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Slacker Friday So Long

Slacker Friday So Long

September 15, 2006 | 11:57 AM ET |

I’ve got a new “Think Again” column called, “9/11: Business as Usual,” , and I’ve got a new and a new Liberal Media column called "Lying About 9/11? Easy as ABC."

Reminder:  Altercation's new URL as of Monday, 9/18 will be .

Here’s some weekend reading, though:

The myth of fair elections in America.  “The debacle surrounding the Republican victory in 2000 demonstrated to the world that America's electoral process is wide open to abuse.  But as Paul Harris discovers, the system has actually worsened since then," .

Meanwhile, the Republican donor who helped bankroll the Swift Boat attacks on Democratic Sen. John Kerry's war record has given $5 million to a new group targeting Democratic candidates, .

RIP, Oriana Fallaci, there’s a Margaret Talbot/New Yorker profile, .

In today’s I read, “Over in the WP's op-ed page David Ignatius tells of his one-on-one interview with President Bush where the two talked about Iran.  After the interview, Ignatius says he 'came away with a sense that Bush is serious about finding a peaceful solution to the nuclear crisis.'"  Here’s an idea: When pundits gives us their views about war with Iran, how about they publish, as a footnote, their prewar arguments about Iraq, so we can see what good judgment they have about such matters.  Speaking of which, it continues, “in his column, Charles Krauthammer analyzes one of Bush's public statements, which leads him to state, 'the signal is unmistakable.  An aerial attack on Iran's nuclear facilities lies just beyond the horizon of diplomacy.'  After writing about the possible costs and benefits of attacking Iran, Krauthammer concludes, 'the decision is no more than a year away.'"  See also Bush’s Useful Idiots: Tony Judt on the Strange Death of Liberal America, .

  (One of the most interesting intellectual experiences I can remember was being in a seminar room, in say, ‘81 or ‘82, in Ithaca, where Ben Anderson sketched his schema on the blackboard and submitted it to the members of the political science faculty for criticism.  He hadn’t published anything about his “imagined communities” yet; he just had a bit of an idea.  Now I think it’s perhaps the best selling academic book of all time, and among the two or three most influential.  Oddly in retrospect, I think, it made a pretty big impression on me, as well, in large measure due to the beauty of its simplicity.)

Ha'aretz, Israeli Daily, Criticizes Country's Use of Cluster Bombs in Lebanon .

Is Obama running?  “Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) makes his Iowa debut at Sen. Tom Harkin's (D-IA) steak fry in West Indianola, IA.  Tongues are wagging over news that the freshman Senator will be accompanied by Steve Hildebrand, the Democratic strategist who managed then-Vice President Gore's 2000 win in the Iowa caucuses against former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ).”

I am with Atrios on .  Absolutely, the left needs to police itself and I think I do as much of this as a person can, in my position(s).  But this “the-left-is-just-as-bad-as-the-right” disease in a liberal publication that knows well the differences both in power as well as ethics between contemporary conservatives and liberals is beyond counterproductive.  It’s downright destructive.  What’s more, it’s sloppily done, as the commenters here, and on previous Atrios posts have demonstrated.

Meanwhile, if you can’t get to , as I couldn’t, Josh advises “go to the site, hold down ctrl and then hit refresh.”  And I’ve not posted from Salon of late because they seem to have killed my comp sub and I don’t have time for those ads, though I don’t oppose them in principle.

From the Benton Foundation:

[SOURCE: , AUTHOR: John Dunbar]
Former FCC staffer Adam Candeub, now a law professor at Michigan State University, says
senior managers at the Federal Communications Commission ordered that "every last piece" of a draft study that suggested greater concentration of media ownership would hurt local TV news coverage be destroyed. "The whole project was just stopped, end of discussion,'' he said.
Candeub was a lawyer in the FCC's Media Bureau at the time the report was written and communicated frequently with its authors, he said. The report, written in 2004, came to light during the Senate confirmation hearing for FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) received a copy of the report ''indirectly from someone within the FCC who believed the information should be made public,'' according to Boxer spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz. In a letter sent to Martin Wednesday, Boxer said she was ''dismayed that this report, which was done at taxpayer expense more than two years ago, and which concluded that localism is beneficial to the public, was shoved in a drawer.'' The report, written by two economists in the FCC's Media Bureau, analyzed a database of 4,078 individual news stories broadcast in 1998.
The broadcasts were obtained from Danilo Yanich, a professor and researcher at the University of Delaware, and were originally gathered by the Pew Foundation's Project for Excellence in Journalism. The analysis showed local ownership of television stations adds almost five and one-half minutes of total news to broadcasts and more than three minutes of ''on-location'' news. The conclusion is at odds with FCC arguments made when it voted in 2003 to increase the number of television stations a company could own in a single market. It was part of a broader decision liberalizing ownership rules. The authors of the report, Keith Brown and Peter Alexander, both declined to comment.

* In on the FCC’s media ownership proceeding, then-Chairman Powell accused opponents of “substituting personal ideology for and opinion for the facts.”
According to the Associated Press, however, when a study Powell ordered to prove deregulation did not hurt local news coverage proved the opposite, Powell ordered the study not merely suppressed, but destroyed. “It appears that it was Michael Powell, not the public, who preferred to make decisions based on ‘personal ideology,’” said Harold Feld, Senior Vice President, Media Access Project.

* MAP, Free Press, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America :  We urge you to immediately seek an independent investigation, through the Office of the Inspector General, to determine the circumstances under which the public was denied access to this important, taxpayer-funded research, the parties involved and the processes that may have allowed any record of the report’s existence to be destroyed."


[SOURCE: Center for Democracy & Technology]
As Congress mounts its final push before the midterm elections, a number of bills that threaten the bedrock of Internet privacy and civil liberties could either come up for votes or worm their way into larger legislative packages that end up being rushed into law. The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) issued its "Internet Watch List," which contains nine legislative efforts that should not be allowed to succeed in the so-called "silly season" at the end of the
109th Congress. In the coming weeks, CDT will urge lawmakers, journalists and the online public to keep close watch on these legislative efforts to ensure that this collection of bad ideas doesn't become a collection of bad laws. Note #6 on the list: "Telecom Bill Without Internet Neutrality."

* For more on the pending Telecom Bills, see .

[SOURCE: (requires registration), AUTHOR: Katharine Seelye]
The editor of The Los Angeles Times appears to be in a showdown with the paper’s owner, the Tribune Company, over job cuts in the newsroom. In a highly unusual move, Dean P. Baquet, who was named editor last year, was quoted yesterday in his own newspaper as saying he was defying the paper’s corporate parent in Chicago and would not make the cuts it requested. The paper’s publisher, Jeffrey M. Johnson, said he agreed with Mr. Baquet. “Newspapers can't cut their way into the future,” he told the paper. The number of jobs at stake is unclear but the paper, the fourth largest in the country, has eliminated more than 200 positions over the last five years from an editorial staff that now numbers about 940. “I am not averse to making cuts,” Mr. Baquet told the paper. “But you can go too far, and I don't plan to do that.” The paper reported that Scott C. Smith, president of the Tribune Publishing division, had asked the paper’s executives to come up with a plan for trimming their budgets, but when Mr. Smith visited Los Angeles late last month, they had produced no such plan.

Slacker Friday

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to plug my all-time favorite movie: "The Omega Man."  It's a dystopian science fiction film starring Charleton Heston.  A plague has wiped out most of mankind, leaving Heston (a U.S. Army doctor who gave himself an experimental vaccine) the only healthy man alive.  A group of plague-infested survivors, led by a former newscaster turned messianic leader, is trying to kill Heston and eradicate all remnants of modern technology. The film got mixed reviews, but I think it's more thought provoking than it got credit for.  Plus it has action scenes worthy of "24" and a great soundtrack.

Why bring it up here?  Because after you watch it, John Kerry's 2004 "global test" debate comment and similar arguments seem a lot more compelling.  The plague in the movie that destroys America (shown in gruesome flashback scenes) is the result of biological warfare between the USSR and China:  Communism's version of the Sunni vs. Shia conflict.  Where would you bet the first major biological terrorist attack will take place: Washington or Moscow?  Since World War I the world has seen the need for a functioning global political mechanism and nothing has changed that.  But it’s only when a coalition has both been led by the  U.S. -and- received significant international support by passing the "global test" that such a mechanism has fleetingly existed.  As vital as the war on terrorism is, it’s a symptom, not the disease.  Enemies will come and go: today Japan and Germany are our allies, two decades from now it might be Iran and Islamic terrorists (Impossible?  Imagine this: an oil-desperate China turns nationalistic and becomes belligerent against OPEC nations, who in-turn look to the West for aid).  Nothing new here, we just need a way to convince the red staters.  So the next time someone mocks you for wanting to listen to the world, don't argue with them -- have them check out my man Chuck.

