October 31, 2005 | 11:44 AM ET | Permalink

“You say ‘Alito,’ I say ‘Scalia.’  Alito, Scalia.  Let’s call the whole thing off.”  PFAW informs us,

According to one of Alito’s opinions, Congress had no authority to require state employers to comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act through payment of damages when they violate the law, a ruling that was repudiated by the Supreme Court.  The late Chief Justice Rehnquist, a fellow ultraconservative, wrote the court’s decision.  Alito also dissented from a ruling by the Third Circuit that Congress has the power under the Commerce Clause to restrict the transfer and possession of machine guns at gun shows.

In a number of dissenting opinions, Alito has taken positions that, if adopted, would have made it more difficult for victims of race and sex discrimination to prove their claims.  In one case involving claims of race discrimination, the court majority sharply criticized Alito’s dissent, stating that his “position would immunize an employer from the reach of Title VII” in certain circumstances..."
...
Alito wants government to be able to interfere in personal decisions on reproductive rights.  In one case, Alito attempted to uphold a provision of Pennsylvania’s restrictive anti-abortion law requiring a woman in certain circumstances to notify her husband before obtaining an abortion.  Alito’s colleagues on the Third Circuit and Supreme Court disagreed, and overturned the provision.

More here and more from Jeralyn, tomorrow.

The cover-up continues:

The cautiousness and professionalism of Lawrence Fitzgerald, ironically, appears to be standing in the way of our knowing just how far the Bush administration criminal conspiracy to lie us into war and then protect those lies reaches.  Of course he’s not going to answer these questions —it’s not as if Cheney or Libby got a blowjob or anything— but if I could slip the guy a mickey, here’s what I’d ask:

Dear Mr. Fitzgerald,

Thanks for all your hard work in catching that pathological liar Irving L. Libby.

Bart Gellman, whose 3,900 word summary, here, is the best one I’ve read anywhere so far, writes,

Libby and Cheney made separate inquiries to the CIA about Wilson's wife, and each confirmed independently that she worked there.  It was Cheney, the indictment states, who supplied Libby the detail "that Wilson's wife worked ... in the Counterproliferation Division" -- an unambiguous declaration that her position was among the case officers of the operations directorate.

Do we know the extent of Cheney’s involvement in his subordinate’s decision to leak classified information and lie about it to a Grand Jury?  (I see from here, “Mr. Libby consulted with Mr. Cheney about how to handle inquiries from journalists about the vice president's role in sending Mr. Wilson to Africa in early 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq was trying acquire nuclear material there for its weapons program, the person said.”)

Why didn’t you go after Libby on the Identities Protection Act?

Any truth to the rumor that Bush is going to appoint Libby to the Supreme Court?

What about Stephen Hadley?  Did he order up those Niger forgeries from the Italian Secret Service?

If Novak said his source was “no partisan gunslinger,” and it’s Rove, didn’t he lie?  Can we get him for that?  Did you threaten him with slammer time before he sang?  Can you believe the Post still lets him publish?  And will CNN let him back?

Has anybody pled guilty yet?  ( Here.)

When Mike Kinsley says, “sex (if you know where to look)," here, who’s he talkin’ ‘bout?  I sure hope it ain’t Novak…)

Speaking of which, if Scooter told you about his conversations with Judy, why’d she go to jail?  Arthur, Bill, feel free to weigh in on that one…

Mike had another good question: “Why should you go to jail to protect the identity of a source who has used anonymity systematically and successfully to deceive you and your readers?”  Arthur?  Bill?

So Ari’s been cooperating too?  Did he lie that whole time too, or was he in on it and copped a plea?

How do W and Karl plan to thank Judy for their chance to ruin the country for four more years, here?  Will Judy be appointed to the Supreme Court?

“The Aspens?”  Esplain, please.

Bart Gellman, writes,

It may never be clear what drove Libby, the most cautious of Washington insiders, to take such risks, ostensibly to protect the administration.  In a news conference Friday, Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald described the question as unanswerable so far. "If you're asking me what his motives were, I can't tell you; we haven't charged it," Fitzgerald said.  The obstruction of his inquiry, he said, "prevents us from making the fine judgments we want to make."

He also writes,

Justice Department lawyers notified then-White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales at about 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29, that the investigation had begun. Gonzales, now attorney general, has said he alerted Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. at once. But he did not tell anyone else -- or instruct White House employees to preserve all evidence -- until the following morning. According to Gonzales, lawyers at Justice said it would be fine to wait.” Why the wait? Was Gonzales also complicit in the cover-up? Is he being investigated for this.

He also writes,

Comey told reporters on Dec. 30 that an "accumulation of facts" in the investigation had brought about Ashcroft's recusal.  Details of their conversations have not been made public, and it is not known who initiated them.

What was it that changed Ashcroft’s recusal?  Is he implicated in anything here?

And what else are Cheney and Libby covering up together?  Frank Rich writes, here,

The other investigation into prewar intelligence, by the Senate Intelligence Committee, is a scandal in its own right.  After the release of its initial findings in July 2004, the committee's Republican chairman, Pat Roberts, promised that a Phase 2 to determine whether the White House had misled the public would arrive after the presidential election.  It still hasn't, and no wonder: Murray Waas reported Thursday in The National Journal that Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby had refused to provide the committee with "crucial documents," including the Libby-written passages in early drafts of Colin Powell's notorious presentation of W.M.D. "evidence" to the U.N. on the eve of war.”

Oh, and Frank has a few more questions:

Why have the official reports on detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo spared all but a single officer in the chain of command?  Why does Halliburton continue to receive lucrative government contracts even after it's been the focus of multiple federal inquiries into accusations of bid-rigging, overcharging and fraud?  Why did it take five weeks for Pat Tillman's parents to be told that their son had been killed by friendly fire, and who ordered up the fake story of his death that was sold relentlessly on TV before then?

So what do you think they are really covering up, besides you know, lying us into a war?

Are you acting all responsible and un-leaky to show all those right-wingers how a real prosecutor behaves?  You think Ken is jealous?  I don’t.  Get as mean as you want, bub. This isn’t a blowjob case. They lied the country into war.

Sincerely,
Eric Alterman
[ permalink ]

Also this one’s for Len Downey: The Times is obviously cutting Judy loose.  When will the Post fire Novak?

Here’s another one for Mr. Downey:  Howard Kurtz smears and libels his colleagues in the media, here.  He writes, “In this case, reporters, led by columnist Robert Novak, were the conduits for what the indictment makes clear was an administration smear campaign against Wilson.”  That is a lie, sir.  Novak did not “lead” reporters.  Novak was the only “reporter” who took the bait.  Everyone else contacted by the administration refused it and behaved in this instance, quite honorably.  Is it mere coincidence that Novak happens to share the same conflict-of-interest in which Kurtz indulges as well?  Both men report simultaneously for the Post and CNN.  Both ought to be fired.  And both, before they are fired, ought to apologize to their colleagues.

And Boehlert wants to know, why did NBC and Russert mislead viewers about his Plame testimony?

And read Dean Lemann on Judy, here.

Meanwhile, in today’s Wall Street Journal, here ($), Theodore Olson thinks he possesses the moral authority to pass judgment on Patrick Fitzgerald.  Remember Olson?  Let me refresh your memory.  According to David Brock, during the Scaife-funded “Arkansas Project” of the American Spectator, “Olson pushed for the publication the phony Vince Foster story, even though neither one believed it, because Olson told him, the purpose was not to get at the truth but to throw mud at the Clintons and hope that something stuck.  Brock writes of Olson that "while he believed, as [independent counsel Kenneth] Starr apparently did, that Foster had committed suicide, raising questions was a way of turning up the heat on the administration until another scandal was shaken loose, which was the Spectator's mission."

Olson also misled Congress about his role in it. He testified under oath that Olson had been far more deeply involved in the project than his previous testimony had indicated.  Olson had claimed, "It has been alleged that I was somehow involved in that so-called project; I was not involved in the project, in its origin or its management."  He was also far from forthright about his role in ghost-writing anti-Clinton screeds in the magazine and his paid role representing, David Hale, an anti-Clinton Whitewater witness.  But Brock had the effect of jogging Olson’s memory, and he later admitted to some involvement, though not nearly as much as Brock alleged.  Despite the widening hole in his credibility, Olson was narrowly confirmed in the Senate. The Democrats, having just won control of the body vis-à-vis Jim Jeffords decision to join them as an independent, did not think it tactically smart to pick a fight so quickly. 

So I find the whole thing kinda funny, in a kill-your-parents-throw-yourself-on-the-mercy-of-the-court-because-your’e-an-orphan kinda way.  What I find sad is that my old friend Christopher Hitchens appears alongside him to offer his considerable literary talents to absolve the liars who misled the country into this ruinous war on a page that, as poor old Vince Foster pointed out in his suicide note, enjoys its prerogative to “lie with impunity.”   Here.

6318 words about Ms. Dowd and every one of them nice, here.  Yo Ariel, you know I love ya, but can you spell “Krush?”

From Atrios, here:

Find the Liberal

Meet the Press roundtable:

Broder, Brooks, Safire, Woodruff

Reliable Sources roundtable:

Frum, Bumiller, Milbank

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Michael Murry
Hometown: Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Thanks for posting a little military realism from Sergeant Joe -- currently doing dirty (as well as duty) in Afghanistan.  I completely support his take on senior officers for whom we enlisted men in Vietnam didn't care that much, either.  Think here of William Westmoreland and his "oil spot" theory in 1967.  Then think of the Tet Offensive in 1968 and losing the war.  Then think of Nixon and Kissinger stretching out the whole pointless agony for another seven years just to cover their own sorry political asses for royally screwing the pooch as bad as Lyndon Johnson.  At any rate, while we enlisted men had to serve complete year tours (I even served another half of one) most officers came and went on their ticket-punching rounds so fast we could never keep up with which one of the know-nothings wanted to get more of us killed the same way on the same street as the last know-nothing did.  I think even Major Bob has gotten around -- after several years -- to noticing the same end-of-quagmire revolving door phenomenon.  Think here of General David "stand 'em up" Petraeus bailing out of Iraq while he still had a career left.  Think of Ambassador John "sittin' behind Colin Powell with George Tenet at the UN" Negroponte bailing out of our embassy in Baghdad for a better -- and safer -- job running America's "Can't Identify Anything" "intelligence community."  Et cetera, ad nauseum. 

In Vietnam, we had slogans for us and for them and their idiot brethren back home who sent us on that deadly fool's errand.  For us: "We are the unwilling led by the unqualified to do the unnecessary for the ungrateful.  For them: "F*** up and move up."  Thanks again for Sergeant Joe.  I've been reading a bit of Major Bob's Pentagon spin and find it usually within the prescribed government talking points on any given day.  If he ever said anything close to the awful truth, he'd probably have to face a courts martial like critical enlisted bloggers do.  I once wrote the guy -- back when far fewer of our troops had died in Iraq -- asking him how many of his men a general gets to lose before losing his own job.  Major Bob came back with some non-sequitur about Eisenhower losing more men on D-Day at Normandy.  I felt like replying: "Yeah, but D-Day only lasted a day, not three years.  If our current crop of brilliant losers had run the Normandy operation, our troops would now find themselves facing their third year-long deployment back to the same bloody beachhead."  After a few letters, I just gave up making the same arguments I made thirty-five years ago.  Why bother, now that Iraq and Afghanistan look more and more every day like the same bloody patch of irrelevant sand?

