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August 20, 2004 | 12:19 PM ET

Slacker Friday

My “Think Again” column is here.  It borrows from the new Future Dictionary of America.  For more on that, go here.

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Why does the Iraqi soccer team hate America?

Circulation wars, opinion magazines:

The Nation, 165,000.
The Weekly Standard, 69,700.  (Unclear as to whether this includes the 3,700 free copies distributed in Washington.)
The New Republic, 63,500 .

National Review (bi-monthly) 154,800

Nation circ. is up 71 percent since Bush was elected and 24 percent since the war began.  Just think how high it would go they fired Cockburn.  More here.

Good column on the meaninglessness of media mea-culpas

And of course, if Regnery Publishing were credible, it would consider pulling "Unfit for Command" from bookstores and admit to being duped. 

In his column today, MJ Rosenberg writes that by voting to keep Israeli forces in Gaza, the Likud party has presented Al Qaeda with "the gift that will keep on giving."  He also writes that Dennis Ross' book about the peace process is not bad; just skip Ross' conclusion and read his detailed account of how both Barak and Arafat blew it.  Here.

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:
We discussed this in the context of Tucker Carlson a few weeks back but, the more I think about it, the more I become convinced that the Amish have the right idea with this "shunning" business.  It's nonviolent, even sort of civil in its own stern way, but it certainly does bring the point across.  Your actions are so far beyond civilized norms that we, the decent people of the clan, will have nothing more to do with you.  (And the next time you see Tomasky, ask him if I don't mean it.)  I think the concept could be quite useful here in the media biz.  I refer, of course, to our gal Annie's lunatic interview with the British newspaper, but most directly to the performance last night on HARDBALL of Michelle Malkin, a rising young harpy with the face of a stewardess and the analytical skills of a tack hammer, although possessed of considerably less charm.  She was just inches from a clean getaway when she opined that she'd read somewhere that John Kerry's war wounds were self-inflicted.  This, of course, sent Matthews into the ionosphere while Michelle popped her eyeballs.  He cuffed her around pretty well and then my main dude, Olbermann, took a proper whack on his show.

Now, I think this should have been the moment.  You get up there on a national television show and you say without a shred of proof that a decorated war veteran inflicted his own wounds.  (By now, I'm sure she's crawfishing, saying she meant he did it to himself accidentally.  Yeah, whatever.  Go out and buy a new armband or something.)  This doesn't make you "controversial" or "colorful."  This makes you nuts.  This makes you the kind of person that newspapers leave sitting in the foyer in a tinfoil hat, waiting to see an editor who's been ducking your calls for a decade, and listening to the messages from Neptune through the fillings in your teeth.  This makes you the kind of person who staples manifestos to the telephone poles in Central Square.  It ought to disqualify you forever from the company of serious people, and from the society of the decent ones.  And even with that, hell, you can still get a job with Fox.

USA Fencing rocks, by the way.  Big ups to the saber ladies, and good show to the men, who dropped two heartbreaking 45-44's yesterday to finish fourth.  We got robbed against France in the semifinals and then ran into the great Podzhnikov of Russia in the bronze-medal match and, well, let's just say you don't win four world championships from the back of the turnip truck.

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, clowns to the left of Stupid, jokers to the right and here I am stuck in the middle with you. 

If you don't think the genocide in Sudan has anything to do with the war on terror, consider this: while the United Nations can't get more than a handful of "peacekeepers" into Darfur, China has 4,000 troops stationed in Sudan protecting its oil pipeline.  Not coincidentally, China has been the biggest deterrent to the Security Council putting pressure on the Sudanese government.  This is a glimpse of our future: everyone who saw Fahrenheit 9-11 and wants us to draw a line with the Saudis better be prepared when they reply "fine, we have a new client and a new protector -- don't let the door hit you on the way out."  Meanwhile we're acting like economic Neville Chamberlains, letting any transgression pass and failing to prepare for future conflict even though we currently have the superpower upper hand.  The analogy to Chamberlain isn't all that far off: Chinese nationalism has risen to the point it is inspiring anti-Japanese riots at soccer games (I know, lots of history there, but still…)

Speaking of the war on terror, the biggest battle is arguably the floundering of the Administration's "Greater/Broader Middle East Initiative."  (You remember all that talk about reforming Arab democracies and reducing Middle East income disparities?  This was the result.)  Like the Iraq War, it's been a half-baked concept and muddled effort.  The original version received resistance from Europe and many Arab leaders, and in response it was gutted.  But even the watered down version has potential.  Although many Arab leaders and pundits still condemned it as imperialistic (with some ironic truth: local democracy movements came off like an afterthought) there have been a handful of constructive responses.  It also has a way out of my biggest dilemma ("We need to internationalize but the U.N. is amoral.") -- it looks to the G8.  I'd say appoint Richard Lugar to some sort of czarship, but he's too valuable as a rare sane GOP voice in the Senate.

Name: Barry Ritholtz
The Big Picture
Hey Doc:
Jon Stewart takes the Media to school: After the initial Swift Boat ads started running, The Daily Show mercilessly eviscerated the false claims and artifices of this dishonorable (in McCain's words) group of Viet Nam Veterans and hacks.

