June 17, 2005 | 10:42 AM ET | Permalink

New Nation column, “Clinton Agonistes” on the hole inside John Harris’ otherwise excellent book, here.

I think Tim Noah is right, here.  Nobody cares what editorial staffs think and most of what they publish is pablum, or in the case of the Wall Street Journal etc., nuts.  But they do give readers the impression that everything else in the paper is biased, particularly when it comes to election endorsements.  This is one case where Ayn Randism is kinda right.  Mike Kinsley’s column is a hell of a lot more interesting than a L.A. Times editorial could ever be.

Todd Gitlin is right too, here.  Where is the reporting on the crimes of America’s detention?  You know you’re in trouble when Tom Friedman is breaking news.  That means the cabbies in India already know it.

More on what a mash Jeffrey Rosen made of things in the Times Magazine, here and here.  (That’s a lot of problems for one lousy little column.  Anybody want to answer to it?)

And more on the memo, here.  (I published this yesterday.)

Why is Rupert evil?  At my poker game last night, three Newscorp bigwigs wanted to hear the reasons that anyone in their right mind could believe that Rupert Murdoch is evil.  I was too focused on taking their money ($165, thanks very much) to respond in detail, but if someone does the job for me shortly and concisely, I’ll be glad to pass them along and if it’s good enough, print them here.  Maybe we’ll make it a regular feature.

“It sure is m**********g cold up here…”  The Shocking-But-False Story of America's Blackstronauts of the “Old Negro Space Program” is here.  Don’t miss this shocking, but poignant telling of yet another case of media bias…

I read the two items below on Tapped the other day and (before briefly losing them in my files) wondered, is Matt Yglesias our most talented blogger?  Take a look:

Posted at 10:15 AM

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS. Why would The New York Times report that two new studies "rebut" earlier peer-reviewed work on the effectiveness of virginity pledges when, according to the Times's own reporting, the study was not peer-reviewed, is unpublishable in real academic journals, uses an unreliable data source, and only supports the conclusion when you use a non-standard test for statistical significance?  For that matter, why would they refer to Heritage's Robert Rector as "Dr. Robert Rector" when he has no Ph.D.? Why would you cover a study like that at all?

The only newsworthy information in the story is that the Bush Department of Health and Human Services has decided for some reason to start contracting out research on controversial questions to an ideological think tank that is non-partisan in name only, rather than to proper independent analysts. Can the Center for America Progress get a grant to revisit this topic? Will the Economic Policy Institute start getting taxpayer money to do research on the Bush tax cuts? I'm not going to hold my breath.

--Matthew Yglesias

Posted at 10:50 AM

NAME NAMES. Rather than pile on the profanity, how about a simple question for Tom Friedman: Which liberals, exactly, "don't want to talk about Iraq because, with a few exceptions, they thought the war was wrong and deep down don't want the Bush team to succeed"? Friedman's a pretty important guy and surely knows a lot of liberals, so he probably knows some liberals worth naming. This is a pretty serious allegation -- who's he talking about? If he would tell us, then maybe people would have a chance to defend themselves against this smear.

Or is he just making things up? The latter, I think. And who are even these liberals "who don't want to talk about Iraq"? Friedman's the only dedicated foreign-affairs writer I know of who ignored the subject for months in order to promote his new book.

--Matthew Yglesias


It’s JVC jazz season in New York, and this year’s festival is lower-key (and more jazz-focused) than usual, but one highlight is sure to be tonight’s Carnegie Hall show featuring the Wayne Shorter with the Dave Holland Quintet Shorter’s newest, Beyond the Sound Barrier on Verve, is another live album, with Shorter’s terrific band---- Danilo Perez, piano; John Patitucci, bass; Brian Blade, drums --, that formed for 2003’s “Alegria.”  There are new songs and old songs, tight songs and expansive songs, melodies and well, other things.  There’s even some Mendelssohn, “On the Wings of Song.”  I like it, though by now, you either enjoy Shorter or you don’t. 

Verve also helped me to discover the singer Lizz Wright.  On her second album, “Dreaming Wide Awake,” she’s got really excellent versions of Neil Young’s “Old Man,” and “A Taste of Honey,” which is not quite Paul McCartney’s haunting vocal, but doesn’t suck on its own.  Check her out.  More here and here.

Correspondence Corner

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to ask if it's too late.  Last week a good friend of mine (one of the few who voted for Dubya) asked me if I had given up.  I told friends that the reason I was campaigning for Kerry was because I thought we were at an economic tipping point.  It wasn't the war, civil liberties, stem cell research, the environment, or other worthy concerns.  It was the budget deficit.  Four more reckless years would guarantee an economic catastrophe come the next recession.  I had turned into Ross Perot.  Well, my friend mockingly said, Dubya won.  If I really thought we were doomed, why not relax and enjoy life until the inevitable?  He's almost right.  We're so busy documenting all the sops to the robber barons that we don't ask more abstract questions.  Does the economy have a point of no return where it can't fully
recover?  Thomas Friedman thinks so but doesn't realize it: all of his columns now follow a pattern of "we're doomed...unless we do [blank]."  But [blank] is always something implausible:  private businesses investing billions in public education, a Marshall Plan for alternative energy, doubling troops in Iraq, etc.  The CIA's 2020 report is also pessimistic.

I told my friend that yes, I do think that some things are is inevitable. The neocons have given Nader a cruel victory -- he's going to get the kind of "pain brings backlash" pressure for redistribution of wealth that progressives would never get through persuasion.  But the economy presents -two- challenges:  not just slicing the economic pie more fairly, but growing the pie (or at least keeping it from shrinking).  I don't think that today's GOP cares that much about the size of the pie -- they do just fine in poorer red states (ironically, part of "what's wrong with Kansas" is that it's more egalitarian than New York).  And the demands of the Greediest Generation loom over both parties.  Not to sound apocalyptic, but I think America's salvation lies in taking advantage of a "technological superiority" bubble we currently enjoy by changing our patent laws and practice.  But my time's up this week so I'll have to explain more later!

Name: Brent Thompson
Hometown: Annandale, VA
I am one those Navy veterans who signed up for the job to serve some duty for the country & take advantage of educational benefits for when I decided to leave the service in 1995.  Well, I completed 2 tours in the Persian Gulf, did some extended time and exited Uncle Sam's program.  The GI bill for me was a sham, I never got what I was promised.  I found out too late and the hard way that the benefits are only issued for programs approved by Veterans Affairs.  I was turned down at art colleges, tech schools and even technology classes at a regular college.  Right before the 10 year timeclock expired to use my benefits I was finally issued $500 dollars with the help of Congressmen Davis for a Web design class.  Yes, it took a congressman to approve one class!  I invested $1,500 into the GI Bill and didn't even get back what I put into it.  It makes me sick that this generation of service people are dying in senseless numbers for the same reasons I joined.  I think a lot of them are being robbed and they don't even know it yet.  Now our social security money is gone too, I know it and now they are trying to raise the retirement age to 69 to cover up the damage already done.  I hate going public but, I'm doing it for those currently in uniform whose future is now being toyed with by an irresponsible government.  My advice to Bush is bring em all home and put them on duty in our shipping ports and our borders.  Illegal immigrants are taking jobs under the table into the thousands.  So many things wrong with this country right now...  My flag will remain at half staff for years to come.

