June 3, 2005 | 12:18 PM ET | Permalink

“So you were a rescue worker when your country needed you (and your government lied to you, about your safety).  What have you done for us lately?”  Thank you, Mr. Bush, may I have another. 

And if you ask me, the contempt showered upon this city by George W. Bush and George Pataki, is more than enough reason to vote against their funder/apologist, Michael Bloomberg for mayor, as is his obsessive campaigning for this crazy stadium, to say nothing of his unconscionable mistreatment of protesters at the Republican convention.  I say this despite the fact that I think he’s otherwise quite a good mayor and I am not excited by any of the Democrats.  Still, this is really infuriating and morally inexcusable, methinks.

And by the way, I don’t want the Olympics here, because it will be a money loser and a security nightmare for the city.  But I’m not too worried about it because, you know, the rest of the world hates us because of that Iraq thing, and we’re not going to get them.  Still, it’s crazy to say we need to build this nutty stadium before we even find out.  No city has ever done that.

Speaking of which, I’ve been to few ceremonies as moving in terms of their genuine and uncynical relationship to the American Dream as a Brooklyn College commencement.  Here, is the Ephebic Oath that was administered to, and spoken by the new grads before their families and friends:

I shall never bring disgrace to my city, nor shall I ever desert my comrades in the ranks; but I, both alone and with my many comrades, shall fight for the ideals and sacred things of the city.  I shall willingly pay heed to whoever renders judgment with wisdom and shall obey both the laws already established and whatever laws the people in their wisdom shall establish.  I, alone and with my comrades, shall resist anyone who destroys the laws or disobeys them.  I shall not leave my city any less but rather greater than I found it.

I’ve got a new “Think Again” column here about improvements in the coverage of the stem cell issue, and a new Nation column here, called In Re Newsweek: Which Side Are You On?

Speaking of which, I wish that Amnesty official hadn’t used the word “ gulag."  It doesn’t appear in the report and it completely misportrays the issue and offers the human rights offenders, Bush, Rumsfeld and others, an easy opportunity to dismiss the extremely serious charges that the report does level.  For that reason, I shouldn’t have quoted it—even as a shorthand, in the Nation column above.

Here’s our man Gordon Wood on the topic he knows (perhaps) better than anyone.  And while we’re there, we might as well spend some time with Stephen Holmes who always more than justifies it.  And this seems to lead us, as does nearly everything, back to the Jews.  (Another excellent review of the Jewish Century appears here, but of course, I don’t really know what I think of this topic until I consult those esteemed Talmudic scholars, Cathy Young and Nick King of the famed Boston Globe Editorial Page of Jewish Scholarship.)  And that seems to lead us to the always must-read, Alan Ryan on the British Labour Party.

In IPF Friday today, MJ Rosenberg points out that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no longer a zero-sum game.  On the contrary, if it's good for the PA, it's good for Israel too.  The Bush administration seems to get it.  Hopefully, with AIPAC twisting in the wind, it will push hard for peace before the lobby recovers and resumes its woefully effective Palestinian bashing (which MJ views as damaging Israel as much as it does the Palestinians).

Alter-reviews:  Really Good TV

I collect the first seasons of the sitcoms and other shows with which I grew up.  Lately a few glaring holes in this Library of Nostalgia have been filled, most notably with one of my most favorite of favorites, The Bob Newhart Show.  The listings of the “The Complete First Season,” originally aired in 1972, can be found here.  Except for the annoying laugh track, it’s a damn near perfect show with brilliant writing, wonderfully understated acting and a funny-but-lovable ensemble cast of characters.  Newhart did a few more shows afterward, but none matched this slightly-psycho psychologist.  (Why didn’t they have any children?  How did the writers get away with that?)

Another first season just released is Murphy Brown, from 1988.  Listings for “The Complete First Season” can be found here.  It’s one of this country’s curses or charms, depending on how you’re feeling on that day, that an imaginary television character can set off a real live political firestorm, as Murphy did when Dan Quayle—acting on the advice of his then, young and unknown adviser, William Kristol—decided to launch an attack on Murphy’s decision to become a single parent.  Let’s not argue about that here.  The real achievement is making one of these spoiled Walters/Diane Sawyer–types, lovable.