If big media doesn't catch on to the concept of truth telling soon, they will very rapidly become marginalized...

This link brings you directly to TDS's video.

Name: Siva Vaidhyanathan
This story is pretty comprehensive in its account of the sins of the anti-Kerry hate squad, but it's basically a re-hashing of recent better stories from the Washington Post, L.A. Times, and Boston Globe.

And I can't help wondering why reporters can't just call a lie a lie.  Isn't it clear that these folks are making statements that are directly contradicted by military documentation?

What is the standard for calling a lie a lie?

My local paper is pretty sad these days.  Sigh.

If you need any more evidence of this claim, check out recent lame reports on teen fashion ON THE FRONT PAGE!  Please.

And don't get me started on how horrible the book review section has become in the past few weeks.

And why is Judith Miller still writing for the paper?  How many fraudulent reports does it take to get fired over there?

Name: Kari Chisholm
Last night, right here at BlueOregon, we broke the news of the SEIU fraud and forgery investigation into Nader's petition for the Oregon ballot.  At a press conference this morning, SEIU released more evidence.  The key item: SEIU Local 49 contacted 269 people whose names were on petition sheets - and only 32% report that they actually signed the Nader petitions.  The key quote, from SEIU veep Alice Dale: "This fraud is too pervasive to have been committed without at least the complicity of the signature gatherers."

Update 3 p.m. - Associated Press: Union says Nader's circulators forged signatures

Name: Bob Mangino
Hometown: Seattle

Final Burger notes: Union Square Cafe's tuna burger is fantastic.  Could convert a lot of beefeaters.  Lunch only, as I recall.  The recipe is in the first USC cookbook.

And if you're in Seattle and in search of burgers (we have a LOT more to offer, but sometimes you just gotta), I recommend Red Mill, two little family-run joints that sometimes have 30-minute lines for takeout, that's how good the burgers are.  One is right near the zoo, if you're in town with your daughter.  Many is the day we called in an order from the zoo, made a tactical strike to avoid the lines, zoomed in, picked up, then zoomed home, utterly, utterly satisfied.

Name: Sal
Hometown: NYC

I resisted, and now it may too late, but right in your neck of the woods, Eric, is "YIPPIE YI YO," a Mexican restaurant with, go figure, THE BEST burger in NYC. Amsterdam and 83rd.

Name: Christopher Dazey
Hometown: Portland, OR

Regarding your whole food in New York brouhaha, I think you would be remiss if you did not include vegan/vegetarian cuisine (we are talking about The Left here) such as Red Bamboo (West 4th St. between 6th and MacDougal), Quintessence (East 10th between First and A) or Sacred Chow (Hudson between W 10th and Charles).

August 19, 2004 | 12:38 PM ET

The Foolish Dishonesty of “On-the-One-Handism”
Jake Weisberg does a good idea of slapping down the foolish dishonesty of Will Saletan’s “on-the-one-handism” that the far-right uses so effectively to pollute the political discourse and puts the Swift Boat ad into the context of the right wing slime machine.  Why can’t Saletan and those smart folks at The Note bring themselves to admit that the ads are factually accurate (if not exactly on message for the Kerry campaign, which, by the way, is what the law dictates)?  Given the media’s general unwillingness to police this kind of sleazy tactic—Did John McCain father a black child out of wedlock?  Is Max Cleland a devotee of Osama bin Laden?  Is Matt Drudge a journalist?--the question is will Kerry figure out how to deal with this better than Gore did?  If he doesn’t, Weisberg is right, it could cost him the election. 

The people in the Bush administration are competent in only one thing: smearing their opponents and intimidating the media into passing along their falsehoods unedited.  Now that John McCain, like Colin Powell before him, has sacrificed his leverage together with his reputation for honesty by running interference for this bunch, there will certainly be more—and worse—to come.  The Kerry campaign had better find a way to deal with it for if the past two elections demonstrate anything it all, it’s that this works.

Meanwhile Michael Dobbs of the Washington Post has this:

Newly obtained military records of one of Sen. John F. Kerry's most vocal critics, who has accused the Democratic presidential candidate of lying about his wartime record to win medals, contradict his own version of events.

And the Kerry campaign will have a hard-hitting commercial up today, demanding to know why Bush refuses to distance himself from these lies, as McCain has requested.

"Knowing now what I know about the reliance on the tenuous or insufficiently corroborated intelligence used to conclude that Saddam maintained a substantial WMD (weapons of mass destruction) arsenal, I believe that launching the pre-emptive military action was not
--Why does Republican Nebraska Rep. Doug Bereuter, who serves on both the intel and foreign-policy committees hate America?

David Kay wants to know why Condi Rice let her country down when it needed her.  Why does David Kay hate America?

In this context, now would be a good time to praise the pre-war reporting of the Knight-Ridder newspapers, whose skeptical reporting put the credulousness of its better funded and more prestigious competitors to shame. 

Michael Massing did a good job at holding Len Downie’s feet to the fire here.

Abu Ghraib: The whitewash continues.

