Lost time is not found again

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Odds and ends that piled up while we were away:

And the winner of not only the Iraq war but also the war in Afghanistan is ... Iran:

Iranian radio stations are broadcasting anti-American propaganda into Afghanistan. Moderate Shiite leaders in Afghanistan say Tehran is funneling money to conservative Shiite religious schools and former warlords with longstanding ties to Iranian intelligence agencies.

[...]

U.S. policies, particularly under the current administration, have created a huge amount of resentment around the world," said a senior Iranian official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly. "I'm not saying Iran is gaining power all over the world. I'm saying the U.S. is losing it fast."

From David Ignatius:

Bush's "state of denial," as Bob Woodward rightly called it, has officially ended. He actually spoke the words "We're not winning" last week in an interview with The Post, coupling it with the reverse: "We're not losing." But in truth, he cannot abide the possibility that Iraq will not end in victory. So a day after his "not winning" comment, he half took it back, saying: "I believe that we're going to win," and then adding oddly, as if to reassure himself: "I believe that -- and by the way, if I didn't think that, I wouldn't have our troops there. That's what you've got to know. We're going to succeed."

I must have missed all those columns where Ignatius admitted that Bush was actually in a "state of denial" and that his plans for Iraq -- and everything else -- had no relationship to reality. But, more to the point, read Bush's actual words that Ignatius appears to find so reassuring, and ask yourself: Is it just Bush who was -- and remains -- in a state of denial? Meanwhile, Kristof ($) is camped out on the same fantasy island. And when he's done with all this, perhaps he could go on tour with the JBs and the Famous Flames ...

Speaking of pathetic punditry, here's Juan Williams on Fox, just before the election: "Most people are telling pollsters that they trust the Democrats more on taxes than they do the Republicans. To me, that's crazy."

Juan Williams on Fox, recently, via Mickster: "The question now is does Obama have any hope of raising money? I don't think he'll raise it out of the New York people, I don't think he's going to raise it out the Hollywood people, so where's the money going to come from for Barack Obama?"

Question of the Day: Does Fox only hire black people it thinks will make its white audience think all black people are stupid -- or does it think its audience really is this stupid?

Still speaking, here's a lesson in how to write ... by Peggy Noonan: "And yet. This must be said and should be said. He was a good man, and that's not nothing -- it's something."

So I guess being friends with a criminal makes it OK to pardon him for his crimes against a nation of 250 million people. That seems to be the consensus among Washington pooh-bahs, indefensible, but typical, alas.

Shame on Philip Elliott of the Associated Press for repeating that hoary lie, discredited literally hundreds of times, that Al Gore claimed to invent the Internet, for his lazy -- by any standards -- lede.

Siva's such a grouch, he's not even happy being named Man of the Year.

TNR Agonistes:

Matt's busy, I suppose, and Spencer's in a bad mood, so Ezra picks up the "Marty's crazy, but in funny ways" beat here so I don't have to.

But not this time. There ought to be a law against this kind of self-parody: "What's all this fuss about the planned 'new settlement' in the Jordan Valley?"

Again, I must have missed Peretz's column about the evidence presented that many of those settlements are on stolen land and the Israeli government deliberately covered up this theft for decades. Can anyone point me to his honest assessment of this key discovery?

Then again, Peter Beinart perfectly embodies my love/hate relationship with TNR by being spookily dead-on here:

"In an Alice in Wonderland twist, neocon-hating liberals have become neoconservatism's true heirs. It is young "reality-based" liberals, having watched the Bush administration's theological denial of global warming and its theological approach to the Iraq war, who today champion empiricism over ideology. In foreign policy, they prefer liberal democracy to dictatorship but doubt America's capacity to remake societies we don't understand. In domestic policy, they want a larger government role but don't share the easy optimism of Great Society liberals, who witnessed the extraordinary government-led progress of the postwar decades. Those earlier liberals shared the faith of their time, in the transformative capacity of government. Today's liberals have come of age doubting the faith of theirs, in the transformative capacity of capitalism. From deregulation to free trade, they are more skeptical of the unfettered market than the Clintonites of the '90s. But their skepticism stems less from ideological antipathy than from empirical observation--a suspicion that the free-marketers prefer the visions in their head to the facts on the ground. Like the founders of The Public Interest, they have spent more time tearing down icons than building them up.

Ahh, but Leon Wieseltier brings me back to reality with today's quote of the day: "How can any liberal, any individual who associates himself with the party of humanity, not count himself in this coalition of the willing?"

