Looking at a photograph I found inside a drawer ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Daniel Drezner and I did a BloggingHeads.tv episode here. I may have said some stupid stuff ... we both confused North Korea and the Pueblo with Cambodia and the Mayaguez, as the first commenter points out. I blame a combination of pot (back in high school) and Lipitor, today. Dan, you got an excuse?

Why lazy journalism is not that useful, particularly when compared to rigorous social science, or why David Broder and Dan Balz, among many other people, should have read Off Center:

Read this story. Its thesis is this: "The Republican Party has turned away from Ford's conservatism, moving sharply to the right ideologically and to the South and West geographically." Its proof? Well, not so much. A few quotes from people that don't really prove anything. In fact, not one of them is even really terribly illustrative. Of course, the thesis is true to the point of being beyond obvious. Still, it ought to be the job of a story like this to increase our understanding of the phenomenon.

How would one do this?

How about this borrowed, but in my words, from Messrs. Hacker and Pierson: According to research undertaken by political scientists Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal, in the early 1970s, the voting records of those in the political middle of the House Republican delegation were approximately as conservative as Congressman Steven LaTourette of Ohio, whom the Almanac of American Politics termed as having "the most moderate voting record of Ohio's Republican members." Yet 30 years later, in 2003, the anti-tax group the Club for Growth contemptuously labeled LaTourette a "Republican in Name Only" for his insufficient fealty to conservative causes. What was once the party's center had become its far left, as the average Republican congressman of the early 2000s was now 73 percent more conservative than his counterpart of the early seventies. In the Senate, the move rightward proved even more pronounced. The median Senate Republican was approximately twice as conservative 30 years later, as represented by Pennsylvania's Rick Santorum, a man who, before his 2006 defeat, famously compared gay Americans to practitioners of polygamy, incest, and bestiality.

OK, carry on ...

On the other hand, let's give some props to the same paper for providing, wow, context. Say it loud, here: Mr. Let's Balance the Budget "has never proposed a balanced budget since it went into deficit, never vetoed a spending bill when Republicans controlled Congress, and offered little sustained objection to earmarks until the issue gained political traction last year." Way to go, Peter Baker ...

A few words about John Negroponte, the Reagan administration, and the massacre at El Mozote from When Presidents Lie (but relying on Mark Danner's reporting) that I'm guessing won't be appearing anywhere else today:

"Shortly after Bonner, Guillermoprieto, and Meiselas returned and presented their evidence to readers, State Department officials received a confidential cable from U.S. ambassador to Honduras John Negroponte reporting on a visit by a U.S. embassy official and a House Foreign Affairs Committee staff member to a Colomoncagua refugee camp, where many of the survivors of Morazan had fled. The cable described the refugees' account of "a military sweep in Morazan December 7 to 17 which they claim resulted in large numbers of civilian casualties and physical destruction, leading to their exodus."[80] Negroponte, who was to become George W. Bush's ambassador to Iraq in 2004, himself noted that the "names of villages cited coincide with New York Times article of January 28 same subject." He noted that the refugees' "decision to flee at this time when in the past they had remained during the sweeps ... lends credibility to reportedly greater magnitude and intensity of . . . military operations in Northern Morazan."[81] The State Department, however, decided to keep this information secret. By the time of the second certification report -- which appeared six months later, in July 1982 -- the massacre reports were ancient history. Enders now bragged of "many fewer allegations of massacres during this reporting than last," a trend he attributed to the fact that "many earlier reports proved to be fabricated or exaggerated."[82] Like its predecessor, the second certification resulted in a noisy hearing, but a solid majority backed the Reagan administration's aid to the regime. This time military aid was more than doubled, from $35 million to $82 million, and economic aid increased to more than twice that amount.[83] In 1993, Enders finally admitted to a reporter, "I now know that the materials that we and the embassy passed on to Congress were wrong."[84] It took a decade's passing and the Salvadorans themselves to determine, definitively, what took place in El Mozote. In the fall of 1992, investigators for the postwar Salvadoran Truth Commission spent more than thirty-five days digging through the burial sites filled with decomposed bodies, bones, skulls, and bullet cartridges. They identified more than five hundred human remains in El Mozote and its surrounding villages.[85] Of the 143 human remains discovered in the sacristy of the Mozote church, 136 were judged to be children or adolescents, of whom the average age was six. Of the remaining seven adults, six were women, one in the third trimester of pregnancy.[86] When all the forensics had been uncovered, the commission revealed at least twenty-four people had participated in the shooting and that every cartridge but one had come from a U.S.-manufactured and -supplied M-16 rifle. Of these, "184 had discernible head-stamps, identifying the ammunition as having been manufactured for the United States Government at Lake City, Missouri."[87]

