February 18, 2005 | 12:19 PM ET

I’ve got a new Think Again column up here entitled, “Weird Science.”

What Liberal Media?  Here's Michael Crowley flacking for Elliott Abrams, who has (naturally) just been promoted to a top job in the Bush administration, in notso liberal Slate.  He writes,

But Abrams undercut his credibility by stubbornly defending the U.S.-backed military regime in El Salvador even after evidence emerged of regime-sponsored massacres.  This made him a villain among liberals like New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, who accused him of whitewashing human rights abuses.

In fact, Abrams did not merely “stubbornly defend” the U.S. backed military regime, he made McCarthyite accusations against diligent reporters who revealed the truth.  He then lied, both to reporters and to Congress about his own involvement with illegal activity.

On point one, see yesterday’s discussion of the El Mozote massacre for background, here .  Now note Abrams’ real time reaction to the reporters’ accurate accounts.  From When Presidents Lie:

Without any independent confirmation, then-assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs Elliott Abrams sought to cast further aspersions on the reporters’ stories as well as on their characters. The El Mozote case “is a very interesting one in a sense,” he remarked to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, “because we found, for example, that the numbers, first of all, were not credible, because as Secretary Enders notes, our information was that there were only three hundred people in the canton.”  Abrams’s argument was deliberately misleading, as Danner would later point out, because both news reports had been absolutely clear that the mass killing had taken place in several hamlets. This particular argument was of a piece with the rest of the administration strategy to discredit the massacre reports by whatever means necessary. “We find . . . that it is an event that happened in mid-December [but it] is then publicized when the certification comes forward to the committee,” Abrams continued. “So, it appears to be an incident which is at least being significantly misused, at the very best, by the guerrillas.”

On Abrams’ record as a convicted perjurer, here’s more:

A second sequence of lies was spawned on October 5, 1986, when Sandinista soldiers shot down a small plane carrying three Americans ferrying weapons to the Contras in southern Nicaragua from the CIA-controlled Illopango air base in El Salvador.  The plane’s two American pilots were killed in the crash, but its cargo kicker, Eugene Hasenfus, survived. Captured by the Sandinistas, he quickly admitted his role in the operation and stated that he believed the entire effort was controlled by the CIA and sanctioned by the U.S. government. The discovery of the flight sent U.S. officials into a panic, for it held the potential to reveal to the world that the United States was in fact guilty of exactly the crime for which it had so thunderously denounced Nicaragua—that of using the territory of one nation to aid rebels in another for the purposes of government subversion.  The plane was one of several operated by Project Democracy, the named coined by North for the effort to secretly deliver aid to the Contras.  Once the operation was shut down, CIA operatives were ordered to fly the remaining planes in Project Democracy’s “little air force,” as North called it, to a remote airfield, where bulldozers had dug a large pit. As North wrote in his 1991 memoir, “The planes were pushed into the pit, covered with explosives, and blown up. The remaining wreckage was saturated with fuel and then cremated. The fire burned for days. When the smoke finally cleared, the charred remains were buried. . . . One might call it the ultimate cover-up.”

Asked about an American government connection by a reporter, President Reagan responded that there was “absolutely none,” adding “there is no government connection with that plane at all. . . . We’ve been aware that there are private groups and private citizens that have been trying to help the contras—to that extent—but we did not know the particulars of what they’re doing.” Secretary Shultz explained that the flight had been undertaken by “private people” who “had no connection to the U.S. Government at all.” He based this assertion, he later said, on assurances from U.S. assistant secretary of state Elliott Abrams, who would soon emerge as the most forceful and energetic perpetrator of this particular falsehood. Immediately after the first news reports began to appear, Abrams showed up on CNN and told reporters Rowland Evans and Robert Novak that no one connected to the U.S. government had been associated with the flights because “That would be illegal.  We are barred from doing that and we are not doing it. This was not in any sense a U.S. government operation. None.” He then went on to blame the U.S. Congress for the men’s deaths and Hasenfus’s capture. “The reason this is going on, the reason that there are Americans who were killed and shot down is that Congress won’t act” to fund the Contras, Abrams said.

Abrams then appeared before the House Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs and insisted that “The flight in which Mr. Hasenfus took part was a private initiative. It was not organized, directed, or financed by the U.S. Government.” Abrams repeated his assurances to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee in ensuing days.  On the latter two occasions, he was accompanied by CIA deputy director of operations Clair George and CIA Central America task force chief Alan Fiers. Both men, according to Fiers, were “taken aback” by the sweeping nature of Abrams’s denials. Because the various committees had by this time learned that they could scarcely trust the administration members to tell the truth where Central America was concerned, they posed the same questions repeatedly. Each time, however, Abrams offered the same response, speaking, he said, for “the government as a whole.” While George and Fiers both responded with much greater circumspection, they did not challenge Abrams when he made statements they knew to be false, and they maintained against all evidence that the CIA was not involved “indirectly in arranging, directing, or facilitating resupply missions conducted by private individuals in support of the Nicaraguan democratic resistance.” This was obviously a lie, and one Abrams would later defend on the basis of its having been no worse than anything Kennedy’s aides said after the Cuban Missile Crisis, or Johnson’s during the Tonkin incidents.

Because his statements to Congress had been based on what he termed “complete knowledge,” such qualifications convinced no one. As a result of this testimony, Abrams was forced to plead guilty to charges that he had unlawfully withheld material information from Congress about the Hasenfus affair. He was also expelled from the D.C. Bar. Alan Fiers accepted a plea bargain in which he pled guilty to withholding information from Congress, while George went to trial and was convicted of two counts of perjury. All three were set free, however, by presidential pardons from George H.W. Bush following the 1992 election.

And this:

Yet another Elliott Abrams tale of fiction involved his hapless attempt to secure funds for the Contras from the sultan of Brunei. Abrams himself had arranged the donation, traveling to London under an alias to meet with Brunei’s foreign minister. The money was mislaid, however, when North’s secretary, Fawn Hall, transposed the numbers of the account number for the wire transfer. When Abrams was asked directly about this by Senator Bill Bradley during a hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on November 25, 1986, he responded angrily, “We’re not, you know, we’re not in the fund-raising business.We don’t engage, I mean, the State Department’s function in this has not been to raise money, other than to raise it from Congress.” This lie also formed part of Abrams’s eventual plea bargain as well as having been a basis for his extremely reluctant apology to the committee for “testimony that was ‘misleading.’” It led one Intelligence Committee member, Senator Thomas Eagleton (D-MO), to note for the record that Abrams’s testimony made him “want to puke.”

Note: Robert Novak later told me he “admired” Abrams for lying to him.

Globe note: Keep your eyes on the ombudsman column this Sunday.  But even so, we are hardly done with this.  Details here , Letters, here .

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to liberate the wage slaves before they are enslaved.  Look, I know I'm no economist, but I keep seeing big flashing red lights warning about a dollar collapse.  This week Robert Novak wrote "Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is rejecting ***nearly universal advice*** from financial experts that he dramatically should accelerate the decline of the dollar in order to reduce the U.S. international current-account deficit" (emphasis added).  Then the New York Times reports that foreign purchases of Treasury securities plunged 75% in December.  I don't think it's a coincidence that the Senate is about to fast-track the hideous bankruptcy reform bill.  Supporters will tell you that all the bill does is force debtors who can pay at least $6000 of their debt over time into Chapter 13 (as opposed to the "clean break" bankruptcy of Chapter 7).  What they don't tell you is that bankruptcy attorneys demand their money up-front, and that Chapter 13 bankruptcies cost more than the bargain rates you see lawyers hawking on late-night TV.  One such character in Chicago advertises $500 for a Chapter 7 and $1000 for a Chapter 13 (and that tends to be the bare-bones/no-hitch price).  Many debtors won't be able to afford the up-front costs.  Add to this the prospect of a dollar collapse -- if the $6000 trigger level isn't tied to inflation, over time many of the debtors not intended to be barred from Chapter 7 will be. 

Altercators Beware: Credit card companies have also been laying traps.  You probably know that if you are late with a payment the bank that issued the card can jack-up the interest rate, even if you have a "guaranteed fix rate."  But did you know that many companies have amended their user agreements so that if you are late with ANY payment (phone bill, repair man) they can do the same thing?   If they haven't gotten around to you yet, they will -- they only need to give you 15 days notice.  Some have gone as far as to add this language: "We reserve the right to change the terms at any time for any reason."  More horror stories here.

