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Counting the dead

It’s getting harder and harder to defend my pre-war contention that while this war would be a disaster for America and for the world, it would at least benefit the Iraqis.


Sexual Harassment/Pre-Election Friday.

The number of 100,000 dead so far in Iraq in this peer reviewed study is the best estimate we’re likely to get since the Bush administration refuses even to engage in a count. (And what does that say to the world about the value we place on non-American life?) In any case, given the chaos into which Iraq continues to fall further every day, it’s getting harder and harder to defend my pre-war contention that while this war would be a disaster for America and for the world, it would at least benefit the Iraqis.

My guess is that you’d have a hard time finding many Iraqis who’d say that today. And Cheney is out bragging about it. They like this thing. They’re proud of it. They want to do more of it and they’re going to have to draft your sons and daughters to make it so. More Fallujas. More Abu Graibs. More Al Qaqaas.

That really is the last straw. Not merely every nation in the world that opposed the war—which is every one but Israel, but the Iraqi people too, will celebrate  if enough patriots come out in Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, Minnesota, Washington, Iowa, and Pennsylvania, among others, and save America and the rest of the world from this accursed leadership. (And they won’t need any Marines to pull down their statues for them with the cameras rolling.)

Round up: Our man Pierce has the final word on the Sox in Slate. Paul and I have a piece on Sinclair for my “Think Again." And my Nation column is a critique of recent examples of “faith-based reporting.

Meanwhile, the reportedly multi-million dollar O’Reilly sexual harrassment settlement was entirely predictable, both from the point of view that he had every incentive to settle whether he felt himself to be guilty but also because there is a kind of dynamic among powerful men—particularly powerful conservative men—who become intoxicated with their own money, fame and power and what they think it should be able to do for them. And though I am speaking of a loud-mouthed moralist blowhard who got caught in his own rhetoric, I’m not speaking of the hypocrisy now, of the pill-popper Rush Limbaugh or the blackjack-obsessed, William Bennett. And while I am thinking of a former Man of the Cloth brought down low by his own appetites, I’m do not have in mind the sexually voracious Jimmy Swaggart or Jim Baker. Just whose example provides the most useful parallel to O’Reilly’s alleged behavior?

Come on down, former Father John McLaughlin! (Don’t worry MSNBC legal guys; what follows below, has already been thoroughly lawyered by both The Washington Post and HarperCollins—which like O’Reilly, is owned by Rupert Murdoch) From a very long footnote in Sound and Fury: The Making of the Punditocracy.

When Linda Dean, a former office manager, promulgated her lawsuit alleging sexual harassment by McLaughlin, she swore that McLaughlin told her that "he needed a lot of sex" and that if she would stick by him, "he would take care of every material desire she had."  McLaughlin, according to Dean, insisted that he "owned" her and on several occasion touched her "intimately and against her will." She was eventually fired, but since has settled her lawsuit and refuses to discuss the matter with reporters. 

The complaint also discussed the case of another female receptionist who, according to Dean's sworn testimony, complained in a letter to her employment agency that McLaughlin had "behaved improperly toward her by committing acts which the receptionist perceived to be sexual harassment."  The receptionist, when reached by telephone, refused to discuss the incident.

third female McLaughlin employee, Sharon T. Wulbern, also appears in the court record.  Having read of Dean's suit in The Washington Post, Wulbern (her name is spelled three different ways in the documents) told Dean's lawyer that the Dean's accusations mirrored "quite a bit of my experience," containing "all the things I had been experiencing."  Wulbern was terminated by McLaughlin in January 1989.  These accusations appear in her own deposition, parts of which were printed in the court records.

A fourth female former employee also confirms that McLaughlin made unwanted sexual advances toward her on more than one occasion, including once on a business trip to Mexico. Both Kara Swisher and Tom Miller, a former issues consultant to McLaughlin, recall instances of McLaughlin "leering" at the fourth woman, and making suggestive sexual comments to her. McLaughlin, according to the recollections of these same two employees, occasionally put his arm around the woman in a way that struck both of them as surprising and undesired. 

McLaughlin also liked to make personal comments about his young female employees. Anne Rumsey recalls him telling her one day that her sweater was too tight. "He was very touchy," recalls Swisher.  "I think that sexual harassment is like pornography. You know it when you see it. People can tell you look nice and there will be no menace to it.  With John McLaughlin, there was menace."  Miller recalls McLaughlin asking an employee whether she liked her sex rough.  McLaughlin's own court filings contain references to a conversation with Dean about having sex in an airplane.  When a Supreme Court decision on sexual harassment was handed down during Miller's tenure on the job, he showed it to a Beverly Larson, a high-level staffer, to give to McLaughlin as a warning. Swisher, too, says she met with McLaughlin "Executive Director" Margaret Suzor, to complain of McLaughlin's alleged sexual harassment with no results.

McLaughlin's interviews are littered with strange ruminations about the relationship between power and sex. He told one reporter, "Power as an experience is as intense as sex. Power is more pervasive and unremitting. Sex has periods of remission." But he has refused to discuss any and all accusations about sexual harassment, except to deny those laid out in Dean's lawsuit, including the fact that anyone in his office ever complained to him about alleged sexual harassment. A spokesman for GE, which continues to fund McLaughlin, calls it "a private matter."

Because the suit has been settled, it is unlikely that the accusations will ever be given a public airing. (The above is based on the documents relating to District of Columbia Court Cast, 1 88-CV-02185, Dean Vs. McLaughlin, filed on Aug. 4, 1989, as well as the author's interviews with Tom Miller, Tom Liddy, Kara Swisher, Anne Rumsey, and a female former McLaughlin staffer who wishes to remain anonymous.) 
Final note:  John McLaughlin and Ann Dore McLaughlin announced their separation in late October 1991. They were later divorced.

Charles Pierce

30 Days Out
Slacker Friday Edition -- Oct. 29, 2004

Hey Doc:
Well, it didn't take Curt Schilling long to try and coin a region's unbridled joy into cheap political coin, did it? First, he plugs C-Plus Augustus on the Today show, and then he makes plans to hack around New Hampshire for the guy, only to plead injury and cancel this morning. (Like I'm sure Red Sox management didn't suggest to him that pissing off the Junior Senator wasn't the best PR for a Boston franchise this weekend. Nice courage of your political convictions, big guy.) Personally, I'll take Springsteen in Madison, surrogate-wise, but, lord above, I swear Schilling could find a television camera if you put it at the bottom of the sea.

