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Altercation

July 23, 2004 | 10:59 AM ET

I’ve got a new “Think Again,” called “ As Goes Kansas,” which is inspired by Tom Frank’s new book, here

Also, if you’re in Boston next week, The Nation and the American Prospect are sponsoring a couple of showings of “Outfoxed” on Tuesday, July 27 at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge.  The first showing will be at 5:30 PM and Mike Tomasky and I will speak briefly afterwards. There will be a later showing as well. 

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Feeling the "fair and balanced" heat, Fox News now insists it was tough on Bush during the final days of the 2000 campaign.  Boehlert doesn't buy it.

Now here’s our hometown boy.

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Hey Doc --
So, it was the acronyms who did it.

CIA, FBI, NSC, but not the NSA, God knows. DOT. DoD. The acronyms did it. Fire all the acronyms.

I don't know at what point my head exploded. Maybe it was when Tom Kean was complimenting Bill O'Reilly on the latter's analytical abilities, or when Condi Rice was waxing all serious with Sean Hannity.  Maybe it was earlier, when Lee Hamilton suggested that nobody was reading enough Tom Clancy.  (After yesterday, and given the dive he took 20 years ago on Iran-Contra, Hamilton is now the Greg Louganis of the national security state.)  I mean, Christ's sweet name, a failure of imagination?  Not on the part of Gary Hart or Warren Rudman or Al Gore, or Coleen Rowley, or the people in Phoenix, or poor, dead John O'Neill.  Their imaginations didn't fail.  In fact, the single most preposterous part of yesterday's report was its tsk-tsking of how the recommendations of previous commissions were ignored.  Who ignored them?

Nobody.

It was the acronyms.

Everybody's guilty so nobody is.

Read the footnotes, and remember, every time a conversation with either George Bush or Dick Cheney is cited, that this testimony was not given under oath, and under circumstances that were flatly bizarre, and that the testimony was given by two men who fought hard against the very existence of the commission, especially the former, who has made no mistake that he can recall, and is not specifically contradicted in any way by this report.  Instead, it was an exercise designed -- as was the Tower Commission before it -- to reassure us that the problem is in structural institutional details, and not in the men tasked to do great deeds for us so that we don't strain ourselves in the exercise of self-government.  (To his everlasting credit, Bob Kerrey seemed to be rather pissed on this very point.) 

I, for one, completely trust the administration that brought Elliott Abrams back into public service, hired John Ashcroft and Ted Olson to oversee the Justice Department, and continues to employ Paul Wolfowitz to appoint a new "Intelligence Czar," essentially handing to that person a job it took J. Edgar Hoover 50 years to build for himself.  I'm feeling very bipartisan about that.

Also, the Democratic people better get ready. The report may be bipartisan, but it's political utility won't be. If the specific blame isn't in the report, it's going to be part of the campaign whether John Kerry wants it to be or not. After all, this fall, we all get to decide whether, finally, after more than three years, somebody besides 300,000 baggage handlers will actually lose a job behind the atrocities of September 11, 2001.
   
Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid.  Happy Paula Zahn Sudan Day! 

On June 30, 2004 Paula Zahn allotted 10 minutes of her CNN program to the worst genocide of the new century, only to be betrayed by her last guest, Sudanese supermodel Alek Wek.  Wek had a mini-breakdown while talking about the horrors in Darfur and resisted Zahn's attempts to close the segment.  One could sense that Zahn was done covering Darfur: as of this writing LEXIS says that Zahn hasn't mentioned Sudan since.  (Call me an idiot savant…)

Zahn is symbolic of the 2004 model "lie about genocide."  Instead of "there is no genocide" (the traditional lie) or "we didn't know there was a genocide" (the Rwanda lie), we're getting a song-and-dance where people do just enough to protect themselves from charges they are repeating the past.  Remember all that righteous fury three weeks ago?  Kofi Annan's "48 hours" demand?   It's been replaced by a new Powell Doctrine (since repeated by Scott McClelland): that it is an elitist waste of time to debate whether Darfur is a 'genocide' rather than help the victims. This, of course, is an utter lie -- official use of the word "genocide" has specific and significant consequences.  Liberal groups have not done much better.  For example, MoveOn.org briefly had an online petition for Sudan, but it's full page NY Times ad was for Abu Ghraibi and soon Sudan was off its homepage entirely -- 1,000,000 African lives are less important than exposing Fox News as conservative. (Oh, for more space to name more organizations!)  

A few bright spots: Shocking/begrudgingly, the first is Representative Barbara "Lone Vote" Lee, who took the lead and helped gird the Congressional Black Caucuses' response to Powell's dithering.  There were impressive protests/arrests of Charles Rangell and Bobby Rush.  And the U.S. Holocaust Museum, whose clear speaking shamed more famous human rights groups at a recent symposium.  And at the risk of redundancy, God bless Kristoff, and the woman (?) who is running PassionOfThePresent.com, and others doing their best out there.  Though we have no right to demand it, imagine if the U.S. Holocaust Museum voluntarily shut down, at least until a U.N. resolution was passed.  If logic and ethics fail, drama is all that's left.  

Name: Keith
Hometown: Portland, OR

Re:  O'Reilly's challenge to the NYT.  I would pay MONEY to watch Bill O'Reilly turned into a blubbering fool in a moderated debate with ...basically anyone with half a brain.  Bill's method of shouting, editing, and bullying those who disagree with him would be lost and he be left with nothing.  I mean really, the guy doesn't even know what town he grew up in...

July 22, 2004 | 12:54 PM ET

We pause this morning for some numbers from Army Times.

