January 21, 2005 | 11:28 AM ET

Does Bush even realize how lucky he is to have a press corps that will cover and fabricate on his behalf?

(And by the way, aren’t we a terrific country to have witnessed a transfer of power from George W. Bush to George W. Bush without the spectacle of tanks in the streets? Oh wait….)

Meanwhile, Media Matters inventoried all guests who appeared on FOX News, CNN, and MSNBC during the channels' January 20 inauguration coverage between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, and found that Republican and conservative guests and commentators outnumbered Democrats and progressives 17 to 6 on FOX, 10 to 1 on CNN (not including a Republican-skewed panel featuring Ohio voters), and 13 to 2 on MSNBC. Moreover, the rare Democrat or progressive guest usually appeared opposite conservatives, whereas most Republican and conservative guests and commentators appeared solo or alongside fellow conservatives. Read all about it.

Repeat after me: What Liberal Media?

And Barry R. provides a few good links:

Where does that leave us? Counting down the days until W is an ex-president:

And a few good numbers:

By the Numbers: The U.S. After 4 Years of Bush
January 20, 2005

  • Poverty Rate
    2000: 11.3% or 31.6 million Americans
    2003: 12.5% or 35.9 million Americans

  • Stock market
    Dow Jones Industrial Average
    1/19/01: 10,587.59
    1/19/05: 10,539.97

  • NASDAQ
    1/19/01: 2,770.38
    1/19/05: 2,073.59

  • S&P 500
    1/19/01: 1,342.54
    1/19/05: 1,184.63

  • Value of the Dollar
    1/19/01: 1 Dollar = 1.06 Euros
    1/19/05: 1 Dollar = 0.77 Euros

  • Budget
    2000 budget surplus $236.4 billion
    2004 budget deficit $412.6 billion
    That's a shift of $649 billion and doesn't include the cost of the Iraq war.

  • Cost of the war in Iraq
    $150.8 billion

  • American Casualties in Iraq
    Deaths: 1,369
    Wounded: 10,252

  • The Debt
    End of 2000: $5.7 trillion
    Today: $7.6 trillion
    That's a 4 year increase of 33%

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Charles Pierce
Dateline: Milwaukee, WI
Hey Doc --

First of all, I'm not dead.

There I was, in the barber chair on Wednesday night, when the Department Of Scaring The Crap Out Of Us Ltd. announced that, maybe, it might be possible that some Chinese people had come into the U.S. and were headed for Boston with murder in their hearts, based on an anonymous tip phoned into a sheriff's department somewhere in California.  Immediately, the Commonwealth went on point.  The national threat level, of course, was not elevated.  By the 6 p.m. local news the FBI was dismissing the whole business, and we were told, as always, to go on about our daily lives.

Fine, guys, as soon as I CLIMB DOWN OFF THE F**KING CEILING!

Anyway, I'm not dead, an I'm in my adopted hometown for the weekend, writing about basketball and, anyway, have I mentioned that I'm not dead?

Is there a greater waste of tailoring in this country than Joe Biden?  (And the fact that he declined to hire me to write his speeches for him back in '76 has nothing to do with this -- although, if he had, he wouldn't have had to borrow Neal Kinnock's.)  He's one of the house fools on Imus, which is strikes one-through-three by itself, but there is no man alive more conscious of his Beltway eminence than this thooleramawn.  He roasts Condi Rice on a spit, blowharding his way through questions that she can't answer, and then votes for her anyway, because...because...well, probably because some booker on Jim Lehrer's show lost his phone number.  And, remember,when we're confronted with CHIEF JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS, that it was a previous Biden rollover job that set that particularly unqualified cineaste on the glory road.

Useless, as John Wilkes Booth said while dying.  Useless, useless.

But I am not dead.  Praise be.

P.S. -- I was in the air yesterday, and thus missed all the festivities and the attendant suckitude from the courtier press.  However, referring repeatedly to the Deity as "He," is a sure sign that you don't know enough theology to throw to a cat.