(Did MSNBC realize they were giving up such great movie reviews?)

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL
Eric-- I'm glad to see Powell come out of the shadows, but he's got a long way to go to make amends for his part in advancing the criminal foreign policy of the Bush administration.  His credibility didn't sway the security council, but just the fact that he signed on was enough to persuade a lot of American citizens who trusted him.  The fact that Bush, Cheney, Rice, and Rumsfeld are still flogging the same nonsense, refusing to acknowledge the mistake in launching the Iraq war in the first place is the final evidence that they are completely unreliable and confirmation that Powell should have never have allied himself with them from the start.  Meanwhile the press and broadcast media have let Bush's foolish speech on 9/11 and Cheney's embarrassing defensiveness with Russert pass without highlighting Maliki's summit with Ahmadinejad, in which they formed a security alliance.  Annan has learned first hand from the leaders in the region: the Middle East is unraveling because of Bush's foolish venture in Iraq. That the US-installed Iraq regime--the third one that we've cobbled together--is now in league with a major player in Bush's "axis of evil" should be headline news and the subject of editorials in every major paper.  There's no clearer demonstration of how Bush's foreign policy has catastrophically failed.

Name: Jeff Pieterick
Hometown: Waterloo, WI
Quoted on MSNBC on Thursday: "If this draft legislation were passed in its present form, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency has told me that he did not believe that the (interrogation) program could go forward," Negroponte said.  I'm not a lawyer, but common sense tells me this is an admission of our present non-compliance with the Geneva Conventions.  Bush has admitted this interrogation program is in place now, and has been active.  And the proposed legislation referred to here is not about strengthening the Geneva Conventions limits on interrogation, but instead about going less far than Bush in lifting restrictions.  When War Crimes trials are engaged, I would expect this to be Exhibit A.

Name: Ed Tracey
Hometown: Lebanon, New Hampshire
Professor, in your review of Bob Wills and his enduring influence.... "Together with Elvis and Johnny Cash, Wills is in both the Country Music and Rock n Roll Halls of Fame."  True statement - but there are eight others with that distinction, as well: The Everly Brothers, Jimmie Rodgers, Sam Phillips, Hank Williams Sr., Brenda Lee, Bill Monroe, Floyd Cramer and Chet Atkins.

Eric replies: I was wondering about that, thanks.

Name: William Sterba
Hometown: New York, NY
Eric - I have decided that I will henceforth celebrate a traditional holiday from Maryland, the state of my birth, around the anniversary of 9-11 rather than moping about.  In fact, I would recommend all Democrats and even the Democratic Party, to pick up the cudgel of "Defenders Day" and club the loonies of the right who have hijacked our great nation.  "Defenders Day" is celebrated on September 12th, even though the events it recalls did not finish playing out until September 14, 1814.  I am referring to the citizens' defense of the city of Baltimore against the invading British troops and the historic defense of Fort McHenry against the bombarding British fleet.  While the ground battle extended over the period September 12th to 13th that fall, the naval bombardment did not start finish until the morning's light of September 14th, with Francis Scott Key looking on and penning the "Star Spangled Banner" as a result.  That was a pretty heady occasion for a patriot like Mr. Key, who was aware that the nation's capital had been burned only few weeks before after a pathetic defense.  Had Baltimore fallen to the British that September, one cannot say that the nation would have survived intact because of the strains of the war on national unity.  Fort McHenry did hold and the history moved on as we know it.  I suggest we Democrats use the history of that defense as a rallying cry for how the nation can truly defend itself against foreign attack - identification of the real enemy threat and preparation. The citizens of Baltimore had helped dig the fortifications that repulsed the British and had paid for weapons needed for the city's defense - before the British attacked.  That has been the Democrat's clarion call for the last five years and we need to have a reminder that this nation has successfully done it in the past and can do it again - even after the nation's capital has been sacked and burned by a foreign, hostile invading power, whether in 1814 or 2006.

Name: Michael
Hometown: Anchorage, AK
The RIAA tracks sales in the U.S., not worldwide; 34 million is the global total and 15 million is the US total (and btw, it may be higher than that because RIAA only updates the total when the artist requests it, Dark Side has been sitting on 15 million for several years now despite selling at a rate of about 400,000 per year.  From a 1993 Washington Post article: "Although it is still officially listed as having reached "gold" status for sales of 500,000 copies, "Dark Side of the Moon" has sold more than 25 million copies, including 12 million stateside."

Eric replies:  Ok, thanks.  If an apology is in order, we’ll have one over at Media Matters.

Name: Aaron Derrick
Hometown: Dallas, Oregon
Hi Eric. I don't believe I've ever written to you before, but I've read your column for about 5 years or so, daily.  While I'm certainly left of center politically, it's the interesting balance of writers which brings me back consistently.  I've already marked your new site, and will be following your continued work at Media Matters.  Best wishes, and please keep up the good work. It does make a difference.

Name: Kim
Hometown: San Diego, CA
I really didn't even know what a BLOG was until I started reading Altercation.  I believe it was, then, "Major Bob" writing in the correspondence corner that day and he was echoing a great many of my feelings and thoughts.  I retired from the Navy two years ago after 24 years of service and to say that I initially had a hard time "going against the grain" of my government while in uniform, and immediately after, would be an understatement.  However, since then I have been reading your BLOG and The Nation and am now quite comfortable in my long sequestered liberal clothes.  Thanks for saying the difficult things and holding those to task who have made a mess of our world.  I look forward to following you to MM Monday.  Best of luck.

Name: Jo Rossello
Hometown: North Andover, Ma.
Dear Eric,
I used to be listed as an independent since I like to vote for whomever is running regardless of the party.  No more now, I recently signed up for the Democratic party since I have had enough of this administration's lies, war,the deficit, abuse of prisoners, secrecy, and the harm done to our country.  I do not any longer support Bush and his warmongering cabinet.They make me sick.America is so divided since Bush got elected that even in my own family, we argue like as if some of us were from another country. This is so because Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have accused and insulted anyone of us that does not agree with them of supporting the terrorists or being Nazis. How dare they make such assumptions? This has divided all of us like never before. How can we ever win a war since America is so divided. This President who avoided the draft and never traveled anywhere thinks he knows it all and disregards the people's polls as if we were stupid.  I believe that anyone else that will win the next elections will be a better President than what we have now.  Thanks for letting me express my opinion.

Name: Kathleen O'Neill
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Dr. Alterman:
Best of luck to you on your new venture.  You are one of the most brilliant and articulate voices in our culture and I'm glad you'll still be a'bloggin'!  Regarding your musings on 9-11, I agree New York is a magnificent city and I must force myself to remember the heroism its citizens displayed whenever I begin brooding about this sick culture and its many sick people (the elephant in the room few really want to talk about - how sick our populace really is in so many ways).  I was one of the few people, I guess, who never trusted Bush, even that day. I remember telling a young co-worker that day that what I feared more than anything was how I saw us as a nation reacting - by persecuting Muslims and endorsing repression and erosion of liberties.  I knew it was coming.  I knew we were being played.  I saw too much in the 60's (I know I sound like a typical self absorbed 60's bound boomer but, damn it, I did see too much and I connected too many dots back then).  Anyway, best of luck and I look forward to your new site.
Kathleen O'Neill,
Cincinnati, Ohio
(P.S. Perhaps our new national symbol should be a bald eagle wearing Depends. What do you think?)

Name: Eric Silveira
Hometown: Ceres, CA
Just a note to express my appreciation for your efforts on this blog.  Over the years, I've learned a great deal. The least of which made me a better American.  I think what I've really learned is that when people argue facts and in reality, without rancour or baiting, disagreements can be civil and can even lead to solutions and understanding.  I find politics addicting, enthralling, and depressing.  I love politics for what it can say and do about our potential.  To unite, to overcome, to make the world or our little part of it a bit better, more humane.  I hate politcs for what it does - divides us and sets us at each other's throats. These days, with who we have in Washington, it's much more frustration and depression than hope.  Altercation was always a blog I looked forward to reading.  I knew that I'd find out something I didn't know.  That I'd gain some insight that I needed to understand some difficult issue or another. And that I'd get my batteries recharged to be able to go forward through the bullshit of the day.  So, I thank you for all that.  And for allowing people like LtC Bob Bateman and Stupid and others to take a crack at teaching me as well.  I'm sorry that MSNBC has made this change, but I've already added your new url to my favorites folder.  I'll be making that trek daily, looking for a little bit of hope and a lot of teaching. Cheers!