Statistics for Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom at 1000 casualties: from Army Times:

(where numbers do not add to 1000 – information is undetermined/pending)

Killed in Action: 540
Died later of Combat Wounds: 129
Died while Missing in Action: 8
Died while Captured: 3

Deaths by Accident: 205
Illness: 33
Self-inflicted: 34
Homicide: 6
Deaths by Paygrade:
E1 – 1           W1 - 1
E2 – 64         W2 - 22
E3 – 184       W3 - 6
E4 – 282       W4 - 5
E5 – 163        O1 - 15
E6 – 119        O2 - 19
E7 – 38          O3 - 43
E8 – 14          O4 - 10
E9 – 8            O5 – 6

Total Enlisted: 873
Total Warrant Officer: 34
Total Officer: 93

Active Duty: 812
Total Reserve: 188

White: 699 (71.4%)
Black: 120 (12.3%)
Hispanic: 114 (11.6%)
Other: 46 (4.7%)

Male: 977 (97.7%)
Female: 23 (2.3%)

Active Duty Home Stations (top 10):
Camp Pendleton, CA: 105
Fort Hood, TX: 86
Fort Campbell, KY: 77
Fort Bragg, NC: 58
Fort Carson, CO: 44
Fort Stewart, GA: 42
Camp Lejeune, NC: 40
Fort Riley, KS: 38
Twentynine Palms, CA: 34
Fort Lewis, WA: 25

  • Almost half of the first 1,000 to die have been either E-3s or E-4s.  Almost half of the 1,000 were younger than 24.
  • Nearly three-fourths of the deaths have been Army.
  • Two-thirds of the deaths have been caused by enemy action or devices.
  • Reserves/Guardsman makes up 18 percent of the deaths.
  • More than 70 percent of those who have died were white. Despite fears that an all-volunteer force would end up putting minorities at greater risk than whites, the military death toll is distributed proportionately among America’s racial and ethnic groups.

Just a couple of words about Sandy Berger:
Mickey writes

The core of the Berger scandal--was he guilty of a crime and should he be charged?--may not ultimately be that interesting. But there are second-order ramifications.  Josh Marshall, Roger "el" Simon and The Note all point up one--if Berger has known for months that he was being investigated, why did he hang around as a Kerry adviser and expose his candidate to potential embarrassment? ... And if, as I suspect, Berger took the various drafts home simply because it's a lot easier to pore over them at home rather than at the National Archives, that may be understandable and ultimately excusable. But it would also mean Berger has tied himself up in ...er, veracity problems by saying he only took the documents "inadvertently." ... P.S.: The WSJ ed board has called for the "release [of] all the drafts of the review Mr. Berger took from the room." But wait a minute. The reason it was wrong for Berger to take the "review" documents is that they contained sensitive, classified information. If the drafts can now be actually released publicly without damaging national security, then why was it so terrible for Berger to take them home? The WSJ is making Berger's case for him.

I guess I am wondering some of the same things, but I am also amazed at just how cavalier the Wall Street Journal editors—and so many conservatives—have become when it comes to protecting the national security of the United States.  First they’re in favor of revealing the names of CIA agents and blowing millions of dollars of investments, while also endangering lives a la Robert Novak and now they want to reveal classified documents to make a point about something that clearly threatens nothing and no one—no matter how silly it may have been.

Because the details of this case remain so confusing and by and large, unknown, I think anyone who draws any significant conclusions about “what it means” is clearly a partisan hack interested not in truth but in propaganda.  The nasty e-mail I’ve received for not devoting myself to it betrays a Stalinist heart of darkness in the minds of people who think they can dictate the subject matter of what, after all, is just a Weblog, not a daily newspaper, hello.

Bad news from National Coalition for History:

On 15 July 2004, the House Appropriations subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury, and Independent Agencies advanced to the full Appropriations Committee its recommendations for NARA.  Though exact numbers are embargoed until the full committee meets next Thursday, Hill insiders report that overall funding for NARA is not bad except for the NHPRC. Reportedly, the subcommittee has endorsed the Bush administration's recommendation of only $3 million for the NHPRC.  This represents a 70% cut over last fiscal years allocation, which for the first time reached its fully authorized limit of $10 million.

While the subcommittee could not find the funds to enable the NHPRC to operate even at minimum levels, the NCH has learned that House appropriators are prepared to respond favorably to a request for $750,000 by lobbyists representing the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Birthplace to provide governmental funding for planning and design of a new 25,000 square foot archive facility to house the Nixon papers in Yorba Linda, California. Such an earmark for a presidential library is without precedent.  It violates the spirit if not the letter of the law that requires presidential libraries to be entirely planned and constructed with private funds prior to being donated to NARA.  History and archive advocates vowed to defeat the earmark and work for higher numbers for the NHPRC.

And there's no good news for the "Teaching American History" (TAH) grant initiative either.  On 14 July 2004 the House full Appropriations Committee passed its version of the FY 2005 funding bill for the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education departments.  On 8 July the House appropriations subcommittee of jurisdiction recommended a $2 billion (2 percent) increase for the Department of Education for a total recommended budget of $142.526 billion.  The subcommittee's mark included funding of $261.743 for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) (an increase of nearly $33 million over last year).  Some 24 programs, however, were zeroed out completely, including the popular TAH initiative. On 14 July the full House Appropriations Committee endorsed the subcommittee's funding levels and passed the measure by voice vote.

A new study of network TV election coverage over the first half of 2004 reveals a dimming spotlight for Democratic candidate John Kerry.  Meanwhile, the Bush campaign has made impressive strides in placing their own candidate before the cameras.  More here.

More bad news from the Sudan.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Tom
Hometown: Northern California

Eric,
I found this story from an Army doctor in Germany. 

"We receive an average of three planeloads a week of U.S. patients from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That's 60 to 100 patients per load, with problems ranging from simple infections and kidney stones, to multitrauma injuries from bomb and mortar blasts."

