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Altercation archive: November 11-16, 2003

Nov. 14, 2003 | 12:55 PM ET


New Nation column here, on Chickenhawkism and its implications.

Matthew Yglesias has a fine contribution to my “Think Again” series for the Center for American Progress, “Finding the Whole Truth” Should be here any minute now.

Matt Miller is a smart guy and he thinks Howard Dean is Karl Rove’s dream candidate. Fight about it with him, here.

Why Historians think pundits are idiots. George Will: “There may be more moral vanity in Howard Dean than in any politician since Woodrow Wilson….”

The president wants to remove taxes on inherited wealth, invested wealth, and put the entire burden on workers while at the same time, remove their incentive to work hard even further by decimating overtime pay. I know he’s never had to work for a living, but some of the rest of us are starting to get a little pissed off.

Jeff Madrick on the not-so-hot recovery.

Cover-up? What cover-up? Here’s more from the Journal.

Fred Kaplan defends Wes Clark against The New Yorker’s Peter Boyer.

Sid Blumenthal on why Bush likes Sharon better than Blair.

Whole lotta Dylan goin’ on.

Is the Republican Senate leadership part and parcel of Fox News or just vice versa. And nobody bother Andy or anybody at either NRO or the Wall Street Journal editorial page. today. It’s Joe McCarthy’s birthday, and the festivities associated thereto will be taking up most of their days. I hear Ann Coulter is planning to dress up in drag….

A few people have emailed to ask why I didn’t speak at the media/democracy confab in Madison last weekend and was I boycotting because Nader was asked to speak. Not exactly, I just wasn’t asked. Then again, when you have Moyers in top form, you really don’t need me.

Alter-reviews: My copies of The Essential Bruce Springsteen cds and the Live in Barcelona dvds are in hand. I have zillions of problems, per usual, with the song selection. Missing, off the top of my head, are: “Does this Bus? E Street Shuffle, Kitty, Incident, Tenth Avenue, Adam Raised a Cain, Point Blank, Independence Day, Pink Cadillac, Wreck on the Highway, Ramrod, Open All Night, Johnny 99, Highway Patrolman, Downbound Train, Darlington County, My Hometown, Spare Parts, One Step Up, When You’re Alone, The Fever, The Promise, Better Days, If I Should Fall Behind, (thank goodness for “Living Proof” though) and I could go on. But that’s life. The rarities cd is terrific, (though again, I have my differences.) I don’t recall “None but the Brave” but it should have replaced “I’m Goin’ Down” on BUSA.

The sound is terrific, and the price, at less than twenty bucks for 42 songs on three cds, amazing. “Not since the Clash put out Sandinista for $6.99…” The DVD catches the band the night after I saw them in Paris before an enthusiastic crowd and with a set list that’s just beginning to loosen up a little: (Incident, Spirit, etc.) You can read about both of them here. Resistance is futile.

Pierce’s Corner:
Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Eric —

Once, I put together a Whither-The-D’s? package for Esquire, and one of the people I talked with was John Edwards. (If you don’t recall it, it’s probably because it hit the newsstands on September 9, 2001 and was thus, ah, overtaken by events.) In a small hall, or in a private conversation, the guy is really quite remarkable, and watching him work a jury must have been worth paying to see. And any guy that sets you AND poor Christopher arguably to gushing — Hitch’s Edwards piece in Vanity Fair a few months back made Sidney Blumenthal-On-Bill-Clinton and Michael-Lewis-On-John-McCain read like double-barreled Mencken — has feet worth holding to the fire over every vote.

Which reminds me:

Can we now put up a statue to Russ Feingold for being the only senator to vote against — and, perhaps, the only one to read — the horror that is the USA Patriot Act? That he was alone in declining to hand over to a theocratic loon an authoritarian sham like this one is to the eternal disgrace of everybody else in that chamber. Look at this farce. This month, they uncorked against some strip-joint wiseguys in Las Vegas and, yet, you’d have to look under every Rock of every Age to find anyone in the Ashcroft Brigade who would call a “terrorist” that murderous pro-life lunatic whom the cops just fished out of the ocean in Florida.

Which reminds me why the stand the D’s made in the Senate this week over the Judiciary is the most important thing the party’s done since they held together during the impeachment kabuki. There are some wins you cannot let the other guys have — and enshrining permanently a reactionary ideology based on corporate privilege and white skin is one of them. I watched about three hours of it, off and on, cursing under my breath that vainglorious idiot, Nader. No difference? No difference between Chuck Schumer and John Cornyn? No difference between Barbara Boxer and Rick Santorum? No difference between William Brennan and William Rehnquist? What a putz.

Note to future president O’Reilly: I am certainly not ruling out one day being the Tsar of all the Russias.

Eric replies: And don’t forget Nick Lemann, the biggest gusher of all of us….

And Stupid’s:

Eric, it’s Stupid for the Democrats to continue ignoring me. For over a year I’ve been warning them that the economy would be just fine in 2004. Dubya is no idiot - he intentionally timed an economic recovery for his re-election. The Dems should have been sounding a consistent warning about this, but they didn’t and now they look like a bunch of opportunists. But last week Paul Krugman had a new variation on this, found in a passing blurb. When I read it, I was startled, depressed, excited and frightened.

Here it is:

“...There will eventually be a day of reckoning. As Bill Gross of Pimco, the giant bond manager, says, ‘Sooner, perhaps later, our Asian creditors will wake up and smell the coffee.’ (Yes, the federal budget and the value of the dollar now depend on huge purchases of Treasury Bills BY THE GOVERNMENTS OF JAPAN AND *****CHINA*****”) When they do, he predicts ‘higher import costs, a cutback in spending on cheap foreign goods, rising inflation, perhaps chaotic financial markets, a lower standard of living.’ Something to look forward to.” [my emphasis]

Say what? The Chinese government, the same one which the Weekly Standard used to run cover stories about and call America’s gravest threat (before 9/11, which apparently turned China into harmless kittens), has the ability to call the shots on the U.S. economy? Would the U.S. have anything to retaliate with now that China is in the WTO?

