometown: Corvallis, OR
Expose Nader Day: More ammunition
I got this in my e-mail today, from Jeannie Berg (, a progressive Oregon group about Nader's tactics in trying to register here.  (The last time he tried to get 1,000 people to gather and endorse him to get on the ballot and vote, he failed with only about 700.)

She wrote:
From: "Jeannie Berg"
Subject: Unbelievable Nader news... Please forward immediately
Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2004 19:05:50 -0700


Today (Thursday, June 24th) the Nader campaign made a desperate, last-ditch effort to make the Oregon ballot by teaming up with Republicans eager to help get Bush re-elected.

Ralph Nader himself appeared on Lars Larson's right-wing talk radio show this afternoon to urge Lars' listeners to come to his nominating convention this Saturday.  Guest host Victor Bok directly told the audience that they should help Ralph make the ballot to siphon liberal votes and allow George Bush to win Oregon.

This evening, news reporters have confirmed that calls have been made to Republicans from right-wing anti-tax group Citizens for a Sound Economy.  Callers said, "I am calling because we have a chance to stop John Kerry from winning Oregon."  They went on to urge members to come out on Saturday and sign the petition to nominate Ralph Nader.

Additional calls were made to registered Republicans from Oregon Family Council.  The script itself blatantly states that without Republicans "we don't think many people will show up" confirming the difficulty Nader has had in attracting 1000 supporters after his first effort to make the Oregon ballot failed earlier this year.

Many progressives have long argued that Ralph has failed to understand how his campaign would help defeat John Kerry in November.  These shocking developments suggest that Ralph knows all too well his value to the right, and worse, demonstrates his willingness to put his own agenda ahead of the larger cause of defeating Bush.

Call Ralph Nader and tell him that if he can't make the ballot with the support of people who actually believe in him, he shouldn't court the disingenuous support of Bush's cronies.  His Oregon office can be reached at 503.224.2647

Please forward to all progressives you know so we can expose the right's hidden agenda this Saturday!

Late Addition:

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago

Hey Eric, it's Stupid.  I need everybody but Britney Spears to skip my contribution this week.  OK, since it's your blog you can read too, but keep it quiet.

Britney, we both know your superstar career has hit some potholes of late, with the knee injury and all those "girl-out-of-control" reports.  The world is just waiting for you to turn into a VH-1 nostalgia fixture.  But I have an answer: take up the cause of stopping the genocide in Sudan and you can become one of the great humanitarians of our time. 

What's that? 

Oh.  Do you remember "The Diary of Ann Frank"?  It's like that except the mass death is less orderly (violent pillaging, mass rape, epidemics in refugee camps, etc.)
Britney, remember the Grateful Dead?  They used to raise funds to save the rainforests in Brazil.  Jerry Garcia said (I'm paraphrasing) "somebody has to do something -- it's just insane that we're the ones who have to do it!"  Same thing here.  Once music had a proud political side to it - it helped end Jim Crow and the Vietnam War, loosened-up a prudish society, and raised consciousness about poverty.  Not anymore -- just look how many musicians had Pearl Jam's back when they took on Ticketmaster.  You're different Britney, and only you have the star power that can change things.   Hold a press conference on Capitol Hill.  Tell the cameras that you may not know much about politics but you do remember "never again" and if that doesn't mean anything then nothing does.  Try to make this a cause celeb.  Shelve the Snoop Dog video for "Outrageous" and replace it with something that really fits the word.  And when they say you're being insincere, ask them how much better the world would be if we sincerely did nothing!  

In all seriousness Britney, we need you.  The media cares more about 1 death in Iraq than they do 100 in Africa.  The history of Rwanda is repeating itself, right down to semantic games about the word "genocide."  You can do more in one day than most of the world has done to date.

June 24, 2004 | 10:23 AM ET

The Real Ralph Nader:  We treat Nader as a hero who took a wrong turn, but is that accurate?  Truthfully, I don’t know but I’m beginning to suspect not.  Yes, it’s “Reveal Ralph Nader Day” at Altercation.

Perhaps we need to re-assess Nader’s legacy in light of new evidence.  Perhaps we need to get the word out to those remaining, idealistic misguided supporters of his that no only are you re-electing Bush, but you are supporting someone who is not the man you think he is.