Name: Phil Turner
Hometown: Ocala, FL
Hi Eric,
I have never written you before, but my son turned me on to your blog.  Today, I have just read Sgt. Joe's letter concerning saluting officers.  I am a retired CWO4 from the USN.  I worked my way up from E-1 through the enlisted ranks and then up through the Warrant Officer Ranks.  I believe that entitles me to an opinion.  I am sorry that Sgt. Joe has had such a bad relationship with his officers that he is sour toward them.  If his attitude were better, he would be better able to help his junior officers become better officers and to help them be more sensitive to their enlisted men.  Respect and common courtesy are the key words involved in this!  Junior Officers come into the services without experience, and require senior enlisted men to use their experience to help them, even to train them.  Not all officers are political, as not all enlisted are cynical about serving under junior officers!  A salute is a symbol of respect, just as Major Bob said!  Respect has to flow both ways, up and down the chain of command.  Sgt. Joe needs to understand that most people reflect back to them the attitude that they give them!  Have a nice day!

Name: A former Marine
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Perhaps Sergeant Joe needs a couple of weeks leave to regroup.  One military tradition as time-honored as the salute is enlisted folks grumbling about officers.  It's childish, but it's there.  But the gripe system doesn't apply only to those with a commission.  I'm sure if Joe has soldiers in his charge, they piss and moan about him as well.  It's a given.  Officers do receive some amenities denied the enlisted--deluxe officers' clubs, more pay, et cetera.  But these things come with a much greater responsibility.  The "rudimentary" training officers receive is for an entirely different role than that of a foot soldier.  Where an enlisted soldier's objectives might range from walking point to clear an alley, getting his squad safely through a tough area, or ensuring those in his platoon are medically fit for combat, officers are charged with larger objectives--coordinating strategies between company commanders to seal off an area from enemy supply routes, say.  Yes, they often do this from safer places, but there's a good reason for that.  Since these officers are responsible for hundreds, or thousands of lives, and because the task of implementing and monitoring larger-scale strategies requires working in an area with as little disruption to communications as possible, they shouldn't be deployed to hot areas.  (Do I need to mention that such command centers make super-duper targets for the enemy?  And how if they are destroyed, many hundreds or even thousands more lives will likely be destroyed from the lack of coordination--a sudden increase of the fog of war?)  Every role in a theater of combat is necessary, and, while griping is expected, it shouldn't extend to automatic, outright contempt.  I was an enlisted Marine for five years, and an NCO.  At times, I worked with many officers, of ranks up to Lieutenant Colonel.  Many of them gained my respect.  Others didn't fare so well in my estimation.  I even had contempt for a couple of these men.  But my point is: They earned it.

Name: Please withhold
Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO
Sergeant Joe...the tensions that exist between officers and enlisted men go back to the beginning of organized warfare...it would take far more space and time than is available to explain all the operational, cultural and social issues that swirl around the relationship between an officer and the men who serve under him (or her)...as a retired officer I cannot help but wonder if one of the sources of the bitterness that oozes from his comments might have its origins in the fact that he and his fellow soldiers have been given an impossible mission (with no discernible end in sight) in the back water of the "war on terror" with the "command echelon" all the way to the Commander in Chief demanding continual battlefield successes without providing the resources required to meet those expectations...these frustrations then manifest themselves in such dysfunctional behavior as blaming ineffective leadership, "burning corpses", abuse of prisoners, etc.  Make no mistake about it, the "grunts" have always shouldered the load of this country, and our military successes are in large degree the result of their valiant efforts...however, leading those fine men into battle have been and will continue to be many of our greatest leaders from lieutenants to four star generals...I considered it the highest honor to have had Marines entrusted to my leadership and like all my fellow officers I did everything in my power to live up to that trust!...So Sergeant Joe here is my salute to you and your fellow soldiers whether you chose to return it or not.

Name: Mike
Hometown: Heart of the Midwest

"Many of these U.S.-supported groups are against condom distribution except in only the most at-risk populations like sex workers, even though it is widely believed to be a crucial component of a strategy to stop the spread of the virus." 

A few years back I wrote a story regarding a Florida-based organization with reasonably close connections with President Bush.  In a nutshell, they're pushing comprehensive sex education out of the public school system and replacing it with abstinence only.  Condoms are mentioned only in a negative sense; failure rates, the ability to still transmit disease, pregnancy, etc.  The movement is also limiting funding from Planned Parenthood, channeling it instead to abstinence-only programs.  The net effect -- especially in urban schools with high concentrations of impoverished African-American students -- was/is higher rates of teen pregnancies and STDs because the kids simply didn't know enough about prevention and couldn't say "no."  It's like guaranteeing another generation or two of illiteracy, poverty and cheap service labor.  This isn't in some third world country; it's here in the U.S.  Given the prospect of a SCOTUS nominee who will likely work to question/overturn Roe v. Wade, this seems like a pretty frightening program to me, and one everyone should be working to stop.

October 28, 2005 | 9:32 AM ET | Permalink

Slacker Friday

I've got a new Think Again column, “Post-Katrina Press: Same as it Ever Was," here.

There’s a NOW special airing on November 4, as part of the global health week on PBS.  The documentary looks at the Bush administration's 15 billion dollar HIV/AIDS initiative, announced in 2003, and how a portion of that money is earmarked--mandated--for abstinence-only programs.

Many of these U.S.-supported groups are against condom distribution except in only the most at-risk populations like sex workers, even though it is widely believed to be a crucial component of a strategy to stop the spread of the virus.

Alter-reviews: The unDead

GRATEFUL DEAD - "FILLMORE WEST 1969."  This is an expanded version of the classic "Live/Dead" CD, with spectacular packaging, really great photos, too much Pigpen, of course, but actually, it’s pretty great, including a 72-page hardbound book with rare photos and liner notes.  The sets took place on February 27 to March 2, 1969 and if you even mildly like “Live Dead,” you’ll have to get rid of it and get this instead.  Previously unreleased highlights include a 55-minute "Alligator"/"Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks)" jam, the finally complete "We Bid You Goodnight,” and unearthed performances of "Dark Star," "St. Stephen," "The Eleven," and "Death Don't Have No Mercy."   Here.

Garcia plays Dylan, here, has its moments of wonder and its moments of not-so-wonder.  It’s the first album I’ve seen to have the Dead with the non-Dead (as opposed, I suppose, to the unDead,) and hey guess what; per Sal yesterday, the Dead are like, way greater.  The best three cuts on this are the last three, all Dead: Visions of Johanna, The Mighty Quinn (Quinn, the Eskimo) and It's All Over Now, Baby Blue, which is really, really sad to hear now.  And again, the JGB stuff has some fine moments, but a lot of it feels kinda meandering…

Slacker Friday

Name:  Stupid
Hometown:  Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to stay up late all week watching the WORLD CHAMPION CHICAGO WHITE SOX!  What, you say?  When the Red Sox won last year you didn't take any time off from blogging?  Yeah, well, did the Red Sox literally wipe the grins off of George and Barbara Bush's faces on the last play of the series?  Listen up Dubya, Patrick Fitzgerald is about to become your AJ Pierzynski.  See y'all next week.

Name: Rob Breymaier
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Eric,
I wanted to point out an issue that irritated me regarding Joe Buck's speech about Chicago south siders waiting so long for a championship.  Near the final out last night, Buck spoke about how south siders had waited so long for their team to win the World Series.  He then named neighborhoods on Chicago's south side to add to his point.  The neighborhoods cited were all predominantly white or traditionally white neighborhoods that are have changed to mixed race neighborhoods including: Mt. Greenwood - a notoriously "exclusive" neighborhood on the edge of Chicago's southwest side.  Bridgeport - A traditionally Irish-American neighborhood that has more recently seen some Latino growth.  Beverly - A traditionally white neighborhood that is now roughly divided into a white half and a black half.  Hyde Park - A fairly admirable racial mix but unique by income and the University of Chicago.  As if that weren't enough, Buck went on to name ethnic groups.  All were European (Irish, Italian, and Polish).  Buck entirely ignored the African American population that makes up the majority of south siders.  He also ignored the growing Latino population and the Asian population that make up significant neighborhoods on the south side.  (Chicago's Chinatown is on the south side.)  Fox also cut to Jimbo's where all of the patrons were white.  I'm not trying to call Buck a racist here.  But, even something that should be as innocent and inclusive as the World Series shows just how segregated a society we are.  How could Buck not mention African Americans in his little heartfelt speech about south siders?  What was it that made them invisible to him?  I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Name: Steven Hart
Hometown: The Opinion Mill
Dear Mr. NYCD Sal:
I've had "A Bigger Bang" banging away in the car for a few weeks now and I have to say it sounds pretty much like every other Rolling Geezerjocks release since "Tattoo You."  Nice dirty riffing to start things off.  Bedrock drumming from Charlie.  It starts out strong but then tapers off and gets a little wheezy -- except for "Sweet Neo-con," I couldn't even tell you the names of the last few songs, and I've been listening to this thing a lot -- and by the finish line it's puffing and blowing.  Kind of like an in-shape guy in his early Sixties.  Of course, we should all hope that women will throw lingerie at us when we're in our Sixties.

Name: John
Hometown: Ames, Iowa
Eric,
1) Bob Bateman has my utmost respect, how about a link to his writings instead of showing the whole text in Altercation?

2) Sal, (and others,) don't put the Stones in the same sentence as the Beatles.  They are on different planes.  Both are to be liked, not compared.

3) Eric, if you want more deserved recognition for creating "When Presidents Lie" you need to build more interest and get more readers.  Create a controversy about it.  It does not have to be a proper controversy.  Do like the neocons do when they want to build support.  Pepper it with sensationalized propaganda and let the media debate it.  Get the Spin doctors to do their thing, then, the bloggers will separate out truth from myth and you will receive your deserved review.

4) Keep pushing Gore/Obama in '08.  Not only is it the best pairing for Democrats, it's the best pairing for America.

Name: Pierluigi Miraglia
Hometown: Austin, TX
Eric,
Congratulations for the review.  Perhaps the best compliment is that, after reading it, the book still sounds wiser than the reviewer.  First, I doubt very much the Kennedys' toughness posturing had much to do with their father's flirting with the 3rd Reich.  As most readers can probably attest, no one really remembers that.  It wasn't apparently such a big deal in their various elections and re-elections.  What must have been on the K's minds, instead, was the Red-baiting witch hunts, of which they had been accomplices on their own.  Same for LBJ later.  They were perfect examples of Democrats who had sold their souls by selling out an important and principled tradition of leftist thought in exchange for political "respectability."  Vietnam was the poster child of the Kennedys, the Scoop Jacksons and the many LBJs who had engineered the postwar destruction of the left.  Second, Meacham thinks that the "good" in Reagan was his anti-communist mythology.  Bizarre.  The complete misunderstanding of what the communist movement in the non-Soviet world is what led the U.S. -- before, during, and seemingly after Reagan as well -- to abet outright political criminality in Latin America and elsewhere.  As Meacham's statements show, American policy makers still feel they must abide this destructive mythology.  So much the worse for the rest of us.

Name: Charles Hinton
Hometown: Satellite Beach, FL
Yesterday you had a link to testimony about Tom Feeney and the programmer who wrote the computer code for Tom Feeney on voter rigging.  This is unbelievable but true that Feeney has a "My Word" column in the Orlando Sentinel on restoring voter confidence - 10-27-05.  He says there is voter fraud in Florida.  See this.

Name: Sergeant Joe
Hometown: Afghanistan
A Different Perspective on the Salute

I am a Sergeant serving in Afghanistan in the US Army.  I am an infantryman and I pride myself on being a professional.  I am writing this in response to Major Bob's post to give the nonmilitary audience another perspective.  Often the media personalities only speak with officers, who have become politicians.  If you want to know the real story speak to an NCO or an enlisted man.  I render a perfect salute to officers not out of some silly tradition that I love, but because I have to.  If I don't, then I may be subject to non-judicial punishment.  Due to the lack of respect and disdain many troops have for officers, I have to enforce the salute rule by telling my soldiers that they are saluting the rank and not the man.  The truth of the matter is that officers, especially Majors and above, love being saluted because it elevates them in status.  They have been so far removed from the operational side of the military that they are out of touch with the battlefield.  They are no longer fighting men and women, they are politicians.  They sit around and wax poetic about military customs, while we NCOs and junior officers fight the war. 