Name: Bob Dodds
Hometown: Kill Devil Hills, NC
Eric.... Smokin OP's is smoking Other People's cigarettes.  Usually done when someone was trying to quit back in the pre-nicotine gum days.  Three cheers for the break away unions.  At worst, labor will get the benefits of competition, at best some truly innovative and motivated working Americans that can reverse the imbalance of power.  As one of my labor mentors told me 30 years ago, the only rights you have are those you are willing to fight for.  No government ever gave labor anything, labor took what it had.

Name: Brian Gygi
Hometown: Vienna, Austria

As a longtime admirer of Joan Didon's and I was saddened and depressed by her NWRB piece. She claims she wants to explore the deeper issues in Terri's case but she dismisses out of hand the possibility that living wills represent the wishes of people as they are dying, and further claims that we have no right to die, claiming "No one even casually exposed to religious teaching believes any such right exists."  Um, I think rights are given by governments not by religions, yes?  She is first rate reporter but she let her obvious bias against removing the feeding tube color her piece, and commits such journalistic sins as smearing Michael Schiavo by inference (bringing up the rumors, now discredited, of abuse), and citing unnamed sources such as "a caller on Larry King Live" and "someone said when this was mentioned on a cable show". The irony is that shes claims no one was discussing the deeper issues of what makes a life worth living, when I seem to recall numerous blogs on precisely that subject. The piece is written with her usual excellent style, but the content matter is to me deeply disturbing.

Name: Tom Bloodgood
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

In regards to CPB, PBS, Tomlinson, et al. I heard this report on NPR this afternoon on the way to work.  What caught my attention is that most of the transgressions listed seem to be tied directly to Tomlinson, noted as a Republican.  Also, the make-up of the board is heavily weighted with Republicans.  Very interesting, indeed.  What Liberal Bias?

Name: Justin LeBlanc
Hometown: Seoul, Korea

That's it, I've had it.  I'm tired of going on line and reading about all these people who attack Bush and his administration's policies for going to war with Iraq.  I'm a soldier and I think that we did the right thing and still think we are.  I challenge you (Dr. Alterman) and any other liberal who cares more about Europe's opinion than our own country's safety to reply to this email.  Yes, we are in a war and people die.  I'll certainly be heading over to fight in the sandbox soon enough when I complete my tour here in Korea.  We took out one of the most hostile individuals of my generation.  We took out a ruthless dictator who got his kicks off raping his neighbors and killing his own citizens.  People want to characterize Gitmo as the "gulag" of our times; well, Hussein was the "Stalin" of our times.  I really don't care whether we found weapons of mass destruction.  Whether he had them or not is no concern of mine.  What's of more concern to me is my family's safety years from now.  What's of more concern to me is the shape of the Middle East decades from now.  Iraq is a democracy and lets begin to celebrate that.  I'm certain we'll be seeing sweeping changes, all for the better, in that region over the next 20 years that we previously thought we wouldn't see in our lifetime.  I hope, when it is all said and done, you congratulate the President on taking measures he thought were necessary to keep our country and our planet safe.  One day, a few decades from now, you and your "progressives" (if you can honestly call yourselves that) are going to have to own up to the fact that what the President did, however difficult, was good for Iraq, good for the Middle East, good for us, and good for the planet.  Oh, answer me this Dr. Alterman, how many people did Saddam kill?  Oh, that's right, you can't answer that - THEY'RE STILL COUNTING!

June 16, 2005 | 11:20 AM ET | Permalink

Schiavo post mortemMy new "Think Again" column, "The Memo Springs to Life," is here.

You know, I never developed an opinion on what should be done about Terri Schiavo.  Whether she should have been allowed to “live” or “die”—the words have unusual meanings in this case—was a complicated business.  It would have been amazing if even a tiny percentage of the people who claimed to know what to do with her—from Doctor Frist on down—had confronted all of the moral, physical, legal, spiritual, and even metaphysical questions involved either.  The one thing I did know, however, was that the current far-right Republican-dominated Congress and the far-right-dominated cable news/talk radio empire were among the worst places on the face of the earth—including, I imagine, my daughter’s first grade class picnic—to weigh all of these factors.  Joan Didion  is her typically brilliant self on the topic here, and we find out from this morning’s papers, here, that those, including her husband, who argued that her case was likely irreparable—were likely correct.

One aspect of the press coverage that always bothered me, along with every other aspect of the press coverage, was the treatment of the protesters.  It was never possible to determine how many there were at any given moment, though it looked to me like just a few dozen; fewer than were meeting the other night to try to stop an apartment building from going up where Gristedes used to be on 99th and Broadway.  Anyway, remember the February demonstrations against the American war on Iraq in 2003.  They were the largest worldwide demonstrations in human history; millions of people and the television coverage either ignored them or mocked them, offering Americans little or no understanding of why we are now so hated all over the world for the Bush administration’s actions.  My guess, and I don’t know how you’d prove it, is that on a per-demonstrator basis, each of those people received approximately a zillionth the amount of coverage—and respect—that the Terri Schiavo demonstrators received.  This is media bias at its most naked, and believe me, it ain’t liberal.

(Pundit apologies will be happily printed here, should any be received.)

This just in:  Say what you will about Mr. Carlson: Not only does he not endanger U.S. national security to serve as an administration patsy and then watch quietly while other journalists are threatened with jail, but Tucker Carlson, is also not the chicken little that Robert Novak is.  And so, The Arthur N. Rupe Great Debate at the University of California, Santa Barbara will take place between:

Eric Alterman and Tucker Carlson on the topic of "The American News Media—Liberal or Conservative Bias?" on Saturday, January 14, 2006 / 3:00 P.M. / Campbell Hall / UCSB


I saw a lovely John Prine show at Town Hall last night before an almost embarrassingly enthusiastic sold-out crowd.  Prine has so extensive a catalogue that, inevitably, he is going to skip a lot of the songs you want to hear.  I would have liked a bit more from the wonderful record he made with Iris Dement, and others, last year, called “In Spite of Ourselves,” but really I can’t complain.  He was in good humor and stuck to the highlights of his clever and moving new CD, “Fair and Square,” here, which took him a long time but shows him at the top of his unique game, and (just about) as good as anything in the Prine oeuvre.  There’s more Prine here and while we’re talking Prine, we should take the opportunity to remind everyone about Steve Goodman, here, who was kind of a Jewish John Prine, and I also really like this Prine-esque Todd Snider record.

If I had more time, I’d also give strong recommendations for Billy Joe Shaver, Try and Try Again, recorded Live at the KUT-FM studios in Austin, Texas 2003.

"Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver - Live" featuring Robert Earl Keen, Guy Clark, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Bruce Robison, Joe Ely, Todd Snider, and many more—that’s here along with the new Robert Earl Keen, “What I Really Mean,” on Koch Records, which is here. They’re both really decent.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Joseph Alferio
Hometown: Toledo, Ohio
As a veteran of the Army and Navy, my tears pour down when I read of the courage and honor of men like Major Bateman and Colonel(?) Westhusing.  I only hope that we can someday live in a country worthy of there sacrifices.  I am including here the last three verses of a poem by the British writer, Sir Robert Southey:

"They said it was a shocking sight
After the field was won;
For many thousand bodies here
Lay rotting in the sun;
But things like that, you know, must be
After a famous victory.
"Great praise the Duke of Marlbro' won,
And our good Prince Eugene."
"Why, 'twas a very wicked thing!"
Said little Wilhelmine.
"Nay ... nay ... my little girl," quoth he,
"It was a famous victory."
"And everybody praised the Duke
Who this great fight did win."
"But what good came of it at last?"
Quoth little Peterkin.
"Why, that I cannot tell," said he,
"But 'twas a famous victory."

Good luck to all our servicemen and women. You are in my prayers.

Name: Victor L. Harpley
Hometown: Milford, Connecticut
The funny thing about PBS and Tomlinson's perceived bias is I see it differently.  I rarely if ever see Progressive or Liberal viewpoints presented.  I see business news, definitely not a progressive viewpoint, Tucker Carlson who has made fun of a young girl who had her intestines sucked out and said women like to be spanked, as well as many other right of center commentators from think tanks such as the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation.  I can't recall seeing a Union representative or any other progressive such as Katrina vanden Heuval of the Nation or yourself.  Frankly, I see a definite right of center bias at PBS and think Mr. Tomlinson is a dangerous influence.

June 15, 2005 | 1:15 PM ET | Permalink

PBS: Re-working the refs

The thing about all this PBS mishigas is that it is all based on a fictional claim; that the network leans leftward, or as Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting -- the agency that passes those federal funds to public broadcasters – asserts, that PBS ignores or marginalizes conservative viewpoints.
The point is that conservatives do not want liberal viewpoints spoken to the public anywhere. That’s why they are attacking the media, academia, and the Democrats’ ability to hold hearings.  (See below.)  CPB officials are demanding that that PBS should provide balancing comments in all programs containing editorial viewpoints and opinions.  This is quite obviously silly.
You can’t balance every program, and PBS has done an extremely good job of balancing its overall content with many, many programs directed by and made for conservatives over the years by the likes of Bill Buckley, Ben Wattenberg, Milton Friedman, and Tony Brown—and there are many more. Here, for instance, is an incident I came across in Richard Parker’s biography of John Kenneth Galbraith that Eric R. reviewed so brilliantly here a few weeks ago, regarding the history of economics service Galbraith narrated and helped oversee entitled, The Age of Uncertainty, back in 1976, when all this “working the refs” stuff was just getting started.  (It mirrors, by the way, the incident with PBS’s Vietnam series, in which the network turned over airtime to Reed Irvine’s ridiculous outfit for a two-hour rebuttal, again demonstrating the power that the right has had to pursue its agenda there, even when there is nothing remotely “leftist” about the topics of its complaints. See Stanley Karnow’s Vietnam companion book if you doubt that.)

From: Richard Parker John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005), here.

The series was broadcast in the late fall of 1976 to a mixture of warm and cool reviews. “British critics on the whole disapproved,” Galbraith recalled. “They thought it overillustrated; more should have been heard, less seen.” And there were sharp dissenters from the content, too, including the English historian J.H. Plumb.  Eventually The Age of Uncertainty appeared in dozens of other countries thanks to French, German, and Japanese translations, and to accompany the series Galbraith wrote a companion volume of the same name, which quickly became an international best-seller in its own right, as well as a Book-of-the-Month-Club selection in the United States; sales in Japan alone topped half a million.

Before it could be aired in the United States, The Age of Certainty started drawing aggressive, bitter denunciation from American conservatives, who’d been alerted by news of Milton Friedman’s dramatic flight across the Atlantic to denounce the show’s patent heresies and inaccuracies. A decade earlier, the overt bias behind Friedman’s charges might have been laughed off, but in the political climate of the late 1970s, such objections were taken seriously by PBS, which had cofinanced the series and was financially dependent on an increasingly hostile and budget-minded Congress.

Late in 1976, managers at KCET, the Los Angeles PBS affiliate in charge of U.S. distribution, decided that after each hour-long segment of the series a conservative critic must be allowed to “respond,” which the BBC had felt no need to arrange. They did so moreover without telling the show’s host or producer, who first learned about it at a private screening in New York just prior to the series’ scheduled U.S. debut. Needless to say, both Galbraith and Malone were deeply offended, and they both protested vehemently.  But when faced with the implicit possibility of cancellation, they grudgingly acceded. KCET’s managers then papered over their unilateral action by releasing a statement saying that Professor Galbraith “was for anything that would stir things up and encourage people to think about the issues” and announced that his conservative “respondents” would include William F. Buckley, the philosopher Sidney Hook, Herbert Stein, and, for the final episode, Ronald Reagan.

It isn’t clear whether Milton Friedman was more put off by Galbraith’s ideas generally, or by the fact he and monetarism were never even mentioned in the series, or that he was not one of the respondents selected by KCET. What is clear is that, playing off the by then well established “Galbraith vs. Friedman” trope, he skillfully parlayed Galbraith’s series into one of his own. Sponsored by a tiny PBS affiliate in Erie, Pennsylvania, whose manager hated The Age of Uncertainty and refused to broadcast it, and funded by a handful of rich ultra conservative factions,* Friedman created Free to Choose as his answer to The Age of Uncertainty. The series, with Friedman as its narrator, began airing on PBS in 1980, just as Ronald Reagan started campaigning for the presidency.  Curiously, this time PBS required no “balancing” response by liberal critics of Friedman, while Reagan from the campaign trail gave the new series a ringing endorsement, calling it “superb,” required viewing “for everyone— from the President to the private citizen—who is concerned with the future of America.”

The fact that PBS deliberately altered Galbraith’s series during the Carter presidency and not, as one might have thought, in the Nixon or Reagan era, when public funding for PBS, NPR, and the National Endowment for the Arts all came under ferocious Republican attack, is a small but telling indication of how the conservative tide rose and even accelerated during that Democratic period.

*Including the Olin Foundation, headed by William Simon. Free to Choose was one part of a new conservative education agenda, spearheaded by Olin, that included funding dozens of new “market-friendly” professorships, research centers, and entire new “law and economics” departments; sponsoring an endless stream of books, magazines, pamphlets, and conferences; even creating a Sesame Street-like TV puppet show that extolled the virtues of capitalism to preschoolers.

There’s a Free Press/Moveon.org campaign to save PBS and NPR, here. Those of us who have not yet given up on PBS should appreciate their efforts.

Meanwhile, Boehlert notes that at least the AP--unlike the New York Times--can admit its mistakes in ignoring the Downing Street Memo.  And this from John Conyers’ office:

On Thursday June 16, 2005, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Room HC-9 of the U.S. Capitol, Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, and other Congress Members will hold a hearing on the Downing Street Minutes and related evidence of efforts to cook the books on pre-war intelligence.

