January 7, 2005 | 10:59 AM ET

I’m sick today but here’s the new Think Again called, “Private Accounts, Personal Attacks.”

And here’s Slacker Friday:

(Oh and felicitations to the Jewish World Review for distributing anti-Jewish cartoons. That ought to confuse the goyim.)

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:
What can I say but,

" Take Hitler and stick him on the funny pages!"

Thank you.

Lord, they're doing it right out in the open now.  There were a dozen candidates for AG, but they deliberately threw up AG for AG in order to stick a finger in the eye of everyone who's said "Abu Ghraib" in public over the past year.  They're being very clear that they have embarked on a historic mission not only to demolish Social Security, but to salt the government so that nothing like it ever arises again.  (They're even bragging about the lies they're going to tell in order to accomplish it.)  And this is only part of the reason why three women made me ashamed of myself this week.

Ever since November 2, my wife has been following the shenanigans in Ohio.  (And talking about boasting in the open -- Ken Blackwell's done everything but hold a press conference in a pirate suit.)  She's a better journalist than I, and her outrage was pure, and I spent a lot of time being oh-so-blasé about the whole business, giving it the Irish pol wink-and-a-nod, and wringing my hands.  Then, yesterday, up popped Rep. Jones and Senator Boxer, on the same day that a committee of the U.S. Senate was quibbling over the meaning of the word "torture," and I thought, good on all of you, and shame on me.

Because sometimes it's just good to say "no," simply for the sake of saying it, because doing so lessens your complicity in a comfortable politics in which the destruction of American ideals is more admired for its clever tactics than it is condemned for its lasting damage.  This is a government of vandals, and shame on anyone too dumb to realize it, or so ambitious that they'd make peace with it.  Shame on any Democratic legislator who didn't line up with Boxer yesterday, especially the ones that gave pretty speeches and voted the other way.  Shame on any Democrat who votes to confirm Alberto Gonzales.  Shame on any Democrat who attaches himself to any Social Security plan while this administration is in office.  This is a time to say no, just for the pure hell of it.  Trust me, there's no political price to be paid that you're not already paying, piecemeal, out of your souls.

One final question -- how long does that guy at the Observer have to wear the dog-collar for Coulter before he wins the bet?

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago

Hey Eric, it's Stupid to talk you down from the Kofi Annan ledge.  Annan's response to his critics about Oil-for-Food is eerily like his response to questioning about the Rwandan genocide.  Indeed, any discussion of Annan should start with "The Genocide Fax" -- the smoking gun that proved he knew about the pending genocide when he ordered General Romeo Dallaire to do nothing to stop it.  The fax predates Bill Clinton's equally abominable "Presidential Directive #25 to Madeleine Albright" by months.  While Annan eventually apologized for his Rwanda failure, at first he tried to cover it up, including imposing a gag order on Dallaire preventing him from testifying to European investigators.  In 1998 Annan visited Rwanda but refused to make an apology.  It was only in 1999, after the fax story leaked, that he issued his "we didn't do enough/never again" tripe.  Annan is the last person to compare his plight to a lynching victim (as Ian Williams quotes him in the article you link to).

"Ok Stupid, but that doesn't justify the neocons railroading him on Oil-for-Food, does it?"

Admittedly no, but Williams doesn't give the entire story.  The Volcker Commisision defense is flawed, because Annan says he will redact the report to protect staff members and "respect any undertakings as to confidentiality."  Williams' other main defense has more merit: that the U.S. and U.K. didn't act on early reports of fraud.  But consider the context: It was Kofi Annan who protected Saddam in 1998 and who was silent when Saddam later reneged on that deal -- is it unfair to say the buck stopped there?  Either Annan should have known how bad the problem was or he should have sounded the alarms regardless of what the U.S. was doing.  Finally, look at the guy's recent record.  He's done nothing but bluster about Darfur and he's failed to secure needed peacekeepers for Congo (which has already been 15 times deadlier than last month's tsunami).  Liberals shouldn't waste their time defending him. 