But wait, Jon Cohn at least partially redeems the enterprise with this piece about electability. Still, I only partially agree. Let me be clear. I was one of those people who was dead wrong about Kerry's electability. Being dead wrong about something so important for someone whose job it is to understand these things is not a happy admission. I'm sorry to anyone I misled. But while the point is taken, I'm not sure it works in reverse. In other words, while "electability" may be impossible to predict, I'm not sure that it holds for "non-electability." Or else I simply have not learned my lesson; wouldn't be the first time ...

(This kind of self-contradiction gives us Whitmanites a bad name.)

Reading Around: A Mother Jones investigative piece shows why you could soon be paying Wall Street investors, Australian bankers, and Spanish builders for the privilege of driving on American roads, here.

A wonderful piece on the selection of New Yorker cartoons by Peter Carlson, here.

Bob Thompson on Bud Trillin.

This is a brilliant piece by Germaine Greer on Lauren Bacall and Catherine Deneuve and the meaning of their respective careers.

From Americans United for Change:

CEO's at Top Companies will Make More before Lunch on January 2, 2007 than Their Minimum Wage Employees will Earn All Year

It takes the average CEO, 2 hours and 2 minutes to earn $10,712. The CEO of Fortune 100 companies earn $10,712 in 1 hour and 16 minutes.

It takes the average minimum wage worker 52 forty-hour weeks (2,080 hours) to earn $10,712.

From the Program on International Policy Attitudes:

  • WPO's [WorldPublicOpinion.org] new December poll finds that majorities favor withdrawing almost all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by 2008 (Republicans 62%, Democrats 88%) and that they believe the U.S. government should clearly state it does not want permanent bases there (Republicans 65%, Democrats 81%).
  • Americans support talking with Iran about the problems in Iraq (Republicans 72%, Democrats 81%) and also talking with Syria (Republicans 72%, Democrats 82%).
  • Americans from both parties think the U.S. government should build better relations with the Iranian government rather than try to change its behavior through implied military threats (Republicans 56%, Democrats 88%).
  • WPO's December poll shows that Americans believe the United States should "not take either side" in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territories. (Republicans 58%, Democrats 80%).
  • Republicans and Democrats favor legislation limiting U.S. emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming (Republicans 61%, Democrats 82%).
  • Majorities in both parties favor requiring car makers to increase fuel efficiency even if it increases the cost of owning a car (Republicans 71%, Democrats 86%).
  • Bipartisan majorities believe government spending on defense should either be kept at present levels or scaled back (Republicans 61%, Democrats 83%).
  • Given the opportunity to balance the foreign affairs budget, members of both parties favor non-military over military programs. On average, Republicans cut defense spending $110 billion and Democrats slash it by $264 billion.

From the Benton Foundation:

AT&T-BELLSOUTH DEAL CALLED 'BREAKTHROUGH' FOR CONSUMERS [SOURCE: USA Today, AUTHOR: Leslie Cauley]

The Federal Communications Commission's handling of the $85 billion AT&T-BellSouth merger sets a "new baseline" for protecting the interests of consumers, FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said in an interview over the weekend. The FCC's approval of the merger on Friday allowed the deal to close immediately. To secure the FCC's blessing, AT&T agreed to a list of consumer-friendly concessions. Among them: For the next 30 months, AT&T agreed to sell "naked" DSL -- meaning consumers don't have to buy any other service from AT&T to get the DSL service -- for just $19.95 a month. That's less than half the $44.95 that AT&T now charges. AT&T also agreed to a "net neutrality" provision that will require the company to treat all broadband services, its own as well as rivals', equally for the next two years. ... Commissioner Adelstein called the settlement a "breakthrough" for consumers in that it establishes a new standard of behavior for the USA's communications giants. Big companies such as AT&T and Comcast "have told the FCC that they can't live with a net neutrality provision in place," Adelstein said. "They can." The fact that AT&T agreed to such an aggressive net neutrality clause proves that, he said. Though the settlement applies only to AT&T, other companies will be hard-pressed to ignore it, says Gene Kimmelman, public policy director of Consumers Union. "There will be enormous scrutiny of any company that does not live by these standards." The concession on naked DSL is significant, Kimmelman says, because it will permit consumers to buy DSL and phone services from different companies without being financially penalized. Right now, he notes, AT&T charges as much for naked DSL as it does for DSL and phone combined.