Why boxing is like philosophy

Quote of the Day: Maybe that's the problem.”  (And what is so hard about identifying the “major religious holiday,” in question here?  Are Jews that exotic that nobody on the Journal staff can find one to explain which ones fall when?

I sometimes think God invented Ann Coulter to ensure that other countries made no mistake about just what a lunatic political culture we have.  It would be one thing if she were on the street, handing out mimeographs of the messages she receives through the fillings in her teeth where she belongs.  Instead she is celebrated by USA Today, The New York Times, The New York Observer, Time Magazine, and a whole bevy of cable TV talk show hosts… (Speaking of which, hey Mr. Scarborough, are you really going to welch on a lousy 165 bucks? I would expect that kind of thing from O’Reilly, but…)


You can tell true believers in compassionate conservatism are coming to town when soup kitchens are forced to shut down "for security reasons."  The Daily News reports that the Church of St. John the Baptist is a little too close to Madison Square Garden for Republicans' comfort, and so the 500 hardship cases it feeds every week will go without during the staged festivities.  It's one way of guaranteeing no reality is left behind for conventioneers to witness.

Correspondents Corner:

Name: Jim Fiala
Hometown: Racine, Wisconsin
Dear Eric Alterman: Regarding the appalling number of our fellow citizens who are denied the right to vote, perhaps your readers wish to learn more with respect to this issue and about efforts to restore voting rights to the disfranchised.  If so, they should visit Right To Vote: Campaign To End Felony Disfranchisement.

The RTV Web site is an excellent source of information.  As just two examples, users would discover that over 500,000 of our military veterans are denied the vote, while in Florida alone a whopping 827,207 voters are disfranchised.

Right To Vote campaign partners in the drive to restore voting rights include among others the ACLU, Brennan Center For Justice, NAACP, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and People For The American Way Foundation.

By the way, another campaign partner, The Sentencing Project: Research and Advocacy For Reform, also has important information on felony disfranchisement.

The figures cited in paragraph two can be found here and here.

Name: Carol Loranger
Hometown: Kettering, OH
Regarding the grammaticality of using "media" as a collective noun taking a singular verb.  See the usage note (under "medium") in the American Heritage Dictionary: "A strong[] case can be made in defense of the use of media as a collective term, as in 'The media has not shown much interest in covering the issue.' [...] Used as a collective term, media denotes an industry or community."

Sure, the Brits give collective nouns plural verbs, but Americans seldom, if ever, do--unless they're affecting a British mode of speech.  You're an excellent political analyst, but perhaps should draw the line at making rulings on usage.  Thanks to your book "What Liberal Media?" we can all say with conviction, the American media has a conservative bias.

Name: Joe
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Did you know Steve Earle has a blog?

Glad to hear you like the Todd Snider stuff.  He was on MCA Records when I worked there.  You won't meet a nicer, more genuine artist than Todd.  Check out the rest of his catalog.

Name: Tim
Hometown: NYC
You started it: McHale's, at 46th & 8th. Excellent beef (though the quality of the burgers can vary, alas), and they're the size of manhole covers.  Bonus: they do fries right.  Nothing greasy/mushy, nor burnt beyond potato-dom.  All for $7, give or take.  Fine drinking bar, too. Low trendoid factor.

Name: Mike Kenny
Hometown: New York City
The Corner Bistro burger is simultaneously great and overrated.  They are truly amazing after 6 or 7 (or 10) of the 2 dollar drafts at the bar.  I've had and enjoyed many of their burgers, but their damn Wonder bread buns keep disintegrating in my hands every time I have one!  You can do as good or better at a lot of places around town.

Molly's on Third Avenue near 22nd is another great burger.  Big, fresh, perfectly cooked on a large seeded bun.  It's known in burger fan circles but overlooked by the general populace.  The fresh cut fries kick ass. 

Westville, in the West Village, has somehow made it onto the best burger radar, but any burger served on an English muffin(!) is automatically disqualified in my book.  And half of that lame excuse for a bun was burnt black the one and only time I gave it a try. 

Though behemoth, the first burger I had at McHales on Eighth Ave., ordered medium, came out well-done and the waitress was seriously nasty when I pointed it out.  On a second visit it was better, but still too damn big.

Haven't tried the burger at Rare yet, though it's got a buzz around town, so it's on my list.  Del Friscos 'Kobe' burger was tremendous and cooked perfectly medium-rare, texture and taste off the scale terrific.  For 25 bucks it damn well ought to be.  I'm looking forward to trying some more of everyone's favorites.  Paul's will be my next stop.

August 18, 2004 | 11:26 AM ET

Wrong Again
Did you know that the al Qaida attack on Spain had nothing to do with Iraq?  David Fischer pointed out on H-Diplo that Lawrence Wright wrote an excellent article in the August 2 New Yorker at the conclusion of which he wrote,

In June Italian police released a surveillance tape of one of alleged planners of the train bombing, an Egyptian housepainter named Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed who said that the operation 'took me more than two and half years.'  Ahmed had served as an explosives expert in the Egyptian army.  It appears that some kind of attack would have happened even if Spain had not even joined the coalition --- or if the invasion of Iraq had never occurred.

