Slacker Friday: Evil people think you're idiots

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I've got a new "Think Again" column here, "Oh Never Mind, Mr. President," and a new Nation column here, "The End of Times?"

See this? G.O.P. Moves Fast to Reignite Issue of Gay Marriage, here. I'm sorry, any country whose president thinks he can exploit feelings like this to continue his policies of endless war, etc, is a country that has no business exporting "democracy" anywhere.

Working the refs, continued:

Hard to believe, but The Washington Post is almost as full of it as ABC News when it comes to pretending that "both sides do it." Compare the examples in this story, which admits, deep down, "most harsh Democratic attacks have focused on the policies and performance of the GOP majority," but plays up the false and mindless theme anyway.

On Tuesday, Gen. George W. Casey, U.S. commander in Iraq, and Zalmay Khalilzad, American ambassador to that country, had a hallucinatory, "lights out" joint press conference, a for-home-consumption-only election-eve defense of the Bush presidency (with Green Zone Baghdad as a mere backdrop). Perhaps its strangest, if least noted, moment came when Casey offered this summary of the Iraq war thus far:

"The American people already know what a magnificent job the men and women of their armed forces are doing here, and we continue to be grateful for their continuing support. But they should also know that the men and women of the armed forces here have never lost a battle in over three years of war. That is a fact unprecedented in military history."

For old Vietnam-era hands, writes Tom Engelhardt, this had a ringingly familiar (and hollow) sound to it. Recently, the Vietnam/Iraq analogy took center stage again, thanks to the president's response to a question about the Tet Offensive. But as Casey's comment indicates, many top U.S. officials remain on Vietnam auto-pilot. Perhaps the commonest claim of American commanders in Vietnam was exactly the one the general brought up. "Unprecedented in history"? Hardly, according to Vietnam-era commanders who insisted that they had never lost a battle in those years of endless war. Such a claim has all the advantages of rolling cluelessness about the nature of guerrilla warfare and a stab-in-the-back theory into a single package.

And it brings to mind a story from the Vietnam era, written up in the Military Review: "While negotiating in Hanoi a few days before Saigon fell, U.S. Army Colonel Harry Summers, Jr. [later author of On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War], said to a North Vietnamese colonel, 'You know, you never defeated us on the battlefield.' The Vietnamese colonel replied, 'That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.' "

Help the Warmongers Help Themselves, here.

Having a blog means "I'll just pull things out of my ass": "Even the New York Times is floundering. It may even be that the Times Company is up for sale ..." -- Marty Peretz.

From the Benton Foundation:

FEDERAL RULES HELP SHIELD CREATORS OF POLITICAL ADVERTISEMENTS [SOURCE: New York Times, AUTHOR: Anne Kornblut & Jim Rutenberg]

When an advertisement mocking Representative Harold E. Ford Jr. set off controversy in the Tennessee Senate race last week, a question quickly arose: Who was behind the provocative and, critics said, racially loaded television spot? No Republicans wanted to take credit. When the identity of the producer, Scott Howell, emerged, Democrats quickly pounced on his history of bare-knuckled tactics and close relationship with Karl Rove as evidence of a familiar Republican approach. And the incident quickly set off a wave of denials and denunciations from Republican officials, including the national party chairman and Senator John McCain of Arizona, who has hired Terry Nelson, another consultant affiliated with the spot. Campaign finance regulations limit how much money the political parties can spend on campaigns with which they coordinate. But they allow parties to spend without limit if they set up committees that operate independent of the party leadership. Advocates for stricter campaign finance laws say the regulations, a result of court decisions several years ago, do little more than provide a fig leaf for the parties, insulating them from controversy like the one that is now engulfing the advertisement in Tennessee. All independent expenditure units are required to sign legal papers promising not to have contact with the campaign that they are hired to advocate on behalf of, and to receive only financial support, not strategic advice, from the national party.

  • RNC pulls ad in Tenn. amid racism charges
  • Compounding a Political Outrage [Commentary] Strategists from both political parties use the "independent" route of the campaign law for launching sleaze and disclaiming provenance. Voters across the nation are hard-pressed to separate wheat from chaff in the whirlwind of political ads. But one of the few keys they have in figuring out who's responsible for something particularly egregious is the tag line required at each commercial's close.
  • The Year Of Playing Dirtier

(Media Matters points out that, in fact, McCain has not denounced the ad.)

BAND'S FILM ADS HIT SOUR NOTE [SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, AUTHOR: Richard Verrier]

A new documentary on the backlash against the Dixie Chicks after critical remarks the group's lead singer made about President Bush has brought disharmony between the film's distributor and two TV networks. On Thursday, Weinstein Co. alleged that NBC and the CW had refused to air nationwide commercials to promote "Shut Up & Sing." Weinstein said NBC wrote that the network "cannot accept these spots as they are disparaging to President Bush." The CW also rejected the ads, Weinstein said, saying in a letter that it did "not have the appropriate programming in which to schedule this spot." Harvey Weinstein, who runs the company with his brother, Bob, said the networks were stifling free speech. "It's a sad commentary about the level of fear in our society that a movie about a group of courageous entertainers who were blacklisted for exercising their right of free speech is now itself being blacklisted by corporate America," he said.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago

Hey Eric, it's Stupid with the last refuge of the liberal hawks. Even when I supported the Iraq war, I thought partitioning the nation made sense (either outright or de facto). The shameful fact is that repeatedly in human history ethnic violence has only been quelled or reduced by separating the warring groups. The only convincing argument I heard against partition of Iraq was that it would leave the Sunni area impoverished because the other regions have all the oil, but that's hardly an insurmountable challenge: the U.N. could collect oil revenues and ensure that a pro rata or at least sizeable share went to the Sunnis. Heck, for all the money the U.S. is spending on the war, they could shift some of that and combine it with Saudi and Kuwaiti assistance to subsidize the Sunnis.