Name: Thomas Heiden
Hometown: Stratford, CT
Eric, Although I will continue to follow your blog (it's the only one I read), I did want to take a moment to thank you for your work.  I have learned MUCH that I doubt I would have ever known otherwise, and I cannot think of higher praise than that.

Name: Chassity
Hometown: Indianapolis, IN
Dr Alterman, I am very angry to see that you have been "fired" by MSNBC however, I want to thank you for finding another site to host your blog.  I don't know what I would do without Altercation!!!!!  Congratulations on your new venture!

Name: Sarah
Hometown: Denver, CO
Dear Eric- I am so sad to hear that you are leaving MSNBC.  I think I started reading your column a few weeks after 9/11.  I was a sophomore in college and just beginning to wake up to the world around me.  In many ways, you have been a professor for me.  I haven't always agreed with you, but I have always respected the thoughtful way in which you approach arguments.  Thank you for helping me begin my education on the world I live in.  I will gladly follow you to Media Matters.

Name: K Easterbrook
Hometown: Seattle, WA
Reading your column has been my mid-morning break for years.  Can't tell you how much I appreciate the intelligence and provocative ideas I find here.  Shame on MSNBC, but no worries, will see you Monday at about 11 or so at Media Matters.

Eric replies: K, bye.

| 1:45 PM ET |

Odds and ends

I’ve got a new “Think Again” column called, “9/11: Business as Usual,” and don’t forget, as of this Monday, Altercation is moving….

Reminder:  Altercation's new URL as of Monday, 9/18 will be .

Following up on yesterday’s post about the Bush Administration’s purposeful destruction of the military, at Tomdispatch today, outlines the "dirty dozen" over-the-top recruitment steps the Pentagon has taken that may end up creating a military of misfits.  He describes the kinds of pressure the military puts on teens and discusses attempts to recruit young people in jail, the mentally off-balance, the criminal, gang-bangers, undocumented immigrants, and many others.  This certainly isn't the "transformation" of the U.S. military that Donald Rumsfeld has been touting all these years, but it does threaten to be a transformation of profound importance.  A much longer study on the question can be found at the Project on Defense Alternatives, along with a study on the sorry state of US readiness overall, .  Also, back at TomDispatch Tom Engelhardt takes Bush and Cheney seriously on this "There was a connection between the events of September 11, 2001 and Iraq," crap.  he considers some of the possible links, he concludes that there is indeed a deeper truth that lurks beneath the Cheney and Bush claims about 9/11 and Iraq -- and it goes like this:

In the immediate wake of 9/11, our President and Vice President hijacked our country, using the low-tech rhetorical equivalents of box cutters and mace; then, with most passengers on board and not quite enough of the spirit of United Flight 93 to spare, after a brief Afghan overflight, they crashed the plane of state directly into Iraq, causing the equivalent of a Katrina that never ends and turning that country -- from Basra in the south to the border of Kurdistan -- into the global equivalent of Ground Zero.

Meanwhile, writing in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, would argue that the costs of the Bush administration’s failure to focus the nation on genuine threats has left us unprepared for the ones that are coming, though he’s kinda cagey about laying the blame.

Quote of the Day:  has George Bush saying one of the dumbest/scariest things ever today:  "Let me just first tell you that I’ve never been more convinced that the decisions I made are the right decisions."

If Robert Novak murdered the first-born child of every editor of The Washington Post and then drank their blood, would they ?

Also, Free Press released a report yesterday showing how and why the U.S. is falling behind the rest of the world in broadband penetration despite misleading rosy reports from the FCC.  Go .  Policy recommendations at the end of the document.

And can we please declare a moratorium on journalists quoting anonymous discussion forum posters as if their words imply anything at all?  In this piece on Dylan, .

We get:

But some fans are bothered by the ethics of Mr. Dylan’s borrowing ways. “Bob really is a thieving little swine,” wrote one poster on Dylan Pool,642969), a chat room where Mr. Warmuth posted his findings.  “If it was anyone else we’d be stringing them up by their neck, but no, it’s Bobby Dee, and ‘the folk process.’"

My question is: “Who cares what you think, punk? You don’t even have a name.”

From the Benton Foundation:

[SOURCE: , AUTHOR: Thomas Ferraro]
A bill backed by President George W. Bush to enable a court review of his domestic spying program won the approval on Wednesday of a U.S. Senate panel under election-year pressure to safeguard civil liberties. Bush's Republicans hailed the measure and brushed off Democratic complaints that it could actually further undermine the rights of law-abiding Americans because of what they called loopholes that would expand presidential powers. The bill would clear the way for a secret court created by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to examine the legality of the warrantless surveillance program the White House launched after the September 11 attacks. On a party-line vote of 10-8, the Republican-led panel sent the bill to the full Senate for an uncertain fate ahead of November 7 congressional elections.

* Committee Votes to Expand Warrantless Surveillance Authority The Senate Judiciary Committee approved several NSA bills today -- two of which would radically expand the President's authority to conduct warrantless surveillance inside the United States.  Senator Arlen Specter's (R-Pa.) bill (S. 2453), which Specter revised to accommodate White House requests for greater authority, would ratify and dramatically expand the President's authority to wiretap Americans without judicial approval.  Senator Mike DeWine's (R-Ohio) bill (S. 2455) would authorize warrantless wiretapping programs without prior judicial approval and under a lower standard than the Fourth Amendment requires.  CDT supports the Specter-Feinstein measure (S. 3001), which, unlike the other bills, restores the constitutional balance of power while addressing the legitimate concerns the Administration has raised. The full Senate could take up the bills as early as next week.


[SOURCE: (requires registration), AUTHOR: Spencer S. Hsu]
House Republicans are blocking an attempt to spend $3.1 billion to help the nation's police and fire agencies communicate in emergencies as Congress debates a proposed overhaul of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. As both parties intensified the election-season rhetoric over national security, Democrats accused GOP leaders of shortchanging the well-documented need to improve communication among first responders. Republicans acknowledged that they do not want to spend billions prematurely, saying more planning and coordination are needed. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff rebuffed calls for dedicated federal grants to upgrade equipment, coordinate plans, train emergency workers and adapt common technology standards.  Instead, he said, state and local leaders must first agree on radio codes and protocols. "This is not, frankly, a technology issue," Chertoff told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Tuesday. "This is an issue of having community leaders come to an agreement." The inability of police and firefighters to talk by radio was a critical factor after the 2001 World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, according to the Sept. 11 commission.

[SOURCE: (requires registration), AUTHOR: Stephen Labaton]
Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, the embattled chairman of the federal board that oversees most government broadcasts to foreign countries, narrowly survived an effort to oust him on Wednesday.  After a recent report by the inspector general at the State Department that Mr. Tomlinson had used his office to run a horse-racing operation and that he had improperly put a friend on the payroll, the three Democratic members of the seven-member Broadcasting Board of Governors offered two resolutions. One resolution called for his resignation as chairman during a continuing inquiry; the other sought to curtail his authority sharply. The Justice Department has declined to pursue a criminal investigation but is conducting a related civil inquiry. Both resolutions failed 3 to 3 on party-line votes. Mr. Tomlinson did not participate in the votes, people involved in the closed-door session said. Mr. Tomlinson has denied doing anything improper and had said the investigation "was inspired by partisan divisions inside the Broadcasting Board of Governors." Mr. Tomlinson, whose term has expired, has been nominated for a second term and continues to have the support of the White House. Republicans in the Senate said that in light of the continuing inquiry, they would not bring his nomination to the floor this year. Under federal law, board members may continue to serve past the expiration of their appointments until successors are named.

[SOURCE:  (requires registration), AUTHOR: James Rainey]
Twenty Los Angeles civic leaders sent a letter of protest to the Chicago-based owners of the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, saying that continued staff reductions threatened to seriously erode the quality of journalism at The Times. Former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher was among the prominent citizens who urged Tribune Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Dennis J. FitzSimons and the media company's board of directors "to resist economic pressures to make additional cuts which could remove it from the top ranks of American journalism." "All newspapers serve an important civic role," the letter adds, "but as a community voice in the metropolitan region, the Los Angeles Times is irreplaceable."