First there was this piece that ran on Frontpage.  It’s called, “My Life as Ralph Nader's Flunkie by Charles Pekow.”

Then take a look at this letter that I received a long time ago, but saved.  I’ve edited it.  It’s by a fellow named Tim Shorrock.

Subject: Nader is a union buster.

I read the reports about the UAW and Teamsters considering a vote for Ralph Nader and interviews like Kuttner's and think - I must be living in never-never land.

Ralph Nader fired me and two other editors from Multinational Monitor in 1984 for trying to organize a union in our shop.  You can look it up in the Washington Post, Columbia Journalism Review and Labor Notes.

I was fired the day after we filed our union recognition papers with the NLRB; in the hours that followed, Nader 'transferred' ownership of MM to Essential Information run by John Richard (who would become his H.R. Haldeman if by some stretch Nader was ever elected prez) and let them do the dirty work, which included trying to get the cops to arrest me for allegedly 'stealing' my own files.  Myself, my two fired colleagues and John Cavanagh of the Institute for Policy Studies, our closest supporter, were then sued by Essential Information for trying to 'destroy their business,' a pure harassment tactic designed to make us shut up about what happened.

And now the guy says his key campaign theme will be reforming U.S. labor laws so it's easier for workers to form unions?  Simply amazing for a man who has used those laws to prevent his own workers from organizing - and MM is not the only place he's done it.

To Doug Henwood's credit, he is the only journalist on the left to raise this issue; The Nation, Mother Jones and other 'leftie' pubs have refused to run a word about Nader's anti-union tactics - not even a letter to the editor.  Read Doug's Nader report, which includes an account I wrote about the MM incident

And who is funding Ralph?  Let’s not forget this story:

GOP donors double dipping with Nader Contributors deny that financial support is designed to hurt Kerry
Friday, March 26, 2004
By WAYNE SLATER / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN:  Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader is getting a little help from his friends and from George W. Bush's friends.

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.
Among the new crop of Nader donors: actor and former Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein, Florida frozen-food magnate Jeno Paulucci and Pennsylvania oil company executive Terrence Jacobs.  All have strong ties to the GOP.

Finally, read this.  It’s really long, but there’s plenty there.

I dunno if these people will care about the truth, but these are desperate times.

Alter-review:  I caught the Nellie McCay/Holmes Brothers Lou Reed show at Carnegie Hall last night as part of the JVC Jazz Festival which is making this city an even greater place than usual this week.  Lou was quite subdued, rather than noisy, and focused on recent, deliberative material.  I didn’t love it but I hated it a lot less than the last time I saw him.  The Holmes Brothers were wonderful, with soaring gospel harmonies and lowdown blues shuffles, coupled with some extended electric guitar work that made a marvelous amalgam of gospel, rock, blues, and soul music.  And Ms. McCay was charming but way too short.  I think she deserved a few of Lou’s minutes but nobody asked me.  Anyway, check out both the Holmes Brothers and Nellie if you haven’t already.

June 23, 2004 | 12:02 PM ET

Hey Buddy, wanna buy a bridge?  This is on the front page of today’s Washington Post but is buried in the Times: 

“Anyone who might assert the numbers were intentionally skewed is mistaken," said Brennan, director of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC), created by President Bush to produce efficient and comprehensive assessments of domestic and international terrorism.

When the April report was released, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage said it provided "clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight."  Yesterday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Armitage's words were based on incorrect information.

The revised figures show that more people were killed by terrorists last year than at any time since 1998, apart from 2001, when the Sept. 11 hijackings caused 2,973 deaths. Terrorist bombings and shootings left 3,646 people injured around the world -- more than in any year in the past six.

So we just had one of the worst years of terrorism on record when, just a few months ago, the State Department was claiming to have had one of the best.  And no, they did not make anything up—just like the Secretary did not make anything up when he said all those things that turned out to be untrue to the U.N. in February 2003.  And all those statements by Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rice, Feith, Rumsfeld and Perle were all honest mistakes.  Does anyone in the mainstream media ever wonder why this administration only makes “honest mistakes” in favor of its own arguments?

I didn’t think so.

And Sarah Sewal had a smart piece in the Outlook section last weekend, in which she observes, “Getting into a country is, in many ways, the easy part for policymakers.  Getting out responsibly can be much harder -- particularly when the war is controversial and the peace just an afterthought.”