Name: George Costello
Hometown: Oakton, VA

Hope you caught the Katie Couric interview with Michael Moore on the Today show this morning.  If it's covered on their Web site I haven't found it, and I didn't write down quotes.  Anyhow, some of the questions were quite interesting.  One was premised on the assumption that Democrats turned off many voters, on the one hand by being too shrill and negative in their attacks on Bush, and on the other hand by not putting forth a positive and coherent view of what they would do.  The second half of the criticism is certainly valid, and Moore responded appropriately to that.  But the first criticism is stunning.  Fahrenheit 911 may fit the description (although, of course, most of it is true), but Kerry sure didn't.  The worst mistake Kerry made was not making Bush's record the principal issue of the campaign.  We had weeks of unanswered Swift Boat lies, followed by a Democratic Convention that was scripted to avoid criticism of Bush, followed by a Republican Convention, featuring a rabid Zell Miller, that was scripted to smear Kerry.  Now which side should be accused of being too shrill and negative?

[The video of Moore on the Today show can be found here . -Ed.]

Name: David Ehrenstein
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Eric you're more than merely "right" about "La Dolce Vita," a film whose socio-political pertinence grows with every passing day.  While "Sweet Smell of Success" has been justly celebrated in recent years, it's Fellini's film that best describes that state of contemporary journalism -- even though it was a hot-off-the-press account of events unfolding in its own time, the Italian epoch now known as "Il Boom." 

I first saw the film back in 1961 when it opened as a "roadshow" (hard ticket) attraction at the Henry Miller's Theater in New York.  It was a life-changing experience, particularly for the "Bassano di Sutri" sequence where Nico takes Marcello to the castle of the aristocrats.

Fellini's associate on that shoot was one Alessandro von Normann (fabulous name, what?) who is happily still with us.  He was associate producer on "The Talented Mr.Ripley" whose action unfolds during "Il Boom."

Name: Bear
Hometown: Austin, TX

Considering that the CIA's own internal investigation agreed with Gary Webb's stories (released years after the articles were written and barely mentioned by the SCLM), Mr. Webb did indeed "get it just about right."  The big boys in the SCLM refused to investigate Webb's stories at the time and chose instead to tar-and-feather the messenger. 

The CIA did indeed allow, and in some cases encouraged, the Contras to fund their weapons purchases with a flood of cheap cocaine that ended up in L.A.  Did the CIA know that the process to make crack was going to be "discovered" at that time (basically cheap, mass scale free-basing) and that the Contra coke would fuel a massive inner-city drug problem?  Probably not.  But Webb's main point, that the CIA's need to provide financing outside of Congressional control, illegal financing by the way, was deemed more important than the consequences of a flood of cheap drugs into the U.S., was spot on.

Name: Kevin Swan
Hometown: Bainbridge Island, WA

You apparently took a look at a recent Mallard Fillmore strip, which made you ask whether it always adheres so closely to traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes. The answer is, no, it frequently adheres to other stereotypes, distortions, and favorite agitprop tools of the right.  It's essentially an attempt at a right-wing Doonesbury, but the author doesn't appear to be nearly clever enough to pull it off.  He also misses the point that Doonesbury, even at its most strident, is nearly always *funny.*

Name: Barry L. Ritholtz
The Big Picture
Hey Doc,
The 2004 numbers are now out for CD sales in the U.S., and they are rather interesting:  U.S. CD sales rose by 2.3% in 2004; It was the first rise in four years, but far below the 8% year over year gains we saw in the first quarter of the year.

The CD format still accounts for 98% of the 666 million albums sold, according to research company Nielsen Soundscan.  A total of 140 million digital tracks were legally downloaded last year, equivalent to 14 million albums . . . By the end of the year, purchased downloads reached a weekly high of 6.7 million tracks, up from 300,000 in mid-2003.