The hearings had been planned for the Democratic National Committee offices because the Republicans controlling the House Judiciary Committee had refused to permit the ranking Democratic Member to use a large room on the Hill.

However, the Democrats did have access to a small room in the Capitol, and Congressman Conyers has decided to move the hearings there.  This does not indicate any change in position from the Republicans.

(We note, sadder but wiser, that this event proved unworthy of mention by the smart guys at “The Note.”)

Harold Meyerson’s Washington Post column on the labor movement’s troubles, here, will have to do until he can take more time and space and do it properly for either The American Prospect or Dissent.  (I’m guessing the former because, um, it pays.)

Shorter Tom Friedman (channeling Nick Kristof) Iraq's a catastrophe: Blame the liberals.

My friend Sarfraz Manzoor has done a a couple of BBC radio documentaries on Bruce and you can listen to one of them here.

And thank God for Ed Klein, saving the world from "revolutionary lesbianism," here.


Two 1970s David Bowie sets, by Sal, NYCD

The two missing albums in David Bowie's oft-reissued catalogue finally appear in beautiful remastered packages. 1974's "David Live" and 1978's "Stage," get much-deserved upgrades both in audio and programming, recreating the original running order of the concerts, as well as inserting missing tracks that weren't on the original releases. "Stage" features a large band that includes Adrian Belew on guitar, Simon House from Hawkwind on violin, and Roger Powell of Todd Rundgren's Utopia on keys, running through Bowie's then recent material from his Eno-produced masterpiece "Low" as well as a good chunk of "Ziggy Stardust" and "Station To Station."  A fun live set that sees Bowie reinventing some of his hits to fit the ensemble, this was a critical success, unlike its predecessor, "David Live," which was panned on its initial release and is faring no better now with its re-release.

Personally, I think "David Live" has the superior performance. 1974 was a transition year for Bowie.  (Weren't they all?)  Closing the door on his Ziggy character, and transforming himself into a sleek soul singer, "David Live" was recorded over a few nights at Philly's Tower Theater.  His band featured Earl Slick on guitar, Mike Garson on keys, Herbie Flowers on bass, David Sanborn on sax, and Luther Vandross on backing vocals. Where live albums are usually contract-breakers, or time-killers between studio releases, the drastic, soulful re-arranging of material for these performances served as a warm-up for Bowie's underrated masterwork "Young Americans."  You may not think a funky, soul version of "All The Young Dudes" is worth your time, or "Changes" with Pips-like backing vocals is even necessary, but the band, thanks to Tony Visconti's brilliant remixing & remastering, is in your face and it's serves up the Thin White Duke like you've never heard him before. Special mention goes to Earl Slick, filling in nicely for the one and only Mick Ronson.  A recent Rolling Stone review singles out Bowie's cover of "Knock On Wood" as one of the low points on this collection. A UK single that peaked at Number 10, Bowie's vocals and the band's inspired performance make it a "highlight."  (Rolling Stone -- They'll never make it this business. )

Eric adds:  Both CD sets are beautifully produced and the packaging is really first rate.  Set lists are here and here.

Another set that just received some welcome upgrading is George Jones, My Very Special Guests (Legacy Edition).  If you don’t like Mr. No Show, you’d have a hard case to make that you like country music at all.  While few of these duets reach the sublimity of the Jones/Wynette pairing (or its unsung successor, John Prine and Iris Dement), they are mostly pretty great.  Some are better than pretty great, including particularly, Bartender's Blues with James Taylor, Stranger in the House  with Elvis Costello, Yesterday's Wine with the incomparable Merle Haggard, and We Didn’t See a Thing with Ray Charles and Chet Atkins.  There’s a set list here but it doesn’t include all the guest listings.

The new Greencards album to be quite charming.  You can read about their most recent gig here (they’ll be playing with Bob and Willie) and the album here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Dr. James R. Goetsch Jr.
Hometown: St. Petersburg, FL
Thanks to Major Bateman for his report on Ted Westhusing.  I went to graduate school with Ted a while back when I was working on my Ph.D. in philosophy, and we would talk (he was an active Army officer and I had been a Reserve Officer for many years, so we naturally struck up a conversation, for there were not many Army officers in grad school in philosophy!).  I remember him as incredibly intelligent, open to argument and reason, and an incredibly good human being.  We would talk about Plato's Republic, a special interest of mine, and the three-fold harmony of spirt, mind, and desire,and the courage and wisdom of the guardians, and what all that might mean for us today. We would talk about courage and ethics and what it would mean to be a human being and a soldier. I have not talked to him in years, and now he has been brought to mind in this terrible way.  My deepest wish is that we end up doing something good in Iraq that honors such sacrifices.  But whatever we end up doing or not doing, Ted is one of the honored dead.  I will not forget him.

Name: Charles Perez
Hometown: Marion, NY
Eric, I knew Ted Westhusing (MAJ Bateman's letter from Tuesday) at West Point. We were in the same graduating class, 1983, and in many of the same courses; most of them in Russian Language.  Bateman asked for no letters this week, so this will have to do to tell him that in some small way, his pain is shared across the miles.  I've waited, since the beginning of this misadventure in Iraq, to see the name of a classmate in just such a context.  Until today, I've been spared the sorrow. Ted and I hadn't spoken, to the best of my memory, since graduation on a hot, humid Hudson Valley day. I left the Army over 12 years ago, but when I got to Ted's name, I could clearly see Ted's face, still in his West Point uniform as I had last seen him.  All of the abstract sorrow and pain and bleak hopelessness of the Iraq war became, in a moment, personal.  Somehow, despite all the horrors we've all read about so far, this made it worse.  For that I can never forgive Bush or the rest of the chicken hawks.  Farewell, Ted Westhusing.  You are remembered.

Name: Bruce Henke
Hometown: Bartlett, IL
God bless Major Bateman and his fellow servicemen, and I hope that the thought of his fellow soldiers dying for the good of humanity will help him cope with the losses occuring in Iraq, but I can't help but think that he has deeper feelings about the "lie" part of "the old lie" than we wants to admit.  If our leaders are going to ask for these kinds of sacrifices from our military - in the case of Iraq, they certainly haven't asked for anything from the rest of us - there had better be a damn good reason for our country - or humanity - and no other way to accomplish it.  To me, such phrases as "They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old" are created not just to give honor to the fallen, but to keep back the thought that much of the death and horror of war is for no good reason at all.  Maybe we all should think of this line from "Unforgiven" before running off on our next adventure: "Hell of a thing, killin' a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have."  I'm disgusted with the entire situation.