Second seasons are not as exciting as first seasons, but they are often better.  One of the most under-rated of sitcoms which I loved as a kid but it turns out is actually good—and very funny on both L.A. and journalism is the Bill Bixby/Ray Walston chef d’ouevre, “My Favorite Martian," whose listing you can find here.  This season dates from 1964.  It’s a nice three CD package. 

Much more elaborate—and expensive- is the five CD “Definitive Edition” collection of season two, The Twilight Zone - Season 2 (The Definitive Edition ), which hearkens back to 1960-61.  This show is kind of like Star Trek in that its fanatical fan base demands the best and they got it here.  Many of these episodes are classics and presage future plots of less inventive feature films.  Serling was a genius, and check out Franchot Tone, Agnes Moorhead, Art Carney, Cliff Robertson, Dennis Weaver, Burgess Meredith, William Shatner, John Carradine, and Don Rickles, among many, many others.  These two shows settle it; no way is network TV, on the whole, getting better.

One of the bright sides of being home at night for a few months last year was HBO’s “Entourage;” the terrific ensemble cast, the knowingness about Hollywood and the boy-in-the –candy store quality of being young, rich, sexy and on the proverbial prowl in Tinseltown.  I have to wait a little while before I watch it again.  They just released the first season, but I think it’s supposed to start again next week and it has the makings of a long-lasting pleasure, together with the opportunity for some semi-serious social criticism.  (And this is not as easy as it might seem—as the horrific and unwatchable “Fat Actress” on Showtime more than demonstrates.)  Oh, and Jeremy Pivin’s riff on the Ari Emanuel character was my favorite of the past, say, five years.  Actually, I really like Debi Mazar’s character too.  And I love the person she comes across as here.  (And while we’re reading New York Magazine, I found this profile of Andrew Dworkin fascinating.)

Just one final question:  Where oh where is the complete first season of the Odd Couple?

Correspondents' corner:

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Altercation's first anonymous source to talk Turkey.  There have been many milestones in the Iraq war.  Bush's decision to go to war, Rumsfeld choosing "shock and awe" over the Army's recommendations, the decision to retain a strong centralized government for the new Iraq, Abu Ghraib, October, 2003…. Say what?  October, 2003 was when the Turkish government approved sending 10,000 troops to Iraq to help patrol the Sunni triangle.  10,000 well-trained, Arabic-speaking, relatively secular Sunni Muslim troops.  However, Iraq's interim government protested (notably, in an anonymously issued document) and in response Turkey announced it would not send the troops.

The biggest truism regarding Iraq (to anyone outside the Administration) is that we need more troops.  But Dubya cannot and will not send them, and the Shiite dominated Iraqi forces are far from ready to take over, as the Iraqi government's request to the U.N. to make our presence indefinite proves.  Earlier this year I wrote that if anything could turn Iraq around, it would be a sizeable contribution of Turkish forces.  Back then it was a bit of a pipe dream, but recent events have changed that.  The anti-European Union constitution forces in France and the Netherlands used Turkish workers as a poster child for a foreign economic and cultural menace.  Turkey's politicians, still hoping for eventual admittance to the EU, muted their reactions, but the Turkish public watched with dismay -- it was Vicente Fox all over again.  Thomas Friedman's greatest observation is "if I've learned one thing covering world affairs, it's that humiliation [is] the single most underestimated force in international relations."  This is a perfect time to court Turkish public opinion.  A 2003 poll showed Turks were against sending troops, but not as strongly as at the war's start and nothing comparable to anti-U.S. sentiment in other Muslim nations.  Turkey's duly elected and more religious-oriented Prime Minister has even begun to warm-up to Israel.  I'm not saying that Turkish troops would be a panacea, but it's worth a try.