"The intensive-care unit and surgical floors are full of young soldiers.  Seeing a newly amputated teenager or blind-for-life youngster is very sobering."

"The whole Iraq thing has certainly polarized our nation, but the news you hear every day doesn't even come close to scratching the surface on how rough things are in Iraq from what the soldiers tell me and from what I see."

What liberal media?

Name: paul corrigan
Hometown: lexington, ma

Eric -
The commission will publish its report on 9/11 today.  Would you please remind your readers of the history of the 9/11 investigation. 

  1. Unsupported by the Bush administration, acceptance of the investigation was forced by grieving family members of individuals that lost their lives to the horror of 9/11.

  2. Bush, in an attempt to sandbag the process, names Henry Kissinger to lead the commission. 

  3. Family members counter the Bush administration's attempts to sandbag by pushing for disclosures from Kissinger on his clients that leads to his resignation.

  4. The Bush administration plays politics with the commission's deadlines, before giving in to the committee's request for more time.

  5. The Bush administration claims Executive Privilege in an attempt to keep Rice, Cheney and Bush from testifying.

  6. The administration gives in to public pressure and allows Rice to testify under oath.  Rice's testimony leads to the most memorable soundbite of the hearings: Bush had been given a report on August 6, 2001, entitled, "Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside The United Sates."

  7. Rice's public statement that no one ever imagined terrorists using planes as weapons is contradicted by Louis Freeh's testimony that the use of planes as a potential weapon for a terrorist attack was known.

  8. The administration gives in to public pressure and allows Bush and Cheney to meet with the commission privately.  Bush becomes the target of late night talk show barbs for needing to have Cheney with him when he testifies.

  9. Bush and Cheney, in the face of evidence to the contrary, continue to spin that intelligence warnings indicated al-Qaeda attacks would be overseas and not here in the U.S.

  10. Bush accepts George Tenant's resignation.

  11. Despite an Interim Report from the commission that states no evidence was found linking Iraq to the 9/11 attacks, Cheney continues to publicly link al-Qaeda and Iraq. 

  12. The commission rebukes Cheney's public comments that he probably had more facts than the commission on the al-Qaeda links to Iraq by offering Cheney an opportunity to provide them with that information Cheney provides no such information.

  13. Early reports indicate that the commission will tie Iran to al-Qaeda.  Iran had much to gain from the removal of Saddam and his secular government.

Name:  Barry Ritholtz
Hometown: The Big Picture
Hey Doc,
We've discussed the Cuban American vote in Florida several times  in the past. The most recent polling data reveals a potentially very significant swing in this key GOP voting bloc in November. As of today, my analysis has Kerry ahead by almost 60,000 votes.

Here are the details:

Cuban Voters in Florida revisited

As we have mentioned several times previously, Cuban American voters in Florida continues to be a potential problem for President Bush in the upcoming election.

Not in the sense that incumbent won’t garner a majority of Cuban votes cast in Florida; He is presently polling somewhere between 60-65% of Floridian Cuban Americans. But compare those number with the 82% of this voting bloc Bush won in the 2000 election.

A near 20% drop in support in a demographic representing 400,000 voters in a crucial state represents a swing of potentially 80,000 votes.  That’s quite significant in a state the President won last time around by a mere 537 votes.

Why the sudden shift? I see two major reasons: First, years of GOP anti-Castro rhetoric have had an unintended impact in light of Iraq:  When compared with U.S. foreign policy reality, Cuba has been mostly a non-issue for this administration -- an after thought at best. One can easily understand why Cuban-Americans would be looking at the situation in the Middle-East, and then considering the problems with the one dictator in North America. They must be thinking: " Hey, wait just a second -- If we can spend treasure and blood invading Iraq, under what looks increasingly like false pretenses, then why cannot we invade Cuba and overthrow Castro? "

Suddenly, years of anti-Castro rhetoric looks like exactly what it was:  just so much pandering chatter. There is a communist dictator a mere 90 miles away from our coast, one who was willing to harbor nukes as a threat against the United States; A dictator who tortures and executes dissidents seemingly at random, and oppresses all of the people under his charge. One who's grip on power has been all encompassing for decades.  What's to stop Castro from harboring anti-U.S. terrorists? Why not Cuba as a jumping off point for assaults?

Many in Florida's Cuban community must looks at Iraq, and say to themselves, "Why Hussein and why not Castro? WTF?"

Secondly, the Bush Administration has implemented a “ controversial new restriction on travel to Cuba ” that particularly impact Cuban Americans in South Florida. While the goal may be laudable -- choking off the flow of funds to Castro’s regime -- the result is limiting contact and support between Cuban Americans living here, and their family back on the communist island. That's simply untenable to many newer Cuban refugees here.

That sentiment is reflected in a new poll in South Florida: It shows that there is great discontent among many Cuban Americans about restrictive new travel policies toward Cuba. The Associated Press explains why this new restriction is so rankling to this key voting bloc:

Democrats criticizing the Bush administration's new travel restrictions to Cuba suggested Thursday that it could help presidential candidate John Kerry peel away some Cuban-American voters traditionally loyal to Republicans.

The new rules that began Wednesday are part of the administration's attempt to undercut Cuban President Fidel Castro. The restrictions have generated criticism from some Cuban-Americans, including a group that was unable to catch an expected flight Tuesday at Miami International Airport.

Kerry called it a "cynical, election-year policy'' that would "harm Cuban-Americans with families on the island while doing nothing to hasten the end of the Castro regime.''

U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, said it represented a hard-right turn by the Bush administration, arguing the Massachusetts senator could offer an alternative to the heavily Republican Cuban-American community.
...
The new travel rules bar Cuban-Americans from visiting family on the island nation more than once every three years instead of once a year.  They also limit visits to 14 days and daily spending to $50 per person.  Before, there were no limits on visit length, and people could spend $167 a day.

