January 31, 2005 | 12:57 PM ET

I don’t have a lot to say about the Iraqi elections because it’s way too early to know exactly what happened and what its ultimate effect will be.  Yes, the pictures are moving, but really, a little perspective please.  Reporting out of Baghdad in 2005 mirrors reporting out of San Salvador in 1984.  That was said to be a magnificent success and an expression of a people’s willingness to brave violence in order to express their commitment to Western style democracy.  We heard the same stories; people waiting on long lines; telling off guerrillas, walking miles for the right to exercise their democratic rights.  Most of this turned out to be an illusion, created by the U.S. military and intelligence forces there, and the voting percentages turned out to be a fraction of what a quiescent media reported at the time.  U.S. supported (and perhaps created) death squads continued to exercise their campaign of mass murder, unconcerned with the results of meaningless elections.  Mark Danner has a nice essay here

And the Bush invasion of Iraq has managed to overtake the Reagan team in the categories of cynicism, dishonesty, unreliability and media manipulation—and we are reliably informed that we’re going to get the death squads back too.  Given the fact that they have purged their remaining truth-tellers, literally nothing they say can be accepted at face value.  (Take a look at this piece if you require a refresher course.)  I suggest that a considerable degree of skepticism about what we are seeing and hearing on Day One might be in order.  (The imaginary turnout numbers have already fallen from 72 percent when I checked at 6.00 pm yesterday, to 57 percent this morning.  At that rate, they will be negative by Wednesday.)

What’s more, elections do not a democracy make, and democracy is not necessarily the first or most important thing needed in Iraq to make that country safer and more secure—much less to accomplish the goal of reversing the hatred of the United States sown across the Arab world by the malignant policies and pronouncements of the Bush administration.

Perhaps it’s as wonderful as we are being led to believe and everything may turn out hunky-dory in the end, but the historian in me would like to see some genuine evidence of a “mission” actually “accomplished.”  I suppose the Little Roys and Jarvises of the blog world will have a collective conniption fit over one writer’s refusal to emote on cue, but I’ve seen a lot of honor and bravery in the service of alleged American goals of democracy and freedom ignored, manipulated and dispensed with in the service of Republican realipolitik.  (Anyone remember the Kurdish uprising of 1991?  Anybody remember Tiananmen Square?  Anyone remember the tens, probably hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed since the beginning of this dishonest, unnecessary and counterproductive invasion?)  I am embarrassed to be part of a media that swallows the same bait every time it is dangled before them.  (How bizarre is it that only the Journal manages to note the news of 175 insurgent attacks yesterday, here.)

Meanwhile back in Afghanistan, American soldiers are fighting and dying, the Taliban is regrouping, al-Qaida is partying on, and bin-Laden is hanging with his homies.  But are the U.S. media even covering the story?  Ix-nay.

Speaking of my buddy Jeff Jarvis, he may have talents he is not revealing in his hysterical attacks on me; I certainly hope so.  For the idea of his terming my characterization of the CIA as being capable of inventing a blog or two in Iraq to serve its purpose as a blood libel (thanks to Gawker.com) really defies belief and leaves me to wonder about his sanity.  In the first place, this accusation that has been used against Jews throughout the ages is being used against a Jew by someone who I’m guessing is about as Jewish as Little Roy, (though perhaps he merely doesn’t look Jewish).  That strikes me as morally disgusting.  But leaving that aside, just how does one effect a “blood libel” on an organization that admits to hiring and protecting Nazi war criminals—including at least five close associates of Adolf Eichmann-- and to this day refuses to release its records?  (You can read about that here.)  How do you “blood libel” an organization that admits to assassinating people, to torturing them, to overthrowing democratic governments and to misleading the American people into war?  And again, what’s the accusation?  That an organization that trains killers, torturers and terrorists and then lies about it would somehow balk at the creation of a phony blog if it was believed to serve its purpose.  I’m embarrassed for Jarvis even to have to write that. 

Really, this is too silly even to discuss.  I have a hard time believing that anyone can take this clown seriously.  Like Andy, he’s an almost immaculate example of why just about every blogger could use an editor, as almost anyone with any competence could have saved him from looking quite this silly.  (If anyone thinks there’s anything else in that lunatic post of his that requires a response, let me know.  Again, I admit to not reading the guy much and so perhaps he’s not always, this… um, enthusiastic.  I had to make a point of avoiding him in public places because every time I ever said a word to him, he recounted it in his blog, without asking permission, as if his person had no independent existence.)  Anyway, I imagine they must have a lot of fun with him down in Langley; Thursday’s playlet, in case you missed it, is here .

We note that we were, if anything, too generous to the Wall Street Journal editors in their campaign to slander liberalism and New York City simultaneously.  Remember, they wrote last week,

As residents of New York City, we thought we'd seen everything.  But this week the city learned that a Sunday fire at a major subway station will disrupt service on the C Train for -- we're still trying to wrap our heads around this -- at least several months, and perhaps as much as three to five years. The rest of the country should think of this as the perfect liberal storm.  It seems that a local homeless man caused the fire trying to keep warm. And the city is lucky that's all it was because -- this being a good, progressive town -- just about anybody is allowed to roam the subway tunnels during freezing weather, according to official police policy. In other words, compassion for the homeless, on whom taxpayers already spend millions annually to provide shelter, requires that the city grant largely unmonitored access to people who could just as easily be planning anthrax or poison gas attacks as looking to keep warm.