It used to be that officers were from a different societal class than their soldiers, but today that is no longer true.  Many soldiers and NCOs are better educated than their commanders.  Today, one has to make a choice: A) Do I stay with the troops and conduct the missions, or B) am I just concerned with gaining title and rank?  Those who choose B are officers, those who choose A are NCOs.  Officers do not have to prove themselves to gain rank, NCOs do.  Officers are given the title lieutenant for graduating college and receiving some rudimentary military training.  They are often paired with an NCO who has worked his way up through the ranks for more than ten years, yet the LT is in charge.  NCOs are responsible for training the troops, executing the missions, and for keeping the unit fit.  Officers are expected to hold dinner parties and kiss ass. 

Unfortunately because of this political reality, most good junior officers get out, leaving all the worst sorts to become field grade officers.  That is why all of our worst soldiers are Majors and above.  I am constantly reminded of how out of touch these people are with the realities on the ground when they come to visit us on our firebase.  While we want to explain to them the enemy situation in the area and how we are conducting missions to combat it, they want to yell at us for looking scruffy.  They have very little operational sense, so they don't want to discuss missions.  Furthermore, they often cancel good well-planned missions because they are too politically risky.  No one wants the US citizen to know that we are still fighting an insurgency here along the Pakistan border.  While we carry rifles and backpacks up and down these ridiculous mountains, they sit back in Baghram with their TVs, Coffee houses, and massage parlors.  When they come to visit us, they are accompanied by an entourage and they never stay too long, never join us in our operations.  God forbid a Colonel walk up these hills. 

Getting back to the salute.  The biggest problem I have with it is that officers in general have not earned the right of this courtesy.  They are not the best of us who have worked their way up through the ranks by proving themselves in front of their soldiers.  They are more like an aristocracy.  I have nothing but contempt for them.

October 27, 2005 | 11:15 AM ET | Permalink

Eric writes:  I’m on the road today, and if there are indictments, that’s why I missed them.  Even so, it’s Altercation Book Club day and I see from my calendar that the this week marks the official pub date of the paperback edition of When Presidents Lie; A History of Official deception and its Consequences.  And I can’t help recalling that, alas, that particularly perspicacious Newsweek Managing Editor Jon Meacham’s terrific review of the book in the Los Angeles Times Book Review was blocked in those days by their silly pay-wall on book reviews, and so nobody much saw it.  So whaddya say we give the paperback (and student-assignable) edition of this eleven-years-in-the-making magnum opus its own day here on Altercation, and let everybody see what a smart, discerning fellow that Mr. Meacham was (and I’m assuming still is)?  Here’s his review:

"Tripped up by the Truth”
A Review of When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences by Eric Alterman, Viking: 448 pp., Los Angeles Times Book Review
by Jon Meacham

On the evening of Nov. 30, 1943 — a late autumn Tuesday in Tehran — Winston Churchill, flanked by Franklin Roosevelt and Josef Stalin, was celebrating his 69th birthday. It was the final night of the first wartime conference of the Big Three, and it had been a tumultuous few days as the Allied leaders fought over the timing of a cross-Channel invasion and the shape of a postwar United Nations. But at the table, as the champagne and wine flowed, there was much candor and good cheer in the dining room at the British legation. Amid many toasts, the talk turned to deception schemes designed to mislead the Germans about plans for Operation Overlord. "In wartime," Churchill said, "truth is so precious that she should always be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies."

Though Churchill's aphorism from this long-ago night has often been cited to justify all sorts of deceptions, it is important to remember the context: He was talking about deploying falsehoods to protect a military operation, with lives at immediate stake. He was not proposing that a democracy routinely resort to lying to perpetuate itself. Yet the evocative "bodyguard of lies" is one of those phrases that now gives politicians convenient Churchillian cover when they choose to mislead the people.

Churchill, then, is something of a victim of his own eloquence, but in the long run an expression's currency is more important than its coinage, since it is in its usage that it reaches from the past to shape the present. Is lying inextricably bound up with statecraft? Are democracy and deception ultimately compatible? When do the ends justify the means — and who decides? These are ancient questions. (It was an exasperated Pontius Pilate, after all, who muttered, "What is truth?" amid the trial of Jesus.) Into this perennial debate — one made more urgent by the intelligence disasters on the road to the war with Iraq — comes a provocative, intriguing and insightful new book by Eric Alterman, "When Presidents Lie." Alterman, a combatant in the partisan wars of the moment (a columnist for the Nation and co-author of "The Book on Bush: How George W. [Mis]leads America"), takes a broad, complex and satisfying view in his latest work, examining four cases of deception by U.S. presidents in the 20th century. He chooses well: FDR, Truman and Yalta; JFK and the Cuban missile crisis; LBJ and the Gulf of Tonkin; Reagan and Iran-Contra. In Alterman's parlance, a lie is "presidential dishonesty about key matters of state," and such lies, he says, are "ultimately and invariably self-destructive." Acknowledging that we live in the real world, he notes that leaders should use confidentiality, not mendacity, to protect the state. "Keeping a secret," Alterman writes, "is not the same as telling a lie." His eye is on deceptions about policy. His prescription for the presidency: Lying "should be avoided at all costs. Period."

Before the Bush-obsessed left leaps to its collective feet to applaud, though, it should know that Alterman's case is more subtle than the conspiracist-minded Michael Moore wing of the American political class would probably like. Granting that a certain amount of deception is necessary in the presidency, Alterman goes far beyond moral finger-wagging — in fact he purposely avoids moral judgments altogether — to assess large lies about large things, from the Crimea in 1945 to Iraq in 2003. He argues that Roosevelt and Truman, not Stalin, initially failed to live up to the promises made at Yalta, particularly on the question of a postwar Polish government. The resulting disintegration of Big Three relations, Alterman writes, helped press Stalin to take a tougher line and, in the end, led to a prevailing Western impression that "no American president could or should trust any Communist leader to keep his word on any matter of mutual interest. When problems arose, they would be settled exclusively by the threat of force." Alterman's is an interesting revisionist view and, like many revisionist views, is open to argument on the details. (To think Stalin would have long remained a friendly kinsman in FDR's envisioned family of nations strains credulity, but Alterman makes a nuanced case that is worth weighing.)

His reading of the Cuban missile crisis connects Yalta with the Gulf of Tonkin and Vietnam. Hating to be seen as "soft," the Kennedys covered up the crucial step in the resolution of the standoff with the Soviets: the deal to remove American missile bases in Turkey in exchange for removing Moscow's nukes from Cuba. The public message: Compromise is for the weak. Alterman's conclusion: "The false rendering of the crisis taught President Johnson, his advisors, and the American people an updated version of the lesson that Harry Truman says he learned at Potsdam: 'Force is the only thing the Russians understand.' " In 1964, Johnson used the murky incident in the Gulf of Tonkin to escalate the U.S. military effort in Southeast Asia — even though it was unclear that American forces had been attacked. "I am not going to lose Vietnam," Johnson said, "I am not going to be the President who saw Southeast Asia go the way China went." So the truth did not matter, the larger mission did, and Johnson sold the country a war on a false pretext. In a devastating chapter on Iran-Contra, Alterman details the Reagan administration's march of folly in Central America — a case study in the imperial presidency run amok. Citing the false claims that justified the war with Iraq, Alterman dubs the current Bush administration a "post-truth" White House. I might quibble with that phrasing: Bush is a theological president, one who believes in a truth that may or may not be supported by facts.

One of the more chilling points Alterman makes is that presidents tend to lie not only to us but also to themselves, convincing themselves of things that may not comport with the facts. We all do this in our own minds, recasting uncomfortable or inconvenient feelings or events in a more flattering light — doctoring, in a way, the scripts of the movies that play in our heads. But when presidents rewrite unfolding history, there are real, lasting and frequently adverse consequences. Ideally there would be no deceit in a democracy, for a public armed with disinformation cannot make intelligent political decisions. But we do not live in an ideal world. The best we can hope for, it seems, is that the people we choose to lead us will understand that, in the end, history rewards presidents who concentrate on saving lives rather than saving face.

Alterman argues concisely and well, if sometimes a bit too clinically. At the heart of each of the lies he delineates with such skill and clarity is the human tragedy of a man or men struggling to lead the nation through what George Eliot called the "dim lights and tangled circumstance" of life. Captive to their experiences, bound to the devices and desires of their own hearts, consumed by their own needs, they made mistakes and the rest of us paid for them. Still, these were good and even great men, and in each case one can see why they did what they did. We now know Yalta as the last act of the war, but Roosevelt did not, obviously, since his essential sense of invulnerability did not allow him to contemplate his own death. FDR may have left the Crimea with a bad deal for Poland, but he believed he could make things come right in the end, and he usually did. The Kennedys were understandably sensitive to being portrayed as soft on a totalitarian foe: Their father, after all, had wrecked his own political and diplomatic career by appeasing the Third Reich just 20 years earlier. Johnson recoiled at the idea of losing a war that he thought JFK would have won. And Reagan dwelled so much in his own imagination that America had to take the good with the bad. The good was Reagan's romantic belief that he could defeat communism like a heroic movie star; the bad was that he let his vision of reality, rather than reality itself, color the course of his government.

Is Alterman's prescription for the presidency — never lie, period — practical? Even with the distinction he draws between lying and keeping secrets, I don't think so. But I admire Alterman for doing about the only thing one can to further the cause of truth in a world riven with deceit: explain the failings of the past to the powers of the present in the hope that example will do more good than exhortation. Stories are almost always more effective than sermons, and the stories Alterman tells in "When Presidents Lie" are important reading for the men and women making the life-and-death decisions of our own time.

Jon Meacham, managing editor of Newsweek, is the author of "Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship."

(I wouldn’t mind if you bought it here either.)

Too rich, I:  Yes it’s possible to be “too rich” but I don’t mean with money.  Today the WSJ runs an op-ed arguing that “it’s time to reign in special prosecutors.” Here. ($)  This is the same editorial page that published six thick volumes of lunatic Whitewater coverage, in which it alleged murders and the like, where no crime at all was committed, save an eventual blowjob.  Too rich.

Too Rich: II. A Dear John Letter:

Dear Senator Kerry,
You may recall that I suggested you give exactly this speech in Al Franken’s living room when we talked in December 2003.  You had your chance.  Now nobody cares.  That $14 million you have saved up from last time, you were given that to win.  If you couldn’t spend it, it should have gone to candidates who could.  Nobody gave it to you so that you could run this time.  We’re still pretty annoyed about how you did it then.
Sincerely,
You Know Who…

Quote of the Day, Donald Trump:

"You can go ahead and speak to guys who have 400-pound wives at home who are jealous of me," he told the author, "but the guys who really know me know I'm a great builder."
Here.

Hey Google:  How about you guys just buy The Wall Street Journal and solve a lot of the world’s problems that way?

Name:  Major Bob Bateman
Dateline:  Baghdad, Iraq

Sustained     

The season changed and the weather here is pleasant.  Today the temperature was a moderate 80-something degrees. The sky remains cloudless with the exception of one day of overcast last week, which was itself a pleasant interlude.  We have not seen rain since April.  I was, as much as I can be, relaxed.  It was enough that there had been no mortars today, nor the echoes of any VBIEDs. 

Around noon I found myself walking down a road, en route from someplace to somewhere else.