[SOURCE: Center for Democracy & Technology]
The vast majority of political speech by individuals on the Internet is fully protected by the law and carries no risk of violating campaign finance rules. That is the key message of, a new Web site created by the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) to educate Internet users about their rights and obligations under campaign finance law. Developed with the support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, makes it easy for bloggers and other citizen activists to quickly understand the new campaign finance rules, and how those rules apply to them.

Altercation Book Club

Brian Morton, Breakable You (A Novel)

Thea, across the room, with a delighted expression, was talking to a young man, laughing at something he’d said. Her head was thrown back, offering him a view of her brilliant throat. The man looked pleased, but also unsure of himself, as if she was laughing at a remark that he hadn’t intended to be witty.

This was Thea: she could make you feel flattered and insecure at the same time.

Adam handed his coat to the little man in the cloak-room and started toward her. He didn’t mind seeing Thea flirting with other men. He rather enjoyed it.

It was an end-of-the-year party given by the Los Angeles Times Book Review. They held one party in LA and another in New York. Adam had been going for years; Thea had never been to one before, and she had been excited about it all day.

He gave her a wide berth. He didn’t know who the man was, but Thea was clearly, as she liked to put it, “working him”—he was obviously someone who could be useful to her, and Adam knew enough not to interfere. So he just stood with his drink and took in the scene.

The room was dotted with celebrities from the world of literature and performance. E.L. Doctorow, remote behind his air of suave imperturbability, was talking to Laurie Anderson, who was, as always, carefully disheveled, and Lou Reed, who had the pruny monkeyish face of somebody’s grandfather, but who was imperishably hip—the hippest man in the room, in any room, by definition.

Philip Levine, the poet, was holding forth to two attractive young women. Levine was wearing a baseball cap and a duck-hunting jacket. He had grown up in Detroit and had worked briefly in an auto factory, and although he’d spent the last fifty years exclusively in academic and literary circles, he still cultivated the image of a rough-hewn member of the laboring class. If you didn’t know better you might have thought that he’d come to the party fresh from the assembly line, having washed the axle grease off his hands only an hour ago.

Adam noted this not in a critical way, but with admiration. Everyone, he thought, needs an act, and Levine’s had served him well.

Adam’s own act had never been so elaborate. His height had done a lot of the work for him, and Ellie had done the rest. She had been so relentlessly nice—so generous, so warm—that he was able to be laconic and ironic and unapproachable without anyone considering him a shit. Ellie was gone, but Thea had replaced her—she’d much more than replaced her: she was like a young actress who had stolen a role from a faded star and infused the entire production with new life. The production being Adam. Thea made him seem, not exactly younger, but more contemporary.

Her work completed, Thea joined him, kissing him on the cheek.

“Have you been enjoying yourself?” he said.

“I always enjoy myself.”

“That’s what I like about you.”

“Have you noticed?” she said. “Your young striver is here.” She indicated a man across the room. It was Jeffery Lipkin, the professor who had the literary crush on Izzy Cantor.

She caught his eye, and Lipkin walked over to them.

“Jeffrey,” Adam said. “So good to see you. I’ve heard about your good news. Congratulations.”

A few weeks ago, the New York Observer had run an story about the Gellman Foundation, an old, distinguished Jewish philanthropic organization, and its vigorous new president, who wanted to give more attention to the arts. As one of his initiatives, he was launching a program whereby literary prizes would be awarded yearly to Jewish writers and visual artists.  To Adam’s surprise, Jeffrey had been one of three people appointed as permanent judges for the literary prizes. “That little nerd is going to be controlling hundreds of thousands of dollars in awards?” Thea had said when Adam showed her the article. “That’s why one must always be hospitable to everyone, even little nerds,” Adam had said.

Now, at the party, Thea raised her glass to Jeffrey. “You must be feeling pretty good,” she said. “You’re a kingmaker.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Jeffrey murmured. “I’m just happy to have this chance to do something for Jewish culture. For the culture as a whole, really.” He seemed to be impressed by his own modesty.

“I guess I’ll have to stop making fun of your eating habits,” Thea said.” So give us the inside scoop. Who’s getting the big prizes this year?”

“I’m not at liberty to say.”

“Can we guess? And you’ll tell us if we’re right or wrong?”

“We don’t have to guess,” Adam said. “If you’re giving out two prizes, they’re going to Bellow and Roth. Three, then it’s Bellow and Roth and Ozick.”

Jeffrey was silent, with a happily owlish expression. Glad to be important enough to have a secret.

“Bellow and Roth,” Thea said, and, with one of the occasional outbursts of vulgarity that never ceased to surprise him, she stuck her index finger down her throat and mimed the act of vomiting.

“What’s wrong with Bellow and Roth?” Jeffrey said.

“The patriarchs,” she said. “Between them they’ve put out something like a hundred books, and in all those years of chatter, all those forests laid to waste, neither of them has been able to come up with one lifelike woman character.”

“I don’t know if that’s true,” Jeffrey said. “Certainly women aren’t their strong suit. But the daughter in American Pastoral—she’s a destructive force, but she’s also very human. She’s not nice, but she’s very real.”

“First of all,” Thea said, “that’s debatable. And second, even if it’s true, it proves my point. You can only point to one example to make your case, and she’s an example of woman at her most destructive.”

What Adam found especially impressive about Thea at this moment was that he knew that other than Portnoy’s Complaint and a few pages of Herzog, she hadn’t read a word by Roth or Bellow.

Thea’s way of flirting with men was to fight with them. It was a quality Adam found appealing. His previous mistress had been a young woman who ostentatiously deferred to power and status: she would treat Adam’s every utterance with astonishment, as if he summed up in each casual phrase some idea she had been struggling to articulate for a lifetime. It was flattering at first but soon grew tiresome.

“Let me know when the decisions are announced,” Thea said. “Maybe I can get you on Charlie’s show. You and one of the patriarchs.”

Jeffrey looked intoxicated. A beautiful woman was inviting him to appear on TV. This was probably his idea of heaven.

“At least if it’s a slow news day,” she added.

To read more, go .

Correspondence Corner:

Still overwhelmed by the mail, alas, but here’s one to H-Diplo.  (Did I mention that there’s an H-Diplo symposium on When Presidents Lie:  A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences ?  The one below it, on Bruce Kuklick, Blind Oracles: Intellectuals and War from Kennan to Kissinger, is also first-rate.)

From: Edwin Moise
Subject: Realists, Prediction, and International Relations
The United States has a proven track record of sometimes launching military action on the mere suspicion that a government the US disliked had sponsored an armed attack against Americans.  It has not been necessary for the United States to have solid evidence, and it has not been necessary for the number of American casualties to have been huge. Examples:

Declaration of war on Spain in 1898 in response to an explosion on the Maine that killed 253 men--a large but not huge number.  There was not and is not good evidence that the Spanish government had caused the explosion.

Bombing of North Vietnam August 5, 1964, in response to an entirely imaginary incident on August 4.  No hostile force had even come near the US ships in that incident, much less attacked them, so there had been no US casualties and, obviously, no North Vietnamese responsibility.

Given this track record, it would be difficult for a government the United States disliked to tell itself that it could assist a terrorist organization in inflicting huge casualties on the United
States, in the confidence that the United States would not know _or guess_ who was responsible, and would not retaliate.

If we are trying to use this past historical record as a basis to judge the probabilities for a case involving Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, there are special issues that must be considered.  Let us hypothesize that Saddam Hussein gave a weapon of mass destruction to al Qaeda, which then used it to kill a huge number of people in the United States.  There are three possibilities for what would happen next:

  1. The United States would neither know nor guess that Iraq had been behind the attack, and would take no violent action against Iraq.
  2. The United States would find or invent enough evidence, despite the best efforts of Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda to conceal the tie between them, to trigger violent US action against Iraq.
  3. The United State would not need to search very hard for evidence, because al Qaeda, wanting to trigger a US invasion of Iraq, would allow it to be obvious where the weapon of mass destruction had come from.

I am convinced that (3) would have been more likely than (1), and I am pretty sure that Saddam Hussein would also have believed that (3) was more likely than (1).  Al Qaeda detested Saddam Hussein, and Saddam Hussein was aware of this.  Al Qaeda had much to gain from triggering an American invasion of Iraq, and while I have no specific information on Saddam Hussein's picture of al Qaeda's beliefs, I would be most surprised if Saddam Hussein had not noticed that al Qaeda had much to gain by triggering an American invasion of Iraq.

