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August 31, 2004 | 1:23 PM ET

Cable service being re-set up in the city today, so we’re short and sweet but with Pierce, so I’m off the hook.

The press continues to show no interest in probing Bush's mysterious military record.  Nor is there a great deal of interst in his connections to the Swift Liars.  But at least Slate readers continue to show a strong interest in quality of Slate arguments.

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Update on my Possible Actual News Alert:  According to our man Bateman, whom we should have contacted in the first place, the Republican Party is not in violation of the U.S. military’s rules on the participation in party politics by active duty military, owing to the reserve status of the delegates.  Still, if I were in the military, I don’t think I’d want anything to do with a party that’d do this.

And, hey CNN, is it OK for me to flack for the books my relatives publish too, without mentioning the connection, even when the book is filled with scurrilous lies?  Or is it only OK for Robert Novak?  (I won’t even ask if it’s OK for me to blow CIA operations…)

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Hey Doc:
So, you ride the wrong escalator into the Garden and you get disgorged right in the middle of "Radio Row," and there are a bunch of 20-year old yobbos hanging around Sean Hannity, and a clutch of 50-year old ladies chirping around Mike Gallagher, and some genuinely scary folks hovering in the general vicinity of Gordon Liddy, and you realize that Dante was something of a piker -- and that it was a damned good thing he died a few centuries before there were Republican National Conventions.

You know what I'm really going to hate? The journalism-school think-tank exercises that are going to erupt in, oh, March of 2005 in which the Swift Boat will be earnestly deplored.  Don't even bother.  Elite political journalism is so utterly corrupted by access, and by the influence of television, that truth is a secondary concern.  Just don't even bother.  Get ready to fall for whatever the next lie is.

If this campaign is lost, it was lost on the day on which John Kerry was persuaded to "denounce" a MoveOn ad concerning C-Plus Augustus's blithe attitude toward his sworn military duty.  What in God's name did Kerry hope to gain by this?  Did he expect to shame the Bush people out of the Swift Boat hoax?  Did he expect to get credit for taking the high-road on the campaign-reform issue by a press corps that has treated this pack of obvious lies mainly as an effective campaign tactic?  That decision more than any other enabled the R's to shift the debate onto "shadowy" 527 organizations and off the Bush family tradition of outsourcing the really nasty stuff to the hired help.  No surrender, my aunt Fannie.  And now Kerry can't go back.

Which is how we yesterday had George H.W. lending his support to some of the Swifties claims, at least partly on the grounds that Bob Dole "wouldn't be out there" just smearing people, a bit of ahistorical balderdash that ignores almost all of Dole's public political career.  He also patted himself on the back for never having compared his heroism to Bill Clinton's, a baldfaced lie, as the NYT pointed out, but one that depends critically on everyone's having forgotten that the 1992 Bush campaign set people to ransacking Clinton's passport files, and also asked John Major for whatever MI5 might have on Clinton's Oxford years.  Of course, this was all done withput the knowledge of kindly old Poppy.

My dear young man, it simply is not done.

Name: Barry Ritholtz
Hometown: The Big Picture
Hey Doc,
Interesting catch by the Journal:

Why is Bush "so concerned about voters he should already have in the bag?"

Based upon the cable buys the Bush re-election campaign has been making, there appears to be some serious concern by Rove & Company over "the base."  The Bush campaign is not only outspending Kerry on cable -- by more than 10 to 1 -- but placing their ad dollars in places that you might have suspected were (excuse the term) a slam-dunk.

While the challenger has purchased only 265 cable spots, the incumbent has bought a whopping 3092 cable adverts thru (June of 2004).  Even more intriguing are the types of channels the incumbent has been buying: The Golf Channel, Fox News, MSNBC, The Speed Channel and The Travel Channel.

These are hardly the provinces of swing voters . . .

Here's an excerpt:

Kinda Late to be "Solidfying the Base"

President Bush is spending heavily on cable-television advertising in his bid to win re-election, and if the channels he is dropping dollars on are any indication, he is particularly concerned about voters he should already have in the bag.

Through the first six months of this year, Mr. Bush's campaign bought almost 3,100 ads on cable, mostly on channels that attract white male viewers, many of them affluent.

According to Nielsen Monitor Plus, which has been tracking ad spending by the candidates, Mr. Bush bought 335 spots on the History Channel, 282 on Discovery Communications Inc.'s Travel Channel and almost 100 on News Corp.'s Speed Channel. He also bought 400 spots on Comcast Corp.'s Golf Channel, whose audience is so tiny it doesn't even subscribe to Nielsen to get ratings.

But if the Golf Channel is the network of the few, those few are well-to-do. The network says that 33% of its prime-time audience, and 67% of its viewers between the ages of 35 and 64, have a household income of over $100,000.

Mr. Bush also has been spending a lot on cable-news channels, and it comes as no surprise that News Corp.'s Fox News has been the biggest beneficiary, getting 253 commercials from the Bush-Cheney committee in the year's first six months. Time Warner Inc.'s CNN sold 383 spots to the president in the same time frame, but according to the Bush campaign, those spots are cheaper than on Fox. MSNBC, which is co-owned by General Electric Co. and Microsoft Corp. and lags far behind in the cable-news ratings race, sold almost 700 spots to
President Bush's re-election effort.

Four years ago, Nielsen research shows that the Bush-Cheney committee didn't buy any time on the cable-news networks, and the Gore-Lieberman campaign bought just 12 spots.

Fascinating stuff.  There's a breakdown of all the White House ad buys at this link.

We've discussed the how the election will hinge on the undecided voters in the Swing States ad nauseum.  The WSJ notes they are "about 10% of the electorate -- in about a dozen swing states.  Who these on-the-fence citizens are and what they watch are matters of debate.  But if Mr. Bush is using cable largely to shore up his base, isn't he risking wasting money preaching to the converted?

I continue to believe that this race will end up busting out, prolly post-debate. I do not think it will be a close election . . .

Bush Cable Ads Aim to Solidify 'Partisan' Vote
Joe Flint
The Wall Street Journal, August 26, 2004;Page B1

August 29, 2004 | 11:12 PM ET

Possible Actual News Alert:  Is the Republican Party in violation of the US military’s rules on the participation in party politics by active duty military?

It sure looks that way. The RNC convention week is boasting that it has 144 active duty military delegates at the convention or three percent of the total. That information can be found here

Meanwhile, according to DOD Directive 1344.10, which can be found here this is a violation of the code of military conduct.  It explicitly says:

A member on active duty shall not
Participate in partisan political management, campaigns, or conventions (unless attending a convention as a spectator when not in uniform).

But the Republican Party itself is claiming that the active duty personnel are not spectators but delegates.  What’s going on here?  Why are the Republicans encouraging our soldiers to violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice and its stated rules of political engagement?  And why for goodness sakes, aren’t these rules being enforced?  Hey, can we put a reporter or two on this story please?

(Thanks to Altercation reader Michael Galletly of Norman, OK.)

Who lost Falluja? (Ramadi, and much of Anbar Province)

Traitorous neocon spies? 
Josh Marshall and his colleagues have been working hush-hush on this story for months.  Israel is denying everything and Michael Ledeen is boasting of the alleged spy’s loyalty, which makes me suspicious as Hell.  Let’s see where it goes.

