June 30, 2005 | 4:22 PM ET | Permalink

I’ve got a new Nation column on Rove, Durbin and liberal dilemmas: “Lying Liars & the Presidents Who Employ Them," here.

Name: Major Bob Bateman
Dateline: Baghdad, Iraq

Patience

The e-mail in my inbox was the same one I get every month, “Your Leave and Earnings Statement is now available at MyPay.”  It is a nice cheery sort of e-mail, with some pleasing formatting and a moderate amount of aesthetics.  Enough, anyway, to make it abundantly clear that it wasn’t the product of the Army, per se, but of our adjunct faculty, the Department of the Army civilian side of the house.

MyPay is the web-portal into the Army pay system.  Once we received our “LES” from the First Sergeant (via the administration clerk) at the end of the month, usually in a mass formation.  Now it comes online with some pretty graphics.  I suppose this is much the same for most of America.  Electronic bookkeeping is so much easier, and the mantra to “go paperless,” has advantages.  But few outside the military, I suspect, have to deal with screw-ups in pay quite as frequently as we do.  Logging on with my account information and password, I checked my end-of-month statement.  Force of habit…you never know.  Thirty seconds later I was grabbing my rifle, strapping on my battle-rattle to the resigned, “Yep, been there before,” chuckles of my mates, and headed out the door.

It is now well past the “Human Hot,” phase of the year here.  We are in the “Inhumanly Hot,” section of the summer.  There is only one higher rating on the Bateman scale, “Satanic.”  That comes next month, yet I am disinclined to spend more time than is necessary in full-battle rattle already.  Since, however, even the shortest trip around here requires this level of “force protection,” I have no choice.  Within a few hundred yards I was soaked.  This does not, generally, raise my mood.

I don’t mind coming here anymore than the next soldier.  I signed up for this life and walked through the door with my eyes wide open.  I’ve been around the world, in comfortable and uncomfortable circumstances, and not even muttered.  Like any soldier, I’ve stood long hours in formations with no discernable purpose, endured extremes of weather, and seen my household goods treated like trash by mobsters masquerading as moving company employees eight different times.  I’ve done all of this without (much) complaint, because it was part of the package.  But there is one thing that pisses me off.

Five times in my military career, which is only sixteen years thus far, the Army system screwed up somewhere and as a result my pay has been slashed, or in two cases, completely stopped, due to “Administrative Errors.”  That was what the oh-so-friendly graphics on the MyPay site informed me this time.  My sum pay for the month of June was $0.00.

I pity the soldiers and sergeants that have to work in Finance offices, especially here.  A pay problem stateside is often cleared up in minutes.  Here it may be days, or weeks, before a deployed soldier even knows that somehow the system blew a gasket, again.  And this is not infrequent.  Even our current Chief of Staff of the Army had an awakening to this fact a few months after being called out of retirement to take over the position.  It seems that his wife received a letter in the mail informing her that since her husband was dead…  (It turns out that when he came back on Active Duty, one hand of the pay system did not tell the other, and the computers came to the logical conclusion that he was dead.)  Here, when something like this happens, the soldiers which the finance personnel have to deal with are arriving fresh off the streets of the cities of Iraq, in full battle-rattle, armed, and really really hot.

In the end, of course, I met a competent sergeant and we are fixing the problem.  That is what sergeants do after all.  They make the Army work.  In this case he queried the system and discovered why I was suddenly a non-person so far as the payroll was concerned.

It seems that when I arrived here, physically, in January, the electrons which represent the virtual me did not manage the same trip.  I was not “arrived,” in the computers here in this Theater of Operations, and so my database self existed in some sort of computer-generated half-way house for lo these many months.  Until, of course, some hyper-efficient person or program (I don’t really know which), probably located in Indianapolis, but perhaps in some cool Ohio suburb with tree-lined streets and picket fences, decided that the simplest way to solve the situation was to cut off my pay and determine where the screams came from to turn it back on.

Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to be a soldier.

BAGHDAD WITHIN EARSHOT:

My daughters are in Florida for the first half of their summer vacation.  As my oldest, Morgan, intends to be a “Marine Mammal Biologist” (and has held true to this desire for more than six years now), she is quite excited about a summer camp she’ll be attending down there.

In general the trend towards fewer firefights remains, at least within my hearing range, though obviously the explosions of the past week have been significant.  The Karada district of Baghdad is on the opposite side of the river from where I live.  I was shaving when my trailer started shaking from the blasts as they were hammered hard this past week, with four synchronized explosions in the neighborhood within minutes.  There is not a U.S. presence anywhere in the area.  These attacks slaughtered Iraqi civilians.  To what end?

Write to Major Bob at: Bateman_Maj@hotmail.com

Name: Sheryl Hanchar
Hometown:  Balad, Iraq
Subject: Girls

Dear Eric,
Things are not great here this week.  I met 2 of the female marines that got jacked up.  The others came in and they pulled birds out of the sky to get them to Germany.  It's not a good scene.  One navy girl didn't make it.  She was in for 22 years could have retired. :(  Bad scene... not much left... not much left they can find of others... it's bad.  We have been on standby for the patriot detail which is when they walk the casket to the plane, but they still haven't well... they say MIA... its just bad.  The 2 girls I spoke with... hands both wrapped up... both badly burned and shrapnel in 1 of the girls face...

Mortars are flying here nightly... it's not good feeling.  You lay in bed which is surrounded by 4 feet of sandbags except for the door and you hear them ... you know when and where they landed and you calculate in your head how far off they were.  Sometimes they land 20 feet of us... other times a mile but you just wonder if they made adjustments on the stuff that the next will land in your hooch.  You lay in bed and pray curled up as small as you can.  It's not good.  At work, you have to sit on the floor and wait... if they land close you run for a concrete bunker... it's not good.  Lots of fear, lots of prayers... lots of wondering and well... you walk down the road at night and wonder if something will just fall out of the sky at your feet and kill you...pray it kills you.

That's the truth... war is not fun.

End Sheryl (And thanks Petey).

“Mr. Novak has hardly hidden from public view in the midst of the Plame case,” writes my friend Jacque Steinberg of The New York Times, here.  Of course, Altercation readers know he has done just that, breaking a contract and costing the University of California at Santa Barbara many thousands of dollars and lost man-hours, when he could not control the questions or the questioner.