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to drop out of law school (temporarily) and head back to church.  Last week Atercator Beth Woodhall gave a shout-out to Jim Wallis, the liberal evangelical publisher of Sojourners Web site.  This week the NY Times ran a small piece touting him as the Democrats' Great White Red State Hope.  I'm withholding judgment until I read his new book, but it looks like he has one big advantage over earlier theo-pundits: he doesn't dis Scripture (i.e., decontextualize uncomfortable passages out of existence a la John Shelby Spong, a decent man regardless).  For example, on gay rights, Wallis doesn't argue they are trumped by vaguer passages about God's love or compare them to the Bible's implicit tolerance for slavery.  Instead he accurately contextualizes them as not being a Biblical priority.  He also seems to realize that the "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" retort is dead-on-arrival.  He realizes that while one may be pro-choice, there's a difference between calling abortion "a tragedy" and saying it's a sin.  True, the latter is understandably a turn-off to most of us, but either the tent gets bigger or we keep losing.

In the Times article, Wallis puts a neat spin on liberal theology: there are more than 3,000 Biblical references to alleviating poverty.  The religious right, via the Southern Baptists, responds that this doesn't support liberal welfare programs over "free markets."  But it's pretty clear that the Bible does support direct aid to the poor, be it Jesus' story of the rich man and Lazarus or the admonition to farmers in Leviticus 19 to leave food for the poor and stranger (how many farms don't benefit from government aid, btw?).  In the past the left has failed to couple such teachings with those passages demanding accountability (e.g., the parable of the talents, or the wiggiest passage in the Bible, Mark 11-26, the best interpretation of which I've seen is as a command to fulfil one's potential).  Coincidentally, the person I first heard champion such a program -- a workfare government entitlement -- was the Reverend Jesse Jackson in 1988.

Name: Daniel Weiss
Hometown: New York, NY

Hey Eric,
Did you notice that today Howard Kurtz quotes David Frum to the effect that Bush "has given some of the most eloquent speeches of the twentieth century" with nary a peep about the self-congratulation implied therein?

Name: Pat
Hometown: Red State blues

Dr Alterman,
Here's a link to an article from the Louisville Courier Journal explaining that it's apparently illegal for for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to do "any marketing that attempts to recruit veterans into its medical system."  I think this deserves wider distribution and am hoping you can help.  Support the troops, indeed.

Name: Derrick Gibson
Hometown: New York

Eric,
You got away with one earlier this week and you might have thought no one noticed.  Wrong.  Your, "sometimes I wish I were Black" homily was insulting to all of your readers, but most directly to your readers of African descent.  On the other hand, perhaps you only meant to insult the African-American descendents of those who toiled in slavery in this country for hundreds of years, even laying the bricks for those streets in Manhattan, upon which you trod so proudly in your ignorance today.  Regardless of which, your insult was nothing more than the sort of unprovoked attack we have come to expect from both the mighty and the low in this country and remarkably comparable to the assault from the blue Summers launched against the more than 50% of the world with two X chromosomes.

Spare us the "I was only speaking of Smiley" defense, as you chose your words to include the rest of us as well.  Your shoddy work in this regard has us wondering what other evils lurk in your heart.  After all, for someone who shows zero respect for the reporter of the story in question, you certainly took the caricature created of Mr. Smiley by Howard Kurtz and NPR as fact.  I can only imagine what it must be like to work for NPR - for any amount of money - especially when I saw the quote from Loretta Tucker who just barely held back from calling Tavis uppity; as if saying "very, very ambitious" was more than a very, very thinly veneered slur.

Nice to see your true colors and now it is obvious why you are so clueless and unable to understand the appeal of W to those 59 million mostly White voters.  Get a clue.  Well more than 80% of African-Americans voted against this man.  We see who he is.  You can either learn from us and move forward or continue to wander in the wilderness with your eyes blindfolded.

Eric replies:  My, aren’t we touchy. It’s never fun to be called a racist, but this time I don’t mind so much.  I’d be surprise if many “of my readers of African descent”--not to say most black people--think it’s fine for a wealthy man making hundreds of thousands of dollars and demanding millions to invoke the plight of slaves on his behalf, much less to say he is demanding all this money for the benefit of black and brown children as yet unborn.  But that’s their right, I suppose.  Just as it was Clarence Thomas’s right to invoke the victims of lynching to serve the purposes of his avoidance of the truth about his personal actions and legal record during his confirmation hearings.  Since Smiley is clearly the only black person discussed in my item, the writer appears to be saying that no white person has any right to criticize any black person.  Rather we are instructed to either “learn from us and move forward or continue to wander in the wilderness with your eyes blindfolded."  Well, I’m not buying.  (And really, mau-mauing the white liberal is sooo sixties.)