February 17, 2005 | 12:07 PM ET

Back in January 1982, the Reagan administration was desperate to cover-up evidence of a horrific massacre undertaken by U.S. supported military forces in El Salvador, in the village of El Mozote in the province of Morazan, whom the U.S. was funding and training.  The massacre was reported in The New York Times and The Washington Post by Raymond Bonner, and Alma Guillermoprieto, respectively, along with Susan Meiselas.  As the reports appeared on the eve of Congressional hearings on funding for the Salvadoran killers, administration officials, like Elliott Abrams, sought to discredit the reports with McCarthyite accusations, and were supported by their allies in the conservative punditocracy—which, was just a fraction of its current size and scope.  They succeeded and the funding went through, in part due to the cooperation of then-Ambassador to Honduras, John Negroponte.  The gruesome details of the massacre were later excavated, journalistically, by reporter Mark Danner.  What follows is drawn from When Presidents Lie:

Bonner, Guillermoprieto, and Susan Meiselas returned and presented their evidence to readers, State Department officials received a confidential cable from U.S. ambassador to Honduras John Negroponte reporting on a visit by a U.S. embassy official and a House Foreign Affairs Committee staff member to a Colomoncagua refugee camp, where many of the survivors of Morazan had fled. The cable described the refugees’ account of “a military sweep in Morazan December 7 to 17 which they claim resulted in large numbers of civilian casualties and physical destruction, leading to their exodus.” Negroponte,  himself noted that the “names of villages cited coincide with New York Times article of January 28 same subject.” He noted that the refugees’ “decision to flee at this time when in the past they had remained during the sweeps . . . lends credibility to reportedly greater magnitude and intensity of . . . military operations in Northern Morazan.” The State Department, however, decided to keep this information secret. By the time of the second certification report—which appeared six months later, in July 1982—the massacre reports were ancient history. Enders now bragged of “many fewer allegations of massacres during this reporting than last,” a trend he attributed to the fact that “many earlier reports proved to be fabricated or exaggerated.” Like its predecessor, the second certification resulted in a noisy hearing, but a solid majority backed the Reagan administration’s aid to the regime. This time military aid was more than doubled, from $35 million to $82 million, and economic aid increased to more than twice that amount. In 1993, Enders finally admitted to a reporter, “I now know that the materials that we and the embassy passed on to Congress were wrong.” It took a decade’s passing and the Salvadorans themselves to determine, definitively, what took place in El Mozote. In the fall of 1992, investigators for the postwar Salvadoran Truth Commission spent more than thirty-five days digging through the burial sites filled with decomposed bodies, bones, skulls, and bullet cartridges. They identified more than five hundred human remains in El Mozote and its surrounding villages. Of the 143 human remains discovered in the sacristy of the Mozote church, 136 were judged to be children or adolescents, of whom the average age was six. Of the remaining seven adults, six were women, one in the third trimester of pregnancy.  When all the forensics had been uncovered, the commission revealed at least twentyfour people had participated in the shooting and that every cartridge but one had come from a U.S.-manufactured and -supplied M-16 rifle.Of these, “had discernible head-stamps, identifying the ammunition as having been manufactured for the United States Government at Lake City, Missouri.”  No one has ever been officially charged or tried for any crimes associated with the actions taken in El Mozote, which were deemed by Danner to be “the largest massacre in modern Latin American history.” {Negroponte never said a thing in public.]

More on Negroponte, here.

A few questions:

Why does the CIA hate America?  (Um, we told you so.)

Are Ward Churchill and David Horowitz the same person?

Is Bruce a commie?  You can look it up.

Is it all our fault that Armstrong Williams took the money?  Black conservatives, by definition, can’t do anything wrong.  Just ask Clarence Thomas.

Todd Gitlin on Cathy Young :

  1. There is a Jew working somewhere in the Bush White House on global non-warming.
  2. You hate Bush.
  3. You are an anti-Semite.

Thanks to everyone who’s cc’d their letters to the Globe to me, or just written me in support.  Remember, we’ve created a special page for letters to Globe that were also forwarded to me, here .  If you want to add your voice to the chorus, the relevant parties are op-ed page editor Nick King, (n_king@globe.com, 617-929-2838) and Ombudsman Chris Chinlund, (chinlund@globe.com, 617-929-3134).  Letters to the editor are letter@globe.com.  If you want to let Ms. Young know what you think, her published e-mail on Reason’s Web site where she invites letters from the public is CathyYoung63@aol.com.

Also, sorry, but the research assistant job is taken.  I apologize for the lack of individual responses but I’d be overwhelmed and I’m short an assistant.  In the meantime, congrats to Paul for his fine work that has led him to a job with the Columbia Journalism Review.

Who inside the White House was looking out for Gannon/Guckert, waving him into the press room, it now turns out,  months before Gannon/Guckert ever started working for any news organization?  The Freedom of Information requesets have been filed so it's just  a matter of time.  But the White House might want to come clean sooner rather than later on the story that refuses to  go away.

Quote of the Day:  “Covering" the story, and saying, ‘Well, if you look at a photograph of Diana, you can understand, but this one... Why?  Why her?'"
--A very classy Brit Hume.

Speaking of Mr. Hume, James Roosevelt Jr.'s complains of Hume's "outrageous distortion" of FDR, his grandfather’s, words and "calls for a retraction, an apology, maybe even a resignation."  Read all about it here.

Speaking of Mr. Churchill, as we were a while back, this is interesting.

Speaking of Mr. Horowitz, conservatives in the Ohio State Senate are considering a bill, modeled on right-wing activist David Horowitz’s “Academic Bill of Rights,” that would prohibit public and private college professors from introducing “controversial matter” into the classroom.  But Horowitz has used some “controversial” language himself recently – for instance, his recent blog entry entitled: "Black Racist Wins Nobel Prize (Thanks to the Leftwing Racists on the Nobel Committee)."  He was referring to 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, awarded for “standing up to her progressive regime in Kenya” and promoting “ecologically viable” development in Africa.  Think Progress has more.

Something you need to know about Susan Estrich, I think, is the fact that while flacking for Arnold, she told Arianna to pull out of the race for the sake of her children, thereby endorsing the cro-magnon view that motherhood disqualifies a woman from seeking public office.  In any case, read this and this and this.

Missle Defense fails again, ho-hum.  ( Here.)

Repeat after me.  What Liberal Media?

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Judi
Hometown: Pueblo

Dear Eric,
Today I spoke with a gentleman whose nephew is scheduled to leave for Iraq in the next two months.  The look of fear, dread, and sadness in his eyes, 24 inches from mine, was heartstopping.  The Bush/Rove "keep them afraid" scheme is working, all right, but more and more, where I live, which is on the border of the live ammunition firing range at Fort Carson, it's not the kind of afraid they've aimed for.  Don't get me wrong: these are brave folks, and they will do as they have promised; they will go and fight their President's war, they will hold their heads high and keep their upper lips stiff, and race around town in the few days they have before they leave trying to make sure family cars are serviced and have good tires, going out for pizza one last time, and postpone sleep as long as possible, savoring each moment of... everything as it is, because no matter what, it won't ever be thus again.  What we as a nation are doing to our soldiers is unforgiveable.

Name: Missy Hall
Hometown: Louisville, KY

This story dovetails nicely with the theme of today's blog of GWB vs. Science.  It involves a leak of a coal waste reservoir in Eastern KY that dumped 300 million gallons of coal sludge into the Big Sandy River (eventually into the Ohio) in late 2000.  The Clinton Administration (which did not have the greatest record when it came to protecting us against the coal industry), did its due diligence by appointing a team of investigators from the Mine Health and Safety Administration (MHSA) to look into the matter, around November 1.  The team counted on 4-5 months to finish their investigation, but lo and behold, two days before the inauguration, they were assigned a new boss (who had not participated in the work thus far) and one week to finish the job.  Clara Bingham (for The Washington Monthly) does a fine job detailing the incident and aftermath, which included the firing of Jack Spadaro, the MHSA employee who fought the scuttling of the report of Massey Energy's responsbility, and the situation there in Eastern KY today.  My favorite part is the bit about the arsenic levels in the groundwater that exist today.  When W raised the "safe" levels of arsenic in the water, was that the first or second environmental bastardization he pushed through when he took office?  You know, there have been so many, I can hardly keep track.
Thanks for all you do.

P.S.  To Paul, if you are still around--best of luck to you.  Send a White Feather to Jonah.

Name: Stephen Christman
Hometown: Toledo

Eric,
One of your recent correspondents had the following to say in regard to the ability of creationists to completely screen out evidence that is inconsistent with their religous beliefs:
"I came to see these people as being under a type of mental handicap, brought on by a deeply held faith in their self-righteousness.  The contrary evidence wasn't something to be maliciously ignored; I believe they were incapable of seeing it as factual at all."

It turns out that my colleagues and I have just published a scientific paper shedding interesting light on why some people persist in believing literal creationist stories despite the preponderance of scientific evidence in favor of evolution.  Namely, our work shows that strong right-handedness, relative to mixed- or inconsistent-handedness, is associated with an increased tendency to endorse literal creationist myths.  In other words, our research indicates that the more strongly right-handed a person is, the more likely they are to endorse literal creationist accounts of the origin of species.

It turns out that a growing body of neurological evidence shows that, while the left hemisphere of our brain maintains our current beliefs about the world, the right hemisphere is responsible for playing "Devil's Advocate": detecting anomalies with those left hemisphere beliefs and forcing an updating of beliefs when appropriate.  In order for this belief updating to occur, the right hemisphere has to interact with the left, and strong right-handedness is associated with decreased interaction between the two sides of the brain (hence, the lesser degree of belief updating in strong righties).