Given the convoluted ownership structure of this site, I don’t know if I have a dog in this fight or not, but I do know that the folks at NBC News got  to make the smart guys at ABC News' “The Note” feel awfully stupid yesterday, here.

You know, The New York Times drives me crazy (perhaps literally), and it is a newspaper that gratuitously attacks liberals far more often than it expresses their prejudices, but we should note every once in a while what an amazing achievement it is to produce a newspaper this rich every day.  I loved reading the profile of the reconstituted Sun Ra Arkestra, here, this morning.  I thought Alessandra Stanley’s take on Tucker Carlson’s new show to be smart and well-grounded, as well as well-written, both on the same page.  And look at all the small theaters that are now getting their plays reviewed.  In fact, I think the entire expansion of the culture section has been a boon to all the arts; particularly the arts in the world’s capital of the arts, where I happen to live.

I’ve not had a chance to do justice to the “Class in America” series.  I’ve merely saved it in my computer and plan to turn to it when the time comes for my books on American liberalism, but the mere fact of so many resources and so much time and attention being focused on the issue which remains invisible except when being cynically exploited on cable TV is a marvel and a wonder.  (Laurel, too, to the Wall Street Journal, for its much less ambitious series, which by the way, highlights once again the disjunction between that terrific newspaper and its comically nutty editorial page.)

Still, I wish I hadn’t written all that on a day when it was covering up for “ Mr. Count-the-Jews-for-that-anti-Semite-Nixon."

What this country needs, along with a new president, Congress, Supreme Court, etc, is a Roy Orbison stamp, here.

Alter-reviews

TV alert:  All four of the season’s “Entourage” are on HBO tonight.  It’s the best summer series of all time; or at least the most fun.  But also, a movie that never made it to the theaters, but I saw at a film festival and always loved, “Live Nude Girls” is on the Women’s Entertainment channel, twice.  It’s a chick flick, but a smart and savvy one, for grown-ups.  On HBO2 is the lovely, understated, but extremely good-willed, “Girl in a Café,” which I promise is the best love story ever made that focuses on a G-8 conference.  You don’t have to watch that tonight, though.  They show it all the time.  All of them, I promise, will be better than Alanis Morrissette on VH-1, except when she’s singing “You Oughta Know.”

If you do go to a theater, and live somewhere cool, I will refund your money (not really, but if you were my friend, I would), if you don’t love “Caterina in the Big City,” a wonderfully moving Italian political parable about social warfare between teenage girls and “Look At Me,” a beautiful, knowing French film about fame and relationships.  Both movies make Hollywood look like a home for arrested mental and emotional development.  If you’re ordering a DVD, I admired and enjoyed the latest installment of Ross McElwee’s video autobiography, "Bright Leaves,” just released by First Run Features, which focuses on his family’s relationship to the tobacco industry, among a great deal else.  If Reality TV were a quarter as quirky, intelligent and sensitive as Mr. McElwee was, it would suck about a millionth as much as it does.  These movies of his seem to go on forever, which makes them relaxing and comforting, and makes it easier to work while they’re on; a perfect movie, therefore, in my opinion, save for the lack of any live nude girls.  If you’re unfamiliar with the man’s oeuvre, go here, and start with “Sherman’s March.”

Books on Tape:  I do most of my reading for pleasure on tape—or now, on iPod.  Right now I’m listening to the 25 CD version of I Am Charlotte Simmons, (George Bush’s favorite book after the one about the goat).  Tom Wolfe is a marvel of a writer.  It’s weird that he wanted to waste his overflowing talent on so easy and ultimately insignificant a target as student life at an elite university, but it sure is entertaining.  What I want to say about it, however, is that this unabridged version of it is the best read book I think I’ve ever heard.  The reading is not reading, but acting, by someone named Dylan Baker.  That’s here.  And as someone who suffered through trying to get six or so hours of What Liberal Media down, here, I have to tell you, this is hard, hard work, even for those of us who, I now see, read “like a fervent political science or journalism professor might, listing facts and citing reports, then adding his own inflections to emphasize points,” and speak like a “Queens, N.Y., native … with a slight accent and an even slighter lisp, but this does not detract from his heated, heartfelt performance.”

Anyway back to poor no-longer virginal Charlotte, congrats to everyone involved with this project.

More Correspondence:

Name: Keith Higgs
Hometown: North Olmsted, OH
Major Bateman has got to be one of the coolest of our fine men and women in service.  I owe a completely unpayable debt of gratitude to the fine, brave men and women like him who have made it possible for me to have never seen military action.  I was just too young for Viet Nam, then medically ineligible, and finally just too old for everything since.  Whatever we're paying those men and women - it's not enough to compensate them for the sketchy reasons for being in Iraq instead of Afghanistan.  Perhaps we can get that C student who lives in the big house on Pennsylvania Avenue to sign over his pension when his term is up.

Name: Jim Hassinger
Hometown: Glendale, CA
May I make a humble suggestion?  As much as I would like to pull our troops out of the Iraq meatgrinder immediately, I reluctantly side with voices like Wesley Clark's: we must save the wretched enterprise for ours and the Iraqis' sakes, if not the world's.  But there are some very respectable voices calling for a date certain, a schedule of pullouts, that would announce to all concerned by what date we must go.  Again, I have to sadly conclude that this would have the effect of giving the strategic advantage to the guerillas/terrorists/whomever.  But how about this: we declare, first of all, that we're really there until the Iraqis are running their affairs, and not a day longer.  Those "permanent" military bases?  Only if the parliament asks us.  If the Iraqi assembly comes up with a constitution, there goes a certain percentage of the foreign occupiers.  If they bring the Sunnis into the cabinet, there goes another bunch of GIs.  Full and fair elections?  We're gone within 3 or 4 months, subject only to appeals by a majority of the Iraqi parliament.  In other words, have some of the smart people at State, someone who is not from Mars, and has been keeping his head down since Bolton started roaming the halls, announce a series of quid pro quos.  We leave when you tell us you're ready.  In other words, Bush could claim victory, and the support of a new Iraqi government, for whatever they told us to do.  That's fine with me, because I have little doubt that we will be requested to leave as a condition of the Sunni/Shi'a peace that might have a chance to break out if they know that, by doing so, they'll get rid of us.  I know, it won't work, because it's rational.