Here

Last week we noted that the lines will be down only nine months.  On Friday, Paul J. Browne  Deputy Commissioner of the police department, clued them into the fact that they had also misrepresented subway policy, noting,

The homeless do not use subway tunnels extensively as shelters.  We know that because we patrol the tunnels and only rarely do we find a vagrant there.  When we do, he is arrested.  The vast majority are found in subway cars and stations.  Again, the majority are either transported to shelters or arrested.  In those instances where an individual appears to be homeless but is not breaking any laws or subway regulations, we can't arrest them for refusing shelter or merely being on a subway car.  However, when it is freezing we have more leeway in forcibly removing to shelters individuals incapable of taking care of themselves.

The original mistake appeared in the New York Times, but they did not go to the trouble of constructing an ideology around it.  Meanwhile, don’t hold your breath waiting for a Journal correction.

I found Matt Bai’s profile of SEIU President Andy Stern in yesterday’s Times Magazine to be quite good.  A couple of weeks ago, Stern gave an extremely impressive presentation to a group of writers and political types who assemble every so often in my apartment to talk about politics, and while it was off the record—and hence, Bai was barred—it left virtually everyone in the room, I would venture, feeling more helpful about the prospect of labor somehow saving itself than when he came in.  I’d feel a lot better if I felt convinced the movement was producing more of his kind, but I’m glad to see the Times Mag putting him on the map for the millions of readers who’ve no doubt written off the movement, and leaders like Andy, as all but extinct.

Mr. Conflict of Interest nowhere mentions in this profile of MSNBC that he is employed by its competitor, CNN.  Just what is the point of disclosure, Mr. and Ms. Post Editors, if it is not employed in a case like this one?  (My new friend Mickey adds: “The Wounded, Bleeding Rat on WaPo's Kitchen Floor!  As argued in Scrutineer: Washington Post's Fred Hiatt says that Maggie Gallagher would have been "fired" for doing remunerative work for the government while writing about the Administration's marriage policy for the Post editorial page. But it's OK for Howie Kurtz to do work for CNN while writing about CNN? Is Time-Warner's corporate money somehow cleaner and less corrupting than the U.S. government's?” )

Now meet Mr. McBobo.

How low can they go?  There’s an article making the right-wing rounds called “Fox News: Too Fair, Too Balanced," here.  No, he doesn’t appear to be kidding.  He complains. “Where else can you catch such luminaries of the left as Katrina vanden Heuvel, David Corn, and Eric Alterman on a regular basis?”  I don’t know about Corn or Katrina, but I’ve appeared on Fox a grand total of three times in my life all of them in early 2002, to promote What Liberal Medial?  Maybe this guy can get a job at Buzzmachine.

And speaking of famous bloggers losing all sense of judgment, the notion that Professor Instapundit thinks that Ted Kennedy = Strom Thurmond is also a little hard to believe; Oliver Willis finds that insulting, here and Doonesbury seems to be down with Ted, too.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Hey Doc:
Because every day, even Day One Of Super Bowl week, is Slacker Friday, Part The XXXIV:

You do not own their courage.

The people who stood in line Sunday did not stand in line to make Americans feel good about themselves.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to justify lies about Saddam and al-Qaeda, so you don't own their courage, Stephen Hayes. They did not stand in line to justify lies about weapons of mass destruction, or to justify the artful dodginess of Ahmad Chalabi, so you don't own their courage, Judith Miller. They did not stand in line to provide pretty pictures for vapid suits to fawn over, so you don't own their courage, Howard Fineman, and neither do you, Chris Matthews.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line in order to justify the dereliction of a kept press. They did not stand in line to make right the wrongs born out of laziness, cowardice, and the easy acceptance of casual lying.  They did not stand in line for anyone's grand designs. They did not stand in line to play pawns in anyone's great game, so you don't own their courage, you guys in the PNAC gallery.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to provide American dilettantes with easy rhetorical weapons, so you don't own their courage, Glenn Reynolds, with your cornpone McCarran act out of the bowels of a great university that deserves a helluva lot better than your sorry hide.  They did not stand in line to be the instruments of tawdry vilification and triumphal hooting from bloghound commandos.  They did not stand in line to become useful cudgels for cheap American political thuggery, so you don't own their courage, Freeper Nation.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to justify a thousand mistakes that have led to more than a thousand American bodies.  They did not stand in line for the purpose of being a national hypnotic for a nation not even their own.  They did not stand in line for being the last casus belli standing. They did not stand in line on behalf of people's book deals, TV spots, honorarium checks, or tinpot celebrity. They did not stand in line to be anyone's talking points.

You do not own their courage.

We all should remember that.