Quote of the Day:

I got a young man named George W. Bush in the National Guard when I was Lt. Gov. of Texas and I’m not necessarily proud of that.  But I did it. And I got a lot of other people into the National Guard because I thought that was what people should do, when you're in office you helped a lot of rich people.  And I walked through the Vietnam Memorial the other day and I looked at the names of the people that died in Vietnam and I became more ashamed of myself than I have ever been because it was the worst thing that I did was that I helped a lot of wealthy supporters and a lot of people who had family names of importance get into the National Guard and I’m very sorry about that and I’m very ashamed and I apologize to you as voters of Texas.

--Ben Barnes, the former Speaker of the House in Texas

It would look like sour grapes if I got too excited about Slate editor Jacob Weisberg’s snide comment in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review that, "The free pass given the author's allies of the moment -- Michael Moore, Joe Conason, Eric Alterman, Sidney Blumenthal -- calls into question his choice of targets like Thomas Friedman, Andrew Sullivan and my colleague Mickey Kaus, shrewder commentators with whom he simply disagrees." (here) so I’ll just recommend that Weisberg might want to take a moment to read a smart piece in, um, Slate, by Tim Noah entitled “Can You Forgive Them?"  More here.

Alter-Review: “The Name of This Band is Talking Heads” by Sal.

I would love to know just what it was about "The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads" that David Byrne didn't like.  I mean, he had no problem whatsoever releasing his last 5 solo albums, why take so long to get this out on CD, especially knowing how much the fans wanted it?  21 years after its initial release, this fantastic live album finally gets the CD treatment, and it does not disappoint.

Originally broken down into 4 sides on vinyl, each side a different phase of the Heads career, this new reissue is now almost doubled in length with the addition of over a dozen bonus tracks, most of them previously unreleased.  Finally, we get a complete set from what many Headheads feel is the band's strongest line up- the expanded version of 1980 which featured Adrian Belew and Bernie Worrell.

You can hear the band move effortlessly from the early punk dabblings of the material from their debut, "Talking Heads 77," into the electronic minimalist funk of the Brian Eno produced trilogy that followed.  Never mentioned in the same breath as such awesome rhythm sections as Sly & Robbie or the unrelated Thomas', Bruce & Pete from The Attractions, Tina Weymouth & Chris Frantz were the heart and definite soul of the Heads and have influenced many a band since their first recordings.  Disc 2 alone would be worth the investment.  This is a must.  (More here.)

Sal Nunziato

August 27, 2004 | 1:28 PM ET

Not-So-Slacker Friday

In the Tank:  One of the too many reasons American politics is too idiotic for words is the refusal of journalists to think, even for a second, about the absurdity of the crap they are asked to pass along to their readers.  This is the modus operandi of even the most elite of the mainstream media.  "We are not judging the credibility of Kerry or the (Swift Boat) Veterans, we just print the facts,” Washington Post Executive Editor explains.  Take a look at what the smart guys at “The Note” credit this morning as Bush’s “best” line to the New York Times:

Five twenty-sevens — I think these ought to be outlawed.  I think they should have been outlawed a year ago.  We have billionaires writing checks, large checks, to influence the outcome of the election.

This is his best line?  Does anyone want to bother to point out that it is completely nonsensical and hypocritical, given that the signature on the bottom of the piece of paper that put the current campaign finance law into operation reads “George W. Bush?”  If they “should have been outlawed,” they why in heaven’s name didn’t Bush refuse to sign the law?  Isn’t he calling himself a hypocrite?  And if the president thinks that Kerry is telling the truth about his service in Vietnam, then why is he unwilling to criticize the Swift Boat liars who, on behalf of George Bush’s election efforts, are insisting that he isn’t.  Perhaps the Swift Liars wouldn’t care if Bush told them to stop, but it sure would go a ways to reducing the effectiveness of a slander that Bush himself says he thinks is false.  And this is supposed to be the candidate with “character,” I remind you.  What good is a media that cannot draw even these elementary conclusions?  And this is his “best” line.  God help us.

I have a new “Think Again” column here.  “Of Rhetoric and Reality”

Unintentionally funny Quote of the Day:  “[Taranto's] column is both highly cited and he also links to a lot of other blogs,” says Ben Fritz of  “And he’s very respected by bloggers, because he gets some things going, like the Kerry-looking-French thing.” 

I’m sure his mother must be very proud.

A few Alter-notes:

1) For the past two years and four months, I’ve read every e-mail that came through the site.  I’ve had enough.  It coarsens my life unnecessarily to be subjected to the steady stream of ignorant abuse that some of my readers feel better for sending my way.  Beginning next week, I am off-loading the “read” every e-mail to my assistant Paul.  He will delete what abusive mail gets by the spam filter and forward only the nice ones and the constructive ones, including the ones that point out mistakes.  So all of you who have been wasting your time sending obnoxious e-mails to me, the act will henceforth be even more ridiculous as I will never see them.  I will see all the useful ones though, so thanks for them.

2) When I advertised for research assistants in this space, I received a number of inquiries from people who wanted either to volunteer or inquire after internships.  I have since hired three people.  One who is working in Philadelphia on researching American liberalism from 1945 to 1965; one who will be working in New York City on researching American liberalism from 1965 to 1992; and a third who is helping me with “Altercation,” “Think Again,” the short book on why everybody should be a liberal, and everything else.  (I have an intern at The Nation who helps with that.)  If you have some time and would like to volunteer to augment the research of any of these three people, then send a resume to WhatLiberalMedia (at) and let me know exactly what you want to do. 

If you want an actual internship, either in New York or Philadelphia, where you will be largely collecting, copying, scanning, and typing primary sources and searching down the odd fact or reference, we can probably arrange something.  But you should be aware that your primary point of contact will not be me but will be one of my assistants. There will also be some running around the city to pick up and drop off stuff.

3) I’ve had some trouble with Time Warner getting my broadband service up and running back in the city and I begin teaching next week on Monday mornings and Thursday mornings.  I have a few election-related speaking engagements and am doing a book tour for When Presidents Lie beginning late September.  I will do my best to post every day but there may be some glitches along the way, at least at first.

Here’s the man.

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:
If people on CNN can talk seriously about John Kerry "allegedly" receiving decorations, or pronouncing themselves objectively unclear as to whether he pulled Rassmann out of the river at all, then I give up.

Really.  I believe them now.  It's easier.  One side has all the best eyewitnesses and all the contemporaneous Navy documents.  So much to carry around in your head.  It's easier just to believe something with almost no evidence behind it.  You don't get stoop-shouldered.

There's one thing I don't understand about my new team, though.  I remember, back in November and December, John Kerry's campaign was stuck in the mud.  (I do so treasure that one national survey in which he polled in behind Al Sharpton.)  This guy whom innocent patriot John O'Neill has assured me should be kept out of the Oval at all costs was barely breathing at the back of the pack.  One good whack -- say, a $500,000 ad-buy with enough completely meretricious controversy to it to draw the attention of the national media -- and Kerry's presidential aspirations would have been stretched in some cornfield outside of Dubuque.

Now, though, he's 50-50 to be president.  What a missed opportunity!