Victor Gavin added that Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, "Muhammad the Egyptian" as he is known, who calls himself the mastermind of March 11 train bombings in Madrid and was arrested in Milan by Italian police on June 7 was recorded in a phone conversation recorded by the police before his arrest, he said 

The Madrid attack was my project, and those who died as martyrs were my dearest friends...
I was ready to blow myself up, but they stopped me, and we obey God's will.  I had wanted a heavy burden, but I didn't find the means.  This plan cost me a lot of study and patience.  It took me two and a half years.

Thus the preparations started at around September 2001.

Isn’t it interesting (but hardly surprising) that everyone who discussed this in the U.S. media got it wrong?

Bush yesterday actually said,

I think those who oppose this ballistic missile system really don't understand the threats of the 21st century.  They're living in the past.  We're living in the future. We're going to do what's necessary to protect this country.

But as David Sirota notes, it is Bush who is living in the past. The administration has fully funded missile defense, despite the fact that the program is unproven and set up to shoot down Cold-War-era weapons in an age where the top threat to America is al Qaeda-style terrorism.  Meanwhile, the administration has actually vetoed efforts to divert a fraction of the missile defense funding into under funded homeland security and nuclear non-proliferation programs.

Why does George Will hate America?

Stop the presses:  NPR announces, “Liberals say media lean right."  The audio file is here.  Gee, NPR’s Morning Edition could have had this story, oh, nineteen months ago if someone had picked up a copy of a certain book on the topic.  (And they would have not used the ungrammatical ”media is” instead of the “media are” construction.  Remember, they’re supposed to be the liberalest of liberal media.  Reels the mind…)

Watch the press play dumb about a Clinton scandal in order to tar John Kerry.

Quote of the Day:  "As frank as I can be," Alabama's GOP chairman said last year, "we're opposed to it because felons don't tend to vote Republican."  More here.

Don’t believe the hype?  Ricky Fante, for free thanks to J&R, which has the best collection of jazz I’ve ever seen in New York. 

And if you are stuck in D.C. in these horrific weeks, Steve Earle will be at the Borders at 1801 L St. NW on Monday at 6 p.m. to perform and sign copies of his terrific new album, "The Revolution Starts...Now."  Earle has also signed on to host an hour-long weekly radio show, which debuts Sunday night at 10 on Air America and can be heard here.

Corresponents’ Corner:

Name: Scott Heiser
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
The L.A. Times lays down a pretty definitive account of the truth of Kerry's military service there.  In case you've not seen it.

Name: Siva Vaidhyanathan

Dear Eric:
I have a confession.  I have been harboring fantasies of an easy Kerry win in November.

Everyone says I am overconfident.  Maybe I am.  But I have been watching more and more states that should be solid Bush (Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nevada) slip into the toss-up category, and none of the usual Dem states are wavering.  Plus, Kerry has a good lead in Florida and Pennsylvania and a slight lead in Ohio.  And he might still make North Carolina close (and lift Erskine Bowles to the Senate seat Edwards is leaving).

Strangely, I have also been having a nightmare: Kerry wins the electoral vote and loses the popular vote, meaning that to be true to my democratic beliefs, I would have to call George W. Bush my legitimate president and Kerry a fraud.

Of course, I would love to see Republicans squeeze out of that moral bind!

I thought I was alone in these fantasies.  Now I see that Paul Waldman of The Gadflyer has been thinking this as well.

It's like when everyone who had been dreaming of that plateau comes together at the end of Close Encounters.

Name: William Schwarz
Hometown: Richmond, VA
The lies used in propaganda about the coming GOP convention even by a socialist writer makes me laugh. The voters of this country will see first hand the idiots and domestic terrorists that will visit NYC and attempt to disrupt the convention.  After all, your hero, the self proclaimed war hero Kerry has now stated he too was and is for the war in Iraq, only "his" way.  Let the games begin and as each liberal terrorist is arrested or detained, I hope that CNN and the rest of the media whoop it up and do what they otherwise would be loath to do, that is to give Bush supporters a reason to kick your ugly asses to the curb and vote for sanity!

Name: Dave Kantor
Hometown: Cleveland, OH

Protesters on one side and the rest of us on the other -- this country needs another civil war to protect from trash like you and your friends at the nation.. I care about voters in Missouri and not about the human trash across this world (or in San Francisco).  Let the war begin -- purify society with violent repudiation of Liberalism and all other forms of social engineering.  Then America can be the great country it should be.

Name: Les Goldstein
Hometown: NYC
Well, now that you've spilled local beans, it'll be a pleasure to see some other Kerry button-wearers around 72nd and Bwy.  Can you explain the la-di-dah attitude about our westside liberal neighbors?  Is it a matter of ruining their 'look'?  Not.

You might also mention what a good deal the Malaysia Grill (87 & Bwy) is.  The mango shrimp with coconut rice is a deal. Second thought, maybe you shouldn't.