Name: Larry M. Beasley
Hometown: Pflugerville, Texas
Dear Eric,
Please consider one of Napoleon's many comments on armed conflict.  "Before a single shot is fired the outcome of any battle has already been predetermined by the quartermasters."  (Please, forgive the paraphrasing -I haven't studied the Napoleonic Wars for a couple of decades.)  Considering the substance (or lack thereof) of GW's latest speech, this administration is more prepared to gamble our nation's fortunes than call for the necessary sacrifices to ensure the victory they claim is so critical.  But hey, two more years and the buck gets passed.  As for the comparisons to Vietnam; remember, we faced a guerilla force embedded in and indistinguishable from the general population.  Also, we had no control over the borders of the conflict.  It's deja vu all over again!!!

Name: Ron Curtiss
Hometown: Studio City, CA
Hey Eric:
What about some opinion on Live8?  I know your idol Bruce is not involved, but what do you think of the whole thing?  I'd be curious and frankly I'm stunned that it has yet to be mentioned (unless you did and I missed it!) Thanks.

Eric replies:  Dear Ron, I don’t comment on most things.  I’m just one guy and I like to know about what I’m talking.  Anyway, I’m in favor of anything that separates wealthy people from their money and turns it over to poor people.  I’m in favor of Bono.  I’m not surprised Bruce is not playing; unless it’s a spontaneous thing, it’s either Bruce’s show or Bruce doesn’t play, that’s the rule.  But the truth is, while I’m glad about the money, and the attention that will be paid to Africa, there’s nothing in world I find as tiresome as unbelievably wealthy rock stars congratulating themselves for their highly-developed sense of social conscience for doing a gig that will bring them more attention (and therefore money) than anything else they could possibly do.  Well, one thing, and that’s suck-up MTV “VJs” doing the same, over and over, interminably.  I watched practically all of Live Aid and when it was over, I would have donated all the money I had in the world if the Good Year Blimp had come down on top of those damn VJs, particularly that Mark Goodman guy, who wouldn’t shut up during “Let it Be,” and acted like it was somehow a wonderful thing that Zep would play “Stairway.”  Plus, the music in Philly does not at all appeal, save Stevie Wonder (last I checked).  London looks good, but it’s a little far to go, and I’ve long since given up on the idea that rock music exercises any political power, save the power to raise money.

Anyway, sure, give them money.  Watch if you want.  But don’t confuse it with the people who do the really hard work to save Africans from the various scourges they now face, including, unfortunately, the contempt of the current United States Government.  (But let’s hope the Bush-bashing on stage is intelligent, lest it backfire, as it so often does when coming out of the mouths of wealthy rock stars.)

One more thing.  Last time, they lost millions and millions of dollars because they did not keep the credit card donation lines open and most Americans are too lazy to write a check.  If they do that again, well, Sir Bob, Sir Paul (He of $350 ticket prices) and Sir-to-Be Bono should cut a check for the difference.

Name: Mark Johnson
Hometown: Chicago
Eric,
When I was 17 years old something compelled me to buy "The Clash" by the Clash.  It changed my life but I am damned if I know what made me pick it up.  (And I have even less of an idea how I managed to make my late-'70s-rock addled brain overcome initial "yuck" reaction to it.)  I tell this because I really don't want to plunk down my dollars to buy a Richard Starkey record even if it is very good.  Could you and Sal occasionally comment on something new in the rock and/or roll realm?  The last two dozen records I have bought have been jass or classical and I'd like to buy something from the rock section that isn't the equivalent of buying Rachmaninoff string trios that haven't been recorded or a Stan Getz that's been released on CD.  The new can be a very good thing.

Eric replies:
Dear Mark,
I’ll say it again. “We” are only one Web site.  There’s no shortage of Web sites that do what you ask.  We like what we like.  We’re sorry.  (And it’s spelled “Jazz” by the way.)

Name: Tim Kane
Hometown: St. Louis
Eric:
In President Bush's speech Tuesday night he mentioned that the insurgency was rife with foreign terrorist elements.  It seems to me that they had to cross Iraq's border to get there.  Gee, somehow Saddam was able to control Iraq's borders but the United States armed forces cannot?  How can this be?  Perhaps Saddam was able to enforce his borders because he had enough forces to do the job, at least 400,000 at the time of the invasion.  Then again, by not controlling Iraq's borders, it allows the enemy to come to us, albeit at the expense of a normal and safe daily life for the Iraqis. 

"Bring it on!" said the President, once upon a hubris.  This strategy is a version of the French strategy at Diem Bien Phu, except in a remote desert, urban setting instead of a remote jungle setting.  At Diem Bien Phu the Viet Minh brought it.  Of course we did much better than the French using the same sort of tactics elsewhere in Vietnam - so it's not always futile.  But it leaves me confused.  Are we in Iraq to bring Iraqis a stable, prosperous democratic Iraq or to use Iraq simply as our battlefield of choice against "Osama Bin Forgotten's" legions?  Did we simply opt to fight in Iraq instead of the Tora Bora mountains?  Yes, it shortened our communications a bit, but it's hard to beat your enemy in Iraq when they are headquartered 1200 miles away in another country.  This creates a situation where you can kill your enemy, but never defeat him.  And if he can't be defeated, you can never be victorious.  And if you can never be victorious, you can only be defeated.  I'm sure they teach all that stuff at West Point.

This suggests that perhaps the real goal is to string the war out so that President Bush can go on exercising Presidential war power authority, undermine the middle and working classes, loot the treasury and the spoils of war for his cohorts, all the while distracting the public all at the same time.  It's horrible policy, at every single instance, but makes for nifty, if unsightly, politics.  I know this all sounds enormously cynical.  But, after all, while Bush is asking Americans to support the troops in Iraq, he's busy cutting their health benefits to balance the budget back in the United States.  He would cut soldiers benefits before rolling back tax cuts for billionaires.  It's hard not to be cynical. 

Of course Bush can't do anything else than stay the course.  He can't bring troop levels up to where they need to be to secure Iraq, that would involve a draft and he doesn't have the moral authority to get Americans to go along with that anymore: Though he might have immediately after 9/11.  He can't use foreign troops; he doesn't have the moral authority to do that anymore either.  Besides, using foreign troops makes it that much harder to confer the spoils of war upon his cohorts - German's won't die for Halliburton's profits.  And Bush can't leave Iraq because civil war would break out - that or Iranian and Turkish troops would be rushing in to fill the vacuum and Israel could suddenly have a nightmare on its eastern flank.