Why Does Philip Zelikow Hate America?  It has come to this, William Safire, the unrepentant purveyor of misinformation regarding the non-existent Prague meeting and hence, Dick Cheney’s favorite columnist, is attacking the “commission's runaway staff, headed by the ex-N.S.C. aide Philip Zelikow.”  It’s here

But just who is this anti-American, anti-Bush partisan who wants to undermine the administration’s credibility and justification for war?  He’s a former Bush I staffer at the NSC, who co-authored a Bush-loving book with Condi Rice.  He’s also a first rate historian, but definitely one with a relatively conservative bent.  I guess he’s not “conservative” enough to doctor the evidence to Safire’s liking.

My bud Todd Gitlin has a fine piece about the problems with the Times Washington bureau here, but like my friend Michael Massing, he focuses on the fact that they are getting beaten by the Post but misses the fact that in many cases, both are getting their respective clocks cleaned by the Wall Street Journal.  I can’t believe it’s fallen to me to champion the reporting of the Wall Street Journal as insufficiently recognized for its intelligence and innovation, but there it is.

Just how nutty is Bob Novak? The man who endangers U.S. national security by revealing the identity of CIA agents —which actually can get people killed—implies on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Bill Clinton may have murdered people in the Whitewater scandal. It’s all here.  I mean, ruhhly. I have trouble taking any of this nonsense on TV seriously, but how can NBC, CNN (and the Washington Post) justify the continued employment of hysterical hack?

Rewrite of history, update:  From yesterday’s WSJ editorial page:  “The voters seem to agree, since in 2000 they elected a President who campaigned largely on “restoring dignity and honor to the White House.”  Um, two things, for now.  One, that guy came in second with about 500,000 votes less than the other guy and less than 48 percent of the vote total.  So in fact, they did not “elect” such a man, the Supreme Court did.  And second, he never explained that what he meant by “restoring dignity and honor to the White House,” was “I will deliberately mislead you into a ruinous war.”  That might have changed things.

We win! John Podesta got O’Reilly to admit last night that he was just making stuff up with his silly statement about me and Fidel and showed viewers of that “the more you watch, the less you know” network what a liberal who fights back looks like. 

The Center has a campaign, by the way, for a national petition to remove John Ashcroft from office.  Sign it if you like.

And here is Public Citizen's lawsuit to get the torture documents released.

Quote from Outer Space of the Day: “The [9/11 commission] report said that Mohamed Atta did meet with an Iraqi Intelligence Agency, or agent, in Prague on April 9th of 2001.  We've known this for a long time."
--Rush Limbaugh

I think all this Draft Bruce stuff is silly.  Even if Bruce were thinking about such things, this kind of pressure would be exactly the way to get him not to do it.  But reports in the American Prospect not withstanding, there’s never been any credible reason to believe he was even considering it.

On the other hand, I’m told that this report of a September tour just may be true. It appeared on

Been away for a while and I apologize if this has already been posted, but can confirm that there will be a six week our beginning in September.  The Tour is being characterized as "Not Pro-Kerry, Not-Anti-Bush", but more of a Rock-the-Vote Tour.  The Tour will focus on cities in a number of swing states and will hit Florida with at least three shows, California, with at least two and possibly three, North Carolina, with one, and shows throughout the Rust Belt area, to include MI, PA, and IL. There will also be at least one show in NJ.  The venues look to be indoors and some out of the way places are being discussed.  Also, looks like the whole band has signed on.

What I’m Reading:  A young man named Greg Behrman who works at the Council on Foreign Relations has written a book called The Invisible People: How the U.S. Has Slept Through the Global AIDS Pandemic, the Greatest Humanitarian Catastrophe of Our Time.  This story becomes more shocking the closer you look.  I cannot think of a more searing indictment of our leadership class than that they have dropped the ball on this one.  History will not be so forgiving.

Also, James Marcus, my sister’s high school boyfriend, who was always a really smart guy, has written what many people seem to agree is a terrific book about his experiences at Amazon—capturing the dot com experience from the inside better than anyone else before him.  I’ve not seen it, but perhaps you’d like to.  It’s here.

Correspondents Corner:

Name: C. Rapture
I know it's a couple of weeks off the mark, but I couldn't leave it alone.  Just a little something for Grover Norquist and his cult to chew on:

Ray Charles never sold arms to terrorists.