I’m conflicted about this. First, is it true? I remember the “Japan is buying America” demagoguery of decades past. An economic professor once told me that Europe was a much bigger player than Japan, but the “Yellow Menace” made for better propaganda. Still, if it’s true then it’s a legitimate issue, and China is a different matter entirely. It’s bad enough to sell out our kids’ future, now we’re selling it out to a communist dictatorship? And this isn’t the only example of selling our sovereignty for a re-election: our energy policy restrains our relations with Saudi Arabia and Russia.

So I just looked at that “executive summary” of the Iraqi death tolls in the 2003 war you linked to and surprise, surprise - no mention of the word “sanctions.” They put the combined combatant/civilian death toll at about 15,000. The sanctions killed that many kids every four months. Merely accelerating regime change by one year saved three times as many lives as it cost - doesn’t that deserve mention in a document titled “The Wages of War?”

Let’s be clear - any humanitarian discussion of the 2003 Gulf War without accounting for the sanctions is cowardly and dishonest.

Two quick CD recommendations: does a great job putting together their samplers (much better than those HEAR Music comps at Starbucks which cover the same musical landscape). The only bum track on the latest one is an Evan “what a waste of talent” Dando snoozer. And the hype about “The Decline of British Sea Power” (by “British Sea Power”) is true!

Name: Allen Brill
The Right Christians

Dear Eric,

You took care of Kristof’s fear of righteous Democratic anger, but you left untouched his announcement of an American “Great Awakening.” He returns to the theme from time to time that the country is headed toward a radical cultural split with secular liberals on one side and an increasingly dominant Christian Right on the other. The column that you critiqued depended upon the recent Pew Research Center survey and the increase in the percentage of respondents who “completely agree” with three statements about prayer, Judgment Day and the existence of God.

The numbers just don’t back up Kristof’s assertion. Membership in religious organizations, including Christian congregations, has actually declined slightly since 1990 as has church attendance and donations. Even the data that Kristof cites shows that strongly traditional religious sentiments on prayer, Judgment Day and God’s existence peaked in the late 90’s and has declined slighly since then.

Kristof’s vaunted “evangelicals” are a vaguely-defined group that is anything but homogeneous from either a theological or political standpoint. The Pew survey finds that 30% of Americans are “evangelicals,” but it lumps together all who consider themselves “born again” under the “evangelical” label to arrive at that figure. This includes liberal Episcopalians who have adopted the “born again” language and African-American Baptists who always vote Democratic. If Kristof or anyone else is interested in using “evangelical” to predict political behavior, the category should at least be limited to the 21% of whites who identify themselves as “born again.” Using more exacting criteria, public opinion researcher George Barna, himself an Evangelical, finds that only 5% of Americans are “evangelicals.”

Finally, Kristof is wrong about Americans moving in two different directions on “moral,” i.e. social issues. The Pew survey shows that the views of even conservative Christians have been moving to the left. In 1987, only 22% of white evangelicals disagreed with a statement that local school boards should have the right to fire homosexuals. By 2000, that percentage had grown to 40%. While white evangelicals were the only group in which a majority still supported firing homosexuals, the trend among them is clear.

American politics is a good deal more complex than what Kristof presents.

Name: David Andersen
Hometown: Washington, DC

Re: Stephen Anderson’s bit about Baxter. I did a quick search of the University of Manitoba Web site and the school does have a department of political “studies” as it is called. Political science departments are notorious for not being called political science departments. (My “political science” department at the University of Maryland is called “government and politics.”) However, Baxter’s claim is still dubious. When someone says they lectured at a University it usually implies that they taught a full course while not a full time faculty. Did Baxter do this or did he just give a talk there? If he just gave a talk then saying he “lectured” would be misleading.

Nov. 13, 2003 |
I listened to John Edwards give a short private talk last night. It was the first time I’ve seen him in person and I thought him terrifically compelling; Clintonesque in the best sense: genuine empathy, eloquence, a nice accent and wonkish talents mixed with a convincing personal story and ability to convey it. I think he’d be a really strong nominee, and I don’t think it impossible that he could win. However, and it’s a big however, he was not asked a question about why he originally threw his support to this catastrophic war and was willing to trust Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al, with the fate of the world. He had better have an answer for this if he wants to compete for the heart of the party, which is, appropriately, focused on this disaster into which the president and his advisers so blithely and dishonestly led the nation.

How many were killed yesterday? Where is Saddam? Where is Bin Laden? Who is it, Mr. Bush, that you said can run but cannot hide?

Veterans? We Don’t Want No Stinkin’ Veterans around here. Especially not on Veterans Day. What do they think this is? A free country? A place where they guy who was actually elected gets to be president? Go back to Russia, punk.

Don’t be cute Josh.Some CPA documents came into my hands yesterday.” Isn’t why the documents “came into [your] hands” part of the point, guy? Isn’t the arrogance of the Post and the Times in making just this pretense when say, they are carrying the administration’s water -or Kenneth Starr’s -one of the most significant problems in elite journalism today? Ok, so you can’t tell us who the leaker was. You can at least tell us why you think these particular papers were leaked to you. Even the Times is doing that these days, though they can’t bring themselves to acknowledge an enormous atrocity by U.S. troops in Vietnam that is all-but certain to win the Toledo Blade a Pulitzer.