So it seems we will likely have more of the same until 2008.  Nevertheless President Bush seemed to announce his strategy for our exit from Iraq: We would stand down once the Iraqi's stood up.  There again, isn't that what we did in Vietnam?  Just a month ago conservatives were blaming liberals for America's humiliation in Vietnam.  Peggy Noonan suggesting the distraction of Watergate brought on by vindictive liberals kept Nixon from bringing his genius to bear on Vietnam.  It's not the first time I've heard conservatives use the "stabbed-in-the-back-by-liberals" rhetoric concerning Vietnam.  Never mind that Graham Green predicted the outcome in Vietnam 20 years earlier when he sat down to write "The Quiet American."  By 1972 the United States had had nearly 20 years of experience in Vietnam, and Nixon nearly 4 of his own.  Graham Green notwithstanding, if there was genius available to out wit his hypothesis on the geopolitics of Vietnam, it would have manifested itself long before Watergate.  Now, what has turned out to be the worst-case solution in Vietnam suddenly seems to have become President Bush's best-case solution in Iraq: They stand up, we stand down.  Perhaps, if only we had the so-called liberal media bias that we had back in Nixon's day around now, newspapers across the land would have headlined their coverage of Bush's speech with:  "President Bush announces that he is pursuing the 'Vietnam end-game strategy for Iraq.'"  If only.  The conservative response to such would have been enormously entertaining.  In geopolitics, it would seem that wishing upon a star is a weak hand.  I guess, the same could be said of domestic politics.  Like Bush in Iraq, that is all we Liberals in the United States have at the moment.

Best Regards.

June 29, 2005 | 3:40 PM ET | Permalink

Déjà vu times two
(Here we go again, again.)

In reading over the coverage of the president’s address this morning, I got a double dose of déjà vu.  First, Bush reminds me of his Old Man, or as he calls him, his “weak father,” in his steadfast inability to admit a mistake no matter how obvious or damaging.  Last night’s speech was a lot like the one George H.W. made—[he’s not a "senior" by the way]—right before the 1992 election that was designed to demonstrate that he understood and appreciated the nation’s economic pain, but demonstrated instead only his cluelessness and distance from the reality that so much of the country was experiencing.

Still, Bush I’s form of cluelessness was preferable in literally countless ways to that of Bush II because he believed in competence over ideology and because a president can do a lot less damage when he’s out to lunch on economic policy—over which, to be fair, he enjoys precious little direct control—than over ruinous, counterproductive and apparently endless wars that kill and wound our soldiers, deplete our military capacities, inspire hatred across the world and terrorists in the Arab world, costs hundreds of billions of dollars, and distract us from genuine threats from within and without.  That’s the kind of cluelessness Bush II demonstrates and it’s why so many people are thinking about Vietnam again, despite the obvious differences between the two.

And yes, there are obvious differences, there is no Soviet Union or China supporting the other side, and no Ho Chi Minh trail, to offer sanctuary, but in fact the similarities are becoming more important than the differences.  And though I try hard to resist the urge to remind everyone, those similarities were quite apparent to anyone who cared to look before our government embarked on this foolish misadventure and were purposely ignored by all the smart (chickenhawk) tough guys who now look down their noses at those of us whose judgments have been (more than) confirmed by History.  Anyway, the speech, reminding me of Vietnam, also reminded me of a list we reprinted here back in March, 2003, which originally appeared on something called “Mediawhoresonline Watch Watch.”  I never bothered to find out what or who was behind it (or why), but it sure does look prescient today.  Here it is:

VIETNAM 2 PREFLIGHT CHECK

  1. Cabal of oldsters who won’t listen to outside advice? Check.
  2. No understanding of ethnicities of the many locals? Check.
  3. Imposing country boundaries drawn in Europe, not by the locals? Check.
  4. Unshakeable faith in our superior technology? Check.
  5. France secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
  6. Russia secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
  7. China secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
  8. SecDef pushing a conflict the JCS never wanted? Check.
  9. Fear we’ll look bad if we back down now? Check.
  10. Corrupt Texan in the WH? Check.
  11. Land war in Asia? Check.
  12. Right unhappy with outcome of previous war? Check.
  13. Enemy easily moves in/out of neighboring countries? Check.
  14. Soldiers about to be dosed with *our own* chemicals? Check.
  15. Friendly fire problem ignored instead of solved? Check.
  16. Anti-Americanism up sharply in Europe? Check.
  17. B-52 bombers? Check.
  18. Helicopters that clog up on the local dust? Check.
  19. In-fighting among the branches of the military? Check.
  20. Locals that cheer us by day, hate us by night? Check.
  21. Local experts ignored? Check.
  22. Local politicians ignored? Check.
  23. Locals used to conflicts lasting longer than the USA has been a country? Check.
  24. Against advice, Prez won’t raise taxes to pay for war? Check.
  25. Blue water navy ships operating in brown water? Check.
  26. Use of nukes hinted at if things don’t go our way? Check.
  27. Unpopular war? Check.

Vietnam 2, you are cleared to taxi.

And Tom Shales is exactly wrong, here, where he declares,

In a time when some polls show the popularity of the news media to be even lower than the approval rating for Bush's conduct of the war, the managements of the networks may have feared hostile reaction if they didn't air the speech live.  Political conservatives keep up a steady drumbeat of hostility against the media, something the Bush administration does nothing to discourage.  Refusing to air the speech probably would have led to unpleasantness -- or at the least given the new subculture of bellicose bloggers another alleged media conspiracy to shriek about.

As we pointed out in this space on Monday, “'In fact, the favorable ratings for most categories of news organizations surpass positive ratings for President Bush and major political institutions the Supreme Court, Congress, and the two major political parties.'  That survey is here.” The fact that the networks showed this non-news speech demonstrates how profoundly these refs have been worked and how fearful they are of the wrath of the White House; it colors everything they report.  The mainstream media’s lack of confidence is among the most useful tools the administration has in its arsenal at this historical moment.  And it is based on a false understanding of reality, alas.

“I have known Judy Miller, a superb and intrepid reporter, for a generation; she'll never betray a source.”  Could there be a more inappropriate individual on Planet Earth to defend Miller than William Safire, here; the  man who joined her efforts to use the most influential newspaper on the planet to purposely help the administration deliberately mislead the nation into war?  (And can there be better proof anywhere that the Times is not, ultimately, a “liberal newspaper"?)  A genuinely liberal newspaper, like say, The Guardian or Liberation, would never employ a Judith Miller or a William Safire in the first place.  That said, I will be mightily impressed (and more than a little surprised) if Ms. Miller actually does go to jail for an extended period.  I don’t mean a couple of symbolic days.  I mean a whole sentence.  To be perfectly honest, I doubt I would.  (The same obviously goes for Matt Cooper, a much more credible and reliable reporter.)

