Homecoming Slacker Friday

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I've got a new CAP piece here, "Think Again: What'd I Say?" about the coverage of the Baker Commish and the Gates hearings, and a new Nation column, on the Times' conservative beat, here. Oh, and that little Guardian thing I did is here.

From our sponsors:

What the media aren't telling you about the Iraq Study Group report, here.

Speaking of which, Krugman's column ($) gives me the opportunity to pull out this old one of mine.

Oy vey, two more years of this? Boehlert asks. During a routine vote yesterday morning, Obama and Clinton brushed past each other on the Senate floor. Obama winked and touched Clinton on her elbow. Without pausing, she kept walking. Stop the presses!

The most striking thing about Bush administration officialdom in the post-9-11 months was that, before they reached for their waterboards to extract confessions, they reached for their dictionaries and so out of their world of secret imprisonment, humiliation, and pain emerged an unending stream of twisted definitions of otherwise common terms in classified but quickly leaked documents. These were, in their own fashion, confessions freely rendered. Karen Greenberg, executive director of NYU's Center for Law and Security and co-author of The Torture Papers, now considers the most secret impulse of all revealed by this sordid collection of documents -- the impulse to confess.

In this remarkably original piece, Greenberg focuses on a thoroughly overlooked impulse of the Bush administration -- the urge to grant itself immunity from prosecution for the crimes it was about to commit.

In summary, she writes:

To overlook the trail of confessions that is part and parcel of the administration's torture narrative is to perform an act of extraordinary rendition not just on the truth but also on the importance of confessions themselves. Professional interrogators, priests, psychiatrists, and others who deal with confession regularly say that people normally want to talk, that they want to tell you their story, that confession is a deep and satisfying part of all our lives.

In the case of the Bush administration, it is the documents themselves that seem to want to confess, that are bursting with the desire to talk, to tell the story of these last years of illegality. Americans, and the Congress they have just elected, should take heed. The time has come, after five years, to restore language, law, and accountability to the American ethos by insisting that declarations of immunity be seen for what they are: Confessions about actions that are both reviewable and unpardonable.

McCain Suck-Up Watch, continued.

People are just mean, in my oppinion.

Alter-review:

If you want to experience the New York of romantic old movies -- and money is no object either for reasons of celebration or because you're among the 1 percent of people who garnered the lion's share of Bush's tax cuts, then you really can't do much better than to go see Michael Feinstein's "Home for the Holidays" show at Feinstein's at the Regency. Feinstein's talents are subtle but, ultimately, amazing. He's relentlessly engaging witthout being unctuous. He is informative without being pedantic. He lets the music do the work, but adds a distinctive touch to it that allows you to reconsider what you thought you knew. And his band -- 10 pieces this time, featuring three backup singers and the immortal Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar -- cooks on this stuff like nobody's business. Jay Leonart on bass is no slouch, neither. The song selection, featuring some classics, and some stuff by people you've never heard of, is an unbroken delight, reaching into Arlen/Mercer, the Gershwins, Comden and Green, etc. And while he is Jewish, overall, it's a pretty strong argument for white people. Read all about it here.

Slacker Friday (He's Baaaaaack....):

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

"I'll be home for Christmas.
You can plan on me."

Hey Doc:

Song always made my father mist up. He first heard it in Oran in 1943, and I think that was why for him, and for so many of the other parents in my neighborhood, what sounds today like harmless treacle rang with almost unbearable poignancy. Life during wartime. Anyway, I have spent more than a year wandering in the trackless steppes of Outer Blogistan, living by my wits, surviving as best I could. (Strong men wept when we had to eat the lead camel.) I once even found myself in strange lands without humor. Then, in my last extreme, stumbling in the unforgiving wilderness, off in the distance, and not where it used to be, I spied a familiar light in a different window.

And yes, I will have more fatted calf, thank you.