And speaking of evidence, here we have some that Andrew Sullivan, the journalist, is no more reliable than Andrew Sullivan, the hysterical McCarthyite blogger. Three years ago, Judith Shulevitz put the smack down on Andy for his Times Magazine paean to his testosterone regimen, as follows: “By letting Sullivan mix up his subjective reactions with laboratory work, by allowing him to blur the edges between his own powerful longings for a cure-all and several scientific studies whose authors—by the way—aren’t necessarily in the mainstream of testosterone research (though Sullivan doesn’t tell you that), the Times has put out under its imprimatur an account of testosterone, its therapeutic possibilities, and its larger social implications that is dangerously misleading.” She quoted (though Andy did not) Robert Sapolsky, an eminent Stanford University professor of biology and neurology and an expert on testosterone, ”[Sullivan] is entitled to his fairly nonscientific opinion, but I’m astonished at the New York Times.” You can read the whole thing here.

Now the scientific evidence is in and supports Shulevitz one hundred percent. As the Post puts it: “There is no evidence that the testosterone being used by a growing number of American men to boost their strength, mood or virility is doing them any good despite the claims being made for the hormone, an expert panel of doctors concluded yesterday.” So the Times Magazine may or may not have fired Sully on Raines’ orders -there is still no evidence for this, even though Howie Kurtz trumpeted the story as Andy’s unpaid PR agent- but the upshot is, they were lucky they did. Think how many embarrassing corrections they’d have to issue if they continued to let him get away with sloppy, self-serving narcissism like the above. (And we at Altercation will be counting the days until we see a correction.) And far be it for Altercation to give medical advice, but perhaps it’s time for a few bloggers (and radio hosts) on the extreme right to switch to Asprin. I’m pretty sure that one every other day helps prevent heart disease.

And P.S.: As I was trying to explain to Mike Kinsley just a few days ago, the Slate search engine really bites the big one. If you put the words “Andrew Sullivan” and “Judith Shulevitz” into it, you get zero matches. Put it into Google and you get the above article. Perhaps Slate needs to subcontract this kind of thing to a decent software company. I’d be happy to recommend one….

Lunatic Alliance: David Horowtiz’s FrontPage website repeats Wall Street Journal’s off-by 700 percent estimate of George Soros’s contribution to the Center for American Progress, days after it’s been corrected by the Washington Post (which comes up in a Dow Jones search) but ignored by the Journal itself, including its Holy Roman Empire-like website, Best of the Web.

Cute bunch of blokes, those English. Are they all exactly like that Hugh Grant, fellow?

Speaking of blokes, if like me, you like Billy Bragg, but can’t really keep up with him, here’s your answer. I got mine Jack, and it’s in the cd player right now. Don’t ask to paint you a picture.

Pierce’s corner:
Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Eric —

Because every day, even days where I fly to Chicago to give a speech, is Slacker Friday. Part XXI.

I was going to write something about Nick Kristof’s piece, but you smacked it down fairly effectively and, anyway, it gets boring ending every sentence with the phrase, “...and the horse they rode in on.” So enough already. (Except, of course, to say — again — that the disreputable and indecent treatment of the late Vincent Foster and his family forever will be unparalleled, and also forever will be a bright and clear line of demarcation between Bush Bashing and Vicious Anti-Clinton Insanity.

And welcome back, Rush, you porcine, pill-gobbling bag of corruption and slander, you.)

Here’s something I didn’t understand. Last weekend, as I was flying into Louisville, we came in over a squadron of FedEx jets on the ground, and I had just finished reading that those ubiquitous Government Officials had warned the nation that The Bad People wanted to hijack cargo jets and fly them into power plants and kill me. I was struck by an important question: Why do I need to know this?

Seriously, how does this threat so affect my life that I have to know about it — and not, say, about what in hell went on in the skies over the Eastern seaboard on Sept. 11, 2001? I am not likely to stow away on a cargo jet any time soon. I can’t be ducking every time I see one fly over. (Speaking of which, have you ever actually SEEN a cargo jet fly?) I could deliver my holiday packages personally, which would be a nice thing, I guess. And an induced catastrophe at a power plant is going to effect me the same way if it’s caused by a cargo jet, an RPG, or a drunk technician. And, as to the ongoing threat that the Bad People will try to kill me, at last, here’s a tip for those ubiquitous Government Officials:


Thank you.

This warning can serve only three audiences: 1) the freight companies, who certainly could’ve been notified on the QT; 2) The Bad People, who likely would change tactics once they’d read the Courier-Journal or whatever local newspaper they’re reading these days, and 3) the people who live near airports, so they could keep a weather eye out for Bad People on the tarmac. Oh, wait, I just thought of some others: The Gallup Poll. The CNN/USA TODAY poll. The Zogby Poll.

Everybody Else’s Corner:
Name: Stephen Anderson
Hometown: Los Angeles

Re: Anti-terrorism consultant Jeff Baxter, who once played guitar with The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan.

I have trouble reconciling right-wing jingoism and paranoia with the expressiveness of art. John Wayne was an artist (uh, well, maybe) and yet was an intolerant crank with a clear right-wing bent. This may also apply to Baxter, who counts among his friends Dana Rohrabacher, one of the slimiest Republican legislators we’ve ever had here in sunny Calif. And those who know Baxter well (I’ve only met him once, and he was cordial) say that he’s always packing heat in his ever present belt pack.

Regarding his credentials as an anti-terrorism consultant, this reminds me of my old drummer friend of many years ago, Steve Seagal (formerly pronounced Siegel) who reinvented himself as action star, and alleged former CIA consultant, Steven Seagal. Delusions of grandeur, or merely adequacy?

But I thought I’d do a little more research into Baxter’s background, and found some interesting stuff. A bio, found many places on the web, contains the following:

“Although he continues his musical career, Baxter currently serves as Chairman of the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense. He has acted in an advisory capacity for Congressmen Curt Weldon and Dana Rohrabacher, both members of the House Science Committee, and has participated in numerous wargames for the Pentagon. Baxter was invited to serve on the Laser Advisory Board at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and has lectured at the University of Manitoba School of Political Science on the topic of regional conflict and missile defense.”