But have you noticed it's almost always liberal hawks which talk about partition? Most recently it's been Joe Biden. Leaving aside valid, possibly compelling arguments that we're past the point of no return and our focus should be solely on an exit strategy, it's worth asking why the neocons, who used to harp about how we abandoned the Shiites in 1991, so insistent now on forcing these groups to stay together? This article provides a clue: our undemocratic allies fear it might work, and then their ethnic minorities would want more self-determination, i.e., democratization. This is the same kind of pressure that forced Colin Powell to back off the "Greater/Broader Middle East Initiative" to promote democracy in the region. Every so often I fall back into thinking the war was our "Hail Mary pass to reshape the dysfunctional Middle East," and then I think of things like this.

Name: Don Schneier
Hometown: Springfield, MA

Posnock's treatment of Spinoza, while not necessarily as hostile as some others, perpetuates some crucial inaccuracies that encourage such hostility. First, Spinoza was not a 'secular naturalist', but a Pantheist, a theological position rarely taken seriously by either his enemies or his acolytes. Second, he was no "libertarian relativist," but rather a Determinist who denied the existence of human free will, and who argued that Virtue is its own reward. Third, the theocrat Leo Strauss, who seems to have ghost-written every current interpretation of Spinoza, was no friend of the latter, who he knew was the most formidable anti-Medievalist of Modern thinkers. Finally, Roth's comic cosmopolitan depiction of contemporary Judaism is far removed from what ultimately got Spinoza ex-communicated -- his attempt to understand Judaism under the aspect of Eternity.

Name: Steve
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

I've got an issue to take up with Altercation. A correspondent throws out a list of senators that are somehow superior to Barack Obama. So for the heck of it I Wikipedia'd some of the names, and it doesn't look like they all hit the ground running. Many distinguished names, but their reputations weren't exactly built on their first two years. Perhaps Friedan could have asked it this way: What do you expect from a freshman Senator from the minority party in a bitterly partisan do-nothing Congress? Perhaps he managed his public record to keep it from distortion, but he certainly hasn't been serving in oblivion. Many of the senators are from the early days of the nation, when virtually everybody was a newcomer! And in the list of subjects "underreported" by the MSM, since Dr. Alterman is the expert, what is the standard of the appropriate level of coverage? I certainly remember most of the issues listed, so they can't have gone completely unreported. I don't mean to be a complainer, it's just that what I have seen and heard flies in the face of the claims you make. For example, I heard about Guckert/Gannon about every day for almost two weeks. How exactly is he underreported?

Name: Uncle Walt
Hometown: St. Louis

If you've got the time, The Washington Post has about 10,000 words ...

The time was well worth it, thanks for the link. Contrast Trudeau's brilliance with the dimwitted occupant of the adjacent political cartoon space in my local paper, the insufferable Mallard Fillmore. (How does that dope Tinsley get paid for saying "liberals are stupid and the media doesn't care" over and over? -- it's so inane that it almost rings false sometimes ... as if somebody like Trudeau might be doing a strip pretending to be a modern neocon demagogue ...)

Trudeau can say more in six or eight words in a strip than one gets from an entire evening of TV talk-news. It was good to see his relevance explained in this article. Like a magician who doesn't want to tell, I hope he doesn't think a little insight into his how-to will ruin the impact of his work. There's more Oval Office chatter we all need to hear.

Name: Mark Yokomizo
Hometown: Westlake Village, CA

The callousness and corruption of the Bush administration is becoming more evident. My mother just received notice her Medicare Part B monthly premiums are going up by 60% (!). The program was touted as a cost saver, and that premiums would be stable. I guess being off by 60% is "stable" according to the "fuzzy" math of the worst administration in this great country's history.

Name: Stephen Carver
Hometown: Los Angeles

I recently got to see the Rolling Stones in their first concert ever in the Live Music Capital of the World: Austin, Texas (aka the Liberal Heart of Texas). I've never been a huge Stones fan (I like their music, but don't drive thousands of miles to see them), but truly enjoyed the show. While there were several hits they didn't play and a few I was surprised to hear ("Sympathy for the Devil" in the buckle of the Bible Belt ... yeah, baby!), I was most impressed with Mick and the boys' stamina as they strutted and preened about onstage like a band 40 years younger.

I hope to god I have that much stamina when I'm his age. As I told my family (who gave me the ticket for my birthday), "I'm lucky I get to see Mick before he turns 70."

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