Why didn't we hit him at a point where we might have easily knock him out?  Now, before, when I was playing for that other team, I might've suspected that the SBVT was merely a complicated dirty-trick concocted to be Kerry-specific in the general election, and not the sincere expression of dismay by decorated war heroes that Sean Hannity admires.  I might have suspected this even more strongly considering that the "doubts" on Kerry's Bronze Star didn't emerge in any prior campaign until Rassmann suddenly appeared in this one.  I might've suspected that, had someone else emerged from the Democratic pack, we'd now be seeing Trial Lawyers For Truth (John Edwards), Dairy Farmers For Truth (Howard Dean), Machinists For Truth (Dick Gephardt), or Useless Republican Suckups For Truth (Joe Lieberman). This would make my head hurt too much. 

I now believe in God, magic dolphins, Ronald Reagan at the death camps, and everything John O'Neill says, even when it contradicts itself.  I am a man of faith.  I am a man at ease.

Name: Mark McKee
Hometown: Albuquerque, NM

Why does Trent Lott hate America?

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago

Hey Eric, it's Stupid to keep your eyes on the prize.  In rising to the Swift Boat Verterans' bait (in itself somewhat of a mistake), I fear that Kerry's supporters are ignoring a bigger need: influencing Jim Lehrer and the upcoming debates so that they will be, well, debates.  Am I the only one who thought that Lehrer was a pathetic "moderator" (apt title, that) in 2000?  You can see for yourself here.  By the time the candidates had finished answering the opening questions about "experience" and "leadership qualities" I bet half the audience had changed the channel.  This first debate is going to be tremendously important (for many it will be their first good look at John Kerry), and there is little reason to think that Lehrer isn't going to repeat his last performance and treat us to 90 minutes of the candidates' stump speeches. 

Starting now the left should be conflating its response to the Swift Boat Veterans with pressure on Lehrer: e.g., that it's up to Lehrer and the other moderators to pierce the protective shield around Dubya (limited press availability, orchestrated deflections to nonissues) and ensure that the voters see a real debate.  In a nutshell that means demanding more specific questions, like: The Iraq war has cost -- billion dollars over what you had forecasted.  Assuming the war had stayed on budget, what did you originally plan to do with that revenue?   Or: Your administration has forbidden Americans from purchasing prescription drugs from Canada on the basis that those drugs are unsafe.  What evidence do you have for that contention?  How are questions like that any less fair than when Nixon was asked in 1960 if he -still- thought teacher salaries were a "national disgrace"(!)

Name: Barry Ritholtz
The Big Picture
Hey Doc,
Interesting article on the front page of today's WSJ noting the "conundrum" George W. Bush faces in his re-election race: "The same policies that have secured his conservative base and given him a slight lead in the presidential race are now complicating his bid to win over crucial undecided voters."

No surprise there.  The "Undecideds" tend to be moderate pragmatics, far less interested in dogma than results.  Most of the major initiatives we've seen from the White House have been more dogmatic than pragmatic: The Neo-Con's War in Iraq was pure dogma, the Tax Cuts were an exercise in Supply Side theory, even the refusal to address issues such as conservation and energy efficiency reveal a slavish devotion to laissez faire market theory -- with no exceptions made, except for pork barrel corporate welfare for contributors. (hmmm, maybe its not so laissez faire after all).

As the WSJ's John Harwood correctly observes, independent and swing voters are finding it difficult to reconcile the warm and fuzzy campaign rhetoric with the realities of this White House's policies.  The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds a majority "disapproves of his approach to critical foreign and domestic issues alike and saying his policies on Iraq, health care and jobs and the economy need "major adjustments" or outright reversal. Among the one in five voters who say they are undecided or leaning one way but open to persuasion, those majorities are overwhelming."

The poll finds the incumbent slightly ahead -- 47%-to-45% -- nationally.  But as we noted on Monday (and this is key) -- Kerry now leads in 14 swing states (up from 13 early August) -- despite the damage done by the now thoroughly debunked SBVFT.  In 2000, six of these states were won by Bush.  As of today, polls place Arkanas, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Tennessee in the challenger's camp.  Bush won all of these in 2000.

WSJ: Polls reveal hurdles for Bush

Name: Jane Stein
Hometown: Arlington, MA

Interesting list of moral choices relating to Vietnam.  Being in the generation this applies to and having watched friends struggle with it in a very intense way at the time it was happening, I have to say you've left out a whole category here, which is the men who got drafted, then either deserted or went AWOL.

For instance, I have a then essentially unaware friend who was drafted, survived basic training and then was sent to language school to learn Vietnamese in preparation for being an interrogator.  Sometime early in this training, he learned what he would be expected to do as an interrogator in Vietnam and promptly went AWOL and headed for Canada.

After a few years in Toronto among the large American ex-pat community of draft-age men, he decided he needed to come home and face the music.  He was slapped in the brig or whatever they call it for about a year, then spit out of the military with a dishonorable discharge.

There were many who did something similar, others waited to come home until Carter's amnesty.

My friend saved his own fanny, yes, but he also deprived the military of a talented and intelligent linguist/interrogator.  And the personal cost here was pretty high-- exile, then imprisonment and a big black mark permanently on his background.

So I'm curious where you think guys like this fit.

Secondly, I think you gloss over the conscientious objector thing a little too glibly.  The military didn't give out that status just for the asking.  You had to have some pretty strong demonstration of past history that you were a conscientious objector to all war.  You couldn't just get out because you all of a sudden decided you were against this one.  So that option was not open to a lot of people, including Bill Clinton.  So I think you need to bump that category up a little bit.

Eric replies:  I agree with all of the both. The moral, philosophical and practical issues are obviously quite a bit more complicated than I had the space (or took the time) to address appropriately yesterday.  I did a broad stroke and while I think it holds up, were it in any other form than a blog, I would have considered it unworthy of the topic. There’s plenty more to say and if people like Jane want to say it thoughtfully and intelligently, it will get said.  I’ve received a bunch of mail about Howard Dean and corrected the record as to his medical—rather than educational—deferment, but I do recall Dean insisting over and over that while he did oppose the war at Yale, and afterwards, he had little or nothing to do with the anti-war movement.  While this may have made him kosher for many voters who are now uncomfortable with John Kerry’s heroic performance in that movement, I consider it to be a moral failing.

August 26, 2004 | 11:26 AM ET

It’s amazing and a bit disgusting that our election seems to be turning on a war that took place thirty years ago in which the man who served honorably both in the war and in the anti-war movement is on the defensive against the man who supported the war but took a pass on any service or sacrifice it might have involved, but there it is.  Given that we have no choice but to engage the issue, let’s think about it for a moment and see if we can isolate the kinds of decisions that faced young men in those dark days when American leaders—as they are doing today—unjustly sent America’s youth to pay for their own folly and ignorance. 

Recall that only privileged Americans had a choice as to whether to fight in Vietnam.  The sons of poor and working-class people did not have access to educational deferments and hence were unceremoniously sent to the firing line.  Given that, here are a few categories of the choices faced and the choices made, in what I judge to be descending order of moral fortitude.

A taxonomy of positions on Vietnam:

Category A: Exhibiting the strength of one’s moral convictions.