Miami television newscasts showed images Tuesday of dozens of Cuban-Americans chanting "We want to fly!'' after they were turned away from flights to visit their families as the deadline approached. The charter they had expected to fly on went to Havana empty to pick up Cuban-Americans returning to Miami.


More polling data: Age makes all the difference:  Indeed, the Miami Herald reported that,

Democrat John Kerry enjoys a commanding lead over President Bush among Cuban Americans born in the United States and a decided edge among Cubans who arrived in the country after 1980, according to a new poll of Miami-Dade Hispanics that reveals deep divisions within a community traditionally viewed as staunchly Republican.

The poll, commissioned by a Democratic group that is targeting Hispanic voters, shows Kerry with a 58-32 percent advantage among Cubans born in the United States, suggesting that the Massachusetts senator has an opportunity to siphon potentially critical support from Bush.

Indeed, “Bush crushes Kerry among the largest -- and perhaps most politically active and vocal -- group of Cuban-American voters: those who arrived before the 1980 Mariel boatlift [89 to 8 percent].”

The Herald notes that “Among all Cuban-American voters, Bush leads Kerry 69 to 21 percent, with 10 percent undecided -- a massive lead, but a decline from 2000 when more than eight of 10 Cuban Americans helped Bush narrowly defeat Al Gore in Florida and win the White House.”

Interestingly, HispanicBusiness.com ran the same article as the Herald, only they used this headline: CUBAN AMERICANS: Support for Kerry Growing. That represents a subtle but important shift in the way Florida's Hispanic press looks at the coming horse race.

If anger with Bush keeps some of his base of support at home on Election Day, that could be quite significant for Kerry. Unlike last time, there isn't an "Elián González issue" to turn out Cuban voters in droves.  In 2000, Florida's Cuban-American community were intent on" avenging the Clinton administration's handling of the Elián González case, the shipwrecked boy at the center of an international custody battle." This time, indifference may keep many of the more moderate Cuban GOP supporters at home.

I suspect that its Florida, and specifically its Cuban American voting bloc -- and not Michigan and Ohio, as so many other analysts believe -- which may be the key to the 2004 election.

Name: Chris Breisch
Hometown: Indianapolis, IN

Eric,
Bill O'Reilly has issued this challenge:

'I am issuing this challenge directly to "The New York Times."  I will debate any "Times" editor or columnist on the Charlie Rose PBS program.  I talked with Mr. Rose this morning.  He's happy to moderate such an event.'

Well, how about it, Eric?  Will you or anyone else at the Times have the guts to respond?  Will you even have the guts to post this message?

Eric replies:  Sure, Chris, be happy to.  Just clear it with Bill Keller, first, though.  I’m not sure he knows I work for the Times.

July 21, 2004 | 11:43 AM ET

Illegal Contributions to the Nader campaign?  Today’s Nader/Traitor item, care of the Center for Public Integrity examines the hidden power of the Koch brothers, the billionaires who launched the corporate front group Citizens for a Sound Economy, and its role in financing the second Republican presidential candidate, Ralph Nader. 

CSE has found itself in hot water in recent weeks over charges it has been working illegally to get consumer activist Ralph Nader on the presidential ballot in Oregon.  On June 30, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that groups, including Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Bush/Cheney campaign and the Nader campaign, had violated federal campaign laws through the use of prohibited in-kind contributions.  In its complaint, CREW said CSE directed employees to call members, using prepared scripts, to encourage them to sign a petition that allowed Ralph Nader to put his name on the November ballot in the presidential election.
...
Since CSE is a corporation, it is prohibited from making contributions to federal campaigns, CREW said in its complaint. The costs of creating the scripts as well as the costs of the telephone calls constitute prohibited in-kind contributions.

History Corner: U.S. Cooperation with the Nazis; more evidence declassified.

In May, hundreds of thousands of pages of FBI, CIA, and other intelligence records related to Nazi and World War II war crimes were declassified under the Nazi War Crime Disclosure Act of
1998 by the National Archives and Records Administration.  The latest installment includes 240,000 pages of FBI records, 419 CIA files on individuals, and 3,000 pages of U.S. Army information.  The records demonstrate how U.S. banks and financial institutions assisted the Nazis from 1936-41.  Along with the declassified materials, NARA has also released a book entitled "U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis" that provides hard documentary evidence of what Cold War historians have long contended -- that there were close collaborative relationships established between U.S. government officials and Nazi intelligence officers who were thought to be useful in the struggle against the Soviet Union in the post-war era.  For instance, at
least five close associates of Adolf Eichmann became CIA agents in the post-war era, and another 23 war criminals were approached by the CIA for recruitment.   (To order National Archives Trust Fund, ISBN 1-880875-26-8; $24.95; to order call toll-free 866-272-6272)

I don’t plug The Believer nearly often enough.  Here’s a fine article about the MLA.

(And I’ve not written anything about Sandy Berger in part because I can’t make any sense out of this story, and in part because I work closely with his daughter.  I don’t think the world is suffering for the absence of my comments.)

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Peter M. Gates
Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.

The following is from Adam Nagourney and Richard Stevenson's article "Bush Campaign Plans No Rest In Next Month" in today's NY Times (7/21/04):

"Mr. Bush has other factors potentially in his favor, several Republicans said. .... In Iraq, the transfer of sovereignty has led to some reduction in American casualties."

The fact is that more Americans have been killed in this month in Iraq than in the whole month of June when "sovereignty" was turned over to the Iraqis on the 28th.  Are Nagourney and Stevenson being sloppy or are they cutting Caligula more slack than he deserves?