So I googled Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missle Defense, and got mostly hits on the same bio info, no hits for an organization with that name. I did get a hit on The SAFE Foundation which has Baxter on its Board of Directors as well as nutty Reps. Weldon & Rohrabacher, and espouses the viability of Missle Defense, among other far right psuedo-scientific positions.

I next Googled Laser Advisory Board, and got no related hits. At Lawrence Livermore’s site a fairly thorough search revealed no listing for a Laser Advisory Board.

This is getting to be fun now. I’m starting to smell a rat.

On to the University of Manitoba which seems to have no College, School, Department, or Library of Political Science. And searching the course list for the phrase “political science” got this result: “Sorry, no courses matched your search.”

So what to think? Is CABBMD an organization with one member? Is this just a pathetic attempt by someone at self aggrandizement? Another cop/soldier wannabe? Regardless, if Baxter is representing the U.S. in the newly democratized Hungary, then all I can say is Holy Crap!

Name: Joe Burinskas
Hometown: Denver

Hey! Am I the first one to point out the great line in yesterday’s otherwise mediocre-as-usual episode of The Simpson’s? Homer’s Mom returns, and sets up a secret meeting by alerting him via the local newspaper. Homer discovers that the first letter of every line in an article spells out the message intended for him. When Homer asks Mom how she got the idea for the secret code, she begins, “Well, I contacted my friends in the liberal media...”

Nov. 12, 2003 |
Liberal wimpiness is the far-right’s best friend. Take Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who has done magnificent work in bringing the crisis in Africa to the mainstream, demanding that liberals lay down and die before the hard-right steamroller that is the Bush administration.

The comparison he makes between Bush-hatred and Clinton-hatred is fallacious on so many grounds one hardly knows where to begin. Here are just a few salient points. Since I’ve been identified by the Wall Street Journal as a prime example of the latter, permit me to point out a few significant differences.

1) Bush “haters” talk about policy not personality.
2) Bush “haters’ support the country and its soldiers in wars they believe to be misguided
3) Bush “haters” do not accuse the president of drug-running and murder
4) Bush “haters” do not accept millions from billionaires to publish their paranoid fantasies in magazines like The American Spectator, and helping to drive unstable people to suicide, only to try to exploit even this tragic act for gain, with even more lurid paranoid fantasies about murder, safe houses and moved bodies.
5) Bush “haters” do not control any media properties remotely as powerful and influential as the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the Murdoch empire, the Moonie network, their own cable network, world-famous internet gossip sites, weekly and bi-weekly magazines, dozens of multi-million dollar “think” tanks, various publishing houses, etc.
6) Bush “haters” are quite removed from the Democratic establishment.
7) Bush “haters” back up their arguments with references and, frequently, footnotes, all of which can be checked for accuracy.
8) Bush “haters” are addressing themselves to a president who ran, dishonestly, as moderate and still managed to lose the election, only to gain the presidency with the support of Republican-appointed judges.
9) Bush “haters” are addressing themselves to a president whose dishonesty has led to the death of thousands of people in a counterproductive war, the looting of the treasury, and the trashing of the environment, for starters.

Now look at the Clinton-haters.

1) One of them, the one who advised David Brock to make stuff up for the Spectator in order to see what would stick, is Solicitor General.
2) Another is House Majority Leader
3) Another is the former House Majority Leader.
4) Another is the former Speaker of the House.
5) Just about all of these refused to vote for a resolution in support of U.S. troops risking their lives for freedom and democracy in Kosovo, when given a chance.
6) Another is the former Republican-appointed special prosecutor, who controlled an unlimited amount of funds as well as the loving sympathy of the Washington journalistic establishment.
7) Another is a radio hate-monger who just got out of rehab, to the delight of 15 million-20 million others.
8) A significant number of the rest of them have their own shows on cable, care of the So-Called Liberal Media.
9) A bunch of others control the editorial page of the most important business publication in the world.
10) Virtually all of their arguments were driven by either paranoid fantasies, planted lies, or at best, personal actions that had no bearing on the well-being of the country.
11) A few of them-including the one who sought to raise money by accusing the president of murder-blamed the attacks of 9/11 on Americans.
12) Clinton-haters abused the constitutional system to shut down the government and later, impeach the president.
13) Clinton-haters were addressing themselves to a president who was honestly elected, and by the way, boasted a 68 percent approval rating on the day he was impeached.

I could go on, obviously, but I’m not getting paid by the word here. And if you don’t get the point by now, you’re probably a bonafide Clinton hater, so congrats on the Kristof column.

Speaking of uncontrolled vitriol, rabid, hysterical Clinton hater James Taranto could have corrected the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page’s misrepresentation of George Soros’ investment in the Center for American Progress, which, as I pointed out yesterday, was off by a factor of a mere 700 or so percent.

But why bother? Instead he merely reiterates the figures used for Soros’ other gifts and ignores the outrageous misinformation the page for which he labors passed on to its unsuspecting readers. Did anyone imagine he would do otherwise? Would he even have a job if he paid attention to silly 700 percent mistakes when it’s liberals he’s bashing?

I don’t think I’ve actually linked to the incredible series, that the New York Times, unaccountably, continues to ignore. (Even weirder, it has appeared in the International Herald Tribune, completely owned and operated by the Times. Are they protecting their readers from the knowledge?) Anyway, Boehlert is on the case.

What’s significant about CNN’s dishonest intervention in the “Rock the Vote” debate, was not only that they did it, but that they did it in a way designed to dumb down the discourse. And this is supposed to be our “classy” cable network. It is to puke…

Here’s Gore’s Sunday speech. Thanks again, Ralph. (ps. This looks like a pretty good speech, too.)

Oh and this silly argument (WSJ) is debunked here.