We defy gravity, here.

Just when you thought right-wing settlers couldn’t get any crazier, here.

Karl Rove and Little Roy: Together Again, here.

Quote of the Day, I: “Appointing Bolton to the UN is like appointing a fish to ride a bicycle that he hates and wishes to destroy."  - Seth Johnson, Systems Analyst.

Quote of the Day, II:  "The second personal matter precluding my acceptance of your kind invitation is, I am afraid, financial."  - Shane M. Ridenhauer

Quote of the Day III, Larry David: “See, this is what he wants. He wants to get in your head. He wants to keep you up. You’re giving him what he wants! If he keeps us all up, we’ll be too tired to fight them. That’s their strategy, and you’re playing right into their hands.”

Alter-review

Ringo Starr, “Choose Love” by SAL, NYCD

Whether or not you want to believe it, Ringo Starr's last few albums have been genuinely enjoyable.  So if you've missed the boat on first-rate records like "Ringo Rama" and "Time Takes Time," you should hop on board for "Choose Love."  We can hear the guffaws a mile away, and that's OK.  You can spend your dollar on the obvious new releases, no matter how thin or overhyped they may be, but if you just stop and smell the roses, you'll realize that Ringo wasn't a Beatle for nothing.  With solid pop melodies and a fantastic backing band featuring special guests Chrissie Hynde and Robert Randolph, "Choose Love" is a great rock n' roll record even if you're not big enough to admit it.

(end Sal)

Also I have not mentioned the new PBS series, “Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis,” because when I watched the first one, I was profoundly underwhelmed.  But Jazz needs all the help it can get and there hasn’t been a regular jazz series on mainstream TV in roughly forever.  Moreover, maybe the series will get better; or maybe I was wrong.  Take a look at it here.

While we’re on the topic of PBS music, I love the American Masters series.  I am not much on Sweet Honey in the Rock, but perhaps you are.  Anyway, that’s who’s featured tonight.  More on that here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Michael Garemko
Hometown: Dallas, TX
Eric,
I run the Taking the Fight to Karl site.  It is important to point out that the e-mails posted on that site include e-mails from veterans of previous wars--not simply Iraq vets.  I have gotten relatively few from current service-people.  I suspect that is partly because they don't spend a lot of time surfing the net these days.  I have posted about 5 letters from vets of post-9/11 conflicts.  Just wanted to make sure that our facts are straight on this.  The integrity of Taking the Fight to Karl is very important if these letters begin to break into the media.  The letters from those post-9/11 vets are worth reading, regardless.  Spreading the word, I am sure, will bring us more letters from them.  Thanks for reading what these brave people have to say.
Regards,
Michael

Name: David A Snyder
Hometown: Edison, NJ
Dr. Vaidhyanathan (and Dr. Alterman, too),
Actually, Justice Scalia's position on the meaning of the 10 Commandments is not, as I, a liberal Jew, understand the Jewish position.  Justice Scalia claims: "All of them, moreover (Islam included), believe that the Ten Commandments were given by God to Moses, and are divine prescriptions for a virtuous life."  Jews, who do not consider non-Jews (many of whom are quite virtuous) obligated to follow such practices as the Sabbath, certainly do not feel the 10 Commandments to be necessary prescriptions for leading a virtuous life.  Moreover, we feel that we Jews (alas, not all of us virtuous) are obligated to follow not 10, but 613 commandments, so the 10 Commandments are hardly sufficient for prescribing a virtuous life.  From a Jewish point of view, about which Scalia acts as if he knows so much, what Scalia has said is nonsense if not blasphemy.  To have a Supreme Court ruling, the law of the land, based on a religious opinion as to the meaning of a religious document, an opinion which some would find skirting the line of blasphemy would hardly respect the free exercise of religion -- it is a good thing that this was merely a dissent rather than a ruling, then. 

As a Jew, I am tired of Christians speaking for my beliefs as if we are some subsidiary of their faith.  We Jews do not feel that the 10 Commandments are mere suggestions to be posted everywhere because they sound good, but are part of a religious contract with God obligating us to 613 classes of obligations.  For people who don't observe the Sabbath (so who's going to be the first to put Scalia to a religious test and ask him if he observes the Sabbath -- and assuming he doesn't, ask him whether, since he is breaking one of the 10 Commandments, how he can be virtuous), who are very blithe about taking oaths to the point where they risk taking God's name in vain, etc., to insist that the 10 Commandments be represented in graven images everywhere is nothing short of idolatry.  When Jews, Muslims and secular folk treat Christian symbols so carelessly, we are accused of being anti-Christian.  Does this make Justice Scalia and others who offend me as a Jew by being so quick to celebrate graven images of a document they don't really follow anti-Semites? 

Finally, I may be accused of being anti-Christian myself here, but if Christians, who believe in the Trinity are monotheists, are not Hindus, who also believe in a fundamental unity of the Divine, also monotheists?

Name: Brian Kresge
Hometown: Lancaster, PA
Just as Scalia fudged the facts when he insisted erroneously that the Shoah resulted from a secular German state, even though the Reich had its own church with Reich-appointed bishops (he said this with straight face to an Orthodox congregation, no less), he does so again with his dissent.  When he lumps Judaism in with the other "monotheistic faiths" (the whole Trinity thing seems to run against monotheism as far as I can tell, but that's neither here nor there), he does Judaism a great disservice.  A large percentage of movement-affiliated Jews do not recognize the Ten Commandments as Divine.  To lump us all together for the sake of a convenient argument does us a profound disservice.  But hey, when has Scalia ever allowed facts to cloud his profundity?  Far be it for me to say, but I find the ultimate irony is that for all the talk of honoring the commandments with big and arguably gauche monuments, there's very little call for anyone to obey them, particularly, ahem, when one's duck-hunting buddy goes about deploying, ahem, a military, ahem, to kill, ahem, based, ahem, on what by Mosaic legal standards would constitute "false witness."