The R's may win this thing. They certainly could pilfer it. But they will do so with the reek of fear on them, won't they? The last two weeks, especially since the ammo dump story broke, have found them drowning in flop sweat, and I think that Kerry has done a good job at focusing the attention on the simple fact that we are asking to choose FOUR MORE YEARS of this bloody incompetence.

Usually, voters don't see down the road much past Inauguration Day, but what this election means is that we can decide to be stuck with this crew until 2006.
And a note to the political news elite -- we're all big people here. We have a Constitution in which we find strength and identity. We don't need any extra-constitutional solutions this time around. We don't need any shortcuts or quickie solutions to ill-defined crises just so you all can get the hell out of Florida and back into Little Russ's Green Room. Please shut up and do your jobs for the next month.

Correspondents’ Corner:
From: Siva Vaidhyanathan

I heard one Ohio Republican complain on NPR this morning that "Dick Tracey, Mary Poppins, George Foreman, and other fictional characters are registered to vote in Ohio. There are hundreds of dead people registered to vote." Wait. Isn't George Foreman a real guy? Doesn't he  have something like nine children names George Foreman? Isn't the combination of "George" and "Foreman" rather common? Pity the poor person named Richard Tracey or Mary G. Poppins. Not only were they teased as children. Now they will be disenfranchised!

I have been struck by the Republican vote-challenging language. They are that there are dead people on the rolls all over the country. And it seems that some counties have more registered voters than eligible voters. Both of these phenomena are common because with the exception
of Florida Republicans striking eligible African-American voters from the rolls, counties do not purge their lists very often. So when people die or move they remain on the list. If you moved from one county to another in the past five years, there is a good chance that you are
listed as registered in two places. Their audacity and duplicity in the cause of eroding democracy is stunning.

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago

Hey Eric, it's Stupid. Forgive me my laziness here -- the volunteering has put me behind schedule (but I've learned a lot of neat things, like how Mark Twain wrote that the prettiest sunsets in the world are in Muscatine, Iowa). 
Election Day I'll be an "official" Dem poll watcher in Wisconsin. At the training session the Dem party folks seemed genuinely freaked out by the number of poll watchers the GOP registered in Ohio last week (3,500?). They had lots of  horror scenarios for what could happen on election day, most boiling down to endless voter challenges designed to confuse the mild-mannered geezers in charge of the voting and to back-up the lines so would-be voters get discouraged and go home). Under Wisconsin law I am allowed to "facilitate" voting as long as I don't give a person anything worth more than a dollar. Otherwise I've committed a felony. Suffice to say, I've never bargain-shopped harder for Halloween candy in my life!  

Name: Todd Kehoe
Hometown: Saratoga Spring, NY
In regards to what Mohammed Fadel wrote yesterday, the only person who has suggested that anyone thinks Arabs can't have a democracy is Bush himself. He threw out this strawman twice, first in his sham of a prime-time press conference in April: "People don't believe Iraq can be free; that if you're Muslim, or perhaps brown-skinned, you can't be self-governing or free. I'd strongly disagree with that."
What he was responding to, I don't know. Nobody, as far as I know, had suggested any such thing publically. Amazingly, he said it again during the first debate in response to a question about Kerry's plans in Iraq: "I reject this notion -- and I'm suggesting my opponent isn't -- I reject the notion that some say that if you're Muslim you can't free, you don't desire freedom. I disagree, strongly disagree with that."
I don't know if Bush is a racist or not, but anyone who protests that much at an unspoken thought surely begs the question.

Name: Scott Ingram
Hometown: Portland CT
Eric: Long-time fan, first-time writer. Your main man, Pierce, kvelling about the Sawx over at Slate must be delighted to read that he of the bloody sawk, Curt Schilling, will appear with Dubya in New Hampshire over the weekend. Somehow, this old baseball fan can't get behind today's Republican jocks (most are, let's face it) whose tax cuts are ten times my salary. 

Name: John
Hometown: New Canaan, Ct.
Eric --
To a TV watcher, the only off-putting aspects to the Sox's glorious victory were the shots of soldiers in Iraq watching the game. Not that I begrudged them the opportunity to watch -- far from it; they deserve whatever we can provide them -- but that the graphic, with typical Foxian editorial subtlety, consistently labelled the attendees as the "Multi-National Forces" or some such, thus doing their "fair and balanced" part to perpetuate W's myth that we've got the whole world fighting with us over there rather than hating our guts.
Might have been nice for Joe or Tim to point out the irony -- some would say hypocrisy -- of that graphic, but that's not what they're paid to do and, in any event, I do not expect there are many sportscasters out there these days with Blue State sensibilities (RIP, Howard Cosell).  Still, they could have at least pondered how many, say, British and Polish soldiers were glued to the set and made the point lightly. 



Put me in, coach. It's Siva Vaidhyanathan here . Eric asked me to do the post-game show for Game Four of the Series just so I could be forced to dine on Yankee-colored crow. At 22:29, approximately the sixth inning, I received this:

Eric Alterman
Greatest City in the World

Hey Siva, Charles:

I see God just turned the moon red. Who's team do you think (s)he's on?

A couple of weeks ago I rudely introduced our dear friend Charles Pierce with a slogan that implied the Red Sox were destined to fold under the dominant gaze of the Bambino's ghost. I left the country for a week as the Yankees went up by three games. I returned to find the world turned upside down.

Some never thought the Berlin Wall would fall. Others saw no way that Apartheid could wane in South Africa. Others still doubted that we could design a brightly colored water gun that could spray a cat at 20 yards. I never thought I would see this. The Boston Red Sox won a World Series Championship AND Brian Wilson finished Smile. Our foundations tremble. Our belief system is rocked. Babe Ruth matters less. David Hume matters more. Never underestimate the power of human beings to rise up from humiliation.

Melissa cried last night. She burst into tears of joy and relief as the Cardinals ground into their last out. She looked so happy I could not resist a few tears myself. She told me it was the second happiest day of her life, just after the day she married me (and daring to bring a Texan Hindu Yankee fan into her Boston Catholic Red Sox clan). But I am not so sure. I think it's close to a tie. It's not exactly true to say that she has been waiting her whole life for this. More accurately, she never allowed herself to fantasize about it. Yesterday morning she was tense and jumpy. I asked her what it was she was all nervous about. "Everything," she said. "The Red Sox, John Kerry, everything." I told her, "what are you talking about? Your football team has not lost in 21 games. The Sox are up 3-0. And Kerry is winning. What are you worried about?"

"Buckner!" was her terse reply. So this Red Sox victory is more than a dream come true for her. It's a new world entirely.

To every Red Sox fan who looked down at her ticket and read "obstructed view" yet sat through the game behind one of those green posts at Fenway anyway, congratulations for your devotion.

To every Red Sox fan who stood with dignity as drunk Fordham students chanted "1918" in their ears, congratulations for your stoic courage.

To every Red Sox fan who excused letting Fred Lynn, Rick Burleson, Cecil Cooper, Carlton Fisk, Jeff Bagwell, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Mo Vaughn, and Nomar go, figuring it was "best for the team" in the long run, congratulations for your faith.

To my amazing and brilliant wife, who never let herself dream about this day, but got to live it anyway, that you for having such an amazing spirit and infinite patience.

Somewhere, Bart Giamatti is smiling.

Y'all deserve this moment. I know. I am not just a Yankee fan. I am also a Buffalo Bills fan.

A Dispatch from the Evil Empire

A couple of weeks ago a reporter for The New York Times called me because he heard I was a liberal Yankee fan. He invoked a line I have heard too many times this season: The Yankees are like the Republican Party; the Red Sox are like the Democratic Party. This false dichotomy is reinforced by Rudy Giuliani's support of both Bush and the Yankees and John Kerry's support of the Red Sox. I did not feel I should have to explain myself. But I never pass up a chance to make a cheap joke or get easy publicity. So I told the reporter that first of all, there was nothing inherently progressive about the Sox or regressive about the Yankees. Second, as bad a guy as George Steinbrenner is, there is no good baseball owner any more than there is a good oil company -- necessary evils, for sure. Third, hey, welcome to the Bronx. Fourth, what am I going to do, cheer for the Mets? Ha. And last, what the hell is wrong with being happy once in a while, huh? I support underdogs in every other area of life. I wore a Mondale-Ferraro button in Texas in 1984, for heaven's sake. I sat through four straight Superbowl losses, too many two-win seasons, and too many below-zero games in Buffalo. I deserve a championship once in a while, damnit. I have no apologies.

The reporter wrote me after Game Seven of the ALCS to tell me they had tabled the story. They had planned on running it just before Game One of the World Series. Apparently the Times staff never considered that the Yankees would not be playing in it.

No Retreat, Baby No Surrender

Ok. The Series is over. It's back to business now. There is more to do. If you believe in those who don't get all the breaks in life, those who have to work and scrape for a living, those who put their lives on the line for what they believe in, then you must make one more serious push to make other, more important dreams come true. If the grubby Red Sox can do it, so can we. As you hit the streets or phones this weekend, doing what you can to save our country, keep in mind the inspirational words of the Reverend Bruce:

We remain a land of great promise but we need to move America towards the fulfillment of the promises that she has made; economic justice, civil rights, protection of the environment, a living wage, respect for others, and humility in exercising our power at home and around the world. These are not impossible ideals, they are achievable goals with a strong leadership and the will of a vigilant and informed American people. These core issues of America's identity are what's at stake on Nov. 2nd.

I believe that Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards understand these important issues and are prepared to help our country move forward. America is not always right -- that is a fairytale we tell our children. As John Edwards said, struggle and heartbreak will always be with us. America is not always right, but America always should be true and it is in seeking her truths, both the good, and the bad, we find a deeper patriotism, a more authentic experience as citizens, and we find the power that is embedded only in truth to change our world for the better. That is how our soul as a nation and as a people is revealed. And it is what we are fighting for on Nov 2nd.

So, we've got some work to do between now and election day. If you share our concerns find the best way to express yourself, roll up your sleeves and do it.

Remember the country we carry in our hearts is waiting.

And if you want to believe in the potential of mass mobilization, witness the science dropped by Monsignor Marshall Mathers:

So come along, follow me as I lead through the darkness

As I provide just enough spark, that we need to proceed

Carry on, give me hope, give me strength,

Come with me, and I won't steer you wrong

Put your faith and your trust as I guide us through the fog

Till the light, at the end, of the tunnel, we gonna fight,

We gonna charge, we gonna stomp, we gonna march through the swamp

We gonna mosh through the marsh, take us right through the doors

And as we proceed, to mosh through this desert storm, in these closing statements, if they should argue, let us beg to differ, as we set aside our differences, and assemble our own army, to disarm this weapon of mass destruction that we call our president, for the present, and mosh for the future of our next generation, to speak and be heard, Mr. President, Mr. Senator.

This is what it comes down to: Republicans are trying their best to retard turnout. We must fight with every breath for every minute until Tuesday to make sure that people can and will vote. There is more at stake here than Kerry vs. Bush. It is about American democracy itself. As I wrote in my pre-election column in openDemocracy:

This cannot continue. We need a democratic revival to temper the current religious revival. A sound defeat of George W. Bush at the polls (barring a judicial coup d’etat ) is not enough. We need a reinvigoration of passion, honesty, and élan into our public sphere. We need openness, confidence, and patience. We need deliberation and dissent from all sides, not nefarious skulking and ad hominem attacks on anyone who dares put themselves in the public service. ...

... The American revolution actually ended in 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. Until then, millions of Americans were disenfranchised for one reason or another – mostly for having a particular shade of skin. Between 1776 and 1965 Americans extended the franchise from landowning free white men to white tenants, black men (in some states), white women, and finally black and white men and women in all states. Along the way, many people died so that we might live up to the ideals outlined by forefathers Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Not until 1965 did the reality of American democracy live up to its promise.

For a very short time, from 1965 to 2000, almost all eligible American adult citizens could exercise their right to choose their leaders – and the results reflected the will of the voters. We made some good decisions and some bad. We saw one president resign in disgrace and another face impeachment yet remain in power. It was a time of tremendous social, economic, and political change. At least it was our turmoil. We were finally practicing real democracy, imperfect though it was. But we took this brief time for granted.

In 2000, we saw the dawn of a counter-revolution. A band of five judges abandoned their conservative principles of jurisprudence to appoint a political ally to the presidency over the will of the voters. Countless moves by the Republican party within American electoral politics since then have been aimed at intimidating voters, instilling doubt about the validity of votes, and bluntly disenfranchising millions. Every rhetorical move that George W. Bush’s campaign and administration have made have pushed American voters to doubt evidence all around them, to mistrust reasonable authorities, to forget that we actually chose the other guy to lead us.

For democracy and for America, more than for Kerry, we must do all we can. For several Saturdays Melissa and I have visited various Pennsylvania counties to knock on doors and motivate the base. It's working. In one Latino precinct in Reading that in 2000 almost unanimously stayed home on election day, we got nothing but positive pledges to vote for Kerry-Edwards. Some row houses had Kerry signs in the window. It was inspirational and fun. Go try it. Check out MoveOn, America Coming Together, or your local party headquarters and ask about bus trips to swing states. Join Melissa and me this weekend as we hit working-class neighborhoods in swing states to get out the vote. She will be the one wearing a big smile and a Red Sox cap.

What will it take?

How much failure will it take for this country for realize that George W. Bush is a security risk? How many weapons and explosives must slip into the hands of murderers? How many terrorist leaders must slip out of our grasp? How long will Osama Bin Laden sit laughing at Bush for his incompetence? I like to think I understand this country. But this one is beyond me. How can anyone take Bush seriously as Commander in Chief? The man is a coward, personally and professionally. He has done more to undermine the armed forces of this country than any president in American history. We are vulnerable as never before. And for some reason, Bush still gets credit for "leadership." As Ian Williams writes:

Once back in the United States, veterans found no federal welcome mat laid out for them. By April this year, one in six veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan had filed benefits claims with the Veterans Administration for service-related disabilities. These figures do not include those troops still serving and are twice the number the DOD Web site says suffered "Non-Mortal Wounds" in those conflicts. Today, one-third of those claims, almost 10,000, have yet to be processed. Further, Bush's 2005 budget will cut 540 staff members of the Veterans Benefit Administration, which is the office that handles the claims. The outreach department that lets vets know of available services also was instructed in a 2002 memo by a deputy undersecretary in the Veterans Health Administration to run in silent mode to flush out people who had not made claims out of ignorance.

Even if the war wounded succeed in getting disability pay, in 2003 Bush threatened to veto a bill that allowed veterans to collect disability pay and pensions simultaneously.

In 2003, his administration also tried to cut combat pay from $225 to $150 a month and the family separation allowance from $250 to $100. And most callously of all, the frat brat who ducked a war that killed 48,000 American troops threatened to veto a proposal to double the $6,000 payment to relatives of soldiers killed in action.

Military and security issues are Bush's strength?

The Howard Stern Factor

Last Saturday on the bus to Reading, Pennsylvania, I sat next to a young woman who had never volunteered for political activity before. Her motivation? Howard Stern convinced her that Bush was bad for the country. That was inspiring. It was sort of alarming that she seemed to get most of her political and issue information from Stern. But I could not help imagine that thousands of people across the country are finding the motivation to work for change from Stern's experiences with the Bush administration. Check out this impromptu, on-air debate between Howard Stern and FCC Chair Michael Powell.

Incompetence at all levels

It's time to stop calling Karl Rove a genius. He is a second-rate hack. He is about to become a two-time loser. I knew Rove, Matthew Dowd, and Mark McKinnon when we were all back in Austin in the 1980s and 1990s. Dowd and McKinnon were big Democrats then, McKinnon particularly liberal. None of them were considered "geniuses" back then. In fact, Dowd was pretty much a dependable functionary who didn't make much of a difference for Lloyd Bentsen, Ann Richards, and other Dems he worked for. McKinnon did clever work back then when he was a long-haired, guitar-playing liberal. But this "Wolves" thing? Come on, Mark. Rove gets far more credit than he deserves. Too many pundits conflate brilliance with ruthlessness. Rove will say or do anything to destroy his opponent. But that's not genius. Having your soul removed does not increase the power of your brain. Let's face it: Rove lost a winnable election in 2000 and is about to lose another one with an incumbent during a war. I hope that after Tuesday we see the last of Rove-worship.

Odds and Ends

This is a great new site that shows the future of political expression.

openDemocracy is running its pre-election package starting today. Included are a powerful column by John Berger which says Bush is trying to close down the world, and America should not let him, and for God's sake whatever you do, vote. Plus there are four more "Letters to Americans" coming over the next few days. And intellectual journalist Danny Postel has done a great interview with Francis Fukuyama and gets the inside scoop on his dispute with Krauthammer, and why he's not supporting Bush. Check it out.

Now, here's Pierce, my daddy.

In a message dated 10/28/2004 1:42:33 AM Eastern Daylight Time, Chaspp writes:
Day 5 -- October 28, 2004

Hey Doc:
            Let's all keep our heads about this thing. After all, the last time they won the Series, Prohibition followed hard behind it.
             Naw. Let's not keep our heads about it at all. I am the world's Daddy today, dude. And, with f**king ease, too. Pedro matadorial turn on Tuesday night and then Derek ("I am not a mental gidget") Lowe last night. All those groundballs and weak-a** pop-ups! And World Series MVP Manny Ramirez, my main man, whom they couldn't GIVE AWAY last February. (Note to my new son, Siva -- How's that A-Rod thing working out for you?) Oh, lord, I plan to be insufferable until next Tuesday when, god willing, it will be time for us all to get insufferable all over again.
               Alas, the news marches on. There seems to be little doubt that the endgame of the election is going to be extended -- and that's not even taking into account all those vital Senate races that are going to run until St. Stephen's Day -- and bloody. The single most important thing for the Kerry people to do right now is tune out the voices of moderation. The best thing he can do "for the country" is to get himself inaugurated next January. Before that, his people are going to have to fight like rabid dogs for every last vote, including those 60,000 that already have gone missing in Broward County. I don't care if it takes every lawyer back to Blackstone and every politician back to the Borgia popes, and I don't care if it gives the delicate flowers of the national press a permanent case of the vapors. The only important thing now is that he win, and do so in such a fashion that nobody dares set themselves up as a government in exile the way that 'wingers did in 1992. They are going to do everything possible to deny him a victory and, if that fails, to deny him legitimacy once he's in office. He has to slap them down, hard and permanently. Tom Delay's head would look good -- metaphorically, of course -- on a stick, I think.
Chin music, John, and then that Pedro death-stare, all the way back to the dugout.            


If you saw “” last night, you saw Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz indict themselves with their peculiar combination arrogance, ignorance and fanaticism.  Both the State Department and the uniformed military were desperate to get the administration to see that their post-war plans were woefully insufficient.  But they wouldn’t listen and they wouldn’t learn.  American boys and girls are dying for this horrific combination today and will continue, as this crew is congenitally incapable of admitting a mistake no matter how many soldiers are killed, how many billions are wasted, how much hatred is generated.  You’ve got one more week to help ensure that fewer of our young men and women will be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice to the dangerous fantasies of our catastrophic leadership.

And while we’re on the topic, read by Carl Levin regarding the administration’s deliberate manipulation of the intelligence it received.  This is the stuff that is being held until after the election.  It’s really too scary to think of how horrific a second term of these people will be.  I mean if they behaved this way with the threat of an election hanging over their head, my God, what will they try when they are free to do whatever they want, without having to worry about how Karl will sell it?

And remember, , but it was politically inconvenient.  Our soldiers are dying for that one too.

.  Really.  The Wall Street Journal says it’s so.  (And not just the editorial page, but the sane part.  Sad, really.  Sad.)

The Times’ John Tierney is now using the “science” of discredited eugenicists as fodder for Bush propaganda.  Thank goodness for the .


Here's another Republican broadcaster for the GOP and thumbing his nose at public service.

Quote of the day: 

The most pro-Bush, he said, are the foreign extremists.  "They prefer Bush, because he's a provocative figure, and the more they can push people to the extreme, the better for their case.- a London-educated architect and intellectual, on  different types of resistance fighters’ views of the U.S. election.

From the Washington Times, no less.

Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air.  And feathered canyons everywhere, Time gets in the way.  But now the world is .  They shake their head.  They say I’ve changed.  But something’s lost and something’s gained in (and scroll down).  I’ve looked at Christopher Hitchens from both sides now, from Bush and Kerry and still somehow; It’s Christopher’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know Christopher … at all.

Speaking of Slate, calls this an “inconvenient anecdote” in  Ron Suskind's portrait of Bush as a “Faith-based” fanatic.  Bush insists to Rep. Tom Lantos, at an Oval Office meeting, that Sweden doesn't have an army.  "[Y]ou may have thought I said Switzerland," says Lantos.  "No, no, it's Sweden that has no army," insists Bush.  Silence ensues.  A few weeks later, Bush runs into Lantos at a party. "You were right," he says.  "Sweden does have an army." 

Mickey writes, “Does this show Bush is so arrogantly certain he ignores inconvenient facts?  It would seem to show that Bush is arrogantly certain but then acknowledges inconvenient facts when he learns he's got them wrong.” 

What I think is scary about the anecdote is that Bush’s advisers were afraid to correct him in front of Lantos.  I mean, messing up Sweden and Switzerland is a pretty profound error.  This was an important error.  And yet everybody in the room—whoever they were—let the president continue thinking that he was right because, well, that’s the way he thinks.  That kind of cowardice on the part of Bush’s advisers is one more reason we find ourselves in an apparently hopeless quagmire in Iraq.

Charles Pierce: THIRTY DAYS OUT
Day 6 -- October 27, 2004

Hey Doc --
Just to clear things up, we do not speak of It until the 27th out of the final contest is made. We do not muck about with the shade of Mookie.  Pass it on.

Then, there's this:

I remember how vivid the sounds were as the troopers rushed toward us -- the clunk of the troopers' heavy boots, the whoops of rebel yells from the white onlookers, the clip-clop of horses hooves hitting the hard asphalt of the highway, the voice of a woman shouting, `Get 'em! Get the n*****s!'

That's John Lewis's account of how things began on Bloody Sunday in Selma in 1965.  I quote it here to remind all those sleek, oh-so-clever dicks in the Republican vote-suppression business on which side of history they're presently lining up.  I also quote it as a caution to the many people who will be covering what could be a volatile aftermath of an extremely close election.

(I also quote it as a Get-well message to Chief Justice Rehnquist -- or "Renchberg," as our most corrupt elected president once called him -- who made his first political bones in similarly discreet precincts of American apartheid in Arizona.)

We don't use dogs any more, or clubs, or firehoses.  We have Katherine Harris and Ken Blackwell and (ultimately) Antonin Scalia.  We don't even ask people any more to recite the Alabama state constitution backwards in pig-Latin.  What we do is develop shoddy "scrub lists," move the precincts around, mail out ballots that mysteriously forget to include the Democratic ticket, set up phony registration centers that ash-can the Democratic applications, buy off some ministers, produce phony "warnings" about being arrested at the polls if you have overdue parking tickets, and rotate these sharpers out of South Dakota and into Illinois when the heat rises around them.  And, later, it's judged purely as tactics -- did it work or didn't it? -- with no historical or ethical context because, as we all know, Both Sides Do It.

Look, I don't believe that either Mary Poppins or Daffy Duck should be allowed to vote in Ohio.  First of all, Ms. Poppins is an illegal alien and Mr. Duck is, well, a cartoon duck.  But that kind of thing has its roots in the way that the old urban machines did business, and they had the effect of extending the franchise to millions of new immigrants, who formed the habits of democracy within their communities, albeit in many cases imperfectly.  (That it also occasionally extended the franchise to persons either largely fictional or entirely deceased was, admittedly, a problem.)

But voter-suppression rises from a more fetid historical backwater.  Morally, down through the years, it has been responsible for more blood and more chaos than was ever produced by the Daley-Curley-Tammany vote-early-and-often ethos.  It is the legacy of a political class restricted to the propertied white male.  And anyone who engages in it is no better than Bull Connor with a briefcase, Donald Segretti with a platinum card.  They are unAmerican in the fullest, rankest sense of the word.

Alter-review I:  George S. Kaufman
I am not so crazy either about The New York Times Book Review’s choice of reviewers of late, nor, usually, of the idea of sitting around reading a play.  A double exception to this tendency, however, can be found in of the new Library of America collection by Woody Allen.  When I was younger I used to get annoyed with old people complaining that everything was better in the olden days, but the wit and wisdom of plays like “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” “Dinner at Eight” and “You Can’t Take it With You” have no parallels on today’s stage.  And while, as Woody notes in his engaging review, the topics may be said to have dated some, for me that only makes them more attractive—as they become historical artifacts as well as living breathing, and very funny monuments of literature.  Per usual, the Library of American edition looks and feels terrific.  Buy it, read it, give it away.

Alter-review II:  REM’s “Around the Sun,” by Sal

Mostly a somber collection of songs, "Around The Sun" at least brings back the hooks and melodies of such solid efforts as "Out Of Time" and "Automatic For The People."

The problem with their last few, especially "Up" and "Reveal," was that not even their diehard fans could pull out anything memorable.  The records were a bore, save their Beach Boys tribute, "At My Most Beautiful," from "Up."  But even that became a novelty after a few spins, much like that new re-record of "Smile." 

My first listen to the new CD left me cold.  This record needs attention, and once I gave it, I warmed up.  So much so, that I'm feeling now it could be their best in years.  The first single, "Leaving New York" is gorgeous, and tracks like "The Ascent Of Man" with Michael Stipe singing his butt off, and "The Outsiders" with special guest rapper Q-Tip are fresh sounding.  The album is full of real songs and not just ideas like the last few.

The last 3 or 4 R.E.M. releases have been anything but exciting, leading most fans to believe that original drummer Bill Berry was the mastermind behind those classic albums of yore.  But now with "Around The Sun," R.E.M. is back...sort of.


Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Mohammad Fadel
Hometown:  New York, New York

While I enjoy your criticisms of the Bush administration, I am disturbed by the tone of your language when it comes to the Bush administration's stated goal of bringing democracy to the Arab world.  While you are correct in ridiculing this as an actual aim of the Bush policy, you seem to reinforce the notion that Arabs (or Arab society) are somehow incapable of participating in democratic life.  Rather, the proper criticism is that one cannot build democracy without grounding it in equality.  At the very least, this requires genuine respect for other human beings.  The Bush administration clearly has no respect for others who hold differing views, much less Arabs.  It should be no surprise, then, that any attempt by this administration to build "democracy" will be seen as a sham and a pretext for further American domination.  On the other hand, were it to be the case that a U.S. administration came to power that demonstrated genuine good will and respect for the human rights of all people in the Middle East, I think a foreign policy built on a democracy building agenda would receive an entirely different (and positive, indeed enthusiastic) reception.  The Arabs have a saying: "The one who lacks something, cannot give it."  Clearly, Bush et al. lack a commitment to fundamental democratic values, and accordingly, we should not be surprised that, despite their lip service to the contrary, the Bush administration has done more to cement authoritarianism in the Middle East than to promote real democracy and liberalism.

Eric replies:  Please hold me responsible only for my words, not for what you might infer to be the “tone of my language.”  I’ve written nothing whatever about whether Arabs are capable of building a democracy.  Of course they are.  The question is whether a) they are ready and b) whether the proper way to build it is the manner in which the Bush administration proposes to do it.  Regarding the second I am consistently on the record.  Regarding the first, I have my doubts and would present in the case for the negative the fact that well, it ain’t happening.  Anywhere.  Still, I don’t purport to be an expert on Arab political development and don’t think my opinion counts for much in that regard.  Regarding the Bush administration’s certain failure, however, I feel rather confident.

Name: Dean Smith
Hometown: Raleigh, N.C.

Re: Think it doesn't matter who owns the media?

There's also from Tuesday's Sacramento Bee, about how the owner of a string of California TV and radio stations just donated $325,000 in free air time to GOP candidates.

No one interviewed could remember such a thing happening before, one week before an election.

"We're not denying (Democrats) any opportunity," a spokesman for the media company said. "They have the opportunity to purchase an equivalent amount of airtime."

See?  Marketplace of commodities?  Marketplace of ideas?  Same thing.  Fair and square.


The really interesting thing about the big New York Times scoop yesterday about the unguarded munition stockpiles that are now, almost certainly, being used to kill American soldiers and Iraqi civilians and soldiers, is its predetermination.  The modus operendi of this administration is to insist that it can achieve superhuman goals without breaking a sweat.  Yet when all the predictable catastrophes arise, it acts as if only an act of God could possibly have prevented them.  Turn Iraq into a democracy; convert the entire Arab world to modernism; carry out a beloved occupation; a war that would pay for itself; a world that would see the error of its ways; prove the existence of WMDs; prove the Al-Qaeda tie;  pull people out of Afghanistan and still capture bin Laden, etc., etc.  Even if they were super-competent, most of these promises would have been empty boasts; impossible even if Superman were president and Spider-man were vice-president.

But of course Bush and Cheney are not superheroes; they are, collectively, the head of the single most incompetent, ideological and fanatical administration in U.S. history.  When they promise to achieve something genuinely difficult, you can bet the kid’s college fund that they are either deluding themselves or lying, quite possibly both.  The failure to protect the very weapons that are going to kill our soldiers and those Iraqis not too terrified to work with us has a direct precedent.  Immediately after the invasion—something achieved, by the way, with Bill Clinton’s military; the Bush administration did not have the time to screw it up yet—the Bush administration also left unguarded the very sites they insisted were housing Iraqi WMDS, (which leads one to the argument that either they knew they were lying or they didn’t really care if our troops were attacked.  I can’t decide which is worse).  This is from and it’s about the period in the immediate aftermath of the invasion:

Inexplicably, given its own arguments, the Bush administration did not bother to secure (or even inspect) those sites it had publicly identified to be the likely locus of nuclear weapons production.  In Karbala, U.S. forces left canisters of radioactive material stored openly at a maintenance site completely unguarded.  During the month between the beginning of the invasion and the American decision to undertake an investigation of what was inside it, local villagers plundered its contents, likely poisoning themselves and their families, owing to their unfamiliarity with the effects of radioactive materials or their lack of knowledge of its presence.  At another site, near Kut, the U.S. military again did not bother to secure the site for more than a month following the victory, also found a heavily looted nuclear site offering what the Barton Gellman described as “fresh evidence that the war has dispersed the country's most dangerous technologies beyond anyone's knowledge or control.”  Over all, fully seven separate sites said to be associated with the Iraqi nuclear program were left unguarded and unprotected by U.S. forces.  As a result, it became impossible to identify, with any certainty, what kinds of materials were being produced and what might be missing.  One Special Forces soldier who asked Gellman to identify him only as “Tony,” was shocked over what he was being asked to inspect.  "I don't believe this," he told his lieutenant on duty.  "They let workers in here for the past week!"

They let it happen not once but twice.  Can there be a clearer indictment of Bush and Cheney as Commanders-in-Chief?

Now get ready for another , with no plan to win, no way to get out, and no sense that reality is even entering into their calculations

  (Because blood is thinner than oil—and Thanks Petey.)

Think it doesn’t matter who owns the media?  .

Charles Pierce:  THIRTY DAYS OUT
Day 7 -- October 26, 2004

Hey Doc --
OK, 380 tons of free-range high explosives have gotten MY attention, how about you?

That rally in Philadelphia yesterday seems to have caught all the Cool Kids flatfooted.  Those that didn't minimize the size of the crowd decided that its size was merely a matter of having Bill Clinton show up clothed and in his right mind, as Scripture put it.  This is because John Kerry can't, you know, connect with people.  (Note To Most Elite Political Reporters -- When judging  someone's charisma, honesty dictates that you mention that none of you have any.  Pass it on.)  You'll get their master narrative when you pry it from their cold, dead hands, I guess.

"We need some new ones," the late Cassie Mackin told Tim Crouse 30 years ago in "The Boys On The Bus," a book that delineated a number of problems with the way we are informed about our choices in presidential election.  Many of those problems are the same today. The others have gotten infinitely worse.  Watching the rally on CSPAN and then watching the assessment of it on the other cable nets made me wonder quite seriously if we now simply will have two elections every time -- the one that actually happens, in which millions of people make millions of choices, including the most basic one of showing up, and the election that is constructed and described to us, in which a president whose Job Approval can't crack 48 percent is judged to be "popular," and a candidate who's dead-even in the stretch with an incumbent president during a time of great international turmoil is barely hanging on, and incapable of turning out on his own 50,000 people who then go home and are amazed when they are told that they never really were there.

We need some new ones.

Alter-reviews:  I was lucky enough to catch the Rev. Al Green at the Apollo on Thursday night.  The man is a marvel.  With a ten piece band, three back-up singers, and two male dancers, he sings roughly every third word and holds each note for longer than you’d think possible.  His rapport with the audience is incredible and his voice, while falling in a slightly lower register than before, continues to come closer to Heavenly than anybody else alive.  I missed Mavis Staples but I heard she was quite good too. 

Now here’s Sal with a review of Al’s new box set, “”: 

The Al Green "Anthology" boxed set released in 1997 was not a crowd favorite.  Personally, I loved it.  It had all the hits, many rarities and live tracks, as well as snippets of an interview originally filmed for Robert Mugge's "Gospel According To Al Green" film.  Apparently, too many people hated the talking and constant interruption of music.  I found it interesting- hearing Al strum the chords to "Tired Of Being Alone," explaining how he wrote it, followed by the finished product.  (Good idea, no?)  Guess not.

On "The Immortal Soul Of Al Green," the new 4 CD boxed set, the continuity has been corrected.  And to be quite honest, it is much better.  Actually, Al Green is one of those special artists who, during his prime, did not record one bad song.  Starting with his two early hits "Back Up Train" and "Guilty," credited to Al Green & The Soul Mates and covering all those classic "Hi Records" releases, this set has 75 tracks--without a clinker in the bunch.  Hard to believe, I know.  But the good Reverend's voice could make you weep singing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame."

It's all here!  The obvious-"Let's Stay Together," "I'm Still In Love With You," "Love & Happiness."  The great Gospel tracks- "God Is Standing By," "Jesus Is Waiting," "My God Is Real."  The country hits turned into slow, sexy, sweatfests- "For The Good Times," "Funny How Time Slips Away," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."  It's even got one of my favorite Al Green tracks, his cover of "To Sir With Love," which takes on new meaning as sung to his father and not to a high school principal.  (The older box did not include this phenomenal track.)

This is an A+ collection.  Highly recommended.  And another reminder of how amazing R&B was then and how lousy it is now.


Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Clarke Cummings
Hometown:  Columbus, Ohio
Hello Dr. Alterman,
Came across in the Columbus Dispatch over the weekend.  On Friday, the last day to file challenges, the Republicans challenged the validity of over 35,000 new voter registrations.  The vast majority (over 17,000) in heavily Democratic Cuyahoga County.

Ohio law requires that each of the 35,000 have a hearing on their application at least 2 days before the election.  They also must receive a notification at least 3 days before hearing.  These time frames implies that the county election boards had to decide how to handle the matter and get the notices out today, with hearings scheduled for this week. 

Secretary of State Blackwell's spokesperson said if the voter is found invalid by the board, say for not showing up to the hearing, but arrive at their polling place, they will receive a provisional ballot.  The parties also identified their challengers for inside polling sites (GOP has 2000 in Cuyahoga County alone).  Ohio is looking more and more like the Florida of 2004.

On a related note, I watch too much TV, mostly the standard local broadcasts and major cable networks.  In all my TV viewing, I never saw an ad from SOS Blackwell urging voters to register to vote.  About 3 weeks ago, prior to the registration deadline, I watched less than 30 minutes on PAX TV ("family friendly" network) and saw an ad by Blackwell urging registration.  Seems odd that the SOS uses a conservative/religious oriented channel to support voter registration.

Finally, if gas prices are soaring, why has the price in Columbus gone down 20 cents in the past two weeks?  We are now under the national average.  Could it be that energy companies are colluding to influence the election in Ohio?

Name:  Robert Herzog
Hometown:  Indianapolis, IN 
Dr E:
seems particularly poignant in these times where a "leader" like 43 is actually close to being re-elected POTUS.

We need reminders of what a true politician was like...

Name: Jack McCullough
Hometown: Montpelier, Vt.

Hey, Eric, it's great to read you every day, or at least every day I can get through to your server, which isn't quite the same.

Anyway, here's a musical/political note for you.  to a page maintained by HonkeyTonkers for Truth, a passel of good old boys who don't think W is the best of everything.  They have a new country song out that gets out the message and is good country music, too.



Charles Pierce: THIRTY DAYS OUT
Day 8 -- October 25, 2004
Hey Doc --
Here is something I don't understand.  Have you noticed how many probes/inquiries/investigations/important stories are being put off until after the election?  Somehow, it's gotten into the heads of various government gumshoes -- and, worse, into the heads of some important journalism types -- that popping a big story before the election is somehow "unfair," and might "unduly influence" the outcome.


These kind of things are supposed to influence the election.  One of the loudest whines ever heard in Washington came when poor Lawrence Walsh finally indicted Cap Weinberger and the rest of them right before the 1992 vote.  The bleating from 41's administration was so strident that it almost drowned out the fact that at the same time, they were ransacking Bill Clinton's passport files, begging for help from the Brits and MI-5, and outsourcing the real sleaze to subvertebrates like David Bossie.  Of course, the indictments forced 41 into one final act of political cowardice when he pardoned all those people to save his own withered hindquarters.  Start worrying about timing and you stop worrying about serving the public.

And I note from my Sunday NYT that, a) if John Kerry wins, the Democrats are screwed; b) that if John Kerry loses, the Democrats are screwed, and c) if C-Plus Augustus loses, the Republicans are still going to be the formidable manly-man party that doth tower above the age.  And who says so?  Why, Al From and Newt Gingrich, that's who.  And who among us dares mock the Undead?  (If I vote for David Ortiz, is that the same as voting for Nader?  Please advise).

tracks Bush’s “achievements” in keeping you safer:

  • The 2005 Homeland Security Appropriations Act, signed by the President on October 18, cut overall funding for first responders by $500 million.  (International Association of Fire Fighters)

  • A major program providing assistance to firefighters (the FIRE Act) was cut by $100 million.  (International Association of Fire Fighters)

  • Homeland security block grants for states were cut by $600 million. (

  • Urban search and rescue grants were cut by $30 million. (International Association of Fire Fighters)

  • According to the Council on Foreign Relations even if funding was maintained at 2004 levels, “our country will be $98.4 billion short of meeting 'critical emergency responder needs' over the next five years” (International Association of Fire Fighters)

Why they’re wrong:

  1. You can’t blame this on Congress. The administration proposed even deeper cuts in first responder funding.  For example, the administration proposed cutting assistance to firefighters by $250 million.  (International Association of Fire Fighters)

  2. Even Bush doesn’t claim the bill provides increases.  In his most recent radio address (Oct. 23) Bush said the bill provides “vital money for first responders.”  Note: he doesn’t claim the bill provides more money for first responders.  (White House)

Look for George W. Bush?

And Look who’s getting millions from the DOD to train Iraqis about how to be .  Former board members include Lynne Cheney, PhD (literature), former chairman (sic) of the National Endowment for the Humanities (1986-1993), senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and wife of Vice President Dick Cheney; Wendy Lee Gramm, wife of former Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) and former board member of Enron, who joined the Enron’s board shortly after leaving her position as head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which gave Enron and other oil and gas companies an exemption from federal regulations, which proved to be a “big financial boon” to Enron, according to PBS; and Kate O’Beirne, Washington Editor of the National Review and former vice president of government relations at the Heritage Foundation.

I don’t read NRO often enough to know whether picked Jonah Goldberg’s greatest hits when he quoted him saying, “John Kerry is a sphincter.  Okay, that's a bit juvenile." () and "I suppose in John Kerry's world good diplomacy lets the boys in the bar finish raping the girl for fear of causing a fuss.  Okay, that was unfair," () but too bad he’s married because Ann Coulter is always on the prowl for a man to joke about rape and murder with.

Wolcott also found this golden oldie of Robert Novak’s:

"You know, this the only disease that I know of where 100 percent of the--[he catches himself] not 100 percent of the cases, most of the cases are caused by bad behavior, either sexual promiscuity or drug use.  You know, a lot of people in a different age might say that this was the wrath of God coming down on people, but I do know that there's more resources in this country on AIDS than on diseases that effect many more people than AIDS, such as cancer."MARGARET CARLSON: "Bob, would you say it's the wrath of God?"NOVAK: "I consider that a possibility."

I guess tens of millions of Africans must have gotten on the wrong side of God. The fact that this man has a job anywhere is a constant source of amazement.  The  transcript is .

I did a B& interview about and it received a decent review from Ken Bode in The Boston Globe, .  Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Weekly ran another interview .

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Richard R Taylor
Hometown: Apollo Beach, FL (just south of Tampa)

As a Red Sox fan, Down the Evil Empire!

Back in the '80s, I had security clearances and worked in DoD consulting jobs.  While waiting to be laid off in mid-88, I was given a task to review SDIO (Strategic Defense Initiative Office) unclassified information and recommend how to tailor DoD Software Development and Quality Assurance standards for use by SDIO.  One of the constants that has stuck with me over the years was that no matter how successful the program became in identifying and shooting down incoming missiles, defeating it would cost our enemies a fraction of what the development cost us, leaving us basically bankrupt and no better off.  The more things change, etc.

As a currently unemployed (for the second time in C+ Augustus's reign) IT worker, I took "advantage" of early voting this week here in beautiful downtown Hillsborough Co (sorry I missed your signing the other day).  At least with early voting, there APPEARS to be an audit trail including a paper record that I have voted as well as a paper record of my votes.  Now, the voting staff at the library could have been blowing so much smoke but I do encourage folks to take whatever advantage we can of these early tools and force the issues with the loony toons right.

Thanks for 'listening.'

Name:  Clinton
Hometown:  Brooklyn

Hey Eric,
Thanks for publishing the letter from the Yankees fan.  It irks me that, among what I'll call intellectuals for lack of a better word, being a Yankees fan is considered tantamount to being a hired henchman for Bush/ if Red Sox nation is the nation of progressives.  David slays Goliath?  Please.  More like one 9-figure payroll bests another.  The Yankees, in fact, have just as much home-grown (ie, farm system-produced) talent as Boston at this point.  I can accept fans of other teams wanting a chance to win every once in a while, and clearly it's Boston's turn.  But realize that Yankees fans, like, well, New Yorkers themselves, are frequently well informed, thoughtful, and somewhat civilized.  I dare say as much so as their Red Sox nation counterparts.