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Altercation

September 16, 2004 | 12:08 PM ET

Slacker Friday

I’ve got a new Think Again column about a few issues that might be worth covering when the rest of the media are done playing font-sie with themselves. 

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And um, oh yeah, don’t tell anyone but I don't really like Ralph Nader.

I am believe it or not, flying to Florida this morning, so Slacker Friday to the rescue.  But first:

The next time someone tries to tell you that nobody but fundamentalist Christians, corporate CEOS, and neoconservative ideologues support George Bush’s election as president, you tell them that’s not fair.  Terrorists do too.  Here’s a statement from Abu Hafs al-Masri, the Islamic militants who claimed “credit” for the Madrid train bombings, in support of Bush’s election campaign:

"We are very keen that Bush does not lose the upcoming elections," it said.

Addressing Bush, it said: "We know that a heavyweight operation would destroy your government, and this is what we don't want. We are not going to find a bigger idiot than you." The statement said Abu Hafs al-Masri needs what it called Bush's "idiocy and religious fanaticism" because they would "wake up" the Islamic world. Comparing Bush with his Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry, the statement tells the president, "Actually, there is no difference between you and Kerry, but Kerry will kill our community, while it is unaware, because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish infidelity and present it to the Arab and Islamic community as civilization."

Also, three items from PR Watch:

Freedom of the press, to obey
After seven AIDS activists disrupted a Pennsylvania campaign appearance by President Bush, "Secret Service agents ... supervised the arrests and detention of the activists and blocked the news media from access to the hecklers. ... Journalists were told that if they sought to approach the demonstrators, they would not be allowed to return to the event site - even though their colleagues were free to come and go. ... One journalist who was blocked from returning to the speech [was told by an agent] that this was punishment for approaching the demonstrators."
Source: Washington Post, September 10, 2004
More Web links related to this story are available here.

Dusty deception
"Up to 400,000 New Yorkers breathed in the most toxic polluting cloud ever recorded after the twin towers were brought down three years ago, but no proper effort has been made to find out how their health has been affected. [A] US government study provides the latest evidence of a systematic cover-up of the health toll from pollution after the 9/11 disaster, which doctors fear will cause more deaths than the attacks themselves," the Independent writes.  The Government Accountability Office report "September 11: Health Effects in the Aftermath of the World Trade Center Attack" concludes that programs monitoring the long-term health effects of the attacks may not be "in operation long enough to adequately capture information about new conditions, chronic conditions, and diseases whose onset may occur decades after exposure to a harmful agent, such as many cancers."
SOURCE: The Independent, September 12, 2004
More Web links related to this story are available here.

Former foreign friends
"Seven out of 10 Americans are worried about the worsening of their country's image around the world," according to a new poll by the University of Maryland and Globescan, "although almost three-quarters said world opinion would have no impact on their vote" for president.  A German Marshall Fund transatlantic poll found that "76 percent of Europeans disapprove of current U.S. foreign policy, and 58 percent of them want Europe to take a more independent approach to foreign affairs," which is "bad news for the 60 percent of Americans who say they would like the U.S. to strengthen its partnership with the European Union."
SOURCE: Independent (UK), September 9, 2004
More Web links related to this story are available here.

Now here’s the man.

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:
That reply to you in The Nation from Tuckerboy's producer is the only the second-lamest response in a letters column this month.  It's well up the track behind the increasingly sad Christopher Hitchens in this month's VANITY FAIR, in which he replies to substantive whacks at him from a couple of alcohol-rehab specialists by correcting their grammar.  Sometimes, I guess, the public intellectual just feels the (purely metaphorical, of course) need to pass out on the lawn.

Pretty sorry-ass week, though.  Dan Rather beset by pipsqueaks with Cheerios dripping down on their Norm Podhoretz pajamas.  The 9/11 widows endorsing Kerry, and not having it matter a damn.  Iraq blowing up daily - and what we're seeing there with the attacks on the Iraqi police is not Ho Chi Minh.  It's Michael Collins.  Welcome to the Iraqi "Troubles."  And don't worry.  The Irish ones have only lasted 800 years --  and having it not matter a damn.  Kerry himself bungling the name of Lambeau Field.  I mean, Jeebus, John.  Get your head in the f**king game, will you?  Because of our spavined media culture, this is the kind of stuff that REALLY counts, damn it.