While there is certainly more going on in determining people's beliefs about the origin of species than simply one's degree of handedness, I thought your readers might like to learn about a neurological, brain-based factor that is clearly related to whether one believes in evolution versus creationism.

The full reference for the article (which was published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal) is:
Niebauer, C., Christman, S., Reid, S., & Garvey, K. (2004). Interhemispheric interaction and beliefs on our origin: Degree of handedness predicts beliefs in creationism versus evolution. Laterality, vol. 9, pp. 433-447.
- Stephen Christman, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
University of Toledo

Name: Patrick Mathews Ph.D.
Hometown: Wichita, Kansas

Eric,
I'm sure the focus on science and its connections to politics will generate a great deal of mail, and I can't help but get in on the fray.

I live in Kansas where we are, once again, about to have science re-defined so that religious viewpoints can be seen as science.  I teach a lot of college-level Biology courses and many of them either touch upon or are entirely based upon Evolution.  Over the years, I have developed a sensitivity to all the various passionate arguments on the topic, and I have tried very hard to see every person's viewpoint as much as possible.  I have always felt, and still feel, that combative confrontation is the worst way to approach any disagreement.  Instead, I carefully and methodically build my case in a manner that answers the doubters as much as I can.  This is time-consuming and requires (in the student and instructor) a good deal of knowledge about genetics, population biology, etc.

It is with this background that I read Dr. Michael Breland's letter about intelligent design and I wish to provide this carefully considered response.  Dr. Breland suggested that intelligent design is free from many of the indefensible positions of creationists past, like the age of the planet, and that questions about why an intelligent designer would create cancer are too anthropomorphic because we can't possibly see the entire "Truth" of the universe.  Both of these statements get at the heart of why I don't want to see intelligent design made a part of any science curriculum.  ID is reliance on the supernatural to explain natural phenomena, and as such, provides no capacity to actually answer the questions I have (...how old is the Earth?  ...why does cancer exist?).

Science is sometimes derided by its detractors (the Kansas Board of Education, for one) as "omethological naturalism" and by calling it that, they equate it to a religion dependent upon dogma and unable to deviate from rigid rules even when common sense says you should.  Science is most certainly the act of methological naturalism, accepting only naturalistic explanations that are subject to testing and revision.  The rigid rule that cannot be broken is that supernatural answers are not allowed, simply because they cannot be tested or measured in any quantifiable way.  Religion not only allows supernatural explanations, but requires them.  These are not measured and tested experimentally, but are provided as articles of faith.  Science and religion both provide answers to tough questions, sometimes even providing different answers to the same questions.  However, many questions (the ultimate "Truth" about the universe, perhaps) cannot be addressed by science and are purely the realm of religion.

Intelligent design has attributes that many find appealing and I have no criticism of it, as long as we all understand that it is based upon the supernatural.  As such, it has no place alongside evolutionary theory in a science classroom.  Anyone who is dissatisfied with the answers provided by science can seek alternate forms of answering the question.  But to change the rules of science to permit supernatural forces into the mix is to misunderstand the role of science, and seriously damages the capacity for future scientists to carry out "omethodological  naturalism" without public and governmental interference and derision (see yesterday's other posts).

February 16, 2005 | 1:33 PM ET

Super (destructive) power

The Kyoto Protocol goes into effect today without the participation of the United States, offering a near perfect paradigmatic illustration of America’s relationship with the rest of the world (hitherto fore ROW).  On the one hand, Bush is insisting that only he, his minders and ideological soulmates—know the truth.  Independent scientific inquiry is irrelevant.  Worldwide consensus is irrelevant.  Decades of collected data are irrelevant.  What’s more, the easily predictable future is also irrelevant.  The United States will continue on its path as the world’s most destructive environmental power, intent on creating climate chaos not only in our own nation—least of all in our own nation—but all over the world; further immiserating those on the planet least able to handle it.  The Bush attitude toward global warming increases hatred toward the United States in virtually every civilized nation, hurts others and hurts ourselves.  But like the Bush budget, the Bush war, and almost everything Bush does, its results will not be apparent until Bush and company leave office, making it someone else’s problem.

Per usual, the manner in which Bush and company went about thumbing their noses at ROW, at science, and at our own national self-interest proved almost as destructive as the act itself.  This from The Book on Bush:

Bush’s decision, announced in March 2001, to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol on global warming and discontinue U.S. participation in its future negotiation, without so much as notifying any of the other participants in advance.  (Condoleezza Rice informed European Union ambassadors that the deal was “dead” at a private lunch.) Bush had spoken out in favor of the multination agreement on the campaign trail. Approved in 1997, though as yet unratified (and unlikely to be) by the U.S. Congress, the painstakingly negotiated accord called for thirty-eight industrial countries to gradually reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions each produced.  The accord, however, would be meaningless without U.S. participation, because Americans account for approximately 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse-producing gasses. If the Europeans went ahead alone, it would be U.S. companies that would derive the benefit, as they would be competing without incurring the added costs of controlling greenhouse gasses. The U.S. pullout faced Europe with the choice of either rewarding Bush for his intransigence or starting again from scratch.

Bush defended his position with the breathtaking argument that if the Europeans doubted the administration’s commitment to preserving the environment, “all they need to do is look at home and see that we’re making good progress on the environment at home. We changed wetland regulations.  We will reduce the amount of arsenic in our waters. . . . [W]e’ve got money for our national parks.” In fact, his administration was then in the process of actively undermining the regulation of the amount of arsenic in Americans’ drinking water, and it tried to do the same with regard to the conservation of U.S. national parks, as chapter 2 recounts in detail. Regarding wetlands policy, Bush went so far as to refuse his own brother’s request to try to save Florida’s coastlines, so ideologically devoted was he to the sugar industry’s profitable despoiling of the nation’s natural resources for private profit. In the end nothing in Bush’s alleged explanation has anything to do with the administration’s unilateral sabotage of the Kyoto Protocol— which, one might add, was entirely gratuitous from a diplomatic perspective, since Congress had no intention of passing it and there was no possibility it would go into effect in any case.

Returning home from Europe, Bush admitted that he really couldn’t care less what the rest of the world, especially Europe, thought of American actions abroad. The idea “of placing caps on CO2 does not make economic sense for America,” he explained, leaving no room for debate. Afterward, Bush bragged of his immovability: “I went to dinner, as Karen [Hughes] would tell you, with fifteen leaders of the EU, and patiently sat there as all fifteen in one form or another told me how wrong I was. And at the end I said, ‘I appreciate your point of view, but this is the American position because it’s right for America.’"

More on Cathy Young and the Globe :  We’ve created a special page for letters to Globe that were also forwarded to me.  Remember, if you want to add your voice to the chorus, the relevant parties are op-ed page editor Nick King, ( n_king@globe.com 617-929-2838) and Ombudsman Chris Chinlund, ( chinlund@globe.com, 617-929-3134).  Letters to the editor are letter@globe.com.  If you want to let Ms. Young  know what you think, her published e-mail on Reason’s Web site where she invites letters from the public is CathyYoung63@aol.com.  I also noted a smart post on the controversy here.  Two mistakes in my post yesterday: Ms Young does describe herself as a “nonobservant” Jew, from Russia, by the way and my talk at the University Synagogue in Irvine will be on Friday night April 22, not the 23rd, which, of course, is the first night of Passover.

I’m still awaiting a response from the Globe for the questions contained in my final e-mail about the policies that dictated their egregious journalistic ethics in this matter and will share it when it arrives.  I note, however, something that I admit escaped my attention in the first place, but was brought to my attention in a letter cc’d to me by Mark Raven, Young writes, “There is, for instance, the way Alterman not-so-deftly conflates Muslims with Arabs and Arabs with dispossessed Palestinians, and then declares Jews responsible for "much" of the suffering of Muslims everywhere.”  But if you read the text of my short blog item—which the Globe self-protectively refuses to publish, you will note that the word “Muslim” does not appear anywhere.  I spoke of Arabs, not Muslims, but neither Ms. Young nor Mr. King seems to understand that there can be a difference.  To me, and to roughly 500 million people, however, the distinction is rather significant.  I mean, talk about “reckless disregard.”  Mr. King has admitted he did not read the blog item in question before publication and we now see it was not only deliberately twisted out of context but hundreds of millions of people were implicated in my argument—as alleged by Ms. Young—whom I never mentioned.  Legal opinions are welcome.  I am not interested in a nuisance suit. I am interested in clearing my name, period.

Check out CEPR's exellent resource:  Social Security Reporting Review, here.  It's a weekly review that evaluates the reporting on Social Security in major media (print, radio, and television).

During the Clinton years any White House scandal story that came with the scent of sex attached was immediately pushed to the front of the press queue.  But during the Bush years, any White House story with the scent of sex is ignored becuase the D.C. press corps is above that sort of thing, right? 

Meanwhile, you'd think it would be news when Bush's approval rating  drops eight points in less than one week.

