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A mostly slacker Friday

A mostly slacker Friday

| 11:23 AM ET |

I’ve got a new Think Again column, “Conservative media, Liberal Nation,” .

Read Ken Livingstone’s terrific statement and note that London’s Rudy is a man of what commentators here refer to as the “loony left,” but well in the mainstream of sensible Europe, and needs no lessons in patriotism from anyone, anywhere.

Aww shucks Little Roy, we’re so grateful:  Yesterday , “Maybe this will help build support for a war that is as unavoidable as it is unlosable.  I don't mean we won't continue to differ over means and methods and tactics and strategy.  We will.  That's our strength. But right and left, we are in this together.”  Well, it’s an improvement I suppose.  Following 9/11, Andy’s idea of “differing over means and methods and tactics and strategy” was to implore Americans, a la Joe McCarthy, to be alert about traitors in our midst, whom he helpfully identified not as those people living in “the middle part of the country--the great red zone that voted for Bush.”  Among Gore voters—the majority by the way-- however, Sullivan professed to spy a “decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts [that] is not dead--and may well mount a fifth column.”

Now personally, I’d be happy to see some an Anglo/American military alliance to kick some Islamic terrorist ass, (as opposed to creating more of them, as we are doing now in Iraq).  But I would have imagined that that this pathetic moral preener--who actually said “you’re welcome” to the Iraqis for all the help he gave them from his P-town digs—would have shown a little reticence this time around, given his shameful performance in blaming the victims after 9/11.

And I’d give a “Sully Award” to Daniel Henninger of the taxpayer-supported The Wall Street Journal editorial page, , for being among the first to attempt to exploit the tragedy for the political gain of what his side was trying to do in the first place.  The bodies in London were still warm when Henninger wrote that the way to show the terrorists that we mean business is to… ready confirm John Bolton, who is “the one person in the world” who is up to the job.  If it weren’t a Slacker Friday, it would inspire the playwright in me.  Again, this is sort of an improvement on 9/11 when the Journal editors suggested that Bush use the political capital it engendered to demand more tax cuts and oil drilling in Alaska, all of which, by the way, he proceeded to try to do.

I’ve been gravely disappointed in Tony Blair’s leadership since Bush came to office, but I’m betting he’s going to show the world how a mature, honest and steadfast politician leads a nation when its very humanity finds itself under attack.  And my guess is that it won’t involve starting a new war against a nation that had nothing whatever to do with it.—at least not again.

P.S. is funny all by itself, but what’s really funny about it is the implicit assumption at CNN and elsewhere that there is such a thing as the “Muslim Community”—it’s only a billion or so people after all—and that any one guy could give you “the reaction” a few minutes after the attack.

P.P.S.  Give points for honesty, if nothing else.

P.P.P.S.  There will be a special rebroadcast of the excellent Frontline program about which I wrote when it originally aired, tonight called, “Al Qaeda's New Front.”  More .

P.P.P.P.S.  Let’s not forget thirteen people were killed by two car bombs outside a car dealership south of Baghdad.  The second one was timed to hit as rescue workers arrived.  And for the third time in three weeks, insurgents blew up a main water pipeline to Baghdad, cutting off the half the city's supply.

Thank goodness that this mission is accomplished, that we have been welcomed as liberators, that we are now facing an insurgency in its last throes.

Required Reading: Europe's Angry Muslims, .

The Bush Record on Transit Security, .

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to say that terrorism kills Africans.  I was going to write about Sudan today (Thursday), but it feels trivial compared to the London bombings, even if it isn't.  As of this writing they don't know who is responsible, but regardless, Middle Eastern terrorism has had an unnoticed impact on Africa.  Even before 9/11, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank didn't simply generate Muslim venom against America, it disproportionately sapped the collective attention span of the media, human rights activists and concerned people around the world.  You'd think that 3 million people died in the Occupied Territories and "only" a few thousand died in Congo.  Four years ago Ted Koppel planned to devote an entire week of "Nightline" to the war in Congo.  The first night he apologized to viewers on behalf of the media for not covering what was arguably the biggest story of the day.  That show aired Monday, September 10, 2001 and the rest of the week was preempted.  But the thing is, if we let the war on terrorism completely push tragedies like Darfur off the radar, the terrorists really have won.  That sounds trite but by modern day morality, what could be more dehumanizing than ignoring an ongoing genocide?  And I share your negativity on Live 8, but I'm saddened that whatever good it may have done raising consciousness on Africa is going to be dissipated by today's attacks.  Doubt there'll be much neocon blogging on Mugabe for a while either.

So I will go ahead and note the second "Paula Zahn Sudan Day."  You may think you've heard a lot about Sudan/Darfur, but really you haven't.  A study by the shows how perfunctory most of the coverage has been.  Twenty-six minutes for all three networks combined.  Last year, after I saw Sudanese supermodel Alek Wek lose it on Zahn's CNN show, I predicted Zahn wouldn't touch the topic again.  A month later and she hadn't.  A year later and she has -- once.  She reran a CNN Christina Amanpour report in August.  That's it -- for the last 11 months my review of the show's transcripts on NEXIS shows nothing.  And it's just going to get worse.  Fight back and .

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL
I'm not a journalist, but isn't there a distinct and substantive difference between protecting the identity of one's source when

  1. that individual is a whistle-blower who, in exposing government corruption, needs and deserves protection from government hostility; and
  2. that individual is a government agent exercising hostility toward someone (Wilson) who has dared to tell the truth?

It seems to me that the first is providing a public service, whereas the second is not only committing a crime but acting in conflict with the public good.  A journalist has good reason to protect the identity of the first and an obligation to reveal the identity of the second.  The argument that to reveal a source in this case would lead to distrust of journalists just doesn't wash.  Revealing the identity of the individual(s) might mean that White House operatives won't risk such an underhanded strategy in the future, and the Mark Felts and Daniel Ellsbergs of the world can rest assured that they can still do the right thing.  The irony of Judith Miller's silence to protect someone or some group who have attempted to silence Wilson is nearly absurd and violates the cause of truth that the press is supposed to serve.

Name: Jason Storck
Hometown: Wooster, OH
As a lawyer I find your hyperbole about the Judith Miller episode to be disturbing.  I, obviously given my profession, have a great deal of respect for the protection of confidentiality.  This situation, however, has nothing to do with the tradition of members of the press protecting their sources.  I will explain why.  Simply put, these reporters are witnesses to a crime, not simply persons following up a story.  Whoever the "sources" may be, their act of revealing the identity of a CIA agent is, in itself, criminal.  Thus the reporters to whom it was revealed are witnesses to a crime, as the very act of speaking about the identity of the agent was criminal.  An analogy would be if these reporters were standing in a room while the "source" phoned up the head of a foreign intelligence agency to identify our agents.  Or, perhaps was standing in a room while a person was mugged.  Surely in these instances the reporter would have to testify about seeing a crime committed and would not claim any sort of privilege.  The problem with this case seems to be that those in the media, yourself included, do not make the distinction that the speech on the part of the sources was criminal.  This situation is not like that of a whistle-blower, as the whistle-blower is usually revealing the crimes of others, not committing one on his or her own directly in front of the reporters.  I would simply ask that you take this view into account when speaking about this story.

P.S. Many have said that the source that revealed the Watergate crimes would have not done so if today's legal climate existed.  This is absurd, as those reporters would not have to have revealed his identity under the current law.  They would have to have revealed it if, however, after meeting with them in the garage, they witnessed him steal a car.  This is the analogy to the current situation.

Name: John Royal
Hometown: Webster, TX
I hate to contradict you on anything, especially since I'm a big fan.  But... I'm an attorney and there's no such thing as an absolute privilege for attorneys or clergy or doctors, etc.  That's never existed, and Judy Miller doesn't deserve anything better than the rest of us.  Thanks.

Name: John Moore
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
C. Vollmar asks "if our [American] healthcare system is failing, why aren't there hordes of Americans waiting to see doctors in Canada."  Here are a couple of possible responses that will be obvious to anyone who's not a wingnut:

  1. People who are too poor to afford health insurance or medical care are probably also too poor to travel to a foreign country that may be thousands of miles away to seek the assistance of doctors whom they've never met.
  2. Why would Americans lacking health insurance seek medical care from Canadian doctors, who presumably have no obligation to provide services to non-Canadians?  I know this was only a passing comment in his post, but I get tired of seeing this kind of illogical, right-wing cheap shot go unanswered.

Name: Laura C.
Hometown: Greensboro, NC
While I appreciate C. Vollmar's sentiment, you cannot immediately construe the conclusion they have reached regarding taxation and American generosity.  Yes, our private generosity is great, but if no comparison to private giving in other nations (especially as a percentage of the GNP) is offered, the numbers ring hollow.  Yes, the numbers are large, but what do they mean?  Additionally, our relatively low unemployment numbers mean absolutely nothing when we are struggling to support or even refusing to support our welfare systems.  Welfare like veteran's benefits, Medicaid, Medicare, and now social security are underfunded and some are in danger of being eradicated.  Certainly we don't have the burden of taxing our citizens in order to support our social welfare - our representatives would rather ignore the common welfare and instead use an amoral system of laissez faire to tell the poor, elderly and disabled to adapt or perish, and then give all of the dollars that could have been spent to raise up our countrymen to instead subsidize greedy businesses that don't even return the graciousness with U.S.-based jobs.  Finally, there are not hordes of Americans waiting to see doctors in Canada for many reasons.  One reason is possibly that those people who cannot afford healthcare in America also cannot afford the travel expense and time off work to go to Canada to seek treatment.  This argument of "Why aren't they in Canada?" smacks of the arrogance in the "Why don't you move to Iran/Iraq/Russia/North Korea/etc.?" crowed by those who think this country is about conformity to authority at any cost, instead of practicing rational dissent.

Name: Jerry Wetzel
Hometown: Lakeland, FL
Even though I disagree with you 90% of the time, I commend you for your approach to today's events.  We should all (right, center, left) step back, reflect, and mourn for those innocents who were maimed and killed today in London.  We live on one planet, we need to begin working towards the goal of peace.  War, or a better word, aggression, is instinctive in humankind; peaceful existence and understanding is not.  How we get there is the thing stirring up all the dust.  Thanks for continuing to print Major Bob's letters.

Name: Barry L. Ritholtz
Hey Doc,
One of the fascinating things about the U.S. government's data producers, including the BLS and the BEA is that they don't seem to hide anything. Today's mediocre employment data is a perfect example.

While conspiracy theories may be sexy, the reality is far more mundane.  It's all there if you have the temerity to dig thru endless data (eternal vigilance and all that).  This must be terribly disappointing to the black helicopter/tinfoil hat crowd.

The amazing thing is that most people don't bother.  By "most people," I am referring to the economists, journalists, strategists and fund managers who trade off of this data.

So let's do a little digging, and see if any nuggets of gold might be buried amongst the dirt:

  • Once again, we see the Birth Death adjustment -- that's the hedonic guesstimate which supposes the number of new jobs created by businesses so new they have yet to be measured -- actually exceeded the number of new jobs.  This month, its 184k.  That's about on par with last June's B/D adj.

    Note that this adjustment is not a one-for-one type -- it goes into the BLS model further upstream in the massaging process.  Regardless, it's still a substantial number.

  • Household survey shows another 240,000 people left the Labor Force last month.  That's greater than either survey's number of newly employed.  The Civilian labor force participation rate actually decreased this past month.  We still see unemployment going down because more people are dropping out of the labor than obtaining new jobs.  That's hardly cause for celebration.

  • U-6, the broadest measure of unemployment, actually ticked up to 9.0%.  This measure includes:  Total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons.

  • Lastly, here's an oddity I just noticed:  The jobless rates by race shows that Whites no longer enjoy the lowest unemployment rate -- that pleasure now belongs to Asians:

    Asians: 4.0%
    Whites 4.3%
    Hispanics 5.8%
    Blacks 10.3%

    I don't recall when that first occurred, but it would be interesting to track down. The chart on this (Household Data, Table A-2) only goes back to May 2005.

The headline data may appear benign, but digging beneath shows a less than robust economy.  Not awful -- just not as rosy as the scenario painted by the cheerleaders...

July 7, 2005 | 1:12 PM ET |

Random thoughts on a terrible morning

Random thoughts on a terrible morning:

  1. We don’t have remotely enough information about what took place in London or who did it to engage in sensible speculation about why it happened or what ought to be done as a result.  Speed is the enemy of sensibility in such situations.  (So let's all try to resist the urge to exploit the tragedy to demonstrate how right we were about everything in the first place and just show some respect, and compassion, for its victims.)

  2. Judy Miller may be right or wrong in going to jail for refusing to divulge her source to prosecutor Robert Fitzgerald.  It’s complicated, but it is also uncommonly brave for someone so wealthy, so privileged, and so prominent, and so well-connected to do so.  I salute her for her courage.  That said, her bravery, whether in the service of cause that is right or wrong, has no bearing on her misguided reporting for The New York Times in the period leading up to the war.  That reporting brought shame on the heads of everyone associated with it, including most particularly her editors, who made the decision to break their own reporting guidelines and allow it into the paper, where it helped pave the political path for this ruinous, counterproductive and possibly illegal war.  Go to for a gazillion articles on this.

    For die-hard Judy haters, however, last night’s “Hardball” provided some grasping-at-straws speculation that, if it turns out to be true, is going to make her defenders at the Times and elsewhere pretty damn embarrassed.  It comes in the form an anonymously sourced report that it may have been Judy who told Rove about Plame rather than the other way around.  A friend sent me this morning from a subscription service that monitors these things:

    Andrea Mitchell asked [Miller attorney Robert] Bennett about the suggestion, raised in yesterday's Washington Post. "Sources close to the investigation say there is evidence in some instances that some reporters may have told government officials -- not the other way around -- that Wilson was married to Plame, a CIA employee." 

    Could have been a stronger denial, methinks.  That kind of thing happens all the time in Washington, which doesn’t make it any more defensible.  But again, let’s reserve judgment until we know the truth, which ought to be pretty soon.

  3. What we do know now, however, is that the clear villains in this case are Karl Rove, whoever helped him, and Robert Novak.  All conspired to jeopardize U.S. national security and the CIA’s operations in the service of narrow and dishonest political goals.  All men claim to be super-patriots; they are revealed in this incident to be cowardly scoundrels.  I think Arianna has it about right with regard to the corruption at the heart of our political system to which this points.

  4. Matt Cooper’s brave and honorable stance in this episode shames that of his boss Norman Perlstein, whose corporate driven capitulation ended up serving no goal whatsoever, (and by the way, made no sense).  If Cooper was willing to go to jail to protect his source, then his refusal to testify was an act of civil disobedience and hence, no one was claiming to be “above the law.”

  5. This judge who claims that “no one in America” has the right to refuse to testify is one scary fellow.  What about priests?  What about lawyer-client privilege?  What about psychiatrists?  We really are witnessing the death of privacy.

  6. remains a scandal of tragic and historic proportions.  Its conduct would shame our nation’s political class, had it any self-awareness.

  7. Make Live-8 History.  have already done more to help the needy than those self-important, self-righteous blowhards at Live-8, Pink Floyd excepted.  You can too.  (Ditto the jerks at MTV who managed to ruin the music too with their idiotic patter.  Glad to see that ABC took a hit as well, well if you call garnering half the audience of a NASCAR rain delay, , “a hit.")  Glad to see the event was such a success for AOL-TimeWarner in their quest to “promote a major strategic shift for the world's biggest Internet service provider.”  Maybe there are other sick, starving people they can use next time.  I hear there are a bunch of people starving and dying of AIDS in Asia too.  I’m sure they’d be happy to oblige.

  8. Quote of the Day: "Only in Washington does a 'truce' on ethics make sense," .


There’s a lovely piece with George Avakian remembering Miles . (WSJ)

I have found it almost impossible to keep up with all the re-issues that Legacy has been doing of Miles in recent times.  Here is a list of just the 2005 editions:

'A Tribute to Jack Johnson''My Funny Valentine''Kind of Blue' (CD and DVD) 'Seven Steps to Heaven''Miles Davis in Europe Four & More''Miles in Tokyo''Miles in Berlin''The Best of Seven Steps' 'Round About Midnight: Legacy Edition' (2 CDs) 'The Essential Miles Davis' (2 CD DVD) 'Miles Davis: The Cellar  Door Sessions 1970' (6 CDs)

My feeling is that the only artist who compares with Miles is Picasso; not on the basis of sheer genius—I can name painters and composers whose work I prefer; but for trailblazing and transformative originality.  For me that means there are several different Miles Davises and while I love a few of them, I’ve got not much use for some of the others.  In fact I get pretty pissed at the one who bragged in his memoirs about beating up Cecily Tyson and I’m not so thrilled with the guy who said his hero was Prince, neither.)  Anyway, it would take a lot more space than I can sensibly devote to parsing all of the above.  Sal and I have written about a bunch of them already. 

The odds are that if you only own one jazz album, it’s “Kind of Blue,” so not much needs to be said about that.  ‘Round Midnight is every bit as great and very much deserving of the Legacy Edition treatment.  I began to lose touch with whatever it was Miles thought he was doing right after “Bitches” Brew”; I like the record, but whatever the next stop was, that was where I got off the train.  Every time Legacy puts out another collection from the post BB period, I try to give it another shot, but it never really works.  For that reason, I’m having trouble with the Cellar Door sessions, but I haven't given up on it yet, since it’s still pretty early in the fusion period and there are really some wonderful musicians associated with it.  I have no such reservations about the “Seven Steps” period, which, while frequently overlooked compared with the breakthrough periods, contains some really marvelous meditations and eerily beautiful music; particularly rewarding careful and close listenings.  You can read a whole lot of history , together with an incredible discography , and make yer choices accordingly.  But anyway, here’s to Legacy for treating an American artistic icon with proper due.  It’s rare enough that it needs saying, over and over.

Now here’s Major Bob:

Name: Major Bob Bateman
Dateline: Baghdad, Iraq

In the Chow Hall

A few days ago I was in the chow-hall for lunch.  Like most of the facilities here, it is a prefabricated steel structure, antiseptic and soulless, but efficient.  The Army is not an institution much given to aesthetics.  This particular dining hall is run by contractors for the Third Infantry Division.

As is my habit, I was reading.  Meal times are my private time, though they cannot be private in the sense that I am surrounded by four hundred others.  But I take the opportunity in a large mess-hall where there are numerous units intermixed, civilian contractors and soldiers of all sizes and ranks, to be anonymous.  I lose myself in my book of the day.  I descend into history, or on rare occasions the escapist pleasure of a novel.  This is my internal escape.  The chow hall is a loud place.  It bursts with the life energy of the (mostly) young soldiers who fill it to capacity.  But I tune this white noise out.  Sometimes, however, it is the absence of noise which attracts my attention.

At a table across the aisle from me there was a squad of soldiers.  Just in from patrol, the dust of the day coated their uniforms.  It was easy to tell which ones were the gunners, their faces showed a raccoon pattern; clean where the goggles protected them while standing in their turret rings, windburned and dust-caked where they did not.  Their weapons were clean.  For a group of 19-22 year olds they were quiet.  For a squad of soldiers in that same age range their quiet was extraordinary.  Six of them sat together, and a little apart.

After a few minutes another soldier, rumpled as these men were, shambled up to them.  He said nothing audible, leaned in and gave one of the others a half hug. The soldier sitting down reached behind and around the waist of the standing visitor and hugged him back. A few quiet words passed.  The visitor gave a knuckle-knock to another soldier across the table, nodded to the rest, and departed.

A few minutes later a rail-thin young officer approached.  It is easy enough to tell that he is a good officer, respected by his men.  These, quite obviously, were some of his men.  He too is on the shaggy-edge of presentable.  His uniform hangs loose, and still bears the broad sweat marks, front and back, which come from wearing full ‘battle-rattle’ in the Iraqi sun for any appreciable amount of time.

Like the last man, he lays a hand upon the shoulder of the same soldier.  The soldier, who has his back to me, reaches up and puts his hand atop the lieutenants’.  Again the contact lasts just a few seconds.  The lieutenant says a quiet word or two which I cannot hear, then turns away and walks to another of his squads.  I note that his weapon, hanging from a dusty sling, is clean as well.

The noise from the rest of the Dining Facility still booms.  Life goes on.  One more day in Baghdad.


I miss my friends.  The Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays.  Growing up in a small and somewhat bucolic town in Ohio meant the whole weekend was devoted to experiments with firecrackers, fishing in the nearby ponds, canoe races, and then the big-gig at the town fireworks which took place on a large meadow beside a lake.  The location of my friend Alasdair’s house on that meadow provided the pack of us a convenient rallying point in High School.  Twenty years later we still gather there, the same crowd every year, watching our children race about as we once did.  (And praying, as our parents must have, that at the end of the day all our male progeny have their fingers attached.  No gender bias there, it just seems that in my hometown it is only the little boys who are prone to do stupid things with explosives and sketchy fuses.)

Fireworks here this morning are of a different sort.  It’s 07:39 here in Baghdad right now, and I’ve already heard two moderately sized exchanges of gunfire in the middle distance to the north of here.

You can write to Major Bob at .

Name: Thomas Vance
Hometown: Seattle, WA
My wife lost a member of her extended family, a cousin, to small arms fire in the attack on the female Marines last month - his body came home last weekend.  Neither of us knew him particularly well but we both have pleasant memories of him as a 'nice kid'.  The lawn outside my in-laws house sports a 'Support our President and our Troops' sign (because, as we all know, you can't do one without the other), so their reactions were predictable.  Mother-in-law: "It's a shame, but he died honorably, defending his country."  Father-in-law: "We've lost kin in this war now.  It's time to get serious about finishing the job."  I'll note that he has encouraged neither of his children to enlist, nor has he, an able-bodied Marine veteran, explored how he might be able to serve again. 

We in the U.S. have lost over 1,700 soldiers in this conflict.  For the sake of argument, assume there are some 200 people back in the states, friends, family, coworkers, etc. who will in some way take note of an individual soldier passing.  That means roughly 340,000 Americans have (in some way) lost somebody in this war.  With an overall population of roughly 295,000,000, that amounts to just .001 of our population.  Per , there have been between 22,563 and 25,560 Iraqi civilian deaths as a result of the U.S. occupation.  The CIA Factbook puts the Iraq population at roughly 26,000,000.  Assume the same 200 people per death and you've got somewhere between 17% and 19.5% of the Iraq population dealing with the death of somebody they were connected to as a result of the war.  The equivalent of the Iraqi situation in the U.S., population-wise, would be 256,650 to 290,000 CIVILIAN deaths and 50,150,000 to 57,525,000 citizens coping with the loss. 

What impact would that kind of civilian death toll (contrast with the WTC) have on our national psyche?  Would we collectively be inclined to consider those who are responsible as allies?  Rightly or wrongly, would we be eager for those responsible to turn their attention elsewhere?  Would we look upon the words of the leaders of the occupying force favorably?  How many would do what my father-in-law suggests and 'get serious' about the conflict?  How many would it take to keep this thing going forever? 

Just some questions to consider.

Name: Betsy Clarke
Hometown: Pittsboro, NC
In mentioning the Freedom Fries thing, you might want to also mention that the guy mainly responsible for calling them that, Rep. Walter B. Jones (R, NC) has done an about face on the Iraq War and has joined with Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D, OH) in sponsoring legislation to bring the troops home from Iraq.  You can read more about it at .  And thanks for bringing up how obscenely CEO's in this country are getting compensated and the amounts the U.S. spends on its poor compared to other industrialized nations during this week when the spotlight is on G8 and world poverty.

Name: Mark Raven
Hometown: Schenectady, New York

Up here in Albany, where George Pataki rarely appears, word is out that his son, Teddy, who was sworn in as a second lieutenant in the Marines on June 25 following his graduation from Yale, wants to go to law school.  Not Iraq or Afghanistan.  So Daddy is trying to get little Teddy a "Dick Cheney," the material term for a get out of doing your duty card.  Take a look at by Sheryl McCarthy from June 30 and see what you think.

Name: C. Vollmar
Hometown: Westminster, CO

The United States may fail in its obligation to the international community as do all other wealthy nations.  Being a major part of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and even helping to formulate the United Nations over 50 years ago, their actions can be felt around the world.  When the world's governments met at the Earth summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, they adopted a programme for action under the auspices of the United Nations - Agenda 21.  Amongst other things, this included an Official Development Assistance (ODA) aid target of 0.7% of gross national product (GNP) for rich nations, roughly 22 members of the OECD, known as the Development Assistance Committee (DAC). 

ODA is basically aid from the governments of the wealthy nations, but doesn't include private contributions or private capital flows and investments.  Even though these targets and agendas have been set, year after year almost all rich nations have constantly failed to reach their agreed obligations of the 0.7% target.  Instead of 0.7%, the amount of aid has been around 0.2 to 0.4%, some $100 billion short.  ODA is basically aid from the governments of the wealthy nations, but doesn't include private contributions or private capital flows and investments. 

Even though U.S. government aid may be lower (percentage wise) than other countries, the generosity of the American people is far more impressive than their government.  Private aid/donation has been through charity of individual people and organizations though this of course can be weighted to certain interests and areas.  Nonetheless, it is interesting to note for example, per latest estimates, Americans privately give at least $34 billion overseas - more than twice the U.S. official foreign aid of $15 billion at that time:

International giving by U.S. foundations: $1.5 billion per year Charitable giving by US businesses: $2.8 billion annually American NGOs: $6.6 billion in grants, goods and volunteers. Religious overseas ministries: $3.4 billion, including health care, literacy training, relief and development. US colleges scholarships to foreign students: $1.3 billion Personal remittances from the US to developing countries: $18 billion in 2000 Source: Dr. Carol Adelman, Aid and Comfort, Tech Central Station, 21 August 2002.

It could be construed then, that because the citizens of the United States don't pay as much income tax as comparable countries, they can contribute more of their personal income.  The United States also has a lower unemployment rate than that of the superior governments of Europe, and intern do not have to carry the heavy burden of taxing the people in order to support its welfare systems. 

One more note, if our healthcare system is failing, why aren't there hordes of Americans waiting to see doctors in Canada.  You should publish some views alternate to yours and let your readers see a different side of the story.

Name: Tom
Hometown: Seattle, WA
Hey Doc,
It came as little surprise to those of us who pay attention to such things that Pink Floyd - and David Gilmour in particular - were donating their proceeds to the cause.  David's been known to wake up in the middle of the night and start writing checks to charities that plea for help.  He, like Bruce, have their head, heart and wallet in the right place and deserve recognition for walking the talk.  Wonder if Mr. Mack will be waking up in the night to cut a check or five or more likely, to turn on Bloomberg to count his stock options to clear his conscience.

| 11:38 AM ET |

We’re #1 … in stinginess

I don’t see how one can help but despair for the fate of mankind when noting that one of the world’s Greatest Newspapers, , carries with it editorials that are written by crazy people with an evil agenda.  Nowhere in this nutty (but also evil) editorial do the Wall Street Journal editors mention that the United States government is one of the cheapest on earth and getting cheaper, with a paltry contribution of just 0.16 percent of GDP to global development—that’s one-sixth of one cent for every dollar we earn.  What hope can a country have when its ruling ideologists tell the world to shut up about development because we are spending so much on guns and killing people?  No really, I’m not kidding.  It’s all .  And congrats to Morgan Stanley's new chairman and chief executive, John Mack, who received a one-time stock bonus valued at close to $27 million, and will be paid annual compensation that is indexed to match that of four Wall Street peers, or roughly $25 million a year, though this year can expect around $60.million, .  I promise you can count on the WSJ to lobby for lower taxes on that haul (as opposed to the “lucky ducky” poor people it considers undertaxed.)  (WSJ is subscription only.)

Speaking of lucky ducky poor people, did you know the infant mortality rate in Baltimore is expected to be around 13 children per thousand?  That’s awfully high, but not so high for America’s inner cities.  As of four years ago, in the U.S., the infant mortality rate was eight dead babies under a year old out of every 1,000 births, compared with fewer than five in France, and similar numbers in Germany (5.3), the UK (6.0), and Italy (6.2).  And it’s not just infants who suffer for our stinginess.  One in six American households earned less than 35 percent of the median income in 2000.  While in Britain, among the least equal of European nations, that proportion is fewer than one in one in twenty.  America’s relatively niggardly welfare system, even its most generous incarnation—since significantly reduced--raised poor incomes only moderately, reduced the proportion of adults in poverty from 26.7 to 19.1 percent.  In Germany, France, and Italy, meanwhile, employing the same benchmark, the number hovers around just seven percent. 

As for the elderly, where the U.S. social security system is its most generous, it manages to reduce the level of elderly people living in poverty from nearly sixty percent before transfer payments to just below twenty percent afterward.  Yet the Europeans improve on this performance as well.  Germany, France, and Italy all spend roughly twice as much of their national income as does the United States.  What’s more, with our inferior system of public health, and family-friendly employment laws, the U.S. and South Africa are the only two developed countries in the world that do not provide health care for all of their citizens.

Source for all of the above:: OECD, Health Data 1999: A Comparative Analysis of 29 Countries (OECD, 2001). 

Anyway, that’s how I measure national greatness and so I wish the IOC had given the Olympics to Paris.  They tried to save the world from the horror of this ruinous, counterproductive war, as well.

At least it’s not going to New York.  We don’t need the traffic hassles (though I could have made a mint renting out my apartment).  Anyway, it serves Bloomberg right.  If he wants to suck up to (and help fund) the national Republican party that has declared war on New York City, he should have to pay some price for the catastrophe it has brought down on us.  (Giving it to Paris would also have been a nice way to thank the French for their incredibly valuable help in tracking down and disarming genuine terrorists, , despite the fact that our politicians were idiotically [and ungratefully] trying to rename “French Fries” and pundits were moronically congratulating themselves for calling them names that my seven-year old would consider too childish to repeat.)  Still, London is OK with me.  Tony Blair has proven a pitiful poodle to the lawless Bush, but a civilizing one insofar as he is the only person to whom Bush is forced to listen who can say the words “global warming,” “global debt,” and “Israeli settlements.”  Plus their infant mortality rate is pretty good too.

“Get me Wonderland.  Hello, Alice…”  Another comment on the state of our world can be found in the fact that Robert Novak and an administration official (who looks and sounds more and more like Karl Rove) conspired to blow a CIA agent’s cover and threaten U.S. national security for partisan political purposes, possibly committing (and/or abetting the commission) of a felony in the process.  But who is going to jail?  The journalists who had the good sense not to write about it but are vulnerable to the machinations of a power-mad, misguided prosecutor, while Rove and Novak remain celebrated by those whose behavior they mock and whose values they shame.  Will this administration have to jail every journalist before the media wake up to the true nature of the people currently running our government and begin, finally, to hold them accountable for their assault on freedoms? 

Update , where, by the way, at a lunch meeting yesterday with Washington Post reporters and editors, Karl Rove declined to answer questions about the Plame case.

Money: It’s a Gas.  This just in: Pink Floyd to donate Live 8 profits…

LONDON (AFP) - Rock group Pink Floyd vowed to donate all profits made from their greatest hits album to charity, after record sales soared following the group's performance at Live 8. The legendary British band, who had not played together for 20 years before Saturday's concert in London -- part of a series worldwide to draw attention to the campaign to reduce poverty in Africa -- saw sales of "Echoes" increase by 1,300 percent in the British capital alone.Guitarist Dave Gilmour said the money should be used to "save lives"."Though the main objective has been to raise consciousness (of the plight of Africa) and put pressure on the G8 leaders, I will not profit from the concert," he said.

Here’s to Pink Floyd.  Who’s next?

Reading Around

Backbone, found?  Joe Lieberman, even?  Who’d a thunk it?  .

Jonathan Chait, The Case Against New Ideas, .  Excellent piece.

Michael Massing on the Times culture coverage, .

Tom Tomorrow on Young conservatives with .

Don Kagan profile, .

Ed Murrrow profile .

It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Orthodox, .

  (Thanks, Petey)

Alter-reviews by Sal Nunziato, NYCD

As hard as it was to put away my Lovin' Spoonful records and old copies Look Magazine, I did manage to listen to some new records by some new artists.  Here's a brief rundown of the good and the not-so-good.

THE REDWALLS new Capitol release "De Nova" is a pleasant listen, recalling the days when AM radio would play all genres of music.  Think WABC circa 1972.  I've seen reviews describing The Redwalls as Brit-Pop wannabes.  Some songs remind me of The Zombies, but some remind me of The Byrds, as well as The James Gang.  The material is weak, but gets by thanks to the band's execution.  Not as good as the new Ringo CD.

LITTLE BARRIE'S debut, "We Are Little Barrie" is a fresh take on the power trio.  Led by guitarist Barrie Cadogan, Little Barrie takes us on a blues and funk journey without the excessive jamming that can make so many solid songs lose their appeal.  Short and sweet, this is an exciting debut with a unique sound.  Think Sly & The Family Stone without the horns.

SUPAGROUP hail from Alaska, and first caught my eyes and ears at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.  They were playing the second largest stage at the Fairgrounds, to a crowd of people standing in the rain waiting for Terence Simien and his Zydeco Band. They come out, and launch into some of the most exciting, balls-out rock and roll New Orleans has ever seen.  The crowd was surprised, but not disappointed.  Their new CD "Rules" is just as exciting.  Think AC/DC with a much better vocalist.  This is a BLAST!

Finally, for what it's worth, the most anticipated releases of the summer, The White Stripes, Coldplay, Black-Eyed Peas, and the Foo Fighters are all major disappointments.  Sorry, but I'd rather listen to the new Dylan reissues, or the expanded Miles Davis "Round About Midnight" on Sony Legacy and know I'll enjoy what I'm hearing.

Eric adds: Not that I think we should be sucking up to that nasty guy last week, but I really like Kings of Leon, the North Mississippi All Stars, and the Kaiser Chiefs.  I kinda like the Redwalls, and I’m trying to like Arcade Fire, because a good friend of mine whose taste I respect says I should, but so far, it’s not working.  And Sal, buddy, frankly, asking me to think of AC/DC with or without a better vocalist, is like asking me to think about a colonoscopy with a better picture tube…)

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Frank
Hometown: Dover, NH
Noel Gallagher seems to have :

NOEL GALLAGHER is convinced LIVE 8 will never achieve its lofty aim of persuading politicians from the world's richest countries to eliminate debt owed by poorer nations. The outspoken OASIS guitarist believes rock stars simply don't have the influence needed to affect the G8 decision makers - and believes all their hard work will be in vain. He says, "Correct me if I'm wrong, but are they hoping that one of these guys from the G8 is on a quick 15 minute break at Gleneagles (in Scotland) and sees ANNIE LENNOX singing SWEET DREAMS and thinks, 'F**k me, she might have a point there, you know?' "KEANE doing SOMEWHERE ONLY WE KNOW and some Japanese businessman going, 'Aw, look at him... we should really f**king drop that debt, you know.' "It's not going to happen, is it?"

Name: John Farmer
We all know that the liberal media would do anything in their power to tarnish or bring down the conservative Bush administration.  Strange then that the country's leading newsweekly, Time, and the newspaper of record, The New York Times, both seem to have had inside information that the president's chief political advisor, Karl Rove, was implicated in outing an undercover CIA operative, an act that jeopardizes our national security and is a crime, yet refused to disclose this information during a lengthy election campaign when it might have been an important issue, in defiance of subpoenas that required them to do so.  Of course there were First Amendment principles at issue, but those principles seem now to have been cast aside, at least by Time magazine, because the inevitable has happened: it faces fines and its reporter faces jail time.  If the media were conservative, one might argue that they were protecting Mr. Rove for as long as they could.  But we all know that the media are liberal.  Strange.

Name: Tom Orange
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Weekend Coverage of Gonzales and the Supreme Court Vacancy has 5-to-1 conservative slant *** By a five-to-one margin, the most frequently reported piece of news regarding Alberto Gonzales as a candidate to fill the pending Supreme Court vacancy is that social conservatives are against him rather than his role in the drafting the "torture memos."  Since Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement on July 1, 2005, major newspapers have reported that conservatives disapprove of Gonzales' less than hard-line stance against abortion five times for every one time reporting on his involvement in drafting the memos regarding U.S. policy toward prison detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.  A Lexis-Nexis full-text search of major papers since July 1 for "Alberto Gonzales" and "abortion" yields 52 articles, while a similar search for "Alberto Gonzales" and "torture" yields only 11 articles.  (Only 8 mention both "abortion" and "torture.")  Of these 11, only 5 are U.S. newspapers.  News transcripts follow an almost identical pattern.  A Lexis-Nexis full-text search of all news transcripts since July 1 for "Alberto Gonzales" and "abortion" yields 55 transcripts, while a similar search for "Alberto Gonzales" and "torture" yields only 9 transcripts.  (These latter 9 also mention both "abortion" and "torture.")
-Tom Orange, July 5, 2005

Name: Martin
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Hi Eric,
I just noticed something mildly interesting, I think.  I was curious about the number of times the words "liberal," "liberals," "conservative," and "conservatives" are used by various entities in the media.  I was wondering if there might be a correlation between the usage of these terms, and a possible bias of some sort.  I google-raced "liberal OR liberals" versus "conservative OR conservatives" at each of the following Web sites.

I added together the number of total times the words were used and calculated a percentage. At first glance, I thought that, clearly, there was no correlation between usage of these words, and evidence of bias, because partisans of all shades are all over the place.  (I am not sure how best to treat NBC, because includes forums and doesn't seem to have transcripts of NBC news programs.  Aren't those at  Anyhow, I'm not sure.  So I left it out.)  It was most curious to me that the NYT, CBS, CNN, ABC, and sure, even FOX News were all clumped together.  Then I remembered a poll about political ideology:

When asked whether they are conservative, moderate or liberal, a 40% plurality self-identify as moderates, four points ahead of the 36% who self identify as conservatives. Only 19% self identify as liberals.  For much of the last thirty years, these numbers have barely changed.  Since 1978, the conservatives have never been lower than 34% and never higher than 38%.  Moderates have varied only between 39% and 42% and liberals have varied only between 17% and 20%.  It is hard to think of another set of attitudinal questions that have been so extraordinarily stable.

When you take 36 conservatives added to 19 liberals, you get 55.  Convert these groups into a percentage, and you have 65% conservatives and 34% liberals.  In other words, the New York Times, CNN, ABC and the LA Times are mentioning liberals and conservatives in precisely the same ratio as they are found in nature.  Coincidence?  I report, you decide.

Name: Pattye V. McKinney
Hometown: Guthrie, OK
I don't really know why Mr. Lubin would be so angry with you.  He seems to more agree with you than not.  Now, if he's talking about the Rush types, good luck with that.  They're all talk, somebody else's action.  As for my family, my 18 year old enlisted in the Navy, promised the nuclear program.  He's scheduled to go in in September.  And he's just as much a Democrat as me (if not more).

I'm very proud, and a little scared.

Name: skippy

hi eric,
don't know if you saw al neuharth's editorial in usa today last week bemoaning the lack of a modern-day "walter cronkite" to debate the iraq situation.

it seems to me that there was more than a little irony in the founder of "america's newspaper" wishing there was a credible, trusted voice in the media.   and, true to form, i wrote a letter to them pointing this out.

who knows if they'll publish it.  don't worry, i used caps.

Wanted: Political Backbone, reward if found

“Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), a leader of the seven Democratic signers, largely concurred.  Nelson "would agree that ideology is not an 'extraordinary circumstance' unless you get to the extreme of either side," his spokesman, David DiMartino, said in an interview.”  .

The media are reporting that Democrats are speaking reluctantly of even the consideration of a filibuster of Bush’s choice for the Supreme Court no matter how ideologically extremist he or she might turn out to be.  It seems that they promised they would do so only in “extraordinary circumstances” and they don’t want anybody to think they were meanies or bad sports or anything.  Of course a little thing like tipping the ideological balance of the Supreme Court in a direction that could eviscerate the protections of the citizenry deriving from the New Deal, the Great Society, etc., in the areas of civil rights, civil liberties, environmental protection, personal privacy — no, nothing “extraordinary” about that.  Who cares about that?

Seriously, it was my impression that when the Democrats did this deal, they did so because they realized that it was politically stupid to stop Senate business over the appointment of a justice to a lesser court—that would be kinda hard to explain.  But the deciding vote on the Court, well,  that’s what filibusters were invented for.  But now we read that Democrats are so fearful of their own shadows—so terrified of being understood to stand for something, even if it’s just for standing up to prevent something awful, and what?  They run away…  Really, it’s pathetic, and infuriating.  What’s more, it empowers a media narrative that will make principled opposition all the more difficult.

"You cannot ask a judge to prejudge a specific matter," Mr. Sessions said.  He pointed to other cases in which Democrats had raised objections to Bush administration nominees in part on the ground that information was being withheld, including the nomination of John R. Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations. "If the Democrats are pushing that, then they are trying to create an issue," he said.-- . 

Trying to “create an issue,” the conservatives have already instructed Bush that they will leave dog-doody on his door-step if he names someone so right-wing he approves of torturing people, but  heavens to Betsy, if the Democrats start asking a bunch of questions, well, where will it all end?  Genuinely representing the interests of their loyal constituencies on a matter of crucial national import?  Nahhhh

So, poverty’s history, now, right?

Alas I underestimated all the self-righteousness Live-8 inspired among the “rock royalty” and all the moronic suck-up patter it inspired among VJs on MTV and the like, and all the clichés it inspired among journalists, and how, if they had bothered, they could have easily raised between 500 million and a billion dollars to reduce hunger, the spread of the AIDS virus, and malaria and the like, but what would be the point?  Instead, I’ve written a little play:

Scene: The G-8 Meeting. Characters: George and Tony.Tony: Hey George.George: Hey Tony.Tony: So George, I see your country gives a paltry 0.16 percent of GDP for development aid to poor nations, making you like, the most selfish people in the world.  How about giving billions and billions instead so we can “make poverty history.”George: Um, no.  I’d rather spend it on war.Tony: But George, a whole lot of rock stars think we should.  Of course they didn’t give any money themselves, and they didn’t bother to raise any either, but they played a bunch of big concerts and lots of people watched and the MTV and VH1 VJs were all talking about how cool it was.  Pink Floyd re-united and stuff.  Madonna was great even though she was a little potty mouthed.  And Paul and Bono played Sgt. Pepper.  Anyway, it was bloody wonderful.  We all held hands and sang Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na. Na, Na, Na, Na. Heyyyyy Jude at the end, even the VJs….George. Oh, OK, I’m convinced.  Forget about the war.  Here’s the money. The end.

Quote of the Day:  Live 8 was "the greatest thing that's ever been organized, probably, in the history of the world." of Coldplay

Hey, it might not have done much for starving sick Africans but at least “.”  Thanks, starving Africans.  Love, Pink Floyd, The Who, Elton John, etc…

Even the liberal Nick Kristof…  “The liberal approach to helping the poor is sometimes to sponsor a U.N. conference and give ringing speeches calling for changed laws and more international assistance."  .  Shorter Kristof: “I’m a liberal so you can believe me when I say whatever it is, it’s all liberals’ fault.”

Drop the barbeque sauce:  There’s a missing white kid somewhere. … Here’s the kind of thing the folks at ABC News think you need to know so badly they would send you “Breaking News” e-mails during the July 4th weekend.



Hello, Prose Police?  I’d like to report a cliché crime, :

Remember that election a few months back, and how suddenly you were either blue or red?  And how the color-coding has sharpened since, thanks to the Ten Commandments and judicial nominees and gay marriage?  Leave it to the United States to ignore it all for a rockin' party -- one where everyone is all red, all white, all blue.

Somebody arrest that man (and his editor)….


Over the long weekend I caught performances by Andrea Marcovicci of Fred Astaire-related songs at Guild Hall in East Hampton, and by Loudon Wainwright III of Loudon Wainwright III-related songs at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett.

Ms. Marcovicci is always a pleasure.  She remains the epitome of sophistication, and is still pretty sexy at whatever age she might be and her voice has lost nothing of its depth or range.  While I almost always appreciate Marcovicci’s intelligence and willingness to give her audience the necessary history and context of the material she offers them—her Cole Porter show at the Algonguin last year was a mini-seminar, I felt that this time she was trying a bit too hard to share her devotion to the music of Mr. Astaire.  I mean, I like Fred Astaire too, but hearing about how much Andrea loves him over and over doesn’t make me love him any more.  And while I can listen to as much history and context as she can offer, there was a bit too much raw “enthusiasm” in her patter for me to find it entirely credible.  Still, she’s a treasure, and so is Guild Hall, , the kind of outpost of civilization that is becoming rarer and rarer in this increasingly benighted land of ours.  More on Andrea .

As for “Loudo,” well, he was in fine form—better than I’ve seen him in decades.  It was a packed, well-lubricated and extremely friendly crowd—he has a house on nearby Shelter Island and had many friends in the audience—and he held the crowd with his weird mixture of intelligent, silly revealing, distancing, honest, ironic, brilliant and silly songwriting, and those strange faces he makes and gave a kind of thrilling show.  He was joined at the end by his daughter, Lucy Roche (with Suzzy), a schoolteacher with a luminous voice and considerable poise, and he had another daughter selling CDs after the show.  He sang a song about naming “Rufus,” and I guess left out only Martha, (who’s last EP was called, “Bloody Mother**cking As**ole,” but I don’t think she was taking about dad).  Anyway, I’ve been going to see Loudon for about 30 years and it’s nice to see how well everything has finally turned out for him, at least as far as anyone could tell from one wonderful Saturday night in Amagansett.  His new CD, “Here come the Choppers," is .  Cool cover, huh?  (Information about the benefit the Talkhouse is sponsoring for soldiers who were severely wounded serving in the current conflicts is .  As Levi Stubbs used to say, “I’ll be there…”

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Kathleen Pavelko
Hometown: Harrisburg, PA
Dear Doc,
The lunatics who run CPB do not "run public broadcasting"--they fund it, they attempt to politicize it, they give oversight a bad name--but they do not run it.  There are 160 public television licensee holders and about 350 public radio license holders who are legally responsible to their communities and to the FCC--and who raise about 85% of the money which supports the last locally owned media organizations in this country.  So please, for the sake of these locally managed non-profits and their constant battle to maintain the editorial independence on which the regard of the American people depends--make the distinction between CPB (funder and political provocateur) and the stations (which actually do run public broadcasting).  I know.  I am honored to be the CEO of one of them.

Eric replies: My apologies.

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL
Eric-- Did you ever think that we'd face the day when Anthony Kennedy would be the man we'd have to rely on to keep the radical right at bay?  Let's hope he's up to the challenge.  RE: Stupid's remarks about Richard Daley's friendship with Novak.  Say what you will about Daley, Jr., he's made Chicago greener and friendlier, and when the investigations turned up corruption in city offices, he showed the malefactors the door.  We could use some of that at the federal level right now.  There are a lot of things about Illinois that we could use more of around the country.  For example, Gov. Blagoevich has told anti-abortion pharmacists that they don't get to choose whether they distribute RU-486 or not.  And he, too, deserves credit for bucking his old-style pol father-in-law for calling a halt to an illegal dump run by dad's relative.  And don't forget our senators, Durbin and Obama.  Despite the former's apology, these two leaders show that there's hope for progressives who will stand up to the ideological juggernaut of the wrong wing that controls so much.  When elected officials do the right thing, it gives one hope for government.

Name: Andy
Hometown: Tallahassee, FL
On the surface, I agree with your argument that Live 8 is an empty gesture.  I agree that it is a commercial bonanza and the wrong people will benefit financially.  But awareness is the key, and our younger generation, whose shoulders this crisis will ultimately fall on, does not relate to MSM news reports, rather to John Stewart and MTV news.  I say if you can bring a whole lot of people together and get through to 1% of them, then you've just made things better.  True, the G8 doesn't (and shouldn't) care what celebrities think, but the vast majority of the crowds at these events didn't know what the G8 is, nor the purpose it's supposed to serve: a forum for the world's most powerful people to get drunk.  The concert-goers and other fans may walk away with a better understanding of what's going on, the political ramifications, and what they can do to help.  That would make it a worthy cause.

Name: Andrew Lubin
Hometown: Bucks County, PA
In response to Friday's para about the 882 KIA's this year, and who notices them:  The parents, spouses, and families of the deployed troops notice every one.  We acknowledge and grieve over each one of them.  While you and the many glib lightweights play word games on your keyboards, my son, a LCPL in the Marine Corps has volunteered for his THIRD tour.  Even better news, his entire squad volunteered to go back.  That takes the kind of cojones totally unknown to bloggers.  Other than the Prez and that moron Karl Rove playing politics with GWOT, this is a forgotten war that is being fought off the backs of the Marines, and their families back home.  We know the geography of Iraq by the KIA-WIA reports we see on the early morning news, and we know far better than you pundits about equipment shortages, unarmored vehicles - we hear about it when our sons call home and tell us in detail how they almost got killed that morning.  They'd call home more often, but ATT charges the troops in Iraq double the rate-per-minute than they charge to call back from Iran.  Patriotism has a price, and for ATT it's measured in their rate schedule.  Instead of the usual trite and useless complaining, how about making a concerted effort to pressure the Pres and the Pentagon to get it right?  And let's work on the attitude; God forbid some of these regular writers actually get a family member to volunteer - don't you dare sell us out.

To Hell with Live 8 (And I mean that.)
A Notso Slacker Friday

I’ve got new Think Again column, The Press Playing Catch-up, .

This just in:  I’m an idiot, I know, but I just figured out that Live 8 is not raising any money for famine relief or malaria cures or AIDS treatment in Africa.  It is just designed to “pressure” G8 countries into doing what’s right.  Thing is, guys, the G8 doesn’t, (and shouldn’t) care what Madonna, Elton John, U2, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Pink Floyd, Roxy Music, R.E.M., Coldplay, Bjork, Sting, Dido, Justin Timberlake, Green Day, Snoop Dogg, P. Diddy, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Celine Dion, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill think about anything, particularly if they won’t put their own riches where their big mouths are.  (Ditto Pitt, George Clooney, Will Smith, Natalie Portman and Salma Hayek.)  I am in favor of harnessing the power of celebrity for global good but where’s the good in this?  Good God, this is a moral crime.  All that money available just for the asking—all those lives that could be saved by people who won’t miss the money--and these guys won’t even bother to ask?  They won’t even allow charities to canvass the audience.  Turns out the concert is NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING but moral vanity, and the exploitation of starving, sick Africans, by pampered, rich as**oles and their self-interested corporate sponsors rather than their potential salvation.  This is really unspeakably shameful.  More from Richard Leiby .  Good for Bruce for staying away.  (And I withdraw my more generous-minded comments yesterday and apologize for not doing the basic research before answering my correspondent’s question.)

Then again, even all that is not as bad as the kind of person who deliberately lies about how much money he is giving to people dying of AIDS, , and then lectures the rest of us about moral values.

A third more American soldiers have been killed in Iraq in this year, than last year, thanks to an insurgency in its final throws, .  That’s 882 by what I’m guessing is a significant undercount, for those of you keeping score at home.

Meanwhile, 52 House members file a FOIA request seeking documents related to Downing Street minutes, .

Luantics, it turns out, are running Public Broadcasting, and .

A Democratic foreign policy from my friend Sherle, .

How crazy are right wing Jews, part XXXVI, , and congrats to my buddy .

Remember ?

This Just In:  Meek May Not Inherit Earth, Virtue Not Always Own Reward, Justice Not Always Triumphant, Honesty Not Always Best Policy, More .

Even Bob Novak’s colleagues are publicly asking why he is such a chickens**it, .  And Greg Easterbrook on the case for a Time/Times cave-in .  Jim Fallows explains why Easterbrook is wrong, .

He came from down in the valley…  Mr. Man of the People does a six song set, including “The River,” for the workers at Keflavík Airport, Iceland, where his private jet had briefly touched down en route from Berlin.  The rest of the set? suggests "Iceman"? "This Hard Land"? "Open All Night"?  He’s on the cover of the Times Book Review, by the way, in a Tony Scott essay.  But according to Sir Bob, "As for the Philadelphia show... Geldof is sorry he has been unable to convince Bruce Springsteen to play.  'I wish Bruce would do it,' he says. 'He doesn't want to and I don't know why... He's a lovely man.  And we'll miss him.'"  (Should have had a show at the Keflavík airport.)  Oh, my friend Safraz’s BBC documentary is .

I saw “Mr. And Mrs. Smith” the other day.  It’s a stupid movie, full of bad dialogue, non-credible plot devices, and pointless violence, but the biggest problem with it is Angelina Jolie’s lips.  They are just not credible and they are always there.  Save your time and give the ten bucks to a homeless person.

Correspondence Corner:

Hometown: New York City
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was the last stalwart conservative to support . That meant that even though she was an opponent of abortion she modestly refused to overturn Roe v. Wade.  There were many times that O'Connor acted more like a legislator than a justice.  Sometimes her legislative manners favored liberals.  Other times conservatives.  But in Casey (the case that upheld Roe) she was a dignified jurist.  Overall she was persuasive and reasonable.  The court needs people like her.

Chief Justice Rehnquist is certain to retire as well.  So we are in for a major showdown over the court in the next few months.  Either the crazy radicals will take over (very likely) or the court will remain moderate yet divided (less likely).  It all depends on how effectively the Democrats and reasonable Republicans in the Senate can unite to save all that is great about this country.  The reasonable ones will have to articulate just how dangerous Bush's team is.  That will be hard to do with the press today.

I wish, but no not hold much hope, that Bush will appoint someone as reasonable as she was.  But Bush has never been anything but radical and irresponsible.  So I fear for my country.  Mostly, I fear for the rights of women in my country.  Their bodies will soon be subject to the whims of men once again.

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to put off Paula Zahn Sudan Day for a week to comment about Iraq.  Last week I got an e-mail from Jim Wallis' Sojourners urging me to support a bill demanding Dubya set a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq.  You and others are citing poll numbers showing a majority of Americans agree.  But it's the wrong move.  Don't you think Karl Rove is already working on a political exit strategy for Iraq, including a doomsday scenario if everything falls apart?  I do, and I think it's filed under "R" for Rambo (i.e., "Can we win this time?")  "We --could-- have won Iraq if only the liberals would have let us."  After the President's speech Tuesday Senator John Warner was on TV talking about soldiers in Iraq agonizing to him about political fights back home and saying that disunity was our greatest danger. 

Yeah, right.

Expect more of this, because the last trial-balloon conservatives floated for failure in Iraq (that the Iraqis failed themselves) won't sell after all the touting of January's elections.  Another problem is that Dubya is, um, right: setting a timetable would embolden and empower the insurgents.  We can't leave until Iraq is secured (for real, not some pretense of security).  Else let the Republicans take the full hit for leaving prematurely.  I'd suggest adopting most of John Kerry's NYTimes op-ed strategy: criticize the Administration for its roadblocks to more foreign troops and stay on a multi-lateralist message.  (Although I have to add, Kerry's call to further empower Shiite militias strikes me as lunacy.)

Did you see Thursday's Robert Novak puff-piece on how Chicago mayor Richard Daley is, like, the greatest mayor ever (mostly for attacking Dick Durbin and other "old school Democrat" pro-Republican sentiments)?  What Novak omits is that the two friends share a common, sworn (literally) enemy: Patrick Fitzgerald.  The same Valerie Plame investigator who put the screws to Novak has been relentlessly pursuing "His Honor," uncovering one corrupt program after another.  Birds of a feather.  Happy 4th Y'all!

Name: Fred Griffin
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Recent items:

  1. The whistle is blown on secret talks we're having with Iraqi "insurgents"
  2. In his speech at Ft. Bragg, Dear Leader suddenly makes a distinction between "terrorists" and "insurgents"
  3. Today we learn that the Sunni pol who brokered the talks noted in Item 1. is forming a group "to give voice to Iraqi fighters."

Add it up and what do you have?  Cover for our bugging out of Iraq in about a year, a couple of months before the '06 elections.  We do a deal with the "Iraqi fighters" who are (good) "insurgents" vs. (bad) "terrorists" a la Kissinger in '73 that holds Iraq together long enough for us to bail and then Dear Leader says that, unlike us Dems, he didn't Cut And Run.  A possible alternative: Let's leave Iraq now, return to the place where all the trouble began and finish the job.  Not Cutting And Running, but rather repositioning the troops from Iraq to Afghanistan:

  1. In the next 60 to 90 days 60 or so thousand of the regular Army/Marine light infantry/air assault soldiers in Iraq are moved to the Afghan-Pakistan border to:
  1. track down/capture/kill all the al Qaeda who are in that region and
  2. help to stabilize the country so that Karzai will be more than the Mayor of Kabul.
  • The remaining forces in Iraq -- the Reserve and National Guard units and the regular Army/Marine units which wouldn't work so well in Afghanistan (armor, armored cav, mech infantry, etc.) are withdrawn to Kuwait. They would have two missions:
  1. act as a Quick Reaction Force to respond to major blowups per well-defined Rules of Engagement and
  2. rotate into Iraq (or have the Iraqi forces come to Kuwait) to continue to train the Iraqi forces to take over. As the date for Reserve and National Guard units arrives for them to return to the States from Kuwait, they would not be replaced.

Eventually, say in a year, there would be about two or so brigades worth of regular Army/Marine units in Kuwait -- about the same number of troops which were there before the build-up for the invasion began.  In Afghanistan, the number of soldiers would be built up to, say, 100,000 and then drawn down as conditions warranted.  Eventually, say again in about a year, there would be about two brigades there as well.  They'd stay until a stable government told them to take a hike.  And since there's no oil in Afghanistan there shouldn't be too much reluctance to bring the soldiers home.

Name: Thomas Rodd
Hometown: Moatsville
I'm tickled to see you mentioning Sun Ra, a personal hero of mine.  "Space Is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra" is a great, comprehensive book -- by John F. Szwed.  New, or just $5.50 plus shipping used, at Amazon.  Dig the music and the man: for my old ears, "Sun Ra's Greatest Hits - Easy Listening for Intergalactic Travel", Evidence Records 22219, is a favorite.  $16.95 new at Amazon, or used copies there, too.  The DVDs/videos "Mystery Mr. Ra" and "A Joyful Noise" are excellent; "Space is the Place" is a little harder to enjoy.  All also at Amazon.  Enjoy -- "we'll wait for you!"

Name: S.D. Miller
Hometown: Norwich, Vermont
Dear Eric,
I'm sure all Sun Ra fans loved the article on the remaining members of the Arkestra, but my warm feelings soon turned cold when I thought about the relative poverty these very talented people have to endure.  I'm in my fifties and not naive, but it still gets my dander up that the entertainment industry showers wealth on utterly talentless people while the octogenarian Marshall Allen spackles his crumbling bathroom and hopes for gigs.  Perhaps a progressive tax inversely related to talent would do the trick; for the Paris Hiltons of the world, a 90% tax on earnings, all plowed back to the deserving artists who are too talented to make a buck in the current environment.

Name: Andy Fuller
Hometown: Walnut Creek, CA
Eric - in response to your comments about the iPod book "I am Charlotte Simmons."  I am currently listening to David Copperfield read by Frederick Davidson.  Just as you stated about the reader for Wolfe's book, Davidson is the best reader I've yet to hear on a book on tape, or whatever you call them now.  Something about that droll British accent - and his ability to take on the persona of women just as well as men, if not better.  Thanks also for the link to the Sun Ra article.  I had no idea that John Gilmore had passed away - a good 10 years ago!  I saw them in Eugene, OR in about 1982 in a small theater that had once been a funeral home.  One of the most memorable concerts I've ever been to.