By the bedside: I’m amazed to be saying this, but Conrad Black’s mammoth 1200 page- plus biography of FDR, entitled “Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom” (PublicAffairs). It’s smart, argumentative and mostly fair. I haven’t checked the footnotes, but I assume the guy can afford to pay for decent fact-checkers. It’s also officially the most up-to-date bio of the guy available, though I had heard that Arthur Schlesinger planned to return to the topic, I’ve seen no evidence of this.

Correspondents’ Corner:
Name: Sean
Hometown: Honolulu, HI

I found this little tidbit interesting. In a speech given at Georgetown University on Oct. 30, 2003, Sec. Wolfowitz lectured a group of students that were protesting the war. He went on further to mention the Marsh Arabs and how they were once a thriving society that made a rainforest in Iraq until Saddam cut off their water. (They also have his speech on CSpan.)

Well, unfortunately, the US Congress cut funding to the Marsh Arabs as was reported in the foreign press, the newspaper ”The Guardian.” From article: “Restoring an area that is said to have been the biblical Garden of Eden, marshlands that Saddam Hussein turned into an arid salt bed in his purge of Shiite Muslims, was one of President Bush’s priorities when he asked Congress for $20.3 billion to help rebuild Iraq.”

It also was among the few items House Republicans decided to cut, at least for now, if the United States had to pay for it. They chopped $100 million from Bush’s bill for resurrecting the Mesopotamian marshlands between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. - Guardian, Oct. 15

Kind of makes me wonder, do they really care about the Marsh Arabs?

Name: David
Hometown: Baltimore, MD

Dear Eric,

I am quite surprised that I have not seen the following story reported on any of my favorite lefty sites.

No projects for Democrats’ districts, House GOP says quote: “House Democrats will get no projects for their home districts in a huge education and health spending bill because none of them voted for an initial version of the measure last summer, majority Republicans say.

Unapologetic GOP leaders say the decision reflects standard procedure in Congress, where uncooperative lawmakers can lose out on money for roads, clinics and other prized items for the folks back home.

“We’re doing business as usual,” House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, said yesterday. “If you don’t support a bill, you have no right to say what’s in the bill.”

But furious Democrats say the move would be an unprecedented retaliatory blow at an entire political party. They say Democrats voted their conscience against a $138 billion measure they said would shortchange schools and other high-priority programs at a time when Republicans have cut taxes for wealthy Americans.”

Nov. 11, 2003 |
This profile of George Soros’ giving puts his contribution to the Center for American Progress at $3 million. I’ve checked it out and it is largely accurate. Yesterday the Wall Street Journal editors termed it to be “reportedly 20 million.” Remember that next time you read anything at all on the page. And let me know when the correction appears, hahaha..

I say this in sadness, but Hitchens is turning into Andy before our own eyes. Let’s hope before he gets to Horowitz-ville. Anyway, virtually every word in this tendentious essay is untrue, beginning with the first sentence. Izzy Stone made his observation exclusively about The Washington Post, not The New York Times. Of course that would have ruined the story, so, never mind. Meanwhile, This column demonstrates how little the administration war party was ever interested in peace.

Oh happy day: one of Ronald Reagan’s favorite genocidal murderers (and really, there are so many) gets his ass handed to him by his fellow citizens. Evidence, you say? OK: The official Historical Clarification Commission of Guatemala charged its own government with a campaign of “genocide” in murdering roughly 200,000 people, mainly Mayan Indians, during its dictatorial reign of terror. The commission’s nine-volume 1999 report singled out the U.S. role in aiding this “criminal counterinsurgency.

The violence in Guatemala reached a gruesome climax in the early ’80s under the dictatorship of the born-again evangelical, Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt. Nine hundred thousand people were forcibly relocated and entire villages leveled. As army helicopters strafed a caravan of 40,000 unarmed refugees seeking to escape to Mexico, Reagan chose that moment to congratulate Ríos Montt for his dedication to democracy, adding that he had been getting “a bum rap” from liberals in Congress and the media. His administration soon provided as much aid to the killers as Congress would allow.

Speaking of which, remember Nicaragua? An AP report: “The State Department is distancing itself from an official U.S. memo released during the visit of Secretary of State Colin Powell that describes Nicaragua as a country with little hope and portrays pro-Americans there in unflattering terms. ‘Nicaragua crawls along as the second-poorest country in the hemisphere after Haiti, battered by storms of nature and their own making with little hope of changing things in the future,’ said the unsigned document released by the U.S. Embassy. ‘Privileged Nicaraguans see the U.S. in a generally favorable light. They prefer to dress in Ralph Lauren shirts, drive large Ford SUVs, watch American movies and, when going out for a meal, brag that they go out to T.G.I. Friday’s.’ The reporters accompanying Powell here found the document in a press packet distributed after Powell arrived late Monday for a 16-hour visit.”

I got mine, Jack.

David Sirota of the Center for American Progress notes, “President Bush visited Winston-Salem, N.C., to tout a $750,000 grant for job training, in an area hit by manufacturing job losses. He then went to a fundraiser and took in $1.1 million. In other words, in a visit to a hard-pressed community, he raised more money for his political campaign than he was announcing for job training - an area he is proposing to slash $179 million out of nationally. For evidence see here and here.

Oops, Mom, I invaded the wrong country.

Still not a word in The New York Times about the Tiger Force. This is not merely a “What Liberal Media?” issue. This is a question of effectively quashing up a massive story. What can possibly be its excuse? Anyway, my 30-day search once again yielded nothing.

Also interesting that the Times thinks this is a business story rather than a political one. Working the refs, part zillion and one.

Alter-reviews. I assigned my students in my opinion journalism class at Columbia Journalism School to write reviews of “Shattered Glass.” I thought this one was terrific, so I’m printing it here. The author is Brian Lonergan.