Remember when David Brooks accused everyone who did not like the war in Iraq and used the word “Neocon” of being anti-Semitic?  Brooks later apologized and withdrew the accusation.  It is therefore strange and more than a little absurd—in the literal sense—that Brooks has allowed the piece to be republished and preserved for posterity in a book called The Neocon Reader.  Think about it.  I’m sure there’s a logic to it somewhere.

Quote of the Day: “Are people so used to you being angry all the time they assume you are even when you're just constipated?”

This Just in:

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN:

Columbia Records To Release 'Devils & Dust' On April 26

Columbia Records will release Bruce Springsteen's nineteenth album, 'Devils & Dust,' on April 26. 'Devils & Dust' features twelve new Springsteen songs.

'Devils & Dust' Track List

  1. Devils & Dust
  2. All The Way Home
  3. Reno
  4. Long Time Comin'
  5. Black Cowboys
  6. Maria's Bed
  7. Silver Palomino
  8. Jesus Was an Only Son
  9. Leah
  10. The Hitter
  11. All I'm Thinkin' About
  12. Matamoras Banks

'Devils & Dust' was produced by Brendan O'Brien, who first worked with Springsteen on the acclaimed CD, 'The Rising.' The new album was recorded at Thrill Hill Recording Studios in Los Angeles and New Jersey with additional engineering at Southern Tracks Recording in Atlanta.

Springsteen is planning a tour to accompany the release of the album.  Details will be announced shortly.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Dave Elley
Hometown: Seattle

Eric,
Is it just me, or did the proof of the incompetence or 'lack of respect for the truth' of our new Secretary of State just whizz by unnoticed by just about everyone in the SCLM?

In front of the TV cameras last year, Condi said of the August 6, 2001 PDB: "It did not warn of attacks inside the United States.  It was historical information based on old reporting."  And yet Bob Kerrey read out this next piece: "that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking."

And meanwhile, over at the FAA, 52 of 105 security briefings mentioned Al-Qaeda or Bin Laden and 5 discuss hijacking, but the FBI and FAA don't seem to be comparing notes.

Who oversees the FAA and FBI on National Security matters and should be making sure the dots are connected?  The NSC and Condoleeza Rice.  And this report conveniently comes out AFTER the election and her confirmation as SOS.  (SOS? Never noticed that before - seems appropriate.)

Rice is either a liar or incompetent or both (and most incompetents are also liars).  Still, only one of these attributes qualifies her for her new job.

Oh well, back to the Jackson trial everyone.

Name: Brian Gygi
Hometown: Oakland, CA
While I applaud the good fight you are waging in saving Social Security, it seems to me while we're all focused on that, the President is sneaking through other parts of his awful agenda - restricting class action law suits, preventing illegal aliens from getting drivers licenses, drilling in ANWAR and soon, perhaps, tort reform - while we are looking elsewhere.  (I assume the Dems were looking elsewhere - why else would they have been so passive?)  If this was deliberate (and I wouldn't put anything past Karl Rove) it's worked brilliantly.

Name: Julie Nelsen
Hometown: Salt Lake City
Dear Eric,
Ms. Young's attack seems like the political tactic you elucidated so clearly in "When Presidents Lie"--i.e. any attempt to understand another's actions or to truthfully acknowledge another's reality automatically makes you a "fellow traveler."  In Ms. Young's world all politics "is war."  In war the only reason for understanding is to destroy your enemy.  I wonder how much more enemy destruction she requires?

Name: Richard Heinzman
Hometown: Walla Walla, WA

RE: Accusations of anti-Semitism
I rarely, if ever, agree with you on anything.  However, in this instance I do and I wish you luck.

February 15, 2005 | 11:10 AM ET | Permalink

Slandered in the Globe - An Altercation Special Edition

A number of people have written in to ask me of my response to Cathy Young’s attempt to smear me as an anti-Semite, (or a self-hating Jew), who blames Holocaust victims for Arab misery—yes she really said that--on the op-ed page of The Boston Globe.  I’ve not responded in public because I was hoping to convince the Globe to behave responsibly through private means. These have failed, however, and so I am laying out the correspondence between us in order to provide a record.  There are many journalistic issues raised here regarding the Globe editors’ irresponsibility in allowing it to be used by a know-nothing ideologue like Young, and I hope to deal with most of them in the future, here and in The Nation.  Today I am merely providing the record of my correspondence with the newspaper.  (One expects this kind of thing from the swamps of the right-wing blogosphere, but The Globe?)  Anyone who reads it and finds they wish to communicate their views to the Globe, the relevant parties are op-ed page editor Nick King, (n_king@globe.com 617-929-2838) and Ombudsman Chris Chinlund, (chinlund@globe.com, 617-929-3134).  Letters to the editor are letter@globe.com.  Cathy Young’s op-ed entitled "When Jews Wax Anti-Semitic" is no longer available for free at the Globe site, but it has been reprinted here where Ms. Young's public e-mail address is offered as cathyyoung63@aol.com.

What I wrote:
To the editor:
It is quite painful for a proud, practicing pro-Zionist Jew who was Bar Mitvah, educated in Israel, lights candles on Shabbat, attend shul regularly, contributes to the Forward, and educates his own child into the religious tradition, to be accused publicly of anti-Semitism. It has happened to me on occasion in extremely obscure, right-wing websites, but only twice in the mainstream media. Both times it has been done by Cathy Young on the editorial page of The Boston Globe. The last time I was denied the courtesy of a response. I hope that will not be the case today.

As most people are aware, the accusation of anti-Semitism, like that of anti-Americanism, can be employed by people to stifle debate and stigmatize points of view with which they disagree. In this case Cathy Young seeks to silence anyone who recognizes the reality of Jewish responsibility for Palestinian suffering. This is unfortunate, for many reasons—one cannot hope for peace in the Middle East without a mutual recognition of the pain the conflict has caused—but more to the point, phony accusations of anti-Semitism have the effect of weakening societal strictures against the real thing. By employing this slander against me, now twice, Cathy Young is actually aiding and abetting the anti-Semites by robbing the term of any coherent meaning.

Here, for the record, is the entire text of the blog text that has led Young to call me these horrid names. .

“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 an its supporters—and in this I include myself—are causing much of theirs. Would Andrew [Sullivan] 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 Donahue’s disgusting anal-sex-obsessed anti-Jewish attack, which was broadcast on MSNBC and implicitly endorsed by Pat Buchanan. “

You can see from the above while the item does recognize the political folly of demanding that Arabs who have suffered their own catastrophe at the hands of Jews, be demanded to pay fealty to Jews without any recognition of their own suffering, the item also contains an attack on the genuine anti-Semitism of both the Passion of the Christ and the Catholic League’s William Donahue blaming America’s moral ills on “Hollywood’s secular Jews,” whom he informed MSNBC’s Buchanan, “like anal sex.”  Nowhere do I, as Young accuses, hold “Jews responsible for ‘much’ of the suffering of Muslims everywhere,” as I was clearly talking about Palestine, and nor, for the same reasons can I be accused of arguing that “every Muslim is justified in viewing every Jew as the enemy.” As for her accusation that I actually blaming “long-dead Holocaust victims,” well, it boggles the mind that your editors would allow this hateful poison into your newspaper, whatever Young’s motives may be for spreading it.

That a newspaper with the reputation of the Boston Globe would allow itself to be used for Young’s vicious vendetta against me, now twice, is both shameful and shocking. I would appreciate a retraction and apology.
Sincerely,
Eric Alterman
New York, New York

What the Globe published:
Phony accusation of anti-Semitism
February 9, 2005
IT IS QUITE painful for a proud, practicing pro-Zionist Jew who had a Bar Mitvah, educated in Israel, lights candles on Shabbat, attends shul regularly, contributes to the Forward, and educates his own child into the religious tradition, to be accused publicly of anti-Semitism ("When Jews wax anti-Semitic," op ed, Feb. 7).

The accusation of anti-Semitism, like that of anti-Americanism, can be employed by people to stifle debate and stigmatize points of view with which they disagree. In this case Cathy Young seeks to silence anyone who recognizes the reality of Jewish responsibility for Palestinian suffering.

This is unfortunate, for many reasons. One cannot hope for peace in the Middle East without a mutual recognition of the pain the conflict has caused. But more to the point, phony accusations of anti-Semitism have the effect of weakening societal strictures against the real thing. By saying such things about me, Cathy Young is actually aiding and abetting the anti-Semites by robbing the term of any coherent meaning.
ERIC ALTERMAN
New York, N.Y.

Note the editing.  Globe editors removed all the evidence I presented in the original and left in only the parts where I deny the accusation, making it my word against Young’s.  They remove the information that Young has done this before and the Globe is the only newspaper to lend itself to her false, malicious and ignorant attacks.  They also remove my criticisms of their editors and demand for an apology and a retraction.