Jeebus Christmas, he said, in keeping with the season, have I grown tired of the MacGyver Theory Of Washington Politics -- the notion that, if we just pluck out of David Broder's moth-eaten Rolodex the people with the most gray mold on their careers, they will all get together and build a solution out of two coconut shells and a handful of magic beans. I first formulated the MacGyver Theory during the Iran-Contra scandal, when we had first the Tower Commission and the utterly pointless joint congressional committee, which worked in tandem to help the criminals escape as surely as if old Ed Muskie had baked them a cake with a file in it. (For the record, Lee Hamilton was in the middle of this mess, too.) The MacGyver Theory speaks only in the passive voice -- "Mistakes were made" -- and only in the sterile syntax of the bureaucrat. No individual is ever guilty, only the system is, because it "has broken down," and where did I leave that baling wire and chewing gum anyway? Nobody ever goes to jail because we're looking forward, not back. The MacGyver Theory's devotees believe quite strongly that the messy business of actual self-government will discomfit The American People, who are sweet little children asleep upstairs. That's how the MacGyver Theory protected jovial old Dutch Reagan. (We cannot have "another failed presidency," not even one that's already, well, failed.) It's also how it was trotted out during the extended 2000 presidential election. "The American People" needed "closure" more than anything else, and who better than Antonin Scalia to build an airplane out of palm fronds to get us all out of the "constitutional crisis" that was so visible from the Green Rooms in D.C.? And now, the Iraq Study Group, the MacGyver Theory applied to people's lives.

I rise again to present, by way of a relevant comparison, my argument that my colleagues in the sportswriting business do their jobs better than most members of the elite political media. Last year, Bud Selig appointed former senator George Mitchell to run the in-house investigation of what is perceived to be the problem with performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Almost immediately, the choice came under criticism that centered on the fact that Mitchell's probe would not have any real power to compel testimony or documents, and that Mitchell himself had been tied into several major-league baseball franchises -- most notably, the Boston Red Sox -- and, finally, on the very simple grounds that any in-house investigation started out in Credibility Gap given major-league baseball's inability to police itself.

I don't agree with a lot of these criticisms, but they have some merit, and the fact that they were mustered so widely and so quickly stands in stark contrast to the reverential coverage of the Iraq Study Group and its hunt for the pony in the pile. For example where was the instant and withering contempt from our courtier political press over the presence on the ISG of a useless old vampire like Edwin Meese, who started his career calling for detention camps to be set up to house student demonstrators at Berkeley, and ended it, two steps ahead of the law, by giving the Iran-Contra crowd just enough time to shred what they needed to shred? And, anyway, what in the name of Christ's sweet strawberry preserves does Edwin Meese know about Iraq? Why not just hire him to re-wire the space shuttle and design the new levees in Louisiana while he's at it? County commissioners go to jail for putting their idiot nephews on county road crews, But, on the bloodiest question of the past 30 years, supposedly educated people wait with their tongues hanging out for a viable solution to emerge from what appears to be the Petrified Forest, and nobody points out the absurdity that's sitting right there, listening to its arteries harden.

And, yes, I will have some more fatted calf, thank you.

Name: Stephen Carver
Hometown: Los Angeles

Considering the foreign policy disasters of his day, it's shows exactly how bad things must currently be when James Baker of all people can be considered by anyone as coming to the rescue. Don't forget, this is the same James Baker that helped W. steal Florida in 2000 ... so we can blame Baker for all of this in the first place. It's his duty to try to attempt a rescue.

Of course, Bush won't listen to him. "Victory" seems to be the only word W. will hear and I don't believe it appears once in the Iraq Study Group Report. 41 needs to make a phone call to his boy and put him in his place, but then how does one do that if your boy has his finger on the "nukular" button and has obvious anger issues about his dad?

When next 41 speaks about 43, tears will not be shed, considering that W. has always been an embarrassment to the family. According to Barbara, Jeb was the one they were grooming for the dynasty.

And now, it's "Uncle Jim" stepping up to try to salvage what he can of his own tattered reputation. Is this truly how we want our government to be run...by dysfunctional families?

I may recommend the following:

Michael Tolcher: Saw him open for Carbon Leaf & pretty much blew them out of the water.

Christopher Williams: Another opening act that was as good as the headliner. Blues, jazz, folk & world music.

Just a couple off the top of my head.

My day's not complete without checking here. Thanks for your hard work.

Name: Neil Parry
Hometown: Wilmington, DE

Doc,

First off, I'm a daily reader for a long time, so thanks.

And, here is all the historic soundboard recordings from the Fillmore you could shake a stick at.

Hope you enjoy.

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