For Saddam Hussein to have given a weapon of mass destruction to al Qaeda, trusting that the fact would remain secret, Saddam Hussein's trust in the goodwill of al Qaeda would have had to go beyond naive, to a point bordering on idiocy.

Naive trust in the goodwill of others was never a salient characteristic of Saddam Hussein.

| 12:59 PM ET |

Bush attacks the Army, too

Reminder:  Altercation's new URL as of Monday, 9/18 will be .

There are a lot of reasons why pro-military types and their families vote Republican and while they exist for understandable historical reasons as a reaction to particular historical and cultural phenomena, fewer and fewer of them can be considered rational in light of contemporary developments.  The long and the short of it, as Lawrence Korb, Max Bergmann & Peter Ogden demonstrate in this week’s TNR, is that Bush has declared a de facto war on the U.S. Army.  Consider:

  • Fully two-thirds of the active U.S. Army is officially classified as "not ready for combat."

  • The National Guard is "in an even more dire situation than the active Army but both have the same symptoms; I just have a higher fever."

  • The Army has almost no nondeployed combat-ready brigades at its disposal.

  • The equipment in Iraq is wearing out at four to nine times the normal peacetime rate because of combat losses and harsh operating conditions.

  • The total Army--active and reserve--now faces at least a $50 billion equipment shortfall.

  • After failing to meet its recruitment target for 2005, the Army raised the maximum age for enlistment from 35 to 40 in January--only to find it necessary to raise it to 42 in June.

  • The number of Army recruits who scored below average on its aptitude test doubled in 2005, and the Army has doubled the number of non-high school graduates it can enlist this year.

  • Basic training, which has, for decades, been an important tool for testing the mettle of recruits, has increasingly become a rubber-stamping ritual.  Through the first six months of 2006, only 7.6 percent of new recruits failed basic training, down from 18.1 percent in May 2005.

  • Thousands of white supremacists may have been able to infiltrate the military due to pressure from recruitment shortfalls.

That’s all .  There’s plenty more to the story of course; crappy body armor, inappropriate assignments, medical benefits slashed, encouragement to torture, refusal to attend a single military funeral, exploiting them as extras in pseudo-Hollywood-style media events.  The thing is, as the authors explain, political reality needs to catch up to this issue and the Democrats remain afraid to raise it.

Things I learned reading New York Magazine’s profile of Bill Keller, .

  1. Keller now says that Washington reporter James Risen’s book publication was a factor in his decision to publish the NSA Spying story after sitting on it for more than a year.  “I have tried to be careful never to say the Risen book was irrelevant.  I’ve said it was a factor in reopening the discussion.”  Though he says it was not the deciding factor.

  2. Six months before the 2004 election, New York Times Washington Bureau Chief Philip Taubman threw a lavish dinner party for Condoleezza Rice at his house in Washington.

Save Darfur Rallies this weekend.  The big one will be in the East Meadow of Central Park Sunday from 2:00 to 5:00.  The rally is calling on the UN to get peacekeepers, "Blue Hats," on the ground in Darfur.  Similar rallies are being held in 30 plus other countries and many other cities throughout the U.S.   "For information about the rally or what else you can do to fight the genocide see and ."

With African Union peacekeepers scheduled to leave Darfur at the end of this month, and the Sudanese government mounting a military campaign against helpless and starving Darfurians, the horrific situation there may very well turn even worse for hundreds of thousands of people.  Do what you can to stop this ongoing catastrophe.

Here’s a list of countries/cities in which events are being held:


  • Ethiopia: Addis Ababa
  • Egypt: Cairo
  • Gambia: Banjul
  • Ghana: Accra
  • Kenya: Nairobi
  • Nigeria: Abuja
  • Rwanda: Kigali
  • Senegal: Dakar
  • Tanzania: Dar-es-Salaam
  • Zambia: Lusaka


  • Australia: Melbourne
  • Bahrain: Manama
  • Cambodia: Phnom Penh
  • China: Hong Kong
  • Kyrgyzstan: Bishkek
  • Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur
  • Mongolia: Ulaanbaatar
  • Singapore:
  • South Korea: Seoul
  • United Arab Emirates: Dubai


  • Belgium: Brussels
  • Denmark: Copenhagen
  • England: London
  • France: Paris
  • Germany (2): Berlin, Bonn
  • Ireland: Dublin
  • The Netherlands (2): Amsterdam, The Hague
  • Norway: Oslo
  • Russia: Moscow
  • Sweden: Stockholm
  • Switzerland: Bern

North America

  • Canada (5): Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver
  • United States (11): Des Moines, Fort Wayne, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York City, Phoenix, Raleigh, Redding, San Francisco, Seattle, Worcester

I generally feel some discomfort writing about my friends’ books on this site so I’m going to borrow from writing on TPM Café about Sid Blumenthal’s new book, How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime, .

...Bush incarnates certain potentials long embedded in movement conservatism, potentials that, in combination, add up to a whole drastically worse than the sum of the parts: ignorance of the larger world; deafness toward reason; vindictiveness toward dissidents; cronyism; systematic deception; fiscal recklessness; centralization of power and its abuses. Reagan began the process of conservative consolidation, but Bush has the energy, focus, and vindictiveness that Reagan lacked. He also, not least, had September 11.The magic has worn thin, but never forget that base Bush is the voice of Bush’s base. Republican control of all branches of government has certainly afforded Bush the means to act on his tunnel vision. It’s a necessary condition. So are the Rove-Ailes-Atwater commitments to what Spiro Agnew (or wasn’t it elder literary statesman William Safire?) once called “positive polarization.” But the will of the bulldozer is essential to understanding the magnitude of the ruination that Bush has accomplished.

Quote of the Day: "I couldn’t imagine somebody like Osama bin Laden understanding the joy of Channukah.”  —President of the United States of America, George W. Bush, quoted on .


I would have called it “Still the King,” but Sony decided to call it “The Legends of Country Music."  Anyway you look at it, it’s still a four CD-box set, 105 track remastered of the great Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.  If you were wondering about the origins of songs like “Trouble in Mind,” “San Antonio Rose,” “Ida Red,” “Take Me Back to Tulsa,” “Stay a Little Longer,” well, I think it’s here, though I’d have to read a little more to make sure.  Together with Elvis and Johnny Cash, Wills is in both the Country Music and Rock n Roll Halls of Fame, and the strict chronology of this box makes it a joy for both the listener and the historian.  Happy 100th Birthday Bob. Sorry about what your fellow Texas playboy did to your country.  More .

Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Andrea Dworkin might not approve, but I also really like the big new collection of the art work of Albert Vargas, published by Bullfinch, Alberto Vargas: Works from the Max Vargas Collection.  The drawings have a wonderful sense of innocence compared to the disgusting and depressing images that proliferate in contemporary culture, and as a bad feminist perhaps, I have nothing against the objectification of the body, so long as its mutual.  It’s a got a decent essay too, if you need an excuse, .

If your parents, or Jerry Falwell is coming over, however, and you need another coffee table tome to put on top of the Vargas, you might enjoy the newest edition of the Historical Atlas of the United States published by the University of California, , an intellectual as well as a geographical exploration, it’s an extremely interesting way to tell the history of the country, and if you’ve got the right kind of family, it could be fun for the whole family.  The quality of the reproductions is first-rate as well.

No correspondence corner again: Sorry, we still can’t get a handle on all the mail.  Thanks, though, really.

September 12, 2006 | 2:37 PM ET |

Reminder:  Altercation's new URL as of Monday, 9/18 will be .

What the hell is the problem over at The Economist with Susan Sontag?  Altercation readers will remember that we intervened in history during the period of her death when the magazine slandered her in her obituary, by saying she thought America got what it deserved on 9/11.  They apologized, though extremely reluctantly.  Now they’re back with the same B.S. .

September 11th 2001— “Leftists excoriated Susan Sontag for implying that the assault was payback for America's crimes.”

The sentence is nonsense and unsupportable with Sontag’s words, which were inappropriate in tone coming so soon after 9/11 but true nevertheless. Shame on the Economist.

In case you thought The Washington Post editorial page was .

This story says all you need to know about state of , no?

How to be Marty Peretz:  Marry one enormously wealthy heiress, get divorced, marry an even more enormously wealthy heiress, use her fortune to buy a liberal magazine, use that magazine to attack in vicious personal terms those liberals with whom you disagree—but who in most cases, have written far more books than you have, or significant works of scholarship, or even  memorable—in a good way—pieces of journalism, hire liar, plagiarist Stephen Glass, hire sock-puppet Lee Siegel, destroy said magazine’s circulation, be forced to sell out your majority stake over and over owing to losses and force the staff to take pay cuts, .