Name: Michael Rapoport
Eric: Two thoughts on the Deep Throat stuff:

1) It appears that not even the history that we thought was settled is really settled as long as Buchanan, Liddy, et al., can find an excuse to take another crack at it.  Are we really re-fighting Watergate, of all things?  Are we really questioning whether Mark Felt, whatever his motives, did the right thing in helping to bring down a corrupt presidency?  We are, and it's due in no small part to the bleatings of the right-wingers, who would like nothing more than to revise the historical record.  By casting doubt on messenger Felt and his motives, what they're really trying to do, it seems to me, is to divert attention from the Nixon administration's crimes, and soften the way Nixon is treated by history.  The 'wingers know that people who have come of age in the last 25 years know Watergate dimly if at all, and here's a rare chance for Nixon's men to spin history the way they'd like it to be remembered - with Nixon as a flawed but unfairly maligned victim, instead of as the crook that anyone who was sentient in the mid-70s knows he was.  In a way, it's of a piece with Ronald Reagan's funeral, and George W. Bush's refusal to allow past presidents' papers to be released.  Today, right-wingers aren't content with framing current issues the way they want - they want to reframe history from a right-wing perspective as well.

2) You're correct that Nixon would have gotten away with his misdeeds if Watergate happened today, but there's one reason for that situation that's gotten too little attention.  In each of the three major cases in recent decades in which there were major investigations of the White House - Nixon and Watergate, Reagan and Iran-contra, Clinton and Whitewater and Lewinsky - the opposition party controlled at least one house of Congress, thereby giving it a platform to launch inquiries and get attention for its allegations.  Right now, the Republicans control both houses.  If Watergate happened today, DeLay, Hastert and Frist would stonewall, explain it away and blame the "biased liberal media" for slurring a fine man like Richard Nixon.

Name: Mike Ruddy
Hometown: Syracuse, NY
It is amazing how the neocons, the Bush cabal, and other fellow travelers regularly impugn the integrity of their critics by suggesting that money is behind their actions. Yet, no progressive returns the criticism. The network of corporate funded think tanks, newspapers, PACs et. al. keep anyone loyal to the neocon and GOP cause adequately compensated as long as they tow the line.  In short, money is likely one of the primary motivations for their loyalty.  It's like the old adage of a liar thinking everyone else has the same character flaw.

Name: Geoff Gallant
Hometown: Pasadena, California
Sigh.  The more media "changes," the more it stays the same.  I find it amusing that the blogosphere claims to be a whole new way of delivering news & opinions.... yet just about every single one seems to be obsessed with the "old media" obsession du jour of Deep throat.  The ONLY people who really give a damn who Deep Throat was is the media (and it's associated hangers-on).  The public at large could care less about Deep Throat.  What about Iraq?  What about Europe's foundering constitution?  What about the housing bubble?  What about REAL NEWS & ISSUES?  The media (new & old) has once again proved itself to be a self-obsessed, inbred clique more interested in self-promotion of itself than in dealing honestly & deeply with REAL issues.  Can we get back to reality now please?

Eric replies:  Listen smartass, if you don’t think history is “REAL NEWS…” you are really in the wrong place.  I very much doubt you have any solid data on "the ONLY people who really give a damn" about anything.  And how do you know it’s a “bubble,” bub?  Are you shorting the market?  In any case, to paraphrase I forget whom, you may not care about history, but history cares about you.  (But if it makes you feel any better, Lyn Nofziger agrees with you, here.)

June 2, 2005 | 10:07 AM ET | Permalink

Deeper Throat

A friend points out:

In re: Nixon would have got away with it.

There is no question about it.  Recall, please, the central screw-up in All The President's Men, when W&B get too cute by half and link H. R. Haldeman to the dirty-tricks slush fund using Hugh Sloan's grand-jury testimony.  (Sloan himself was an anonymous source until he let them use his name in the ATPM book, by the way.)  They said Sloan had named Haldeman to the Watergate grand jury.  He had not, because he hadn't been asked the question.  Haldeman did control the fund, but W&B screwed up by -- wait for it -- sourcing their story badly.

Imagine if they'd made that mistake today.  Or, better yet, ask Mark Whitaker what would have happened, if you can find where he's hanging by his thumbs these days.

Meanwhile, Our Lady of the Magic Dolphins says Deep Throat has something, I’m not sure what, to do with the “butchering of children in the South China Sea.”  No, really.   Here.

One last thing: Isn’t it interesting that right-wingers argue that Bush’s ends justify the means of lying to get us into war, but Felt’s telling the truth to stop Nixon’s attempt to destroy our republic, was bad, bad, bad.