Among the top 5 selling U.S. CDs were Usher (#1) and Eminem (#3) -- both heavily downloaded on P2P networks.

It gets even more intriguing when you compare music industry results here in the States with those in Great Britain:  "The UK enjoyed a record year for album sales in 2004, with 237 million sold in the 12 months up to September, an increase of 3%."

Note that the U.K. population is 60 million people, while the U.S. has under 300 million people.  With a population only 20% the size of the United States, the British buy 37% as many CDs as we do.  In other words, on a per capita basis, U.K. consumers buy nearly twice as many CDs as do consumers in the U.S.

Why is that?  How is it that they are setting records -- despite vibrant broadband penetration, and widespread access to P2P services -- while the U.S. remains far below 1999 levels?

I suspect there are three likely causes:

  1. A more vibrant, less consolidated broadcast radio music scene (No Clear Channel Radio);

  2. Less mass produced corporate McMusic so prevalent on the radio in the States -- from Ashlee Simpson to insipid Boy Bands;

  3. A robust economic expansion. The U.S. '90s bubble was far more muted in the U.K., so its after effects are also less insidious.

It doesn't take much digging to see that the claims of the music industry re: P2P have been greatly exaggerated...

You can see more details here:  2004 Year-end Film & Music #s

January 6, 2005 | 12:47 PM ET

Torture is boring

Congratulations to us:  We’ve reached the point where American soldiers torturing innocents has become boring –a short story buried inside the paper demonstrating that U.S. officials have long known about what was going on and chose not to deal with it.  Of course that’s the way Bush, uh-huh, uh-huh, likes it; torture, death penalty, it’s all in a days work for those who are resolute

The Post kicks the Times' ass for the second day in a row.  Check out the documents here and ask yourself what’s in the documents the White House won’t release about Gonzales, here.

Meanwhile,  Mark Danner has some further thoughts here.

Stingy Watch:  Australia upped its aid to $764 million, making it the new top donor.  Germany also increased its offering to about $690 million.  Japan is ahead of us too, here.  I guess helping to save people really is worth only 4.5 hours of killing them.  But I guess that’s just the kind of nation we are.

I went to a fancy luncheon for Michael Moore yesterday in honor of his nomination by the New York Critic’s Circle award (I think) and it was the kind of combination of media and movie people eating free, excellent food that gets the Catholic League’s William Donahue thinking about how much secular Jews like anal sex.  Anyway, Moore spoke at greater length than usual at such things and quite passionately about the need for Democrats to embrace Hollywood and find a candidate with some sex appeal and tell their story with some attention to narrative.  “We need our own Arnold,” Moore said over and over, speculating that Barack Obama and/or Hillary Clinton might have the right goods. 

I have my differences with Moore, and engaged him, at the luncheon, over what I believe were his mistaken allegations with regard to the centrality of the Afghan pipeline in Fahrenheit 911, but I am not going to join those who argue that Moore, himself, is the problem for Democrats.  Moore is a convenient symbol for the right to exploit in order to stoke the cultural resentment of confused Kansasans (et al) but if it weren’t Moore, it would be someone else.  He has a lot to say that’s on the money and he says it well.  Finally, I’ve only met him a few times, but I’ve always found him to be quite friendly and not at all full of himself, as the media so simply and blithely assumes.

Mickey goes to bat for Tucker Carlson and crap TV.  You need to be a subscriber to read this but you’ll see here that his point about Carlson’s PBS program is B.S.  Tucker treated Paul Krugman the way William Donohue treats secular Jews who allegedly like anal sex.  I hear that PBS is quite unhappy with his hectoring style and plans some changes in the offing.  Meanwhile, I’d suggest he could use a much less excitable producer.  If MSNBC’s Rick Kaplan does indeed hire him, I’d suggest devoting a full week to investigating just why Hollywood’s secular Jews enjoy anal sex so much.  Perhaps Pat Buchanan could be hired for political balance, as Carlson is perhaps insufficiently crazy to carry a cable show on his own.  I imagine Donahue’s available for free too, if Scarborough isn’t using him that night.