We live in a country of denial, encouraged by people who have an awful lot about themselves to deny.  Take, for example, the star of last week's cable news shows, Hurricane Ivan.  Now, every 40 years or so, we get a hurricane cycle like this -- strong storms that make landfall in the U.S.  Now, there isn't a serious meteorologist in the world who doesn't believe that these cycles are exacerbated by fossil-fuel-induced climate change.

Did you hear the phrase "global warming" from anyone on television this week?  (And, no, hearing Tony Blair say it on the BBC doesn't count.)  Bill Hemmer?  Anderson Cooper, you edgy cool fella, you?  Of course not.  Because we've come to regard the crisis of climate change as politically debatable rather than as an issue of scientific fact.  Mention it, and somebody will call your boss and demand that a marionette-scientist in the employ of the coal companies be put on the air to argue that it's all just, you know, one of those things.  Don't worry about driving your SUVs.  Build some more luxury condos on the Gulf Coast in Alabama.  The non-partisan Committee For An Honest Climate (formerly d/b/a Amoco) says it's worth the risk.

Which is why, finally, sooner or later, a big one is going to hit dead-on, and New Orleans is simply not going to be there any more.  I'm sure the CNN anchors will be very sad about this.  Who could have known, after all.

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid with some ways the government can raise revenue without raising taxes.  I'd use them for a tax rebate, or just keep them handy when a conservative asks you, "How are you going to pay for all that?"

  1. Intellectual property.  In the past fifty years the government has extended the length of copyrights 11 times.  The last extension was for twenty years, a giveaway worth billions of dollars to the likes of Disney.  We should go back and cut a better deal, or take the politically easier route of extending the term by another five years conditioned on royalty payments.  Similarly for patents, how much do you think Eli Lilly would pay for an extra year of monopoly on Prozac?  Extending patent monopolies is tricky, but the benefit of generic products is often illusory -- a good deal for the public can be made here.  Also, most people don't know there is a law that allows the government, unlike private companies, to license any patent it wishes to at market royalty rates.  Say the government was to start making patented medicines and selling them at cost.  The drug companies would be entitled to their profit, but they'd have to prove their propaganda in court.

  2. Bankruptcy reform.  Though I hate it, it's going to pass sooner or later -- even Hillary caved to the banking/credit industry (only some farcical GOP special interest infighting has kept it from becoming law).  Still, the government should insist that if were going to force a new class of debtors into indentured servants, the public at least gets a cut.  

  3. White collar bounty hunters.  Current federal protections for whistleblowers are a confusing hodgepodge and mostly focused on protecting the whistleblower from retaliation.  While a unified law is a good idea (the National Whistleblower Center has a good one), I'd push for more of a carrot: a percentage of whatever the IRS, SEC or Justice Department recovers.  This way any accountant with a hi-rez cell phone working for a shady company can become a multi-millionaire.

  4. Open trade with Cuba.  You know you want to.

Eric replies: Stupid, have you ever heard of “politics?”

Hometown: Fairfax VA
Not only does Newsweek's cover story gloss over the swift boat contortionists, the cover itself looks like they could well have designed it.  In uniform, clean-cut combat evader George comes across as the next Audie Murphy- while war hero Kerry, furthering his heroism by bearing honest witness on behalf of troops and public alike, sports fairly long, suspiciously liberal-looking hair and looks for all the world like some uppity young whistle-blower, rabble-rouser, protester, pinko, you name it.

In contrast, a mildly 'liberal' cover would have shown Kerry in uniform, and party boy George drunk on his duff.

But then, after last week's laudatory (and grossly misleading) "profile" of GWB, this latest right-wing fox in a supposedly liberal henhouse doesn't surprise me.

Name: Mars Jones
Hometown: Atlanta

Eric, I served in an S-1 admin U.S. Marine Corps unit in 1972.  We had an I.B.M. Selectric which only the Sgt. and his assistant - doing personnel entries- were allowed to use.  Now everyone knows the marines get the bottom of the barrel on equipment, so, if we had one I'm sure the U.S.A.F which got the 'primo' on everything had these I.B.M. Selectrics!  Keep up the good work!  The fact is Bush and his ilk are a disgrace to this country, and to everyone who served honorably.  To think that a man who carries shrapnel in his body from Vietnam could be questioned by Karl Rove & Company is sickening.  Oh yes, anyone who knew anything about 'grunts' in Nam' knows about taking ears.  These things did happen then, just as they are happening now in Iraq.  War is never to be entered into lightly and through deceit.  I pray for our country everyday.