Quote of the Day:  "Pat Buchanan, Bob Novak and Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy don’t like Mark Felt.  Mark Felt is truly a great man.” --The great Jon Stewart.  More here.  ( Or for WMP here.)

This just in: “Bush Uses Alterman to Bring Fascism to U.S.,” No, really.

“The steady growth of government is drowning the hopes of women and men from all parties and all parts of our nation.  Using the rhetoric of freedom the White House is calling up the reality of fascism.  None of us is immune.”

And boy these people are clever. Look at this:

“The NeoCons do not care about issues of right and wrong.  A study the ‘election strategies’ of Karl Rove reveal that slander, libel, and orchestrated events are standard operating procedure.  Fund used his NeoCon connections to evade justice.  This included eliciting cooperation from men like Eric Alterman.  Alterman is no NeoCon, but he has the same kind of ego.”

And this:

“Eric Alterman was one of a series of credulous and greed driven journalists and political hopefuls Fund and other NeoCons used in their campaign against us.”

More here.

Couple of factual points:

a)  If litigation has been filed against “Alterman and The Nation,” then Alterman and the Nation are unaware of it.

b)  Alterman has also never spoken to, received documents, or communicated in any way with a Mr. Craig Franklin, insofar as he is aware.

c)  But she’s got me on the rest of it.  I confess.

Anyway, the original column is here.  A lengthy exchange with a love-struck Mark Crispin which mirrors much of the above, is here.  (I wonder if Miller, who has implied that Nation writer David Corn may be a CIA plant, will be taking up the Alterman’s-in-league-with-the-Necons-and-Fascism-bringing-Bush-administration” trope as well.  I say, "Bring it on, bub.")

We don’t really like being compared to Richard Nixon over here at Altercation, still, we are pleased to be attacked by Jeff Jacoby on the Boston Globe editorial page, here, though perhaps the malevolently incompetent Nick King took the day off, because there’s nothing in it about how I hate Jews and want to blame holocaust victims for Palestinian misery.  (Though the Nixon comparison does at least imply anti-Semitism, don’t it?)

Chris Matthews is a liberal, not.

Other Quote of the Day:  “On Sunday’s ‘This Week with George Stephanopoulos,' Kansas Senator Sam Brownback took on Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, because these days, a debate between a conservative Republican and a moderate Republican is what passes for hearing from both sides.”  --The still great Jon Stewart

P.S.  Congrats to all the grads of Brooklyn College today.

Correspondents Corner:

Name:  Eric Rauchway
Dear Eric,
I think Taylor Peck's letter deserves a response.  Because, as Mr. Peck says, the media have often got it wrong, we should not rely on them:  but because primary sources also often get it wrong, especially when remembering long after the fact, it is sometimes useful to consult historians.  Below I quote a little from Donald Alexander Downs, whose 1999 book Cornell '69:  Liberalism and the Crisis of the American University relies heavily on, as Mr. Peck recommends, primary sources -- although, in the main, contemporarily recorded ones.

1.  Mr. Peck writes, "The black students did NOT have guns when they took over the building early Saturday morning; the weapons were brought in late Saturday night, for "self-defense."  (The threats did seem real.)"  Downs notes that even if the guns were brought in later, the students who took over the Straight did use other weapons:  "Upstairs at around 5:30 a.m. Paul R. Hutchins, the night supervisor of custodians, ran into three students carrying wires, chains, and knives, including one 'crude bayonet.'  The students declared they were taking over the building and rounded up the custodial staff.... At 6:15 a.m. students, one brandishing a club, took over WVBR, the radio station in the Straight...." (p.171)

2.  Mr. Peck writes, "I also wouldn't say the administration 'caved in' to their demands...."  Walter LaFeber, who was then chairman of the History Department, thought the initial faculty response to the crisis was "'weasel stuff'" which was then weaseled up even further.  (pp. 224-225)  Joel Silbey described the faculty response this way:  "'There was a fantastic atmosphere at that meeting, like a Munich beer hall or a Nazi party rally.  One was cheered if he said the right thing.  Hoots and hollers greeted one if he said the wrong thing.  Men got up and said, "I'm scared, I'm frightened -- I'm changing my mind."  The facade of rationality and calmness was stripped away.'"  (p. 236)  LaFeber resigned as chair of the Department, saying, "'I do not have any confidence in the administration....'" (p. 272)