Name: Alana Newhouse
Hometown: Arts & Culture Editor, The Forward


"And the Forward had a terrific special section on him a few weeks ago, but I couldn’t find it online."

All you had to do was ask.  Scroll down and you'll find the singer section.

Name: Barry Ritholtz
Hometown:
The Big Picture
Hey Doc,
You've made mention in the past of some of the political activities of radio giant Clear Channel Communications and their contributions to the GOP.  But did you see the recent announcement that they are cutting back their commercials to 15 minutes per hour?  While the PR spin was that this is a net positive, the move masks a much bigger problem in Radio:  their own slow bleed.

I know you are music fan, and if you are anything like me, you have been long lamenting the pathetic state of music on the radio.  Well, the relentless dumbing down of musical offerings via Clear Channel is finally starting to have some unintended consequences:  Listeners are abandoning radio in droves.  Here the 411:

Radio's Wounded Business Model

Listen to music on the radio much lately?

If you answered “no,” you’re in good company. Americans are listening to broadcasts -- especially of music --  much less frequently then they used to.

And with good reason, too: Stations which were once a way to discover new music have become bland sources of uniform playlists.  At present, the heavy emphasis (or over-emphasis) is on hip hop.  This comes after a long dalliance with insipid boy bands.

Listeners left in droves.

So it was with no small amount of amusement that we heard Monday that radio giant Clear Channel (CCU) was announcing they were cutting back the amount of ad time they would sell on the radio each hour, to a mere 15 minutes per hour, starting January 1, 2005.

The "spin" was that the largest radio player in the U.S. would be able to use this "enforced scarcity" to raise the value of each spot.

The reality was -- ahem -- somewhat different.

Madness to the Method Man:  Lost in this charming PR hype was a simple fact -- Clear Channel’s fastest growth is behind it.  When they were early in the process of consolidating and homogenizing U.S. radio, they had a huge growth curve ahead of them.  At an earlier point in their growth cycle, Clear Channel was able to wring out massive cost savings as they consolidated their network. That phase is now over.

This efficiency, cost cutting, and uniformity came at a new cost: Clear Channel wracked up big margins with their streamlined McMusic programming, but they ended up driving away listeners.

Consider the state of radio before Clear Channel was given the green light by Congress to consolidate: There were many hundreds of local radio stations -- which required 100's of station managers, 100's of musical programmers, and many 100's of DJs.  Across the U.S., you could hear music with a more local flavor.  In cities, as you scrolled across the radio dial, you could hear a broad variety of songs, bands and musical genres.  Even the same radio format -- classic rock, alternative, pop, etc. -- there were diverse playlists within each genre.

It may not have been "personalized" just for you, but the diversity of musical sources meant that there was likely something on the dial you wanted to listen to.  No matter how obscure your musical tastes were, odds favored that there was at least one station worthy of being put into your car radio's presets.

Clear Channel replaced most of this unique programming with a handful of their own "talent." Depending upon the format the mega-station decided upon, they could simply plug in an existing show from their roster.

While this approach made them more efficient short term, it also fundamentally changed the relationship between listeners and their radio. These far away programmers -- and their greatly reduced  playlists -- ultimately equaled fewer fans.

Clearchannel didn't only hurt radio -- they drew first blood from the recording industry also.  Music fans only buy what they hear; Less music on the radio meant decreasing purchases of CDs.  I'm convinced that the ever shrinking national radio playlist caused by radio consolidation is one of the key factors in the declining CD sales nationwide.

Filling the void: The market abhors a vacuum, and in my opinion, a combination of 4 alternatives stepped into the void created by lack of radio diversity:

  1. Internet;
  2. Satellite Radio;
  3. iPods;
  4. P2P

I personally listen via Internet to Mark Harris on BBC 6 at home all the time.  His show is the sort of animal I used to hear on NY radio 20 years ago.  And I don't mean oldies or classic rock -- I mean a new interesting mix of new music (Supergrass, Hoobestank, Stewboss, Maroon 5, Jet). That option simply doesn't exist for me on local radio anymore. The closest I can come is WFUV (90.7), Fordham University's campus station.

Satellite Radio -- and to a smaller degree, digital music from Satellite Dishes at home -- offer consumers a broad variety of musical genres for personalized consumption.  (I get a channel of all Hawaiian music in my Dish at home; All Hawaiian music, for crying out loud!)  I haven't looked into satellite radio for myself -- yet -- but I am considering it for our next car.

iPods are a different animal entirely.  Podders put 1,000 or more of their favorite CDs on their iPod, set it to shuffle play, and enjoy.  It's as if a radio station knows their exact taste, and randomly plays all of their favorite songs.  I jack in my iPod in the car -- or pop a mixed CD I burned -- and that's my radio substitute.

If we are becoming, as Newsweek declared in an article this week, an iPod Nation, will anyone ever listen to the radio again?

Well, maybe. I used to listen to the radio to find new music.  But Radio has abdicated that role; introducing listeners to new bands, songs and albums has long since been abandoned by the medium.  It was considered too risky to possibly send a listener down the dial.  Instead, listeners were sent away from radio wholesale.

And that place has been the P2P networks.

P2P is the new radio.  Not only can you find a wealth of new tunes on any of the P2P networks, you can see how popular or well liked any particular song is: Check out a given artist -- lately, I've been listening to Jamie Cullen's cover of Radiohead's High and Dry -- and you can get a sense of their perceived musical popularity by how many MP3 copies of any given song there are.

Check out a few songs, like 'em, order the CD.  Hey, wait a minute, wasn't that what we used to do with broadcast radio --back in the old days?

That process used to be the exclusive purview of radio.  MTV took some of it away for a brief while, before becoming a full time reality TV format.

Now, that's the domain of P2P.