Name: Bob Mangino
Hometown: Seattle
Altercation-starter indeed!  I think you are giving short-shrift to the Corner Bistro burgers in the West Village.  I now live in Seattle, but ten years ago, I (a rabid anti-smoker) would venture south from Morningside Heights to brave carcinogenic clouds of misery every once in a while for these burgers.  And other great cheap eats suggestions (not near Central Park, to be sure, but still pretty good though not as cheap as years gone by) should include East 6th Street's cluster of Indian restaurants.

Keep up the fine restaurant reviews.  I drag my wife to Fairway whenever we're in town.

Name: Michael Rapoport
As long as you've opened this particular Pandora's box, let me recommend Sandwich Planet, on Ninth Avenue between 39th and 40th, as a great, inexpensive New York place to eat.  It's a tiny place and the location isn't the greatest, but the sandwiches are marvelous, and the huge selection can't be beat.  (One caution for the anarchists: the place is popular with the cops in the neighborhood.)

Name: John L. Kozempel
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Dude - go south of the Park sometime. The best burger in New York is at Corner Bistro, 4th and Jane, in the Village.

Eric replies: Dude, I lived for a year on St. Marks between first and second, with the ghosts of Auden and Trotsky and lots of drug addicts.  I prefer the burgers at Paul’s on the Second Ave. side of that block, in part because Corner Bistro has become such a cliché among you out-of-towners.  Wrap it up with an egg cream at Gem Spa next door.

August 17, 2004 | 12:15 PM ET

No Chicago ’68, please
As a public service, and to stick to The Man, I am reprinting the article to which I referred yesterday by Todd Gitlin and John Passacantando regarding the upcoming RNC protests from The Nation.  It is only available to subscribers, but a) they are not going to prosecute me, and b) I do think you should subscribe, but in the meantime, read this article.

No Bush, No Chicago '68
by Todd Gitlin and John Passacantando

[from the August 30, 2004 issue]

The war on the other side of the world was launched with high expectations but is now widely seen as a fiasco.  Young Americans are being sacrificed in hostilities whose justification once sounded high-minded but has since decayed into a farrago of political dogmas, lies and distortions.  Americans are sometimes negligent, sometimes brutal toward the people the U.S. government is supposed to be liberating, and the latter want the former to leave.  Support for the war erodes at home, and the President is despised worldwide.

The furies of the war echo in the furies of the anti-war movement.  Despite efforts to sustain a playful mood, rage grows in activists' hearts.  Rage has become a sort of identity looking for outlets, as the Iraq stance of the Democratic nominee for President frustrates anti-war forces.  For months, demonstrators have been making plans to manifest their displeasure during the Republican convention in New York City in late August.

Peaceful demonstrators are squaring off with stiff-necked authorities over the city's refusal to grant permission for the rally they want.  Meanwhile, other demonstrators welcome a chance to provoke mayhem.  Their numbers may be tiny, but the press is primed to amplify the sour notes, acting on its ingrained principle, "If it bleeds, it leads."  Authoritarian forces are ready to chortle at the resulting spectacle and swing public opinion behind them.

For all the differences between the Vietnam of 1968 and the Iraq of 2004, between Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush, aren't the similarities a trifle unnerving?

Red-hot rage may seem in order when the country's values have been trampled upon by a government with a dubious claim to legitimacy.  Yet the theatrics of rage can easily play into Bush's hands.  Righteousness, if not rooted in humility and focused on results--on persuasive power--will offend more than it attracts and fall victim to its own arrogance, as surely as arrogance undercuts Bush.

The power of nonviolence rests in its welcoming spirit, its power to elicit identification and its promise of reconciliation.  Consider the brave young men and women of the civil rights movement, sitting with dignity at lunch counters throughout the South.  In film footage of the time, you can see them attacked by uncivilized whites, who curse them, beat them--and thus reveal themselves as bullies and cowards.  The civilly disobedient cover themselves in self-defense but never raise their hands in anger.  They appeal over their adversaries' heads to the majority who, they believe--they have to believe--will see the justice of their cause.

As thousands of Republicans gather to nominate Bush for re-election, and as many more protesters--perhaps fifty times more--gather to express themselves against the damage Bush is doing, Americans of all stripes will be watching.  Fair-minded people can understand dignified opposition even when they disagree with it.  Rage in the streets is something else altogether.  Protesters who spell "Bush" with a swastika, who smash windows, fight the police or try to block Manhattan commuters might as well stay home and send their contributions to the Republicans.

It is, or ought to be, so obvious that violence and chaos in the streets works to Bush's advantage that not a few oppositionists worry about the Republicans planting their own provocateurs in the protest.  Such a scenario is not farfetched. Provocateurs know some history, too.  They know that disciplined handfuls can start riots amid turmoil.  In 1968 a substantial number of the toughs who surged through the Chicago streets, inciting the police to riot, were later revealed to be police and intelligence agents.  They urged violent actions, pulled down American flags, led taunts and otherwise triggered police attacks.  Afterward, demonstrators exulted, equating their seduction of the cameras with victory.  But most spectators who watched the clashes on TV sided with the police.  Richard Nixon's people knew what use to make of the footage.  They strengthened their hold over the law-and-order vote.