Reasons being an author can really suck, part XVI
In re: Washington Post Book World:  I published two books in 2004.  The first, The Book on Bush, was given to a former Reagan and Bush administration official who currently works for Fox News and who revealed none of this.  He misrepresented the book and its argument as I demonstrated in a letter to the editor.  The second, When Presidents Lie, upon which I spent eleven years, was enthusiastically endorsed by the former longtime executive editor, Benjamin C. Bradlee, who invited me to address his seminar at Harvard on the topic and who spoke at my Aspen Institute talk on the book after I did, (and which was broadcast only at 4:00 a.m.).  This book, of which John Dean, writing in The Washington Monthly, noted, “I've never read a better explanation of why presidents lie..." and which Jon Meacham, the Managing Editor of Newsweek, writing in the Los Angeles Times, termed, “provocative, intriguing and insightful" and “broad, complex and insightful” is not being reviewed at all in The Washington Post because the person to whom they assigned it did not turn the review in, and they declined to assign it again.  The reviews that were published are here, at least most of them.  (The New York Times assigned it to former presidential candidate Gary Hart, who did not understand the historiography of the book well enough, in my opinion, to make the critique he attempted, but nevertheless termed it to be “powerful and compelling argument in support of the proposition that presidential deception in matters of state having to do with war and peace seriously undermines public confidence in government.”)

Another thought about WPL:  Curiously, unlike my other, and I would argue, inferior books, I did not get an invitation from Charlie Rose or any major national NPR outlet to discuss the book.  Since I know the book is better researched, more carefully argued, and more meticulously written than anything else I’ve ever done, I have to conclude that the problem with it is that it was insufficiently partisan.  I’m “Eric Alterman” and I’m supposed to write books that attack conservatives, and I should be paired with lunatics like Coulter or hacks like Goldberg.  When I examine, as a historian, the records of three Democratic presidents and one Republican, even so thoughtful interviewers as Terry Gross want nothing to do with it.

I’ve never read Mallard Fillmore before.  Does it always adhere so closely to traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes?

I like Dan Kennedy especially when he quotes me accurately and when his letter writers don’t issue me instructions about how to live my life.

I never looked sufficiently closely into the matter to know for sure, but it was my impression that Gary Webb had a great story that he overplayed and thereby invited the likes of Howard Kurtz to try to ridicule his inconvenient discoveries out of existence.  Bravo for Don Wycliff for saying what needed to be said.

Wolcott sums up Little Roy standing on the shoulders of the great Atrios.

Alter word of the day: Gynotikolobomassophilia: the persistent activity of nibbling on a woman’s ear lobe.

Alter-reviews: La Dolce Vita is one of the greatest movies of all time.  What I find interesting about it is that in the film, Fellini uses the life of the high-faluttin’ tabloid celebrity suck-up journalist as a metaphor for societal decline and moral dissolution.  In our media culture today, however, nobody gets the joke.  A Vanity Fair type Boswell to J-Lo or Brittney is considered as respectable or admirable as physics professor or a legal aid lawyer.  Anyway, it’s a beautiful DVD transfer and if you don’t like this move, I’m afraid you’re a dope.  (And isn’t this site incredible?)  I’ve meant to write that as an essay for a long time, but now I guess I never will.  Blogs are good/bad for journalistic creativity, discuss.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Chuck Tomlinson
Hometown: Florence, SC

In response to Mr. Townsend's e-mail Wednesday: The Associated Press ran a story about an Arab newspaper reporting the fact the bomber was a Saudi medical student.  My paper ran the story on page 12A of its Tuesday edition.  In fact, I'm a copy editor, and the news editor and I were the ones who decided to run the story because we felt like it was relevant and people would want, and need, to know.