Name: Paul Corrigan
Hometown: Lexington, MA

Eric -
Even Peggy Noonan was left shaking her head at Bush' inaugural address:

The inaugural address itself was startling. It left me with a bad feeling, and reluctant dislike. Rhetorically, it veered from high-class boilerplate to strong and simple sentences, but it was not pedestrian. George W. Bush's second inaugural will no doubt prove historic because it carried a punch, asserting an agenda so sweeping that an observer quipped that by the end he would not have been surprised if the president had announced we were going to colonize Mars.

She forgets, Bush already has played the Mars card to a skeptical public.

Special Feature: The CD War Sal vs. Barry:

Barry,
My post was all sarcasm.  I realize your posts and commentary are factual, but I must confess that I find them quite irritating.  I write reviews for Eric and he kindly talks up our shop and provides a link.  Sometimes, on the very same page, a post will follow from you, calling CDs a lousy value, or even more offending, containing a link for yourmusic.com., a place to purchase CDs for 1-3 dollars less than a mom and pop shop.  I do realize Altercation is not a showcase for me and my livelihood, but that doesn't change the fact that my partner and I have been giving our blood, sweat, and most recently, tears in trying to bring back the consumer who is too lazy to get off his butt and go shopping again.

I feel like you resent the mom and pop, and for some reason are doing your best to steer people away from them.  If this is the case, WHY?  We're not the ones who decree how much CDs are going to cost.  We have the same things...most of the time...as yourmusic.com for the same price, or a buck more.  Sure, no cellophane, but in the age of downloading and iPods, artwork, lyrics and photos don't seem to matter anymore, let alone cellophane.  And we also offer something priceless, something you won't find on any Web site, PEOPLE.  Knowledgeable people who will give advice, play some tunes for you, and even thank you personally.  I bet that every mom & pop store across the USA offers the same kind of service, but will no longer have the opportunity to do so thanks to downloading, and bogus music clubs who really only offer you what they have and not what you want.  If you're lucky, you'll want what they have.

What I really don't understand is your "CDs vs. DVDs" argument.  As a retailer, musician, writer, and lover of all music, there is nothing more baffling to me than substituting 60 minutes of new material by a respected artist for $13.00, with 90 minutes of live material with a photo gallery and backstage footage of the band eating Ritz crackers, for the same price.  Sure there's more for your money, but...it's not the same thing.  In the end, music is something you listen to, not something you watch.  I mean, why not throw a candy bar in with the CD?  It's "extra value" as well, and just as pointless.

I understand that you have an axe to grind, but I think you're grinding it in the wrong place.  Taking your complaints to the record labels seems like the right idea, but now it seems that the indie stores are the ones who will get screwed by them.  Getting screwed by the labels was a no-brainer.  But getting screwed by music-fans, makes no sense at all.
With all respect,
Sal Nunziato
NYCD

January 20, 2005 | 12:20 PM ET

God Bless America...We’re gonna need it.

What is one to say about today?  To the horror of its well-wishers across the world, the United States—once the “last, best hope of mankind”- is re-inaugurating the worst president in its history; one who has exploited an attack, the success of which its own incompetence helped enable, in order to execute an extremist agenda that is killing thousands, costing trillions and leaving all of us far more insecure than when it began.  Before November 2, we could argue it was all a mistake; the guy ran as a “compassionate conservative,” misrepresented his record, Nader screwed everything up, and we actually voted for Gore anyway.  It took the  Republicans on the Supreme Court—two of whom were appointed by the guy’s dad—to stick the country with this regime filled with ideological fanatics and corrupt incompetents.  Now, what are we to say?  Fifty-nine million members of our nation do not mind that we were deliberately misled into a war that has drained our blood and treasure to create nothing but hatred and chaos; and that the very people who were at fault have been rewarded and promoted, encouraged to look for new targets to spread their hubristic malevolence.  It defies all logic and truthfully, my ability to explain or even fully understand it.  One thing is for certain: Based on an virtually unanimous unwillingness to consider its past mistakes and learn from them, things are going to get far, far worse before they get better.  Thousands more will die.  ( Twenty six yesterday.)  Trillions more will be squandered.  Millions more will grow to hate and revile the name of the United States of America and prepare to attack us in ways for which our government is resolutely unwilling to prepare.  Avoidable catastrophe awaits this nation and its victims during the next four years as we will undoubtedly reap what we have sown.