No one has ever been officially charged or tried for any crimes associated with the actions taken in El Mozote, which were deemed by Danner to be "the largest massacre in modern Latin American history." For this bit of good fortune, the murderers may be grateful for the lies of the Reagan administration and the men and women who willingly told them.

Notes:

80 Mark Danner, The Massacre at El Mozote (New York: Vintage, 1994), 136.

81. Ibid., 136-7.

82. Cited in Joan Didion, " 'Something Horrible' in El Salvador," New York Review of Books, July 14, 1994.

83. Danner, Massacre, 142.

84. Clifford Krauss, "How U.S. Actions Helped Hide."

85. The Salvadoran Truth Commission identified more than five hundred corpses and conceded that many more were not identified. The exact number of victims may never be known. In 1992, Tutela Legal, a Salvadoran human rights group, published a list of 794 casualties of the El Mozote massacre. In The Massacre at El Mozote (1994), Mark Danner updates that list to 767, a figure that proved to be within the range reported by Raymond Bonner almost a decade earlier. Danner, Massacre, 157-58, 264, 280-304.

86. Danner, Massacre, 254.

87. Ibid., 159. In reaction to the news that they slandered the reporters who told the truth about the massacre and generally misinformed their readers about the size and scope of the human rights abuses committed both by the army it favored and the rebels it opposed, the Journal editors said they found the Truth Commission to be "on the tendentious side." Accepting the fact that their side had committed many of the killings of which it had been accused, they still felt that the greater responsibility lay with the guerrillas who "started the war." The editors also noted, "If we're going to revisit the atrocities of war, we ought to remember what the war was about, and take some note of history's verdict on the moral claims of the contending sides." See "Salvador and Nicaragua," Wall Street Journal, March 19, 1993.

Police State Watch: If Jose Padilla, an American citizen, has no rights, then neither do you or I. Good for the Times on the reporting of this case.

Crazy Marty Watch: If a black man calls a Jew a "shyster" it's an anti-Semitic epithet, right? So what happens when a Jew calls a black man a "shyster," here?

I see Marty had an op-ed yesterday with the ID: "Martin Peretz is the editor-in-chief of The New Republic." Perhaps, but "Marty Peretz divorced one extremely wealthy woman to marry another even wealthier one, who bought him a magazine, which he proceeded to destroy, and was forced repeatedly to sell controlling interest thereof after cutting the salaries of his staff, and whose circulation is now less than a third of that of The Nation's when for decades it was much higher, and without which he would never be published anywhere, as he has never published anything of substance save invective against people far more accomplished than himself, and might actually be handing out mimeographed messages received through the fillings in his teeth about how evil those Arabs are to passersby in Harvard Square ..." would, methinks, be just as accurate.

The funniest line I ever heard about TNR was more than 20 years ago, when Frank Mankiewicz said it was "like a Jewish Commentary."

