I love you more today than yesterday (but not as much as tomorrow...)

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Nation column, "Liar. 'Liar?' " here. The column is naturally critical of the manner in which the MSM has handled Bush's habitual lying, but in it, I correct a bit of (honest) misinformation that has been floating around the blogosphere, sparking some outrage. The Washington Post did not change the wording of any story to try and hide the president's lies. The bloggers who wrote that they did confused separate stories. The original never changed and, to be fair, the Post was way more on top of this story -- the Rumsfeld lie, that is -- than was any of its competitors.

A modest proposal:

It's becoming clearer every day that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq is the worst catastrophe ever voluntarily undertaken by this nation, including Vietnam -- which, after all, we lost, and got a lot of people killed in -- but didn't really screw up the rest of the world too much. Much of what has gone wrong in Iraq was predictable; some of it wasn't. What was easily predictable, however, was that it would be a damned difficult thing to do well.

I've noticed that, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Doug Feith notwithstanding, precious few of those who thought it was such a great idea have lost their positions of power. In fact, I don't think any pundits at all have been fired for demonstrating such awful judgment, though in fact, judgment is supposed to be their job.

So here's my proposal. How about every pundit who got on board with Bush and Co. to create this hell on Earth that is now engulfing Iraq explain to us why they were so wrong and what they've learned from their mistake? And if they're not willing to admit how wrong they were and explain how they have since amended their ways, why in the world should anyone listen to anything they say in the future? How many Iraqs can we -- and the rest of the world -- afford?

Oddly, one must admit, Dick Cheney was right once upon a time, here:

All of which underscores how dissimilar these two Bush administrations have proven, in both style and strategy. But the seeds of conservative dissatisfaction were already evident under the first President Bush. "I do not think the United States wants to have U.S. military forces accept casualties and accept the responsibility of trying to govern Iraq," Cheney said on "This Week with David Brinkley" on April 7, 1991. "I think it makes no sense at all." That's a nice "gotcha" moment for Alfonsi. But later in the show, the defense secretary added: "If you don't have a clear-cut military objective, if you're not prepared to use overwhelming force to achieve it, then we don't have any business committing U.S. military forces into that civil war."

What's interesting from a sociological perspective, though tragic and perhaps criminal from the perspective of all of the people being killed for no good reason save the stupidity and cupidity of our leaders, is how little one's Establishment reputation for colossal bad judgment is affected. Look, for instance, at William Kristol:

"No one disputes the nature of the threat" and "Nor is there any doubt that, after September 11, Saddam's weapons of mass destruction pose a kind of danger to us that we hadn't grasped before." [With Robert Kagan, here.]

And:

"[R]econstructing Iraq may prove to be a less difficult task than the challenge of building a viable state in Afghanistan,"

And:

A U.S. invasion would inspire "the principles of liberty and justice in the Islamic world" generally. [Here.]

Not long ago, Kevin Drum noticed the fact that Kristol favors continued war, literally, no matter what. I don't say this lightly. Read this quote from Fox News:

Four months from now, if things continue to slide downhill, if the president hasn't adjusted course, if hawks like Senator McCain haven't been satisfied that there's been an increase in troops or that we have a real strategy for victory, I think ... we could be looking at a Democratic House and some Republicans who are willing to just pull the plug on Iraq.

So he's worried that some "might be wiling to pull the plug" if Americans and Iraqis continue to die in spiraling numbers when there is no hope of victory. Like Bush, he is more invested in not admitting that he and all his smart friends were wrong than in saving the lives of the innocent, including those of the soldiers we are sending over there to die for this administration's lies.

It's breathaking, really.

I agree with Lawrence O'Donnell: "It's the kind of thing that can get you as angry as Charlie Rangel." Here.

Barney F. shows liberals what it's like to fight back on Fox.

Two things about the Times and me, sort of.

1) I was on an ASNE panel a couple of years ago with Arthur Sulzberger, et al, in the audience. (Rupert Murdoch was the luncheon speaker.) I was way too polite, as I tend to be in this situation, because I wanted to make fun of the argument that the paper was a "liberal" newspaper with a headline from that day's paper, here. It was just a mindless "Isn't she wonderful?" puff piece about Judith Regan's moving her operations to L.A., which deserved no mention whatever, much less front-page treatment, unless of course the paper were purposely seeking to suck up to right-wingers (and amoral con artists). Well I didn't mention it, but I remembered it after reading this. Picking Regan for the suck-up, methinks, shows how hard they had to work (not unlike endorsing Pataki last time around).