Ray Charles never authorized anyone to provide funding, weaponry or diplomatic support to Saddam Hussein.

Ray Charles didn't pour American tax money into the massacres of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children up and down Central America in places like Guatemala or El Salvador or Honduras.

However, Ray Charles brought a lot more happiness into the world through his music than certain dead presidents ever did with their corrupt policies, and if anybody wants to change our currency, I'd rather see Ray on the $10 bill.

June 22, 2004 | 11:43 AM ET

Media To Clinton: You Still Stink.
Our man Eric Boehlert at Salon wonders why the New York Times is still making stuff up about Clinton and Whitewater.  I saw Clinton at his book party at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  He had a few gracious things to say about What Liberal Media? and then went into his regular rap these days that goes something like this: “Evidence, evidence, evidence.  When we get people to pay attention to the evidence, we can’t lose.”  I agree with that.

The party was not as star-studded as one might expect.  Not too many movie stars or a-list fiction writers, save Toni Morrison.  (I see from Page Six that I did not notice Lauren Bacall, or Natalie Portman, shame on me in both cases.)  I had a nice conversation with Judy Collins, whom I had met once before at a party celebrating the inauguration twelve years earlier thrown by Carville and Begala.  (She had wanted to know whether alligator sausage was high in cholesterol.)  She recently turned 65—can you believe that?—and wanted to talk about Social Security.  I also got to hassle MSNBC-TV President Rick Kaplan about giving me half of Scarborough’s show among other potential improvements he could make on that beleaguered network.  He seemed about as eager to implement my suggestions as most people are.

Also on the topic, another friend notices a few funny things about Newsweek’s review.  He writes: 

Media Self Parody:  Newsweek (having lost out to Time for the Clinton interview) assigns to review the book .. Michael Isikoff!  He complains that Clinton "forces the reader on a joyless march through arid policy debates."

His main complaint:

For such a big book, there are a lot of things curiously missing.  Clinton denies sexually harassing Paula Jones, but doesn't give his account of what did, and didn't, happen during that infamous hotel encounter. He goes on at length about the enemies who whipped the Whitewater flap into a major scandal, but doesn't explain his and Hillary's role in the mess. He is silent about Johnny Chung and Indonesian billionaire James Riady, who funneled vast sums in questionable contributions to Clinton's campaigns.

And though he says more than once in the book that he knows he let people down, he never seems to grasp just how much anger and disappointment he caused—not just among his enemies, but among those who believed in him most.  But then, did anyone really expect Clinton to make himself the villain of his own book?  In a speech promoting the volume, he jokingly remarked that, as opposed to other memoirs, which are boring and self-serving, he hoped his would be "interesting and self-serving."

Newsweek's review: Too much policy (boring! yechh!). Not enough sex!  And worst of all, he refused to make himself the villain of his own memoir!

Mea Culpas Continued:  I almost had a moral quandary the other day when I happened upon something on Little Roy's blog with which I not only agreed but thought was beautifully put.  Thank goodness it was actually written by my friend Paul Berman.  I don’t agree with any of the rest what Paul says: we’ve made a fundamentally different judgment about both the danger presented by regimes like Hussein’s and the ability to protect us of regimes like Bush’s.  But maybe he’s right.  Anyway take a look at this whole “Mea Culpa” issue of TNR.  It ought to make most of us lose some respect for Senator McCain and gain a bit for the magazine’s editor, Peter Beinart.

Leon is at his most Leonist.  Nobody pays much attention, however, that many people were saying just these things before the war and were being personally pilloried in the magazine’s pages. 

(And by the way, Roy, this damn well is the America you love.  And maybe pretending it isn’t isn’t the best way to love it.)

Quote of the Day:  “Mr. Cheney, you pants are on fire.”
--Altercation reader Jon Stewart.

And Barry Ritholtz calls our attention to the following document with the question, “Where ever did people get the idea Iraq was related to 9/11?”  Answer: “Um, how about the President's request to Congress for authorization to invade Iraq?”

Presidential Letter
Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate

March 18, 2003

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243), and based on information available to me, including that in the enclosed document, I determine that:

(1)  reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

(2)  acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.