Together with mine, they published this bizarre letter:
REGARDING CATHY YOUNG'S Feb. 7 column, "When Jews wax anti-Semitic":
While Eric Alterman is undoubtedly right in pointing out that the fateful decision of establishing the Jewish state came on the heels of the post-Holocaust wave of patronizing compassion, the British Muslim Council still has no business whatsoever in going anywhere near Auschwitz.
It is a matter of historical record that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the chief Muslim authority during World War II, not only sympathized with the racist designs of Nazi Germany, but visited Adolph Hitler in 1943, where he advised the Nazi leadership to form Muslim SS units to fight Jews and Communists in Europe. Young, Alterman, and the Muslims ought to sort out their differences by leaving the not-so-concerned parties alone. The West did itself a great disservice in 1948 when it endorsed the creation of Israel. Now being caught between the Zionist manipulations and the terrorist war waged by the Islamo-Fascists, we're indeed between the rock and the hard place.
ANDRE HUZSVAI
Boston

From Me. To ombud@globe.com:
Hello,
I've been happy to see that various people associated with Jewish organizations--and some not--have been inspired to write in as well; some of these were forwarded to me.  I hope these, or a selection of these will run as well. It is a horrid thing to be so viciously slandered--to be accused, as a Jew, of blaming Holocaust victims for causing Moslem misery--in so respected a newspaper by someone with an obvious axe to grind, and after reading some of these letters, I feel that their appearance could go a long away toward making amends for the editors' lapse in allowing this spiteful nonsense to appear.
thank you
Eric Alterman

Here are the letters in question:
Dear Editor:
I have been involved with pro-Israel activism since 1967 so I think I know what anti-Semitism is and isn't.  Cathy Young does not.  She calls author and professor, Eric Alterman, an anti-Semitic Jew, essentially because he has repeatedly expressed sympathy for the Palestinian people and has supported President Bush's formulation for Middle East peace, "two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side."

Young has it precisely backwards.  I read Alterman regularly and it is obvious that his support for a Palestinian state derives from his strong Jewish identity.  He simply understands that, for Israel to survive, it must have peace --  and that means peace with the Palestinians.

For Alterman, Israel's survival as a Jewish state is a moral imperative, one that drives his Mideast views.  It is not Alterman who should have to defend himself against the charge of indifference to Jewish suffering.  It is people like Cathy Young who have repeatedly supported perpetuation of the deadly status quo over peace through territorial compromise.

Cathy Young may consider herself pro-Israel and Eric Alterman hostile.  For me the difference is this: Young is always ready to fight to the last Israeli.  Eric Alterman is not. The Globe should be ashamed of itself for allowing her baseless name-calling to appear on its editorial page.
MJ Rosenberg
Director of Policy
Israel Policy Forum
Washington, DC

Dear Editors:
With friends like Cathy Young, the Jews don't need enemies. It is truly unncessary for her to resort to name calling and her own version of political correctness in monitoring how progressive Jews respond to the reality of the current situation between Israelis and Palestinians. Yet, in her gratuitous attack on Eric Alterman (When Jews wax anti-Semitic, Feb. 7), she does just that. What Alterman states--and what is stated by centrists in Israel today--is that there is a different reality for Israelis and Palestinians. Israel, created out of necessity from the ashes of the Holocaust--did create a situation of displacement for Palestinians. That is an historic fact. Israelis, who today seem closer to peace than in the last several years--are not asking of the Palestinian leadership that they become Zionists, simply that they become partners in peace to build a constructive future for all the peoples of the region. That is the point that Alterman was making in his recent MSNBC blog, after which Young chose to attack him. There is no question that until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reaches a just resolution for both peoples, relations between Jews and Muslims will suffer, another point of Alterman's. Whether these relations will improve after there are two states--Israel and Palestine side by side--only time will tell. Hopefully, with the Sharm El Sheik summit--and pragramatists on both side in the ascendancy, that time may now be forthcoming.
Sincerely,
Jo-Ann Mort
The writer is a national board member of Americans for Peace Now and co-author of Our Hearts Invented a Place: Can Kibbutzim Survive in Today's Israel?

Dear Editor:
Having known Eric Alterman for over 25 years, I was distressed to read  Cathy Young's op-ed piece entitled "When Jews Wax Anti-Semitic".

I have been involved in the organized Jewish community for  decades and have always appreciated the desire and willingness of many to engage in free, open and honest debate on issues of concern to our community and beyond. For me, a pro-Israel activist, that debate is essential. Indeed, having just returned from yet another visit to Israel, I can assure you that the debate about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict continues unabated there. It is unfortunate that some would attempt to stifle that debate here.

To suggest that Eric Alterman is anti-Semitic is preposterous. Rather, what Ms. Young appears to be doing ( in addition to misrepresenting his views) is equating recognition of support for a Palestinian state and some understanding for the Palestinian point of view with anti-Semitism. This  is a disservice to all. I can assure you that Eric Alterman is neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Israel. Indeed, he, like many others, believes in and advocates for a two state solution and for peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. The fact that he does so in a way that recognizes the views of both sides does not make him anti-Semitic. It simply represents a point of view of how to resolve the conflict, a point of view which is shared by many here in the United States and in Israel itself.

Anyone who knows Eric Alterman knows that he has been supportive of a Jewish  democratic state living within secure borders and at peace with a neighboring Palestinian state. That, to me, is the essence of being "pro-Israel". It is unfortunate that Ms. Young does not have room for a diversity of views on the subject.

I am truly sorry that the Boston Globe saw fit to  print Ms. Young's unfortunate article. I  hope that an appropriate apology to Mr. Alterman will be forthcoming.
Geoffrey H. Lewis, P.C.
Boston, MA

(While we are on the topic, I also received a cc of this letter from a man named “Victor” who sent a personal note to Cathy Young,. I passed it to the Globe ombudsman for informational purposes.)

Ms. Young:
I find myself with a conflicted view of your editorial on Alterman

I recognize it is sincere, thoughtful, and intended as support for the Jewish community.  I find it merely unfortunate that  you so missed the mark but I find it sad that in building your point you had to attack the integrity of someone as sincere and thoughtful as yourself.

Based solely on the facts in your editorial I see the very essence of a Jewish response (I do not know of Mr. Alterman's work  and was not impressed by a quick review of his web site).  Your stated facts show him as understanding of those who reject us, and sympathetic to the misery of  those who are made miserable by the very fact that we exist.  This would not mean he applauds their rejection, or that he is ready to give up our existence.

You say he is concerned that other Jews may misunderstand him -- but you do not recognize that as the Jewish responsibility to instill these values in each succeeding generation.  Such concern for the opposing person is hard to pass generation to generation, and needs people like him to stand up and do it.  He is not alone in this, here or in Israel.

At the foundation of your argument lies the implied value system that considers it the responsibility of "others" to grieve with us (in this case for the holocaust), and is indignant that they do not.   In my 60 years I have heard similar sentiments of expectation and indignation from Irish-Americans, afro-Americans, and Muslims of all countries.  I have not heard such sentiments from German-Americans, native Russians, or black immigrants.  I do not mean to either state my observations as more than that, nor to  disrespect that value, but it is not a traditional Jewish value.

In Judaism we do not expect people to grieve with us.  we welcome it, and for the time of the grieve we accept all those grieving as our family, but we do not blame those -- in this case the Muslim Council -- who chose not to join us.   As the ones grieving become our family for a time, it follows that those who do not are become strangers (even if they are in fact blood kin), but that does not make them any less of anything.  Jewish law has a special honored place for strangers, and tradition tells us to constantly remind our children (which includes our whole Jewish community) of that honored place.  And when we state this value we add "because we were once slaves in Egypt."

So you see, Mr.  Alterman's comments are very Jewish.  He respects the councils decision not to grieve with us.  Further he recognizes that their choice is grounded in their identifying with the Palestinians on a familial emotional level. You are right that this tie is not justified by logic, but Mr. Alterman does not appear to be the one confusing Muslim with Arab with Palestinian with terrorist, The Council is confusing it.  He merely recognizes their right to make that choice, and further recognizes that once they made that choice it demonized all Jews and blamed all of us for their chosen misery.  The misery is their choice, but it is misery nonetheless (and their children did not yet share in their choice).

As I said at the outset, I appreciate your support for the Jewish cause, and I am sure that in your heart you try to respected us for what we are, not for a mini-America in the mid-east.  If I am right, you might re-think how you attacked  Mr. Alterman's integrity and let him know.
thanks
vic

I also sent this note to the ombudsman:
Excuse me, but I just learned that Cathy Young, who has twice slandered me in the Globe's pages, talks about me thusly, according to one of her friends, in conjunction with my writings about her ex-boyfriend.  I wonder if I might have anything to do with why she is the ONLY PERSON ever to term me an anti-Semite in the mainstream media. I wonder why the Globe would allow itself to be used by this.

from [ link]

June 27, 2003
__________________________________________
Andrew Stuttaford buys me a beer and other adventures

Would it be unseemly to brag that I made Cathy Young laugh out loud? My laugh line: "It's Eric Alterman's Zionist white whale!" Young told me that, though Alterman is a jerk, she was impressed with his defense of John Fund. (Fund is Young's "no hard feelings" ex-boyfriend.) A conspiracy-minded friend of hers (I can't remember the name and wouldn't share it if I could) began speculating on what ulterior motives Alterman might have for acting decent in this instance.