Name: Karl the Idiot
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Dulce Et Decorum Est, Pro Humanus Mori... The medievalist again.  My Latin's third-rate at best: ask my colleagues.  If you don't get a better answer from someone else, I might do "It's sweet and honorable to die for humankind" as "Dulce Et Decorum Est, Pro Mundo Mori," but as this can also mean or "...pro hominibus mori"

Name: rj
Hometown: cherry hill, nj
Since Mr. Valentine desires the truth behind the Atta-Czech connection:

  1. Mr. Vaclav Havel refutes the Atta connection.  Unfortunately it was not reported by Judith Miller so obviously the veracity of the report is in question.  "It now appears Atta wasn't even in the Czech Republic during the month the meeting was supposed to have taken place. President Havel told Bush the meeting didn't happen "quietly some time earlier this year." [ Link 1, Link 2

  2. BBC reports that Atta was in Florida the time he was supposed to be in Prague. The FBI agrees. But everybody knows that the Beeb hates America and the FBI had a liberal agenda so the veracity of both are in question. [ Link]
  3. The Washington Post concurs.  But clearly it is only believeable when its in the bastion of unbiased journalism: the Washington Times.

  4. NYT digs up the story again and finds: "Some in Prague who knew the diplomat say he met with a used car salesman named Saleh from Nuremberg, Germany, who looked like Mr. Atta. 'He is a perfect double for Atta,' said a Syrian businessman who has lived in Prague for 35 years and says he knew the diplomat and the car salesman. 'I saw him several times with [al-Ani].' ... Czech intelligence officials offered still another theory: the Mohamed Atta who came to Prague last April was not the hijacker but a Pakistani of the same name. Liberal Media, liberal media, liberal media. [ Link]

  5. And finally the FBI again: "the bureau has long since discounted claims by Czech intelligence-and widely promoted by some Iraq hawks in the Bush administration-that Atta had flown to Prague to meet with an Iraqi intelligence agent around April 8, 2001. FBI records show Atta and fellow hijacker Marwan Al-Shehhi checking out of the Diplomat Inn in Virginia Beach, Va., and writing a check for cash for $8,000 for a SunTrust account in that city on April 4, 2001. For the rest of that week, Atta's cell phone was used to make repeated calls to Florida. On April 11, Atta rented an apartment in Coral Springs, Fla. While acknowledging that a few days are unaccounted for, the FBI has found no evidence that Atta departed the country overseas during this period, an official said."  [ Link ]  But its clear that this report cannot be trusted since Newsweek and and everyone at MSNBC (except for Joe Scarborough, Pat Buchanan, Tucker Carlson, Monica Crowley.....) hate America. Oh, and one more thing, Bill Safire is a effing liar.

Name: Butch Fries
Hometown: Pine, Colorado
Regarding the article about the interns at the Heritage Foundation, "intended career as a pharmaceutical lobbyist?" Ohmygod, I hope someone appears at my doorway right this second and grinds me into cat food. Aren't you supposed to grow up wanting to be a forest ranger or a rock star? Or something with a soul and a heart and a sense that there's something worth valuing in this world other than Profit so you can actually look at yourself in a mirror every morning? I might actually have to turn to more overdone coverage of Jacko for relief from that one.

Name: Ed Tracey
Hometown: Lebanon, New Hampshire
Re: Pedro Martinez - two more reasons why he was more valuable to the Mets, besides what you already wrote: 1) Now plays in a pitcher's ballpark 2) Can face the opposing pitcher, rather than a slugging DH. He gave the best years of his life to the Red Sox; made sense for him to move on after a championship to a team that is a better fit at this stage of his career.

Name: C.I. Gaylord
Hometown: Portland ME
By far the best Greg Trooper CD is "Popular Demons", produced by the incomparable Buddy Miller. It is great from start to finish and features a duet with Steve Earle on the Dylan chestnut, " I'll Keep It With Mine".

June 14, 2005 | 12:13 PM ET | Permalink

Name: Major Bob Bateman
Dateline: Baghdad, Iraq

Dulce Et Decorum Est, Pro Patria Mori

The soldier-poet Wilfred Owen wrote the paean with this title in October 1917.  The poem is a heart-cracking account of a gas attack on the Western Front during World War One, and the immediate and personal results of that attack.  Owen closed the poem with this line which he lifted from the Roman orator Horace.  He introduced the quote as “the old lie.”

Horace, writing in the first century, wrote his version without intended irony. That came later, for both Horace and Owen, though in different ways.  Roughly translated the phrase means “It is sweet and proper to die in the service of one’s country.”

Owen’s use was a reaction. He felt disgust, patent and thorough, with the whole business.  Not a few historians agree with the sentiment.  Nationalism, rampant and fevered, sent ten-million to their death in the First World War.  Serving as an infantry officer on the front lines Owen witnessed all of the ways men can destroy each other.  His citation of ‘the old lie’ is a reference to the decades, perhaps centuries even, of socialization needed to generate that level of support to a war fought for…what?

It was, I would note as a sidebar, a war which the United States eventually entered.  How many today remember exactly why?  The stock school-book phrase most of us learned was Wilson’s position, “To make the world safe for democracy.”  In the present day the fact that we did so by supporting the two largest imperial powers on the planet against another imperial power is largely lost.

But today I wrestle with both Owen’s and Horace’s interpretations.  One of the men with whom I worked with is now home again, having been escorted to U.S. soil by a fellow officer.  He returned beneath an American flag.  We held a memorial for him a few days ago.

I knew him for only four months, and though we had much in common, rank separated us. Like me he was an infantry officer, like me he had been on the faculty at West Point, like me he was here because he was a professional.  This officer died here in Iraq, and it is my personal opinion that he was here with a solid belief that he was serving more than just his own nation, but was working in the pursuit of Peace and Security for all of mankind.  Professors of Philosophy, as he was, (or of History for that matter), are not prone to submit to “the old lie,” of Owen’s obsession.  So it obtains that there is something else afoot among us.  Is this then the change that should be made?  Dulce Et Decorum Est, Pro Humanus Mori. (Please, somebody who knows Latin, fix this for me.  I am having flashbacks from Life of Brian right now.)

I do not know.

In his eulogy at the memorial ceremony, a British Army officer who worked with this officer recited the traditional closing given in his nation when soldiers gather to remember their fallen friends and comrades.  Despite being a ‘two peoples separated by a common language,’ I believe his comments translate well.

They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going-down of the sun, and in the morning.

We shall remember them.

We will remember Ted Westhusing.


I am without words, humbled and honored, on a recent enlistment.

My daughter Connor won her election as School Secretary.  My father drove me to paroxysms of jealousy by posting his photos and log from the open-ocean passage from Antigua to Newport which he took as my stand-in.  My love checked out Peak’s Island, Maine, for our wedding.

My world here, on the other hand, is so divorced from all of this goodness that sometimes it is difficult to relate the two.  This week I was an usher at a memorial service for a comrade, dealt as best I could with death threats to one of our translators, and breathed about four pounds of dust during the course of two sandstorms.

The foundations, social and cultural, of the word ‘laconic’ now make much more sense.

No letters this week please. Next week, but not this one.  Thank you.