Ahead of me, sitting on a bench, resting from the weight of his battle-rattle, was a soldier.

The gravel crunched under my feet.  Ten yards away a soldier tilted his head slightly, catching a surreptitious glance.  My pace was neither fast nor slow, but was closer to the normal ground-eating amble I adopt when carrying a load.  Seven yards.  Five yards.

The sergeant comes to his feet.  It is not a springing motion but a smooth fluid one.  In the same liquid manner his right arm shoots upward, coming to a rigid position at a 90-degree angle from his body while the forearm moves higher.  His right hand snaps intro position, knife-edge towards me with the palm turned slightly inward.  He is rendering the “hand salute.”  It is crisp.  Clean.  Professional.

Conditioned at a near-Pavlovian level, my own arm executes the same ballet.  Three yards.

“Afternoon sir.”

“Afternoon sergeant.”

My hand snaps down.  A tenth of a second later the sergeant’s does as well.  Almost as quickly he drops back to his seat and is again utterly relaxed.

*******

When describing her initial snap impression of me on our first (blind) date my fiancée once described my posture as “ramrod straight.”  That always struck me as curious, because I’ve never seen myself as a paragon of military bearing.  Indeed, given my own broad anti-authoritarian streak, within my own culture I see myself as something of a sloucher.  I’ve oft wondered at the discrepancy.  The sergeant’s salute, perhaps, holds the key.

*******

Many people who have never served do not understand what the salute is to us.  Outsiders, it seems, often see it as a quaint tradition at best.  Less generously, some consider the hand salute as indicative of our hidebound nature, or a hold-over from older, darker days, marking one man as inferior and one man as superior.  Perhaps one day, long past, it was this.  But that is no longer the case, and has not been for a long time.  Not among Professionals.

Between us it is a greeting.  A mutual acknowledgement.  It starts, by tradition but not regulation, with the lower ranking man.  The higher ranked soldier returns the salute, and drops the salute, then the initiator drops his.  That is the process.  But the meaning is hidden.

For us it is recognition.  One pro to another, and that is all.  Thus, if an enlisted man, or a lower ranking officer approaches me, and his hands are full, I will salute him.  Not to do so would be disrespectful of his service, just as his not initiating a salute (assuming he saw me, and had empty hands) would be disrespectful of mine.  Who salutes first matters a lot less.  Again, that is why it is a tradition, but not a regulation.

Of course there are variations on this.  Close friends, separated by rank, will render their salutes to each other much more casually.  A company commander, reporting in to his Battalion Commander in the TOC, exhausted and worn out after 20 hours, may give no more than a sketched movement towards his brow to his commander…and that too is respectful.  Soldiers and officers in a good unit salute sharply.  Indeed I can tell you a lot about the state of an entire battalion just by watching their ‘common area’ for twenty minutes.

Yes, of course there are exceptions.  Bad officers exist.  Martinets puffed up with their own sense of importance who completely miss the point because they think that their rank entitles them to something, will go off on a rant if not saluted properly.  You can see this as well, if you know what you are looking for, because men will go out of their way to avoid “officially” seeing such an officer.  But a commission is not a guarantee, and combat weeds out a lot of them for the simple reason that the regulations do enforce a certain respect for the rank, but combat has no such compunctions and only respects competence.

All other things being equal, however, we fall back on the customs and courtesies.

When I passed that sergeant today I responded automatically in returning his salute.  I felt it afterwards, noticing that my posture did get more rigid.  I stood taller, walked straighter, held my head up and returned his salute with every ounce of professionalism with which he offered it.  Walking away I stayed straight and tall.  I did not know that sergeant, and likely I never will.  He was, technically, saluting the rank.  He does not know me, and so I have not earned from him, the respect implicit in the salute.  But I was trying to earn it, as best I could, within that brief one-second context.  A lifetime of this and, I guess, you do stand a little straighter perhaps.

This, friends, is why it is taking so goddamned long to teach the Iraqi Army.  No, we’re not trying to make them just like us.  But we are trying to give them the tools of the professional.  In the Iraqi Army under Saddam, indeed in all other Middle Eastern armies extant, the officers do consider the enlisted men a sub-class.  They treat them as chattel.  They act as though they are entitled.  And in all of this they show that they just don’t get it.  Those attitudes did not work 1,000 years ago, and they do not work today.  That is what we are trying to pass on here; The idea that your men matter.  Ultimately your men matter more than you do, and no matter what, you must respect them.  It all comes down to one simple rule we have in the American Army.

It is an inviolate rule, especially in the infantry where things can occasionally run short.  This is a rule which says as much about us as does the salute, but which nobody outside the Army sees.  In one line, this is a rule which exemplifies what we are trying, hard, to pass on here.  A rule which if we can pass it on, and make them understand and believe, will make them capable.

Officers Eat Last.

BAGHDAD WITHIN EARSHOT:

The  blast at the Palestine Hotel gave me a good shake.  It is the largest blast that I’ve heard or felt since last April.  It makes me wonder though…why would they go after the journalists?

This morning I opened my e-mail and found pictures of my daughter Morgan and her two girlfriends Cat and Alex, dressed up and on their way to their first Homecoming.  My heart broke in a dozen different ways.

Somewhere out there, back home, there are people in an editor’s conference discussing the sadly morbid topic of how to address the family of the 2,000th servicemen to die.  I wish that they would not do this.  I wish that the mere coincidence of some meaningless number with the death of their son/husband/daughter/etc. would not add to a family’s pain immeasurably and forever.  I wish that all stories about that Soldier would omit that he was the 2,000th, and that all stories about the 2000th would omit his name.  I wish that he could be given the peace of being our de facto Unknown for this war.

I am assuming that my wish will not be fulfilled.

You can write to Major Bob at Bateman_Maj@hotmail.com.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Sal
Hometown: NYCD

To Ed Hanson and Tim Hunter,
The Rolling Stones have consistently put out records since their inception in 1962.  Mostly with a core group of original members.  Sure, post "Some Girls," the records were a bit shaky, but all had moments, nonetheless.  "A Bigger Bang" is solid, thru and thru.  We don't want to like it because that is our nature.  It's big.  It's popular.  We're appalled at the $450 ticket price.  We're sick of Mick & Keith.  That doesn't change the fact that the record is a great rock n roll record.

The Stones never went away.  Neither has Clapton, and mostly his records have sucked since 1971.  The Cream Reunion is exciting, but musically it is sleepy.  AND at $375.00 a ticket, no less.  Nothing against Jack & Ginger.  They could use the dough, and really what's so bad about that?  But to say they blow the Stones away is just false.  "Crossroads" sounds like a funeral march.  "Spoonful" sounds as dirty as Clapton's acoustic "Layla" debacle.  The band looks like it can't wait to get off the stage and soak in Epsom Salt.  The Stones put the same energy into their well-worn classics, as they did their newer material.  They even changed the arrangement of "19th Nervous Breakdown," just for kicks.  And it killed.

Finally, to Ed Hanson, did I read right?  The Beatles and Dead solo stuff is better than the band material?  Really?  Wow.

Name: R Grahn
Hometown: Brooklyn, NYC
You are selling the One Down One Up set WAY short.  The last days of the great Coltrane quartet had a fantastic tension to them as Trane wanted to vault into outer space, and the band wanted to keep their feet on the ground.  Is it still so strange to suggest that Trane's late work - his most personal work - was his best?  Hasn't time caught up with him finally?  You know he took the future of jazz with him when he died, why is it so hard to give the late work its due?  Far from offending the old guard, you might be concerned about offending the lovers of the late period by fawning over the Monk disc at the expense of Trane being Trane as he prepared to take off for parts unknown.  Trane was right.

Name: Melinda Bates
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Dear Dr. Alterman,
The current rightwing spin on perjury reminds me of the brilliant Chris Rock, opining during the early stages of the Lewinsky troubles: "OK, so the President lied about sex. F**k - MOST people lie about sex.  F**k - SOME of us lie DURING sex!  It's not as if he lied about... where the BOMBS are!"  This was in 1998.

Name: Jim Wiseman
Hometown: Columbia, Maryland
Hi Eric,
This is in response to the Jonathan Last piece.  I don't think you were thorough enough in your discussion of how incredibly stupid and inaccurate it was.  Does Last not know that the British appeasement policy of the 1930's was crafted and carried out by Tory governments?  Does he not know that the Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain, the last two PMs before the war, were Tories with huge majorities in Parliament??  Does he not know that their reason for appeasing the Nazi/Fascist powers was to use them as a bulwark against the Bolsheviks, and that they opposed extensive rearmament because they thought it threatened economic stability?  What has any of this to do with liberal pacifism??  And to quote Winston Churchill! Ye Gods, what ignorance!  It is true, Churchill had no use for pacifism, but he did not waste much of his rhetorical ammunition on out of power left wing intellectuals.  Instead, to his great credit, he reserved most of his fire for the conservative authors, enablers, and executors of the wretched appeasement policy.  For this he was made a pariah in his own Tory party.  And when he was finally elevated to be the Prime Minister, it was because Labour agreed to a National Coalition Govt. with a Tory PM, provided that Tory PM was Churchill.  Thus, in a slightly oversimplified but very real sense, it was the left that put Churchill into power; an irony not lost on many a Tory MP.  Last seems unaware of any of this, though that doesn't stop him from spouting off about the 30's relevance for today.  So great a distortion of history reveals the intellectual bankruptcy that appears to overtaken many elements of the conservative movement.

October 26, 2005 | 12:08 PM ET | Permalink

Mission Unaccomplished

2000 dead is a milestone, sure, and an unhappy one, though Brit Hume doesn’t seem to think so, here.  But to me the really problematic statistic today is that Iraqis are dying at a clip of sixty per day.  That’s sixty dead Iraqis per day whose way of “welcoming us as liberators” is to get killed.  No worries though, “The insurgency is winding down.” Here.  These are the people all those smart folk trusted to reverse a thousand years of history and bomb the Arab world into democracy.  Shame on them.  My girlfriend Arianna tallies up some of the lies that got us here, here.

And as I said yesterday, this administration quite openly and unashamedly supports torture, here.  If you support them, then you support torture too.

Stealing Elections? Some evidence:

Computer programmer Clinton Curtis testified at the December 13th, 2004 Congressional hearing in Columbus, Ohio naming Republican Congressman Tom Feeney as the person who hired him to prepare vote-rigging software.

The programmer claims that he designed and built a "vote rigging" software program at the behest of then Florida Congressman, now U.S. Congressman, Republican Tom Feeney of Florida's 24th Congressional District.

Clint Curtis, 46, claims that he built the software for Feeney in 2000 while working at a software design and engineering company in Oviedo, Florida (Feeney's home district).”

It’s here.  (Excellent find, Petey.)

Stupid on Purpose? I: The new Republican spin on “perjury” is that people who said impeach a guy for lying about a blowjob think it’s no big deal to lie to destroy a CIA agent’s cover in order to protect your lies for war:  If people think lying to protect the privacy of one's sex life and protect their wife and child from humiliation is the equivalent of revealing the identity of a CIA agent in order to discredit a patriotic public servant reporting on his government-inspired mission, well, it's just hard to believe they are serious.

Most Americans have had occasion to lie about their sex lives, which is one of the many reasons why 68 percent of Americans disapproved of impeachment proceedings on the day Clinton was impeached.  Not so many Americans, however, approve of lying to get us into war.  So they can tell the difference —eventually at least— even if these morons cannot (or pretend not to be able to….)  In the meantime, if they do think it’s the same, perhaps they might wish to sign a petition demanding the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.  (But if God—working through His servant, Republican Patrick Fitzgerald--is really, really great, they won’t have to… Go Pat!)

Stupid on Purpose? II:  Jonathan V. Last, here.