(Oh the irony: I actually think TNR is a pretty great magazine, even though they force me to read it on the Web.  But I think this is in spite of Marty rather than because of him.  I also have close friends who think Marty is incredibly generous to his friends.  And perhaps he is.  But he is terrific in the way that only the very wealthy can be; in other words, in ways that do not require any personal sacrifice.  And yes he hired Kinsley and Hertzberg and Judis and the mainly excellent staff TNR has right now, but does anyone think they wouldn’t have been hired somewhere without him?  Plus the sins of not only Peretz’ own purple prose, but that of Krauthammer, Barnes and now, Lawrence Kaplan, make this contest pretty much of a draw.)


September 06, 2006 History's Unforgiving MurkinessNY Times:If free peoples do not heed the call of history, Mr. Bush said, "Fifty years from now, history will look back on our time with unforgiving clarity"... The possibility that Saddam Hussein might develop "weapons of mass destruction" and pass them to terrorists was the prime reason Mr. Bush gave in 2003 for ordering the invasion of Iraq.Yeah...I don't know if there will be that much unforgiving clarity in fifty years, given that the New York Times can't remember what happened three and a half years ago.

From the Benton Foundation:

[SOURCE: , AUTHOR: Declan McCullagh and Anne Broache]
Since September 11, 2001, the federal government is concealing more information about its own activities, while engaging in more surveillance of Americans' private lives.  The change has been dramatic. In the 1997 fiscal year, the federal government spent $3.4 billion on securing classified information, a figure that rose to $7.7 billion for 2005. Similarly, the government declassified 204 million pages of documents in 1997 but a mere 29.6 million in 2005.  At the same time, surveillance of Americans by the federal government has steadily increased. President Bush has acknowledged bypassing the checks and balances of the courts when enlisting the National Security Agency in an extensive surveillance program. Congress is discussing whether to rewrite that law.

See also:


[SOURCE: , AUTHOR: Jeremy Pelofsky]
The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit put on hold the Federal Communications Commission's ruling that four television broadcasts of profanity violated decency standards. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit stayed enforcement of the agency's ruling in March that profanities uttered on ABC's "NYPD Blue," CBS's "The Early Show" and the 2002 and 2003 Billboard music awards shows on Fox were indecent. The FCC did not propose any fines for the incidents. The four major television networks, ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, argued the FCC's rulings were unconstitutional, arbitrary and capricious and asked the appeals court in New York to throw them out.

"It cuts the heart out of the FCC's strengthened enforcement effort for the time being," said Andrew Schwartzman, president and chief executive of the Media Access Project, a consumer advocacy group. The FCC now gets two months to reconsider the profanities uttered on ABC's "NYPD Blue," CBS's "The Early Show" and the 2002 and 2003 Billboard music awards shows on Fox.






[SOURCE: , AUTHOR: John Eggerton]
According to the FCC, indecency and obscenity complaints were down sharply in the second quarter to 52,067 from 275,131 in the first quarter, though up slightly from the third quarter of 2005 (44,109).  June saw only 741 complaints, down from 40,000 in May and 11,326 in April. Some of the complaints in April or May could have come from the American Family Association, which targeted a NASCAR broadcast with an errant swear.

[SOURCE: Federal Communications Commission]

Today is the release date for  ,"    of which , “Available as a 21 track single disc or a 2 CD version with a disc of rare and unreleased tracks, this chronicles R.E.M.'s ascent from young indie band to budding superstars.  Owning this doesn't mean you shouldn't have their greatest album, 1986's "Life's Rich Pageant," but it's a great place to start, and most of the unreleased tracks are truly rare.  Also out next week is the DVD companion, "The Light Is Mine," featuring all their artsy '80s videos plus a lot of rare TV appearances.”  As far as compilations, you’d be surprised how much fun is “Secret Agent Man:  The Ultimate Johnny Rivers Anthology: 1964-2006, as shlocky as most of it is. Also from Shout! Factory is “Last of the Jewish Cowboys: The Best of Kinky Friedman,” which you wont be surprised, I hope, to find out how much fun it is. (They could just as easily have called it, “First of the Jewish Cowboys.”  Regarding new music, Sal and I are both on board with the new MADELEINE PEYROUX - "."  He writes, “Thankfully, we didn't have to wait ten years between "Careless Love" and this new album.  Peyroux continues with her Billie Holiday-by-way-of Billie Holiday style on such songs as "Summer Wind" and Joni Mitchell's "River," which features k.d. lang.” Also, has anyone ever heard of ?  I haven’t but he’s got a record called “The Song He Was Listening to When He Died,” which has this wonderful song called “America” which is about the band, not the country. It has a few other great songs too.  It’s on something called “Freedom” Records. And while I’m really bad about new jazz—which is deeply unfair, since how can these guys make a living if they have to compete with Miles and Coltrane forever and I guilty bad about it—there’s a new collaboration on Nonesuch by Brad Meldau and Pat Metheny, which, you know, good in the way that all Brad Meldau records are. Look around .

On the DVD front, my friends at First Run Features have a whole bunch of high-minded fare that one day, I’ll have time to enjoy.  Altercation readers will no doubt want to check out the DVD release of “Let’s Get Frank,” which focuses on one of our two or three favorite legislators, and the funny German Jewish—don’t get to say that much—movie, “Go for Zucker.” This Bosnian Serb thing, “Fuse,” looks deeply worthwhile, too, but the thing I’m really most excited about is the release of “49 Up,” Michael Apted’s series in which we have been emotionally invested now, since “21 Up,” and some of you undoubtedly even longer.  That’s going to be in the New York film Festival and then released nationally, unless you live in the boonies, in which case you’ll have to wait for First Run to release the DVD, which shouldn’t be too long from now. Read all about it .

And if all that’s a little high-minded for y’all, let’s take a break with the .  “The Girl Can’t Help It,” and “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?” are just the greatest.  The colors on both of them are really breath-taking and check out Abbey Lincoln in the former.  I haven’t watched “The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw” yet, but hey, Raul Walsh directed it.  How bad can it be?

Correspondence Corner:

Eric notes: Thanks to everybody for the gazillions of emails yesterday. I don’t know if I will end up printing any of them but its really nice to be appreciated. Thanks too, for all the kind words in the blogosphere.

Name: Michael Rapoport
Eric: In case you haven't seen it, for the Mets' playoff ticket lottery.

Eric writes: But if you get ‘em, you gotta bring me.

Name: William S. Berry
Hometown: Cape Girardeau, MO
Just a little expansion on the theme of the elements of country-western music as described by LTC Bateman: I believe the song he refers to listing those elements is the David Allan Coe version of Steve Goodman's "You Never Even Called Me By My Name."  The relevant passage, with an opening recitation by Coe, goes like this: Well, a friend of mine named Steve Goodman wrote that song and he told me it was the perfect country song.  I wrote him back a letter and I told him it was not the perfect country song because he hadn't said anything at all about mama, or trains, or trucks, or prison, or gettin' drunk.  Well, he sat down and wrote another verse to the song and he sent it to me, and after reading it, I realized that my friend had written the perfect Country & Western song.  And I felt obliged to include it on this album.  The last verse goes like this here: Well, I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison, And I went to pick her up in the rain, but before I could get to the station in my pickup truck, She got runned over by a damned old train!