  1. Supported the war and served in Vietnam (John Kerry, John McCain)

  2. Opposed the war and served in Vietnam because it would have been unfair to force someone less fortunate to take one’s place (Al Gore)

  3. Opposed the war and dedicated oneself to anti-war movement at some personal risk, including conscientious objection. (This position is not as dangerous as serving in a war, but it is nevertheless just as moral. The war was evil.  Putting oneself at legal and physical risk as many did to try to end this evil strikes me as an unimpeachable moral position, though given America’s political culture, it would also be untenable for any contemporary presidential candidate to hold.)

Category B: Exhibiting the strength of one’s moral convictions after protecting one’s posterior

  • Opposed the war, protected self, and then worked for anti-war movement (Bill Clinton)

    This position seems to me to be the minimum necessary to consider oneself a moral being.  Risking one’s person for one’s principles is a lot to ask for most of us, but the least one could ask is that if we identify an evil that is literally killing people, our peers included, one lifts a proverbial finger to stop it, say, by working for the presidential candidacies of Robert Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy or George McGovern.

Category C: Having no convictions to protect save self-protection

  • Opposed the war, protected self, let others worry about it (Howard Dean, Joe Lieberman)

    This is the position of those who merely opted out of the question, accepted their college deferments and went on with their lives and did not feel any sense of responsibility for their peers and countrymen.

Category D: Contradicting one’s alleged convictions in the service of protecting one’s posterior

  • Supported the war, preferred to let others fight and die for it (George W. Bush, Dick Cheney)

    This seems to me to be the least defensible position imaginable.  Bush and Cheney both used their privileged positions to protect themselves; Cheney says he did it because he had “other priorities.”  Bush says he did it because he wanted to “better himself” by learning to fly planes.  Whether he deserted his post or not—and I think he did-- it is incontrovertible that he wasted the government’s million dollar investment in his training by allowing his qualifications to lapse while he was still supposed to be on active duty.  (And what if during this period, the Guard was actually needed, if say, Oklahoma had invaded Texas?)

One day, historians will attempt to explain just how two men who fall in category D somehow made the election about the moral rectitude of a man who fell into category A not once but twice.  We have to admit this.  This Rove feller really is a genius.  Just when you thought the media couldn’t be any more irresponsible, he proved it had even more to give.  (Most journalists today of the proper age, I imagine, fall into category B or C, with a significant number in D and a tiny, tiny minority in A.)

Update: Howard Dean received a medical, rather than a student deferment.

Quote of the Day: “How often a man was wounded, how much blood he shed when he was wounded -- it is hurtful that those who served in Vietnam are being split in so vile a fashion, and that the wounds of that war are reopened at the instigation of people who avoided serving at all.  It is hurtful that a man of Bob Dole's stature should lend himself to the effort to dishonor a fellow American veteran in the service of politics at its cheapest.  There was a time when he [Bob Dole] would have refused.  I know. I was there.”
--Noel Koch, special assistant to President Richard Nixon from 1971 to 1974.  He was assistant secretary of defense and director for special planning at the Defense Department from 1981 to 1986

And protesters, if you don’t like Milton Glaser’s lights idea, how about Al Franken’s shout? 

Correspondents Corner:

Name:  Paul Lukasiak
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Hi Eric!
Well, I’ve just finished my latest piece on Bush’s military records.  This one deals with the documents concerning the very beginning of the “suspect period” hope you will bring this to the attention of your readership.  It's about time that the FACTS concerning Bush’s military “career” be exposed to fight the LIES being told by the “Smear Boat Vets.”  It's called,


Eric replies: I asked Paul for a summary of what his investigation adds to what is already known in the mass media about Bush’s records and he replied as follows:

Here’s a brief summary...

Contrary to the spin put out by the White House (and endlessly repeated by the mainstream media), Bush was never transferred to the 9921st Air Reserve Squadron in Alabama.  Nor was this “transfer request” an attempt to find somewhere to do training temporarily while Bush worked on an Alabama political campaign in 1972.  Instead, Bush was running a scam designed to completely sever his relationship with the Air National Guard, and eliminate the last two years of his obligation to train and serve as a pilot, by joining a unit that had no training, and for which Bush was specifically ineligible. 

As to "what's new"...

I guess the most important "new" fact is that Bush was fully aware that he was not eligible to transfer to the 9921st Air Reserve Squadron when he applied for the transfer. 

This is actually evident if you read Reese Bricken's comments on the "Request for Reassignment"---and I confirmed it in a phone conversation a month ago (a fact that I bury in a footnote, because I try to rely entirely on the public record).  This was also confirmed to a REAL reporter--i.e. not someone like me--when he spoke to Bricken recently. 

IF Bush had succeeded in getting into the 9921st, he would never have had to do ANYTHING to fulfill his commitment from that point on.  That's why I call it a scam.

The other "new" points made by the piece are that Bush never received the orders that would relieve him of his obligation to train as a pilot with TXANG (and that, even before he requested his transfer, he had blown off May's required training.) 

In other words, Bush KNEW that there was an excellent chance that his "transfer request" would be turned down, but he stopped showing up for training anyway, and let his flight status be suspended.  Then, when he got word that the orders would NOT be coming, he didn't lift a finger to perform the training that he had missed, and made no effort to restore his flight status.

Name: Samuel Goodman
Hometown: Rockville MD
Mr. Alterman,
Now that the Swift Boat Liars have changed their focus to Kerry's testimony about U.S. atrocities in Vietnam, please don't forget to mention the independent sources that establish beyond a shadow of a doubt that many were committed there.

It boggles my mind how anyone can deny U.S. atrocities, when the Toledo Blade has only recently won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing them on the part of an elite U.S. Army unit -- along with the Army's decades-long cover-up of those atrocities, and when the other Kerrey, former Sen. Bob Kerrey, himself admitted to "atrocities" he said were accidental (and one of his crew said weren't) in the killing of innocent Vietnamese elderly men, as well as women and children.
And then there is Michael Herr's book "Dispatches," which the New York Times reviewer called, "the best book to have been written about the Vietnam war," and the Chicago Tribune's reviewer said was "the best personal journal about war, any war, that any writer has ever accomplished."

Anyhow, on pages 213-214 of the paperback edition of "Dispatches," Herr recounts
how U.S. military men proudly discussed and showed pictures of atrocities they personally and others had committed against Vietnamese.  Below are a few excerpts:

...a Marine came up to [AP newsman John] Lengle and me and asked if we'd like to look at some pictures he'd taken...and you could tell by the way the Marine stood over us, grinning in anticipation as we flipped over each plastic page, that it was among his favorite things...There were hundreds of these albums in Vietnam, thousands, and they all seemed to contain the same pictures, the obligatory Zippo-lighter shot ('All right, let's burn these hootches and move out'); the severed head shot, the head often resting on the chest of the dead man or being held up by a smiling Marine, or a lot of heads arranged in a row, with a burning cigarette in each of the mouths, the eyes open...the VC suspect being dragged over the dust by a half-track or being hung by his heels in some jungle clearing; the very young dead with AK-47's still in their hands ('How old would you say that kid was?' the grunts would ask. 'Twelve, thirteen? You just can't tell with gooks'); a picture of a Marine holding an ear or maybe two ears or, as in the case of a guy I knew near Pleiku, a whole necklace made of ears, 'love beads' as its owner called them; and the one we were looking at now, the dead Viet Cong girl with her pajamas stripped off and her legs raised stiffly in the air.