January 28, 2005 | 11:05 AM ET

Hardly slacking at all, Friday

"So, is there a conservative marriage columnist who wasn't under contract under contract to the Bush administration?” asks our man, Boehlert.  (We note that the smart folks at The Note credit themselves at ABC News, the LA Times, and USA Today but not the guy (nor publication) who broke the story.  Dart.)

I love it when right wing fanatics instruct liberals about good politics.  I’m sure they have the best interests of their opposition at heart, aren’t you?

Richard Perle was just blowing smoke when he tried to take on Sy Hersh.  Now LA Times pundit by way of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, attempts the same with a similarly smarmy set of out-of context, McCarthyite attacks, here.  I wonder, would Boot prefer that U.S. forces be allowed to massacre civilians, torture innocent people, and lie to the public without any accountability whatever?  Is Woodward-style ‘stenography-to greatness’ the only kind of “investigative reporting" he can abide?  And why does the Bush administration even bother paying pundits when they can get this kind of thing for free?  (Or perhaps I am presuming too much about Mr. Boot here; I’ve not done the requisite FOIA.  In fact, I didn’t do one on Krauthammer either, who as we know, emulated his friend George Will recently by coaching a politician and then praising the result of his works—without informing his readers, natch, here.)

More on Boot-licking neocon hatchet-jobbery here

Mickey's making me unnecessary again.  If only he started calling him “Little Roy” I could devote myself full-time to the lunacies of Jeff Jarvis—the only man with the power to make me sympathize with poor Jill Abramson.  (Anybody done a FOIA on LR, by the way?  I hear that P-Town bathroom’s pretty fancy….)

And something's burning inside O’Reilly’s pants, too, surprise, surprise.  (Care to lay out your non-journalistic income, sir?)

I’ve got a Nation Column on Inauguration craziness here.

Men Without Hats: A thousand words  (P.S.  At least he didn’t tell the rabbi to perform “an impossible anatomical act.”)

M.G Lord’s new book sounds really great, doesn’t’ it?

In IPF Friday this week, MJ Rosenberg writes that, amazingly enough, Israelis and Palestinians are working hard to end the violence.  There is a real opening here.  And Doug Feith is gone!  Everything is possible, here.

Victory, of a sort, for now, here against the Borg.  Yesterday's Think Again column on Powell is here.  And meanwhile…

Quote of the Day: FCC Commissioner Michael Copps:

I never had any reason to give any thought to the issue of blogs and the Iraqi elections, until I was asked to appear on a segment about them on MSNBC yesterday with Ron Reagan and Monica Crowley, who are getting a new show there, with Jeff Jarvis as the other guest.  Reagan and Crowley just might work, as cable TV goes, I dunno.  Monica is just about the least annoying television conservative I know and Ron Reagan is, for reasons of his pedigree, given permission to say genuinely liberal things that are allowed to no other cable pundit.  But I’m getting a little tired of Jarvis, I must say, who seems to combine an intense TV Guide/Entertainment Weekly-style commitment to anti-intellectualism (he attacked me once for the crime of seeking to understand the motivations for Arab attacks on Jews in Europe), with an equally religious attachment to the liberating power of blogs as a piece of God’s Kingdom here on earth.

I’m pleased that Jarvis has found a reason for living, but I can’t really share his uncritical enthusiasm for blogs, nor, in this case, his unqualified cheerleading of this crazy elections scheme.  Whoever heard of an election where the candidates have to remain in hiding for fear of their lives; where the election observers have to “observe” from an entirely different country because it is too dangerous to show up anywhere near the election; where its sponsors are already attempting to undermine any conceivable criteria for judging whether or not it’s a success.

Yesterday Jarvis was crowing about how just how terrific the American invasion of Iraq was because there are now a few bloggers there—his tangent on his blogging “friend” in Iran scared me on this point—when I pointed out that it wouldn’t tax my imagination to wonder if perhaps some of those bloggers might be planted by the CIA to confuse credulous readers, especially since supporters of the Bush invasion appear to be numerically significantly over-represented relative to the rest of the population.  (Remember bloggers have no “gatekeepers; that’s their strength and their weakness.)  Jarvis flipped out over this suggestion and called me “irresponsible,” and implied that my words might get people killed among other things and demanded proof.  I don’t see just what has to be proved, when all I was doing was saying, “Well bud, this kind of thing is why the CIA is in business.”  It’s not as if I made any specific accusations, but Jarvis seemed to think the idea so horrific as to be not only unmentionable but also unthinkable.  (He touches on my crimes here.  I think they probably gave the job to that Doonesbury intern.)

On  second thought, I take it back.  I’ve been re-imagining the scene inside CIA headquarters in Baghdad, and decided Jarvis is probably right.  There’s no way the CIA would dare impinge on the independence of any blog, or put up a pretend blog.  They just wouldn’t dare.  Here’s the conversation:

Top CIA Guy:  Ok, let’s go over the list.

Number Two Guy: Yessir.

Top CIA Guy: Torture?

Number Two Guy: Going just as planned, sir.  We got the little guys taking the fall, and we instructed Brad and Jen to break up during the trials to keep the story off CNN.

Top CIA Guy:  Good.  Death squads like the ones we created in El Salvador?  Terrorist murders like the ones we had so much fun with in Nicaragua?