End Major Bateman

I watched “Cast a Giant Shadow,” here, on Showtime the other day, for the first time since my parents took me to see it in 1966.  It’s a bad movie, and far worse as history, but it’s got a terrific cast (John Wayne, Frank Sinatra and Yul Brynner are unbilled.)  My reason for mentioning it is that it is brilliant propaganda of the kind that cannot be purchased.  (Ditto, Exodus, with Paul Newman playing Ari Ben-Cannan.)  Millions of American Jews, like yours truly, were raised on this stuff and hence, are unable to contemplate the possibility that all this heroism came at a price of profound injustice to the (invisible, to American Jews) Palestinians who were displaced.  The organized American Jewish community feels that it remains its responsibility to continue to perpetuate this charade today.  Nothing in life is so dangerous as little knowledge masquerading as the whole story.  Imagine if the Palestinians had a propaganda machine like this one.  Imagine if they had significant representation in the U.S. media.  It would be a different world.

And given what so many American Jews insist on believing—and are instructed to believe by Jewish organizations, how to make sense of this awful story?  I don’t know which part is more disturbing; that these murders took place or that the conscience-stricken confessions have resulted in virtually no reaction in Israel.

Now meet Daniel Lapin, a close friend of Jack Abramoff, and a close adviser to Boston Globe editorial page Jewish experts, Nick King and Cathy Young.

And here we find, that Mr. King and Ms. Young are in serious contention for yet another position, though Steinsaltz is likely to prove no pushover.

Poor Wal-Mart says critics aren't being fair when they attack the company over its skimpy employee health benefits.  But Jonathan Cohn at TNR says that as long as Wal-Mart and other corporate lobbies keep blocking universal health care reform, they deserve all the grief they're getting.  That’s here.

And while we have him, here’s Cohn on Pedro M. whom he misses dearly, and should.  Look at the guy’s stats:

I'm not surprised Pedro is doing this well.

  1. New league, new opponents.  Pitchers like Pedro lose their effectiveness as hitters get familiar with them, particularly given today's imbalanced schedules.  That's why by last year he couldn't shut down the Yankees anymore (or, in many cases, the Blue Jays and orioles, either).  But he was absolutely sensational against St. Louis.

  2. Something to prove.  Pedro has played very cautiously the last two years because of injury fears.  But it sounds like he's throwing a lot harder now.  I chalk that up partly to comfort with the injury and security from the long-term deal, but partly because he's out to show Boston they were wrong.

The catch is how long he can keep this up.  Boston balked at the big contract because they wouldn't go four years guaranteed.  The Mets would.  I’m guessing he won't make it that far, at least pitching at this level.  But if he keeps pitching this well, it will be more than worth the year or two of wasted contract...

Does Digby sound like anybody we used to know?

Victory against big media, here.

Who says the youth of America have lost their idealism?  Looky here

Katherine Rogers, a junior at Georgetown, is spending the summer in the Keith and Lois Mitchell room, on the Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Smyth floor, just upstairs from the Norma Zindahl Intern Lounge, which is adjacent to the William J. Lehrfeld Intern Center.  Ms. Rogers's father is a longtime Heritage donor, and she is working in donor relations, which she thinks will be useful in her intended career as a pharmaceutical lobbyist.

Alter reviews

My two favorite commercially obscure rock albums of the past decade off the top of my head are “Who the Hell is John Eddie” by John Eddie, here, and “Straight Down Rain” by Greg Trooper.  Go buy both of them now.  I can wait.

OK, I haven’t heard from Mr. Eddie since that wonderful album, but I just happened on two later Greg Trooper albums.  There’s a live one which is pretty great too.  There’s a really funny song about being French, but a lot of other excellent stuff as well. That one’s called “Between a House and a Hard Place.”  The new one, called “Make it Through the World” is growing me on me too, but I can’t yet tell if it makes the leap into totally excellentness on nearly every song that characterizes “Straight Down Rain.”  Anyway, it’s on Sugarhill and you can read all about it here and trust me on the two above, anyway.


A lot of people think the Bob Seger story begins around the time of 1977's "Night Moves," but he'd been making great records that barely got heard outside Detroit for a decade before that, all of which kick "Against The Wind"'s ass.  "SMOKIN' O.P.'S" ("O.P.'s" stands for "Other People's songs"), from 1972, is about as kickass as a rock and roll record gets.  Blistering takes through such classics as "Bo Diddley," "Love The One You're With," "Turn On Your Lovelight," and probably the best version of Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock" ever recorded, makes "Smokin' O.P.'s" one great rock and roll record.  And now you can hear for yourself, thanks to its new, long-awaited reissue on CD!

It’s on Capitol and there’s a song list here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: C.J. Valentine
Hometown: NY, NY
You've have stated many, many times that William Safire lied when he said that the meeting between Mohammad Atta and Iraqi intelligence took place.  I'm assuming that you're basing this conclusion on the unnamed sources within the CIA (and other government agencies) that claimed that no meeting ever took place.  However, you have repeatedly failed to address the contention, by the Czech government itself, that this meeting DID take place on April 8, 2001.  Both Hynek Kmonicek (part of the Czech diplomatic delegation to the UN) and Stanislav Gross (Undersec. of Interior for the Czech government) have both gone on record as saying that BIS (Czech intel. agency) observed a meeting between Atta and Iraqi diplomat al-Ani, and have never backed off their statements.  Vaclav Havel never backed off this contention either, and the Iraqi diplomat in question was ejected from Czech Republic for "activities incompatible with diplomatic duties."  It stands to reason that these are things you should clarify on your blog in regards to Safire, because it is rather odd that the Czech government hasn't backed off their story, yet you charge that Safire has lied repeatedly in regards to it.  Hopefully you can address this discrepancy and eliminate any confusion regarding this story once and for all.

Eric replies:

Dear C.J.,
Look, Safire’s “lie” was in calling the meeting an “undisputed fact.”  Clearly it was at best, a extremely disputed fact.  But of course it was never a fact at all, merely an unsupported allegation by a single Czech intelligence agent with a long history of alcohol abuse.  (Not unlike, I might add, the single sonarman who mistakenly believed that an attack took place in the Gulf of Tonkin on August 4, 1964.)  Alas, the information you offer -assuming it is accurate and regarding Havel, I don’t think it is— is well out of date.  U.S. forces captured the head of Iraqi secret service who explained that no meeting took place.  The 9/11 Commission concluded that no reputable evidence for a meeting could be found.  Were it not for the fact that it is impossible to prove a negative, we could say with certainty that no such meeting took place.  Or put it this way: there is as much hard evidence that the head of Iraqi secret service met with Atta in Prague to plan 9/11 as there is that Dick Cheney did.

Name: Michael Rapoport
Eric: Outrageous concert ticket prices, part XXVIII: I'd love to see Al Green in a club, but $175

Haven't seen it yet, but here's Brian Wilson's "Smile" on DVD - a live performance plus the Showtime history/making-of documentary. And this one is apropos of nothing but glancing at my bookshelf this morning and seeing this book ... but Postman's little classic seems more prophetic with each passing year, don't it?

Eric replies: Amusing… was the first book I assigned in “Understanding Media” last semester.