Name: John B
Hometown: Des Moines, IA
Dear Dr. Alterman:
Thanks for keeping your readers apprised of the situation surrounding "The Path to 9/11".  In addition to making my feelings known to ABC I felt compelled to e-mail my local ABC affiliate, WOI TV in Iowa.  I feel very strongly about the views expressed here:

Dear WOI:I have already made my feelings about this upcoming "docudrama" known to ABC Corporate but feel compelled to back it up with a message to you, since WOI is the face of ABC in central Iowa.  This is an important moment in America as the 5 year anniversary an incredible tragedy comes just as the fall election season opens.  I just don't see any way in which this program meets the needs of our nation at this critical moment.  Nothing I have heard or read about "The Path to 9/11" gives me confidence.  The statements that the movie is "based on the work of the 9/11 Commission" when in fact it is a work of fiction.  The multiple people complaining of being portrayed unfavorably in scenes that never happened. The many inaccuracies that have been documented before the mini-series is even shown on-air. The fact that VIRTUALLY ALL COMPLAINTS are from Democrats when there is plenty of blame to go around and the fact that most of the people who have already seen it are conservative pundits who are urging their readers and listeners to watch concerns me most of all. USING THE 9/11 TRAGEDY FOR PARTISAN POLITCAL GAIN IS UNACCEPTABLE!!! This was a catastrophe of unimagined proportions that scarred everyone in this country and large numbers of people in other countries as well. For ABC to participate in historical revisionism to facilitate electoral gains is more disgusting than anything I've witnessed in this great nation. The excuse that this program is a "docudrama" is nothing other than a thinly veiled excuse to mix fact with fiction in such a way that they become indistinguishable from one another. If "The Path to 9/11" is allowed to air it MUST be labeled so strongly that there is no way for anyone to misunderstand that anything and everything they see could be fact or fiction and there is no way to distinguish which is which. Further that label MUST be given before, during, and after the program repeatedly. I doubt that will be the case and assume I will be forced to follow through with my promise to boycott ABC if the network doesn't make things right. As the face of ABC in this area you deserve to know about this, and you deserve to know that I am not alone in this. Your station has the ability to add these labels yourselves, and you have the ability to run public service announcements, news stories, and other programming to attempt to compensate for the network's failings. Do what you think is best. In the end your viewers will let you know if you have done the right thing.

Name: Josh Silver
As we look at the next four months, we're looking at yet-another critical moment for our big-three issues: media ownership, public broadcasting and the future of the Internet.  Congress is in session for about 4 weeks for a mad rush of activity before breaking for campaigns and the election.  Then they will return for the lame duck session for a few weeks in November/December.

These are narrow windows of legislative activity in a hotly contested election cycle, but Senator Ted Stevens will push very hard to bring his telecom bill to the floor. Because it lacks protections for a free and open Internet, Free Press and the Save the Internet Coalition are working hard to block the bill. The full might of the telephone and cable companies are pushing to pass it.

We have pulled out all the stops over the August Congressional break, helping local activists to organize petition deliveries for the Save the Internet Coalition in 25 cities. (see and ) Four Senators came out publicly in favor of net neutrality as a result, and the momentum is clearly with the grassroots movement. In many ways, this is a showdown between organized money and organized people for control over the future of the US media. We are convening public interest and industry allies to redouble efforts to broaden the pro Net Neutrality coalition, educate policymakers, and create the political will required to pass proactive legislation in the next Congress.

Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission is moving forward with its consideration of the public interest limits on media ownership. Chairman Kevin Martin has made it clear that he intends to eliminate these limits and permit further media consolidation. Through the fall, the FCC is accepting public comment on the question and Free Press members have submitted 45,000 so far.

We are working with our allies to get 100,000 comments filed with the Commission at our new coalition campaign . (modeled after the successful SaveTheInternet campaign) We are also working with our allies to produce rigorous academic studies to make the case for media diversity using economic, law, and social science. The stronger the public response, the more Congress will take note and pressure Martin to leave the media ownership limits intact in order to protect localism, diversity and competition in local media. The stronger the case we can build, the more likely it is that the Courts that rejected the FCC’s last attempt to gut media ownership limits in 2003 will agree with us once again.

We organized a successful public hearing in Milwaukee with FCC Commissioners Copps and Adelstein on Thursday (see ), and Chairman Martin announced the first official FCC public hearing in LA on October 3rd. We are quickly deploying a team of organizers to ensure that Martin gets an earful from a packed house. The public comment period ends in late November, making this fall the crucial moment to re-energize a the anti-consolidation movement amongst both liberals and our conservative allies like the NRA, Trent Lott and the Parents Television Council.

On the public broadcasting front, former Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) chairman Kenneth Tomlinson found himself back in the headlines when the NY Times reported that in his current position as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, he improperly hired a friend on the public payroll for nearly $250,000 over two and a half years. (see )

As you’ll recall, the US House passed a 23%, $115 million budget cut to the CPB on June 7th, and the Senate passed full funding soon after - both part of a massive appropriations bill. We now look again to the lame duck session when the House and Senate will reconcile the two bills, and we will have to again lead a broad coalition to flood Congress with calls and letters to ensure full funding. In the long term, we’re preparing to introduce long term legislative proposals for new funding and governance, prepared by seasoned public broadcasting attorneys. At the same time, we’re increasing grasstops outreach to PBS and NPR station managers and national leadership.

Nauseating fact of the week: AT&T and Verizon spent $19.7 million in California this year -- $16,000 per state legislator -- to pass a bill that will allow the phone companies to apply for a single statewide franchise license to compete for cable customers. This is part of the phone companies’ campaign to get into the TV business through state legislation rather than the federal legislation that the thorny Net Neutrality issue is attached to.

And finally, you should check out “Young Turk” Cenk Uygur in as he forcefully shows how badly mainstream media have been and continue to fall down on the job. Watch it through to the end..... it's a passionate commentary.

September 11, 2006 | 11:37 AM ET |

9/11: America attacked twice

It would be impossible to do justice here to the legacy of 9/11 at year five and I’m not going to try.  This nation was doubly cursed on this day five years ago; first by the attack itself, and second by the reaction of our dishonest, incompetent and corrupt leadership’s exploitation of it for their own naked political and ideological purposes.  As every single global poll during the past four years indicates, we are a less admirable nation than we were five years ago.  We are more warlike, more arrogant, more ignorant, less compassionate, less generous, less free, and thanks to the Bush administration’s catastrophic invasion of Iraq, far less safe.

Think back five years and it’s all but unimaginable.

I took a look at the column I did for five years ago today.  I was writing in a state of shock, literally smelling death from downtown, not knowing if I had lost anyone close to me, trying to make sense of my thoughts and emotions. Here’s some of it:

The first commandment of any crisis is to be cool.  Don’t panic.  Don’t do anything to make it worse.  There is plenty of time to assess blame and figure out how to respond in a manner and moment of our own choosing.  Nothing could dishonor the dead quite as profoundly than to kill more innocents in the name of vengeance and let the true perpetrators get away with their crimes....The politicians and pundits who conducted their dreamworld debate about missile defense and space weaponry against as yet imaginary opponents showed precious little interest in these more arcane threats that any number of nations and terrorist groups already possessed.  Now we are paying the price for the unreality of our political debate....Everything about American politics needs to come down to earth.  Face it, it does not really matter much what happened to Chandra Levy.  It’s too bad such a nice looking girl was missing, but she is only one person.  Tuesday’s attacks demonstrate how much we need to grow up as a nation politics can be even if we prefer not to pay attention.  It’s time to have a serious debate about the nation’s priorities and to make tough decisions involving difficult trade-offs.  There is no way to wish away our many vulnerabilities as a society.  But we can address them sensibly and democratically, if only we face up to the fact that we never had any innocence to lose.  We merely acted as if we did.

Eight days later, to my eternal shame, I suspended my previous judgments about George W. Bush, and allowed myself to be sucked into the vortex of national unity that he would soon exploit to the detriment of this nation and the world.  While I did criticize Bush’s “foolish” use of “for or against us rhetoric,” as well as the speech’s lack of specifics about what, exactly he had in mind, nevertheless, following Bush’s address to the nation, I wrote:

Whether you voted for him or felt he stole the election, it was hard not to be moved by the president’s ability to represent America in all its diversity, imagination and determination before the world in the face of our greatest collective tragedy in more than a generation.  The President appeared to hit virtually every note just right.  He was not overly belligerent, and did not play up to jingoist sentiments.  He paid tribute to the real heroes of the crisis—the cops and firemen and rescue workers--and made frequent reference to the fact that the struggle we now face will require both cooperation and patience.