Name: John McQueen
Hometown: Fairfax, Virginia
About 3 weeks ago, in the hardbound edition of Into The Buzzsaw, I first read Jane Akre's superb piece, "The Fox, The Hounds, and the Sacred Cow."  With some additions, the book lately came out in paperback.  The "Into the Forest" update is most welcome (albeit so appalling it literally made me feel faint).  So, even while acquiring the book, and even while keeping in mind the Asian disaster, I hope those of us who can help Jane Akre and Steve Wilson will take a moment to do so.  As you suggest, the latest ruling in this case ranks as a total, incomprehensible disaster.  Thank you for the update, and for all of your outstanding work.

Name: David Winmill
Hometown: Ogden, Utah
Seeing Staples pull their advertising from Sinclair Broadcasting Group is a great idea.  Anyone interested in boycotting companies that advertise on FOX networks until FOX cleans up their act?

Name: Rich Levy
Hometown: Cambridge, MD

Yesterday, Will Eisner, comic artist and social commentator extraordinaire, passed away at 86 (or 87, depending on who you read).  He became the father of the modern graphic novel, and was also the spiritual mentor of modern graphic artists through his stories of his creation, "The Spirit."  He's not so well known today, but check your local comic shop for his books.  Buy and read one of his books.  He was a giant.  Many of today's comic artists and moviemakers owe him in the biggest way, and they should be carrying his casket on their shoulders from Florida, where he died, back to his beloved New York City.  A real mensch has left the room.

Name: Larry Epke
Hometown: Richton Park, IL
That's " His GIRL Friday."  And if we're playing that game, I'll nominate "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "Seven Year Itch" and "Duck Soup." (The Marx Brothers early films for Paramount were more cheaply made than the later MGM ones, but are funnier and have fewer non-comedy moments.)

January 5, 2005 | 12:20 PM ET

Fox us with impunity

From Seeing the Forest by Patrick O'Heffernan:

Click on the above and read the details of this case.  Amazing, isn’t it?  O'Heffernan is dead right when he observes:

Journalists challenge Fox, get $1 million legal bill
1) the Appeals Court’s finding that it is not illegal for Fox or any other TV outlet to broadcast news that is patently false gives all corporate media an on-the-record license to lie, and (2) the Court's ruling that Whistleblowers who lose a suit can be hit with huge legal bills by the companies they are suing shuts down a powerful tool for kicking corporate media in the teeth when they do lie.  This is a big-stakes case and these two have been fighting it mostly alone for years.  (They received a Goldman Prize in 2001 for reporting the story and fighting Fox and Monsanto.)  They need money, volunteers, and moral support.  If they lose this one, Monsanto can poison us all it wants and Fox can fool us with impunity.  Full details of their case, the Appeals Court order for them to pay, their challenge to Fox 13’s license renewal, and how you can help can be found here.

Meanwhile, Staples is doing the right thing, and pulling its advertising from news programming on Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. television stations, saying the decision was fueled in part by e-mails from customers angry at what they consider to be the broadcaster's right-wing bias in news and commentary.

Speaking of evil corporate media chieftains, the first three quarters of “In Good Company” are quite good, until it loses its nerve and turns into a silly, incredible fairy-tale at the end.

Hysteria on Wisteria?  Expect the Parents Television Council to target "Desperate Housewives" for indecency complaints now that Nielsen television ratings says it is the most popular broadcast-network television show with kids aged 9-12.  "I've always been particularly troubled by the fact that so many conservatives, who rightly preach the gospel of personal and parental responsibility about most economic issues, seemingly give up on this notion when it comes to cultural issues," more here.

Here we go again.  Remember Scott Ritter?  He was right last time about Iraq and ridiculed for it.  Here he is again on missile defense.

Divide and Conquer, Divide and Conquer  When will it occur to liberal practitioners of identity politics that they are only hurting themselves?  (Mr. Cisneros might wish to read this and wonder how many Hispanic and other U.S. soldiers will be tortured as a result of the legal handiwork of the man he so admires.)

Greatest City In The World, Update:  My (white, Jewish) kid took a spill on the ice in Rockefeller Center yesterday during after school.  Someone got a little worried and here’s what happened:  Her male Moslem counselor called a 911 ambulance and accompanied her to the hospital, where she was admitted by a female, Asian administrator and treated by a Black, female doctor and a male, Hispanic, nurse, before her parents arrived and brought her home in a taxi driven by a male Sikh.  She’s fine, and lucky to be living in this, the greatest you know what in you know where…. (On the way home, I thought again of this beautiful post.)

My favorite song lyrics of the year, here.

I read a bit of Time’s profile of Bill Murray, (subscription only) in the emergency room yesterday.  Clearly it was meant to be a cover story, but got Tsuami’d off.  I had no strong feelings about it one way or the other, except that it badly skimped on both the greatness and the influence of “Groundhog Day,” for which, I think, one can make a strong case as the funniest of all modern movies.  Other strong contenders would be: “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”; “Diner,” and “Annie Hall.”  The funniest old move I can think of is “His Gal Friday,” though I won’t argue with people who insist on “A Night at the Opera.”  Anyway, for a really interesting perspective on “Groundhog Day,” including the sad news that it ended the close Murray/Ramis friendship and partnership, read Tad Friend’s terrific profile of Ramis, here.

Little Roy comes out in favor of Outing gays who prefer their sexuality to remain private, if um, they die and he disapproves of their politics, here, purely (or perhaps especially) on the evidence of hearsay.  Why am I not surprised?

Ever plan to take anything seriously you ever read in The New York Observer?  Remember this and think again.

Alter Word-of-the-day: Kirkbuzzer: someone who robs churches.

Congratulations to me for talking down my Blackberry dealer to fifty bucks.

Quote of the Day:  “Although Afghan President Hamid Karzai has declared a "jihad" against the drug trade, he has vetoed aerial spraying.” NYT, the other day.  ( Alternate link)

The Nation, circulation 185,000, has a new book critic who thinks Tony Kushner, Larry David and Edgar Doctorow all stink.  Curious, no?

On another note, I have constant arguments with people about one of my pet peeves:  critics who don’t also write books.  While some of the best critics do fall into this category, I still think it’s wrong.  To me it would be impossible to know how to criticize a book fairly, (or a play or a short story), without first experiencing just how difficult it is to construct one.  I am always reading reviews that say, “The author should have done X,” but the reviewer rarely takes the time to figure out what would have had to be omitted or how a change in structure would have affected the rest of the work—or the author’s intentions for it.  Writing a good book is a lot more work than it appears to be—indeed part of the definition of success is making it appear effortless.  What’s more, being nasty about a book is too easy if you’ve never tried it yourself.  (James Atlas’ thoughtful new memoir offers an eloquent illustration of this point.)  As I said, there are always exceptions, but I still think it’s a worthy rule.  You don’t have to write good books; you just have to try.

Alter-Reviews:  Norman Granz by Sal

Norman Granz, concert promoter and record producer, loved jam sessions. Throw a bunch of musicians in the studio, give them a set list consisting of standards and some loose blues, and see what happens.  This happened 9 times in the 1950's and the musicians involved were such "hacks" as Benny Carter, Johnny Hodges, Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson, Stan Getz, Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Lionel Hampton, and Dizzy Gillespie.  As a matter of fact, the 20 or so guys I'm not mentioning are no less legendary or amazing at their particular instrument.

" The Complete Norman Granz Jam Sessions" set on Verve consists of 5 CDs, covering all 9 sessions.  It's a beauty.  No song or "jam" runs less than 10 minutes.  Some run almost 30 minutes.  (Sorry, no "Dark Star.")  The jams themselves are a bit tame by today's jazz standards.  "Blues For The Count" finds Count Basie swingin' on organ (yes, organ), "Sweets" Edison on trumpet, Buddy De Franco on clarinet- quoting Gershwin on his solo, very cool- and Buddy Rich on drums.  It's a smooth ride all the way.  "The Ballad Medley" on Disc One for example, runs 17:22, but it is not some ham-handed, jam-band attempt to blend a minute or two of ten songs that the musicians only know a minute or two of.  The band moves from "All The Things You Are" into "Dearly Beloved" into "The Nearness Of You" without once having the listener become impatient.  These guys knew the music and their instruments so well, it seems like they couldn't surprise each other if Charlie Parker broke out a kazoo.  More here and here.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Rob Townsend
Hometown: Orange Beach, AL
Hi Dr. Alterman,
I noticed none of the U.S. media picked up on the story I saw in the Globe and Mail about the suicide bomber in the mess tent last week was a SAUDI.

I wonder why they did not think that the American public would want to know this fact?

Name: Eric Rasmussen
Hometown: New Haven, CT

Dear Eric,
I was pleased to see the unequivocating terms in which you discussed the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" in Think Again.  Many people in the media still seem to be a little unsure about this, treating it as an intractable "he said, she said" question.  A recent example is Adam Nagourney's handling of Nancy Pelosi's regret about the weak response to "what she described as false attacks" in his article "Democrats Entangled" January 2 in the NYT.

One reason that the issue had such legs was that the lynchpin of the SBVT argument, the claim that Kerry wrote the after-action reports about the missions for which he received medals, was not debunked until October, when, as you point out, the real damage (distraction) was already done. Indeed, my rebuttal of the SBVT book is still the only place that disproves this charge beyond a reasonable doubt, using the applicable operations order and a recent statement by Kerry's base commander in Vietnam.  Assuming that these orders were followed, it can be shown that Kerry's friend Don Droz wrote both of the crucial reports and the SBVT argument is really, at its heart, an assault on his integrity, not John Kerry's.  Droz was a beloved and admired United States Naval Academy graduate from a small town in Missouri who gave his life in Vietnam. To learn more about him, see the fine film " Be Good, Smile Pretty" by his daughter, Tracy.

Eric Rasmussen

January 4, 2005 | 10:30 AM ET

Afghanistan: Another failure

It’s a cliché that liberal commentators, to preserve their mainstream cred, often feel a need to point out that not everything George Bush does is bad, and to bash other liberals to prove one can be trusted.  Nicholas Kristof is the King of All Media in this regard, as he recently blamed the left  for what’s going wrong in Iraq.  Jacob Weisberg did this in his New York Times Book Review bash of three anti-Bush books, though in every case he happened to choose, he got his facts garbled.  One place liberals are always eager to give Bush credit is Afghanistan.  In fact, U.S. policy there has been almost as a much a failure as it has everywhere else.  The Taliban has been allowed to regroup.  Al-Qaida has reformed and enjoys more recruits than ever.  Bin-Laden is partying on in some cave somewhere, laughing at Bush and planning his next attack.  And most of the country remains impassable except under the control of local war lords.  We alienated much of the Moslem world with our population bombings and killed a lot of innocent people.  Now, as the icing on the proverbial cake, we have made the country safe again for the exportation of grade-A heroin to our streets.  It’s become a narco-mafia haven, with poppy-growing increasing at a rate of 60 percent a year in 2004.  Congrats to everyone involved.  Next stop, Social Security.  (And thanks again, Ralph)

Susan Sontag, on photographs of war.

Hey Boehlert, no more links until somebody renews my Salon sub, just saying…. (In the meantime, that’s just as well.  Dear Salon headline writers, Susan Sontag was not America’s “most ferocious intellectual.”  That’s just plain stupid.  I don’t think “coldblooded anger” catches her too well either.  Do you really need this crap just to get people to click on an article?)

Best Jazz releases of 2004  Shame on those of us who forgot about Bill Charlap.  And it seems the only consensus choice of the year is the great Joe Lovano.

In case you were gone:

January 3, 2005 | 11:18 AM ET

Media Myths; Kofi Annan and the Oil for Food Scandal

Did you know that the entire attack on Kofi Annan by the conservative press is wholly manufactured and untrue?  Did you know that Annan has not even been accused of any form of wrongdoing?  I didn’t, until I read this cover story in The Nation, even though a very good friend of mine who works closely with Annan assured me that this was the case.  I suggested a piece along these lines to find out what was up to a few writers but now Ian Williams did it for the Nation and it’s a revelation, not merely about Annan, but once again of the incredible dishonesty and lack of responsibility of the conservative media, most particularly, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard and William Safire. 

There’s more on Kofi here in Today’s Times.

Not stingy.  Not much.  The governments of Sweden and England contributed $8.40 per citizen.  The government of the wealthiest country on earth, the United States of America, originally offered twelve cents per citizen, here.   

Now we’re up to a buck twenty.  Japan, a country whose wealth is a fraction of ours and with a population of less than half the size of ours, is giving more than is our government.

I wonder if The Wall Street Journal editorial page will  hire Chalabi as a regular columnist.  Being a proven liar an accused spy, he has all the right qualifications.

More on the unconscionable persecution of Christians in America, here from Matthew Yglesias, who notes:

The more you think about it, the closer the comparison seems to fit.  Take the legal system.  Christians, as we know, are marginalized in the American judiciary.  Only seven of the nine Supreme Court justices are nominal Christians, and of the seven, just two -- Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- regularly approve of efforts to codify theological norms as legal ones.  More shockingly, from the appointment of Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court in 1916 through the resignation of Abe Fortas in 1969, there has been consistently one Jewish justice -- though Jews never even approached one-ninth of the U.S. population.  After things were briefly restored to the proper all-Christian lineup during the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush Senior years, Bill Clinton appointed two non-Christian justices, Steven Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Krauthammer, indeed. 

Who owns the media?

Thanks again, Ralph

Two thoughts on watching C-Span yesterday.  1) Garry Wills is my nomination for my own personal non-presidential medal of freedom.  Three hours of listening to him take phone calls on C-Span, discussing theology, history, contemporary politics, film, linguistics, and art proved an incredibly energizing experience; that one man can teach himself so much and remain so calmly committed to a life of moral citizenship was truly inspirational.  The experience was tarnished for me, only by the fact that a) Garry made clear that he hasn’t yet read When Presidents Lie and b) C-Span is planning to offer the same treatment next month to the crackpot racist Charles Murray, thereby devaluing the experience for everyone else.  (I won’t again complain of their showing the Aspen talk I did only, once, at 4:00 a.m., but I remain ready to fight about it.)  For more on Murray’s crackpot racism, see What Liberal Media.

2) Later on, C-Span showed a group of nine politicians and intellectuals saluting the career of Daniel Patrick Moynihan.  Many were conservatives and neoconservatives.  I hope they remember that Moynihan’s voting record was just about the most liberal in the Senate.  He was among the vociferous opponents of the Reagan administration in America.  And his speech against George Bush’s decision to go to war against Iraq was among the most eloquent I’ve ever witnessed.  He was also obsessively offended by the Reagan administration’s deliberate attempt to bust the budget in order to destroy the possibility of positive government.

Moynihan would have undoubtedly been far more contemptuous of the current bunch of zealots and anti-intellectual Christian warriors in power whose offenses against what Pat Moynihan considered to be common sense far surpass anything attempted by Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush.  I say all this because these people tend to treat the people who hold and held these same positions to be fools and knaves.  When they do so, they are disrespecting the man they profess to hold in such high regard.  (Oh and Tim Russert said “Bul**it” on the air.  Someone call Michael Powell…)

20 amazing facts about voting in the U.S.A., here.

Cheap Shot Department: L.A. Times headline, December 2, 2004, page A29: "Intelligence Struggle Points to New Challenge for Bush"


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