The great irony of this is that the ever shrinking playlists are what first impacted music sales -- consumers don't buy music that they have never heard -- or heard of.  Now that the Clear Channels of the world have mortally wounded that industry, their methods have finally come home to roost against themselves.

The long slow decline of broadcast radio -- at least in terms of music -- has now entered its final, terminal phase.  The old boy may hang on for many years before finally succumbing, but alas, it is inevitable.

Broadcast music on the Radio is dying.  It's only a matter of time before Radio itself will be dead.

July 20, 2004 | 12:02 PM ET

How about this as a campaign slogan:We rip off undergraduate papers and use their quotes out of context in order to pander to Cuban-Americans.”  And while we’ve been talking about The Note, which provided the original link to this story, it’s both interesting and significant that they did not bother to point out that the Bush administration was deliberately distorting the truth.  Like, how lame is it to worry about a silly thing like truth? 

Remember how Michael Kinsley put it, long before Iraq,

Bush II administration lies are often so laughably obvious that you wonder why they bother.  Until you realize: They haven't bothered.  If telling the truth was less bother, they'd try that too.  The characteristic Bush II form of dishonesty is to construct an alternative reality on some topic and to regard anyone who objects to it as a sniveling dweeb obsessed with "nuance," which the president of this class, I mean of the United States, has more important things to do than worry about.

And I suppose it’s just a coincidence that I got what looks very much like a virus from The Note’s Mark Halperin a couple days after that REM/B-52s thing.  (Really, Mark’s above that kind of thing, even with his soft-spot for Bernie Goldbergism.)

The not-so-liberal New Republic comes through nicely here with two well-reasoned, well-supported critiques of the Bush Administration that do not rely on the ideology of the reader to make a convincing case. Part I is by Franklin Foer and part II is by Jonathan Chait. Read ‘em and weep.

Meanwhile, why does Dick Cheney hate America? 

And why does the SCLM continue to play ball with GOP dirty trickster like David "Whitewater" Bossie?

Oh, this is great news in this Patriot Act age:  Your Republican neighbors are being asked to inform on you.

And speaking of Republicans, you thought maybe I forgot the Nader/Traitor Quote of the Day?  Not a chance.

"What we saw in Michigan yesterday is that Ralph Nader is indeed willing to sell his very integrity and soul to the extreme right-wing and the Bush White House, said Chris Kofinis, strategist for TheNaderFactor.com, "What is so amazing is that Nader would work with the same Republicans that have tried to destroy every progressive cause he has ever stood for. This is a tragic moment in the legacy of Nader and sad day for those who once respected what Nader stood for."
--Here.

Alter review I
Best TV show I’ve seen in a long time:  “The Entourage,” this week, HBO. 
Best line"  "And why would I care?" or something like that…

Worst TV show I’ve seen in a long time, “Six Feet Under,” this week, HBO.
(There’s enough gratuitous sadism in life without rubbing our noses in it, in a show that is supposed to be about its smart, sophisticated writing.)

Alter-Review II: I.B. Singer, Library of America, Three volumes.
I was doing a bit of research on I. B Singer to try to find something new to say in light of the beautiful three volume Library of America collection of his work—the first non-English writer to be so honored and I came across this in what turned out to be his last interview, given to Norman Green, on a winter Friday in 1987:

I would say that I believe in free will and I believe at the same time in destiny.  It seems to be a contradiction but it is not a contradiction.  In other words, all our passions and everything were not created just by us.  They have been created by higher powers.  At the same time we are given some choices to make; we have to make these choices between good and evil.  If not, we could not exist.

I eventually gave up trying to think of something pithy and wise to say about Singer’s incredible oeuvre.  As Jonathan Rosen pointed out in The New Yorker, he is impossible to categorize. 

Singer’s postwar fiction defies easy summary.  For one thing, there is an astonishing amount of it—nearly a dozen novels and as many collections of short stories—often of wildly varying quality.  The short stories exhibit a greater range of styles—elegiac, demonic, journalistic, personal, phantasmagoric.  He was a master of the genre, and his stories, at their best, seem to hover in unresolved ambiguity.  The novels, though they embrace more of life, and perhaps more of Singer himself, often fall into a certain schematic pattern.  In many, a prodigal yeshiva boy, hungering for one or more women, and for an unattainable freedom, feels the call of his past, which he tries to obliterate with increasingly reckless behavior.

Amen to that.

Of course I recommend you start with the books, but while you’re waiting to go pick them up (or for the UPS guy to arrive) check out the Web site dedicated to Singer’s centennial celebration this year.  It’s here.  And the Forward had a terrific special section on him a few weeks ago, but I couldn’t find it online.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Don Pelton
Hometown: Palo Alto, CA
Thank you for all the pointers to good articles on Nader.  You are -- and have been -- so right about him.

To my everlasting shame, regret and embarrassment, I voted for him in California in 2000 (but would not have if I had lived in a close state ... that's my pathetic mitigating plea).

I was so naive, a strange realization at age 63.  OK, so I'm still learning.  Bush has made me pay better attention.

Now I'm convinced that Nader has been deliberately deceiving his own supporters (with his absurd claim that he'll cost Bush more votes).

What madness!  Thanks for helping me get over it.

Name: Tom Beck
Hometown: Princeton, NJ

As an American Jew who is strongly pro-Israel, I agree that not all criticism of Israel is necessarily anti-Semitic. (Although surely some of it, at least, is.)

I'm perfectly willing to call upon Israel to desist from aggressive operations in the occupied territories that impinge upon Palestinian daily life and which may make it difficult to establish a viable Palestinian state.