In jittery 2004, swing voters in a country poised on a political knife-edge could again be stampeded to support the incumbent if they equate the opposition with disruption. Although we have no idea how many demonstrators are prepared to act recklessly, recent postings on anti-war Web sites suggest a go-for-broke mood among some: "If we kick their ass in the early part of the week, we're going to inspire people to come out into the streets and join us.... Harassing the s**t out of the GOP delegates is going to create a mosaic of interesting, militant resistance." "We need to destroy the model of what 'normal people' think of protest movements: all that sign-holding, standing around and chanting slogans." "Who gives a f**k about some voter in Missouri?  How about the billions around the world who are f***ing tired of the U.S.A.?"

Everyone shares responsibility to avert a debacle.  The police ought to be scrupulously well-behaved.  The media ought to cover disruptions proportionately.  Viewers must understand that the cameras are drawn to sensational excess.  And the marchers need their own monitors to practice nonviolent discipline and contain any disruptors--who are, de facto, not misguided friends but opponents.

Now, in a precarious time, every force in America is being tested.  The Bush Administration plainly flunks.  The Bloomberg administration has proved its small-mindedness.  But we who oppose Bush face our own tests.  If, as the whole world watches, rioters hijack the protest, the fine intentions of millions will have been canceled by the behavior of a few.  Let dissent with dignity win the day and let us get on with a more perfect chapter of American history.

Professor Dionne gives the Kerry Campaign some good, cheap advice, here.

Today I begin my own personal boycott of any lawfirm associated with Samuel C. Stretton.  Here’s why.

And thanks again Ralph.

And I’ve got a new “Think Again” column here.  It’s about the media’s misplaying of the military strength argument, of course, to the benefit of conservative Republicans. 

Quote of the Day, "He'll be tough, but he'll be tough with someone else's kid's blood.”
--Tom Harkin on Dick Cheney

Jews to Bush: We're not idiots.

And yes, Joe Scarborough has still not reimbursed me for $165 dinner his show promised me in order to appear with some lunatic on a night I didn’t have a babysitter. 

Alter-review: Todd Snider.
I get a lot of CDs sent to me and while I try to listen to them all, it’s awfully hard for someone I’ve never heard of to grab me in the one or two chances they get.  Todd Snider grabbed me right away.  Funny, smart, wry, intelligent, knowing, and musically not bad at all; reminds of another album I love that I don’t know if I mentioned, “Who the Hell is John Eddie?”  Anyway, read about him here.  He’s on that John Prine label, Oh Boy, and I think he’s touring with Prine.  The record is called “East Nashville Skyline.”

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Aaron Headly
Hometown: Ann Arbor

While the L.A. Times Electoral Vote thingy you linked to on Monday was pretty snazzy, I've found the Current Electoral Vote Predictor 2004 to be super informative and easy to load.  I also like the "previous" button; you can watch Red v Blue over time.

Name: Bob Heckler
Hometown: San Carlos

Hey Eric. 
Great idea providing the L.A. Times interactive map to track the Electoral College voting (we all learned they're the real King George makers in 2000, didn't we?).  I've been using it for a while, but my beef with it is that they don't update their polls often enough for my liking.  So I bring up this page and there are all the latest polls for you.  I take the results I trust, move over to the L.A. Times interactive screen and let it do the math for me.  They also have a page for the "non-battleground" states, some of which have become a lot more interesting like NC, CO, AZ, VA.  You know, all the ones that used to be considered "lead pipe cinches" for Bush.

Name: Keith
Hometown: Hattiesburg, MS
Eric -
Greetings from south Mississippi.

"Iko Iko" was a song by New Orleans-based James Crawford recorded by the Dixie Cups using lyrics Crawford learned (perhaps indirectly) from the Mardi Gras Indians.  Many New Orleans songs use the lyrics you describe.  You can find more information about the meaning of the lyrics (they're not completely gibberish) at this Grateful Dead site, among many other places.

Name: Tom Parmenter
Hometown: West Newton, MA

Most of the lyrics to "Iko Iko" are about two groups of musicians/revelers roaming the streets of New Orleans, proceeded by their "spy boys" who keep a keen eye out for the "flag boys" of the other group, whose flags they intend to set on fi-yo (fire, to you).  To be sure, lots of the lyrics are just plain old New Orleans persiflage (hooly molly walla dolla, as Professor Longhair put it), but the name Giacomo (Yockamo) looms large in Big Easy musical legend.  I'm sure Doctor John could explain it all.  The point is, it is not a pure nonsense song.  Of course, the Dead garble the lyrics, but the Dixie Cups don't.

Name: Frank Hightower
Hometown: Boulder

Hi, Eric,
My understanding is that "Iko, Iko" is a Mardi Gras Indian song (This site has some background on them.) and that the closest approximation of what Jokomo Fee-Na-Hey means, which is sort of a Cheney-to-Leahy suggestion, is illustrated by a phrase that shows up in a couple of songs like "Brother John," namely, "If you don't like what the Big Chief say, you can Jokomo Fee-Na-Hey."  Alternatively, Dr. John's 1972 liner notes to "Gumbo" reportedly say that 'Jakomo' means Jester.