Name: Don Achenbach
Hometown: Greenville, PA

Sir,
Is anyone else getting tired of the President and his service with "honor" in the National Guard?  Bottom line is that while Kerry was getting shot the President was doing shots.  Interesting, if President Nixon had used the National Guard in Vietnam the way President Bush is using it in Iraq, President Bush would have been ducking anti-aircraft fire over Hanoi instead of ducking MP's in Alabama.  Bring back the draft with no deferments and see how fast we are out of Iraq.

Special Slate-like feature: Eric R and Siva argue about Thomas Frank

Name Eric Rauchway
Hometown: Davis, CA
I gotta say that, honestly, I didn't like the Thomas Frank book as much as you did.  Partly because his populism didn't strike me squarely -- though perhaps my reaction was not as adverse as Brad DeLong's, here -- and partly because the analysis didn't run deep enough.

Briefly:  Kansas today is not Kansas in the 1890s.  Yes, both Kansases suffered harm from certain economic policies.  Frank wants to know why Kansas (1896) opposed those policies and Kansas (2004) supports them.  He thinks it's because the Democrats have lost heartland values.  But I think Kansas changed as much or more than the Democrats.

The people suffering in Kansas (2004) are different from those suffering in Kansas (1896).  Kansas (1896) was full of native-born Americans who moved there from somewhere else -- quite possibly, because they lost their jobs in the outsourcing of the 1890s and moved on.  So you could say they went to Kansas because they lost out in the American dream sweepstakes, and wanted to start anew.  They might therefore support something new -- like Populism. 

Kansas (2004) is, if Frank is correct, full not of people who went there to start something new but people who were left behind and are hankering for something old.  They have therefore got a different political outlook.  So it probably doesn't matter much whether Democrats now have lotsa louche movie star supporters or not (and I'm not sure there's any rigorous evidence that there are more celebrity Democrats now than during the Progressive Era or New Deal).  Kansans are different now, and that's what's important.

But Frank does a lot of riffs blaming cultural elites for trahison des clercs.  And not always wrongly; I like a lot of what he has to say about cultural studies.  (Do you, though?)  But: are there a million miles between him and David Brooks?

Siva replies:
I get you on 1896.  It's a good question to ask, though.  Why have the descendants of economic populism fallen prey to cultural populism with a regressive twist?

I think you are missing the in-between stuff of Frank's story.  The end-game of the Kansas transition was rather sudden.  The change has swept away Nancy Kassebaum as much as it has William J. Bryan.  Dem cultural elitism is not responsible for this change as much as Dem ignorance of the populist right's dynamics is.  In other words, Kansas changed and the Dems didn't notice.  Then again, neither did the moderate Repubs.

One key insight from the book: Repubs don't want to win any of these cultural battles because they need to be the underdogs.  That's getting harder to do and they are trying harder to maintain that oppressed pose.

The issue left untilled is the psycho-social factor: are we witnessing a blowback populism that resembles the rumblings of Weimar?

Basically, I think yankee liberals have not a clue what life is like in the United States.  Frank does a lot of good work getting close to the pilots of that movement.  And that's why I think people should read it.  The story is remarkable.  The trend is alarming.  And it explains why a 65-year-old widow on Social Security and Medicare with a grandson in Iraq who went to public schools could vote for Bush:  nothing else matters if unborn babies are dying.

Exposure to religious passion is not something yankee liberals get much of.  It's essential knowledge in Karachi and Kansas City.

September 16, 2004 | 11:01 AM ET

Sivacation
Hey, folks. Siva Vaidhyanathan here.  I am the author of The Anarchist in the Library.  I can usually be found blogging over at Sivacracy.net.  But today Eric is a road warrior for truth and justice, so you get to read me instead.

This Just In
The invasion and occupation of Iraq is illegal.  Discuss.

Put on Your Game Face
OK Democrats.  Enough whining and complaining about John Kerry's stiffness and tone-deafness.  If you wanted John Edwards or Wesley Clark to be the nominee, you could have done something about it.  Enough anxious reflection on Bob Shrum's Red-Sox-esque record running presidential campaigns.  Stop blaming the experts from the comfort of your computer screens (you know who you are).  Stop obsessing over the Electoral College maps.  Get out there and do something.  As Digby instructs us, get out there and make a difference.  Put on your game face.  Find a bus trip to a swing state.  Knock on some doors.  Join phone banks.  It's beyond the point of fundraising and speech making.  It's the ground game now and for the next six weeks.  I will be walking blocks in Pennsylvania this weekend.  Let's win this one, baby.