Name: W. Lewis
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
A number of years back I was a single dad with full custody of my son.  Loudon Wainwright's song "Being a Dad" brought tears to my eyes and I realized I had heard a no more truthful and insightful summation from any of my favorite singer/songwriters ever before.  He doesn't rock but...he rocks!

June 13, 2005 | 12:35 PM ET | Permalink

The phony center, continued

Journalism doesn’t get any more highfalutin than George Washington University Law Professor and New Republic legal editor, Jeffrey Rosen, writing in the extensively fact-checked New York Times Magazine, which is why I was pretty depressed to see this article in which Rosen does the following:

  1. Bases his analysis on a single poll, which pollsters and presumably Rosen knows, you never do.
  2. Conflates that into an “it would seem that, on balance” statement, which as we all know, is journalistic permission to say anything you want.  ("It would seem, on balance, that Hillary Clinton and Satan are one and the same person...")
  3. Conflates that, a paragraph later into an established fact, and then bases an entire article on this still, wholly unproven contention.

What I find even more annoying about the piece is the ideological sleight of hand that appears just beneath it.  Note the use of the phrase “polarized party leaders.”  Now I suppose in a narrow fashion that might be accurate, but it is also profoundly and purposely misleading.  The Republicans are currently led by an extremist faction in the Senate and an extremist and thoroughly corrupt faction in the House.  (Think I overstate?  Read Elizabeth Drew, here, and John Judis, here)  The Democrats, on the other hand, are doing what little they can as an abused minority to prevent some of the more outrageous actions of the Republicans from coming into being.  None of these actions have any public support—whether ruining Social Security or intervening in the life or death decisions of families or abolishing the filibuster.  So how can Rosen say the Democratic positions are not consistent with those of Americans?  All they are doing— trying to do—is block unpopular laws from being passed.  How is that less consistent with the beliefs of the American people than the unelected Supreme Court?  Need I add that more people voted for Democratic congressional candidates in 2004 than they did Republicans?  (The fact that this does not matter is another example of just how undemocratic is our present electoral system.)

Anyway, the entire premise of Rosen’s piece is not merely unproven, it is wrong on its face.  When a tiny minority of Americans expresses approval of two houses of Congress that are run by Republicans they are not, in any way, passing judgment on Democrats.  Democrats have almost nothing to do with anything that ends up happening on Capital Hill these days except for the delay of a few votes.

The net result is the set up of a phony center between those crazy Republicans and those crazy Democrats; sanity as they keep telling us, between the extremes of left and right.  True, there’s no left anywhere in the piece, but that’s how we do things here in the liberal media.

How Ironic…  What’s the most ironic thing to happen in the world since Alanis Morrrisette sang a song called “Ironic” without understanding what the word actually meant?  How about, a page after Rosen, William Safire writing a column about the journalistic phenomenon of “retraction” without any mention of the fact that a certain William Safire has written, and never retracted, in the paper of record, that it was an "undisputed fact" that, just five months prior to 9/11, Mohamed Atta had met secretly in Prague with a top-ranking Iraqi intelligence officer.  That’s not a “fact” but a falsehood and it remains one of the countless blemishes on the reputation of the New York Times’ failure to inform its readers of the extent to which the Bush administration and its congressional allies sought to mislead the nation into this ruinous and profoundly counterproductive war.  Anyway, that’s here.

Still, just imagine if this guy were still editing the Times Magazine.  Amazing that Vanity Fair would run this awful crap.  Another liberal media conspiracy, I suppose…

One more thing about Sunday’s Times:  This story is pretty gross on a purely moral level, rich people being celebrated for buying themselves Mercedeses, here, but I also don’t believe that the caption of the photo, which purports to capture the ladies congratulating one another after their brave purchases, can possibly be true.  How was it that these ladies happen to have a New York Times photographer present when they celebrated their presents to themselves?  Or did they re-enact their rite of conspicuous consumption for the photographer later, and someone at the Times who labeled it pretended that they had gotten the real thing?  I know it doesn’t matter, but a newspaper’s reputation rests on its telling the “best available version of the truth,” and I just don’t see how this can possibly be true.  (The second photo is not available online.  It was only in the print version.)

Oh yeah, another thing. I say, “ Boycott Barbie.”  We are.  (But we already were….)

Think Progress has the British Briefing Papers providing more evidence of Bush Administration duplicity in taking us into this ruinous, counterproductive war, here.  It’s painful to read.  Read Boehlert again if you missed it the first time.  Also, remember all those apologies we got from the Times and Post about their lapses in WMD coverage?  Well, they got another chance and…. What?

Zimbabwe:  It’s all Bono's fault.  Just ask those clever fellows at the WSJ, who by the way, print an extremely rare correction today.  It’s about Bob Casey’s having been barred from the Democratic convention, which is false.  In other words, you can’t even believe their corrections.  Casey was not barred from speaking because of his pro-life views; he insisted on denouncing the party’s platform.  How many Republican speakers over the years have denounced their party’s platforms?  (Subscription link.)

Well, it’s more reliable than the page you're writing on.

All Arianna, All the Time…

  • Is this the end of the AFL-CIO?  Until Harold Meyerson explains it, ask Andy Stern.
  • Quote of the Day: “Call us cynical, but how many straight guys in their mid-forties want to date a woman who won’t have sex with him?”
  • My Buddy Sean Daniel is looking out for the little guy in this torture mess, here.

This just in: Little Roy is free of diarrhea and nausea….

Alter-reviews: Cowboy Junkies Early 21st Century Blues

I have always liked the Cowboy Junkies' relaxed, almost lethargic pacing of their songs, but I think I liked them better on their covers of songs like Sweet Jane and Highway Patrolman.  They’ve got a wonderful new CD of only covers and forgive the cliché; it already feels like an old friend.  The song selection is exquisite (it’s here); and many of the songs are entirely re-imagined.  It’s a thoughtful, comfortable and in a weird way, sexy record.  It’s also kinda ballsy; I mean improving on versions of songs by their authors when their authors are Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, George Harrison and Bono, among others, is not easy.  Check it out.

And look at the terrific cover of this new Loudon Wainwright album.  Read the lovely little essay by the Loudmeister on this site and see if it doesn’t make you want to hear the music.  (“Lucy” is also our friend Suzzy’s daughter, by the way.)  Or listen to the samples.  It’s not easy making a living writing music for grown-ups, which I suppose is why the Loudster is raking it in Hollywood style in “The Aviator” and the new Cameron Crowe flick.  But he still does what he does best and this record has its gems, as well as its um, rockier points.  I do like the fact that the Web gives everybody the opportunity to appreciate the meanings and contexts of the songs, and hey, look at the musicians.  Guy must live right.

And while we’re talking music, there’ll be a great free concert by the Chico O'Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra conducted by Arturo O'Farrill to celebrate street corner renaming in honor Arturo "Chico" O'Farrill (just ten blocks from my place).

Wednesday, June 29, 2005 at 6:30 PM
Riverside Park at Soldiers and Sailors Monument
Between 88th and 89th Streets on Riverside Drive, in New York City

Featuring guest artist Wynton Marsalis

Followed by Street Corner Renaming Ceremony at 88th Street and West End

But if you aren't lucky enough to live here, maybe you live in one of these places:

Bruce Springsteen New U.S. Tour Dates

July 13      Ottawa, ON          Corel Centre
July 14      Toronto, ON         Air Canada Centre
July 16      Albany, NY          Pepsi Arena
July 18      Buffalo, NY         HSBC Arena
July 20      Bridgeport, CT      Arena at Harbor Yard
July 23      Atlanta, GA         Philips Arena
July 24      Charlotte, NC       Charlotte Coliseum
July 26      Greensboro, NC      Greensboro Coliseum
July 28      Pittsburgh, PA      Petersen Events Center
July 31      Columbus, OH        Schottenstein Center
August 1     Cincinnati, OH      U.S. Bank Arena
August 3     Grand Rapids, MI    Van Andel Arena
August 6     St. Louis, MO       Fox Theatre
August 7     Milwaukee, WI       Bradley Center
August 10    Portland, OR        Rosegarden Theatre of the Clouds
August 11    Seattle, WA         Key Arena
August 13    Vancouver, BC       Pontiac Theatre at GM Place

Correspondence Corner:

Name:  Eric Rauchway
Re:  Historical narrative

A word on behalf of Charles and Mary Beard's Rise of American Civilization, originally 1927, one-volume, modified edition 1930.  It's an account of American history from colonization to Coolidge written with equal regard for intellectual rigor and entertaining anecdote.  The Beards wrote in a voice now not much heard in our discourse, full equally of moral horse sense and simple delight at the scoundrelly spectacle of which much of American history is necessarily composed.  Although the book is best-known for having a remarkably consistent and clearly thought-out interpretation of why things happen the way they do (and I won't spoil it by summarizing it) I cherish it for its stories and its jokes.  It combines highbrow history with good humor.  Highly recommended.

Okay, two words about the book.  Charles Beard particularly is often recalled as a radical.  This is not entirely right, I think.  I have read that he was fond of pointing out that his father's name was William Henry Harrison Beard (and that this told you everything you needed to know about why he disagreed with his contemporary interpreter of American history, whose father was named Andrew Jackson Turner), and that he inherited a good deal of Whiggish Republicanism.  So did his wife, Mary Ritter.  And there remained something of the Republican in them to the end of their days.

Fine, three words.  It's a scandal, a shanda, a literary oversight of epic proportion that you can't go to your local bookshop and buy The Rise of American Civilization in an inexpensive paperback with a nice introduction explaining why you want to read it.  If there are any publishers reading Altercation who want to rectify this, please e-mail me.  I've written about the Beards and would love to do an introduction to such an edition.

Name: Jeff Thomas
Hometown: Brighton, MI
I wonder how Bush is viewing Mr. Blair these days?  Ally or foe?  Certainly revelations from 10 Downing Street haven't done Bush any favors and seem to support my suspicion that he had the Iraq invasion on his mind well before he was ever elected - let's call it a gift to Daddy.  In any case, we've all heard of "Bushisms", but I recently read what I would call a "Wolfowitz-ism."  How in the world can the Bush Administration think we have any "faith" in what they are talking about? 

Here's the "Wolfowitz-ism": Testimony by then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz, one of the chief architects of Iraq policy, before a House subcommittee on Feb. 28, 2003, just weeks before the invasion, illustrated the optimistic view the administration had of postwar Iraq.  He said containment of Hussein the previous 12 years had cost "slightly over $30 billion," adding, "I can't imagine anyone here wanting to spend another $30 billion to be there for another 12 years."  As of May, the Congressional Research Service estimated that Congress has approved $208 billion for the war in Iraq since 2003.  (WP, Walter Pincus, 6/12/2005).  Maybe we could have used that money for Social Security...

Name: Brian Kresge
Hometown: Lancaster, PA

Dr. Alterman,
I read with great interest the article about the overzealous Marine recruiters that Gregory Gadow supplied.  Just this past Tuesday, I spent the day being poked and prodded at the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Military Entrance Processing Station.  At age 29, I've enlisted in the National Guard after an almost 6 year hiatus from the infantry.  I was in part inspired by Major Bob Bateman's postings to your blog, and his pleasant and what must be time-consuming responses to individual e-mails.  In lieu of casualties suffered by other elements of the PA Guard in Iraq, I'm quite sure it doesn't come without danger.  I'd sure miss my two darling girls quite a bit.  Besides myself, there was only one other individual over 25 present for the physical examination.  Most of the others were recent high school graduates, with wide-eyes and nascent separation anxiety.  As a rule, almost all of them were accompanied by their recruiter (or liaison).  If they have second thoughts, their recruiter or liaison is there to verbally strong-arm them back into it, make no mistake.  Almost 12 years ago, I had those second thoughts, and I was talked back into it through such devices as guilt and minor intimidation.  I'm glad I affirmed the oath, ultimately, but then, we weren't engaged in ongoing varying-intensity conflict either.  The only thing I would change was the nonsense I endured over being an observant Jew.  I believe that the story from Seattle is true, but shaped from the parental point of view.  I've no doubt that the Marines said what they said, and no doubt cowed the young man into coming, but they probably did not take him against his will.  It seems, from what I know of the process, that the young man might have come across as uncertain but ultimately yielding.  An aggressive recruiter will certainly focus on such individuals.  Right or wrong, it has been this way for longer than the recent conflict.  At MEPS in Pennsylvania, the commanding officer, himself a Marine, encourages the parents of children to be present for the Oath of Enlistment, to ask questions and to be a participant in the process, even if the applicant is 18 or older.  If anything, I think the veracity of the recruiting process has improved significantly in spite of the war.  Applicants were told numerous times on Tuesday that "if you don't get a promise in writing, it doesn't exist."  Every one of the enlistees I spoke to were confident that they had realistic expectations regarding their service.  Many of them will be in for a rude awakening.  They were not the dregs, either, but almost all of them were from lower middle class or lower class families.  My parents, Vietnam-era hippies both, were concerned when I chose to become a paratrooper.  They would still agree, as would many, that the vast majority of military recruiters are honest.  In most cases, the recruiter involves the parents at all points to assuage their misgivings.  I can't comment on the politics of the situation, but the military is in a position where forces are being simultaneously deployed and restructured.  The demands aren't likely to change, so neither is the need for "fresh meat."  Recruiters, being humans accountable to certain rules, will invariably bend said rules when numbers are not being met.  Would a draft be better?  No matter what, the current situation just doesn't seem sustainable.  Perhaps if the Pentagon would just study Talmud...

Name: Karl the Idiot
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Telling the Truth Dept: "That line is nothing but a two-cent rip-off of America's greatest humorist, Mark Twain": who ripped it off from someone himself, no doubt.  Here comes the medievalist trapdoor: the earliest version that I know is Jerome, "Oblitus veteris proverbii, mendaces memores esse oportere" [Unmindful of the old proverb, it behooves liars to have good memories], but this already Old Proverb perhaps was from Quintillian, "Mendacem memorem esse oportere," Institutes iv.2.

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