2) The second thing is less critical but more puzzling. Forever, the Times Book Review has had a strict policy of not allowing people who have relationships with other people review their books. Last week, I noticed they decided to let a guy who used to work for Al Goldstein review his book, which was OK, since that was what the review was about, and anyway, it's only Al Goldstein. ... But this week they gave Gore Vidal's memoir to Christopher Hitchens. The two have a long, torturous history together, including lots of written criticism in both directions, which is nowhere mentioned in the review. My politics are about equidistant from the two of them -- and well to the right of where both used to be before CH flipped -- but when I saw Vidal at a meeting in Venice this summer, he had some extremely harsh things to say about what he viewed as Hitchens' decision to turn on him in a Oedipal sort of way. So I'd be OK with a Hitchens review of Vidal if readers had some inkling of all this, but I don't see how they could. Does the Book Review have a new policy? If so, read this and tell me if I'm wrong. (If anyone at the Book Review wants to clear up the policy for us here, we'd be grateful.)

Letter to a Woman Named Nancy:

Dear Nancy:

"Rush Holt."

Love,
Eric

Mark Danner, one of our most incisive reporters and writers on George W. Bush's war in Iraq, takes this moment, which he calls "the time of solutions" or "the third act," to consider just how we got from the soaring rhetoric (not to speak of the lies and manipulations) of the Bush administration to the most singularly sordid situation imaginable. His "War of the Imagination" is a wide-ranging and original analysis of our Iraq predicament.

Danner starts in a beleaguered American outpost in Fallujah and ends up in the corridors of power in Washington. He concludes, in part, that Bush administration plans for "reforming" the politics of Iraq (no less the whole Middle East) "was always going to be a task of incalculable complexity. Faced with such complexity, and determined to have their war and their democratic revolution, the President and his counselors looked away. Confronted with great difficulties, their answer was to blind themselves to them and put their faith in ideology and hope -- in the dream of a welcoming landscape, magically transformed. The evangelical vision may have made the sense of threat after September 11 easier to bear but it did not change the risks and the reality on the ground. The result is that the wave of change the President and his officials were so determined to set in course by unleashing American military power may well turn out to be precisely the wave of Islamic radicalism that they had hoped to prevent. ...

"If we are indeed in the third act... then it may well be that this final act will prove to be very long and very painful. You may or may not know where you begin. You never know where you are going to end."

TV: I get all my TV recommendations from Matt and Duncan. I concur with the former on The Wire, though I'm now in season three, and also with whichever one recommended Veronica Mars, which took a shot on having Patty Hearst kinda play herself the other night, and the idea worked, but only in theory. I'm also in favor of Gilmore Girls, but still in season one.

Songs for a Sad Anniversary: Here and here and here

(That was supposed to run on Wednesday, but I goofed.)

From the Benton Foundation:

FCC PICKS OWNERSHIP STUDIES; COPPS TAKES AIM [SOURCE: Broadcasting & Cable 11/22, AUTHOR: John Eggerton]

The FCC has picked the 10 economic studies it will conduct as part of its review of media ownership rules, though the process didn't sit well with Commissioner Michael Copps. Each study will get peer review before being submitted. Peer review or no, Commissioner Copps saw the same potential problems as last time, saying the studies raise more questions than answers: "How were the contractors selected for the outside projects? How much money is being spent on each project -- and on the projects collectively? What kind of peer review process is envisioned? Why are the topics so generalized rather than being targeted to more specific questions? When the majority of the previous FCC voted to loosen the ownership rules in 2003, a federal court took them to task for inadequate justification of their handiwork. My hope has been that the Commission would not head off on the same tangent again -- especially at a time when many people already doubt the credibility of the research we do."

  • Commissioner Copps
  • Commissioner Adelstein: "Today's unilateral release of this Public Notice on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday ultimately undermines the public's confidence by raising more questions than it answers. The legitimacy of the studies is directly correlated to the transparency of the process undertaken to develop the studies and select the authors. The descriptions of the studies are scant, lacking any sense of the Commission's expectations for scope, proposed methodology and data sources. In certain instances, the truncated period of time to complete the studies is an ingredient for a study that doesn't engender public faith and confidence. The release of this deficient Public Notice is unfortunate given the importance of these studies in evaluating the impact of media ownership on the American public."
  • FCC Ownership Review Sparks Controversy (requires free registration)
    More turmoil at FCC over media ownership studies

HOLLYWOOD HAMMERS FCC [SOURCE: Broadcasting & Cable 11/22, AUTHOR: John Eggerton]

The Center for Creative Voices in Media, which represents a host of TV programmers including writers, producers and actors, told the court that the FCC has created an "unworkable, inconsistent, and confusing indecency regime, with vague and arbitrary standards." The Center called the FCC's indecency complaint process "wrought with abuse," and that its new approach to fleeting profanities was done without a reasoned explanation. It said the result is that TV content creators have been stifled with economic as well as creative consequences. Adapting one of the group's arguments against media consolidation, the center argued that the, "general public also faces the loss of its expectation to receive diverse expression."