Double Standards: From Fenwick Park to Lambert Field
Surely you have not forgotten about the double standards of 2000: Gore lied (even when he didn't); Bush has character (even though he cheated, lied, stole, and begged his way to everything in life).  We can't seem to escape it.  Have you heard these complaints from Candy Crowley of CNN and others that Kerry has gone a few weeks without a press conference?  When was the last time you heard a reporter complain that Bush is in a sealed cauldron as he campaigns?  So afraid of argument, confrontation, or embarrassment, Bush is the Bubble Boy president.

The latest double standard comes from the press corps' giggles over the occasional Kerry verbal gaff.  Yes, Kerry hurt himself in Wisconsin by referring to the sacred Lambeau Field as "Lambert."   It is embarrassing.  And, as a former Wisconsin resident, I can tell you that it will matter in that swing state.  Face it, Kerry would lose Massachusetts if he called the Sox park "Fenwick."

But is this really a news story?  How many times per week does Bush fumble in his native tongue?  Is this really comparable to President Gerald Ford eating a tamale with the husk on?  Or Ford saying that Eastern Europe was not under Soviet Domination?  Or Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly conflating Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden?  No, that's not a joke.  If the Secretary of Defense can't distinguish between a guy who is in jail and offered no threat to the United States and a guy who is STILL FREE despite murdering 3,000 of my neighbors, we are in bigger trouble than any of us imagine.

Who lost Iraq?
How big is the trouble?  The most powerful military force in the history of the world is being led by civilian idiots.  And therefore the brave volunteers who put their lives on the line are facing humiliation in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  As Sid Blumenthal shows us, we are losing a war we never needed to start:

Retired Gen. William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency, told me: "Bush hasn't found the WMD.  Al-Qaida, it's worse -- he's lost on that front.  That he's going to achieve a democracy there?  That goal is lost, too.  It's lost."  He added: "Right now, the course we're on, we're achieving [Osama] bin Laden's ends."

Who Lost Russia?
Incompetence rises to the top at the White House.  In four years we have seen exactly two positive moves in foreign policy: The end of Sudan's earlier civil war and the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq.  Neither of those victories have had much momentum, to say the least.  Sudan's government just turned its attention to genocide in Darfur and Bush pulled the inspectors out before they could have told us that Iraq was no threat.  But perhaps the greatest tragedy of the Bush years has been the steady erosion of democracy world wide.  His father oversaw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet state.  Yet the son has let his good buddy Vladimir Putin clamp down on democracy and return that great nation to the darkness of authoritarian rule.  As Matthew Yglesias reminds us, Bush's pro-democracy dreams have turned into utter nightmares.  He never really meant it.  If Bush really believed in democracy, he would have let Gore's election stand.

Links worth Clicking
Are you tired of the horse race?  The shallowness of American journalism?  Do you yearn for informed and sophisticated reflection on the role of America in the world?  Then you should be reading openDemocracy.net.  (Disclosure: I am a columnist for the London-based site.)  This week, there is a wonderful debate on called "America, Right or Wrong?"

Why does David Brooks hate me?  Or, doesn't he have anything better to worry about than the powerless professoriate?

Charlton McIlwain has a great column in this week's Gadflyer, (which should be in your regular Web diet) about the unfortunate emergence of "blacker-than-thou" accusations in the Illinois Senate race.

Back of the Book
I have had the pleasure this week of reading When Presidents Lie, Dr. Alterman's latest, which will arrive at a book store near you later this month.  I have to say it's the best book he has ever written.  It considers the implications and effects of official lies from Yalta through our current debacle.  It holds both Democrats and Republicans accountable for the pernicious and corrosive effects of Oval Office lies.  (blurb alert!)  Eric Alterman has done a great service to American political history.  His forceful writing and subtle judgments are sure to serve as standards in the field.  This book is destined to influence the work of both scholars and policy makers.  (No, he neither asked me nor paid me for those words of praise.)  It's a most excellent book.

My favorite recent book about American politics?  Tom Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas?  If you wonder why poor people are trying their best to lower taxes on rich people, Frank has the alarming answer.  Read it carefully.  And be prepared to rethink most of what you believe about the political future of your country.