The American left, too, eerily echoes its British counterparts. Consider the "Peace is Patriotic" bumper stickers; the howls of protest against the nomination of John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations, for fear that he might be too assertive of American values; the comparison - by Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) - of American soldiers at Guantanamo Bay to Nazis and Guantanamo Bay to the Soviet gulag; the protest cries of "No blood for oil" and the left-wing fringe speculation that the endgame of George W. Bush's 9/11 fear-mongering would be to cancel elections and establish a fascist police state.

Is peace, in fact, unpatriotic?  Is being a “Mr. Kiss-up and kick-down” an “American value?”  What Durbin compared was torture to torture.  Is Last pro-torture?  Is he being “Stupid on Purpose”?  I don’t know his work well enough to say, but he sure is being stupid.

Alter-reviews:

"Progressions: 100 YEARS OF JAZZ GUITAR"
by Sal Nunziato, NYCD

This four CD collection from Legacy is an ambitious set, featuring over 70 tracks, dating as far back as 1906.  While I am no authority on jazz guitar, I have listened to and collected enough jazz in my lifetime to be curious as to just how the compilers decided on what exactly to include here.  (My copy is an advance copy for review, with no notes.  So, maybe they tell us in the final package, but somehow I doubt it.)

Disc One is vintage material.  Early tracks by Sam Moore, Johnny St. Cyr playing with Louis Armstrong's Hot Five, and The Ink Spots, to name a few of the artists I've heard of, along with many I have not heard of, such as Allan Reuss, Sol Hoopi, and Casey Bill Weldon.  It's a pleasant listen, but to my ears, sounds less like "guitar" highlights, and more like the soundtrack to a Woody Allen film.

By Disc Two we hit the early 50's and 60's with tracks by Les Paul, Chet Atkins, Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass and Grant Green, to name but a few.  What makes "Jean de Fleur" by Grant Green the right choice to represent such an amazing musician?  It's not a bad track, by any stretch of the imagination, it just doesn't fall into any category.  Not definitive.  Not rare.  Not his best.  Why not "Exodus," or "Go Down Moses?"  I mean, none of these tracks were hit singles. Very random, as is the whole collection.

The same can be said about discs 3 & 4.  To see Jimi Hendrix included on a "jazz" guitar collection was startling, yet satisfying.  But, "Manic Depression?"  Is that jazz?  How about "Third Stone From The Sun," the closest I think Jimi has ever gotten to jazz.  Again, very random, to my ears.

I do think that one track by artists such as Earl Klugh, Phil Upchurch, Lee Ritenour and Eric Gale is all you (I) really need.  And while it doesn’t quite rise to the level of “definitive,” its extensive notes and generally great music make it a pleasure to have.  The play list can help you make your decision, however, it’s here.

End Sal

More Jazz:  I wish last week I had gotten the One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note [LIVE] recorded in 1965 at New York's Half Note club when I reviewed the unspeakably spectacular Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane: At Carnegie Hall.  Not that this set is as great in any way, either technically or sonically.  It isn’t close.  But it’s still great Coltrane and a good place to go once you’ve gotten grounded in the guy.  Just as the 1957 showed Miles Davis’ sax player on the verge of becoming “Coltrane” this set finds him just on the verge of becoming “late Coltrane.”  I’m not crazy about late Coltrane, but this is on the verge—when you could still follow him—or at least I can.  These are among the last gigs of the magnificent Quartet with McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison.  The sound, taken from a radio broadcast, comes in and out a bit.  But it has extended versions of the man on two tracks that showcase what made him unique: “Afro Blue” and “My Favorite Things.”  Actually it showcases the whole band, and it’s a shame to say it because it (rightly) pisses off all contemporary jazz musicians, but man, those were the days.  There’s a track listing here.

I also wished I had noted that Verve had issued But Beautiful: The Best of Shirley Horn on Verve because every once in a while I’ll say something nice in a sentence or two on this site about some artist and it will get back to them and make them smile.  I wish I could have made Shirley Horn smile because during the ten years I stupidly lived in Washington, going to see her in the world’s smallest jazz club was one of the things that made exile OK.  I don’t think jazz has ever produced a classier act than Ms. Horn, and this collection, culled from eleven separate albums, is as good an introduction as to why as you’ll find anywhere.  That lady could quiet a room by just breathing.  When she sung, it was with reverence and awe, and we shared it.  There's a song list here and a lovely appreciation of her here. (WSJ-$)

Correspondence Corner:

Name:  Wendy McAllister
Hometown:  Glenwood Springs, CO
An interesting addition to Danny Goldberg's data on Bill O'Reilly's radio show; Denver newspapers have been reporting that O'Reilly's talk show on Denver radio has been cancelled due to low ratings and will soon be off the air.  Also of note, it appears that Sean Hannity's talk radio program has been cancelled in (admittedly strongly liberal) Pitkin County Colorado.  Interestingly, Hannity's show has been replaced by O'Reilly's (along with an interesting, local liberal talk show called "Con Games").  Are these conservative gum bumpers in a wicked twist cancelling each other out?

Name:  Rick
Hometown:  Orlando, FL
Just some thoughts on the Campaign Against Air America.  I live in a part of the country that does not have an Air America affiliate so I subscribe to XM radio.  I would say that about 90 percent of my XM listening is devoted to Air America and I'm throwing down $12+ a month to get it.  I don't know much about the Arbitron methodology, but how many of us paying listeners are included in their ratings?  How about the AA listeners streaming on the Internet because they have no affiliate?  What kind of ratings do you suppose caveman radio would get if their listeners had to put out good money for the "privilege?"  Also, for O'Reilly, et.al., to disparage AA for personal attacks, well...it reminds me that what I enjoy most about the personalities on AA is an appreciation for irony -- purely an adult thing, I guess.  Finally, after a look at the reality-based numbers I can see why the cavemen feel they need to go to the mattresses on this.

Name: Jed
Hometown: Helena, Montana
Dr. Alterman,
What the data you report on Air America does not take into account is the number of people who listen via the Web.  There is no affiliate in my area, so I listen to Air America in my office right on the computer.  No listening numbers are generated for that.  I know that I am not alone, and I would bet that AA gets more listeners over the Web than [F]Right radio.  The worm is turning on these people, and they don't like it one bit.

Name: Ed Hanson
Hometown: Commerce City, CO
Tim Hunter of Philadelphia writes: "I saw the Stones in Philly a couple of weeks ago, and Cream just blows them away."  Easy to do.  The Stones haven't produced anything fresh since the early '70s.  Everything they do sounds like a new version of an old piece.  They should have broken up then and gone their separate (musical) ways, it would have made them better in a lot of ways (vis a vis The Beatles, the Grateful Dead, etc.).  To me Stones are just stagnant.

Name: Andrew Milner
Hometown: Bryn Mawr, PA
Eric:
Here's info on the Radosh-Navasky debate: "'Resolved: The Hollywood Reds Did More Harm Than Good' CUNY Graduate Center 365 5th Ave New York, NY 10016-4309 Midtown Phone: (212) 785-7335 Panels, Events The Nation and the Donald & Paula Smith Family Foundation present this debate on McCarthyism between Victor Navasky, publisher of The Nation and author of A Matter of Opinion and Naming Names, and Ronald Radosh, an adjunct senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and author of Red Star Over Hollywood and Commies.  Moderated by Leonard Lopate."  I'll wait and see in C-SPAN covers it...

Name:  Barry L. Ritholtz
Hometown:  The Big Picture

Macro perspectives on the Capital Markets, Economy, and Geopolitics

Hey Doc,
Yesterday's big economic news was the nomination of Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve Chairman.  The former Chair of the Princeton Economics department, Bernanke will replace the highly over-rated Alan Greenspan, whose 18 year run ends in January.

How easily will Bernanke get through the Senate Confirmation Process?  You know a nominee is a "slamdunk" when political cartoonists mock the President for nominating someone who is too qualified -- at least when compared to his prior nominees.

The politics of this are pretty obvious:  Ben Bernanke is a safe, strong choice, liked by both the Bond and Equity markets.  It comes amid the tumult of the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination, the previous black eye of the FEMA chief, Brown -- before we even get to the problematic appointments of all the NeoCons who did such a bang up job planning for Iraq's post-War period.  This is one appointment that the White House -- amidst potential indictments on Friday, and hitting all time lows in the Polls -- wouldn't dream of risking on anything less than a stellar candidate, and that have one in Bernanke.  The Fed Chair replacement is so important, that not even this White House dare screw it up.

As a side note, one has to be stunned by the breadth of the Princeton Economics department -- not just Bernanke, but Burton G. Malkiel, Alan S. Blinder, Paul Krugman, Alan B. Krueger, Daniel Kahneman (and I have no affiliation with Princeton).

I have some minor reservations about Bernanke; These are based on a couple of his better known speeches as a Fed Governor:

  • The Global Saving Glut and the U.S. Current Account Deficit -- was just so much political blather.  It completely fails intellectually.  Essentially, it states that a global problem isn't the lack of any savings in the U.S. -- it's everyone else's saving too much, and failure to go out and spend spend spend.
  • Deflation: Making Sure "It" Doesn't Happen Here -- was hopefully just jawboning.  I assume that threatening to drop dollars onto the landscape from helicopters to fight deflation was merely an amusing visual, and not any planned actual monetary policy.  And his infamous "printing press" comments -- essentially threatening hyper-inflation as a response to Deflationary concerns -- was also just so much Jawboning.

Dan Gross also looks into whether Bernanke is enough of an Inflation Hawk ( here).  Incidentally, there is still an opening for a new Fed Governor -- I have a very strong suspicion as to who it is going to be, but it would be premature to out this person just yet.  ;)

Lastly, The WSJ went through their archive and pulled out a few fascinating articles on departing chair Alan Greenspan back in 1987.  Here's their look at "The Maestro" via the lens of the crash, circa 1987:

October 25, 2005 | 11:54 AM ET | Permalink

Could they possibly be clearer about this?  This administration supports torture, here.  Because they won’t admit it though, they are willing to send those who do their dirty work to jail.  I don’t see the point of adding a lot of adjectives to this.  Just keep in mind that these are the people who all those “first-rate minds” thought would be the right fellows to invade Iraq and bring democracy to the Arab world—after we were done torturing them.  Remember, the worst photos from Abu Ghraib are still being withheld.  I wonder if Cheney—who is really Bush for these purposes—will keep them by his bedside for those nights when, you know, he needs a little something to help him get to sleep.

I couldn’t find it in a search but Novak is somewhere on the record saying no one would ever trust him again if he cooperated with the special prosecutor to save his neck.  Of course he did.  Given how much trouble the Times has enjoyed because of not getting to the bottom of the behavior of their reporter, Judy Miller, now might be a good time for the Post to come clean about that liar, Bob Novak.

Because Fitzgerald is going to issue indictments instead of a final report, we may never have a full rendering of Novak’s role.  I can certainly live with that trade-off but still, shame on the Post (and CNN) for what it has allowed Novak to get away with and if they allow him to continue in place, double shame.  More here.

Bob Kagan has a point, here.  Judy Miller may have been the worst of the worst but virtually the entire Washington journalistic establishment—‘first rate minds’ all—bought into Bush’s lies about Iraq.

Kristof to liberals:  As a liberal, I say let’s let the Bush administration win again, here.  After all, my principles are more important than anything that actually happens in the real world.

John Tierney: “Can you tell any difference between me and Kristof?   Here.  Me neither, but at least I don’t call myself a “liberal” before bashing them all the time.

Kristof Weasel Word Watch:  “seem to… We don't know… but… is rumored to be considering… would mark… would be…. seems to… My guess… it may well have been… I question… and I wonder... it would be”  Quite a case there, fella…

“Love the job,” he told me, “but don’t ever make the mistake of loving the institution.”  A really smart Judy piece here.