To me from the ombudsman:
Dear Eric --
Your letter to the editor will run in the Globe tomorrow. It will, of course, be shortened to the standard length, but the gist of it will be there. Hope that resolves this matter...
Sincerely
Chris Chinlund
Globe Ombud

From me, back:
Dear Chris,
I do not see this matter as remotely closed. I was given far fewer words to defend myself than Ms. Young was given for her vicious, slanderous accusation. Readers were denied the context for my remarks and my letter was edited without even contacting me. (How could the editors even be certain I wrote it?) What's more none of the letters from prominent Jews and Bostonians disputing her malicious characterization and attempt to destroy my reputation were printed. If the Globe considers the matter closed than this would be a gross abuse of the power of the press..

I would like to speak on the record to the editor in charge of the op-ed page to determine how the decision to publish this false attack on my character was reached so that I may decide how to proceed from here.  Can you please provide me with the contact information?
Thank you
Eric Alterman

From the ombudsman to me:
Dear Eric --
The person who edited Cathy Young that day is Nick King who, along with Marjorie Pritchard, is co-editor of the op-ed page. You can email him directly at n_king@globe.com. His direct line is: 617-929-2838.
Best,
Chris

Me, back:
thanks for that
ERA

Eric adds: At the time I spoke to King, he still had not bothered to look at the blog item that Young misrepresented.  Nor was he even aware of the letters the Globe had received.  When I asked him if he agreed with Young’s assessment and that I was an anti-Semite who blamed  Holocaust victims for Palestinian misery, he would not say anything more than it was supposed to be “provocative” and that I, myself, had predicted it would be twisted out of context.  (How proud he must be of being the editor who saw that it was.)  But after I spoke to him at length, he agreed to look at the letters and the blog and decide what to do about them.  What followed was an edited version of Geoff Lewis’s letter, published on Sunday, and again edited self-protectively by the Globe to remove the reference to the apology to which I was entitled. 

Here is the correspondence between myself and the Globe following our Thursday phone conversation.

From Eric to editorial page editor Nick King:
You know, I was the Globe's stringer at Yale from 1984-6, during Tom Winship's tenure. I did a good enough job that Mr. Greenway offered me work as a stringer in Paris, where I was moving, even though he had somebody there.  During that period, I now recall, I happened to do a long Sunday takeout on the history of anti-Semitism at Yale, based on a then recent study. The piece was so sensitive to Jewish concerns, that out of the blue, I received a letter from Marty Peretz expressing his admiration and asking me to write for TNR. How amazing it is to me that twenty-one years later the Globe has allowed someone with no standing whatever as far as I am aware in the debate on Israel, Palestine and related issues, to destroy my character before hundreds of thousands of readers.

My request has not changed from the beginning. I believe the Globe should published (at least) all three of the letters it received in my defense from these extremely credible and credentialed sources. And I expect an apology and a retraction from the newspaper for the manner in which it allowed itself to be used by Ms. Young to (now twice) impugn my character in the grossest possible way.
Sincerely,
Eric Alterman

P.S. IF you want any information about me, there's a bio at www.ericalterman.com

From Eric to Nick King, again:
Mr. King,
In thinking about your question as to why Cathy Young would be the only person to call me an anti-Semite in the mainstream media, and has now done it twice, all I can say is, I guess I take the words "mainstream media" seriously here. If we were talking about the blogosphere, it wouldn't be hard to find examples in the world of people like David Horowitz and Donald Luskin (who responded to my defense of Paul Krugman). And yes, as you pointed out, I did write that I expected to see my words twisted, as indeed they were. Ms. Young is saying just the kind of thing that Horowitz would say and that Ann Coulter says all the time. What I didn't expect was in this case, the Globe would publish something that belongs quite properly on a David Horowitz website, without first checking to see what, if any, merit the attacks enjoy.
Eric Alterman

From chinlund@globe.com:
Dear Eric --
I can't know the final outcome until you talk with Nick, but to the best of my knowledge nothing else is planned at this moment.
Best,
Chris

From Eric to the ombudsman:
Well, if that turns out to be the case, then I'd like a statement from the Globe, which I guess means you, as to why it is appropriate to print a slander of a man, refuse to allow him the space in his letter to speak to the evidence, and refuse to publish the letter of three prominent Jewish leaders who spoke up on his behalf and criticized the Globe. Moreover is it the policy of the paper to edit a letter without contacting its author?  I note also that Mr. King, when I spoke to him, told me he had not read the blog item in question, What is the opinion of the ombudsman of the manner in which the paper has decided to treat this matter?
Thank you
Eric Alterman

From the ombudsman:
Dear Eric --
The issue is one of ongoing conversation here. I will be back to you next week on it...
Best,
Chris

From Eric to Chris:
thanks. I will await yours and the paper's response. (Note that I've not said a word about it in Altercation or The Nation yet because I want to give the Globe the fullest opportunity to reconsider before I draw my conclusions.)

Following the publication of an edited version of Geoff Lewis’s letter, mistitled "He's pro-Israel," I wrote:
Dear Ms. Chinlund and Mr. King
I noted the publication of Jeff Lewis's letter on Sunday. I believe it is the only one published of the three I was cc'd.  It was also badly headlined. The issue is not whether I am "pro-Israel." Plenty of anti-Semites are "pro-Israel." Jerry Falwell says all Jews are going to Hell but is also, undeniably, "pro-Israel." The crime of which I am accused is "anti-Semitism” hating my people and myself, not being unsupportive of Israel. 

I renew my request for the publication of those letters in my defense signed by prominent members of Jewish organizations. I renew my request for the publication of the full text of my letter that contained the full blog quote--and therefore evidence--that Cathy Young was allowed to slander me with a malicious misrepresentation of my views. I renew my request for an apology and retraction from the editors.

In the absence of my receiving all of the above, I renew my request for a statement on behalf of the Globe as to why the Globe allowed a writer of no apparent standing in Judaism or the debate on Israel and anti-Semitism to slander a Jewish writer with more than twenty years of contributions on the topic beginning with one twenty years ago in the Boston Globe--who is invited to lecture Hadassah no less--on the basis of misrepresented evidence that her editor did not examine until I sent it to him after the fact. I also want to know why the letters in my defense from prominent Jews attacking Ms. Young and the editors' decision were not published. I also want to know why my letter was edited to remove the evidence presented and my criticisms of the Globe contained therein, without my permission or even participation.  I am asking for all of this on the record because I intend to write about it in order to do the best I can to clear my name from the slander the Globe has forever associated with it.  I also plan to urge other media reporters to write about it as well. (Mr. Jurkowitz was the first one I approached.)

Anything Mr. King would like to say in his own defense would also be welcome. As far as I understand the situation so far. Mr. King did not ask Ms. Young to defend her assertion in the first place on the basis of any evidence even though he is aware of my reputation as an author, journalist, historian and Jew, and will not now say he thinks the column to be "fair" or "true." In our conversation, he would deem it only "provocative" and "within the bounds." I do not want to make Ms. Young's mistake--thought I think "mistake" is too kind a word--and misinterpret Mr. King's words, so I am asking if he would prefer to clarify them.

Finally, to Mr. King, I assume you are not Jewish, but would like to make sure.  Normally, I would never ask such a thing of a journalist, but this week I attended an HBO comedy festival in Aspen and I noticed that a healthy percentage of the jokes could easily be misinterpreted as anti-Semitic or "self-hating" by people who do not understand how Jews speak about themselves or wanted to misrepresent them out of context.  Jews talk this way all the time, but Ms Young clearly does not understand such things, and my guess is that neither did you. That is my generous guess, if you don't mind, because otherwise allowing her to call someone with my track record of attacking anti-Semitism--even in the magazine for which I work--an anti-Semite to hundreds of thousands of readers on the basis of misrepresented evidence is a far more serious moral and journalistic mistake than you appeared to understand at the time of allowing the article to go through unchallenged.
Sincerely,
Eric Alterman

From Nick King to me:
Dear Mr. Alterman,
I received your email package last week. We have now published three letters responding to the Young column. As with all letters and columns, the editors reserve the right to publish them or not, as well as the right to edit and headline them as we see fit. In this case, we feel our response has been appropriate and adequate.  If you have further concerns or questions, please feel free to contact the ombudsman or Cathy Young.
Sincerely,
Nick King

From  Eric to Nick King:
Well sir, I guess this means war....
I assume I was correct in my assessment that you are not Jewish. If you are, please correct my misimpression.
Eric Alterman

Eric adds: A final note.  I will be speaking at Brit Tzedek v’ Shalom third annual conference at Temple Israel of New York this Sunday at 112 E. 75th Street, here.  On April 23, I’ll be speaking at the University Synagogue in Irvine, CA following Shabbat services.  (I am unaware of any shuls at which Ms. Young or Mr. King will be speaking but they may feel free to let me know of any and I’ll post the info.) 