Number Two Guy: On the way, sir.  That Mr. Negroponte is an expert on the stuff from way back and the rumor mill even has Elliott Abrams coming back in.  Happy days are here again.

Top CIA Guy: Well, get on that.  Politicians purchased?

Number Two Guy: Well, we got our guy in the PM’s office and we’re handing out plenty of bucks to get people to back our guy on election day.  Lots of the same Ilopango guys are happy for the chance to take out the old playbooks.  If necessary, some of the old Saigon coup guys are available for consultation.

Top CIA Guy: Okedoke.  Have we taken care of the opposition in places like Faluja?

Number Two Guy: Destroyed the village in order to save it, sir.

Top CIA Guy: Ha, ha, ha, very funny.  But you’re right, we don’t have to worry about those votes.  Got the journalists paid off?

Number Two Guy: You have to ask?  Even those homos at the Department of Education have picked up on that game.

Top CIA Guy: What about them new-fangled journalists?  What do you call them, buggers?

Number Two Guy: Bloggers, sir, bloggers.  And frankly, I’m amazed at your audacity at even imagining that we would ever compromise the beauty, the integrity, and the power of this medium that is certain to sink the mainstream media dinosaurs and replace them with the likes of Glenn Reynolds and those guys at Powerline.  I resign, effectively immediately, and not only that, I’m going to tell Jeff Jarvis on you.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself written about on Buzzmachine.

[Gets up in a huff and leaves the room]

Top CIA Guy: [Watches Number Two walk out and presses a red button on his telephone] Have him killed.

But seriously folks.  Just so you don’t think I’m dissing one of my own professions, most of the preparation I did yesterday came from this blog and I’d strongly recommend it to you.  [ Link ]

I’ve got a new “Think Again” column here, “Watching the Directives: The Unhappy Legacy of Michael Powell.”

Who had the courage to vote against the first African-American female nominee for secretary of state merely because she has proven to be profoundly incompetent, incorrigibly dishonest, and absolutely unwilling to recognize, much less admit her many, many mistakes?

The Honor Roll:

Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.
Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
John Kerry, D-Mass.
Carl Levin, D-Mich.
James Jeffords, I-Vt.
Jack Reed, D-R.I.
Mark Dayton, D-Minn.
Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii
Evan Bayh, D-Ind.
Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.
Tom Harkin, D-Iowa
Richard Durbin, D-Ill.

Alter-review
I got a wonderful surprise last night when I caught a performance of Broadway chanteuse (as the saying goes) Jessica Molaskey at the Oak Room in the Algonquin Hotel, and found myself profoundly, very nearly thrilled by her smart, funny, and even sexy renditions of Irving Berlin, Sondheim, Peggy Lee, Cy Coleman, Rogers, Kern, and lotsa Hammerstein.  (I say “even” sexy because she was backed up by her husband, John Pizzarelli, her brother-in-law, Martin Pizzarelli and is so Mr. Magoo-blind that when she tried to bring out the patriarch, the great Bucky Pizzarelli, for a solo from the audience, she missed and grabbed “Uncle Dean,” who tried to fight but gave up until he reached the final stage.)  Anyway, together with Larry Goldings on piano, she and the band did wonderful things with the standards, and threw in some particularly clever originals she wrote with her husband, John, that worked both musically, and well, intellectually.  I had liked her first album, “Pentimento” but failed to keep up with her next two releases, a mistake I will now rectify.  My only complaint is I always like to hear more about the music before it’s sung, the way Andrea Marcovicci and Bobby Short do it, but hell, she’ll do.  Times reviewer Stephen Holden shares my enthusiasm here.  The bad news: $50 music charge, $20 minimum, and she ends this weekend.

I also caught a transcendent performance of “The Rain Mask of the Fourth Dimension” a production of the PS 87 First and Second Grade Wednesday Afterschool Rock ‘n’ Roll Musical Theater.  I laughed, I cried, I wished it would never end.  Particular mention goes to one of the actresses playing a “forgetting monster.”  No resting on your laurels, Ms. Molasky.  The competition is on its way.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Christopher Barnes
Hometown: Studio City

Dude, someone needs to remind the WSJ that Republican mayors have been running NYC for more than a decade now.  If there is anything wrong with that city, or its subway system, the GOP gets at least half the blame.

Name: Dave Elley
Hometown: Seattle

Eric,
Why does General George Casey hate America?  What right does he have to disagree with our new Secretary of State?

January 26, 2005 | 12:26 PM ET

Call it 'Chutzpah…'

Given its almost incredible economic incompetence coupled with its foreign incompetence as well as its commitment to the destruction of American values and the sowing of hatred abroad, right-wing zealots seeking to convince a small majority to retain their heroes in power need not only to ignore reality but also spit nutty conspiracy theories based on their biases and misinformation.  We have a beautiful example of this phenomenon this morning in this Wall Street Journal editorial in which its journalistically cavalier ideologues blame New York City’s homeless policies for a subway fire that it says will put the C train out of action for “perhaps as much as three to five years.  The rest of the country should think of this as the perfect liberal storm.”  They add “only in Manhattan could a burned-out switching system take years to repair,” and blame “distributional politics and entitlement culture.”  They never explain exactly how any of this is connected, which is just as well, because it’s not true.  A front-page story in The New York Times notes that service will be likely be restored in nine months, and notes that the MTA estimates that it has made more than $40 billion worth of capital improvements since 1982.  It is the Wall Street Journal editors who seek to starve the public sector in general and mass transit in particular, and then they complain, using discredited information, about the results of that starvation.  Call it “chutzpah.”  Call it “ideological fanaticism.”  Just don’t call it journalism.