June 28, 2005 | 1:25 PM ET | Permalink

Why does America hate America?
(Even more than before)

Over at ABC News,

A record 57 percent also now say the administration intentionally exaggerated its evidence that pre-war Iraq possessed nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
...
Fifty-three percent of Americans say the war was not worth fighting...

Over at USA Today,

Fifty-one percent said they want to see a timetable for withdrawing troops. For the first time, a plurality of Americans, by 50%-47%, sees the war in Iraq as a separate action from the war on terrorism.
...
By 46%-43%, a plurality says the war in Iraq has made the U.S. less safe from terrorism.
...
By 53%-46%, Americans say the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq. That's the highest level of discontent since the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib prison scandals last summer.

In addition,

By a record 61%-37%, those surveyed say the president doesn't have a clear plan for handling the situation in Iraq.  Bush's job-approval rating has suffered, too. His approval rating is 45%, equaling the lowest of his presidency.  At 53%, his disapproval rating has reached a new high.

I wonder why that view, supported by a majority of Americans, has almost no voice in the mainstream media, and indeed, is frequently pilloried as defeatist and unpatriotic by virtually everyone who does, particularly on the cable news networks.

Iraqi Vets sound off on Mr. Rove, here.

Um, I also wonder why that view, expressed by our fighting men and women themselves,  has almost no voice in the mainstream media, and indeed, is frequently pilloried as defeatist and unpatriotic by virtually everyone who does, particularly on the cable news networks.

According to the Downing Street Memos, British officials fully understood the catastrophe for which George W. Bush was preparing the world.

In his memo to Blair six days later, [David] Manning wrote that "Bush has yet to find the answers to the big questions."  The foreign policy adviser raised several matters, including "how to persuade international opinion that military action against Iraq is necessary and justified" and "what happens on the morning after?"

These weaknesses in the arguments of the pro-war camp were evident not only to Manning and company, but to virtually anyone who examined the question carefully.  They have certainly been corroborated by history.  And yet, you would have to search far and wide to find them discussed in any detail in the U.S. mainstream media.  I also wonder why that view, expressed by Tony Blair’s own chief foreign policy adviser at the time and frequently in the media of virtually every democracy in the world, enjoyed almost no voice in the mainstream media, and indeed, was frequently pilloried as defeatist and unpatriotic by virtually everyone who does, particularly on the cable news networks.

Borrowed from great blogger, Michael Berube:

You can win a lifetime supply of IEDs

All you have to do is identify the correct answer to the following question!

How long will the United States occupy Iraq?

(a) Just until the last throes of the insurgency subside.

(b) Only for another five, six, eight, ten, twelve years.

(c) Just long enough for “Iraq Occupation:  The Next Generation” to go into syndication.

(d) Close your eyes and think of the Philippines.

(e) Until we find those dang WMDs.  Ha-ha!  Only kidding.

Rove Republicans prepare for war

A twelve-step program

1.  Deploy 101st Fighting Keyboarders

2.  Cut taxes for the $300,000-and-up income bracket

3.  Tell citizens to continue shopping

4.  Cut taxes on capital gains

5.  Begin “fixing” intelligence and facts

6.  Undermine Secretary of State with humiliating U.N. presentation

7.  Repeal estate tax

8.  Alienate remaining international allies

9.  Distribute magnetic “support the troops” ribbons

10.  Prepare U.S.S. Lincoln for critical photo op

11.  Dispatch preparatory rose-petal-cleanup detail for Baghdad, Mosul, Basra, Najaf, Fallujah, etc.

and finally, most important:

12.  Blame failure on liberals

Correspondence Corner:

From: Siva Vaidhyanathan
Hometown: Paganville
Eric:
Justice Scalia thinks I am a second-class citizen and that the First Amendment applies to me less than it applies to him.

Why?  Not because I am a liberal.  Not this time, anyway.

It's because he does not think that millions of American Hindus (or Buddhists, Jains, Unitarians, or atheists) have standing under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Scalia writes in his dissent Monday in McCreary County v. ACLU:

With respect to public acknowledgment of religious belief, it is entirely clear from our Nation's historical practices that the Establishment Clause permits this disregard of polytheists and believers in unconcerned deities just as it permits the disregard of devout atheists.
...
[T]here is a distance between the acknowledgment of a single Creator and the establishment of a religion. The former is, as Marsh v. Chambers put it, "a tolerable acknowledgement of beliefs widely held among the people of this country." The three most popular religions in the United States, Christianity, Judaism and Islam-- which combined account for 97.7% of all believers -- are monotheistic.  All of them, moreover (Islam included), believe that the Ten Commandments were given by God to Moses, and are divine prescriptions for a virtuous life.

Publicly honoring the Ten Commandments is thus indistinguishable, insofar as discriminating against other religions is concerned, from publicly honoring God.  Both practices are recognized across such a broad and diverse range of the population-- from Christians to  Muslims-- that they cannot reasonably be understood as a government endorsement of a religious viewpoint.

Yes.  He said "Deists."  Not kidding.  Apparently he thinks his beloved Founding Fathers are second-class citizens as well!  I don't feel so bad now: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and I will have a rockin' party in Hell!  That Benjamin Rush guy is not invited, though.  He is such a dweeb.

As Yale Law professor Jack Balkin explains:

And there you have it.  If you aren't a monotheist who believes in a personal God, the government may disregard you. You don't count. We won't persecute you, of course, that would violate the Free Exercise of Religion. But we can disregard you. You are insignificant.  You are not us, or perhaps more correctly, we count you as part of us when government acknowledges God, and disregard your protestations to the contrary that you have been left out.

Scalia does not deny he makes this distinction. And Balkin is not the only one who is alarmed by this bigotry. In fact, Justice Stevens sees it, too. Here is Scalia responding:

I must respond to JUSTICE STEVENS' assertion that I would "marginaliz[e]" the belief systems of more than 7 million Americans" who adhere to religions that are not monotheistic. Surely that is a gross exaggeration. The beliefs of those citizens are entirely protected by the Free Exercise Clause, and by those aspects of the Establishment Clause that do not relate to government acknowledgment of the Creator.

Balkin summarizes his issue with Scalia:

Once again, I must insist, as I have before in other posts, that although Justice Scalia repeatedly claims that his theory of adherence to text, original understanding and tradition is superior because it constrains judges from imposing their personal views into the Constitution, it does nothing of the sort. This case is a perfect example. Justice Scalia has particular views about religion and about what sorts of government invocations of religion should or should not be regarded as offensive or as marginalizing people with different religious beliefs than his own. These political beliefs produce the outcome he takes in this case.