'No more boom-boom for that mamma-san,' the Marine said...'But look, look at that bitch there, cut right in half!'

Eric replies: See Todd Gitlin’s piece in Salon here.

Name: Michael Merritt
Hometown: San Francisco
Eric - perhaps by now you have gotten your $165 from Scarborough, but it seems he's given it to that dinosaur, Pat Buchanan.  Even to the extent that he (Joe) let him (Pat) run his show for a week while he (Joe) was down doing non-felon voter re-registration in Florida - right at the start of the Swift Boats for Audacity and B.S. campaign.  Now, I must begin by admitting that I want to see Pat come to Jesus.  I have watched him with incredulity since his days on McLaughlin (balanced by the sometimes-shrill Eleanor Clift and the sardonic, pragmatic, I-worry-about-his-health Jack Germond).  You know, for the comedy value and the times when his arch-conservatism found it necessary even to criticize Republicans who weren't jingoistic enough.  He's a likeable old fart, but he's just so full of sh-t.  Pat just cannot help himself and really is an embarrassment.  I've given up on Joe, too (although I believe in my heart that he will pull the Kerry lever when he's alone in the booth and you may yet see your $165).

To wit:  Last night was legendary.  Continuing to hammer on Kerry's post-war Senate speech (for which he will be drawn and quartered) - details of which horror have also been recounted to me by my brother); Rev. Pat suggested that the Swift boats skirting the strung-up fishing nets in the river was indicative of the compassion our forces felt and displayed.  "Genghis Khan-like" behavior would have plowed through the nets, but no, our boys took their boats closer to the shore and to real and present danger in order not to destroy the poor villagers' nets.

Pat, maybe they rightly viewed the nets set as a trap that would foul their propellers or rudders and leave them sitting ducks in the water; or force them closer to shore at minimum.  Best to avoid that I should think.  And likewise Kerry is still right to steer around the phony fishing nets strung up by the Republican campaign, set to trap him in the shallow water. 

P.S. I so wish somebody would short-sheet that little never-was, John O'Neill.  Talk about a repressed little dumpling of a girl.  Reminds me of the love child of Ralph Reed and John Ashcroft.  Keep smiling through the pain.

Eric replies: Hey Joe, if you’re out there.  The staffer who promised me the re-imbursement for dinner for agreeing to argue with an idiot on your program on a night when I had no babysitter is named Gregg Cockrell.  I’ve left a couple of messages for him at the number and e-mail he gave me, which I’d be happy to print here if it would help, but have not heard back.

Name: Ira Hozinsky
Hometown: New York, NY
This is truly unbelievable.
Eric, if you agree with me that it is outrageous to allow city employees to be used as props for GOP propaganda, for heaven's sake contact your City Councilman -- and whoever else you can think of -- and insist that this not be allowed to happen.

Name: Charles Kinbote
Hometown: Athens, Georgia

Man, I can't tell you how disappointed I am in ZZ Top.  I've long championed them to my liberal friends, many of whom know the Top only from their later -- that is, post-Eliminator -- irrelevance.  Their middle period stuff -- from Tres Hombres right on through Deguello -- is amazing, largely, for my money, because it's so delightfully filthy.  And that's what I don't understand about them backing Shrub & Co.: So much of their oeuvre is downright nasty (Somebody Else Been Shaking Yo' Tree, La Grange, Backdoor Love Affair, A Fool For Your Stockings, and -- of course -- El Loco's incredibly subtle Pearl Necklace and Ten Foot Pole), and celebrates a drunken, horny, and trouble-making Weltanschauung -- so what in Ralph Reed's Georgia are they doing in league with the cultural philistines?  They've got a plank from Muddy Waters' shack in Clarksdale, MS -- but I'll bet good ole McKinley's rolling over in his grave right about now.

Maybe I'll overnight a ouija board to Billy Gibbons so that Muddy can tell him he wants his plank back. Stat.

And what about Lynyrd Skynyrd (version 3.x)? It certainly can't be said that the late Ronnie Van Zant was without a political consciousness.  From early efforts such as "Mr. Banker" (on the previously unreleased Muscle Shoals album), to Skynyrd's eponymous debut (the so-so tune "Things Going On"), on up through "Saturday Night Special," which is an attack on the nation's gun culture and the easy availability of cheap handguns, Ronnie was anything but a philistine redneck.  (That's quite a contrast to Skynyrd 3.x -- or today's band of redneck vamping homers.  Hasn't any grown-up Southerner ever heard of a coup-de-grace, for Chrissake?) This is a band that campaigned for Jimmy Carter at Ronnie's behest -- which is to say that Muddy's probably not the only one turning over in his grave right now.  I think Ronnie would probably like to wring his jack-[censored] brother's neck, to be honest. But perhaps I'm projecting.

Anyway, just sharing some thoughts. Here's another one: I wish Max Cleland would run over Charlie Daniels' toes a couple of times.  He's very mobile, or so I'm told.

Name: Mark McKee
Hometown: Albuquerque, NM

I'd like to thank you for mentioning Junior Brown, and as an Orthodox Hendrixian I'd like to point out that Jimi has been revered by Southern rockers for decades.  "The Wind Cries Mary" and "Little Wing" are two wonderful examples of Jimi's use of classic country Nashville riffs.  It's easy to miss because our brains aren't used to hearing country tunes sung with a Native American/African American accent.  Any guitarist worth a damn loves Jimi Hendrix regardless of their genre.  In the South, when you are loved by everyone from Chet Atkins to Duane Allman, you can consider yourself a helluva picker.
All the best.

August 25, 2004 | 11:14 AM ET

Sleaze Working Overtime
Even if one does this kind of thing for a living, one forgets just how low the standards of so many news organizations are and how easily infected the news cycle can be with so little recourse for most people.  The willingness to use false information to smear John Kerry is no secret to anyone who cares to look.  But the practice is pervasive, particularly when the right-wing slime machine gets the opportunity to combine tabloid sleaze with political opportunism.  Take a look at Fox’s coverage on Media Tenor’s Slant-o-meter.

And take a look at this correction from today’s Page Six:

ON July 30, we reported on a network news story which stated that Democratic Party top donor Steve Bing was the "business partner" of convicted organized crime figure Dominic Montemarano. The network has since issued a correction stating that the reference to "business partners" was due to an editing error. Montemarano merely acted in a movie Bing produced. We join the network in clarifying that no one is accusing Bing himself of any criminal wrongdoing or any involvement in Montemarano's criminal activity. Our apologies to Steve Bing.

You know, when I originally read this story, I think on Drudge—recycled elsewhere in the Murdoch machine—I can only guess which “network” screwed up here—I actually reproached myself for failing to mention this connection of Bing’s in my long Atlantic Monthly article, which is basically quite admiring of Bing, but pulls no punches.  I knew at the time that Page Six routinely slanders powerless people, but I figured they went to the trouble of getting their facts straight when it came to billionaires who could sue their wealthy owners.  Silly me.  Lucky for Bing—and he sure is lucky in many things—he can force the above type of correction but how many people who see their names reviled by this machine cannot?