I look back on that moment when so many of us wanted to trust our president and I wonder:

Who would have imagined in their worst nightmares that these political usurpers would employ the human catastrophe of 9/11 to continue the terrorists work for them?  Who would have imagined that they would embark on a course that would eventually kill more Americans than died on 9/11 in wars that do nothing to ensure the nation’s security but much to inspire more Arabs to hate us and wish to attack us?  Who would have imagined they would dissipate the global solidarity and support the world had offered us?  Who would have imagined that, having ignored all of the signs of a certain attack, they would continue to ignore the most obvious steps to protect us against future catastrophe, leaving our ports, our nuclear facilities, our chemical facilities invitingly unguarded?  Who would have imagined that they would willingly allow bin-Laden to escape?  Who would have imagined they would lie to the rescue workers about the health effects of the air they were breathing. Who would have imagined that they would put the fate of the nation in the hands of a group of lying, conniving, rats like “curveball,” Ahmad Chalabi and the INC?  Who would have imagined a political campaign in which a man like Max Cleland, a man who lost three limbs in Vietnam, would be branded as insufficiently patriotic by right-wing politicians and pundits who never sacrificed so much as a chicken dinner for their country?  Who would have imagined they would use homeland security as pure pork money, doling out millions for Red State fire houses while leaving tens of millions who live near obvious targets—and were attacked last time—unprotected?  Who would have imagined they would emulate our enemies, employing methods of torture and massacre?  Who would imagine they would force our brave soldiers to die fighting phantoms, without even proper body armor?  Who would have imagined they would outlaw photographs of military funerals, or that the president could not find time to attend a single one of them?  Who would have imagined they would use the attacks to create a domestic spying regime, a series of secret prisons and tribunals, and the declare the right to abrogate any and all American civil liberties whenever it struck their fancy?  Who would have imagined, in other words, that they would exploit these tragic deaths to seek to undermine our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, indeed the very foundations of the same “freedom” that allegedly inspired the terrorists in the first place?  And finally, who would have imagined that our vaunted “liberal media” and nonpartisan political establishment would cheer them along the way, failing to ask the difficult questions and attacking the patriotism and even sanity of those with the courage and foresight to do so?

9/11 could have been a rebirth of our nation’s civic and political culture, together with a recommitment to use our power to ensure the security and prosperity of a world community that looked to us with sympathy and admiration.  “We are All Americans,” said Le Monde. Today most of the world is anti-American and understandably so.  We have failed the Afghans.  We have failed the Iraqis.  We have failed our long-time allies, indeed, virtually everyone who trusted us.  We will survive, of course, and someday, a more enlightened leadership will be able to undo some of the damage these two curses have inflicted upon us and return us to the values that helped build this great nation.  But the opportunity offered by a world united in solidarity with America and its values is almost certainly dead for good.  Let the coroner’s certificate read: “Cause of Death: Lies, Extremism, Incompetence, Corruption, Murder, Torture, and Hypocrisy, Stupidity, and Even More Lies.”


I usually get all teary-eyed on these occasions, paying tribute to my great, unkillable city, which had the good sense to vote against the president in 2004 by a margin of roughly 9-1, thank you very much.  I could easily do that again, particularly at a moment when Bush is, per usual, stiffing us on the means to defend ourselves against another attack against America, while using our misfortune as a backdrop for his own attempts to hide his pathetic post 9/11 performance.  Instead I’m going to bow to my betters.  I finally saw the production of David Hare’s “Stuff Happens” in Central Park last week.  I had avoided it previously because I didn’t think I could stand two and half hours in the presence of its characters, speaking lines I knew were destined to kill tens of thousands of innocent people.  I was wrong.  It’s a terrific play, even if its overly romantic (for dramatic effect) about Colin Powell, and it contains the most precise, concise diagnosis of what’s happened to America since 9/11 I’ve found anywhere.  Here it is, and thanks to the Public Theater for all they to do make our city worth defending, whether the enemy be Bush or bin-Laden.


Brit in New York

‘America changed.’  That’s what we’re told.  ‘On September 11th everything changed.’  ‘If you’re not American, you can’t understand.’

The infantile psycho babble of popular culture is grafted opportunistically onto America’s politics.  The language of childish entitlement becomes the lethal rhetoric of global wealth and privilege.

Asked how you are as President, on the first day of a war which will kill around thirty thousand people: ‘I feel good.’

I was in Saks Fifth Avenue the morning they bombed Baghdad.  ‘Isn’t it wonderful?’ says the saleswoman.  ‘At last we’re hitting back.’  ‘Yes,’ I reply.  ‘At the wrong people.  Somebody steals your handbag so you kill their second cousin, on the grounds they live close.  Explain to me,’ I say, ‘Saudi Arabia is financing Al Qaeda.  Iran, Lebanon and Syria are known to shelter terrorists.  North Korea is developing a nuclear weapons programme.  All these you leave alone.  No, you go to war with the one place in the region admitted to have no connection with terrorism.’  ‘You’re not American,’ says the saleswoman.  ‘You don’t understand.’

Oh, a question, then.  If ‘You’re not American. You don’t understand’ is the new dispensation, then why not ‘You’re not Chechen’?  Are the Chechens also now licensed?  Are the Basques?  Theatres, restaurants, public squares?  Do Israeli milk-bars filled with women and children become fair game on the grounds that ‘You don’t understand.  We’re Palestinian, we’re Chechen, we’re Irish, we’re Basque’?  If the principle of international conduct is now to be that you may go against anyone you like on the grounds that you’ve been hurt by somebody else, does that apply to everyone?  Or just to America?

On September 11th, America changed.  Yes, it got much stupider.

End “Stuff Happens”

Quote of the Day, “The great red zone that voted for Bush--is clearly ready for war.  The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead--and may well mount a fifth column." —Andrew Sullivan, 9/16/01

P.S., [permalink]

First, the bad news:  I’m fired. has decided to end its support of “Altercation,” and indeed, all of its association with yours truly as of this Friday.

Ok, now, the good news:  My friends at Media Matters for America have decided that the cause of continuing “Altercation” in its current, politically independent form to be worthy of their support.  So we’re not dying, just moving.  Our new URL will be and I will also become a MM Senior Fellow.

I am genuinely saddened to leave  I was hired before the 1996 launch by both the Web site and the cable station, and while the latter association ended in 1998, I have been here at for ten straight years, writing a column until 2002 and “Altercation” every day, ever since.  Permit me to point out that with the help of my contributors and co-Altercators, I’ve probably contributed more words to this site than any other person, including full-time staff.  Well, ten years is a good run at anything.  It was the philosophical Beatle who said “.”  I’m profoundly proud of what we’ve accomplished here, particularly the creation of a community of writers and readers who share a sense of commitment, conscience, and one hopes, consciousness.  We’ve kept to the standards I outlined four and a quarter years ago—in sadly, the only thing I’ve ever written that has ever been compared to Proust and I don’t think it was a compliment.  In any case, I like to think we —the Altercation community— set a standard of discourse that requires no apologies, explanations nor caveats, which is something, dare I say it, rare and beautiful in the mainstream media.  As for, I want to say that my experience working with my editors, past and present, has been an unbroken and unblemished blessing.  When asked me to start a blog, I had no perfect precedents to guide me.  Josh and Mickey, and yes, Andy, had struck out bravely on their own, but no mainstream news organization had its own blogger and let’s face it, MSNBC made a less than perfectly safe choice in picking me.  I was able to create Altercation with plenty of support but no interference, personal, political, commercial or otherwise.  It may sound amazing in the context of the online world for the entire time I did Altercation, I had no idea whatever how many hits this site received.  Nobody ever asked me to deal with a topic, much less to stay away from one.  And of course, all mistakes were my own.

Whether my termination is, in fact, a product of a political decision at GE/NBC, which according to reports I read and gossip I hear, has lately taken a much firmer hand in guiding the content of both MSNBC and, I have no way of knowing.  I have never even spoken with the Web site’s current editor-in-chief, nor has anyone communicated with me beyond my immediate circle of editors.  Outspoken liberals in the MSM have long been an endangered species.  (From the beginning, a Wall Street Journal editorial page writer attacked the site for "conferring mainstream legitimacy on Eric Alterman.”)  Even less common, I suppose, are Web sites that feel free to criticize their corporate parents, the pollution they cause, the lying, incompetent, ideologically extremist and corrupt presidents they coddle, and perhaps most especially, the all-but incomprehensible choices they make when doling out cable TV news programs.  It would surprise no one if this site caused some discomfort at 30 Rock, if and when they happen to notice it.  But speculation is not the same thing as evidence, and the good folks at and GE/NBC can, I’m sure, give you good reasons why dumping Altercation is the right thing to do from a business standpoint —though the natural speculation that arises is a damn good argument against the kind of media concentration that allows a company like GE to own NBC in the first place.  And few decisions in life have only one inspiration, alas.  All I can say for sure is that I remain profoundly grateful for the opportunity they gave me and depart with nothing but feelings of warmth and gratitude for my colleagues who made it possible.

Again, beginning a week from today, we can be found at  (Bookmarkers, permalinkers, please note.)  As far as I’m concerned, nothing at all will change insofar as the site’s content is concerned, and I’m hoping my fellow Altercators will feel the same way.  (Maybe Pierce will even come back…)  Right or wrong, left or center, Altercation will always be the right room for an argument.  Come up and see us sometime.

P.P.S.  I haven’t been fired by or the um, yet…