Nothing at all about Jerry Ford because I try not to speak ill of the dead until they've been dead for a little while, but a moment or two on the Godfather:

Here's a quote I found: "I would be foolin' myself, I would be tellin' a lie if I said James Brown would be a word star -- thank God -- without the help of men like Mr. Nathan [Syd Nathan was a record store owner in Cincinnati, formed King Records in 1943, who originally signed Brown]. And Henry Stone. And my manager, Ben Bart, who passed. White men. Businessmen. Not enough black artists know the business, even today. But back then you could get shot for even trying to learn. How much business do you think I was ready to do then? I knew how to pick up change when people threw it at my feet. But I danced for pennies and nickels. I knew what to charge for a shoeshine but what do you charge for a song?"

This is by Sal and Tony:

And if you're looking for some good CDs by a recently deceased artist to buy (because, hey, who doesn't like to buy music by someone who just died?).... here's our little tribute to the Hardest Working Man In The Shoe Business -- er, Show Business!

We're not going to presume that we can add anything substantial to the millions of words that have been written about James Brown over the years, let alone all the boring yakety-yak that untold bloggers have been spewing since they heard the news of his death. But if there's one thing we do know, it's CDs. And here are a few of Mr. Brown's recordings that go beyond the standard hits compilations, and are worth your time and money:

LOVE POWER PEACE -- Recorded live at L'Olympia in Paris in 1971 for a proposed live album that never surfaced until 20 years later. This is the only full-length live recording by Brown with the legendary JB's, the backing band that only stayed with him for a year but helped him to create some of his most legendary recordings. Explosive and intense from start to finish.

FOUNDATIONS OF FUNK: 1964-69 -- One of a series of double CD sets chronicling the Godfather's entire career. This covers the period when he virtually reinvented soul music, from groundbreakers like "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" through funk workouts like "Say It Loud, I'm Black And I'm Proud."

I CAN'T STAND MYSELF -- The majority of these tracks have been reissued elsewhere, but in its original running order, this LP is unquestionably some of the funkiest music recorded by Brown. "I Can't Stand Myself When You Touch Me," "There Was a Time," "Get It Together," and the instrumentals "Funky Soul #1," "The Soul of J. B.," are all included.

SOUL PRIDE :THE INSTRUMENTALS (1960-1969) -- 36 tracks culled from various singles and albums, these tracks showcase the "Godfather's" backing bands, as well as Brown's organ playing. This stuff is hot stuff, this stuff. (This one is out of print and pretty hard to find, but we'll do a search for it if you're interested enough.)

SOUL ON TOP -- Definitely not your typical James Brown album. This 1968 excursion into jazz was recorded with Louie Bellson's orchestra, with arrangements by Oliver Nelson, and features Brown tackling everything from standards like "That's My Desire" to Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart" to a big-band workout on his own "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag." The highlight is a bizarre but thrilling version of "September Song." Also recommended: Gettin' Down To It, in which he's backed by a small jazz combo and sings mostly Sinatra classics.

Alter-Gossip: People in the VIP section for Patti Smith's incredible 60th birthday concert at the Bowery Ballroom on 12/30/06: Joan Didion, Michael Stipe (who got to hear Patti's first-ever rendition of "Everybody Hurts"), Keith Olbermann, pretty blonde young woman ...

Alter-assessment of why, always, it's the art, not the artist (and why no serious person should ever get their politics from a rock musician or any visionary artist of any kind, really): Patti beginning the show by rhapsodizing about the thrill of hearing her hero, yes, Ralph Nader, sing her "Happy Birthday" that morning and then ranting -- literally -- about what wimps the Democrats are for not doing more to resist Ralph's best friend... Mr. Bush.

This U2 video is kind of brilliant. (Thanks, Petey.)

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Paul Goode
Hometown: Redmond, WA

While waiting for the rest of the house to wake up on Christmas morning, I happened to read your very fine column in The Nation about press coverage of the Civil Rights movement. Early in the column, you write:

"One of the great mysteries of American history -- one that will never be fully solved -- is why the North failed to acknowledge and protest Southern apartheid for so long. Gunnar Myrdal addressed this question in his seminal 1944 study, An American Dilemma, and explained, "A great many Northerners, perhaps the majority, get shocked and shaken in their conscience when they learn the facts." Therefore, he added, "To get publicity is of the highest strategic importance to the Negro people" (italics in original)."