Altercation readers know we are not much fans of the media coverage of the New York Observer, but they did catch this deeply ridiculous story about an imaginary reunion tour of the Weather Underground in the same silly rag.

Meanwhile, don’t miss:  The reinvented, more youthful al-Qaida

Ten reasons why so many New Yorkers will be unable to resist letting Bush and the Republicans know what they think of them, (though the decision of the protesters to go back on their agreement to use the West Side Highway and play hardball with the city appears to have been a disaster and makes one extremely nervous about what is going to happen next week.  What’s the matter with Milton Glaser's Bright Idea?  Too smart, I guess.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: M. George Stevenson
Hometown: New York, NY

Dear Eric:
Junior Brown's signature ax is, according to his publicist of circa 1994 a "guit-steel."  I caught him at the Mercury Lounge about that time and was wowed by the same Bob Wills/Hendrix thing he's managed to develop in even more interesting ways since, along with his Jim Hightowerish take on everyday economics.

Name: Jeff Huffman
Hometown: Seattle

I’m not sure it has a real name, but I’m sure Brown calls it something original.  What it is is a Fender Telecaster with a customized body wedded to a lap steel.  Definitely a luthier’s genetic experiment that went horribly right.  Brown's got a whole stable of them.

Name: Pat Healy
Hometown: Vallejo, CA

"Very few rules to guide,” Geez, Dennis, can't you at least pick a wrong song from the same album?  That line is from 'New Speedway Boogie', off 'Workingman's Dead'.  Very disappointing.  And shame on you, Eric, for not catching that.

Eric replies: We are appropriately chastised, and if it makes you happy, Mr. McNally says you are the first person to catch this horror story so far.

August 24, 2004 | 12:21 PM ET

Not So Swift Coverage
Just about every news organization is misplaying Bush’s comments yesterday, including most particularly, MSNBC.  Here's the headline:

Bush calls for halt to Swift Boat veterans’ ads
President calls so-called 527 ads ‘bad for the system'

In fact, Bush did no more than duck the question, refusing to condemn the ad and pretending that his call to end all outside spending in the election—spending that the campaign finance law he signed explicitly encourages—has any meaning whatever.  It doesn’t and we all know it.  And yet Bush’s phony pretense is allowed to define the coverage.  Slate’s Today's Papers goes into some detail. 

The LAT doesn't headline Bush's declining to denounce the Vietnam ads.  Instead it emphasizes his call for an end to all independently funded ads.  The NYT has similar play in its off-lead as does the Wall Street Journal up high in its world-wide newsbox.  Which is weird, because Bush did not break new ground.  Again, he essentially reiterated what White House spokespeople have been saying for weeks.  By going Page One with Bush's comments anyway, aren't the papers helping to mislead readers?  Only the Post doesn't play along: "KERRY TEAM LINES UP VIETNAM WITNESSES; Bush Again Declines to Condemn Attack Ad."

The LAT editors—and most journos—might want to flip to the back of their paper.  "The technique President Bush is using against John F. Kerry was perfected by his father against Michael Dukakis in 1988," says an editorial. "Bring a charge, however bogus.  Make the charge simple.  But make sure the supporting details are complicated and blurry enough to prevent easy refutation.  Then sit back and let the media do your work for you.  Journalists have to report the charges, usually feel obliged to report the rebuttal, and often even attempt an analysis or assessment.  But the canons of the profession prevent most journalists from saying outright: These charges are false.  As a result, the voters are left with a general sense that there is some controversy over Kerry's service in Vietnam.  And they have been distracted from thinking about real issues (like the war going on now).

We note for the record the reversal of the typical pattern we often see at the Wall Street Journal.  Here’s it’s editorial page employing what ought to be common sense and the allegedly objective reporting that is doing the far-right slime machine’s dirty work for it.

Meanwhile, a strong  point-by point rejoinder to the Swifties can be found here.

And Tapped's Nick Confessore picks up the story strongly

[T]he campaign finance law the president signed just a few years ago deliberately avoided closing the 527 loophole; that Bush beat Sen. John McCain (R-Ari.) during the 2000 primary in part with the help of a 527 run by his supporter Sam Wylie; that Bush's own campaign manager, campaign counsel, and political guru (Ken Melhman, Ben Ginsburg, and Karl Rove, respectively) have attended fundraising and organizational events for Progress for America, a 527 founded by Bush's political director from the 2000 campaign, Tony Feather; that GOP chairman Ed Gillespie and Bush campaign chairman Mark Racicot recently issued a statement designating PFA and yet another GOP 527, the Leadership Forum, as a good place for Republicans to give money to; and that the second-biggest 527 in the U.S. is the Republican Governors Association, a group spun off by the Republican National Committee two years ago specifically to collect and harness soft money for state and local GOP candidates. 

If President Bush is opposed to 527s, somebody better tell his senior campaign staff, and quick.

So Does Matt With The Unpronounceable Last Name, on the same page:

Atrios keeps asking a good question -- what is the president trying to say about 527s?  On one level, of course, we all know that this is a pure dodge, adopted for expediency's sake, that has nothing to do with any real substantive beliefs.  On the other hand, he does keep saying he wants to get rid of these "shadowy groups," and there was a time not so long ago when campaign finance was a hotly debated issue.  So the question needs to be asked: If the president hates 527s so much, how did he and his wife wind up on the cover of Republican Woman magazine, a publication of the National Federation of Republican Women, which you'll find right here on OpenSecrets' list of 527 groups.  Or how does he feel about the NFRW's upcoming tribute to Laura Bush at the Republican convention.  Even more interesting -- why did the RNC donate $10,000 to GOPAC, yet another insidious 527 group?

If you want more on George W. Bush’s heroic war record, it’s here (buried on page 6A in just one paper) though if you want to contribute to the newly formed  “Drunken Stateside Civilians for Plausible Deniability,” you’ll have to get in touch with a fellow named Rob, last seen in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, let’s give E.J. Dionne the final word on the topic, for today anyway:

If the stories about what Kerry did in Vietnam are not balanced by serious scrutiny of Bush in the Vietnam years, the media will be capitulating to a right-wing smear campaign. Surely our nation's editors and producers don't want to send a signal that all you have to do to set the media's agenda is spend a half-million bucks on television ads.

This is also a test of John McCain. When he ran against Bush four years ago, McCain was smeared mercilessly.  When McCain protested to Bush about the attacks at one of their debates during the 2000 primaries, Bush brushed him off.  "John," Bush said, "it's politics."
McCain snapped back, "George, everything isn't politics."

Brooks Agonistes
It’s no secret that David Brooks has been a major disappointment to his liberal friends and admirers since taking over a Times Op-Ed column.  I’m not sure if today is a new low for David—he’s been pretty low before—but it remains a perfect example of why his stock has fallen so far so quickly. 

Brooks’ entire case for his argument that Kerry has turned from a principled young man to a power-hungry flip-flopper is this:

[O]n Aug. 1, Kerry told George Stephanopoulos: "I think we can significantly change the deployment of troops, not just [in Iraq] but elsewhere in the world.  In the Korean peninsula perhaps, in Europe perhaps."