I discuss this in The Book on Bush and Barry has a pdf up here.  We note in passing, because we don’t think polls matter much right now, that 52 percent of Americans now think the war a mistake and seven in ten say the number of casualties in Iraq have become unacceptable.

Cable news alert: Set your Tivo/DVR for O'Reilly tonight as John Podesta gives him just a small portion of what he has so richly earned.

Alter-Review:  The Paul Simon Box
Meanwhile, Rhino is giving my neighbor Paul Simon the same treatment recently given his friend George Harrison, and to Jerry Garcia.  It is bringing out a handsome limited edition nine-CD box set. The difference is that while Harrison was a Beatle and Jerry a Dead, Simon really is just Simon.  This is his best work.  Together with The Who, Simon is just about the most heavily-repackaged artist on earth, but owing to a relative paucity of output, an awful lot of it is great.  As Bob Teft (I think) my assistant manager at White Plains Record World observed to me in the Spring of 1977 (or so), “He takes so long that every album is a greatest hits package.” 

There are a few unreleased vault cuts, and they are fun, interesting and instructive.  Some are even improvements.  But this box is really about spending a hundred and fifty bucks or so to get everything, nice and clean. For the budget-conscious, they will be re-issuing the original albums individually over the summer.  If you don’t want everything you can skip “One Trick Pony,” “Hearts and Bones,” though that’s a very close call, “The Rhythm of the Saints”—not as close-- and, if you must, “You’re the One,” though each of them save perhaps “Pony” has enough good stuff to justify themselves in the end.

Contrary to popular belief, you cannot skip “Songs from the Capeman.”  Also contrary to popular belief, this collection contains Simon’s best work.  Hell, the first album, “Paul Simon,” has “Duncan,” which is as good as anything Simon and Garfunkel ever recorded with the (only possible) exception of “The Boxer.”  I feel a little bad that they left out “Live Rhymin’” which is one of my favorite albums of all time, but I get the concept.  Now what was going on with that radical priest that got them on the cover of  Newsweek?  There’s an early demo of “Julio” here, but it sheds no light. 

(And while you’re there, check out Brother Ray.)

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Matt Shirley
Hometown: Gurnee, IL
Mr. Alterman,
Your correspondents were in rare form Friday.  Firstly, Sir Charles hits the "civility" nail on the head.  I concur; give these right-wing, RNC-mouthpiece jackals the bayonet!  (Rhetorically not literally speaking, please no one call the FBI on me!)  His riff rather reminds me of the old Progressive Magazine observation that conservatives don't actually object to class warfare; they only object when the middle and lower class starts to notice that the upper class has been engaging in it for some years.

Secondly, "Stupid's" comment on Starship Troopers and Sen. Kerry was also cogent.  Read the book, got the point, and like the Senator basically for the reasons "Stupid" describes.  (BTW, can we change his nom de plume to "Not so Stupid" or "Stupid like a Fox"?)

Lastly, Double L did a terrific job recounting the flip-flops on Saddam and Osama.

All in all, Friday's mailbag sure beat the heck out of the usual incoherent ramblings from the semi-literate trailer-trash you've been posting for some God-knows-reason-why.

Name: Stan Cox
Hometown: Battle Creek

You have the guts to bash Bush and O'Reilly, from a distance.  When will you have the guts to go on the O'Reilly factor and defend your ridiculous contention that there is no liberal bias in the media.  Since, I believe you are capable of doing basic math, I'd like you to explain why Newsweek doing literally hundreds of anti-Bush articles in the last 9 months and at most 2 or 3 articles that are favorable to him is unbiased.

Eric replies:  Um, how about February 4, 2003?

June 21, 2004 | 10:20 AM ET

A Lie:  From When Presidents Lie:  “Even the very best newspapers have never learned how to handle public figures who lie with astraight face.”
--Ben Bradlee

Transcript, CNBC’s “Capital Report,” June 17, 2004

Gloria Borger: “Well, let’s get to Mohammed Atta for a minute, because you mentioned him as well.  You have said in the past that it was quote, “pretty well confirmed.”

Vice President Cheney: No, I never said that.


Vice Pres. CHENEY: Never said that.

BORGER: I think that is...

Vice Pres. CHENEY: Absolutely not.

Transcript, NBC’s “Meet the Press,” December 9, 2001.

Vice-President Cheney: “It’s been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April.”


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