Anyway, it's still pretty hard to outdo the Norman Conquest when it comes to spreading hatred and McCarthyite invective against those who see the world differently than the neocons do. Marty will have his work cut out for him. Look for instance at this disgusting and deceitful sentence about a man who survived the Holocaust in Hungary: "In the course of his long career as a philanthropist, the Jewish-born Soros has demonstrated no particular interest in Israel or in Judaism -- beyond, that is, occasionally likening Israelis to Nazis and blaming Jews themselves for the contemporary worldwide resurgence of anti-Semitism."

One interesting phenomenon regarding the early neocons is that many of them pulled back from the brink. They were, quite understandably, horrified by some of the excesses of the New Left and the Black Power movements, but did not take the leap into the arms of the far Right as contemporary neocons did. The most prominent of this cohort would be those two liberal stalwarts Daniel Bell and Nathan Glazer. But I tend to think Marty Lipset fell into this category as well. I had a few meetings with him out at Stanford, and he struck me as a nice guy as well.

I'd like to say a few kind words about Teddy Kollek too, who might have made a great prime minister of Israel. He was a close friend of James J. Angleton's, however, which means he might always have been a lifelong CIA asset as well, so that complicates things.

Speaking of the CIA, I liked and enjoyed both The Good Shepherd and The Good German. They are not factually accurate but they feel like they are, and are not particularly factually untrue either, which is the best you can hope for from Hollywood, and was also true of Good Night, and Good Luck.

Our buddy Todd teaches Lord Weisberg a thing or two. Next stop, Packer ...

He sent me this too:

Bush to Announce Exit Strategy from Reality

Plans Complete Withdrawal from His Senses by Year End

Perhaps no major media figure has played a bigger role in rehabilitating Ford's image by polishing the Nixon pardon and turning it into a sweeping, heroic act than The Washington Post's Bob Woodward. The problem is that Woodward isn't always honest about the pardon that he insists was so "gutsy," which raises questions about Woodward's motives. Boehlert examines.

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Correspondence Corner:

Name: J DAlessandro
Hometown: Crestwood, NY

I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but my childhood recollection is that JFK was shot dead in Dallas on a Friday, and that his funeral was held a mere two days later, on the following Sunday [Oswald was shot by Ruby in the AM on Sunday].

So why this interminable week-long planting for the unelected President Ford? [Is some of this over-the-top affection buyer's remorse by reformed W. voters?]

And what do they have planned for President Bush Sr., a full month of mourning? To say that this mad aggrandizement of our presidents, for both the mediocre and their lessers, is out of hand, would seem to be the understatement of this young year. We seem to be morphing as a culture into Egyptians.

It's fortunate that Ford was such a modest, unassuming and down-to-earth kind of guy.

Name: Jim Sutherland
Hometown: Houston, TX

Eric,

The platoon leaders class referred to in TomDispatch is a long-standing Marine Corps officer training program -- it sure as hell is no summer camp, and it sure as hell isn't uniform free. It's not easy to get into, it's not easy to get through, and those who complete the program generally accept a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps.

Can't believe I'm saying this to you of all people, but a little fact checking wouldn't hurt.

Jim Sutherland
Major USMCR (Ret.)

Eric replies: Thanks, Jim, but in point 6, it reads, "There is no need for uniforms, etc ... This is not ROTC!" which is the recruiter speaking, and I guess that's part of the problem.

Name: Mark Richard
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio

Dear Eric,

Regarding the comments of Paul Goode re the Myrdal Report, etc. -- one of his comments had to do with the media, singling out Time magazine by name ... Far from being so 'obsessed' with anti-Communism in the era of Stalin and his heirs that it excluded coverage of racism in America, Time in particular was very aggressive in its censorious editorial attitude toward the South's racial mores, as any perusal of its back issues will indicate. Beyond that, the Cold War era, if you think about it, was a key enabler of the civil rights movement, and thus was strongly supported by the establishment media and others; that movement enjoyed its greatest political victories during the Cold War. Adam Clayton Powell was named "Man of the Year" by -- I'm not making this up -- the American Legion, in 1955, for defending the United States at the Bandung conference of third-world nations.

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