Neither should you call what Maggie Gallagher practices “journalism.”  True, what she did was not as bad as what Armstrong Williams did.  But if she doesn’t know that working for a government paycheck without disclosing it does not violate journalistic ethics, then she has no business passing herself off as one.  And I love the defense of “I forgot” and “Nobody ever asked me.”  Nobody never asked her if she has sexual relations with animals, either.  Are we supposed to ask everybody everything before they start revealing their professional conflicts of interest?  Dear right-wingers, Altercation is hereby asking every one of you to reveal all of your conflicts of interest, including, but not limited to, taking Bush administration cash to propagate your propaganda.

Quote of the Day: I'm waiting for Tim Graham to explain that the only reason Maggie Gallagher is getting her much-deserved round of bad press is because she, too, is an African-American conservative."  -- Constantine von Hoffman

“The invasion of Iraq was a Godsend to Osama Bin-Laden."  Check out the entire “Frontline” transcript, here, and note how the U.S. is not cooperating with European investigations of Al Qaida, though we are sending people we’ve arrested, with or without cause, to third-party nations to be tortured.

Does the guy who writes MSNBC’s Question of the Day work for Karl Rove?  Here is yesterday’s:

Do you think Democrats are playing politics with Condoleezza Rice's nomination?

Here’s how a non-partisan journalist might have posed it.

Do you think the senate should reward Condoleezza Rice’s combination of incompetence, dishonesty  and refusal to admit mistakes and learn from them with America’s most prestigious cabinet post?

Friends of Altercation, I am proud to say, have raised over a thousand bucks, (not including my contribution) for the Lawrence Open Shelter, which is wonderful, and will make a real difference in its ability to serve its community, but I have to say people, I’m a little hurt, when you consider Little Roy pulls in something like 100K to remodel his P-town bathroom, and stuff.  How about everybody today sending them twenty bucks?  Here’s the address again.

Lawrence Open Shelter
944 Kentucky
Lawrence, KS 66044

More here.

I also want to send out a shout-out to another of my heroes, Asheville’s Wally Bowen, who has just launched a nonprofit nationwide Internet service to serve dial-up Internet users who support media reform and the creation of a vigorous independent media.  "IndyLink gives dial-up Internet users the option of putting their dollars where their values are,” Bowen explains. Check it out here.

Here’s a long Johnny Carson profile by Kenneth Tynan in 1978.

Random Musing:  I braved a ton of commercials to catch some terrific Kinks footage in a nice Ray Davies profile on Trio, and Ray noted that their last performance took place at the R&R HoF inaugural concert in Cleveland in 1995.  Why has that never been released on DVD?  Yes, it was the worst E Street Band performance in history and Bruce and Dylan sounded terrible on “Forever Young,” but so what?  It didn’t all suck and it would raise a lot of money.

My Armstrong Williams/Maggie Gallagher moment:  I got asked a few times by friends in the Clinton White House to look at some unimportant speeches and contributed a bit to a few, including Clinton’s welcoming to the opening of the Hall of Fame (in which he not coincidentally closed by quoting a certain New Jersey songwriter to whom he referred as “the man”), and a few of the tributes he paid to winners of the Presidential Medal of Arts, or whatever it’s called.  I would also talk about policy with my friends sometimes and did not feel compelled to rush into print every time.  I’ve never received a dime from any government agency insofar as I am aware and never denied talking to these White House aides, Clinton, once, informally, and the assorted Democratic senator who asked.  When I published What Liberal Media?, I was invited to speak to the Democratic Senatorial Policy Committee as well as a gathering of Representatives in a private Capitol Hill home.  My expenses were covered, and I was paid in the form of chicken and wine, as I recall.  During the last election cycle, I refused all requests to do anything to help raise money for any candidate or 527 organization, and my only contribution was in the form of the purchase of two t-shirts (one large, one small) at the VFC concert in Philadelphia.

(Even so, let’s admit it.  Monetary payment is only one form of bribery.  Access, ego-stroking, social cache is just as powerful an inducement in Washington, and a considerable percentage of the Washington punditocracy can be said to be on the take in this regard.  You might argue that those invitations were a form of payment.  I wouldn’t argue with you.)

Good line department, circa-1990 (I think): 

Me to then-Washington Post Magazine editor, Bob Thompson, at some party:  "Hey Bob, that [Dick] Darman profile by Marjorie [Williams] was the best thing in the magazine since my [11,000 or so word John] McLaughlin profile."

Bob Thompson: “Perhaps since even before your McLaughlin profile, bud.”