Remember that’s Nick King, (n_king@globe.com, 617-929-2838) and Ombudsman Chris Chinlund, (chinlund@globe.com, 617-929-3134).  Letters to the editor are letter@globe.com.  Let ‘em know what you think.  I’m sure they’ll be happy to hear from you.  If anyone has Cathy Young’s contact info, let me know and I’ll be glad to put Altercation readers in touch as well.  Who knows, maybe she has a conscience….

February 14, 2005 | 12:04 PM ET

Science not in Bush's nature

Name and Location Withheld:
Hi Eric,
I want to pass along these disturbing survey results of United States Fish and Wildlife scientific staff (see below).  I am a relatively young scientist, but the insidious cancer-like erosion of budgets for scientific in my office is setting off alarm bells among many scientists who have worked here for 25+ years and who say they have never seen the devaluing of science, emanating from the highest levels of the DOI, or scientific thinking as much as now.  Several of my colleagues feel intimidated by the administrators (i.e., midlevel managers and directors) here and are quite certain that their positions will be eliminated in the near future, primarily due to budget cuts that are a direct result of the "war on terror," which has the value added benefit to the administration of starving domestic environmentally related science research.
It is my sincere opinion, and I assure you I am not at all alone in this, that this is a concerted effort by the rightwing zealots currently in power to stifle any science that is not in agreement with their politics by simply eliminating those positions that might show otherwise...very worrisome indeed.

I fear for the future of my country in these times and I can take comfort only in the hope that "this too shall pass," however there appears to be no time horizon in sight.  I believe the systematic attack on science from this administration is only now coming to light, with little
press attention given to specific violations at this point.  Much of the scientific community is very worried.  All of my colleagues, both here at the and at the university, share my concerns about the future of science in this country.  After all, it was our many scientific innovations that got us where we are today, yet it appears that this effort is yet another mode by
which the administration hopes to send us spinning back to the "good old days" of creationism and the like.  OK, enough of my diatribe, thank you for taking the time to read this.

Original message borrowed from ECOLOGL@LISTSERV.UMD.EDU]
From: Ecological Society of America: grants, jobs, news
Subject: Survey: political intervention in science pervasive at USFWS
Hello everyone,
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)  held a press conference to announce the disturbing results of a survey of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field scientists: political intervention to alter scientific findings has become pervasive within the agency.  At field offices around the country, USFWS scientists tell of being asked to change scientific information, remove scientific facts or come to conclusions that are not supported by the science.  As a result, the scientists say, endangered and threatened wildlife are not being protected as intended by the Endangered Species Act.

Despite agency directives to scientists not to reply to the survey even on their own time nearly 30% of the scientists responded.  You can find a summary of the survey, its methodology, and a summary of results broken down by region here or by clicking on [ this link].

RESULTS SUMMARY
The survey paints a vivid picture of the systemic abuse of science and the need for change.  Results show that:

Large numbers of agency scientists reported political interference in scientific determinations.  Nearly half of all respondents whose work is related to endangered species (44%) report that they have been directed for nonscientific reasons to refrain from making findings that protect species.  One in five have been instructed to compromise their scientific integrity, reporting that they have been "directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information from a USFWS scientific document."  In the Southwest region, that number was even higher -closer to one in three.

Agency scientists reported being afraid to speak frankly about issues and felt constrained in their role as scientists.  42% said they could not publicly express "concerns about the biological needs of species and habitats without fear of retaliation," while 30% were afraid to do so even within the agency.  A third felt they are not allowed to do their jobs as scientists.

There has been a significant strain on staff morale.  Half of all scientists reported that morale is poor to extremely poor; only 12% believed morale to be good or excellent. And 64% did not feel the agency is moving in the right direction.

Political intrusion has undermined the USFWS's ability to fulfill its mission of protecting wildlife from extinction. Three out of four staff scientists felt that the USFWS is not "acting effectively to maintain or enhance species and their habitats."

In one of numerous essays submitted on the topic of improving scientific integrity at USFWS, one biologist wrote: "We are not allowed to be honest and forthright...I have 20 years of federal service in this and this is the worst it has ever been."  Another scientist reported that Department of Interior officials "have forced upper-level managers to say things that are incorrect."  A manager wrote: "There is a culture of fear of retaliation in mid-management."

Encouragingly, it is clear from the survey that USFWS scientists are committed to and proud of their work and believe in the potential of the agency to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats.  However, political intervention is having a chilling effect on the ability of USFWS scientists to carry out the agency's mission.

UCS has joined with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) to design and conduct surveys of several government agencies to document the abuse of science and determine the pervasiveness off the problem. The surveys will assist the scientific community in documenting that the abuse of science is an ongoing, serious concern.  We are looking into ways that the results of the USFWS survey can be used to further a more thorough investigation of this problem.

It has taken decades to build worldclass scientific staff at the USFWS and other government science agencies. The future ability of the agency to fulfill its mission will be severely hampered if this political interference is allowed to continue.  To restore scientific integrity at the USFWS, at least two reforms are needed: there must be protections for scientists who are asked to take actions that violate their scientific integrity and the Bush administration must recognize at its highest levels that manipulating or suppressing science for political reasons is unethical.

[signed: Michael Halpern, Outreach Coordinator Restoring Scientific Integrity in Federal Policy Making Campaign Union of Concerned Scientists, Dean A. Hendrickson, Ph.D. Curator of Ichthyology, University of Texas, Texas Memorial Museum, Texas Natural History Collections, others.

More here.

P.S. Nice job.

P.P.S. Is this really what you think Jesus would do, Mr. Keyes?

Pierce’s Corner:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Hey Doc:
Because every day, even the loneliest day on the MoDo calendar, is Slacker Friday, Part The XLI.

Apropos of last Friday's post, I was perusing the local archdiocesan newspaper while coming out of Mass Sunday night, and I happened upon this pip of a column by a fellow named George Weigel.  He was opining about the tsunami, in the coverage of which he spotted a festival of Godbashing.  Anyway, the column went  on:

Perhaps environmentalism also played an unwitting role in the lack of attention given the Evil One following the tsunami.  The environmental movement has a lot of things to its credit, including the fact that air and water in the developed world are cleaner than they’ve been in half a millennium.  Yet environmentalism has also reinforced an antibiblical trend in western thought that first cropped up in 18th century Romanticism: the tendency to see the natural world as gentle and benign and the human world ... as broken, damaged, warped.  In this construct of things, nature is “naturally” good, and civilization is ambiguous.  The path to redemption lies in a return to nature from the corrupting influences of civilization and cities.

OK, so he's got the Romantics and the Enlightenment all tangled up here, and I think he has the "state of nature" confused with Yellowstone Park.  I also don't believe people have lost track of the devil because they're too busy recycling.  Whatever, this is the kind of spookhouse Catholicism that's given the world a migraine for 2000 years.  Ordinarily, this lulu would be our problem.  Except that the pope is going to die soon, and the election of his successor is going to be covered by a bunch of anchor haircuts who can't tell St. Peter's from the Astrodome.  Lo and behold, Weigel, a regular speaker on the Church Triumphant speaking circuit in this country, apparently is a consultant for...  wait for it...  MSNBC.

It's as if they handed their televised political focus groups over to, oh, I don't know...Frank Luntz.

Ooops. There goes another prime time gig.

Correspondent’s Corner:

Name: Patrick Zwartjes
Hometown: Portland, OR

Dear Eric,
I completed my own doctorate (in genetics and evolutionary biology) a few years ago, springing from a yearslong interest in the creationist/evolution conflict.  What sticks with me now after all these years is an observation made by a professor of geology from one of the first classes I ever had on the subject.  His specialization was in radiometric dating techniques, using the natural radioactive decay in a variety of different elements and minerals to determine the relative ages of some of the oldest geological deposits on the planet.  As a researcher at a large Bible belt university, he also had a side hobby of attending creationist presentations and engaging these folks in a little banter.  He was constantly amazed with one thing: their ability to simply deny any inconvenient scientific facts.  Whenever the subject of the age of the earth came up, he gladly told them about his research, how it worked, and what it had to say.  And the result was always the same: unwavering, stonefaced denial that any of his information was factual.

This trend is very apparent in a variety of creationist publications, old and new, and I was always appalled how otherwise intelligent people could simply shove aside any information that contradicted their worldview.  But now, in the Age of Bush II, what is even more appalling is how this mindset has invaded the Republican political establishment and the conservative movement in general.  It’s all so familiar to me: people with ideologically-based conclusions firmly in place, selectively focusing on evidence and information that support their ideas but completely ignoring those to the contrary, and a complete inability to think about alternative ideas.  I used to view creationists as almost criminal in the extent that they would take information, quotes, and even parts of figures and graphics out of context in order to build their case.  But I came to see these people as being under a type of mental handicap, brought on by a deeply held faith in their self-righteousness.  The contrary evidence wasn’t something to be maliciously ignored; I believe they were incapable of seeing it as factual at all.

I don’t doubt that the Bush administration itself has been purposely dishonest and malicious in their dismissal of inconvenient facts.  But the blind self-righteousness, part of the creationist movement all these years, is becoming more and more in the entirety of the conservative political movement as it cements control over a variety of our public institutions.