What's the worst book published about American politics this year?  It might surprise you that there is a writer out there who is sloppier, less responsible, and more dangerous than Ann Coulter.  It's Michelle Malkin.  She actually defends the internment of innocent Japanese Americans during World War II.  For a definitive quartering of her -- ahem -- arguments, see this site by historian Greg Robinson and law professor Eric Muller.  And pick up Robinson's brilliant book, By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans.

Here is a book that was lost in the barrage of political books of the past year (much as my book has been).  Bruce Schneir's Beyond Fear was unjustly ignored by all major review outlets. Yet it addresses the most important subject facing Americans: security.  Schneir is a security expert who has a healthy respect for privacy and liberty.  Mostly, he is adept at spotting security measures that do no good, like the airport pat-down, which are nothing more than theatre to make us feel that something is being done.  Read it.  You will be a better, safer citizen for it.

Sports Section
It looks like we might not have an NHL season this year thanks to intransigent owners.  OK.  Here is a message to all sports franchise owners: it's called a demand curve.  If you have a limited pool of highly-skilled labor (left-handed pitchers, point guards, goons), then rapidly increasing the number of bidders for that labor will drive up labor costs.  It's simple.  Don't go crying for salary caps and other collusive measures if you got in this mess by believing that Nashville, Atlanta, and Phoenix were good places to play pro hockey.  It's no big loss, though.  The NHL has proven itself corrupted by the lure of the Sun Belt for years.  Never forget that the Dallas Stars did not really win the 1999 Stanley Cup.  They stole it from the true and righteous Buffalo Sabres thanks to the sleaziness of Commissioner Gary Bettman, who refused to review the illegal winning goal in overtime of game six.

Is there a more incompetent pro sports franchise than the lowly New York Mets?  Fred Wilpon is as bad an owner as Mike Piazza is a catcher.  This weekend, New Yorkers will get to see their major league baseball team play a serious, meaningful series against the cursed Red Sox.  It's kind of cute to see Red Sox fans get all confident and proud every few Septembers.  (I could not help bucking Eric's editorial position on this one.)

Sivaviews
Two albums that Altercation readers will dig (yet might not have heard yet):

Wide Right is a Brooklyn-based band led by Buffalo native Leah Archibald.  It's fresh, funny, fly, and phat.  And it rocks.  If John Kerry really wants to understand the soul of the Rust Belt, he should drive from Buffalo through Cleveland, Toledo, Detroit, Gary, Chicago, Milwaukee, all the way to Duluth listening to Wide Right.  He would get a few speeding tickets from the driving rhythm.  But he would never again mispronounce a major football stadium.

Jenny Toomey is the executive director of the influential artist-rights group Future of Music Coalition.  And like Richard Thompson, Toomey is a moving songwriter, talented musician, and stunning singer.

Oh, if you are going to be in or near New York City on Tuesday, come to this concert featuring Gilberto Gil and David Byrne to benefit Creative Commons.  It will be a great time for a great cause.

Johnny Ramone, we already miss you. The world is a little more boring today. Gabba hey.

September 15, 2004 | 11:58 AM ET

I spent five hours in the Fargo, North Dakota airport yesterday, grounded by fog, with my new friend Monica Crowley, whom I was debating first in Morris, Minnesota, which is two hours from Fargo, and a day later in Bay City, Michigan, which is an hour outside of Flint.  The trip required six flights, most of them through Minneapolis/St. Paul.  You people in the Midwest are very nice, and friendly, and I appreciate your hospitality, but why do you not have Internet connections in your airports?  You say you have wireless but that's a lie.  Would it really be so hard to set up a few computers?  Wouldn’t you even make a little money on it?  Given how far away you all seem to live from the airport, you probably find yourselves spending a lot of time there, what with having to factor in traffic and all, and not being able to take off because there’s a little bit of fog.  They tell me Minnesota is a swing state.  If that’s true, then Kerry really is screwed.  Remember, Mondale took only Minnesota and D.C.  Anyway, I had hardly any time on the ground, but here’s what I came up with:

In a country with even remotely responsible media, stories like this one, “$3 Trillion Price Tag Left Out As Bush Details His Agenda,” would be a staple of political discussion, instead of merely a welcome ray of light in a slime-filled debate of innuendo piled on top of irrelevance that should shame professional journalist with even a modicum of personal pride.  I mean, is it so much to ask journalists to pay attention to what the guy who is president says he is going to do and ask him how the hell he expects to pay for it—particularly when he has already created one of the largest budget deficits in history, and particularly when he is attacking his challenger for creating a plan that would allegedly bust the budget, but is, in reality, far cheaper than the ones he is pushing, but for which he refuses to offer an honest cost estimate? 

I have to laugh when conservatives call this system the best democracy in the world.  It is a little bit better than Russia’s and a few others, but it is hardly worthy of the description “democracy.”  (I am reminded of Donald Rumsfeld defending U.S. troops’ torture, rape and sexual humiliation of innocents at Abu Ghraib by saying well, it’s not as bad as actual terrorism.)

Alas, a day later we are back to the same old crap.  Hello, guys, It’s not “Kerry says, Bush says."  The question is, “Is it true?”  And of course, any time you write a story about the Bush administration being accused of misleading the nation, chances are it’s going to be true.  And this one is.  Remember that person who was threatened with firing if they told the American people they were being lied to on the order of more than a trillion dollars regarding Medicare?  If I remember it, why can’t they?  They’ve got nexus.  They’ve got researchers.  I just have dial-up.

Meanwhile, Newsweek writes an entire cover story about how 'dirty' this campaign is with barely a mention of the Swift Boat campaign, as if telling the truth about someone and deliberately lying about them are politically equivalent acts.  It is really scary how bad the Democrats are at manipulating the media, and again, the media’s reticence in demanding even a modicum of truth-telling in the stories they publicize and produce is shameful.

In fact, Dana Milbank reports, and the Post buries, that:

newly released documents have refuted two claims Bartlett made in 1999: that Bush was appropriately released from his Texas unit because it had phased out the F-102 jets that he flew, and that Bush transferred to a reserve unit in Boston.  The F-102s were still being flown by Bush's unit when he departed, and Bush never signed up with a Boston area unit.

More.

Speaking of which: 

Does the White House think that this document is genuine, and provides the proof it needs to show that Bush did show up for training in May, June, and July of 1973 at Ellington Air Force base?   Does the White House think that Bobby Hodges and Rufus Martin were lying to the Boston Globe in 2000, when they explained that the reason Bush hadn’t regained his flight status was because Bush never returned to Ellington Air Force base to train?  Will Bobby Hodges retract another one of his statements, like he did with regard to the authenticity of the memos released by CBS, and suddenly “remember” that Bush did come back to Ellington to train?  Or does Hodges maintain the position that the documents are forgeries, and that Killian’s mention of “recent activity” proves it, because Bush never returned to Ellington for training?

This just in:

Name: Paul Lukasiak
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

I've got a document that the White House withheld from its document dump in February, Eric...

UNRELEASED DOCUMENT SHOWS BUSH FAILED TO FULFILL HIS COMMITMENTS

Is the President of the United States telling the truth about all this?  $50,000 says you can't prove it.

Funny, perhaps Tim Russert would like to apologize to John Kerry for asking the following, false, question:

When I asked President Bush about his service in the Texas Guard, he agreed to release all his military records, health records, everything.  Would you agree to release all your military records?

(Really, it’s embarrassing what a patsy Russert is for the Republicans.  I wrote more about that here.)

In his IPF column, MJ Rosenberg argues that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict doesn't need to be the fuel that ignites more 9/11's.  Solving it can be the antidote to terror. It’s here.

Oh great the BBC caught on TV a U.S. helicopter gunship killing an Arab journalist.  That ought to convince a few more “democrats” in the region.

Don’t get enough of those sexy Wall Street Journal right-wingers on “liberal” PBS?  Why not go see them in person?  According to this, you get a panel moderated by Paul Gigot.  The panel will feature James Taranto, John Fund and Kim Strassel for the low, low price of just $179.00. That’s right, for less than the price of um, I don’t know, a lot of meals in the Midwest, you get to hear them whine about liberal control of the media, and all it will cost you as $179 more than you already pay to subsidize them on PBS. Just don’t cause a bourgeois riot.

Why does God hate Louisiana?  Maybe it’s because they were going to vote for you know who? Right Jimmy? Pat?

Nader 2000 Celebrities Against Nader  Send your abusive e-mails to them, rather than to Paul, please.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Eric Alterman
The Heart of America
The Times apparently does not want to print my letter objecting to its allowing John Tierney to slander Zabar’s shoppers and the entire Upper West Side.  Obsessive that I am, I sent this again, asking for some sort of judgment from on up high—perhaps even Bill Keller, who lives two blocks away in said slandered neighborhood, with a CC to Public Editor Dan "When I said 'liberal' remember, I mean gay issues only, but now the right will dine out on my words forever, oh well,” Okrent.

To Times editors
Fr: Eric Alterman
12 September 2004

Even though you do not have space for my letter, I do think that Mr. Tierney's contention that the Upper West Side, as a neighborhood, has called itself the 'conscience of the nation,' requires a correction (if not an apology).  Obviously, no neighborhood can 'call itself' anything.  Neighborhoods do not speak.  Why the paper wished to slander the Upper West Side in this manner is beyond me, nevertheless, the statement is factually incorrect and deserves to be corrected--or at least supported, if that's possible.

Thank you,

Eric Alterman


Name: Brian Spears
Hometown: San Francisco CA

Dear Doc,
Don't know if anyone else has passed along this little beauty of a story, but in Alabama, a lady named Lynne Gobbell lost her job because she refused to remove a Kerry/Edwards bumpersticker from her private automobile.  The story is here.

To add insult to injury, the owner of the company, one Phil Gaddis, was including the following flier in with his employees' paychecks. It read

Just so you will know, because of the Bush tax (cut):

I was able to buy the new Hammer Mill
I was able to finance our receivables
I was able to get the new CAT skid steer
I was able to get the wire cutter
I was able to give you a job

It further says:

You got the benefit of the Bush tax cut. Everyone did.

Any chance that Bush's tax cut will help cover the wrongful termination suit?  I wonder how crazy the SCLM would be if this were a Democratic employer and a Bushite employee?

Eric replies: Hey look, she got a new job.

Name: Melissa Whitt
Hometown: Knoxville, TN

Hello Mr. Alterman,
About the Bush quote and the OB/Gyn thing:  Keith Olbermann was the only guy running it for two days on any news outlet last week when Mr. President first came out with this gem.  It was picked up later in the week, and somehow even made it onto our local late news broadcast.

On its face, it makes no sense, and is laughable because of its idiocy.  But I wonder if the President realizes how many women's OB/GYNs are female.  Is he perhaps deep down inside all right with homosexuality?  Or is it rather that deep down inside he still presumes only men are doctors?  With him, of course, the only thing that is clear is that left to his own devices, he is full of nonsense.

And when I go in for my next Pap Smear I will be sure to thank my OB/GYN for practicing her love on me...

September 14, 2004 | 10:20 AM ET

I'm travelling all week, but I thought Barry came through nicely with a follow-up to his previously well-received essay on the state of contemporary radio.  Here it is.

But first, today’s Quote of the Day goes to  President Bush: “Too Many OBGYNs can’t practice their love with women all across this country.”

Oh and by the way, hello Mr. and Mrs. Media?  What about these documents?  They look pretty authentic to moi.

And it looks like Dick Cheney’s not the only potty mouth member of this administration.  (Have you noticed Colin Powell only tells the truth in private?)

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Barry Ritholtz
Hometown: The Big Picture

Hey Doc,
Back in July, we addressed the slow death of Radio in Radio's Wounded Business Model.  It generated more e-mail than any other comments I've made on Altercation.

It looks like the meme has gone mainstream:  This morning, Barron's cover story hits on many of the same themes: Internet broadcast and streaming, Satellite Radio, iPods, and P2P and how they are (heh heh) killing the industry.

As we observed last time, its their own damned fault. The industry -- Clearchannel in particular -- went for short profits at the expense of the long term relationship with their audience. They completely overlooked that their product IS THE AUDIENCE -- who they then sell to their clients, the advertisers.

The Barron's piece is subscription only. Here's a small excerpt:

Losing the Signal

Younger adults -- the key targets of radio advertising -- have clearly been losing their ardor for the medium. By one key measure, the number of listeners ages 18 to 34 has declined by about 8% in the past five years, as portable digital-music players, Internet radio programming and other innovations have started to take hold. And while the dollars spent on radio advertising have been essentially flat for the past few years, competing media like cable TV, the 'Net and outdoor advertising have been gaining steadily.