Where are the pro-Arab and pro-Palestinian voices that will equally call upon their side to, once and for all, without any qualifiers or disclaimers, make an absolute commitment to a safe and secure Israel (with whatever borders may be negotiated) - AND denounce and disavow any and all violence against Israel and offer to protect Israelis from that violence?  Yes, American policy may tilt toward Israel too strongly, and yes, we back Israel and not the Palestinians, and therefore have some responsibility toward and more influence over Israel than we do over the Palestinians.  And yes, more Palestinians have died than Israelis.  But to say that Israel is more powerful than the Palestinians ignores Israeli perceptions (they don't see a few million Palestinians - they see 100 million implacably hostile Arabs).  When the Israeli Army undertakes operations, they don't intend to kill civilians.  When a suicide bomber walks into a pizza parlor, he most certainly has absolutely no other intention than murdering as many civilians as he can.  Intent does matter.

I believe the Palestinians are most to blame for their own predicament - they and the Arab leaders who prefer to maintain them as a client living in squalor.  That does not absolve Israel of its responsibility.  But to call upon American Jews to put pressure on Israel without calling upon supporters of the Palestinians to put equal pressure on their side is, once again, a double standard.

Name: John S Lucas
Hometown: El Cerrito, Ca

Eric,
A few of us old fart Vietnam veterans get together and talk politics every so often. We have a question for you.  We simply cannot figure it out.  How does the President get away with using political pull to get into the National Guard and out of the draft?  We feel the President owes every boy that got drafted, went to Vietnam and did not have the political pull that he did to get out of going an explanation for his behavior.  He owes loved ones that lost their son or dad or husband who was drafted in that war and lost his life.  He owes every draftee that was wounded and disabled from that war.  It is beyond us how this cannot be an issue in this election.  Ben Barnes admitted under oath that he got the President into the guard ahead of 150 others.  That this is not out in the open is an insult to all that served and did not have the option of political pull.  We are really angry about this.  We would like you to tell why this is not important.  What do you think we felt when this guy said "Bring it on"?  Thanks.

Name: Mike Nolan
Hometown: Frankfort, KY

Either the NYTimes or Time magazine has made a serious error on the Iran/al Qaeda story.  The NYT article contains the following:

Most alarmingly, they said, the commission recently obtained intelligence showing that Iran had allowed as many as 10 of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks to pass through border stations in late 1990 and early 1991 without having their passports stamped, making it easier for them to enter the United States without raising suspicions.

Time Magazine dates the failure to stamp passports in 2000 and 2001.

Quite a significant difference.

Is the Bush Administration starting to prepare us for the next war?

Name: Bob Dodds
Hometown: Bethesda, MD
Doc....
I attended the memorial service for Vic Reuther last night.  It was a mostly happy and upbeat time.  Joe Glaser was there and even sang a somewhat Sousa-like rendition of Solidarity Forever.  As I talked with many of the older folk I was struck by their faith in their ideals.  All the cynicism of the last 4 decades had done little to diminish their desire to engage in direct debate with anyone.  These were mostly people in their 80's and they were no more afraid to engage than they were in 1937 facing the Michigan National Guard and the thugs of GM.  Though they have all debated among themselves for decades, they would all agree on the value of every human being, and that greed, was not so good.

July 19, 2004 | 11:32 AM ET

One Honest Adviser: An Imaginary Playlet:

Date: September 12, 2001
Scene: The Oval Office.
Characters: President George W. Bush and an Imaginary Honest Adviser.

George Bush: Boy, that was scary.  Let’s invade someone.
Imaginary Honest Adviser: Yes, sir, but who?
GB: Well, who did it?
IHA: We’re not certain, sir, but we think it was Al Qaida.
GB: They couldn’t have done it alone.  Who helped them?
IHA: Well sir, most of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and the regime there has been a big help. They received extensive help from over the years from the Pakistan military and security services.  Oh, and it turns out that the Iranians have been helping as well.
GB: Hmm, any of those regimes planning on gong nuclear anytime soon?  That would really be scary.
IHA: Sir, that would be Iran and Pakistan.
GB: Any of ‘em democracies?
IHA: Nope.
GB: OK, Let me get this straight.  The Saudis are anti-democratic and help the terrorists who attacked us.  The Iranians and the Pakistanis are anti-democratic, help the terrorists who attacked us, and have either acquired or are about to acquire nuclear weapons.
IHA: Yes sir.
GB: Great. Let’s invade Iraq.

The End.

For more on the Iran/Al-Qaida connection, go here.

I realize it makes me an anti-Semite to point this out, but the Forward notes that “cooperation between Israel and the United States helped produce a series of intelligence failures in the lead up to the Iraq.”

And I realize it means I am joining those who hate America and wish Saddam were back in power to point this out, but “Downing Street has admitted to The Observer that repeated claims by Tony Blair that '400,000 bodies had been found in Iraqi mass graves' is untrue, and only about 5,000 corpses have so far been uncovered.”  More here.

Ralph is a Republican, Part XVIII:  I got a lot of hate mail from Nation readers for calling Ralph Nader a “Republican stooge” in my column on Friday.  How would you describe this

Oh and Gene Lyons and I were on the same proverbial page that day.

Quote of the Day, "The President and the PM of Canada meet today and will make remarks at midday.  Take the remarks, even if Jacko is singing on top of a truck with no pants on at the time."
-Fox News Honcho, John Moody, on Wonkette.com

Stories we are still waiting for confirmation:

1) U.S. troops sexually abused children in front of their parents at Abu Ghraib.  (Sy Hersh)  A reader points out that what the public has seen of the Taguba Report is little more than a 50 page summary, while in fact there are over 6000 pages in the report, which include statements and interviews by numerous witnesses.

Among that evidence is testimony that backs up Seymour Hersh's assertions.  See these actual copies of documents from the Taguba report, which are on the Washington Post Web site.  They appear to document exactly the kind of sexual abuse to minors that Hersh saw.  See this and this.