Either way, there is meaning here even if it is not clear.

Name: Brian Thomas
Hometown: Portland, Oregon

I've been out on the streets of Portland, Oregon five days of every week registering progressive voters.

Today I met up with Portland's most famous author and anarchist, Ursula K. LeGuin (The Dispossessed, The Left-Hand of Darkness, The Earth-Sea Trilogy, etc.) while she was buying movie tickets at our Fox Towers theatre complex.  I asked her the same question I've asked
thousands of our citizens:

"Do you want George Bush out of the White House?"

Ms. LeGuin flipped her purse around to reveal a Kerry/Edwards button.

"Wow, I'm thrilled to see an anarchist wearing a Kerry button.  All my best anarchist friends are voting for Kerry, but they're not ready to wear buttons."  And then Ursula smiled broadly as she became the first person I have ever heard utter these words:

"Anybody but Nader."

Now, let's get to the real point of this letter.  Whether you like it or not, some of these just mentioned Portland anarchists and assorted other activists (including this liberal) are coming to your town next week.  Don't believe the lies you hear on Fox News.

Although we will not be looking for trouble, we will be looking for Central Park.  Here in Portland, Oregon when we have grievances to redress we gather in our central town square or in one of the central parks that run through our city as Central Park runs through New York City.  Our concerns about war becoming a first choice, not a last resort are central to what we are as a people and so we meet in the center of our city as we will be meeting in the center of yours.  Last Friday, in Portland's Waterfront Park, 50,000 of us met to hear John Kerry.  Only a few score of policemen were on hand to direct traffic and keep the park from overflowing with people.  Another world is possible.

Your colleague at THE NATION, Naomi Klein's article "Ditch the Distraction in Chief" was a big hit with my friends.  However, we missed your buddies Todd Gitlin and John Passacantado's words of wisdom for us protesters as they appeared in the subscribers only portion of THE NATION.  Any words of wisdom or tips on cheap places to eat you wish to send my way will be shared with all the anarchists from Portland who will soon be descending on your city.


Eric replies:  Best and cheapest hot dog, Gray’s Papaya, 72nd and Broadway, Best burger, Big Nick’s at 76th and Broadway (Ostrich, buffalo, etc,) or upstairs at Fairway, 74th and Broadway (just beef).  (I know I’m starting an altercation here, but that’s what I get paid for.)

August 16, 2004 | 10:54 AM ET

Now Wal-Mart is investing in PBS as well.  Well, the Wall Street Journal editors, who have not only defended but celebrated that company’s union-busting, beggar-thy-worker policies, can be certain to give it its money’s worth in right-wing opinion-formation and character-assassination of liberals and moderates.  Lest anyone fail to remember just what Wal-Mart is so intent on having us forget, the prize-winning L.A. Times series can be found here

(What’s next, the PBS Children’s Hour, brought to you by Michael Jackson?)

Meanwhile, this is a over a week old, but look at this ridiculous sleight of hand on Kimberly Strassel’s Wall Street Journal editorial here.

No kidding. ACT alone plans to raise $125 million, a stunning amount for any election.  Those funds will come exclusively from Democratic donors like billionaire George Soros and will go exclusively to getting Democrats elected, via ads and voter registration.”

This Republican campaign to demonize the Democrats via Soros—who has nothing for which to apologize and whose gifts to Democrats and liberals are but a tiny fraction of those of Coors or Scaife to the far right—would be truly silly were it not so poisonous and pernicious.  Anyway, just what is a “Democratic donors like billionaire George Soros”?  How many of the many thousands of donors to ACT are “billionaires” like Soros?  My guess is zero.  Is this really the kind of commentary that PBS donors want to subsidize?

And how surprising that Chris Matthews invited Strassel to come on his NBC show this week.  Will he begin appearing on the podium at Bush rallies as well?  (And hey Joe, how can you expect me to defend you as a nice guy when you put me on against lunatics and force me to chase after your for tiny amounts of money.  Are you going to pay the $165 for dinner you owe me or do you want everyone who reads Altercation to know that you’re a deadbeat?  Inquiring minds want to know.)

And speaking of The WSJ, a friend writes: “It would be nice if someone applied the free market test to the WSJ editorial board.  Because under it, their worthlessness is indisputable.

Exhibit A: Dow Jones charges what the market will bear for online access to its news coverage, now about $80 for an annual subscription.  What's the value of the editorials? Zero, since they're available on a free site.  Given DJ's duty to maximize shareholder value, that fact suggests that there are no readers who would be more inclined to subscribe if it was the only way to get the editorials.

Exhibit B: The CNBC show was canceled because even by the minimal standards of cable television, too few viewers wanted to watch the edit board talk to itself.  Or if there were any viewers, they weren't of sufficient quality to attract advertisers. 

In a very literal way, the WSJ edit board has been rejected by the marketplace of ideas.  So now they've joined Andres Serrano, Karen Finley and other purveyors of what some consider obscenity in taking a public subsidy to promote their product.”