Correspondents’ Corner:


Name: MJ Rosenberg
Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Thanks, Eric, for pointing out that the Jewish right's latest gambit is to blame the Arabs for the holocaust.  I know it's a stretch but watch everybody fall into line (much as they did behind Sharansky's new book which argues that Palestinians must become more democratic than Danes before Israelis should even consider removing an illegal settlement).  As for Safire, back when I worked for Sen. Carl Levin, I tangled with him over Israel.  Levin had written a letter to the Secretary of State (George Schultz) supporting Schultz for reminding Yitzhak Shamir that UN Res 242 was still U.S. policy.  Safire called me up on the phone and threatened to expose me (a mere Senate aide) as an agent of the Israel Labor party for working with Levin "to undermine Shamir."  Safire insisted the Levin letter was written by the Israeli left (a lie) and threatened all kinds of ruination upon me starting with a column exposing me!  I listened to the guy fulminate and wondered: is this guy a journalist or a lobbyist?  I was naive then.  He was not a journalist.  Every column he wrote was part of a lobbying strategy.  A thoroughly dishonest guy.  Even his cutesy word column tends to shill for his ideological allies.

Name: Marty Babicz
Hometown: Boulder

Thought you might be interested to know that the Denver police pulled over a woman for having a bumper sticker on her truck that was derogatory towards President Bush.  No word on what term the cop labeled as a "profanity."

Name: Kevin Bartner
Hometown: Alpharetta, GA

Favorite Carson moment:

When Johnny found out that Don Rickles broke his cigarette box and he went across the hall, with a camera crew, and interrupted the shooting of Rickles' show CPO Sharkey in order to rip into Rickles for breaking his cigarette box.  He pulled a Rickles on Rickles.

January 25, 2005 | 12:16 PM ET

Conscience of a conservative

A day after we note the retirement of William Safire, a conservative who sacrificed his hard-won moral and intellectual independence on the altar of the Bush administration’s ideological extremism; who never deviated from his defense of the anti-Semitic ravings of his patron, Richard Nixon, and who never apologized to Times readers for lying to them about an imaginary meeting in Prague between Iraq and Al Qaida that he falsely termed to be an “undisputed fact,” we are happy to salute the ruminations of an honest conservative, Paul Craig Roberts, who was U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy under Ronald Reagan, as well as Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review.  Roberts has not changed his views.  He remains just as conservative as ever.  His views help demonstrate just how far what now passes for conservatism in America has strayed from that vision.

Not so long ago I would have identified the liberal media as the New York Times and Washington Post, CNN and the three TV networks, and National Public Radio.  But both the Times and the Post fell for the Bush administration's lies about WMD and supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  On balance CNN, the networks, and NPR have not made an issue of the Bush administration's changing explanations for the invasion.

Apparently, Rush Limbaugh and National Review think there is a liberal media because the prison torture scandal could not be suppressed and a cameraman filmed the execution of a wounded Iraqi prisoner by a U.S. Marine.  Do the Village Voice and The Nation comprise the "liberal media"?  The Village Voice is known for Nat Hentoff and his columns on civil liberties. Every good conservative believes that civil liberties are liberal because they interfere with the police and let criminals go free. The Nation favors spending on the poor and disfavors gun rights, but I don't see the "liberal hate" in The Nation's feeble pages that Rush Limbaugh was denouncing on C-Span.

In the ranks of the new conservatives, however, I see and experience much hate.  It comes to me in violently worded, ignorant and irrational e-mails from self-professed conservatives who literally worship George Bush.  Even Christians have fallen into idolatry.  There appears to be a large number of Americans who are prepared to kill anyone for George Bush.

The Iraqi War is serving as a great catharsis for multiple conservative frustrations: job loss, drugs, crime, homosexuals, pornography, female promiscuity, abortion, restrictions on prayer in public places, Darwinism and attacks on religion.  Liberals are the cause.  Liberals are against America.  Anyone against the war is against America and is a liberal.  "You are with us or against us."

The complete article is here.

U.S. foreign policy update:  Sodomy, electric shocks, cigarette burns, and beatings, here, and, oh yeah, robbery, as "Army personnel have admitted to beating or threatening to kill Iraqi detainees and stealing money from Iraqi civilians but have not been charged with criminal conduct, according to newly released Army documents."  ( Here.)  Is this what Bush meant when he said, “freedom” and “liberty” 42 times?  I’ll bet the Iraqis and most of the Arab world think it is.  ( Like puppet-master, like puppet.)  Of course with the political luck that has followed this administration everywhere, the story of our making the world safe for torture will certainly pale in the various opinions of the elite media, to the question of whether it will be “Aviator” or “Ray.”

Consciencelessness of a Conservative:  Is Little Roy really that thick?  Look, unlike. Mr. Moral Outrage, I’m a Jew, but I don’t expect Arabs to pay tribute to my people’s suffering while Jews, in the form of Israel and its supporters—and in this I include myself—are causing much of theirs.  Would Andrew want to go to a service in honor of the suffering of gay bashing bigots?  (Wait, don’t answer that.  Would a gay person who didn’t regularly offer his political support to gay bashing bigots want to go?)  Anyway, I’m sure what I’m saying will be twisted beyond recognition, and so I suppose that makes it stupid to do, but I’m sorry.  The Palestinians have also suffered because of the Holocaust.  They lost their homeland as the world—in the form of the United Nations—reacted to European crimes by awarding half of Palestine to the Zionists.  They call this the “Nakba” or the “Catastrophe.”  To ask Arabs to participate in a ceremony that does not recognize their own suffering but implicitly endorses the view that caused their catastrophe is morally idiotic—which is why, I guess, I’m not surprised Andrew’s doing it. 