Some of the professors who disapproved of the administration's response went on to become prominent conservative commentators:  Allan Bloom, Donald Kagan, and Thomas Sowell, for example.  And perhaps Mr. Peck would say of them, well, they were always going to be conservatives unsympathetic to the cause of the protesters.  This is not true of LaFeber and Silbey, or of others who objected less to the cause than to the method of attaining it.  Downs's scholarship leads him to ally himself with them:  "acts were committed that cannot be justified in any rational way, especially on a college campus." (p. 171)

Mr. Peck invokes Zach Carter, who in 1969 was one of the students involved, on his side.  It takes nothing away from Mr. Carter's accomplishments and career, which I have admired on Altercation before, to say that the Straight episode was not nearly so simple a thing as Mr. Peck suggests.

Name: Brian Thomas
Hometown: Portland, Oregon
In section III of your June 1st blog entry you admit that anonymous sources are crucial to journalism.  Therefore it seems odd to me that you think that an anonymous source deserves to be called a liar just for denying to journalists that he is the source of a leak. I think you would agree that we don't properly call a losing political candidate a liar just because he denies that he is about to drop out of a race, even if we later discover that he was, in fact, discussing that possibility with his aides.  Nearly everyone tells lies at some time or other.  And in order to be a political candidate, an anonymous source, a top intelligence agent, or, arguably, a human being, a few lies at certain times are almost impossible to avoid.  It devalues the word "liar" to call nearly everyone a liar.  To properly call Mark Felt a liar I believe you ought to establish a pattern of deception beyond documenting that he consistently denied being Deep Throat.

On the other hand, as usual, I appreciated very much the rest of your June 1st blog entry.

Eric replies: Dear Brian: Thanks, but this is my point.  Felt, by any definition is a liar.  He lied for an honorable cause.  The taboo against calling people who lie “liars” is destructive because politicians exploit it to lie for dishonorable reasons.  And if you read the social psychology research as I did for When Presidents Lie, you'll see that most people are liars too, and lie surprisingly frequently.

Name: Jeff Hauser
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
You might think that the existence of widespread meaningful discrimination and government funded proselytizing at the Air Force Academy would be a topic worthy of the SCLM.  Especially when the House GOP treats holding the Air Force accountable as a partisan issue.
Unfortunately, you would be wrong.

June 1, 2005 | 1:51 PM ET | Permalink

Deep Throat: A complicated patriotism

I.  I agree with the Washington Post editorial board that Watergate, “the landmark victory for the rule of law also depended on the secret patriotism of a source named Deep Throat -- that is, Mark Felt," here.  And I share the admiration expressed by my friend Richard Cohen, here:

Here was a man who took seriously all that stuff about duty and loyalty and -- permit me, please -- the American Way.  He was, to say the least, no showboater.  He did not rush out to write a book or appear on "Larry King Live" or sell his story to the movies, which he could have done. No, he did what he thought was right.

Let’s add a few complications, however.

a.  Mark Felt was a liar.

"It was not I and it is not I," he told Washingtonian magazine in 1974.  "From the very beginning, it was obvious to the bureau that a cover-up was in progress," Felt wrote in his 1979 memoir, "The FBI Pyramid."
In his memoir, Felt acknowledged speaking once to Woodward, but in that book and whenever else he was asked, he denied being Deep Throat.  In 1999, Felt denied it again to the Hartford Courant after there was another suggestion that he was Deep Throat.

My point here is not that he was good, but also bad.  My point is that there are far worse things than lying, particularly in politics.  George W. Bush, like many of his predecessors, (including say, FDR, JFK, and LBJ) is an inveterate liar. One is considered a radical for saying so but it is an undeniable fact.  Still, that’s hardly the worst thing one can say about him.  He may, in fact, have been lying for good reasons, like Mark Felt.  I don’t happen to think so, but I think we should get over our squeamishness about calling liars, “liars.”  Start by reading this book.

b. Mark Felt abused the Constitution.  This from the Boston Globe:

The former FBI official who is Deep Throat has a legacy that includes his felonious abuse of the Fourth Amendment as much as it does his anonymous championship of the First.  The man who says he exposed the Nixon administration's coverup of the break-in at the Watergate headquarters of the Democratic Party is the same man who authorized illegal break-ins targeting antiwar activists.