When Bush went ahead and outlined a plan along those lines, Kerry blasted the president, saying it was reckless to embrace the idea he had endorsed two weeks before.

But where is Brooks’ evidence that what Bush announced is anything, as he puts it “along those lines” outlined by Kerry?  Imagine I said, “I think David Brooks’ column in the Times is a disaster and something needs to be done about it.”  What if, next thing you know, the Times publishers decided to fire every other Op-Ed columnist and run only Brooks’ column in all five column spaces on the page, every day, forever?  The Times publishers could plausibly claim they were doing “'something’ along the lines” of what I had proposed.

It’s sad when so talented a writer—one who could keep the conservative movement somewhat honest if he put his mind to it—turns to such transparent hackery in the service of a political candidate so undeserving of the sacrifices he is receiving—but there it is.

I caught a terrific Junior Brown show last week at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett.  I don’t even know what that thing he plays is called, but he sure does know how to play it and is one of those guys who can do Hendrix and Bob Wills within minutes of each other.  He writes smart, funny songs in a John Prine mixed with Stevie Ray Vaughan kinda style, and should be at least as famous as say, Lyle Lovett, but perhaps this new album will do the trick.  In the meantime, it’s worth remembering what a weird complicated place Texas is.

I don’t go in much for PR copy but I thought this line by the Grateful Dead’s biographer and publicist, Dennis McNally quite apt:

Jerry Garcia’s life had—as he sang in ‘Brokedown Palace’—“very few rules to guide,” but one of his favorite expressions was ‘serve the music.’ Serve it he did.

That service continues with a new series started by Garcia’s estate called “Pure Jerry,” modeled after the Dead’s “Dick’s Pick’s” series.  The first installment is Theater 1839, San Francisco, recorded on two nights in July 1977.  The sound is a lot more relaxed than a typical Dead show; the songs go on forever and are to some degree interchangeable.  Standards, Dylan songs, some soul stuff, some reggae, a few Dead standards, with the musicians, (including Keith and Donna, who were about to join the band).  Taking their sweet time with whatever idea came to them onstage, it all sounds wonderful, to these ears anyway, but as my loved ones would insist after hearing it all weekend, that’s definitely a matter of taste. Read about it here.

And while we’re on the topic of stuff that relaxes you, I’m enjoying an album called “The Whole Enchalada,” by Burrito Deluxe, a band made up of Garth Hudson on keyboards and original Flying Burrito guy, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, on pedal steel.  I particularly love their version of “The Letter,” but I love everyone’s version of “The Letter.”  There’s more here.

Also a publisher called Melville House has undertaken an interesting new project to remind us of the moral and political illegitimacy of the Bush administration, by publishing a series of pamphlets drawn on long journalistic investigations.  Particularly useful are Renata Adler’s dissection of the Bush vs. Gore decision and Mark Danner’s reporting on Florida.  Check it out here.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: David S. Bernstein
Hometown: Boston, Mass.

So, my extended family is all gathered around for Thanksgiving dinner, and my sister's boyfriend starts telling these horrendous lies about our uncle Pete -- about how his war medals are all based on lies, and how Pete's not really a hero, etc.  Everything he's saying is obviously made up, but he won't shut up about it.

So I turn to my sister and say: "Will you please tell your boyfriend to shut up with that crap about Uncle Pete?"

And she says: "No, but I do object in principle to ALL non-blood-relatives being allowed to speak at the dinner table.  I hope you'll join me in calling for all of these outsiders to be silenced."

End of parable.

What did we learned last week?  George W. Bush refuses to make an ethical distinction between honest claims and dishonest claims.

Tune in this week as we learn another lesson from the Swifties:  It's morally better to hush up wrongdoing than to try to end it.  Did someone say Abu Graib?

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL
In an article in the NYTimes Bob Dole has now come forward to clarify why John Kerry is unfit as a candidate: he tried to dodge military service in Vietnam by amassing numerous purple hearts.  In this way Lt. Kerry showed an amazing lack of judgment.  Carrying around shrapnel in your body and saving men under fire is about the dumbest way to avoid serving your country.  The savvy way to evade military service in Vietnam was to join a stateside national guard unit and then not show up for your medical exam, thereby disqualifying you to fly the planes that taxpayers' dollars were spent to train you to do so.

I hope that when veterans enter the polling booths, they'll remember what a foolish service evader Senator Kerry was.  Don't cast your vote for someone who actually served.  Like Max Cleland and John McCain, John Kerry is unworthy.  We can't trust the role of commander-in-chief to someone who doesn't know how to achieve his personal objectives.  Who better to lead our military than men who knew how to fulfill other priorities when their time to serve in the military was upon them?

Name: Dom
Hometown: NYC

Oy vey!

"Media" is the plural form of "medium" just as "data" is the plural of "datum." 

Come on, people, this isn't the O'Reilly factor -- there really is no argument and, remember this, we Americans are not that persnickety with language and usage.

Name: Sal
Hometown: NYC

Dear Eric,
Are there enough people like you to warrant this pressing of the Roxy/Ferry collection?  What if Sony put together a Bruce collection and left out "Rosalita" and "Spirit In The Night?"  Oh wait, they already did.

August 23, 2004 | 11:49 AM ET

On Swift Boats and Slow Brains
Andrew Ferguson misperceives a central tenet of the “War-wimp” argument in this piece.  It's not, as he describes it, that “only men with military experience are justified in ordering other military men into combat,” rather it’s that military men know more about war—and all the many things that can, and are likely to, go wrong when you start one than people like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, I. Lewis Libby, William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, Christopher Hitchens, Condoleezza Rice, George Will, and of course Richard Perle, etc, who have never seen a shot fired in anger, and hence should be listened to with great care and respect for their views before undertaking so risky and fraught a mission as an unprovoked war in a place like Iraq.  In this case, the people with the military experience did not think war was such a good idea—an idea that was buried in The Washington Post but known, nevertheless—and they were, of course, right.  The invasion has turned into disaster because of the duplicity and incompetence of its civilian planners.  The military did what it was supposed to do—kill people and secure territory.  It failed in doing what it should never have been asked to do, which is to build a new nation from scratch.  Those who profess to honor the military and thus mistreat it should be called to answer for it.

Still, once you get past his phony “On the One Handism,” Ferguson gets one thing quite right. I quote at length:

Yet in 2004, Republicans find themselves supporting a candidate, George W. Bush, with a slender and ambiguous military record against a man whose combat heroism has never (until now) been disputed.  Further--and here we'll let slip a thinly disguised secret--Republicans are supporting a candidate that relatively few of them find personally or politically appealing.  This is not the choice Republicans are supposed to be faced with.  The 1990s were far better.  In those days the Democrats did the proper thing, nominating a draft-dodger to run against George H.W. Bush, who was the youngest combat pilot in the Pacific theater in World War II, and then later, in 1996, against Bob Dole, who left a portion of his body on the beach at Anzio.