By the way, in addition to discussing why an intelligent designer would bother to devise cancer to inflict on us all, how about parasites?  They’re infinitely more ubiquitous, gruesome, and difficult for your neighborhood creationist to explain away.

Name: Michael Breland, M.D., Ph. D.
Hometown: Walla Walla, WA

Dear Eric:
These are my comments regarding some previous discussions about the theory of intelligent design.

My father was a professor in zoology and so I was raised in a scientific tradition.  I have a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry in addition to being a practicing/board certified physician in physican medicine and rehabilitation.  Thus, I think I have a fairly strong scientific background and I try to look at life as scientifically and as objectively as possible.  To solve some particular questions of my own, however, I have read literally hundreds of books about the problems between science and spirituality.

Thus, after reading several comments in your column (and elsewhere) about intelligent design, I feel compelled to say something about what I see as inappropriate generalizations regarding this theory.

First, the same thing seems to be going on about intelligent design that is noted in your review of Conquest's book;, namely no definitions of what they are talking about.  Next, one writer dogmatically states that Hume has disproved the theory of intelligent design.  Giving Hume his credit, his arguments still remain as some of the best in these areas.  However, there are numerous intelligent, philosophically sophisticated people that disagree with him and his logic.  Studies have shown that once a person reaches a certain level of philosophical sophistication, no amount of argument from someone of a different school will change that person's opinion.  Thus, for the most part, what a person believes boils down to what could best be called subjective elements.  Yes, we want certainty.  No, it is not there.  We need to mature and get over this.

I also think that the opinion that intelligent design is really the same thing as creationism is incorrect.  Again, it depends upon how you are defining intelligent design.  The one major key assumption in most creationism theories is that God created the world about 9,000(?) years ago.  Intelligent design does not necessarily have that assumption.  Why not see intelligent design as starting with the Big Bang?

Also, intelligent design does not necessarily have to be intelligent as we would define it.  To do so is to fall into anthropomorphism.  One of the dismissive comments about intelligent design was what sort of intelligence would create cancer?  Most people who have throught about and read somewhat about these questions understand that many things happen that just don't seem fair, logical, or whatever, as we see it, but realize that we humans do not have the final answer.  We can't or rarely can't see the big picture, the Truth, or whatever it may be called.  Even the spiritually realized often will remain silent when asked these types of questions.

Which leads to the last part of my discussion.  There was another statement that charged that intelligent design was mainly an illy concealed front for a religious belief (I forget the exact statement, but think this is the gist).  I have several concerns about this.  First, even if it were, would that make it necessarily incorrect?  This appears to be part of the science/spirit split that raises hackles on both sides of the fence.  I don't have a problem with the theory of intelligent design, probably because I have spent most of my life trying to find some way to reconcile these issues.  I have found there is still a lot of room for discussion...for those whose minds are still open.  While semantics are not the ultimate cause of the problem, until this is resolved, we won't really be able to address what the problem really is.  That said, I still feel that as we learn more, reconciliation is possible, but much would have to be given up on both sides.  I would recommend books by Ken Wilber for interested readers.

My own conclusion from my several decades of studies, both internal and external, is that there is something more to things than that which material science acknowledges.  While I love science and technology and what it has done to make life better for us, there is still something more to life than that revealed or acknowledged by present material science.  This seems so obvious when I say it, that I feel I have to apologize, as if it were insulting.  However, some scientists are just as literal as right wing religious people.  I certainly do not apply this to someone like yourself.  To read your columns is to know that you have heart.  And to me that is a sign of true internal spirit as much as anything else I have found.

What is important here is that philosophers such as Hume have used logic well, but in doing so, they have taken away hope without giving us something to replace it.  Generally, it is much easier to destroy than it is to create.  Terrorists show this to us daily.  The theory of intelligent design is just one attempt to replace hope within our present paradigm.  It has its faults, but they all do.  To state otherwise is just not scientific.

And, while intelligent design may not be the best scientifically supported theory presently, as science progresses, especially in the area of quantum mechanics, perhaps this will change.  In doing so, I hope that the rigid grip material science holds on society and culture will loosen.  Part of this rigid grip was necessary in order to pull the pendulum away from superstition and superficial religiousity.  Now I think the pendulum it at yet another extreme and perhaps in our lifetime we will see the swing back toward balance.  And if civilization continues foward, perhaps we won't make the overbalance so extreme this time.

Name: C. W. Skinner
Hometown: Santa Barbara, CA

One point amid all the Conquestbashing and Foucault/Derrida bashing:

"Madness and Civilization" and "The Birth of the Clinic" are still excellent, and in my opinion, important books.  I would go so far to embrace the "History of Human Sexuality" as making important contributions.

And let's not forget that Derrida was a very strong proponent of the tradition "that [in] Europe everyone reads everyone, that Condorcet needed Adam Smith (William James needed them both) and John Locke needed Immanuel Kant (Thomas Jefferson needed them both), and that ideas have flowed rather easily across borders in Europe since the age of that original AfroEuropean public intellectual, St. Augustine of Hippo."

Let's not allow Conquest to cast the more controversial Continentals aside so easily.

Name: John Halski
Hometown: New York, NY

MJ Rosenberg's description was indeed horrendous, but why is the situation in Hebron such a secret?

I visited the city as a tourist while interning with a civil rights organization in Israel between 2001 and 2002.  Visiting Hebron was easy enough; crossing the Green Line can be time consuming but patience gets you through it without much hassle.  From the checkpoint at East Jerusalem, I took a taxi to Hebron and walked from the Arab to the Jewish areas without harassment.

I saw the mesh nets (which indeed caught bags of excrement) and the graffiti.  The shuttered Arab shops with Stars of David spray painted over them elicited the sense of Nazism turned insideout you would expect; what really shocked me was a poster advertising a Purim party with an image of planes heading towards the twin towers (this was after 9/11 of course) with the tagline (in Hebrew), "It will be a blast!"

I wasn't a journalist or a soldier; I didn't need special permission or an armed guard.  That Rosenberg's account could be such a shock only highlights the ineptitude of the press -is it laziness, cowardliness, or tunnel vision?

My wife (a Jewish Israeli) and I argue constantly on the matter, but any government that would allow such extremists to set up a fantasy camp in a disputed war zone deserves serious reprimand  and personally, I do not believe such settlers can claim civilian status when attacked, given the blatant provocation of an occupied population.

Name: Frank Cappiello
Hometown: Boston
RE: Jeff Gannon
Hey Doc:
Talk about Irony, with a capital "I".

I was thinking about the press conference, which I watched live, and couldn't remember the question that preceded Gannon's.  Assuming Karl Rove engineered planting this noncredentialed guy, I figured Bush was under instructions to call on him if the questioning got too "hostile."

So, I went to the White House Web site and downloaded the transcript of the press conference.

Believe it or not, the question prior to their plant's Gannon's question involved PAYING JOURNALISTS TO PUSH ADMINISTRATION POLICY!!

Here is the whole exchange:

Q Mr. President, do you think it's a proper use of government funds to pay commentators to promote your policies?

THE PRESIDENT: No.

Q Are you going to order that 

THE PRESIDENT: Therefore, I will not pay you to  (laughter.)

Q Fair enough. Are you ordering that there be an end to that practice?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I am. I expect my Cabinet Secretaries to make sure that that practice doesn't go forward. There needs to be independence. And Mr. Armstrong Williams admitted he made a mistake. And we didn't know about this in the White House, and there needs to be a nice, independent relationship between the White House and the press, the administration and the press. So, no, we shouldn't be going for it.

Yes, sir.

Q Well, Mr. Williams made a mistake 

THE PRESIDENT: Who?

Q Mr. Williams made a mistake. Did the Department of Education make a mistake?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. They did.

Q What will happen to the people that made this decision?

THE PRESIDENT: We've got new leadership going to the Department of Education. But all our Cabinet Secretaries must realize that we will not be paying commentators to advance our agenda. Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet. I'm confident you'll be, over the course of the next four years, willing to give our different policies an objective look  won't you? Yes, I can see that.

And with that, he turns to Gannon:


Yes, sir.

Q Thank you. Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet, in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work  you said you're going to reach out to these people  how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?

THE PRESIDENT: Continue to speak to the American people ....

I don't know if it is Orwellian, or just plain stupidity for him to call on a planted "journalist" following THE journalist question.  Boggles the mind.

Name: Marlene Cogan Elisens
Hometown: Wilmington

Eric,
I was following a Web trail and came upon your blog and article on the Republican media payoffs.  One interesting thing you missed which I find incredibly disturbing is the blatant propaganda posted on the Social Security Web site.  Indeed, I  happened to catch a CSPAN late one night to see hearings being held by Sen. Lautenberg regarding the use of government employees to push the administration's 'privatization' message.  Apparently a number of employees were outraged that the information that were asked to give the public was not factual and obviously political. 

With that being said I have not seen one news story about this.  Does no one care or is it just that no one knows?  I am so furious about this that for once in my life I took the time to write to my Senator, Joe Biden.  I truly believe that if the public was aware of this blatant misuse of SSA employees it would discredit the whole debate made by the administration.

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