"It's over," Larry Haverty, a media specialist at State Street Research and Management in Boston, says of radio stocks' big run. "Something good happened in the 'Nineties; something less good has happened in the '00s. Every retailer is blowing its budget on advertising and radio is not getting any of it. If they don't get it now, they're not going to."
...
Investors, along with radio executives, may not be facing up to the full extent of the industry's challenges. While radio has always weathered past threats -- video did not kill radio's star, as a group called the Buggles prophesied in 1981 -- things could really be different this time.

Across the country, listeners are changing how they choose to receive music and news and talk radio. They are turning to portable music players like Apple Computer's iPod, streaming audio over the Internet and the emerging field of satellite radio to hear what they want, when they want to hear it.
...
Music downloading is one of the "fastest-growing digital phenomena ever," says Forrester Research Group. It predicts download services will generate more than $200 million in revenue this year, $40 million higher than forecast and up from just $36 million in 2003. In all, some 35 million U.S. adults have downloaded music, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a nonprofit initiative.

Trends like that are causing companies to reassess advertising choices, to ensure they're getting the most bang for their buck. Accountability and return on investment are the priorities in advertising right now, and it's hard to say radio is providing much of either as listeners start tuning out. Among all people older than 12, only 14.6% are listening to radio during an average 15-minute period, down from 16% in 1998, according to Arbitron.

September 13, 2004 | 12:57 AM ET

The third anniversary of September 11 inspires many conflicting emotions from sadness at the loss, gratitude for the sacrifices of those who selflessly threw themselves into the rescue operations and subsequent physical, cultural and emotional reconstruction efforts and fury at its murderous perpetrators.  But if we are honest we cannot overlook the morally degenerate reaction of our own political leadership.  I was among those who, briefly, allowed hope to triumph over experience.  I praised President Bush’s initial address to the nation and ignored his childish “good vs. evil” and “for us or against us" posturing.  I did not make a big deal over his obvious panic on the day the attack took place.  I supported the war in Afghanistan even though I would have preferred a police and intelligence action.  (And for this I was called a traitor, literally, Little Roy.) 

Even so vociferous a critic of the unelected Bush, Cheney, the Neocons, and the religious right as myself could not bring himself to imagine in that horrific week with the smell of the smoking ruins literally polluting the sky above my house, that America’s president, its vice-president and their advisers would be capable of the following:

  • Bush and company specifically ignored multiple warnings of just such an attack.

  • Bush and company lied to the heroes of 9/11 about the health and safety implications of breathing the air down at Ground Zero—my own family included.

  • Bush and company immediately sought to manipulate the grief and anger of the attacks to launch an unnecessary and counterproductive war against Iraq which has resulted in over a thousand needless American military deaths and U.S. soldiers turning into occupiers and in some case torturers.

  • Bush and company lied to the nation about the responsibility for the attack, trying to pin it on Saddam Hussein who had nothing whatsoever to do with it.

  • Bush and company allowed its friends in the Saudi royal family to hide its relationship to the killers.

  • Bush and company made only a lackluster effort to capture the killers, allowing many to escape at Tora Bora and pulling agents and resources out of Afghanistan to feed its obsession with Iraq.

  • Bush and company did everything they could to prevent and later, undermine an investigation of why 9/11 was allowed to happen.

  • Bush and company continue to ignore their responsibility to protect the nation from another attack, failing to protect its ports, nuclear and chemical plants, and its most vulnerable urban targets and instead, have actually gone out of their way to inspire more such attacks, despite intelligence warnings  on this very topic.

  • Bush and company have destroyed the sympathy our nation enjoyed (and deserved) in the immediate aftermath of the attack and have instead turned that sympathy into global hatred and disgust, further endangering our citizens.

  • Bush and company have repeatedly manipulated the powerful imagery of the attacks for their own partisan political purposes.

  • Bush and company have repeatedly cowed the media into ignoring, and when that’s impossible, apologizing for, much of the above.

For all of the above, the men and women who people this administration deserved not merely to be repudiated politically but held accountable both morally and legally.  Instead it is they who attack and impugn patriots like lifetime public servants Richard Clarke and Anthony Zinni, whose only crimes were to call them honestly to account for their catastrophic dishonesty, incompetence, and ideological fanaticism.  Since September 11, President Bush and company have accomplished what the terrorists could not; they have divided us against ourselves.  That so much of the mainstream media have proven ineffective-or worse—cooperative with their deceptive efforts give one cause for an even deeper pessimism.  One’s only solace, I suppose, is that we have, as a nation, been through worse—though never, it must be added, under quite such feckless leadership.


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