This year’s Jayson Blair fiasco and Rick Bragg melodrama at The New York Times served to shine a spotlight on the entire profession of journalism, and what happens when a field that generally aspires to fairness, accuracy, and objectivity is undermined by journalistic fraud and outright lies. And stories of any substance on journalism’s integrity in the wake of the Times’ troubles inevitably pointed back to an earlier and larger scandal, five years ago, in which a hotshot 24-year-old writer at The New Republic was found to have “cooked,” or fabricated, material in 27 of his 41 published articles.

“Shattered Glass” is the account of that embarrassing episode in the revered magazine’s history, and the mendacious reporter responsible for it. The overwhelming impression of Stephen Glass, played by Hayden Christensen, is that of a 24-year-old child, whose made-up characters and conference room antics in front of TNR staff are all carefully calculated to get people to like him.

There is an implication that Glass is somehow psychologically an orphan; his parents are referred to once, mentioned as living in Highland Park, but they are otherwise conspicuously absent from the film. Instead, we are given surrogate fathers in the form of Glass’s successive editors at The New Republic, Michael Kelly (Hank Azaria) and Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard).

He is portrayed as the child always afraid of incurring his parents’ disapproval-“Did I do something wrong?” and “Are you mad at me?” are the common and heavy-handed refrains, later replaced by the tantrum-bordering “I didn’t do anything wrong!”

Walking around the office in socks-the little boy who delights in being able to take off his grown-up shoes-and wearing his knapsack squarely, arms through both straps, over his prep-school blazer, all his caricature lacks is a Star Wars lunch box and school bus stop.

Like a true child, Christensen’s Glass doesn’t know how to ask for things he wants, instead phrasing his questions circuitously. In a later scene with editor Kelly, Glass pleadingly repeats, “I just don’t know who will hire me after this,” but Kelly this time sees through his boy’s ploy.

But if we’re led to believe Glass’s exploits were driven by psychological frailties-his co-workers, when he begins to unravel, plead that “he needs help”-we never do find out just what drove the young man to such extreme deeds. The portrait painted is of a pathological narcissism, but the picture doesn’t dig deeper into the motivation of his behavior.

Sarsgaard, as Lane, becomes Glass’s stepfather after Kelly is given his notice from TNR’s publisher, Marty Peretz. His is a much more subtle and nuanced performance than Christensen’s, who often has that over-the-top, psycho, Anakin Skywalker-about-to-turn-to-the-dark-side-look about him. Lane is the humble, self-effacing journalistic type that Glass believes to stand out in the world of otherwise brash and aggressive reporters, the irony of course being that Glass is, or is on his way to becoming, the latter.

Lane blushingly concedes he can’t follow Glass’s act in the TNR staff meetings, moves quietly about the office, and peacefully retires to his two-dimensional home at night with his cardboard-cutout wife and infant. He’s the honorable family man, the representative of TNR’s pre-Glass integrity, and the savior of the institution, concerned with salvaging whatever of that integrity may be left.

Rosario Dawson and Steve Zahn are also featured, as the reporters at the on-line Forbes Digital Tool who originally exposed Glass. The conference call scene between them and a nervous Glass and increasingly skeptical Lane is particularly well done, as is the drive to Bethesda that Lane forces Glass to take with him to investigate first-hand the sources and locations for his “Hack Heaven” article.

At the end, the film is a decent dramatization of the Glass story, one that thankfully focuses on a suspenseful unraveling of his lies, and not on grandiose lamentations on the demise of a noble profession. For this reason, it should succeed in holding the interest of more than just journalists and academics.

Correspondents’ Corner
Name: Jerry Levin
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Listen boychik: I find Soros’s comments repugnant because here is a guy who just “drops in” on being Jewish seeming to justify anti-Semitism. How about this: “I am unhappy with many of the policies of Sharon and Bush. But I denounce and repudiate any link anyone tries to make between them and the Jews throughout the world. Why should Jews in Paris, Los Angeles, and Buenos Aires pay the price of your anger at Bush (president of a country with 280,000,000, of whom 5.5 million are Jewish) or even Israel, a sovereign government with its own policies and interests?”

Name: Nash
Hometown: Columbus, OH
Comments: Per his usual modus operandi, in this morning’s Media Notes in the WaPo, Howard Kurtz attempts the journalistic equivalent of hiring out a drive-by hit in lifting six grafs from a Jacoby column in the Boston Globe, led by:

“Here’s one heckuva lead from the Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby:” .. Mr. Jacoby, citing a 1946 article by Demaree Bess that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, tries to make the case that Iraq in 2003 is the same as Germany in 1946 (and most of us agree the latter turned out OK).

By using Jacoby as his hitman, Mr. Kurtz ends with: “Looking back from the early 21st century, it is clear that the transformation of the shattered Nazi Reich into a bulwark of democracy was one of the signal achievements of 20th-century statecraft. But on the ground in 1946, that happy outcome was nowhere in view. What was in view was an occupation beset by troubles — chaotic, dangerous, and frequently vicious. Just like the one in Iraq today.” (italics added)

All well enough, except it’s a false relationship, and when a mere three hours later, in Media Backtalk, an astute observer from Burke, Va called Mr. Kurtz on the attempt, once again, to revive the “1946 Germany as predictor of success in Iraq meme,” Mr. Kurtz disingenuously tries to detach himself from his own cowardly actions in using Jacoby to make his point.

Howard Kurtz: “Well, but I think the columnist’s point (that some people thought the U.S. occupation of Germany was a disaster in 1946) is that things sometimes look different in history’s rear-view mirror than they do at the time. No one would suggest that there aren’t major differences between Iraq now and Germany then.” (italics added)

The columnist’s point, Mr. Kurtz, is to say exactly that there ARE NO major differences between Iraq now and Germany then, and by extension, that anyone complaining about the current situation should leave off complaining. In fact, for Mr. Jacoby to have said less would not be column-worthy. For you to pretend now that you felt he was saying less is dishonest. And typical.