Quote of the Day:  “[T]he government is used to dealing with conflicted and questionable witnesses in the form of mob informants and drug dealers.  They don't normally expect to have to rehabilitate a New York Times reporter.”  Oy.  Here.

Gore/Obama '08, Dammit.

The Campaign Against Air America
What is it about Air America suddenly has the right-wing fog machine—in the persons of Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh in particular-- so worried?  In recent weeks, we’ve seen and heard what can only be a concerted disinformation campaign to undermine its increasingly effective challenge to the hegemony of the caveman right on the air.  Some examples:

“The O’Reilly Factor”  with guests, Michelle Malkin and Brian Maloney. 9/27/05

O’Reilly:  the ratings at Air America aren’t good and the programming and talent are full of personal attacks.  Last week the AAR sent out a mass e-mail asking people to send money much like PBS and NPR.  Why do they need money if they claim they are doing so well.  Brian, you study this crew, I have never seen a commercial enterprise ask their listeners for money – ever.  Is this unprecedented?

Brian Maloney:  Well, Ted Turner did this many decades ago at a TV station in Charlotte, when he made an on-air appeal for funds, but yes, this is like the NPR and PBS approach, send us a dollar and save midnight basketball in the Bronx.

O’Reilly:  OK, so their ratings are low, advertising is low and they need sugar daddies like Soros to save them.

Malkin:  They have a bad business model and they aren’t drumming up enough advertising.  The content on Air America and the talent say outlandish things.  …It’s almost comical how they put out this panhandling plea.

O’Reilly: – well, they are trying to survive.

Maloney: – they are down to their last couple of months – that could change if Soros steps to the plate – but things are looking bleak.  They overpay their talent, they are fending off lawsuits and are overspending.  The just got a new studio, they didn’t need that but Franken insisted on it and now he is not even going to use it – he’s moving to Minnesota.

O’Reilly: Michelle you get the last word.

Malkin: They have a trail of debts, a trail of creditors and there are really two stories here.  One is the crumbling of Air America and two there is the failure of mainstream media to cover the crumbling as a financial, political, and entertainment story.

And here’s O’Reilly on 9-20-05

The Air America left-wing network, well, that could be on its last legs, at least that's what we're hearing.  We'll have a report tomorrow.

8-17-05

O'Reilly: They hire liberals.  Nobody watches them.  Air America.  Nobody's listening to it.  I mean, there's got to be a reason -- you know, why we're No. 1, a punch line for you, and No. 2, you know, becoming the most powerful news network in the world.

8-3-05

O'Reilly:  That radio network cannot support itself because of low ratings. And unless Soros or another liberal sugar daddy steps up, Air America may soon be joining America Coming Together on the scrapheap.

"Talking Points" is thrilled these enterprises are imploding because they're full of character assassins who destroy decent discourse.  Karma is a wonderful thing, but we do need responsible voices on the left in this country. America is great because legitimate debate sharpens thought and leads to better problem solving.

7-26-05

The Air America radio network continues to fail with catastrophic ratings here in New York City, perhaps the most liberal market in the country.

6-15-05

The only reason the network even exists is because a few loony millionaires finance it. The national ratings are terrible.

In Washington, D.C., for example, Air America's audience is too small to be counted. In L.A., pretty much the same thing. But the "New York Times" continues to promote that disaster, while ignoring the success of Limbaugh, Hannity and others.

4-18-05 O’Reilly with guest, Brian Anderson

O'REILLY: Why is Air America not succeeding? They have 50 affiliates after a year. They are losing about $8 million a year according to "Ad Age."

ANDERSON: They're doing much worse than the mainstream media is actually reporting. They've -- they have received more free publicity than any project I've seen.

O'REILLY: It's amazing how much free publicity, and we're giving them more right now.

ANDERSON: But look at the latest batch of ratings, Arbitron ratings. In New York City, they are down to 24th in the ratings. And that means...

O'REILLY: They're last.

ANDERSON: They're just about last. They may be last. They're doing worse than the all-Caribbean format that used to be...

O'REILLY: I heard a rumor they're going to start to do the limbo while broadcasting, to try to get that Caribbean audience back again. But there has got to be a reason -- there's got to be a reason that a Bill Bennett launches a conservative radio program and gets 150 affiliates right off the bat.

ANDERSON: A -- 124, it is. But same period of time.

O'REILLY: Whatever it is. And they have 50.  What's the reason?

1-17-05

O'REILLY: I wouldn't go on Air America because they're liars.

October, 18th, 2005, Hannity & Colmes; Guest: Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh: And it's fascinating to me to watch liberal radio attempt -- they think, I think, that you just announce you're going to start, and you'll get 20 million people, and so forth. I find it fascinating they cannot make themselves a commercial success. They're already now out begging their listeners to send in money. And I don't think they have, as liberals, the slightest understanding of the commercial aspects of the success that it takes in radio, particularly talk radio. They're in funding, and donations, and stealing money from little boys and girls clubs and so forth -- not stealing it, but having strange transactions go on there and so forth.

After coming across these attacks, I asked my friend Danny Goldberg to get me some actual data to see if anything these guys were saying was true.  Here’s what I found out.

In October 2004, AA had 38 affiliates with a cume of 1,997,700.  Currently, it has have 70 affiliates with a cume of 3 million.

As for the debts, Danny writes me:

Air America is in strong financial shape.  Last week we started broadcasting from our new multi-million dollar studios.  Several weeks earlier the Board of Directors of Air America’s parent company accelerated re-payment of a loan from the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club of $875,000 two years in advance of a previously agreed upon re-payment plan.

As for the handouts,

The Air America Associates Program was created in response to our listeners requests to support our programming financially and is modeled after the Nation’s Magazine program, “The Nation’s Associates,” which is also a for-profit company.

And hey look:

Rush Limbaugh’s Web site offers his fans the “Limbaugh Letter” for $34.95 a year and a totally separate service called Rush 24/7 which includes access to archived programs at the cost of $49.95 a year.  The Limbaugh site also features the “EIB Store” which sells such items as $19.95 polo shirt which amusingly says, “My Mullah went to G’itmo and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”

The Sean Hannity Web-site features a “subscription” to something called, “The Hannity Insider” for $5.95 a month.

But no one tops the self proclaimed non-spinner Bill O’Reilly. Bill O’Reilly.com offers a “premium membership” for either $4.95 a month or $49.95 a year.  He also offers a “Gift certificate” for $14.95.  Products for sale on the Web site include:

  • Radio Factor diner coffee mug available in white or navy blue for $14.95
  • O’Reilly Factor keychain for $7.95 “while supplies last.”
  • Three different “No Spin” tote bags at $14.95 apiece
  • Ten different hats at a cost of $16.95 each
  • The “no spin”  jacket for $79.95
  • The “ Unisex Black Fleece” embroidered with “The Spin Stops Here”  for $39.95
  • Several bumper stickers including one that reads “Boycott France” for $2.50
  • License plate frame for $18.95
  • Three different “No Spin” tote bags at $14.95 each
  • An O’Reilly  Factor Gear Bag at $64.95
  • “Mens Garment Bag” for $64.95 (sorry ladies!)
  • a “Spin Stops Here” organizer briefcase
  • A “Spin Stops Here” pen and pad bundle for $19.95
  • Two different designs of “Spin Stops Here” doormats for $49.95 and
  • Two different “Rain Stops Here

As for the ratings, Danny says,

On a nationwide basis the most recent Arbitron ratings Spring 2005 book showed that our affiliates reach over three million people per week, each of whom listens for an average of several hours a week.  This is more than triple the amount of people who were listening when measured one year earlier in the Spring, 2004 book.

Here’s the data:

According to the most recent Arbitron Report, Summer 2005 Metro:

Mon-Sun 6a12m, AQH, Share and Cume have all increased for both Persons 12+ and Adults 25-54.
For Adults 25-54, WLIB’s target audience, AQH is up 29%, Share increased 40% (from 1.0 to 1.4) and Cume increased 9%; for Persons 12+, AQH is up 6%, Share is up 20% and Cume is up 11%.
WLIB ranks #2 in A25-54 TSL MSu6a12m (10h30m per week) among NY Talk stations, a 20% increase since the Spring 2005 book.

Now compare them to O’Reilly on WOR, also Arbitron Summer 2005:

  • The ratings for the Bill O’Reilly radio show in New York were worse in the demo of A25-54 than those on Air America that he described as “catastrophic.”
  • In the key 25-54 demographic which talk radio offers to advertisers, the Summer 2005 Arbitron ratings showed that Monday-Friday from 2-4 PM when O’Reilly is on WOR-AM and which at Air America’s 1190 WLIB-AM contains the last hour of “The Al Franken Show” and the first hour of “The Randi Rhodes Show,” that O’Reilly had a 0.6 share and Air America a 1.8 share.  O’Reilly had a cumulative audience of 45,800 and Air America had a cumulative audience of 95,700.

[ permalink ]

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Lobbyists?
Why is the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press going to bat for the two AIPAC staffers caught trafficking in classified information?  According to a UPI report, they argue that

the broad way prosecution of the two interprets the espionage statute would have
‘negative consequences for journalism.’ …   The group adds that the WWI-era law has apparently never been used against a journalist, but says the case against the two lobbyists is an indication that federal officials intend to expand the scope of those prosecuted under the law.
— (Stephen Rosen and Keith Weissman -- former staff members of AIPAC -- are charged under the espionage act. AIPAC has fired them but is paying their legal bills.)

A source writes me, and I agree:

Since when did reporters start viewing lobbyists as fellow members of the 4th estate i.e. protected by the First Amendment. And, beyond that, is the incredible irony that AIPAC has done more to chill first amendment freedom to criticize US Middle East policy than any organization in this city. Steve Rosen, in particular, is well-known for hounding reporters who dare to question Israeli policies. You may recall (if you don't, see the CJR piece) that Rosen had the editor of the Washington Jewish Week fired for attending, on his own time, a meeting of progressive Jews who were opposed to aspects of Israel's policies. (The reporter, Andrew Carroll, is now editor of the New Jersey Jewish News). That was just one example of the AIPAC effort -- usually success -- to thwart free inquiry when it comes to Israel. The fact of the matter is that AIPAC and Rosen are well-known for the chilling effect they have had on press freedom (not to mention Members of Congress who are bludgeoned when they dare criticize Israel).

Sister Rosa.  She was a tiny ripple who became a tidal wave.  Teach your children well, here.  (And maybe Condi might want to read up on her a bit too, here.)

I don’t know about you, but I’ve taken just about all I can take of local attractive teenagers and their relentless, anti-Zombie bias.  Haven’t you?  Here.   (After all, have there ever been any better singles than “She’s Not There” and “Time of the Season?”  Oh wait…. this part’s even better:  “The New York Times criticized the Zombies for 'their ill advised eating of teenagers,' but also criticized the teens for 'their equally ill advised efforts to stop the Zombies from eating teenagers.'")

Holy S**t:  Sparks light on Sirius.

Alter-review

Brad Mehldau, “Day is Done,” by Sal

Brad Mehldau has made no secret of his love for The Beatles, Radiohead, Paul Simon, and pop music in general.  His records, starting with his brilliant major label debut, "Introducing Brad Mehldau," have been nothing if not fresh and daring.  A beautiful version of a standard like "When I Fall In Love," fits comfortably next to his own unique take on Radiohead's "Exit Music." Mehldau defines "crossover" perfectly.

On 2002's "Largo," which I think is his masterpiece, he experimented with electronics and called in pop uber-producer Jon Brion to handle the sessions.  Together, they turned the jazz world upside down with pop melodies, rock and roll drumming, and piano improvisations that placed Mehldau in a class of his own.