From Social Research:

The decision to organize a conference on how we punish has had several different sources, some obvious -- like the staggering increase in the number of people incarcerated in the US since the 1970's (the US now has the highest incarceration rate in the world despite a significant decrease in its crime rates), and the well known fact that the United States, unlike other Western democracies, reaffirms its characteristic exceptionalism by still mandating capital punishment in many states of the Union -- and some less obvious. Among these less obvious reasons for this conference is an interest in the foundations of our ideas of punishment which stem from theology and philosophy and seem to have deep psychological roots which may illuminate current practices. There are questions, as well, about how these ideas play out in our understandings of the coercive power of a democratic state.

We are convening this conference in order to examine punishment and criminal justice in the context of past histories and doctrines in order to better understand the ways in which punishment has become deeply implicated in the social life and social structures of American society. The conference is organized into 6 sessions that ask questions about the why, what, how and who of punishment, which will allow us to better understand the consequences of the current practice of punishment and search for viable alternatives to the carceral state in which we now live.

For more, please go here for the speakers and here for the schedule.

Alter-reviews:

About last night: Brian Wilson at the Beacon (also from Wednesday)

I'm printing the below as an Alter-review rather than a letter because I was at the same show and I agree with every word. I'm grateful to Michael for saving me the trouble. Brian's shows have been great for a while now, but having Al Jardine gave the music that push it needed to make the whole thing feel kind of transcendent. I chose that word on purpose. Listening to these guys gives you the kind of high that religion is supposed to, but rarely does, at least in my experience. (It also shares with religion the notion that one must also ignore the actual words and concentrate on the um, vibe ... I mean really, "Help Me, Rhonda" as a kind of prayer? Well, yes, dammit.) Anyway, the show was not only tons of fun, it was a concrete reminder of why rock 'n' roll is just about the greatest invention of all time. I don't know how anybody ever grew up without it. Me, I'd have become a serial killer or something ...

Name: Michael Rapoport
Hometown:

Eric:

I saw Brian Wilson at the Beacon Theater in NYC last night. What a terrific show! It does the heart good to see one of the true geniuses of popular music in good voice and good spirits, after everything he's been through. And seeing him play with special guest Al Jardine evoked more of the Beach Boys' spirit than anything Mike Love has done the past few decades.

The Pet Sounds album was the centerpiece -- performed in its entirety, to mark its 40th anniversary -- but Brian bookended it with a slew of other Beach Boys classics, and threw "Johnny B. Goode" into the encores for good measure. He sounded good, his band sounded great ("I Get Around," "Do You Wanna Dance" and "In My Room" were particular standouts), and the crowd's affection and encouragement for Brian were palpable. After he finished "God Only Knows," they literally wouldn't let him continue -- the band eventually had to start "I Know There's An Answer" to quiet the cheering.

We are the Village Green Preservation Society ...

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Maveline
Hometown: Chicago, IL

Britain certainly did send men to fight the Bolsheviks, although they had few to spare. (France, the U.S. and other countries sent men, too.) In north Russia, they were to secure ports and stores of military supplies for the allies, and to encourage uprisings against the Red army. Badly outnumbered, untrained, poorly equipped and led, the British forces failed to achieve any of their objectives. Many troops finally refused to fight, and were sentenced by the government to be jailed or executed. (Solid support by the British public forced the government to relent.)

The foreign troops all eventually pulled out, having achieved nothing -- except as an inspiration for effective Bolshevik propaganda.

Name: Greg Winters
Hometown: Boca Raton

CBS owes more an apology to more than just the late Ed Bradley.

"We now believe it would be inappropriate to air the report so close to the presidential election,"

When is a more appropriate time to tell the voters that the president and his minions either:

a) lied the country into a war; or

b) are so incompetent that the administration fell for an obvious forgery?

Before an election, when the voters can do something about it, or after an election when it is too late?

CBS owes an apology to those who are serving in Iraq since they shelved Bradley's report, to those who have died in Iraq since they shelved the report, and the families of those who died in Iraq since they shelved the report as well as the voters who deserved such information at a time when they could have done something with it.

Name: John Buckley
Hometown: Norman, OK

Eric:

You can expand your argument on the economic cost of Iraq and Afghanistan by taking a very quick and very unscientific look at the military money that we have spent since the end of WWII. Beginning in 1946 and ending in 2004 the U.S. military budget totals $20,244,600,000,000 in actual dollars (data from infoplease). This number excludes money for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Adjusting for inflation using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator, the amount budgeted balloons to $84,579,600,000,000. Naturally, this amount is deceptive in that black budgets, associated costs in other agency budgets and economic impact costs are excluded. While this $84 trillion must be an absurd cost to liberals and must equate to not nearly enough spent to conservatives and defence contractors, just imagine if half of this amount, or 42 trillion, had been used for something else. For example, so that the scope of these amounts can be easily understood, a complete payoff of the National Debt would still leave $33.4 trillion.

Naturally, someone much more knowledgeable of statistics will find error and my addition may even be off by a trillion or so, but the fact is the U.S. spends an ungodly amount of money on the military without a realistic value analysis including full consideration of what other needs for which the money could have been spent (or given back to the people).

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