Also via Little Roy, here’s another conservative Jew joining David Horowitz in endorsing Mel Gibson's anti-Semitism and even William Donohue’s disgusting anal-sex-obsessed anti-Jewish attack, which was broadcast on MSNBC and implicitly endorsed by Pat Buchanan.  (The Original is here.)

Wasn’t I Great? 

Weekly Standard editor William Kristol lauded President George W. Bush's inauguration speech as "powerful," "impressive," and "historic," both in an article for the January 31 print edition of The Weekly Standard and as a FOX News political contributor during FOX's live coverage of Inauguration Day.  Washington Post columnist and FOX News contributor Charles Krauthammer, also during FOX News' live Inauguration Day coverage, called Bush's speech "revolutionary" and compared it to former President John F. Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address.  But Kristol and Krauthammer were consultants for Bush's speech -- a fact that neither disclosed.

More here.

Headline of the day

Alter-reviews
Warner Brothers has released a box set of six gangster films as a DVD package.  The greatest of this is “White Heat” followed closely by “Public Enemy.”  All of them are worthy in some fashion, most on entertainment criteria, but all on historical and sociological—which is one reason I regret that these, while beautifully restored and transferred, like the recent Looney Tunes collections, do not include more data about the making of the films and the respective contexts in which they came to fruition.  The rest of the package includes “Petrified Forest,” Angels with Dirty Faces,” “Little Caesar,” and “Roaring Twenties,” one of the few pairings of Cagney and Bogart.  I don’t really see how anyone with any taste at all can resist.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Rob Stafford
Hometown: San Diego
For those of us not expecting the Rapture, and who don't want to live the rest of our short lives in misery, let me point out what this article isn't saying (though it implies it...):

If the global temperature rises by more than about 1.2 degrees from the current level (which will take ten years), positive feedback will set in, making a further rise of another 3 degrees very quick and almost inevitable--this total rise of 5 degrees should be enough to allow substantial amounts of the icy methane slurry at the bottom of the oceans to melt--which will add enough greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere to again push the temperature up an additional five degrees, while simultaneously killing most of the oxygen using life in the oceans.

This basic scenario is explained in many places (just do a Web search) if you want documentation.

The last time this happened, 95% of the life on the planet DIED.

This is why (as well as holding people for life w/o trial, death squads, and other minor issues), I am so goddammed pissed at the current administration.

Now I will forget about this and go about business as usual--just like my president wants.

Name: Anamik Saha
Hometown: London, UK
Dear Eric,
I thought I might draw your attention to a new provocative article we have published here on openDemocracy.net.  Written by Paul Rogers it is a spoof report written by imaginary management consultants laying out a new year strategy for al-Qaida, detailing how they can benefit from the policies of the Bush Administration.

Name: Daniel Storms
Hometown: Niantic, CT

Just to note the passing of another liberal voice:

David Nyhan, longtime Op-Ed columnist for the Boston Globe, was a casualty of the recent blizzard.  Nyhan, who retired from the Globe in 2001, collapsed and died after shoveling snow.  He was always an articulate voice for the powerless and against the plutocrats--as the saying goes, he comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable.  In an era when the media is more whipped cur than watchdog of freedom, his passing should be mourned.

Name: Mrs. Tarquin Biscuitbarrel
Hometown: Undisclosed Location

Dr. Alterman--
Eliott Abrams' family and mine used to belong to the same synagogue in the District.  One year during the thick of the Iran-Contra hearings, we saw Abrams on Yom Kippur, between services, standing at an open door and staring out gloomily.

"I bet HE'S got a lot to atone for," said my husband as we passed.

I elbowed my husband in the ribcage, but I was glad he said it.  Because evidently Abrams will have lots more atrocities on his spiritual plate.

Name: Martin
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI

Hi again Eric,
Altercators may enjoy this.  iFilm.com recently posted a clip of Frank Zappa debating music censorship on Crossfire in 1986.  Hearing Frank tell Robert Novak that the U.S. was headed towards a fascist theocracy under Reagan, is priceless.  There are many other great moments.  What would Frank say now?

Name: Jeff
Hometown: Owasso, OK

Re Johnny Carson lines:

"I'd like to talk to you about. . . diarrhea."

Then, three pies to the face. Classic.

Name: Martin
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI

Hi Eric,
Favorite Johnny Carson moment:

Carnac places an envelope up to his forehead, and says "Sis Boom Baa."

Beside him, Ed furrows his brow.  What could that be the answer to?

Carnac opens the envelope.  He reads the question.  "What is the sound of a sheep exploding?"