Now, Mehldau releases "Day Is Done," another perfect record.  Ten tunes recorded with his trio that further demonstrate Mehldau's genius.  A gorgeous take on "Alfie," a solo take on The Beatles "Martha My Dear" that takes liberties with the melody which makes the performance even more intense, and the powerful opener, Radiohead's "Knives Out" that displays the brilliant interaction of Mehldau with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard.

If it wasn't for the outstanding Monk/Coltrane discovery, this would be the jazz release of the year.
—Sal Nunziato, NYCD

Correspondents’ corner, Steve Earle section:

Name: Gerald Barker
Hometown: Cookeville, TN
Have you seen the Chevrolet ad with Steve Earle's 'The Revolution Starts Now' as the centerpiece?  How could an artist sell such a strong political statement to a car company?

Steve replies:
Hey man,
The answer is obvious - money.  That being said, I won't ever do a beer ad or a Wal-Mart ad (I don't even shop there) and I know lots of lefties who drive Chevy trucks.  In any case the ad has been pulled and the agency has stopped returning my calls so it's a moot point.

Correspondence Corner, Eric Alterman section:

Name: Bob Mangino
Hometown: Seattle
Eric,
After a pretty good weekend for news inside the beltway, now it looks like Frist knew more than he let on about his "seeing-eye" trusts.  I think it IS all coming together, as you alluded to last week, and not a second too soon.  (This about Frist, to add to the Rove and Libby and DeLay legal situations... can Cheney be far behind?)  What's that song they play when a basketball player fouls out, or a prominent slugger strikes out: Na-na-na-NAH, Na-na-na-NAH, Hey-hey, good-bye!"  Link here .

Name:  David Sass
Hometown:  Houston, Texas
I would like to thank Richard Heinzman for getting to the meat and potatoes of conservatism.  He finds liberal elitism "offensive."  I also find it offensive, however, under no circumstances can I find conservative elites raging against elitism "reasonable."  It is dishonest, opportunistic and hypocritical.  It seems to me there are two kinds of conservatives in America today: those who have come to accept hypocrisy as reasonable and those too delusional to see the hypocrisy at all.  In either case, offensive is the lesser evil.

Name: John S. Ransom
Hometown: Carlisle, PA
I don't know if you should've gone along with Richard Heinzman on elitism.  The question is: elite in what sense?  Does 'elite' just mean 'whoever occupies the top tier in any endeavor'?  So 'elite' just means 'powerful'?  I don't think that captures the significance of the word.  Instead, the word 'elite' seems to point to a 'leadership role or status that is inextricably linked to cultural sophistication.'  Thus we wouldn't want to say that, say, Rush Limbaugh belongs to any sort of elite just because millions of people listen to him every day.  Whereas we would want to say that Eric Alterman has achieved elite status, combining as he does accomplishments in a wide variety of fields.

Eric replies:  “Gone along with?”  Dude, I’m an elitist, period.  I’m not proud of it, nor do I apologize for it.  I simply accept it.  Would anyone argue that society does not need elites?

Name: Tim Hunter
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Three reasons why Eric needs a Cream ticket:

  1. The band is fit and tight and all empathetic ears, with lots of serious interplay and just the right amount of grandstanding:  Clapton is all about being a team player instead of a pyrotechnician, Bruce sings his heart out, Baker is just remarkable – unique, funny and endearing.

  2. The set list is phenomenal.  Last night they played the obscurities (e.g. “We’re Going Wrong,” “Deserted Cities of the Heart”) as revelations, and gave relaxed, thoughtful readings of the hits instead of playing them for audience raves or nostalgia value.  Clapton’s slide work off of Baker’s freight train on “Rollin’ & Tumblin’" alone is worth the hefty price of admission.

  3. Yeah, it’s a Strat, but you can hear what he’s playing.  The mix and attack are very different, but while they give up the wall of sound, they gain a lot of detail and nuance, even in MSG.  Humorous aside: Clapton and Bruce had miniature model Marshall stacks on top of their real amps – like the tiny little Stonehenge replicas in “Spinal Tap.”

I saw the Stones in Philly a couple of weeks ago, and Cream just blows them away.

October 24, 2005 | 12:19 PM ET | Permalink

Conversations with Clinton

I went to the Four Freedoms ceremony at the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in Hyde Park, NY on Saturday.  The 2005 Laureates were:

Four Freedoms Medal - William J. Clinton
Freedom of Speech Medal - Tom Brokaw
Freedom of Worship Medal - Cornel West
Freedom from Want Medal - Marsha Evans
Freedom from Fear Medal - Lee Hamilton & Thomas Kean

At lunch, I got the requisite hug from Brother West, who packed more eloquence and inspiration into a single five minute speech than I could manage in a lifetime.  I was pleased to see him cite Abraham Joshua Heschel as one of his heroes, together with King, Fannie Lou Hamer, Coltrane, and I forget who else.  I also had a nice chat with the wife of the recipient of the Four Freedoms Medal, who was there as a supportive spouse and said nothing publicly.  I then caught up with her (perennially mobbed) husband for a minute as he was walking out and told him, politely but pointedly, that it was “nice to see him giving the guy a little bit of hell for a change.”

This made him mad, and he stopped and gave me a little talking-to.  He insisted that he had been attacking Bush’s tax cuts and foreign policies for more than two years, “but it is not up to me to make the media cover it.”  I said I thought he had been awfully generous both about the war and about the self conscious effort of the Bush administration to destroy the accomplishments of his administration.  He reiterated his angry criticism of the tax cuts and I said, well, you’re the ex-president, you can say whatever you want, unencumbered, and I wish you’d lay out the case of the other America to the world—the one for whom Bush doesn’t speak—and now constitutes a majority.  Well, now he really got going, since you know, he didn’t disagree.  He talked about his efforts to explain the nature of the American political division whenever he’s abroad, as he just returned from doing in China, but was also clearly miffed by my bringing up the Bush administration’s self-conscious efforts to dismantle his accomplishments.  He took this a little more personally than I had intended it—I was thinking of things like an effective FEMA or expanded education and training programs for displaced workers.  But he brought up a State Department program that was designed to give fellowships to Palestinians to study in America and had been named after him at the request of the Israelis and Palestinians who asked that it be set up.  Not long ago, he said, someone at the State Department told him it had been shut down after two years because “they don’t want anything in this department named after you.”  As I said, it wasn’t the point I intended, but it was a point…. [ permalink ]

Now You Tells Us.
So we finally get a Times Op-Ed columnist to weigh in on Judy Miller, some might say two years late—clearly there was either an explicit or implicit bar from publisher Arthur Sulzberger on doing so—and Maureen Dowd demonstrates how much we’ve been missing, here.  All of the knowledge that’s been withheld from readers is merely hinted at here, and no mention is made of what took her (and everybody else) so long.  Still, it’s good stuff as far as it goes.

Alas, Maureen’s mind —or perhaps her conscience— played tricks on her and the net result was a case of (almost certainly unconscious) heavy lifting from not-so-constrained competition.  The result:  Here’s Dowd on Saturday:

“It also doesn't seem credible that Judy wouldn't remember a Marvel comics name like "Valerie Flame." 

And here’s Tina Brown earlier the same week:

“All I could extract from Sunday's Miller marathon was her own implausible revelation that after having 85 days in jail to think about it, she has no memory of where she got that memorable Marvel Comics name -- VALERIE FLAME -- that was mysteriously inscribed in her recently surfaced notebook.”

Is it possible Modo didn’t read Tina?  I don’t think so.  Dowd may have invented this weird hybrid of journalism-cum-sociology-cum-psychoanalysis-sprinkled with high-level gossip but Tina’s perfected it and my guess is, that makes her a real pain in the Old Gray Lady’s posterior.  Keep in mind, throughout, however, that the Miller episode—while a genuine identity crisis for the Times (and a welcome one at that, given its historical arrogance and refusal to be held accountable to any judgments beyond its own—pales in comparison to the scandal that inspired it and has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands and an increase in anti-American hatred and terrorism the world over.  Frank Rich puts it in perspective here.  Oh, and Judy responds to Barney Calame, here.  [ permalink ]

Right about the war, but um, “second–rate.”
Quote of the Day, I:  “In those tense months, the mark of second-rate minds was absolute certainty one way or the other.” —George Packer, who supported the Bush/Cheney war in Iraq, here.

Quote of the Day, II:  “It’s pretty interesting that all the generals see it the same way, and all the others who have never fired a shot, and are hot to go to war, see it another. … We are about to do something that will ignite a fuse in this region.  [We] will rue the day we ever started.”  —Major General Anthony Zinni, (ret.) former chief of US Central Command, October 2002, and a “Second Rate Mind,” according to Mr. Packer.

Let’s not make this personal.  Off the top of my head, a collection of those deemed to have “second rate minds” by Mr. Packer would have to include:  Alan Brinkley, Garry Wills, Stanley Hoffmann, Walter LaFeber, Jeffrey Sachs, Charles Peters, Robert Reich, Al Gore, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Thomas Powers, James Fallows, Todd Gitlin, Tom Geoghegan, Arianna Huffington, Eric Foner, Tony Kushner, Robert Kuttner, James Mann, Mike Tomasky,  Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Josh Marshall, Paul Krugman, Harold Meyerson, Michael Kazin and Barack Obama.

And then there are all these second rate minds who happened to sign a prewar letter to Bush that read, “As students of the Japanese occupation, we believe that the Bush administration's plans for war and occupation in Iraq are a historical mistake and strongly urge the United States to seek a peaceful solution to the present crisis,” including:

AWAYA Kentaro (Professor, St. Paul's University, Japan)
Hans H. BAERWALD (former Occupation official, Professor Emeritus, UCLA, U.S.)
Herbert P. BIX (Professor, Binghamton University, U.S.)
Bruce CUMINGS (Professor, University of Chicago, U.S.)
Ronald P. DORE (Associate Professor, London School of Economics, U.K.)
John W. DOWER (Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S.)
Jonathan DRESNER (Assistant Professor, University of Hawaii, U.S.)
Norma FIELD (Professor, University of Chicago, U.S.)
FURUKAWA Atsushi (Professor, Senshu University, Japan)
Andrew GORDON (Professor, Harvard University, U.S.)
Laura E. HEIN (Professor, Northwestern University, U.S.)
Glenn D. HOOK (Professor, University of Sheffield, U.K.)
HOSOYA Masahiro (Professor, Doshisha University, Japan)
KOSEKI Shoichi (Professor, Dokkyo University, Japan)
J. Victor KOSCHMANN (Professor, Cornell University, U.S.)
C. Douglas LUMMIS (Political scientist and writer, Okinawa, Japan)
Gavan MCCORMACK (Professor, Australian National University, Australia)
Richard M. MINEAR (Professor, University of Massachusetts, U.S.)
MIYAGI Etsujiro (Professor Emeritus, Ryukyu University, Japan)
Michael MOLASKY (Associate Professor, University of Minnesota, U.S.)
Joe B. MOORE (Professor, University of Victoria, Canada)
NAKAMURA Masanori (Professor Emeritus, Hitotsubashi University, Japan)
James B. PALAIS (Professor, University of Washington, U.S.)
Robert RICKETTS (Professor, Wako University, Japan)
Mark SELDEN (Professor, Binghamton University, U.S.)
SODEI Rinjiro (Professor Emeritus, Hosei University, Japan)
TAKEMAE Eiji (Professor Emeritus, Tokyo Keizai University, Japan)
TANAKA Toshiyuki (Professor, Hiroshima Peace Research Institute, Japan)
TOYOSHITA Narahiko (Professor, Kansei Gakuin University, Japan)
YUI Daizaburo (Professor, Tokyo University, Japan)
Mark SELDEN (Professor, Binghamton University, U.S.)
SODEI Rinjiro (Professor Emeritus, Hosei University, Japan)
TAKEMAE Eiji (Professor Emeritus, Tokyo Keizai University, Japan)
TANAKA Toshiyuki (Professor, Hiroshima Peace Research Institute, Japan)
TOYOSHITA Narahiko (Professor, Kansei Gakuin University, Japan)
YUI Daizaburo (Professor, Tokyo University, Japan)

The other funny/annoying thing about Packer’s pronouncement is that nobody was surer of anything than Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al.  And those are the “second rate minds” he trusted to transform a thousand-year autocracy into a liberal democracy specifically against the recommendations of people like those above—as well, as, for the record, Brent Scowcroft.  [ permalink ]

I know the answer to this one, but why is Tim Russert flacking for Judy Miller and the administration’s WMD lies?  Read this and the Larry Wilkerson transcript on the hijacking of U.S. foreign policy by the “Cheney cabal” is here.