I don’t doubt that Felt acted from what he believed to be patriotic moves when helping Hoover to do his dirty work.  But he was wiretapping and jailing patriots too.  And they were the ones following the law.  Curiously, the fact that Felt was willing to abuse the Constitution in order to deny the rights of leftist protesters to express their Constitutional rights, he is accorded a kind of credibility as honorable patriot.  The above point appears in precious few of today’s stories.  Far more significant are the opinions of Pat Buchanan, a right-wing extremist, and G. Gordon Liddy, a former felon who instructs his radio listeners on the most advantageous manner in which to murder U.S. government agents.  I ask you again, What liberal media?

II.  Nixon would get away with it today.  In today’s media atmosphere, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and the entire right-wing media would create a propaganda firestorm designed to destroy the character of whomever came forward to tell the truth about Nixon or whomever chose to report on it.  Had Felt been suspected of acting patriotically, today, people like Bob Novak, a man who feels free to reveal the identity of CIA agents when it suits his political purposes, would be leading the way in destroying his character, in order to obfuscate the truth.  What the Bush administration has already done with regard to not just Iraq but across the board, is arguably worse than Watergate, and in many ways, even more cynical.  Yet the creation of a right-wing media designed to pummel anyone who honestly reports on its actions—or questions its motives—prevents us from focusing our attention on its myriad misdeeds.  Add this to the religious devotion of conservative Christian evangelicals to the Republican party no matter what “reality”-based journalism may uncover and you can see how easy it would be for a Nixon to stonewall this type of allegation today.  (I raised this possibility in my L.A. Times Book Festival panel discussion with John Dean and he explained that Nixon actually had something in mind like the creation of the conservative media empire back then, and had he not been forced to resign, it probably would have happened a decade or so earlier.)

III.  Anonymous sources really are both necessary and unavoidable, sometimes, see this.

IV.  Bob Woodward, whom I believe to be the best-selling non-fiction author in the United States, and an extremely wealthy man, did not ultimately respond to the Felt family’s entreaties to make a joint presentation of the information, because they hoped the revelation will "make at least enough money to pay some bills."  Woodward, instead, left them hanging after a few conversations.  According to the Washington Post, he “had prepared for Felt's eventual death by writing a short book about a relationship he describes as intense and sometimes troubling.  His longtime publisher, Simon & Schuster, is rushing the volume to press.”  Nice.

V.  Woodward also lied to Tony Lukas.  He said,

I resent it because it's untrue.  As you know, I'm not going to discuss the identity of Deep Throat or any other of my confidential sources who are still alive.  But let me just say that this suggestion that we were being used by the intelligence community was of concern to us at the time and afterward.  When somebody first wrote the article saying about me, "Wait a minute; this is somebody in an intelligence agency who doesn't like Nixon and is trying to get him out,"

but clearly he was, and he had to have known it.  (As Tim Noah notes, here.)

VI.  That book, “Secret Honor” sold a gazillion copies, but was full of it.

VII.  That Haldeman fella was pretty smart:

Nixon: Well, if they've got a leak down at the FBI, why the hell can't Gray tell us what the hell is left?  You know what I mean?...

Haldeman: We know what's left, and we know who leaked it.

Nixon: Somebody in the FBI?

Haldeman: Yes, sir. Mark Felt ... If we move on him, he'll go out and unload everything.  He knows everything that's to be known in the FBI.  He has access to absolutely everything ...

Nixon: What would you do with Felt? ... You know what I'd do with him, the bastard? Well, that's all I want to hear about it.

Haldeman: I think he wants to be in the top spot.

Nixon: That's a hell of a way for him to get to the top.


VIII.  And that Nixon, fella, contrary to everything William Safire and Leonard Garment have tried to whitewash all these years, really hated us Jews:

"Is he Catholic?" Nixon asked.  Told by Haldeman that Felt was Jewish, Nixon replied, "[Expletive], [the bureau] put a Jew in there?"  To which Haldeman responded, "Well, that could explain it."

(Note Felt wasn’t Jewish.)

And speaking of liars…

Cakewalk update:  670 Iraqis, 77 Americans killed last month here .

"Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators."

-- Vice President Dick Cheney, "Meet the Press," NBC, 3/16/03

The Bush Administration Was For Amnesty International Before It Was Against It, here.

Paul Krugman delivers Dan Okrent a much begged-for kick in the ass, here.  Why Okrent wanted to sully his good name with his unsupported (and apparently unsupportable) attack on Krugman is both curious and interesting.  But I refrain from attempting to read people’s minds so I’ll leave the speculation to others.  Good of the Times to print it, though.

Read this story about a New York City school built on contaminated land—the environmental assessment done for the city that had showed levels of mercury, chromium, lead, arsenic and other toxic substances much higher than state standards allow—and surrounded by truck fumes for poor minority children- and tell me again that this is the land of equal opportunity.

Correspondence corner:

Name: Taylor Peck
Hometown: Cayutaville, NY
As someone who was a freshman at Cornell in April of 1969 when Willard Straight Hall was taken over, I must make a correction to your comment above on the NY Times article on the Olin Foundation. The black students did NOT have guns when they took over the building early Saturday morning; the weapons were brought in late Saturday night, for "self-defense."  (The threats did seem real.)  I also wouldn't say the administration "caved in" to their demands, but that a major violent mess was avoided, as there were 350 deputies and 350 State Policemen waiting to come onto campus to "crack heads."  Cornell proudly celebrated the 35th anniversary of the founding of the African Studies Center earlier this year (one of the black student "demands" back then).  I would suggest contacting Zachary Carter, a former federal prosecutor, and now a partner at the law firm of Dorsey & Whitney, if you want to get information from a primary source.  Going through those events, and then reading about them in the "mainstream media" afterwards, was an incredible object lesson on how the media distort, editorialize, and get things wrong.

Name: Kramer
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Dear Dr. Alterman:
I'm not exactly sure what Brad's background is, or what the literature he's describing is, but, within the peer reviewed scientific literature, the fact of human induced climate change is taken as beyond dispute.  A recent study in the journal Science makes this point pretty strongly.  If you look in the Science Citation Index (a relatively authoritative index of the peer reviewed literature) between 1993 and 2003 using the keywords 'climate change' you get 928 results.  Of these results there is not a single paper (right, that's 0/928) which argues that changes in climate over the last ~150 years are not influenced by human activity.  There are, of course, some papers that take no position (say a paper that studies climate change in the Cenozoic).  But, it's worth emphasizing again, everyone who published in the peer reviewed literature in this period who had an opinion about whether humans have caused 'global warming' believed they had.  I lay no particular claim to have done this work myself (although I was a coauthor on one of those papers - I'm currently a PhD student in an Earth Sciences department) but just wanted to write in to emphasize that, if anything is settled in the Earth Sciences, this is it.  There is (and to give him credit perhaps it is this to which Brad is referring) significant disagreement about the magnitude of the human influence on climate and its specifics (e.g. will Buffalo get more or less snow over the next 100 years than it has over the last) but there just isn't over the first question: have humans influenced the climate over the last ~150 years.  Suggesting otherwise is incorrect.

Name: Rick
Hometown: Iowa
Re: Brad's global warming.  Brad submits that he's read the oil-company sponsored studies, the religious kook studies, even the environmentalist (studies? diatribes?).  Perhaps he should pick up an atmospheric chemistry text and a thermodynamics text.  It's really quite simple.  The more carbon is in the atmosphere, the more solar heat (energy) is retained in the atmosphere (the greenhouse effect, accepted by everyone other than the flat earth crowd).  Simplistically speaking, weather and climate is the earth's way of dissipating/evening-out this energy (converting it to mechanical energy, for example).  No one knows exactly how global climate change will manifest itself, but human impact on greenhouse gases is accepted and documented.  The arguments occurring among those seriously involved in studying climate change have to do with the what/where/when and is it too late?  The "does it" or "did we" argument is already settled.  Sooner or later, it will become common knowledge that "global warming" is an unfortunate misnomer.  Predicting tomorrow's high temperature will always be nearly impossible, but chaotic weather patterns (including altered ocean currents, ice-ages, drought, massive hurricanes) that will devastate, perhaps extinguish, Earth's species should be self-evident even to the most well read among us.

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