2) Allawi is a murderer.  According to a report in the Sidney Morning Herald,

Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings. 

They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in the city's south-western suburbs.

They say Dr Allawi told onlookers the victims had each killed as many as 50 Iraqis and they "deserved worse than death".

The Prime Minister's office has denied the entirety of the witness accounts in a written statement to the Herald, saying Dr Allawi had never visited the centre and he did not carry a gun.

But the informants told the Herald that Dr Allawi shot each young man in the head as about a dozen Iraqi policemen and four Americans from the Prime Minister's personal security team watched in stunned silence.

Alter-review I:
Making an explicitly political record is a risky business for many reasons simultaneously.  In the first place, they rarely succeed artistically.  For every “London Calling” well, it’s hard to think of many other records offhand…  Anyway, I’ve always been a big Steve Earle fan.  I was asked to blurb a book about him a while back, and I wrote something like, “Together with John Fogerty and Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle’s singing and songwriting connects to a place in the American past that allows him to create timeless music that could have been written yesterday but sounds as if it’s been around a hundred years.”  (I don’t think they used it.)  But I do worry about the effect of his political commitments on his music.  His live album contains far too much talk for my taste and sometimes, so do his concerts.  When I was invited to dinner with him a few months ago, I marveled at how he could possibly have time to write any songs given how much he was trying to do, both politically and artistically.  (At the time, he was acting in the anti-death penalty play, “Exonerated.”)

Anyway, all this is a way of saying that despite my artistic suspicions and decidedly anti-revolutionary tendencies, I’ve been loving Earle’s yet to be released “The Revolution Starts … Now,” which is his most sustained political creation yet.  You’d think that pining to a reggae beat after the president’s national security advisor would hardly be artistically promising.

Sample lyric:

You be the flower and I'll be the bumblebee/Oh she loves me; oops, she loves me not/
People say you're cold, but I think you're hot.

They say you're too uptight, I say you're not/Dance around me spinnin' like a top/Oh, Condi, Condi, don't ever stop.

Neither would screaming obscenities at the FCC, the CIA, and the FBI.  But it is, somehow.  I can’t say if the record will last for the ages but I can say that Earle has sacrificed nothing as a songwriter to give passionate voice to his politics.  (I’m actually ashamed to admit how much I love that song “F**k the FCC.”  It reminds me of being ten and listening to Country Joe and the Fish, but with a much better beat.)  It’s got a terrific Emmylou duet as well.

Alter-review II:
I’ve been looking through Richard Kluger’s updated history of the Brown decision, called Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality, together with Michael J. Klarman’s longer-term history, From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality, trying to think of something useful to say that isn’t contained in this review, but instead I think I’ll stop wasting our time and just recommend it and them.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Sarah Jefferies
Hometown: Copperas Cove TX
Dr. A~
My husband, who until his recent retirement was a First Sergeant in a Division Cavalry unit who got that all-expenses-paid trip to Iraq last year, refuses to forgive those in Congress of either party for their avowal that if they'd known then what they know now....like you said in your "Nation" column today...they wouldn't have authorized the invasion.  Well, whoop-de-doo.

The First Sergeant says that if HE could tell from here that the case for invasion was mostly fabricated, THEY certainly should have been able to tell that from the freakin' Capitol. 

And I guess that pretty much sums up the problem many of us are having with our government right now---nobody will take responsibility for anything, everything is someone else's fault, and if you don't like it, you can go f**k yourself. 

Some country we've got here, huh?

Name: Hope Smith
Hometown: Marshfield, MO
re: your Friday letter from Jerry Calabrese,
I too have been a lifelong coworker and friend of Jews and supporter of Jewish culture, sometimes in circles where my outspokenness on that matter made me a minority of one.  But, like your correspondent today, Sharon has driven a wedge between me and my support of Israel and I fear for my dear Jewish friends and coworkers if a backlash over Israel turns too many Americans against it and, by connection, them.  This is a time when American Jews need to protect themselves from identification with Sharon, not turn to a semi-fascist Bush who will be more so if he wins this November.  If these views make me anti-Semitic, then Jews are in bigger trouble than I fear.

Name: Leila Abu-Saba
Hometown: Oakland, California
To Jerry Calabrese: My Web site has posted twice on the topic "Don't mourn, organize."  I have paid particular attention to American Jewish groups concerned with Israel's policies.  Try these two links:

Here.
and
Here.

Note - I don't vouch for every position point of every organization listed.  You do your own due diligence.

Some of the others Jerry might like:  Brit T'zedek; Jewish Voice for Peace; Jews Against the Occupation; The Tikkun Community, which specifically encourages "non-Jewish allies", and the Middle East Children's Alliance.

The recent article in the Nation by Esther Kaplan about the "Jewish Divide on Israel" was filled with names of likeminded peace organizations.  I prefer to call the so-called "divide" a diversity of opinion.  There is a tidal shift happening in this country, very visible from the West Coast, and it's starting within the Jewish community.  Not all Jews in America equate criticizing Israel with anti-Semitism.  Arabs like myself who care about peace and justice would do well to befriend our courageous cousins taking risks to speak out.

Eric adds: Thanks, and I would add Americans for Peace Now to the above.

Name: Billy Ralph Bierbaum
Hometown: New Braunfels, Texas

Eric,
I was looking at the WaPo's list of White House salaries and noticed that the "director of fact-checking" makes $52,500 a year.  I don't mean to disparage a guy I've never met, but can someone check to see if he's actually shown up for work at any time in the last three and half years?

Name: Ben K.
Hometown: Raleigh

re:REM/B52's -- Curious that The Note, despite having a "corrections" section, failed to mention that they had changed the Web site text from "B52's" to "REM".

Eric replies: Yeah well, everybody hurts.


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