Ralph Reed, Jack Abramoff, Karl Rove, and the exploitation of 9/11.  It ain’t pretty but I’m guessing it's par for the course for the current leadership of this great country of ours, here

And check this out:  “Were you able to whack McCain’s wife yet?”  What the hell is that?  Oh yeah, Karl says he can’t remember.  (And where was this kind of reporting when Bush was supposed to be a hero?)  In the meantime, all hail Bartlett and Steele, here.  (How is it that this could be the same publication that so admires Ann Coulter?)

Oh hey, Frist seems to be a crook, too, here.  What is it with these people?

The Washington Post's Al Kamen notes that Pennsylvania Rep. Don Sherwood, a Republican congressman accused of assaulting his former mistress over a five year period, has received $26,000 from Republican leadership PACs.  Here.

Slate Editors? Anybody home?  From John Dickerson on Irving Lewis Libby, here

When the Cheneys hosted a party in February 2002 for the paperback publication of Libby's book, the guest list was not filled with workaday journalists, but with the elite from New York and Washington: Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee, Leon Wieseltier and Maureen Dowd.

Um, everyone in that sentence lives in Washington.  For the record, New York media elitists don’t take kindly to being represented by their Bush loving/Clinton-hating/WMD-believing Washington counterparts.  (And isn’t that Web site edited in, um, New York?)

Meanwhile, James McMurtry has a new political blog, here.  I don’t love his new album but a lot of people do and you might.  I do love his first album, “Too Long in the Wasteland,” and perhaps you should start with that.  And Steve Earle has a play, here.

All hail Shirley Horn, one of the few unambiguous good things about Washington D.C.

Anybody got a really cheap Cream ticket for me tonight?  Send it to letters@thenation.com please.

Alter-reviews:

David I. Kertzer Old Demons, New Debates for the YIVO Center for Jewish History compendium of essays based on talks delivered during the 2003 international conference of the same name hosted by YIVO.  I disagree with its overall thrust, but it’s got interesting (and arguable) essays by Nathan Glazer, Omar Bartov, Enrique Krauze, Mark Lilla, Leon Wieseltier, and others of a more-conservative-than-not bent.  In any case, this topic isn’t gong away.  Here.

Also, the Second Annual Comedy Benefit for Seeds of Peace takes place on Thursday at Gotham Comedy Club starring Susie Essman and a lot of other people.  Go here and be a mensch.

And Navasky and Radosh are debating Hollywood Reds, somewhere, I forget where. 

I’m in Pittsburgh, remember, for the 17th annual Harvest Celebration Dinner 6 p.m. at the Omni William Penn Hotel, 530 William Penn Place, Downtown. 412-431-8960  for tickets.  There’s an interview with me in the local Pittsburgh City Paper here.

Correspondence Corner:

A friend writes:
I treasure those mornings on which I can feel like I'm on mushrooms while not having to go to the considerable time, the even more considerable expense, and the extremely considerable legal risk of actually BEING on mushrooms.  Yesterday was one of those mornings.  First, there was Tim Russert, for about the 37th consecutive week, convening a panel to pretend that he's confused about the basis for an investigation in which he has already given testimony.  Has there ever been a performance like this on national television?  Tim Russert, on NBC, playing the role of Tim Russert, while the actual Tim Russert is back in the green room, hanging in the chiffarobe and talking to his lawyers.  This would have driven poor Derrida to abandon the life of the mind and take a job serving clam rolls on Cape Cod.

And, then, in yesterday's NYT Book Review, an extremely strange effort from Nick Kristof, who begins by telling us that the new Mao book is a groundbreaking and magisterial revision of the old boy's life -- Let's all dig up Edgar Snow and throw rocks at him! -- and then ends up wondering whether or not the two authors have been embroidering their research wholesale.  I read the damned review twice and I'm still hornswoggled as to whether or not I should believe the book, Kristof, or my own senses.  Big time journalisming.  I'm telling you, it's the best hallucinogen out there these days.

Name: Ian McCamphill
Hometown: Newport, Rhode Island
Eric,
I am a Soldier.  Deployment to Iraq is just a few weeks away.  To go forth and serve my Nation in a noble endeavor is the greatest thing a citizen/Soldier can do for his country.  However, as we both know, this is not the case with Iraq.  Don't misunderstand me.  I am 27 years old.  I've been reading Foreign Affairs, conversing with Senators such as Claiborne Pell, and the like since I was 14.  I am very well aware of Foreign Policy, military, and economic strategy. Getting all of that out of the way, I am able to look at a plan of action and state whether it is wise or not on several levels.  I argued, at length, with the military and intelligentsia community about how we could not succeed in a war in Mesopotamia.  Culturally, if you remove the brutal dictator that has subjugated his people you will have to deal with brutal factional in-fighting.  Something that no occupying power can deal with.  Years have passed and the people I argued with about this have mostly held fast to their ideals.  Depressing to say the least.  A lessening of intelligent discourse and advancement of ideas.  One of those I have basically screamed at has been Prof. Thos. P.M. Barnett.  Being that we were both in such proximity, Rhode Island, I felt I could convince him that his ideas belonged in academia ONLY and to be discussed, not farking briefed to the Joint Chiefs of Staff!!  He is delusional.  Still thinks that we can actually change a culture because we will it to be so.  Please bring some heat to bear on this misguided man.  You have no idea how much power he brings to bear in our current war focused foreign policy.  Generals love this guy.  Then again, that is not a surprise.  I was working a detail today where we issue out gear to units that are deploying to Iraq.  We had a Major, Colonel, and 1st LT arguing about how colleges were all "liberal" and what not.  heh...  I'm a PFC.  What did I say?  "Sir, you do realize it's called Liberal Arts for a reason, correct?  Perhaps you fail to understand the meaning of the word liberal.  Have you googled it?"  heh...  This is not a career, my friend.  Just here to help the soldiers of my unit get back home to their families during my 3 year tour to serve my country.  Perhaps I will be able to keep in touch whilst I am in Iraq.  I would like that very much.  The worst part lays ahead of us.  The battle is going to get increasingly more bloody.  I hope you realize that as you fight to get the truth out every day.  I think that you do.  Thank you for your time and all that you do.  Have a good weekend.  With every good wish I am, Ian McCamphill, Newport, RI.

Name: Richard Opie
Hometown: Milwaukee WI
You might want to share with your readers the text of the statute at the heart of the Fitzgerald investigation.  I keep hearing that it is a difficult "proof" problem.  Take a look at subsection "c".  Novak is guilty as well and should be indicted for his column.  Additionally, there are only a handful of cases that address this statute, none of them U.S. Supreme Court cases. 

50 U.S.C. § 421. Protection of identities of certain United States undercover intelligence officers, agents, informants, and sources (a) Disclosure of information by persons having or having had access to classified information that identifies covert agent - Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both. (b) Disclosure of information by persons who learn identity of covert agents as result of having access to classified information - Whoever, as a result of having authorized access to classified information, learns the identify of a covert agent and intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. (c) Disclosure of information by persons in course of pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents - Whoever, in the course of a pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents and with reason to believe that such activities would impair or impede the foreign intelligence activities of the United States, discloses any information that identifies an individual as a covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such individual and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such individual's classified intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than three years, or both. 50 U.S.C. § 421. Protection of identities of certain United States undercover intelligence officers, agents, informants, and sources.

Name: Robert Earle
Hometown: Torrance, CA
Your 'Nation' column says "(Judy Woodruff just stated that myth as a "fact" on The Colbert Report.)"  I think it was Leslie Stahl.

Eric replies: Yes, we’re running a correction.

Name: Richard Heinzman
Hometown: Walla Walla, WA
Elite?  Vous?  Most assuredly, along with every name that appears in your column today.  Limbaugh, Ingraham et al.  Yes, every name.  Even though they view elitism the way I might like to view it, they are elite.  They, and you, should not pretend otherwise.  Being non-elite in virtually every way, I simply prefer the conservative view of liberal elitism.  As a non-elite observer from the outside, I consider liberal elitism, as exemplified by a select elite minority, offensive.  I just find the conservative elite more reasonable, more in line with my own thinking and less vituperative.  But make no mistake.  They and you are all elitists in one way or another.  You should just admit it and acknowledge that you are simply defending your brand of elitism.  That's just an opinion from one of the vast average majority.

Eric replies:  When have I ever denied it?  In fact, I don’t merely admit it, I defend it.

Name: Pat Monk
Hometown: Ellensburg, WA
Subject: Liberal Hawks
Dear Eric:
When I took Tae Kwon Do lessons my teacher told us "we study the martial arts so we never have to use our skills."  In other words, the greatest victory in a fight is when one side backs down before the fight even begins.  In the winter of 2002-2003 I thought the United States and its allies were on the cusp of the greatest military victory ever seen in modern history.  I thought the regime of Saddam Hussein was backed in to a corner, with the military build-up in the Persian Gulf clearly threatening the survival of the regime, forcing Iraqi compliance with U.N. sanctions, and with U.N. Weapons Inspectors combing through the country with the backing of all of the Western intelligence agencies.  Disarming and publicly neutering the dictator, would in my mind likely result in the downfall of the regime, once its weaknesses were exposed. Regime-change, so to speak.  To me this would have been the ultimate expression of power, of military power, to overthrow an odious and despicable regime without actually fighting it.  I don't regret that Congress gave the President the authority to put the troops in place, in order to give the U.N. inspections some real authority.  I do however wish the Commander in Chief would have been required to get a declaration of war from Congress, before ordering the troops to invade.  But, hey, what do I know?  I never progressed beyond a green belt in Tae Kwon Do anyway.

Name: Charles Cabello
Hometown: Boulder Creek, CA.
Eric,
Thanks so much for your noting of the "Monk Quartet w/Coltrane Live."  Also for the 'tip-of-the-hat' to Michael Cuscuna's fine, fine, SUPERfine Mosaic label.  Here I need to profess that I'm not associated in any way with the name/label beyond being an oft-times amazed customer/listener.  I need to also need to admit that, given my musical proclivities, I consider this 'find' equivalent to the recent unearthing of a late Beethoven manuscript, never performed (but soon to be, I'd bet!)  And yes ... the sound quality IS truly amazing tho' I feel it only fair to state here that I'm one of those anachronistic adherents to the vinyl format as being the best ever possible source save perhaps, for two-track reel-to-reel tape which is simultaneously as cumbersome as it is sonically excellent.  So ... kudos for your appraisal of this which is spot-on.  So rare is the circumstance that we're privy to something from decades past that is entirely new.  It becomes at once, musical event of much substance and archeological 'dig' bearing fruit.  To quote someone/sometime: Why is it that most of the world's problems can't be solved by simply listening to John Coltrane?  (Henry Gabriel)

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments