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Special Slacker Friday

Alterman:  Special Slacker Friday

| 3:11 PM ET |

Washington Post's abusive, plagiarizing, non-journalistically-inclined blogger resigns, .  (But where's is Mr. Brady's apology, both to his readers and to the paper's journalists, whose professional commitments were insulted and degraded?)

| 12:31 PM ET |

I’ve got a new Think Again:  Together in Never Never Land, .

Hey look, and .

Quote of the Day, Monday: George Packer on Charlie Rose — “But one thing I saw in Iraq is there are these enormous bases that do have the look of permanence.  And I don't quite understand why that hasn't been cleared up by the administration, what are our intentions in the long run in Iraq?”

One more thing: What the hell kind of world is it when the president of the United States won’t tell a questioner that no, he does not agree that recent events indicate signs of a Biblical apocalypse?  Bush fudged the answer to that question in Cleveland and not by accident (thereby demonstrating Phillips’ point).  And he is the most powerful man in the world; he could actually blow it up if he decided to.

Here is the question: 

Thank you for coming to Cleveland, Mr. President, and to the City Club. My question is that author and former Nixon administration official Kevin Phillips, in his latest book, American Theocracy, discusses what has been called radical Christianity and its growing involvement into government and politics. He makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the apocalypse. Do you believe this, that the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism are signs of the apocalypse? And if not, why not?

Now look and try to find the place where Bush says no, he begs to differ…

And this from “The Note”

Patriot Act politics:The Boston Globe's Charlie Savage picks up on a "signing statement" that accompanied President Bush's approval of the Patriot Act renewal. In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would, 'impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties.'What is it with the Boston Globe actually paying attention to these signing statements??!!?? Over to you, Sen. Feingold.

Our thoughts go out to Anthony Appiah on the death of his extraordinary mom, .

Special Slacker Friday:

Letter to the Post:

Name:  David Brock
[Dear Relevant Executives]
I write today to request that you terminate Ben Domenech’s employment and affiliation with the Washington Post.

We appreciate the value in news outlets such as yours offering readers a wide range of opinion and insight, so we do not take this action lightly.

We did not call for Domenech’s firing when the Post revealed that it had hired a conservative blogger, even though the Post does not employ any liberal counterpart to Domenech.

We did not call for Domenech’s firing when it became clear that he has scant journalism experience but is, rather, a partisan Republican political operative with no place in a news organization.

We did not call for Domenech’s firing when his first post consisted of little more than sneering insults of his readers, describing progressives as “shrieking” and “unhinged” -- exactly the sort of personal insults Brady has previously declared unfit for use by readers describing Post employees in the comments section of the Post’s blogs. The double standard inherent in the Post publishing Domenech’s vitriolic attacks on readers, while repeatedly denouncing readers’ criticism of Post employees, troubles us, but did not cause us to urge Domenech’s dismissal.

But, with each hour bringing new evidence of Domenech’s racially charged rhetoric and homophobic bigotry, the time has come for the Post to end its ill-conceived relationship with Domenech. Examples of Domenech’s views include:

  • In a February 7, 2005, post on RedState, Domenech wrote that he believed people should be “pissed” that President Bush attended “the funeral of a Communist” -- referring to the funeral for Coretta Scott King. As you know, labeling the King family “communists” was a favorite tool of the racists who opposed them.

  • In another RedState post, Domenech compared “the Judiciary” unfavorably to the Ku Klux Klan.

  • In still another RedState comment, Domenech posted without comment an article stating that "[i]t just happens that killing black babies has the happy result of reducing crime" and that "[w]hite racists have reason to be grateful for what is sometimes still called the civil rights leadership" because black leaders "are overwhelmingly in support" of abortion rights.

  • In yet another, Domenech wrote that conservative blogger/journalist Andrew Sullivan, who is gay, “needs a woman to give him some stability.”

Domenech has also been caught at least once apparently fabricating a quote.  A June 20, 2002, entry demonstrated that Domenech made up a quote he attributed to Tim Russert in order to defend President Bush.

In a post on, Domenech once agreed with a commenter who called Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin “an embarrassment to the saner heads at the paper.”

It is time for “saner heads” to prevail.  Will The Washington Post honor its history as one of America’s most respected news organizations -- or will it stand with Ben Domenech, tacitly endorsing his assault on Coretta Scott King, his offensive suggestion that a gay man “needs a woman,” and his fabrication of a quote?

America is watching.


Eric adds:  And they left out , in which Post blogger Dan Froomkin is termed “a lying weasel-faced Democrat shill,” and I am grouped together with David Duke, Noam Chomsky, and Louis Farrakhan, though I am proud to be on a list with one of America’s most distinguished and original philosophers Peter Singer, (though I disagree with much of what he writes).  And hey, dude’s a .

P.S.  I don’t think it’s enough for the Post merely to fire Domenech.  I think absent an abject apology, Brady should be shown the door as well.  At a time when the Post is asking real journalists to accept buyouts, these are the kinds of journalistic values—plagiarism, invective, redbaiting, gay-bashing, etc--in which they seek to invest.  If I were a Post reporter, I’d be angry and depressed beyond belief. As a Professor of Journalism, what am I supposed to teach my students: “lie, plagiarize, call people nasty names and you too, can work for The Washington Post…”)

P.P.S. Boehlert notices this:  "I regret using the term because I think it's been way overblown," Domenech said.  But he said King worked with organizations affiliated with communists in the 1950s and 1960s.  Brady called it "a silly comment" but said he is satisfied with Domenech's admission of error.  Did I miss Domenech's actual 'admission of error'?

And finally, back to this guy hating me.  I have to admit it’s a little weird.  Before the Post hired him, I never heard of him.  And here I’m grouped with all these famously and allegedly evil people.  It’s a strange thing, low-level fame among badly-adjusted right-wing obsessives.  There’s another guy named Russ Smith who writes in New York Press, which is, believe it or not, the absolute bottom of the media food chain in this city, and that’s quite a long way down.  Smith had a job as editor for a while, because his brother bought him the newspaper, which he was forced to sell after he screwed it up even worse, and left town.  Anyway, the guy, who writes under the name “Mugger” is positively obsessed with me.  I’ve never met him nor seen him, as far as I know, and never noticed him in print, either, save for one or two occasions when I had to correct the record.  Yet this week, two of my students asked me about the “feud” we are alleged to be having because he wrote about me for at least the hundredth time.  “Feud?” What the hell?  He writes about me all the time, I ignore him.  I've had bigger "feuds" with mosquito bites.  (And on top of all that, he’s always kvetching about how wealthy I am alleged to be, when I work for a living, and earn my own keep, and his family buys him a job, if it can be called that.  But try explaining that to my students, many of whom can’t tell New York Press from the kind of newspaper that takes its reputation seriously—like the, um, Washington Post.)

Letter to the Times

Name:  James S. Kunen
Brooklyn, NY
The Times wouldn't print my letter, but I thought you might be interested in the point I make about how they ignore their own best reporting on the so-called International Republican Institute:

To the Editor:
Re: "Democracy Push by Bush Attracts Doubters in Party" (March 17):  Less than two months ago, in the January 29 edition of the Times, reporters Walt Bogdanich and Jenny Nordberg spent 8,472 words exhaustively documenting how the International Republican Institute, an organization with close ties to the Bush White House, supported Haitian rebels and encouraged them to oust the lawfully elected president of that country, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Now, in a front page article about President Bush's ostensible commitment to promoting democracy, you identify that same International Republican Institute as "a foundation linked to the Republican Party that supports democratic activities abroad."  Some democratic activities!  If the Times can't learn from its own reporting, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Letters to Altercation

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to think the unthinkable.  So this month the federal budget deficit hit a new record.  A new all-time record.  Ben Bernanke, sounding more like Paul Volcker than Alan Greenspan, wrote to Congress that the deficit "will place at risk future living standards of our country."  None of this is front page news, Iraq has turned the chimera economy into a non-story.  With that in mind, I note a remarkable debate this week on (stay with me here) Andrew Sullivan's blog.  Andy mentioned he wanted to preserve Dubya's budget cuts. Kevin Drum challenged him to specify what he would cut from the budget. Andy offered the following: repeal the Medicare expansion, eliminate agricultural subsidies, legalize and tax pot, abolish the Department of Education and enact a $1/gallon gas tax.  To save Social Security he would up the retirement age to 72 (and up it more down the line) and means-test benefits.  Andy admitted he wasn't sure this would do the trick.

The budget cuts wouldn't.  Dubya's tax cuts cost at least $170 billion per year.  If you repeal the Medicare expansion ($50 billion), end agricultural subsidies ($15 billion), abolish the Department of Education ($60 billion), and tax pot (no firm figure, but a Harvard study estimated $2.4 billion) you're not even close.  The only thing that can fill the budget gap is the
gas tax, a traditionally liberal proposal.

I know that we're all sounding like a broken record these days (kids, before CD’s there were these vinyl music disks that when scratched...oh never mind), but we've allowed the GOP to make the deficit into a non-issue.  Andy's debate was stunning only because it's so rare among mainstream pundits.  Dems should seize such opportunities: applaud the individual for their "honest talk about Dubya’s tax cuts,” sneer at any attempt to minimize the problem or propose "mend it, don't end it" solutions, and express the hope that voters get to chose between the competing visions.  Otherwise come 2008 the GOP nominee will find a way to blame the budget crisis on “spenders in both parties”, spew talk about who you should trust your money to, and Hillary will sound like Walter Mondale in 1984, telling truths nobody wants to hear.

Name: Mark Richard
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Dear Eric Alterman:
I'd be careful about relying on Kevin Phillips as a prophet, no matter how much you may agree with his general political orientation.  He predicted 'The Emerging Republican Majority' way back in 1969 and has been living off it ever since.  However, since then, he thought 'Post-Reagan America' was going to be softened up for a form of fascism; I expect you all recall the fascistic Clinton 90s.  In 'The Politics of Rich and Poor' he predicted the revival of class warfare in the 1990s, with dire results for the GOP.  What marked the 90s instead was the dot-com welfare-reforming barbecue of the Clinton-Gingrich years, unmarked by intense soak-the-rich sensibilities even within the Democratic Party.  In 1998, on NPR, Phillips interpreted the modest Democratic gains in a mid-term election of its sort as a major turning point in American politics; the Republicans made the same showing in similar circumstances in 2002, with no large talk of the significance of that outcome from Phillips that reached my ears.  Perhaps this is because NPR has apparently dropped Phillips as one of its 'Republican' commentators after decades of predictions that didn't pan out and a party affiliation that was quite out of date.  People sophisticated about the internal politics of the Right know that Phillips started into opposition to the GOP around the time his hero Nixon was ousted and Nixon's brand of 'Tory liberalism' was displaced by the more ideological conservatism of the GOP's Reagan wing.  Phillips' prophecy of an emerging GOP majority did not come true for many years after he made it, though he was onto something, and he subsequently made other prophecies which countered the idea that the Republicans would emerge with their slight electoral edge at all levels of government over the past dozen years or so.  He is an interesting writer on the political past, but has a poor record of predicting the short-run future, and his influence has waned accordingly except among those who read him for his vigorous GOP-bashing.

Name: Brad
Hometown: Greenville
Even a cursory examination of the Geneva of Calvin's day would reveal that Geneva was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a theocracy.  Geneva was governed by civil authorities and not the church or any other religious body.  The same applies to Puritan New England.  Apparently your definition of Theocracy is so broad as to intend the involvement of religion in any aspect of government, which is certainly not what the word means.  You wrote... that most people are just beginning to understand.  We have had theocracies in North America before-in Puritan New England and later in Mormon Utah-but except in their earliest beginnings, they lacked the intensity of those in Europe, such as John Calvin's Geneva or the Catholic Spain of the Inquisition.

Name: Traven
Hometown: Arlington VA
Let me go ahead and ask the ultimate question about Israel.  If Israel were wiped off the map tomorrow, how exactly would U.S. national security be affected?  (Note, please, I am not advocating this!)  As far as I can see, we have no national security interest in Israel's continued health at all.  Israel is an ally, yes -- but only against the Arabs, who hate us because we are Israel's ally.  (Unless you really believe bin Laden wants to set up a caliphate in Mississippi.)  Our commitment to Israel is -- or should be -- a moral one, i.e., we believe the Jewish nation has the right to a state of its own; or, mixing practicality, that Israel already exists and, you know, what are you going to do?  But let's stop pretending that Israel is somehow a vital ally.

Name: Rita Gretchen Cormulley
Hometown: Springfield, Illinois
I sympathize with Mr. Ruffian.  My local paper has carried Fillmore (above Doonesbury on the comics page) for years.  Some months ago, I finally asked myself, why bother reading the conservative alternative, which is really nothing more than an animal version of little pisher spouting inaccurate nonsense.  So, since my paper won't remove one without the other, I simply skip it.  Works for me.

Name: Mike S.
Hometown: Englewood, Ohio
Dr. A, maybe you can help me figure this out.  During the past week there has been an all-out assault on the SCLM from the White House and its spokespersons for not providing any "good news" from Iraq.  Questions: Doesn't this lack of "good news" coverage from the mainstream media leave the door wide open for the likes of Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting and other administration-friendly news outlets to have hours and hours of "good news" stories every day?  Where are they?  I can't imagine why they aren't filling their airwaves with stories that the President claims are there.  It seems odd that the little good news and progress that I read about comes in your blog (God bless you, Major Bob!).  Not from Fox, not from conservative talk show hosts, but from Altercation.  Damn liberal media!

March 23, 2006 | 11:04 AM ET |

But first, : "All televisions tuned to FOX news" or somebody gets a load of quail shot in the kisser." (We can't have the president, er, vice-president hearing anything the RNC hasn't already cleared...)

The American Theocracy, by Kevin Phillips

The American people are not fools. That is why pollsters, inquiring during the last forty years whether the United States was on the right track or the wrong one, have so often gotten the second answer: wrong track. That was certainly the case again as the year 2005 closed out.

Because survey takers do not always pursue explanations, this book will venture some. Reckless dependency on shrinking oil supplies, a milieu of radicalized (and much too influential) religion, and a reliance on borrowed money—debt, in its ballooning size and multiple domestic and international deficits—now constitute the three major perils to the United States in the twenty-first century.

Shouldn’t war and terror be on the list? Yes—and they are, one step removed. Both derive much of their current impetus from the incendiary backdrop of oil politics and religious fundamentalism, in Islam as well as the West. Despite pretensions to motivations such as liberty and freedom, petroleum and its geopolitics have dominated Anglo-American activity in the Middle East for a full century. On this, history could not be more clear.

The excesses of fundamentalism, in turn, are American and Israeli, as well as the all-too-obvious depredations of radical Islam. The rapture, end-times, and Armageddon hucksters in the United States rank with any Shiite ayatollahs, and the last two presidential elections mark the transformation of the GOP into the first religious party in U.S. history.

The financialization of the United States economy over the last three decades—in the 1990s the finance, real-estate, and insurance sector overtook and then strongly passed manufacturing as a share of the U.S. gross domestic product—is an ill omen in its own right. However, its rise has been closely tied to record levels of debt and to the powerful emergence of a debt-and-credit industrial complex. Excessive debt in the twenty-first-century United States is on its way to becoming the global Fifth Horseman, riding close behind war, pestilence, famine, and fire.

This book’s title, American Theocracy, sums up a potent change in this country’s domestic and foreign policy making—religion’s new political prowess and its role in the projection of military power in the Middle East Bible lands—that most people are just beginning to understand. We have had theocracies in North America before—in Puritan New England and later in Mormon Utah—but except in their earliest beginnings, they lacked the intensity of those in Europe, such as John Calvin’s Geneva or the Catholic Spain of the Inquisition.

The United States is too big and too diverse to resemble the Massachusetts Bay Colony of John Winthrop or sixteenth-century Geneva or even nineteenth-century Utah. A leading world power such as the United States, with almost three hundred million people and huge international responsibilities, goes about as far in a theocratic direction as it can when it satisfies the unfortunate criteria on display in Washington circa 2005: an elected leader who believes himself in some way to speak for God, a ruling political party that represents true believers and seeks to mobilize the churches, the conviction of many voters in that Republican party that government should be guided by religion, and on top of it all, White House implementation of domestic and international political agendas that seem to be driven by religious motivations and biblical worldviews.

These three threats could stand on their own as menaces to the Republic. History, however, provides a further level of confirmation. Natural resources, religious excess, wars, and burgeoning debt levels have been prominent causes of the downfall of the previous leading world economic powers. The United States is hardly the first, and we can profit from the examples of what went wrong before.

Oil, as everyone knows, became the all-important fuel of American global ascendancy in the twentieth century. But before that, nineteenth-century Britain was the coal hegemon and seventeenth-century Dutch fortune harnessed the winds and the waters. Neither nation could maintain its global economic leadership when the world moved toward a new energy regime. Today’s United States, despite denials, has obviously organized much of its overseas military posture around petroleum, protecting oil fields, pipelines, and sea lanes.

But U.S. preoccupation with the Middle East has two dimensions. In addition to its concerns with oil and terrorism, the White House is courting end-times theologians and electorates for whom the holy lands are already a battleground of Christian destiny. Both pursuits, oil and biblical expectations, require a dissimulation in Washington that undercuts the U.S. tradition of commitment to the role of an informed electorate.

The political corollary—fascinating but appalling—is the recent transformation of the Republican presidential coalition. Since the elections of 2000 and especially of 2004, three pillars have become increasingly central: (1) the oil-national security complex, with its pervasive interest; (2) the religious right, with its doctrinal imperatives and massive electorate; and (3) the debt-dealing financial sector, which extends far beyond the old symbolism of Wall Street. In December 2004 The New York Times took up the term “borrower-industrial complex” to identify one profitable engine of exploding consumer debt.

That name does not quite work, but we can hardly use a term like the credit-card/mortgage/auto-loan/corporate-debt/federal-borrowing industrial complex. This is a problem still searching for its Election Day Halloween mask. In any event, the rapid ballooning of government, corporate, financial, and personal debt over the last four decades goes a long way to explain why the finance sector, debt’s toll collector, has swollen to outweigh the manufacture of real goods. We are in the midst of one of America’s most perverse transformations.

Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from AMERICAN THEOCRACY by Kevin Phillips

Copyright © Kevin Phillips, 2006, .


may prove the final nail in the coffin of private-sector unions in America; a victim of the class-war being waged by the extremely rich against the rest of us.

Washington Post’s Domenech calls Coretta Scott King “a communist” .  Paul McLeary has more .  So does war monger, .

Chait again, , wondering, (implicitly) why the heck John Podhoretz has a job anywhere now that his father can’t ruin anyone’s literary career anymore.

of an interview, former Cold Warrior and CIA consultant, now historian of American militarism and author of Blowback, Chalmers Johnson, brings up the curious question -- now that we live far beyond our means -- of what "bankruptcy" might mean not for Argentina, but for the last standing Superpower.  It's a sobering subject you may hear far more about in the coming, "peak oil" years.  (Part 1 of the interview can be found .)

I read a transcript of the Charlie Rose show from Monday night on Iraq.  Here are some of the most interesting quotes:

GEORGE PACKER: But one thing I saw in Iraq is there are these enormous bases that do have the look of permanence.  And I don't quite understand why that hasn't been cleared up by the administration, what are our intentions in the long run in Iraq?

JESSICA MATTHEWS: But if you include yourself, Fouad, forgive me, but you were wrong.

FOUAD AJAMI: You're absolutely -- you're absolutely just, you know, picking of a lot of things.  We're not here to discuss my view.

JESSICA MATTHEWS: No, no, no, but I'm talking about...

FOUAD AJAMI: I'm perfectly willing to come, and Charlie can go back over what I've said at his desk about Iraq and my doubts about Iraq, my nervousness about Iraq.  I was a 9/11 person, and this is what engaged me at the time.  When the administration did a switch and moved into Iraq, I simply did the only thing I felt I could do; I followed my country into Iraq and decided this is where this war is being played out.

So your idea that somehow I was beating the drums of war is wrong.

JESSICA MATTHEWS: No, I remember sitting next to you at this table.

FOUAD AJAMI: I never signed -- I never signed the Project for the New American Century.

FOUAD AJAMI: I never belonged to any group that urged the war.  When the war came, I did what I as a citizen of this land, I thought I would not second-guess the war. I would not second-guess the soldiers on the ground. I would not second-guess the generals.

It was very easy for everyone now to be this sort of -- to be the armchair occupier of Iraq. It`s been very easy. That I would not do, because I thought that was irresponsible. So that's the answer to you.

LES GELB: There's no question that it's helped to weaken America's standing in almost every other country in the world. It's just added to the notion of an America out of control, an America that doesn't know how to deal with the world.  It hasn't enhanced American prestige and power.  It's weakened it.

Fouad: This was forbidding difficult. This was a forbiddingly difficult undertaking, and the burden on anyone who smashes and bashes the administration today and recounts his mistake is to tell us how we get -- how we come up with something better.

JESSICA MATTHEWS: I think it was an ignoble war, because we went in, in a mixture of ignorance and arrogance.  Ignorance not just about the particular country and about its history and its people and its language, as Fouad said, but ignorance of having forgotten or maybe not knowing the history of previous interventions all over the world -- by us, by the British, by others -- of what it takes to try to create institutions that underpin democracy.  They're home grown things. They don't get transferred overnight.

And I think it's an unfair test to ask of the Iraqis to take a country that has no government, no institutions that work, to somehow reclaim it, because in effect they can`t reclaim it, because the government, such as it is, is really American. I mean, who is conducting foreign policy there? Our ambassador. Who has -- who runs the army and all of -- the central role of the statement, the monopoly of force? The Americans.

So I think Les is right. The war has cost us deeply in credibility, in respect. It has made us feared, because as a unilateral power, even our closest allies don't trust what our next instincts would be. And it was a war that was launched with a good deal of dishonesty about
why we were going. And I think it's important not to forget that.  So the cost, of which I believe we have seen only a little bit so far, will be decades of our relations in the Middle East.

Alter-reviews:  The Rudy Van Gelder Re-Masters on Concord

I love this new trend of giving the guys behind the controls of our musical masterpieces a chance to take a bow.  First there was George Martin, next Tom Dowd, and now Rudy Van Gelder.  Andrew Horn writes: “For many decades now, the name Rudy Van Gelder has been synonymous with recorded jazz music.  The number of sessions he's done over the years easily numbers in the tens of thousands.  He's been actively involved in the recording work of such quintessential jazz labels as Prestige, Impulse, Verve, CTI, and of course, Blue Note..”  He interviews Van Gelder and if you’ve got access to the Times archives, there’s .

Concord Records has just issued a whole bunch of classic CDs, originally on Prestige, for which Van Gelder worked in extremely impecunious circumstances to produce some of the most precious artifacts of our cultural heritage. There’s a whole bunch of them though you have to scroll down and jump around a bit. And if you don’t have Sonny Rollins’ Saxophone Colossus and John Coltrane’s Lush Life, start there.  If you do, you’ll have to do your own research, but I promise you, none of them suck.  And I love the historical accuracy of the packaging.  (The new Chick Corea is also one of the few positive products of Scientology, as far as I know…)

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Susan Stein
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
No, I'm not going to use the word anti-Semite once.  Mearsheimer and Walt conflate AIPAC, the neo-cons, Dennis Ross and Sandy Berger into one large "Israel lobby."  This is a pretty goood trick.  It is possible to completely disagree with the neo-cons, but is just not true that they care more about Israel's interests than America's interests.  I could make a very good case that Iran was and is more of a threat to Israel than Iraq ever was.  The invasion of Iraq has narrowed the US's options for dealing with Iraq.  Dennis Ross and Sandy Berger pushed positions that were closer to Yossi Beilen than to Netanyahu. If the Jewish lobby were as powerful as they claim we would be in the middle of Al Gore's second term as president right now.

Name: Tom Scarlett
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
The next time James Taranto, Ruth Wisse, Martin Peretz or David Horowitz criticizes affirmative action, the only appropriate response is, "So, you agree with David Duke, do you? I always had you pegged for a Klansman!"

Name: Adam Upper West Side
Hometown: New York, New York
Dear Eric,
The problem with the Mearsheimer/Walt paper is not that it is anti-Semitic, although it certainly presents enough canards as fact to make it a nice tool for anti-Semites.  The paper's real problem is its total failure to provide context to any argument it advances. For example, the authors claim that total US direct aid to Israel since Israel's founding amounted to $140 billion in 2003 dollars. In incredibly misleading fashion, the authors claim this "largesse" is unwarranted because Israel is a wealthy industrial nation. The authors fail to mention, however, that for much of the 57 years it took to provide this sum (as a percentage of the 57-year US budget, an impossibly low figure to calculate), Israel's economy was struggling to survive the constant Arab attempts to destroy the country - it has only recently achieved some economic stability. The authors then claim that the US still gives Israel almost $3 billion a year in direct aid, which is true. But they fail to even mention that Egypt still receives more than $2 billion in direct aid annually, or its $7 billion debt forgiveness in 1990 (none for Israel), much less criticize the outlay. All with no Egypt Lobby! Nor do they mention that the share of bilateral direct US aid to the Middle East declined by 20% from 1994 to 2004, to just over 1/3 of the total outlay (not including Iraq reconstruction). And they completely ignore the fact that all US direct foreign aid accounts for just .2% of GDP and only 1% of the entire budget. So while the authors ridiculously claim Israel is receiving "largesse," the better question is why the US isn't spending more money in other places (not including the $20 billion for Iraqi reconstruction), as Tony Blair is quick to point out. As for the political support Israel enjoys, it is telling that the authors categorize the US-Israel relationship as "apart from wartime alliances," when, in fact, Israel was the US's only reliable ally in the region against Soviet-backed Arab states at war with Israel for most of Israel's existence. The authors downplay Israel's strategic importance, noting Israel could do little to stop the Iranian Revolution from having negative consequences for the US in the region (that they don't wonder about the Iranian Revolution itself is puzzling). And the authors ignore Israel's bombing of Iraq's nuclear facilities, which set Hussein's nuclear ambitions back for years. On the nuclear issue, the authors claim that a nuclear Iran is not a threat to the US absent an Israeli rationale, which is absurd, and they strongly imply that Al-Qaida itself would not be a threat, which lunacy since Al-Qaida's aims go light years beyond eliminating a Jewish presence in the region. And there is no mention of Hussein's destabilizing power grab in Kuwait, which had nothing to do with Israel, and which resulted in the US presence in Saudi Arabia that upset bin Laden so much. Perhaps most interestingly given the violence in Iraq, the authors fail to consider that all of the bile spewed at Israel has largely distracted Muslims from their own destabilizing sectarian differences for the last fifty years, a point that would hardly be lost on bin Laden. More than that, the paper is quite apologetic regarding Palestinian terrorism, totally ignores Arab attitudes towards the Palestinians, and totally fails to mention Jordan or Egypt's role in abandoning the West Bank and Gaza. Indeed, the paper fails to place most of the events it discusses into any historical context, much less note evolving notions of morality since 1948. So while Israel may not have made the best choices in each and every of the incredibly complex situations it has faced, the authors fail to indicate why something else other than general support for Israel would have been a better policy since its inception, much less why rewarding Arab despots and Soviet backed regimes would have been a better course.

Eric responds: Just to clarify, I printed six responses to the Mearsheimer-Walt study yesterday.  I said nothing about the study itself, nor about the substantive criticisms of it, some of which may have merit.  (When I have a reason to do so, I will take the time to go over its sourcing, though I admit, I’d be amazed if Mearsheimer/Walt turned out to be guilty as charged, given their respective stellar records as scholars.)  What I did address was the tendency of supporters of AIPAC to smear the messenger at worst, or change the subject to avoid the evidence, often at best.  (Israel may be as close to perfection, and Arabs as Satanic, as David Horowitz and Marty Peretz claim; that doesn’t speak to the issue of the behavior and influence of AIPAC.)  In any case, my point was to offer a fair representation of the responses so far.  I think I did so.

Name: John Ruffier
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
I'm now a suffer of "working the refs" and the media's idiotic mentality of promoting "balance" on its editorial pages.  Recently my hometown paper, The Orlando Sentinel, moved Doonsbury to the editorial page (which is fine), but then to provide "balance" added a new strip called "Mallard Filmore."  But after a month or two of reading them side-by-side, it's like saying Frontline and Bill O'Reilly present equivalent levels of information.  Where Doonsbury is thoughtful and builds on themes of both society and its characters (and makes fun of everyone), Mallard Filmore seems a shrill progressive-bashing piece of hackeology.  I'm not a hypersensitive liberal, but to have such garbage in front of me every day really tests my patience.  Even worse, the paper is devoid of any progressive columnists (but hey, thanks for plenty of Kathleen Parker).  And they wonder why the paper's circulation is dropping as fast as Bush's approval ratings!

Name: Hugh Maguire
Hometown: New York, NY
Responding to your friend Mr. Meyerson's piece on Fathers Detroit: The challenge to manufacturing is not from abroad but from within. The fact is that automation and technology have made it easy for Caterpillar to turn out production, overproduction even. Dramatic productivity improvements have created an overcapacity of many manufactured products. As a result of this overcapacity, and the derivative expectations of customers who have become accustomed to a greater selection of inexpensive goods, manufacturers have been forced to live with intense pressure on prices. The real price of durable goods has fallen by about 50% from 1974. Every single manufacturing industry that anyone can think of, from autos to furniture has too much output, too many cars, tires, batteries, wood, steel, etc.. Too many plants for all the needs of their customers in the entire country due to productivity. The Indians didn't do this, technology did and driving Union clout via government dictated boards of directors wouldn't make manufactures smarter or more nimble, but most likely the opposite (i.e. big three). The only solution, and the real solution, is relentlessly focusing on new product innovation and effectively combining services with product offerings. How the heck is a new "industrial policy" going to contribute to such a thing from Washington DC? There are plenty of companies doing this challenging work with a great deal of success and compensating all in the process. On the other hand all manufactures have to contend with spikes in non-production costs especially related to increasing regulations, healthcare, insurance, and legal obligations that are cutting into the margins gained from productive and successful work. The National Assoc of Manufacturers said these costs now account for 22% of the total cost of production for U.S. manufactures. It's not clear to me how "nationalized health" would contribute to cost relief since non-production payroll taxes would spike or how more "progressive" taxation would enhance one's ability to stomach additional brain stressing and costly project expansions.

Name: Todd Wells
Hometown: Seattle, WA
Thought you might enjoy this... .

Name: Dan Fischer
A note of special thanks for the promo for Merle Haggard yesterday. His work can't be praised enough. As a local FM DJ said, "There ought to be a monument to this man somewhere."  Not to offend Rosanne, a friend of yours whose work I respect greatly, but to me Haggard's body of work is more impressive and more consistent than that of Johnny Cash.  With a few notable exceptions, Cash wasn't nearly the songwriter Haggard is--this isn't a knock on Cash at all, whose last albums are remarkable, but who had some pretty fallow years before that. And Haggard's tributes to Jimmy Rodgers and Bob Wills show he could do a great job with other people's work. I remember in the early 70's having arguments with my friends who had only heard "Okie" and "Fightin' Side", trying to get them beyond that to his other stuff. I made a few converts, but not nearly enough. I own just about everything he's done, but for those who remain leery, I'd suggest the 4-disc box, Down Every Road. I don't claim all his stuff is equally great, but this set of over 100 songs would be hard to match by anyone in country or any other genre. It holds a place of honor among my box sets alongside Robert Johnson, the Elvis 50's Masters, The Hank Williams Singles Collection, and the Louis Armstrong Hot Fives and Sevens. PURE Americana.

March 22, 2006 | 12:30 PM ET | Permalink

Bush Lied.  Again.  Yesterday.

Sure, I’m obsessed.  Why shouldn’t I be?  The most powerful man in the world tells bald-faced lies that result in the death of tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of people and the mainstream media which is charged with informing citizens of such things pretends it hasn’t happened.  It keeps happening, and nobody seems to think it’s a big deal.  Well, I do.  On a day when the Washington Post editorial board found the president’s press conference to be "sometimes blunt, sometimes joking and sometimes unpolished" but "sounded authentic," I found it to be “lying.”  Here’s yesterday’s lie, note: not “mistake.”  Not “difference of interpretation.”  Lie.

We worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world.  And when he chose to deny the inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him.  And we did.  And the world is safer for it.— Here.

Leave aside the “world is safer for it" crap, which you have to be either Fred Barnes or George Bush to believe, but is ultimately a judgment call.  Look at the part where about the inspectors.  Remember the inspectors were in Iraq doing their job when George W. Bush, not Saddam Hussein, kicked them out in order to launch a war that was opposed by most of the word.  Significantly, Bush has made this exact false claim before and Dana Milbank, speaking to Howard Kurtz, explained why he did not think it a big deal for the president to lie to the American people about why he took us into this ruinous war, and thereby enabled Bush to keep doing it.

This is from the afterward to the paperback edition of :

Eventually even so dogged a Bush apologist as Kurtz—recommended as a reliable reporter by the Web site of the American Conservative Union--could not help noticing that when, in July 2003, Bush said, "Did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program?  And the answer is: absolutely.  And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in," his answer bore "no relation to reality."  He asked his guest on CNN's Reliable Sources, "Why has that not been more made of by the press?" The Post's Dana Milbank, who had established a deserved reputation as the toughest of all the regular White House correspondents, answers, "I think what people basically decided was this is just the President being the President.  Occasionally he plays the wrong track and something comes out quite wrong. He is under a great deal of pressure."[i][i]

Really, it is enough to make one throw up one’s hands and start a sheep farm in Scotland…

Meanwhile, don’t you think the president sounds like a six-year-old when he talks about complex problems?  Who was it that said he sounds like a six year old because the issues are explained to him as they would be a six-year-old.  Scary, huh?

More bad news:

  • Working the refs works when you’ve got a craven mainstream media, I:  apparently for telling the truth about Bush’s war on the press.

  • Working the refs works when you’ve got a craven mainstream media, II:  The Washington Post embraces “Red State” ideology over journalistic integrity.  Read Josh’s funny take .

AIPAC and American Interests: The Pushback begins. []

As I noted earlier this week, it is impossible to criticize America’s Israel lobby, or even call attention to its actions--even the ones for which its top employees are not accused of spying-- without being smeared as an anti-Semite, a crank, an isolationist, or more likely, all three.  (And not just by the Cathy Youngs and Nick Kings of the world….)  This is true for America’s most admired realist foreign policy scholars like John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, as it is for any of us and serves as an extremely intimidating factor to anyone who might consider doing so, especially if unprotected by such enviable titles as “Wendell Harrison Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago” and “Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs [and Academic Dean] at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.”  Here are six such responses to the author’s paper, which is , and I’m certain this is only the beginning.  Note that the first one looks to go after the Kennedy School funding because “academic freedom does not mean that donors have to subsidize such drivel.”

Response I:  An e-mail response by Rob Satloff to “Members of The Washington Institute's [for Near East Policy] Board of Trustees From: Rob Satloff, Executive Director” forwarded to the author: 

It is, at its core, a warmed over version of Paul Findley's "classic" They Dare to Speak Out, with additional elements of Edward Said and Rashid Khalidi…. With 211 footnotes, this "Harvard Working Paper" has the veneer of academic precision; in fact, it wouldn't pass muster as a research project in my son's third-grade class…. instead they chose the path of propaganda, not scholarship.  If you have a connection to Harvard (and, specifically, the Kennedy School), I urge you to contact the relevant officials - especially the major gifts officers! - and express your outrage.  Academic freedom means that universities have to provide allowance for writing by tenured professors that can be inane, stupid and otherwise professionally unacceptable.  But academic freedom does not mean that donors have to subsidize such drivel.

Response II:  This from the Institute's Wexler-Fromer Fellow, Dr. Martin Kramer, from his blog, (and is copied in the e-mail above). 

Within the academy, it's the sort of thing that Juan Cole and Rashid Khalidi have been claiming all along, without getting any traction....In particular, the authors have put together an "unedited version," in which the notes are as long as the text, and which carries the title of a Kennedy School of Government "Faculty Research Working Paper." This is presumably intended to make the study appear even more "academic." But it's really a piece of journalistic sensationalism, reminiscent of the 1987 book The Lobby by Edward Tivnan....That Walt can't see this suggests that his own vision is marred by a bias against Israel, the depth of which only he knows.  Walt's notion that U.S. support for Israel is the source of popular resentment, propelling recruits to Al-Qaeda, is of a piece with his argument that the United States is hated for what it does (its detested policies), and not what it is (its admired values).  In fact, America isn't hated for what it does or what it is.  It's hated because of what they can't do, and what they aren't.

Response III:  From Ruth R. Wisse, the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and professor of comparative literature at Harvard, in today’s Wall Street Journal, :

Organized as a prosecutorial indictment rather than an inquiry,… Judging from the initial reaction to their article (one of my students called it "wacko quacko"), the two professors may be subjected to more ridicule than rejoinder....Their tone resembles nothing so much as Wilhelm Marr's 1879 pamphlet, "The Victory of Judaism over Germandom," which declared of the Jews that "There is no stopping them . . . German culture has proved itself ineffective and powerless against this foreign power. This is a fact; a brute inexorable fact."  A parallel edition of these two texts might highlight some American refinements on the European model, such as the anti-Semitic lie that "Israeli citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship."  In fact, unlike neighboring Arab countries, Israeli citizenship is not conditional on religion or race.Yet it would be a mistake to treat this article on the "Israel Lobby" as an attack on Israel alone, or on its Jewish defenders, or on the organizations and individuals it singles out for condemnation. Its true target is the American public, which now supports Israel with higher levels of confidence than ever before. When the authors imply that the bipartisan support of Israel in Congress is a result of Jewish influence, they function as classic conspiracy theorists who attribute decisions to nefarious alliances rather than to the choices of a democratic electorate. Their contempt for fellow citizens dictates their claims of a gullible and stupid America. Their insistence that American support for Israel is bought and paid for by the Lobby heaps scorn on American judgment and values.No wonder David Duke, white supremacist and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, claimed that this article "validated every major point I have been making since even before the [Iraq] war started."

Response IV: And from the always reliable David Horowitz, in the form of an article by Lowell Ponte entitled “David Duke and Harvard's New Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,” :

Anti-Semitism can appear in many forms, many disguises.  Its latest camouflage can be seen in “The Israel Lobby,” an article in the March 23 London Review of Books by Political Science Professor John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Dean Stephen M. Walt of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. ...This working paper, carefully timed to make news just ahead of Israel’s election and a planned leftist propaganda barrage against two accused pro-Israel lobbyists, is really an 83-page Opinion-Editorial article based on the authors’ personal prejudices.This Mearsheimer and Walt attack is so nastily slanted against Israel that their paper ought to be called The New Protocols of the Elders of Zion. No wonder that among those praising their paper most loudly is the Southern white racist, former American Nazi Party enthusiast and Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, now himself a Ph.D.The footnotes that comprise almost half of this paper reveal the left-wing sources that have shaped Mearsheimer’s and Walt’s anti-Israel prejudices …

Response V: James Taranto on the WSJ's Opinion Journal, :

Walt and Mearsheimer's method of analysis presumes Israel's guilt. Every past or present Israeli transgression is evidence of its wickedness, whereas Arab ones, if they are acknowledged at all, are "understandable."  This approach paints a highly misleading picture. It is anti-Semitic in effect if not in intent.Which brings us back to David Duke. His endorsement no doubt is anathema to Walt and Mearsheimer, but it is telling that he finds their ideas congenial.

Response VI:  Eli Lake, quoting Duke, the Muslim Brotherhood, Alan Dershowitz and Marty Peretz in the New York Sun, :

A paper recently co-authored by the academic dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government about the allegedly far-reaching influence of an “Israel lobby” is winning praise from white supremacist David Duke.The Palestine Liberation Organization mission to Washington is distributing the paper, which also is being hailed by a senior member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization. ..A professor at Harvard Law School, Alan Dershowitz, whom the authors call an “apologist” for Israel, said he found much of the paper to be “trash.” He said, “It could have been written by Pat Buchanan, by David Duke, Noam Chomsky, and some of the less intelligent members of Hamas.An intelligent member of Hamas would not have made these mistakes.” ..A retired lecturer at Harvard, Martin Peretz, who is editor of The New Republic, a magazine named in the report as one of those that “zealously defend Israel at every turn,” said, “It is easier to attribute disloyalty to Jews than to question the loyalty of Islamists.This is really questioning the loyalty of Jews, that is what this is about. Everyone is looped in, even people who are a little dicey about Israel like Aaron David Miller and Howard Dean. This goes from the lobby in capital letters, from Jerry Falwell to every left wing Jewish Democrat in the House. It is the imagining of a wall to wall conspiracy and therefore it’s nutsy.”The executive director of the Committee for Accurate Middle East Reporting in America, Andrea Levin, said yesterday that she would be asking the Kennedy School to withdraw the paper because it failed to meet academic standards. She said the paper relied too much on “new historians,” a group of Israeli academics who have been critical of the founding of Israel. She called them “a thoroughly discredited lot.” She also said the authors wrongly say that her group organized a rally in front of the Boston affiliate of national public radio.


Speaking of Horowitz, he is as one with Daniel Lazare, as Todd Gitlin notes .

Whiney babies grow up conservative, .

And racist, .

Don’t blame me, blame the data.

, I’d like to introduce .

is the true heir to Mike Kinsley.  No really.  Kinsley may not know it, but I do, and now you do too.  Read the old Chait columns on the LAT site and see if you disagree.  (Though age has its rewards: Kinsley knew enough to oppose the war, Chait learned the hard way.)

Oy vey on Noam Chomsky, again, .  I’m not sure I understand it all.

Don’t buy , buy .

Alter-reviews:   Nicolette Larson Tribute and Elvis Costello, Juliet Letters

I never gave much thought to Ms. Larson and her pleasant, more-than-twenty-years-ago cover of Neil Young’s “Lotta Love.”  And I’m sorry, I don’t have time to give her a lot of thought now that she is no longer with us, but hey, this album is terrific.  Look what’s on it. Live versions of:

  • Cold, Cold, Cold -- Little Feat & Bonnie Raitt
  • Love Has No Pride -- Bonnie Raitt
  • Up On the Roof -- Carole King
  • For A Dancer -- Jackson Browne
  • Running on Empty -- Jackson Browne
  • Even Cowgirls Get the Blues -- Emmylou Harris
  • Blue Bayou -- Linda Ronstadt
  • In My Life -- Crosby, Stills & Nash

And more.  Seems like a no-brainer to me.  More .

Perhaps her old albums are great too.  I dunno.  You’ll have to do your own research…


1993's experiment in chamber-pop, featuring the Brodsky Quartet, was one of those "love it or hate it" records, but even if you didn't go for the Brodskys' classically-tinged backings, Costello's writing and vocals were first-rate as usual.  The remaster includes a bonus disc of rare and unreleased material of more of Costello's forays into classical from throughout the '90s, as well as some live tracks recorded at Town Hall with the Brodskys, one of which is an incredibly moving version of the standard "They Didn't Believe Me."  For the record, Sal loves it, and Tony doesn't dis-love it.  More .

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Alan Pierce
Hometown: Sherman Oaks, California
In Bush's press conference today, he implied that the Democrats or anyone opposed to the NSA spying should ask him to stop it, but no-one has stepped up to the plate and asked.  Isn't it true that the reality is that people opposed to the spying are opposed to its illegality.  No one I've heard is necessarily asking for it to stop.  They just want to protect our civil liberties.  And make sure the President acts within the law.  Why did we not hear outrage at his claims today, from some Dems.  This is a perfect example of the Dems leaving a story out there without countering it with the truth.

Name: Kerry Wilson
Hometown: Damascus, Maryland
Doctor Eric,
I agree with ending the nonsense about whether the administration conned the public or actually believed its own propaganda.  I'm not so sure about the "near-complete irresponsibility", however.  "Irresponsibility" implies a standard by which actions can be judged.  The evidence suggests that you and the administration are simply using different criteria by which to judge.  You believe we were misled into this war, and that's bad.  The administration's view is that we were misled into this war and so what?  The huge and evidently permanent bases with secure perimeters now under construction in Iraq will insure that the US can remain indefinitely with minimum risk to US soldiers.  (Even now, the violence in Iraq claims the lives of many more Iraqis than Americans, perhaps as high as 100 to 1).  From these bases, the US will be able to project massive military force into nearly all of the world's largest oil-producing region in a matter of minutes.  The destruction and misery brought to Iraq by the administration's program is really of little consequence.  Even an Iraqi civil war is really of concern only in that it creates logistical problems for US forces in the area.  It all comes down to perspective.  If you believe in such quaint relics of a bygone age as democracy, national sovereignty, and a good life for people everywhere, the Bush agenda seems irresponsible, almost irrational.  It works against all of these.  However, if you believe, like the Bush Administration that you take what you want and crush anyone who tries to stop you, then as Bush often says, "we're making steady progress."

Name: Steve MacCrory
Hometown: Malvern, PA
Doc, Have you seen on Christopher Hitchens?  Try not to laugh too hard.


[i][i] CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” July 20, 2003, .

March 21, 2006 | 11:03 AM ET | Permalink

They knew (or should have…)
No WMD, No Nukes, No Nuthin’

I have a little girl who’s about to turn eight.  One of the most fun things about having a little girl who’s about to turn eight is listening to the excuses she comes up with to do stuff she knows she’s not allowed to do, but pretends she didn’t know.  Sometimes she’ll stay up late reading when she knows she’s supposed to be asleep, but when she gets caught, she’ll say she thought it was the night we change the time and it’s really two hours earlier.  Sometimes when she tries to sneak sweets in between meals she’ll claim that she thought the rule applied only to dark chocolates, not white chocolate, even though it’s her favorite.  I find these amusing, though I hide it, because, you know, nobody gets killed; nobody gets maimed; nobody wastes hundreds of billions of dollars; no new terrorists are created and recruited; no Constitutional protections are eviscerated, and Cheney’s cronies at Halliburton do not get rich off of them.  I only wish one could say the same about George W. Bush’s war.

Take a look at , and please let’s end the nonsense that they really believed their own propaganda and therefore were not “lying.”  If they were not lying, that’s even worse, because it means they can’t tell the difference, and we are being led by people with no more profound commitment to reality than, say, a not-quite-eight-year-old who wants to sneak some sweets.  I’m not kidding.  All of this stuff insults our intelligence.  How many times must we read facts like these before we wake up to the painful truth of the near-complete irresponsibility not only of our government but of the political class that act as his apologist?

  • For example, consider biological weapons, a key concern before the war.  The CIA said Saddam had an "active"  program for "R&D, production and weaponization" for biological agents such as anthrax.  Intelligence sources say Sabri indicated Saddam had no significant, active biological weapons program.  Sabri was right.  After the war, it became clear that there was no program.

  • Another key issue was the nuclear question:  How far away was Saddam from having a bomb?  The CIA said if Saddam obtained enriched uranium, he could build a nuclear bomb in "several months to a year."  Sabri said Saddam desperately wanted a bomb, but would need much more time than that.  Sabri was more accurate.

Next crash, Iran:  Anyway, we all know that the Bush administration managed to set the mainstream media agenda for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.  But given its increasing weakness and a President in near polling freefall, how is it still managing to do so on Iran in 2006?  Why are our newspapers still proving so incapable of connecting the global dots in the face of an administration that never stops doing so?  These are the questions Tom Engelhardt explores in his , "Iran and the Irrationality Factor."

What’s more fun (and safer) than hanging with Dick Cheney?  How about , on purpose?

I read somewhere, Tapped, I think, that John Derbyshire of National Review wrote something quite similar to what’s below.  It would really do the world an um, world of good, if media critics, left and right, would learn something about newspapers, like, um, the fact, that advertisements, opinion columns, editorials, and news stories are different things.  I don’t think Nick Kristof cares about the ads in his paper, and I don’t think he should and I don’t think the Times should care if he cares and if people believed that stupid, evil advertisement for the Sudan, yesterday, well, you can’t publish a newspaper for stupid people.  Anyway, look .

Ironically, The Times published a powerful editorial yesterday condemning Sudanese government-financed Arab militias that slaughter black Africans by the hundreds of thousands.  "Nick Kristof has waged an almost single-handed campaign against the atrocities," Levine added. "If I was Nick Kristof, I would say this is a slap in the face."

My man Paul McLeary gets a little tough on Mr. Friedman, though not the famous one, .

is so funny, it hurts.

American Prospect Section:

  •    Not a bad piece, and you know I agree, but it misses the element of personal transformation that comes from Gore’s identification with his father’s loss of his senate seat for his refusal to support the Vietnam War.  The Gore/Dean stuff is compelling however, and fleshes out an explanation about which I had mused, but never articulated.  Anyway, read it.

  • But also read by Harold Meyerson on how to save the middle class economy, something this administration seeks to destroy and the Democrats appear afraid to protect.

  • You’ll have to pay to read Todd Gitlin on Chris Matthews, and James Galbraith on Jeffrey Sachs and Jeff Faux.

Heroes on tour: Go see .  Buy .  Ask him about the bearded librul’s beard…

TOUR DATESMarch 27, MondayNew York CityBarnes & Noble, 6th Ave at 22nd St.7 PMMarch 28, TuesdayLos AngelesBook Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd.7 PMMarch 29, WednesdaySan FranciscoBooksmith, 1644 Haight St.7 PMMarch 30, Thursday (afternoon)San FranciscoStacey's Bookstore, 581 Market St.12:30 PMMarch 30, Thursday (evening)BerkeleyCody's, 2454 Telegraph Ave.7:30 PMMarch 31, FridaySeattleElliott Bay Bookstore 101 S. Main6 PM


Merle Haggard: Capitol Re-issues: If you continue to resist Merle Haggard because you were turned off by “” or even “” then you owe both him and more importantly, yourself, a big apology.  The man is a genius on the order of Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, and almost, but not quite, Bob Dylan and Hank Williams.  His songs do justice to the intense emotions that all of us sometimes feel and crappy country music usually merely exploits.  The intelligence and integrity of this music can be a wonder to behold, though it’d be yet another mistake to allow it to interfere with the swing it (unavoidably) brings to these things as well.  And hey, the record company didn’t screw us for once; they put two full, beautifully remastered records on each CD.  Each one’s a keeper, and I really can’t tell you where to begin; I can only tell you it’d be awfully hard to go wrong.  You can read more about ‘em and maybe get a better grip on how to begin than I can deal with.

I never saw before seeing it this weekend in a production by the Sidney Theater Company starring Cate Blanchett.  I’ve purposely avoided the reviews, which I heard were vicious, so that I might enjoy it on its own terms… And I did.  It’s an entertaining play and endlessly interesting one.  But odd too.  Ibsen seems to be reifying normalcy and conformity, in almost perfect contradiction to “A Doll’s House.”  The Australian-ness of this production makes it a little weirder since—and this is party their fault, partly-mine—they all sound like Monty Python characters.  This play is a combination farce, combination star vehicle.  It works on both scores.  Whether it works as Ibsen, I’m far less confident.  Still, how great is BAM for the chances it takes and the standards it upholds, and next we’re getting Robert Wilson’s Peer Gynt, , and Lynn Redgrave in “The Importance of Being Earnest,” .

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Dennis Croskey
Hometown: Kansas City, MO
Newsweek says their poll results show a "bitterly divided" electorate.  If a 2 percent margin of victory in November 2004 can be trumpeted as a mandate, what would the proper term be for a 65 percent disapproval rating?  Doesn't sound very divided to me.

Name: Mike
Hometown: Indy Blue
But isn't this lede disingenuous? 

A bitterly divided electorate gives President George W. Bush an approval rating of only 36 percent in the latest NEWSWEEK poll, matching the low point in his presidency recorded last November.

Bitter?  Absolutely.  When we warned of the insanity of this course we were labeled as hating America, cowards, sympathizers, etc.  It didn't take a genius to see how wrong the war was, the spying is, the incredible deficit spending is, etc.  Divided?  Yes, but the majority of people polled apparently agree that Bush is incompetent.  So is it just me, or does "divided" imply there's something closer to a "split"?

March 20, 2006 | 11:51 AM ET | Permalink

I don’t have anything profound to add to the commentary on the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion, except that it may be the single most misguided, dishonest and counter-productive expenditure of our nation’s blood and treasure in its history.  And almost all of this was evident from the start to anyone who cared to look.  (The ideological spectrum of Sunday’s Washington Post op-ed page on the topic stretched all the way from Donald Rumsfeld to George F. Will.)  I do think that any political commentator who supported it owes his or her readers an explanation as to why they would expect such judgment to be trusted again in the future.

This is, after all, the purpose of punditry; to help people make sense of the fusillade of news that comes to them, as Walter Lippmann explained, “helter-skelter.”  What’s fascinating is that everyday people seem to have an easier time admitting how foolish they were to trust this dishonest, incompetent, ideologically-obsessed president.

how not to start:

Christopher Hitchens1. Did you support the invasion of Iraq?Yes: I was an advocate before the fact, not a supporter. 2. Have you changed your position?Not in the least: I wish only that Saddam had not been able to rely upon Russian and French protection and the influence of oil-for-food racketeers and other political scum.”

For instructions on apologies, all of us could learn from my girl Arianna, who shows the rest of us how to admit a mistake, .

Meanwhile some welcome good sense from my friends, the American people:

A bitterly divided electorate gives President George W. Bush an approval rating of only 36 percent in the latest NEWSWEEK poll, matching the low point in his presidency recorded last November.  His image as an effective leader in the war on terror is tarnished, with less than half the public (44 percent) approving of the way he’s handling terrorism and homeland security. Despite a series of presidential speeches meant to bolster support for the war in Iraq, as well as the announcement of a major military offensive when the poll was getting under way, only 29 percent of the people questioned approved Bush’s handling of the situation in Iraq.  Fully 65 percent disapprove.The way the president has dealt with issues at home hasn't brought him much support either. His approval ratings for the handling of energy policy (28 percent) and health care (28 percent) were new lows, while approval on the economy (36 percent) mirrored his overall rating. The single area where President Bush accrued more approval than disapproval was in his appointments to the Supreme Court, which 47 percent approved… Roughly one in four American adults (26 percent) say they think Congress should actually impeach President Bush and consider removing him from office.

Meanwhile back in our success story, , “A man in Afghanistan is being prosecuted in a Kabul court and could be sentenced to death after being charged with converting from Islam to Christianity, a crime under the country's Islamic sharia laws, a judge said Sunday.”  Ain’t freedom bootiful?

It’s come to this: .


NEW ARMY REPORT EXONERATES FORMER GITMO COMMANDANT MAJOR GENERAL GEOFFREY MILLERReport, Obtained by TIME, Concludes Miller Was Unaware That Canine Was Used to Intimidate Alleged '20th Hijacker,' Even Though Miller was Intimately Involved in Planning Interrogation


America, and the Israel lobby, a long, learned Realist perspective with more detail and footnotes by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.  We note that they quote a report that that respected Hasidic sage, Andrew Sullivan referred to as “the equivalent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion…”

Journalism Instruction corner:

Sometimes people question the value of journalism school but I think almost anyone in the business could benefit from it.  Take for instance the leftier than thou book reviewer, Daniel Lazare, scourge of such evil right-wing recidivists such as Todd Gitlin, Paul Berman, Michael Walzer, David Remnick, Tim Reiss, Harvey Kaye and Gary Nash.  In his recent defense of his hysterical attack on Todd Gitlin, Lazare writes:

I might also point out that he set off a round of booing at the 2003 Socialist Scholars Conference when, on the eve of the invasion, he told the assembled leftists to brace themselves because the outcome might turn out to be better than they were expecting.

Lazare quotes this in his continuing quest to demonstrate that Gitlin, who spoke and wrote consistently against the war at every opportunity, was really pro-war.  But you see, if Lazare had attended journalism school, he might have learned that just because someone says something is not going to be as bad as some might believe does not imply that they were in favor of it.  Take for instance, cancer.  If a friend of mine got cancer, and I said “The cancer might not be as bad as you fear,” does that mean I would be “pro-cancer?”  Moreover, does everything in the world have to be all good or all bad?  If a meteor falls on top of an orphanage, but knocks a tree down and therefore saves a trapped kitten who had been stuck on top of an errant branch, does one have to bemoan the survival of the kitten while lamenting the death of the orphans?

Actually, maybe J-School is not the place to learn why that is wrong; I’d try kindergarten.

But wait, there’s more.  Lazare writes, “Regarding [letter-writers] Brian Morton and Michael Kazin, it's clear that Gitlin has been e-mailing his Dissent colleagues to get them to respond.” But if he Lazare had attended say, the second day of classes of any J-School in America, someone would have likely taught him that just because an idea jumps into your mind, somehow, that doesn’t mean you get to tell people it actually happened.  Lazare has absolutely no information whatever of any emails of which he speaks. And yet not only makes the accusation, he writes about it as if it is “clear” that it took place.  It’s really no different than if I wrote, “Reading Daniel Lazare on why leftists can not also be patriots, it is clear that Lazare continues to beat his wife.”  And the fact that I have made no effort to discover whether Lazare even has a wife, and whether perhaps she beats him, makes the analogy exact.

I could go on, but not without the tuition check in hand…

New Yorker section:

  • Alterman and Hertzberg write the same column; a study in style,
  • Nick Lemann on O’Reilly,
  • Luke Menand on Francis Fukuyama,
  • And listen, buy the magazine to read Calvin Trillin's Alice, Off the Page; A married life.

TNR section:

  • Robert Alter on Kafka,
  • Noam Scheiber on John Tierney,

Correspondence corner:

Name: Barry L. Ritholtz

Hey Doc,
Some very interesting polling this week via the (free).  Across the board, the President has now hit his all time low approval rating, according to a WSJ/NBC poll.

What I find particularly interesting is the views on the basis for this new drop. On the one hand, the WSJ blames Iraq for nearly all the problems; on the other, Barron's blames a plethora of reasons from Katrina to Social Security to the Dubai Ports deal.

Note that the WSJ and Barron's -- both owned by Dow Jones, and each with Conservative, Free Market editorial stances -- can hardly be called part of "The Liberal Media."

Here's an overview:

(charts at link)

When the trend is not your friend: Do not catch a falling knife!

"President Bush and fellow Republicans approach the fall midterm elections facing one political problem above all others: responding to rising public anxiety about Iraq.The new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll charts the toll that Iraq has taken on the Bush presidency. The survey shows the president's approval rating falling to 37%, a low for Mr. Bush, with disapproval highest for his handling of the war. His party's advantage on handling Iraq has narrowed amid public pessimism about the conflict, helping Democrats open a double-digit edge in voter preferences for controlling Congress."At this point in the administration there's one thing that counts, and it's the war in Iraq," says Democrat pollster Peter Hart, who helps conduct the Journal/NBC survey. The war, adds his Republican counterpart Bill McInturff, "is enveloping this presidency."  (emphasis added)

Note that both the Republican AND Democratic strategists buy into the War as a catchall blame for the poor polling.

I don't buy it.

This has yet to become conventional wisdom, but I suspect much of the upswing in negativity about the President is in large part traceable to the Katrina debacle; It has bled over to every other category, from the Iraq war to Homeland Security to the Economy.

Barron's comes to a similar -- even broader -- conclusion; they do not buy into the Iraq War rationale for the poor polling results:

President Bush's job approval rating sank to 37% in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll and has been mired below 40% since last October, the longest stretch of readings that low for a president since the dismal days of the late 'Seventies.The obvious reason for this divergence of the stock market and the public's assessment of Bush is Iraq, which seems only to go from bad to worse. Well, maybe it's not just Iraq. There's the flap over the aborted Dubai Ports deal, post-Katrina ineptitude, Dick Cheney's winging his hunting companion, the furor over wiretapping without warrants, Social Security reform, budget deficits, trade deficits, the unintelligible Medicare drug plan...enough already, you get the picture.Indeed, only 29% of Republicans deemed the Bush White House to be "very competent," according to the WSJ/NBC News poll.  (emphasis added)

I think Barron's is on to something -- its more than merely the Wartime Blues impacting the  White House -- its  a broad variety of issues.

Good news/Bad news: Once a President no longer gets the benefit of the doubt from the electorate -- which Bush enjoyed with regards to 9/11 and Iraq WMD -- he becomes a lame duck.

More from Barron's:

It makes one shudder to think where Bush's numbers would be if the current Goldilocks economy turns out to be a fairy tale. Say, if the labor market starts to weaken. (Hmmm, initial claims for unemployment insurance have ticked up the past three weeks.) Or the real-estate market starts to crack. (Housing starts are slumping along with mortgage applications, while the supply of unsold homes is building and mortgage delinquencies are on the rise.) Or if there were a major corporate bankruptcy. (General Motors says it lost $2 billion in 2005, more than it previously reported.) If something really bad happened on the economic front, Dubya's numbers would be down around the level of Japanese interest rates.

Well, the good news is that Presidential approval is hardly correlated as a cause of positive market performance...


Bush Approval Rating Hits A Low as War Pessimism Offers Edge for Democrats
WSJ, March 16, 2006; Page A4

Randall W. Forsyth
Barron's, MONDAY, MARCH 20, 2006