Name: Steve Clark
Hometown: Albany, NY
Dr. Alterman: Once again, Charles Pierce rocks hard (Nov. 7 Altercation). To paraphrase to Molly Ivins - when Texans think of their public education system (and other “social service” delivery systems) we say “Thank God for Mississippi.” Of course, since Ayatollah Sullivan (good one!) has recently delcared the “Death of Irony” (all caps) concrete thinkers might mistake perceptive wit for one of the dreaded tenents of the “postmodern.”

You know... (as Pierce stated) like one of those “nine, white non-uterine men” hovering over the shoulder of Dubya as he “hancock(ed)” the “new and improved” late-term abortion provisions. For those of us who found that photo both disturbing and (yes) “evil,” it should come as little surprise that next to no funds have been earmarked for women’s groups in Afghanistan from the paultry and under-reported sum that is going to “rebuild” that country’s infrastructure and (ah) culture.

Before I begin flight into some serious ranting, let me close by passing on some good news to Altercation readers. Matt Miller has both a website and a new book out (an interesting and varied resume too). Check out his work at, where you can also read recent columns, get info. on his book, and e-mail him as you see fit. Finally, a slightly belated thumbs-up for your Nation column on Cash, Strummer, and Zevon. Three artists who moved from the personal to the political and back again with great urgency and much relevence. “Bad Luck Streak...” gets my nod for “criminally” underated Zevon song (and album as well).

Nov. 10, 2003 |
You’d never know it from the tepid media coverage, but Al Gore gave a terrific speech (and here) yesterday to, demanding repeal of Patriot Act, and describes Bush administration of the following:

“They have taken us much farther down the road toward an intrusive, ‘big brother’-style government - toward the dangers prophesied by George Orwell in his book ’1984’ - than anyone ever thought would be possible in the United States of America.”

Meanwhile, spoiler/Bush supporting Ralph Nader continue to live in inside his dangerous delusions, calling Democrats ‘chronic whiners’ for continuing to accuse him of spoiling the 2000 presidential election for Al Gore.”

Al Gore: “In my opinion, it makes no more sense to launch an assault on our civil liberties as the best way to get at terrorists than it did to launch an invasion of Iraq as the best way to get at Osama bin Laden.”

Ralph Nader: “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference” between the man who said those words and the man who launched this dishonest, counterproductive war. Don’t go away mad, Ralph…

We are The World: Charles Krauthammer argues in Time: “It is pure fiction that this pro-Americanism sentiment was either squandered after Sept. 11 or lost under the Bush Administration.” It never existed, Krauthammer writes.

“Sympathy is fine. But if we ‘squander’ it when we go to war to avenge our dead and prevent the next crop of dead, then to hell with sympathy. The fact is that the world hates us for our wealth, our success, our power. They hate us into incoherence.”

But of course it is Krauthammer who is incoherent. Iraq had nothing whatever to do with 9/11. We did not go to war “avenge our dead and prevent the next crop of dead,” deliberate administration deceptions not withstanding. We did it as part of a misguided grand imperial adventure that is turning out disastrously for all concerned. Krauthammer and company are so blinded by their romantic ideology and jingoism that they can’t understand that and so they cast about for villains without realizing that it is they who are responsible for much of the hatred America has engendered.

Of course the pundit Krauthammer knows Iraq better than the former chief of Mossad, Major General Danny Yatom, who accuses the Bush administration of not having a clue.

Michael Walzer on The American Empire. Thomas Powers on Thomas Powers on the “horrific, calamitous” mistake in Iraq, here.

Howie “conflict-of-interest” Kurtz attacks NBC does not mention receiving a paycheck from competitor CNN anywhere in story.

Blogging for war is hell. Newsweek has a more than decent wrap-up of the consequences of Dick Cheney’s fanaticism here.

I wonder if all those reporters who touted Bush’s “education miracle” back in Texas, have written follow up stories on the new data that demonstrate it was mostly a fraud.

And what are they so afraid we’ll find out about 9/11?

The Value of working the refs; Communist PBS decides there’s not enough Tucker Carlson on the air….

Hey Vladi, maybe you should throw Rupert into jail. That ought to get your buddy George W’s attention.

I happen to be at a dinner meeting last Wednesday night where I was seated next to George Soros. We had a pleasant discussion in which the state of the Jews was not raised. The following morning I got an email from a reporter from the JTA asking me to comment on Soros’ comments that, he said, partially blamed anti-Semitism on Bush and Sharon. I demurred because when you can’t control the context for your words, it vastly increases the likelihood that they will be twisted. I also could not be sure that Soros’ own words were not being twisted.

Here is the story. Soros says the acts that violently constitute anti-Semitism would be lessened if Israel were able to make peace with the Palestinians and stop behaving so badly toward them. This does not seem to me to be a controversial viewpoint. Indeed, if it is anti-Semitic, than not only are Soros, Krugman, and myself anti-Semites, than so is Roger Cukierman, the senior leader of the French Jewish Community So too, for that matter, are the editors of the Jewish Forward.

Everyone quoted in the story is furious with Soros. They cannot even bring themselves to consider whether what he says may be true. Instead they use words like “obscene.” I say, in sadness, this issue is hopeless. A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.

“He must really have them worried,” bonus: Soros takes a hit for “reportedly” funding the likes of well, me, here. (I was about to ask for the rest of my $20 million until I realized I was reading the Wall Street Journal editorial page.)

P.S. I am pretty sure, based on dinner, that said billionaire had no idea he was “reportedly funding the likes” of yours truly.

Meanwhile, back to the favorite topic of the anti-intellectuals, Ever since The Chronicle of Higher Education published Robert Lieber’s ill-informed screed, about my Nation Piece, I’ve seen my name pop-up in places like this:

“And yet critics of neocon foreign policy embrace the rhetoric of conspiracy with an even greater vengeance. “Cabal” has become the word of the day. For Patrick Buchanan, neocons are a “cabal of intellectuals” luring President Bush into assuming that “what’s good for Israel is good for America.” Britain’s longest-serving MP, Tam Dalyell, believes that Tony Blair was “being unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers.” The Washington Post writes that many in Europe and the Middle East believe that the neocons have “hijacked U.S. foreign policy.”

Prominent commentators-Eric Alterman, Michael Lind, William Pfaff-have pushed a similar meme.”

The above is from TNR online and is by Daniel W. Drezner is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. I read virtually the same thing in the Christian conservative intellectual journal, “First Things,” though I forget who wrote it. I am unfamiliar with the author’s work, but I will say this, he is lazy. Read the piece, dude. I was describing the accusation, not making it. Shame, once again, on the editors of the Chronicle of Higher Education for allowing to debase its pages. And Professor Drezner, this is no way to get tenure at so demanding a university.

“Anti-Semitism” as anti-intellectualism, part III: A quiz. Is Donald Luskin a stalker? A raving lunatic? Or just a little too generous with his meds to be able to read a simple sentence? More here.

Anyway, I might respectfully suggest that Mr. Luskin move to France and start stalking Roger Cukierman? The Krugman/Alterman thing is getting a little old. Wait, they’re baaack! Atrios notices that Tom Friedman is an anti-Semite as well.

Thank Dylan And The Beatles not Ronald Reagan and “Star Wars,” by the way.

Alter-reviews: No Thanks! The ’70s Punk Rebellion reviewed by Mike Waldman:

1976, it was almost unbearable to turn 16 with radio dominated by pretentious art rock, maudlin ballads, and the self-congratulatory bellowing of Br (censored by Altercation) ...een. Punk was a revelation. It seemed downright subversive to measure guitar solos by how short they were, not how long. This suburban kid, at least, was sure punk would sweep the world.

Of course, it didn’t. Most of these bands either exploded on lift-off (Sex Pistols) or got really bad really fast (sorry, folks, that’s The Clash). The better ones were quickly rebranded as “new wave” by a nervous marketing department at Sire Record. Far more people chant “Hey Ho, Let’s Go” between innings today than every did in scuzzy bars in the 1970s.

This box set is a wonderful reminder that a lot of those day-glo singles were really, really good. The music is well chosen and comprehensive, including British and American bands (mostly New York, thankfully few from California). All the major bands are here (Clash, Ramones, Television, Patti Smith, Buzzcocks, etc.) - all but the Sex Pistols, presumably too busy cashing in elsewhere. It opens with Blitzkrieg Bop and White Riot, which in a perfect world would have been chasing each other to number one. The compilers also make a polemical point by including early songs from Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, the Pretenders and others who were considered punk in their day. Some quibbles: it’s great that the Stranglers are here - a briefly popular keyboard-heavy UK band - but why not their best song, ”No More Heroes?” Why no ska?

Happily, there are a lot of “one-hit wonders.” (since they didn’t really sell, at least in the U.S., “one-flop wonders?”) Best of the lot: the Only Ones’ “Another Girl, Another Planet,” a delirious homage to interstellar love, one of the best rock & roll singles ever. It’s hard to listen without po-going.

If you didn’t love this stuff when it first came out, four CDs is probably three (or four) too many. For fans of the Strokes and other “the” bands, this is a good prehistory. For me, it’s a nostalgic trip to a time when punk was supposed to change the world - should have changed the world! - but, mysteriously, didn’t.

Eric adds: Is this the most open-minded website on earth or what? The guy insults Bruce and the Clash and I still publish, because that’s the kind of guy I am. Would Leon Wieseltier ever do a thing like that? Anyway, while we’re on the topic, Let me throw in a recommendation for the recent release of Television: Live at the Old Waldorf, (San Francisco, 6/29/78). I picked it up after a number of readers recommended it, and it’s smokin’.

Recorded during Television’s sole U.S. headlining tour, to promote Adventure there’s not one song (of the eight here) that isn’t played with more urgency, verve and intensity than on the two excellent studio albums, and Adventure

It closes with a seventeen minute “Marquee Moon” before launching into a version of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction that should have shut up Devo before they got started. It’s only available on Rhino Homemade, and limited to 5,000 numbered copies, so it’s a little pricey but if you appreciate Television, I don’t see how you can live without it.

Correspondents’ Corner:
Name: John Shaw
Hometown: Seattle
Dear Dr. Eric,

Pierce is right that the pile-on against Ho-Dean is self-defeating and self-destructive. Ho-Ho was making a valid point, but the way made it was offensive, and Pierce is wrong about it not being condescending. It came off like a rich highly-educated Yankee saying he wants to be the candidate of ignorant rednecks. I wouldn’t blame Black Americans for taking offense either. The comment was tone deaf to the point of incompetence. Clinton would never have made the mistake. Bush — hell, when Bush wants to appeal to the Stars & Bars crowd, he just goes and makes nice with the bigots at Bob Jones University. Now that’s the way to appeal to the racists. Anyway, congrats on your PhD.

Name: Michael Murry
Hometown: Kaoshiung, Taiwan
Hey, there, Liberal Media Man. How about earning your pay for a change. Check out the kind of creeping crap we Vietnam Veterans just loathe to read.

A routine message from Newsweek Magazine:

“And while Rumsfeld is routinely restaffing community draft boards, no one is seriously considering that idea-yet.”

Here comes the mission creep, boys and girls, or what we used to call “slow ramping” at Hughes Aircraft Company.

A little web site here. A little draft board there.

A few million young men with names on a computer disk.

And then that boilerplate letter: “Greetings!”

Wake up boys and girls, your government has you in its sights, and if you don’t start screaming now, and voting like nothing ever seen before, you will never know it when the bullet passes through your brain.

A Nation of Sheep? Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.”