I urge you to read his entire analysis.  Jack has to be polite and judicious.  That's his job and his temperament.  I don't.  Here is my problem with Scalia:

Not only does he not understand the diverse forms of the monotheistic religions he champions, Scalia is a hypocrite as well as an ignorant bigot.  He claims to be for something called "originalism" and against something called "activism," yet he has no problem being all "activist" if it supports his bigotry or helps his son get a job in the Justice Department.

God(s) -- or no God, whatever -- help us if this guy gets to be Chief Justice.

The Court also issued an exasperating decision about peer-to-peer technology.  I wrote an article about it on Salon.com today.  Here is the main point:  "Overall, Monday's Grokster ruling is a middle-ground decision about a territory that has no middle ground.  Souter and the court have issued a Solomon-like decision that will do no good for the plaintiffs, do no harm to infringers -- and could have profoundly negative effects on future innovators of technology."

Name:  Eric Rauchway
Hometown: Davis, CA
Hey, you know, I am always interested in discussion about the machinery of representation in the U.S., including discussion of the Senate, but I think all such discussion should begin by noting that the Senate is immune even from Constitutional Amendment.  Article V, just after the Constitution details the ways in which it can be amended, goes on to say that the amendment process can be used

...Provided that ... no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Which is to say, according to the Constitution itself, you can amend it any which way you please so long as you preserve the principle that august hectares of dirt deserve representation in the upper chamber, while the representation of mere people is relegated to the lower.

This is of course very silly, in logical terms.  You could use the amendment process to amend this clause, and then use the amendment process to amend the representation of states in the Senate.  But the fact that this clause is there, asserting that it can't be amended, suggests that would be against the intent of the Constitution.

What the Supreme Court would do in assessing such action would surely be of interest.  The great Elihu Root, among others, once tried to persuade the Court that the Eighteenth, or Prohibition Amendment was itself unconstitutional because it violated fundamental provisions in the rest of the Constitution.  The Court didn't decide in their favor, but it didn't address that argument directly either; see National Prohibition Cases, 253 U.S. 350.

But it isn't going to happen.  Amending the Constitution to make the Senate represent people is unlikely enough.  Amending the Constitution twice to achieve that purpose strikes me as living pretty near to impossible.

Name: Eric Smith
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Since 6/21/2005, Scott McClellan has been searching for any member of the Bush clan who is in the military service now.  Perhaps offering a reward would help Scott find at least one (although the Bin Laden rewards haven't lead to him either).  This is day six of his search.  He should be asked regularly if he has found any or admits that none exist.  Perhaps a day counter on your web page would help motivate Scott's search.

June 27, 2005 | 12:50 PM ET | Permalink

Bush vs. World
Grim reading from Pew

George Bush vs. Just About Everybody in the World, continued (or, “Things I learned reading the Pew Global Attitudes Project Survey of among nearly 17,000 people in the United States and 15 other countries this weekend)

  1. Even the Commies are more admired. “Japan, France and Germany are all more highly regarded than the United States among the countries of Europe; even the British and Canadians have a more favorable view of these three nations than they do of America. Strikingly, China now has a better image than the U.S. in most of the European nations surveyed.”

  2. If the idea of this war was to get Muslims to hate our guts even more, it’s working. “With the exception of Christian opinion in Lebanon, views of the U.S. in other predominantly Muslim nations are more negative and have changed little. In Turkey, hostility toward the U.S. and the American people has intensified. Nearly half of Turks (46%) say they have a very unfavorable view of Americans, up from just 32% a year ago… The war in Iraq continues to draw broad international opposition, and there is scant optimism that the elections in that country this past January will foster stability.

  3. Remember those Iraqi elections that proved how great this war was? (And what a lilly-livered liberal/defeatist/I’m/elitist/Why-do-I-hate-American-kind-of-guy for responding with a wait-and-see attitude.) “Even the American public now has diminished expectations that the January elections held in Iraq will lead to a more stable situation there. The United States and India are the only countries surveyed in which pluralities believe Saddam Hussein's removal from power has made the world a safer place."

  4. Oh and did I mention that Americans, by a 49 to 44 percent margin, now say that George W. Bush, rather than Saddam Hussein was responsible for the war in Iraq?

    Why does America hate America, here.

    The executive summary of the Pew survey is here.

  5. Before we leave our friends there, let us note that for all of the coverage of their weekend-report on Americans’ alleged low opinion of the media, it contains the following revelation. “In fact, the favorable ratings for most categories of news organizations surpass positive ratings for President Bush and major political institutions the Supreme Court, Congress, and the two major political parties.”  That survey is here.

The lesson here, of course, is that the mainstream media is well behind not only the rest of the world but also the US public in their relatively rosy assessments of the respective catastrophes that are the Bush administration and its horrific, counterproductive, and possibly illegal war.
Isn’t it Rich? I was trying decide over the weekend whether to do my Nation column this week on PBS/CBP or Karl Rove, but as is happening with greater frequency recently, Frank Rich made my decision for me with this column.

You can play too: Tomasky catches Ed Klein in another one. This time, Klein uses a Harold Ickes quote from Tomasky's book. Klein footnotes Tomasky--but he changed the quote! Here.

Quote of the Day, Steven Spielberg:
"The image that stands out most in my mind is everybody in Manhattan fleeing across the George Washington Bridge in the shadow of 9/11, a searing image that I've never been able to get out of my head," said Spielberg, here.
Umm .. that would be the Brooklyn Bridge, dude. (New Jersey sure does look a lot like Brooklyn from out there in Outer Space (or Hollywood…)

Alter-review:

Mike Waldman reviews the new film, “The Deal.”
Altercation readers would enjoy a recent film now in theaters – especially readers who grew up watching the great political thrillers of the 1960s and 1970s. "The Deal" is a taut and well acted movie that harkens back to the cynicism and cerebral sex appeal of those films. It was written and co-produced by Ruth Epstein (full disclosure: an old friend), who had a successful career on Wall Street before turning to filmmaking. In the film, oil has spiked to $6 a gallon, due to a long war between the United States and Arab countries.
Christian Slater plays an investment banker who is asked to wok on a merger between an American oil company and a Russian firm, a merger that can only help relieve the U.S.’s oil needs. His suspicions grow, plot complications pile on one another, backs are stabbed, and he will soon have to decide whether to follow his career self-interest, his ethical compass, or his love (lust) interest (Selma Blair).
There are two things of note for Altercation readers. First, the characters move in an ethical fog due to our continued addiction to oil. I think people will look back and see our huge demand for petroleum as the huge, obvious, usually unspoken fact in our politics and economy. In this movie, oil is an invisible character that throws a twist in the ethical dilemmas characters face. Again, it’s hard to think of another mainstream movie where that is the case. Second, what was striking to me was that this thriller existed at all -- a thriller replete with geopolitics, boardroom machinations, and snappy jargon, with only the occasional shot fired in anger. It is hardly an original thought to note that movies are increasingly either superhero-driven blockbusters or quiet independent movies.
The overwhelming majority of quality independent movies focus on personal relationships in some way. This one has them, and they are well acted, but the dramatic high points revolve around due diligence and oil reserves. "The Deal" got me thinking for several days after (and not about Selma Blair)(well, not only about Selma Blair). These days, any film that doesn’t simply leave the viewer asking "how did they get that special effect" is something to be treasured.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Jeff Thomas
Hometown: Brighton, MI
Comments:
Eric, As a former Army officer and son of an original Green Beret Vietnam veteran father (two tours of Laos/Vietnam and one in a hostile Korea meant I wouldn't see much of him during my first years of life), I watch the debate between LeBlanc and others and I can't help but focus on one thing: We are not in Iraq for the reasons presented to us.
There were, of course, no WMD and no terrorists. It is not the place of the US Military to settle grudges between leaders and if a soldier is going to die fighting for something, it is only reasonable that s/he should know what that is. As I have heard from many who are defending the war in Iraq, the primary argument rests around "how much good we are doing there". Other than being lead by a brutal dictator (not insignificant), let us remind ourselves that Iraq had functioning universities, power grids,communications, water, schools and, as something of a novelty in the Middle East, was a non-secular state. As we would later find out and should have known to begin with, the policy of containment was working just fine. I would suspect that more Iraqis are dying now than were dying due to a lack of medicines as a result of the embargo. It is the soldier's duty to defend the Constitution of the United States (questionable in this case), and I believe that it is the duty of the citizens of this nation to defend the soldiers fighting for us. Justin will go Iraq when he is told and just about everyone else in this nation should be doing everything they can to prevent it. Justin, read Joseph Wilson's "The Politics of Truth". At least you will have a better understanding of why you and our troops are over there. Going back to the Vietnam era, I can remember Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, Harry Reasoner and others talking about battles and showing stick-figure men representing body counts and casualties. I remember asking my mother, with pride in my heart, if my father was involved in the battle where there were a whole bunch of enemy stick figures and very few American stick figures. There is no reason for our current generation of children to have to ask that question nor for a mother to have to find some way to answer it. If the argument holds that we are doing "good things" for Iraq, does it make sense to pursue it when it has clearly been so bad for America? Good luck to Justin LeBlanc and all the other soldiers rotating through Iraq. The best people I have ever known I met in the Army and the dedication shown by our servicemen and women deserves our highest regard and respect. In my opinion, they are not getting it from our government.

Name: John Loehr
Hometown: Charlottesville, Virginia
Comments:
Lost or ignored in the arguments regarding WMD and the justification for the war in Iraq is the fact that the UN inspection regimen had completely eliminated Saddam Hussein's arsenal of chemical and biologoical weapons. The inspectors were so effective that not even a trace of these weapons or any production facility for them has been found after two years of occupation by almost 200,000 U.S. troops and "contractors" This was accomplished at minimal cost (especially compared to the war), and without any appreciable violence or loss of life and would seem to speak well of an organization that the Bush administration asserts is badly in need of John Bolton's reform. why this obvious and salient fact is not raised in defense of the UN by the MSM is understandable, but I haven’t even heard any liberal pundits make this point.

Name: Jim Wiseman
Hometown: Columbia, Maryland
Comments:
Dear Eric, I just read "Cofessions of an Economic Hit Man" by John Perkins, and I'm curious about your take on it as a historian. The details of the story are appalling, but I'm not sure I buy his central premise about how subtle and new the American approach to empire is. Foisting a form of economic dependence on paople , then backing it up by extreme muscle, seems pretty standard fare over the years for both empires and gangsters alike. I'm sure we can all come up with our favorite examples from ancient, medieval, and modern history. Perhaps Mr. Perkins needed to feel the manner was new and subtle to assuage his conscience for the time he participated in it. But he shouldn't feel singularly guilty; as he points out in his epilogue, we're all guilty to some extent. My tax dollars go to fund an imperial war that has been determined (in what must be a near record shattering short period of time) to be based on lies. So we're all part of the system.

Name: James S.
Hometown: SF, CA / NY, NY
Comments:
"Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, ten, twelve years." I wonder where Donny Rumsfeld looked up that precise statistic. Has the defense department commisioned a study on this? Is it too sensitive to be released to the public? I think that instead of providing the public with such a precise timetable that could come back to haunt him later, he should have relied on one of his classic, poetic rants: "As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know." I think the insurgency would fall under the "known unknowns" category, don't you? Though given his pre-war timetables you'd have to assume that prior to the invasion, at least in his dark cloud of a mind, it was an "unknown unknown". But wouldn't it be great if he just pulled out those kind of classic quotes once in a while? You know, in the middle of an interview, quoting himself verbatim from a previous press conference - like he was doing an impression of himself. It might at least put a smile on your face in spite of the horror you're feeling inside listening to him talk. It's not like it would be any less informative that his new material.

Rosanne Cash
New York, NY
Dear Eric,
Regarding Bruce’s ticket prices, by the time he pays 15% to his manager, 10% to his agent, 5% to his business accountant, 50% in taxes, the salaries of the band and crew, tour insurance and travel expenses, there's about enough left for a nice new leather jacket. 80 bucks sounds reasonable for the nut he's carrying…

Eric Alterman
New York, New York
I. Dear Omar, Have you noticed that you have no go**am relief pitching and haven’t had any all year? What’s the point of spending a gazillion dollars on Pedro and Beltran if you’re just going to turn the game over to a clown who walks the leadoff hitter in front of A-Rod? Really, how can this be so hard to figure out….
II. Dear Ruth and Carl, Happy 50th anniversary. Thanks for raising me. (It’s still all your fault, though.)

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