I'm not a historian and I don't defend ignorance of racism. Some questions come to mind, though:

  • How much did the "size" of the country come into play? The country was much larger then. Jet travel was nonexistent. Business was centered in the northeast. There was no television until the 50's, and certainly no internet. In short, conditions allowed southern racism to operate in relative obscurity.
  • How did people get the news? The New York Times was not available for same-day home delivery. If you wanted to read it and you didn't live in its delivery area, you had to get in the U.S. Mail. I know this is true, because I remember it arriving a few days behind to my boyhood home in South Texas. Instead, you relied on your local paper that didn't have correspondents in the South and that stressed local coverage, anyway.
  • How much did education come into play? Until the GI Bill, white Americans were much less educated and consequently exposed to much less information about the world. Would not their racial attitudes be affected as well?
  • To what extent did other events put coverage of Southern racism on the back burner? There was a depression and a world war, after all. Also, the country was being hoodwinked by the Red Scare of the 50's.
  • What about Time magazine? There was a truly national publication. To what extent did its editorial conservatism and obsession with Communism inhibit the national discussion of race?

The people I hold the most scorn for are the Hodding Carters of the South. They knew better, and served as apologists nonetheless.

Name: Michael Breland, MD
Hometown: Walla Walla, WA

Dear Eric:

The article on free will in The Economist seems to have been written to create heat, not light. It implies that neuroscience may someday prove that it is all black or white; that someone either has free will or not. I don't think it's that simple.

Here is a crude example of what I think is lacking in the article's presentation. If a person were hungry and someone walked by with a bag of food, they might wish they could grab some of it, but they probably would not. On the other hand, if they were starving to death, there is a much larger chance they would make a grab for the food. Add in a starving family and you get the gist of what I'm saying.

Most nerve function in the brain is based upon multiple inputs creating a critical level of stimulus before an impulse is generated. I think that a similar mechanism probably operates in most decision making.

The debate over free will versus predestination is similar to the nature versus nurture debate. It's useful for people when they are younger and philosophically immature, but after a certain amount of life experience, most people usually begin to understand that much of life is gray, not black or white.

I think the danger and seductive aspect of these types of articles lies in our human nature to often not want to take as much responsibility for our behavior as we should. Thus, a jury with people on it that are not very philosophically mature could be taken in by this kind of black/white argument.

I think the real question for the jury to resolve is whether or not the perpetrator had enough free will to overcome their genetic tendencies. While of course this creates its own problems, at least it put the question into a more realistic framework.

Name: S.R. Dipaling
Hometown: Topeka, Kansas

Just thought I'd drop a line, wish you a Happy Hanukah (sorry if the spelling sux!), Merry Christmas and a Great 2007.

Well, that and your comment about "red, red Kansas." First off, having lived over five years in Lawrence, I can tell you that that town (which I still have my heart in, I'm 'fraid) is about as blue a town in this belt buckle of the Bible Belt can be, so it doesn't blow my mind at all that this shelter exists and functions where and how it does. Secondly, the shade of red in this state (in case you haven't noticed) has lightened some volumes since the '06 elections, with the dumping of the Pro-Creationist school board earlier in the year, and the electoral defeats of conservative incumbents Jim Ryun (2nd District House of Reps) and Attorney General Phill Kline, coupled with the easy re-election of Democratic governor (and potential '08 Veep candidate) Kathleen Sebelius.

Just thought you'd like to know. Take care.

Name: J DAlessandro
Hometown: Crestwood, NY

John Dean wants Congress to impeach, but not Bush or Cheney.

He doesn't identify which worthy underlings should be targeted, but jolly good idea, hear hear.

Name: Peter Infante
Hometown: Gansevoort NY

Eric:

Love your work. The most fascinating issue I struggle with is that not only are these people wrong but they are literally 180 degrees off target! My favorite Kristol quote to this point is:

"There's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America," he told National Public Radio listeners in the war's opening weeks, "that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's been almost no evidence of that at all," he continued. "Iraq's always been very secular."

Why is he never asked about these? Very sad!

Name: Eve Rose Alterman
Hometown: New York, New York

January 1, 2007

Dear Mr. Bush,

I dislike that you are president but now that you are I will have to find a way to live with it. I have two requests. Please try to end the war in Iraq as soon as possible. If you are a good man, [witch I do not believe you are and neither do most people.] One of the things you can do to prove you are a good man is actually stop the war in Iraq as soon as possible! And cut the price on taxes especially for poor people and pick up the price for rich people! See what you have been doing is pickin up the price for poor people cutting it for rich people! Please think about what I have said to you in this letter Mr. Bush and really think about how many lives you would be saving and sick people you would be helping!!!!!!!!

Sincerely,
Eve Rose Alterman

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