Name: Sal
Hometown: NYC

Carson as Carnac:

1. "Zazu Pitts.  Zazu Pitts. (tears open envelope)  What you find in Zazu Prunes?"

2. "Sherman, First National, and Phyllis Diller.  Sherman, First National, and Phyllis Diller.

(tears open envelope)

Name a tank, a bank, and a skank."

Eric replies: “Yassir Arafat.”

“What does Dolly Parton say after she takes off her bra?”

January 24, 2005 | 11:31 AM ET

Have death squad, will travel

One weakness of liberals is our inability to credit right-wingers with a sufficient degree of malevolence.  During the Reagan administration, for instance, no liberal would ever have gone so far as accuse the president of selling arms to terrorists and using the profits to fund an illegal war.  You would have been called crazy.  Similarly, no one ever accused the Reagan administration of actually setting up and funding the murderous death squads that killed innocent civilians by the tens of thousands in El Salvador at the time.  The farthest anyone would go would be to accuse them of failing to rein them in.  Well, check out this quote in Sy Hersh’s latest New Yorker piece, here, attributed to a former high level intelligence officer:

Do you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador?  We founded them and we financed them.  The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we want.  And we aren’t going to tell Congress about it.

So here we have a former intel official saying that the United States recruited and organized the terrorist killing squads and it worked so well we’re going to try it again.  Not surprisingly, a few of the same people are involved—like Elliott Abrams, who lied on behalf of Salvador’s killers and is about to be named to a top post in the new administration.  In a nation that took morality even remotely seriously, the idea of our government financing terrorist murderers might excite a little interest.  Yet this is the second report of our government planning a series of terrorist murders and we get not a peep out of anyone?  Does anyone want to try to defend this?

And P.S.  What about all those liberals—the editors of The New Republic most prominently—who insisted that only commies would criticize the Reagan administration’s policies in Central America?  Come to think of it, aren’t those the same people who were so gung ho behind Bush and Iraq?

P.P.S.  I see John Negroponte was on all of the Sunday shows in a row yesterday.  Negroponte is the human link between the Central American death squads —he was the Ambassador to Honduras at the time they roamed free- and their proposed recreation in Iraq as American-sponsored terrorists.  Did any of those vaunted hosts ask him about this?  I don’t know because I can’t bear to watch.

P.P.P.S.  I see the guest list for “Meet the Press” represented the following SCLM bias.  Republican conservative John Negroponte; Republican conservative Bill Thomas; Republican conservative Stephen Hayes (peddling a discredited theory about the phony Saddam-Al Qaida connection) and honest, centrist journalist Robin Wright.  Repeat after me:  What liberal media?

We [Heart] Torture.

From Barry R, a word that gets more useful with each day:  Kakistocracy (from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition.  2000)

SYLLABICATION:  kak·is·toc·ra·cy
PRONUNCIATION:   kak'i-stok're-se, käki-
NOUN:  Inflected forms: pl. kak·is·toc·ra·cies
Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens.
ETYMOLOGY:
Greek kakistos, worst, superlative of kakos, bad; see caco- +  -cracy. 
Oldest use: 1829.

PUTTING THE WORD TO USE:
"Is ours a government of the people, by the people, for the people, or a kakistocracy rather, for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools?" -  1876 OED

Brief, three-line, tribute to Johnny:

“OK, lady, move the cat.”

“Listening to you, dear, I’m getting a Hedren Excedache”

"I'll bet that makes his putter stand up.”

(Send me some better ones if you have them.)

Note: Quotes one and three are likely apocryphal, alas...

Alter-reviews:

Johnny Winter and Herbie Hancock by Sal; The Clash by Eric.

Two quickies on two releases that somehow slipped by me. Sony continues it's "Deluxe Edition" series with an expanded "Second Winter" from Johnny Winter.  I have never been a fan of Johnny's Texas-style boogie blues.  With the exception of his first, "The Progressive Blues Experiment," I found most of his classic releases to be on the wrong side of camp.  His growling vocals were an added distraction.  I just never bought into his type of blues.  But, the bonus CD on this new version of "Second Winter," is an unreleased live set, recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970 and it's quite good.  The band, featuring Johnny's brother Edgar and Tommy Shannon who went on to form Double Trouble with Stevie Ray Vaughan, really cooks.  It even features a very early version of Edgar's 1970's hit "Frankenstein."

Another Sony release is the debut in the U.S. for Herbie Hancock's "The Piano," an absolutely gorgeous set of music, recorded over two days in Japan in 1978.  Hancock's take on 3 standards and 4 originals, with some alternates as well, is stunning.

Sal
NYCD

Eric adds:  I never mentioned the 25th “Legacy” edition of the Clash’s “London Calling” on Sony Legacy because I wasn’t so crazy about it.  The record itself —which may be the best and most important album of the past 25th years, it’s only competition being “Born in the USA”— does not appear to have been re-remixed.  The CD of outtakes is kind of interesting for one listen; ditto the DVD.  The complete set is for completists like yours truly, so I can’t quite live without it even though the both additions are a one-time only experience, but if you’ve already got the remixed version of the CD, I can’t, in good conscience, insist you rush out and get the new version.

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