One thing’s for certain, none of this would have been possible without the enthusiastic cooperation—if not cheerleading—of the nation’s mainstream media.  Thomas Friedman, considered a liberal opponent of the Bush administration who nevertheless advocated for its mendacious arguments vis-à-vis Iraq and then explicitly excused its willingness to lie because, after all, Hussein was a vicious dictator, cannot help but recognize the damage the administration has done to the nation’s good name the world over.  Still, he once again chooses to empower its worst instincts vis-à-vis yet another abominable adventure in Iran by finding what?  A single Oxford student in Paris.  And pronouncing on the basis of this intrepid bit of investigative reporting that Iran is a “Red state” by extension, would welcome an American invasion of the type outlined by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker.  Four years from now we will be assessing the fallout from that catastrophe undoubtedly in dead Americans, Iranians and additional hatred—and terrorists—bred the world over.  God Bless America.  We are going to need all the help we can get.

Paul and I have a new Think Again column devoted to the media’s role in the Social Security debate.

And now a moment’s pause to consider the historical hysterics of one Hacktacular Howie:

Will the Washington press corps ever get up off the mat?

Of course Mr. Conflict of Interest rushes to his colleagues’ defense, explaining: "Funny, I don't remember liberal pundits making an issue of this during Clinton's first inaugural, when American soldiers were fighting and dying in Somalia."  Nice history, bud but maybe--just maybe--that's because at the time of Clintons' first inaugural,  there had been exactly three U.S. casualties in Somalia, compared to the 1,370 U.S. troops who have been killed in Iraq.

And to think I’ve been telling the kid that I didn’t like SpongeBob.

Quotes of the Day, Alberto Gonzales:  "I am not at liberty to disclose" at least 10 times; "I do not recall" or "I have no recollection" six times; I did not "conduct a search" seven times; "I am not at liberty [to discuss certain matters]" 10 times; and "I have no present knowledge" seven times.  Here.

Q: How many Bush Administration officials does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; its conditions are improving every day.  Any reports of its lack of incandescence are a delusional spin from the liberal media.  That light bulb has served honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effect.  Why do you hate freedom?

(I don’t know whose joke that is.)

Mickey’s Little Roy research is really making me unnecessary.

I see that Tim Noah has asked that donations be made in Marjorie Williams' name to the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Hospital.  Please make out checks to the "Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center" and write in the memo portion, "Palliative Care Program."  Gifts to the palliative care program are tax-deductible and will go toward providing pain and symptom management and comfort for cancer patients and their families. Checks should be sent to:

Development Office, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
Research Building E501
3970 Reservoir Rd.
Washington, DC 20057

Or click here.

Correspondents’ Corner:

From: Siva Vaidhyanathan
Hometown: Sivacracy.net
Harvard President Lawrence Summers is getting rightly smacked around for his profoundly stupid remarks over the weekend about the supposedly inherent difference between men's and women's ability to do math and science.  Maybe it's time he quit that job.  It's too important a public position for a loose cannon like him to hold.  Princeton, Brown, and the University of Pennsylvania have all hired brilliant women presidents (Princeton hired a scientist!) in recent years.  Can't Harvard do better than this guy?

Since the 1920s scientists and social scientists have been slaying and re-slaying this dragon that allows us all to avoid collective and individual responsibility for disparities that clearly arise from social and cultural behaviors and attitudes.  But bigots continue to come out with this crap every few years.

Summers' excuse?  He was just raising the questions!  We need more research!  Sounds like he could be a science advisor to George W. Bush, doesn't he?  Global warming MIGHT be a myth.  We need more research!  I'm just saying ...

We are at a very dark moment in the intellectual history of this country.  We have a government run by a political party that resents science, denies basic tests of truth and standards of evidence, and generally leads assaults on "reality-based" thinkers such as the fine readers of this site.  More than 40 percent of Americans deny the scientific validity of natural selection.  Too many of us believe in UFOs, angels, and that Saddam had something to do with 9/11.

Why should we have to suffer the indignity of reading that the president of Harvard has joined the pseudoscience brigade?  Can't the reality-based community at least have Harvard on our team?  (This event sure makes me glad I never went there.  I went to the University of Texas at Austin, a school wise enough to reject the young George W. Bush when he applied there.  Where did he end up instead to pursue his graduate work?  Harvard, of course.)

As Garance Franke-Ruta writes in Tapped:

Summers' remarks, by questioning women's innate capacities, have only made this problem worse. Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Lorna J. Gibson, who chaired the Committee on Women Faculty in that university's school of engineering, has noted that "[t]he same way money and interest compounds, the marginalization also compounds....You can sort of shrug it off if it happens once.” But over time, the impact of the small incidents wears away at women. MIT has done much to study the issue, and launched a landmark initiative in the late '90s to make life more welcoming for female professors -- an initiative that bore fruit with a significant upsurge in female tenured professors in the hard sciences and an outpacing of Harvard University in this arena.

Women have made great strides in the past decades, but we do not yet live in a world so free of gendered pressures that we can speak with any certainty of what women's natural capacities are. Each generation of women proves capable of more than the one that came before it, and so many have now passed through Harvard's halls that it seems worthwhile for them to again put some pressure on the institution, so that the next generation has even greater opportunities to discover what they're capable of doing.

Summers says he was trying to provoke debate.  I don't mean to dismiss provocation.  I just don't think what Summers said qualifies as effective provocation.  Summers only offered empty speculation in lieu of evidence or substance.  Provocation is only valuable and useful if you can go somewhere with it.  But his comments were so devoid of substance that they left those who study this stuff (and scientists themselves) nowhere to go but out of the room.

I can't argue that boys and girls don't differ. But those different traits don't map to complex experiences or talents. They certainly don't hold up across the vast diversity of people who happen to be female. The intellectual differences among women are so much greater than any differences between men and women.  No meaningful differences hold up across populations.

I take offense at Summers' simplistic take on biology.  He clearly does not understand the dynamic relationships among genes, traits, behaviors, environments, and experiences.  The relationships are so dynamic and so complex that we can't control for any of them.  So something as ill-defined and misunderstood as "biology" becomes nothing more than a red herring at best, and excuse at worst.  It becomes what sexist men use to absolve themselves of responsibility for the damage that they do.

More to the point of the culture and profession of science, I think it's worth considering that there is more than one way to be scientific.  There are more than a hundred ways to be scientific.  The variety of traits or talents that the community of scientists possess is so broad that we can't even generalize about them.  The talents and traits that Marie Curie employed were nothing like those Albert Einstein employed.  And Einstein's skills were vastly different from Faraday's or Saulk's.  There is no one way to design and build a scientist.  And there are many avenues into science and out of science.  So I can't for the life of me imagine what this mysterious trait that Summers thinks women lack could possibly be.

These days, for instance, universities are encouraging what my wife Melissa, a molecular biologist, calls "non-hypothetical" methods of doing scientific research: i.e. crunching huge collections of data and tracing patterns from that data.  These are computational scientists.  For them, science is an information processing project.  It's a very different intellectual and technical project than Melissa's: generating a hypothesis that would explain a phenomenon and then attempting a series of experiments to falsify or certify the hypothesis.  My father, a biophysicist, worked in a realm that was purely theoretical without being either hypothetical or empirical.  He used pens, paper, and calculus.  Melissa uses petri dishes, incubators, and lots of lab machines and test tubes and beakers and stuff that looks really cool in movies.  She wears a fetching lab coat.  My father did science in his boxers and a t-shirt at our dining room table.  My father could not have done Melissa's job, but not because he's a man.  Melissa could not have done my father's job, but not because she is a woman.  If they did not have the same title and degree there is no way that I could associate their work in any way.  Of course, I could not do either of their jobs.

So if the variety of ways of doing science is vast and diverse, and the personalities and backgrounds of those who go into science are so diverse, and the skills required to do each of these ways are so varied, then we can't boil the aggregate success of men or women within these professions down to the presence or absence of a Y chromosome.  There is no single trait that makes a successful scientist.

Yet we can be certain that the various cultures of science have been structured to favor men.  They were designed and maintained by men.  That's what the conference at which Summers spoke was meant to explore.  And that's what MIT commissioned that study a few years back to analyze.  It's also true that the old dudes who control the gates of the profession often act as if women can't cut it.  So they make sure few women challenge their prejudices.  I grew up among too many scientists to have a sunnier view of the profession.  James Watson is a notorious sexist.  And he is not only representative of the attitude of his generation of scientists (those who run departments right now), he is still worshipped for his "stones."  Rosalind Franklin, a more brilliant scientist on whose work Watson relied, is not worshipped.  He got the Nobel.  She was left out.

So I have three problems with Summers' comments: they were ill-informed about the work already done on this question, irresponsible considering his position in American intellectual life, and geared to retard exploration of the problem rather than inspire it.  That's why people walked out of the room.  I would have, too.  The conversation is way beyond Summers.  He's holding it back.

Of course, Summers has taken anti-intellectual stances before, such as when he declared that those who criticize Israel are anti-Semitic.  He's not really interested in provocation for the sake of deliberation and exploration.  He's derailing progress.  Harvard has been failing at recruiting women to its faculty since he took office while the rest of the Ivy League and MIT have been making great strides to hire more women.  He's part of the problem and he probably resents being reminded of that.

So I wish it were merely an intellectual debate going on here.  There are too many smart women who have had their careers hampered by those who dismiss them based on their gender rather than their work.  So many people justifiably take it personally and politically.  When there is so much entrenched bigotry in the academy and society at large, it seems to me that we have a pretty clear answer to the question about why women are underrepresented in the sciences.  There is no great mystery.  This is not rocket science.

Name: Patrick McElwee
Hometown: Washington, DC

Eric,
In the midst of the firestorm over Social Security, we at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), the home of Dean Baker, are releasing our first installment of a short, weekly publication analyzing some of the major media reporting on Social Security with an honest economist's eye.  You and your readers may be interested.  It is similar to something Dean already puts out called the Economic Reporting Review (ERR).

The first Social Security Reporting Review is available online.  People should sign up to receive it each week here.

Name: Sal
Hometown: Soon to be homeless

Dear Barry,
Tony & I will be locking up for good any day now. Thanks for all your help.
Sal
NYCD

January 19, 2005 | 10:59 AM ET

The birth of the punditocracy

Incredibly, the current editors of Esquire are apparently unaware of perhaps the most storied moment in the magazine’s history in the past four decades; or at least they were until Buckley threatened to sue them for a second time.  Check the second item in Lloyd Grove’s column and then recall the history of the incident I recounted in Sound & Fury.

A generation ago, ABC was something of a semi-pro news organization.  Its executives' desperation to attract viewers overrode their desire to be taken seriously as a "credible" and "responsible" voice in the political dialogue.  While planning their 1968 election coverage, these executives were searching for something that would truly distinguish their coverage from that of Walter Cronkite and company on CBS or Huntley and Brinkley on NBC.  The idea for pairing Buckley and the unpredictable Vidal had come from Buckley himself, albeit in a back-handed manner.  The network had asked him to name a liberal with whom he could profitably spar during the convention coverage, and Buckley replied that he would appear with any non-Communist, but he would prefer it not be that "philosophical degenerate," Gore Vidal.  "Bingo" said the men at ABC.

The network's reporting of the 1968 Republican gathering--like the convention itself--passed came off without incident.  The Miami gathering was marred only, in Buckley's view, by Vidal's insistence, during their debates, that he had based the "entire style" of the transsexual hero of his novel Myra Breckinridge on Buckley.  Buckley replied that Vidal was "immoral" and held American culture in "disdain," but there the colloquy ended.  Buckley tried to convince the producers to allow the two commentators to make their presentations separately for the ensuing Democratic convention but it was no go:  A star had been born.

Amidst the violent chaos that was the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention however, Buckley and Vidal began to argue over the relative provocational potential of the student protestors' raising of a Vietcong flag the night before.  Buckley compared it to the raising of a hypothetical Nazi flag during World War II.  Vidal then insisted that "as far as I'm concerned, the only sort of pro- or crypto-Nazi is yourself."  "Now listen, you queer," retorted the conservative elder statesman, "stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll sock you in the goddam face and you'll stay plastered." The evening degenerated from there.

The incident drew itself out in a long and fruitless exchange in Esquire where Vidal implied that Buckley was not only a homosexual but also an anti-Semite.  Buckley considered a law suit, eventually concluding a complex legal agreement with Esquire instead.  Of greater significance than the legal machinations, however, were the prescient observations of Buckley's friend, the conservative literary critic, Hugh Kenner.  Kenner admonished his friend for sacrificing the seriousness of his intended purpose upon the altar of celebrityhood.  "What you have in fact done is accept a role as a Celebrity.  You will be playing William F. Buckley, Old Antagonist of Gore Vidal."  Buckley may have regretted his exchange with Vidal, but once again, he was merely embodying the zeitgeist before its time.  Calling one's opponent a queer and threatening, if only metaphorically, to plaster him so that he stayed plastered, would be have been considered the height of good manners in the punditocracy within a decade.

Rotten to the Core
Every year CORE, formerly a civil rights organization but now a group of Blacks who sell themselves to the enemies of civil rights when not defending vicious African dictators and mass-murderers, run by huckster Roy Innes with a nepotistic job for his son, Niger, shakes down a bunch of corporations in order to suck up to far-right Republicans and pretend that such support actually exists within the mainstream African-American community.  This year, Karl Rove couldn't be bothered.  For once, I say, “Bully for Mr. Rove.”

How bad are Bush's Inauguration Day approval ratings?  Only Nixon had worse, and that was because weeks before his swearing in he unleashed a massive bombing campaign that killed 1,600 North Vietnamese civilians.  What's Bush's excuse?

Alter-review
It’s always been impossible for me to predict which new artists are going to be a big deal.  I like Norah Jones, but I don’t quite get what sets her so far apart from everyone else.  Nellie McCay is wonderful, but I understand, a little quirky for a mass market.  One singer I would not have been surprised to have seen catch fire is Madeline Peyroux.  Her first album managed to combine equal parts Billie Holiday and Patsy Cline, if you can imagine that.  She disappeared for about five years after that and returned a few months ago with another, no less interesting and enjoyable record, “Careless Love,” which you can read about here.

Programming Note: Matisyahu will be on The Last Call with Carson Daly on NBC this Thursday night, the 20th.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Barry L. Ritholtz
Hometown: The Big Picture
Hey Doc,
Since I give the music industry such a hard time when they screw things up (which is most of the time), let me point out when they do something correctly. 

YourMusic.com

Cross Netflix with Columbia House Record Club, and you end up with YourMusic.com.  Here are the details:

Your Music Dot Com
Interesting business model: Like Netflix, you set up a queue, only it's comprised of CDs instead of DVDs.  They have a fairly extensive -- though by no means comprehensive -- list.  In fact, YourMusic.com is owned by BMG, and the selection is quite similar is to that of BMG record club.

Each month, the next CD in your queue gets mailed to you, for $5.99, including mailing.  That's a very reasonable deal.  That's right, all CDs are $5.99, and there is no charge for shipping or handling.  Even better, the DVD/CD combos are also $5.99, And best of all, any of the many boxed sets are sold for (all together now) $5.99 per disc.  From simple 2 disc sets, to all of the Led Zeppelin sets, to most of the Sinatra multi disc sets, to the wonderful and complete Ella Fitzgerald Songbooks (16 CDs!), are all $5.99 per disc.  That is a fabulous deal.

You can always buy any disc from their catalog at any time, independent of the queue.  You can add, delete and rearrange the queue at anytime.

The catch is that if you do not have a disc queued up, you get billed $5.99 anyway.  When I set mine up, I added 57 CDs, so I won't have that problem until 2010.  They have a decent collection of Jazz (Sinatra, Ella, Armstrong, Coltrane, Miles,) -- again, nothing exhaustive, but good starters and fill ins.  Same for rock and pop.

I suspect that some of the A-list newer releases aren't available for very long.  The Best of Sheryl Crow disappeared, and so I moved Modest Mouse's Good News For People Who Love Bad News up to the front of the queue.

So far, I received my first CD -- came on time, and I was charged $5.99 (plus tax).  This looks promising for those of us who like our digital music in a higher fidelity than MP3 or AAC.

Name: Michael Rapoport
Eric:
Brief correction to Siva's post Friday: Nelson Doubleday hasn't been a co-owner of the Mets for a couple of years now, and had no involvement with hiring Omar Minaya.  Fred Wilpon bought out Doubleday back in 2002.

And c'mon, Siva: Sure, there are any number of grounds on which to criticize Mike Piazza, but "the worst catcher in the history of baseball" is a little harsh.

Eric adds:  Did I print that? Shame on me.

January 18, 2005 | 11:09 AM ET

We may be a stingy, greedy nation, at the very bottom of the list of Western nations in terms of aid we offer poor nations, and we may have a corrupt government, that is attempting, dishonestly, to destroy our most significant anti-poverty program with lies, but at least we don’t allow accused homosexuals to translate Arabic messages to save the lives of our soldiers or prevent terrorist attacks ( here) and we are doing a better and better job of protecting the country from seeing naked breasts on ancient statues.  And cartoon baby butts on TV.

Does anyone imagine that anyone connected with The Weekly Standard is just the slightest bit embarrassed by the contrast between the numbers of words spilled on the CBS report compared to those they’ve addressed to the lack of WMD?  Lookey here and then read Boehlert, here.

Quote of the Day: “Today that media bias is undeniably liberal.” -William Safire, here.

Quote of the Day, November 12, 2001:  "The meeting between 9/11 hijacker Muhammad Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague, is an 'undisputed fact.'"  -William Safire, here.

William Safire is an “undeniable” and “undisputed” liar, I’m afraid.

Quote of the Day, October 12, 2003:  "He would have left Saddam in place and hoped that the nightmare of terrorists with Saddam-provided WMDS wouldn't take place.  After 9/11, I consider that an act of gross irresponsibility."  Andrew Sullivan on Howard Dean for taking the position that Sullivan now admits was correct.  Via Mickey Kaus  (Hmmm, maybe someone should name an award after this hysterical hypocrite… how about, um, “The Little Roy?”)

Sometimes I wish I were black so that I could pretend that when I don’t get all the money I want from my employer, my situation is somehow comparable to slavery.

And that my own personal greed is somehow undertaken in the service of “black kids and brown kids yet unborn.”  Congrats to Mr. Smiley for the most creative use of others’ suffering for personal gain as well as setting a standard for self-pity that even Bill O’Reilly might admire.

Todd Gitlin, on why journalism kvetches need journalism, here.

Kill Reliable Sources, too, here.

Though it’s hardly the saddest aspect of the passing of so young a mother, wife and friend to so many people, journalists are not crediting Marjorie Williams with being the single best author of  power profiles of any journalist in Washington just to be nice.  If it were widely available, I would teach her Washington Post magazine piece on Dick Darman as the most perfect specimen of the genre available anywhere.  They really need to be collected somewhere.

Alter-review
One of the most fascinating film projects of the past century was Michael Apted’s “Up” series that began with “Seven Up” in 1964 and is continuing today with the shooting of “49 Up” revisiting its real-life subjects every seven years.  Fascinating and disturbing on many levels, the project is primarily, at least to these eyes, a simultaneous commentary and illustration of the power of the British class system to determine the direction of an individual life, but it is also much more than that; an example of what “reality” programming could be if it weren’t done by, and for, idiots. 

Anyway, I can’t begin to do justice to the six movies that are now included in the new box set from First Run Features, but you can read a great deal more about this haunting and powerful project here .  You don’t have to buy it.  But you really should see it.

Alter-note: I’ll be back co-hosting The Majority Report on Air America again tonight.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Rikki Johnson
Hometown: Lawrence, KS
Eric-
I live in Lawrence and noticed your original post the other day.  I was moved by it and happy to see the local paper pick up on it.  Mr. Henderson and the others involved with the homeless in Lawrence are truly tireless. 

Lawrence is a reasonably affluent, mid-sized, liberal-for-Kansas college town and it is still difficult to get the needed resources together.  Hopefully your posts will not only raise money for the Lawrence Open Shelter, but will shine a light on the homelessness in cities like Lawrence and other smaller cities around the country.

This seems like a good way for bloggers to celebrate their birthdays (or any other day for that matter).

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