Hey Damien Cave, the author of that Atlantic article has a name.  And I do think Greg Easterbrook's article deserved a mention.  (And hey, Laurie, I warned you.)  Meanwhile, reporters take a lesson.  If you’re going to skimp on credit, don’t do it to guys with blogs.

If “Hitchens is a liberal” then I’m Rush Limbaugh.  (“Rush and Christopher, Together Again.”)

25,000 TB infections a year and 135 deaths.  Thanks Ralph.  (And keep up with this terrific, and infuriating, Washington Post series.)

Track your swing states here.

Todd Gitlin and John Passacantado have a few words of wisdom for NYC protesters here

We mourn the passing of Robert S. Browne, with whom we worked on a “World Policy Institute” project many years ago and much admired.

Alter-Reviews: No More Saturday Nights.

I was a little iffy on Saturday night about driving the nearly two hours from the beach to see the Dead at the Jones Beach theater.  It was supposed to pour rain and it’s an outdoor theater.  I had wanted to take the kid to her first Dead show but not in the pouring rain.  I kind of expected to turn back myself.

Good thing I did the irresponsible thing.  If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have run into Al and Frannie Franken (and their daughter) coming out the backstage door, and sat with them at first in the orchestra, where we all had seats, then in Mickey Hart’s dressing room during the break, where we visited with Mickey, Bill and Bob, and later, Phil and Warren, and then sat onstage for the entire second set—with a roof over our heads—about ten feet across from Mickey and Bill, watching one of the most incredible performances I’ve ever seen—and the first time I’ve ever been so close to a band playing “One More Saturday Night” since the final encore of my Bar Mitzvah.

Anyway, a few observations.

  1. There is no evidence of any rock-star stuff backstage at a Dead concert.  There were toys for Bob’s little kids, but no groupies or drugs.  The food was OK but nothing spectacular.  There were no M&Ms of any color.

  2. The guys, with whom Al and Frannie have been friends since around the first time they played SNL in '78 or 9,--their daughter has been going to Dead concerts since she was literally in the womb--I forget, are really nice, regular guys, who just want to talk about stuff, often politics, in the most low-key manner possible.  (The band is registering voters at the shows.)

  3. They talk to each other in a way lots of bands don’t.  Before the opening of the second set, they huddled and worked out a few of the transitions and signals about the manner that one song would bleed into another.

  4. Mickey, in particular, is a terrific guy, who kept coming over during the show (!) to make sure that everything was comfortable for us, sitting on coolers and equipment boxes, and that we had stuff to drink and giving us drumsticks.  He also explained something to me that has always puzzled me, which is that “Aiko, aiko, jakomo phononde” is meaningless gibberish.  He sure sings it with a lot of enthusiasm, though.

  5. While they take the music seriously, they are also pretty relaxed about it. Here are some of the highlights of the set, as written on the setlists we were all provided:

    “Good Morning Little Droolgirl”
    “Box of Pain.”
    “Sugar Gondola”
    “Dancin’ in the Sheets”
    “Standing on My Moon.”
    “China Rat.”
    “Eye Know U R a Slider.”
    “No More Sat. Nites.”

While it is very weird and occasionally disconcerting to hear Bob singing Jerry songs, “Tennessee Jed” and “China Cat” in particular, they were incredibly tight and did one of the greatest “I Know You Riders” I’ve ever heard.  I would have liked to have heard the Joan Osborne version of the band, but Warren Haynes fits in quite well and the Dead songs seem to suit his voice better than the ones he sings with the Allmans.  Just like the Allmans, however, their professionalism, continued creativity coupled with their level of their commitment to their craft is truly inspiring.

The newest Dick’s Picks, August 7, 1982 in Alpine Valley, while this is recorded a little bit after my favorite period of the band—when it had Keith and Donna—it still features them playing pretty close to their height of their powers and features some of their strongest material, at least according to my taste.  The opening of Music Never Stopped/Sugaree/Music/Big River/Roses works quite wonderfully me thinks.  So too the China Cat/Rider/Man Smart, woman Smarter/Ship of Fools that opens the second set.  And yes, it ends with “No More Sat. Nites.”

The song list is here and it’s available as a mail order only. 

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Douglas O'Heir
Hometown: Waterville, Maine

Can we persuade Kerry to ask Bush to answer a "yes or no" question the same way that Kerry did regarding his war vote? 

The question I would pose to Bush would be:

"A past president (your father) wrote in 1998 in Time Magazine that invading Iraq would be a mistake because we would alienate most of our allies around the world and we would then inherit an enormous security mess in trying to run Iraq as a country.  Was your father right, yes or no? 

Bush may have a tougher time dodging questions that his own father answered in print, and it would be interesting to see him squirm.

Name: Jim
Hometown: Ashland

Just a quick response to Charles Pierce; actually "bleeding people with leeches" as well as maggot therapy for antibiotic resistant wound infections should be up there with stem cell research as cutting edge science.  Just a thought from a "liberal" health care professional.

Name: Barry Ritholtz
Hometown: The Big Picture

Hey Doc,
How did we both miss this from last week? (Gotta start paying a closer attention to the Arts section of the Times, I guess).

Little Stevie tries to rescue Rock-n-Roll

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