Republicans have no such luck this time, and so they scramble to reassure themselves that they nevertheless are doing the right thing, voting against a war hero.  The simplest way to do this is to convince themselves that the war hero isn't really a war hero.  If sufficient doubt about Kerry's record can be raised, we can vote for Bush without remorse.  But the calculations are transparently desperate.  Reading some of the anti-Kerry attacks over the last several weeks, you might conclude that this is the new conservative position: A veteran who volunteered for combat duty, spent four months under fire in Vietnam, and then exaggerated a bit so he could go home early is the inferior, morally and otherwise, of a man who had his father pull strings so he wouldn't have to go to Vietnam in the first place.

When you think about it, the very notion that this story is dominating the election, on the front pages of the newspapers and the Sunday gabfests could hardly be more idiotic.  In the first place, it doesn’t matter a whit whether thirty years ago, what “really happened”—which is of course, never knowable—matches Kerry’s version or those of his detractors.  If you vote for John Kerry you are going to get one kind of presidency, and if you vote for George W. Bush, you are going to get another kind.  They are quite different, and really, if you have half a brain, it shouldn’t be too hard to make up your mind. 

In the second place, as Ferguson points out, if you really do care about this kind of thing—and I can’t stop you—then all you really need to know is that Kerry volunteered to fight in Vietnam and then returned home to fight for his country to do the right thing by its veterans and stop asking them to die for an impossible cause.  Bush, on the other hand, supported the war, but used his daddy’s influence to stay out of the war, specifically requested not to be sent to Vietnam, and then wasted the government’s million dollar investment in his training by failing to show up for training and forfeiting his right to fly the planes in the unlikely event he would ever be asked to.  (Lucky for Bush, Nixon didn’t abuse the Nation Guard the way he and Cheney are.) 

We may never know whether Bush was a deserter during this time, before he secured his special, special treatment, but his actions sure look a little fishy.  Meanwhile, we are arguing about the guy who served, both in Vietnam and at home, risking his life in the first instance and his political future in the second.  The fact that such lunacy can decide an election in the world’s most powerful nation strikes me rather terrifying-- an indictment of the quality of our nation’s political discourse and particularly the mainstream’s media’s role in policing it.

In the meantime take a look at this.   (Not so swift after all….)

Oh and hey, remember Iraq? 

A USA Today database, which analyzed unclassified U.S. government security reports, shows attacks against U.S. and allied forces have averaged 49 a day since the hand-over of sovereignty June 28, compared with 52 a day in the four weeks leading up to the transfer. 

There were ten incidents before 9:00am on July 28 alone.  Read it here.

Can you say minstrel show?

What the heck is the Faculty of Christianity and why do they like my books so much? (Not that I’m complaining…)

I’ve not had a chance to read Samantha Power’s report on Dafur yet, but I do hope it inspires people to pay more attention to this horrific story and maybe make a contribution to Save The Children.

Alter-review:  Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music Platinum Collection” by Sal

This is a 3 CD set, and is the first collection to contain both band and solo material spanning the entire careers of both.  Now, I've got to say that I am a huge fan.  I have been a Roxy Music fan since the Brian Eno days, (first two records, much cooler than "Avalon") and was not quite as thrilled by their biggest selling album, "Avalon" as most people.  Still, I've yet to find anything by this amazing group of musicians not worth listening to.  As for Ferry's solo work- I like it all because I expect it to be different from the band's work.  That said, this new set has not a bit of filler on it.  BUT, that doesn't necessarily mean it's a must have.

You see, my usual complaint about these collections falls on the same subject. Who are they for? Any heavy-duty Roxy/Ferry fan has all this material.  Any casual Roxy/Ferry fan won't want 3 CDs worth.  And for the fan in the middle--how can you justify a collection that only gives you one song, maybe two, from each release in both catalogues?  I mean, what makes "Do The Strand" from Roxy's "For Your Pleasure" album a better choice than say, "In Every Dream Home, A Heartache," a Roxy fan favorite?  If we're just collecting singles, then why so many obscure Ferry solo tracks.

The set as a whole is a wonderful play.  I could put all 3 discs on and not use the remote once.  But, in the age of downloading and the "mom & pops" going the way of the "slinky," a multi disc set with nothing new to offer seems like the wrong way to go.

Eric replies:  Dear Sal. It is for people like me.  I kinda like Roxy and Ferry but by no means love them.  The previous single CD-collection I had was not enough and I don’t want all the records. Three CDs is just right.  I could have used some fancier packaging and more bibliographic info, however.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, Mass
Hey Doc -- Because Every Day Is Slacker Friday, Part The XXXVII.

To embroider a phrase from Mr. J, I weep for my profession when I see that God is just.

It has been made abundantly clear -- most recently, by Mr. Rood of the Chicago Tribune and by the invaluable Joe Galloway of Knight-Ridder -- that these Swift Boat characters are dealing in public lies.  The day before, it was the NYT.  The day before that, the Washington Post.  We've had people outed as Republican operatives, disparaging war wounds they never saw, asserting as fact things they never witnessed, and ultimately calumnizing their own heroism.  By all standard measures, this story should be over, and these people consigned to that same Phantom Zone where was dispatched that poor guy who wrote "Fortunate Son" in 2000.  Can any fair person maintain that John O'Neill and the rest of the Chuck Colson Flotilla have any more credibility at this point than poor Hatfield had?

However, they live.



The print media, God love it, has done so thorough a debunking of these guys that you'd expect to hear a couple of them on Art Bell's program late one night.  But because the "issue" and the "controversy" make good television theater, they must be kept alive.  Which is why, the next time you see, say, Norah O'Donnell, down by the phony barn on the phony ranch, and she tells you how remarkable it is that the ads are "having an effect" despite the fact that the actual buy was so low, you should feel free to excuse yourself and go vomit in the corner.  The original ad contained substantially less truth than the Hitler Diaries, but it was run anyway, over and over again, in news pieces about the "issue" and on argument shows dealing with the "controversy."  In other words, television news gave up a substantial portion of its "news hole" this week to information that the people running the news operations had to know were demonstrable lies.

This is what you get.  This is what you get when you get bullied by Mr. Murdoch's toy network into running an interview in which a woman makes unsubstantiated charges of rape against a sitting president, and this is what you get when you get played like a tin piano by a decades-long dirty-tricks campaign that culminated in an impeachment, and you couldn't report on the former because you were in the tank to the people bringing the latter.  This is what you get when you loan your hard-won credibility to hacks and charlatans.  This is what happens when you sell your craft out to celebrity, when being good on television is more important than being good at your job, when unconscionable slander is reckoned as genius because it moves the Nielsen needle.  This is what happens when sneering schoolyard invective is reckoned to be actual talent because it comes with a Q rating.  (Have a nice day, Tucker.) This is what happens when you run scared.  Truth, literally, comes to matter not at all.

And, come Friday, with the Swift Boat ad in tatters in most major newspapers, what did HARDBALL do?  It ran a segment attempting to rehabilitate the credibility of Michelle Malkin, a complete fake whose new book on the internment of Japanese-Americans has been stomped into a mudhole by the scholars who have done the real work on her topic, and who had come on the very same program the night before and made an idiot of herself.  And who was adjudged to be worthy of being on national television to defend her?

John Fund.

It is to weep.

Name: Mary
Hometown: Buffalo

The American Heritage Dictionary notwithstanding, to someone who took four years of Latin from the Sisters of St. Joseph,  hearing "the media has" is like hearing fingernails scraping on a chalkboard.

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