What is it good for?


The Consequences of George W.

From Today's WSJ ($) because I subscribe and you, I'm guessing, don't, here:

As President Bush prepares to unveil his latest Iraq strategy, Arab allies are worried about what might happen if the plan fails: that worsening strife could engulf the entire region, sparking a wider war in the middle of the world's largest oil patch. The potential of a much larger regional conflict that pits Sunnis against Shiites is increasingly on the minds of both Arab leaders and U.S. military planners, according to regional diplomats and U.S. officials. Some are calling such a possible outcome the "nightmare scenario." A wider conflict appears more plausible now because, even as Iraq is separating along sectarian lines, regional dynamics are shoving neighboring nations into two rival camps. On one side is a Shiite-led arc running from Iran into central Iraq, through Syria and into Lebanon. On the other side lie American allies Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, along with Persian Gulf states such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. These Sunni regimes are horrified at the emerging, increasingly radicalized Shiite bloc, largely financed and inspired by Iran, Arab diplomats say. In the middle is Iraq, which looks less and less like a buffer between these two axes of Middle East power, and more of a no-man's land that is bringing them into conflict.

OK, that's enough, before they call the lawyers. But you get the point. I don't care if he believes his own lies. So do most mass murderers. The man has done more damage to the world than any man since, well, I dunno. If I fill in that blank accurately, I will be called all kinds of names, and it will upset my mother. Let's just say more than any man alive ...

A metaphor:

Bush is like a man who is dealt two kings in blackjack (after 9-11) when the dealer is showing a nine, doubles down instead of playing his winner hand, gets two twos, and continues to double down over and over and over until he loses his family's life savings and insurance policy. Kristol, Krauthammer, and Kaplan, et al, are like the Vegas floozies with fake boobs telling him what a big man he is the whole time, stroking his thighs while picking his pockets ... (Oh, and John "Maverick" McCain is the long-suffering wife ...)

Speaking of which, the McCain Suck-Up Watch, from our sponsors, is here and here.

Meanwhile, the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that "only 17 percent" of Americans "called for an increase in U.S. forces."

Energy efficiency:

I started out writing one Nation column this week and ended up writing another. So here's the part I got rid of:

In his memoir, A Matter of Opinion, Victor Navasky attempts to identify the ideology of the editors of The New York Times and by extension of the political establishment, often (purposely) mistaken for "the liberal elite." He does so by examining how often the Times invites its reporters to break its own stated rules when it comes to those to whom they apparently do not apply. For instance, the Times editors will state in an "Editors' Note" that "The Times' practice is to present both sides of a controversy." But based on the Times' own journalistic practice, this rule was not applied to certain categories of individuals, including communists, terrorists, children, Jesse Jackson, people of color, or poor people. Another person, we recently learned, to whom they do not apply is Jimmy Carter. Amazingly, given Carter's status as former president of the United States as well as its oft-stated commitment to fairness, the Times recently ran a news story about the controversy inspired by his book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, in which every single "authority" quoted was an attacker.

Of course, part of the problem was that Carter was criticizing Israel in harsher terms than one generally hears in American public discourse. (Academic studies have demonstrated that the Times' coverage of Israeli behavior is far, far gentler on the Jewish state than is that in, say, the centrist Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz.) But another contributory public relations problem for Carter is that despite his born-again, Southern populist routes, he has become widely identified in the public mind as a liberal. And though certainly no announcement has been made anywhere, it's become OK for Times writers to vilify liberals without presenting "both sides of the controversy" as well. In fact, they don't even have to present any evidence.

OK, the rest of the column I was pretty much able to use. ... But the Times' Carter piece can be found here.

Reasons the words "Joe Klein" have become a synonym for frothing, screeching, and vitriolicizing:

One: Joe Klein And The Politics of Tone (stolen in its entirety from Ezra):

Sometimes I wonder if Joe's actually trying to soil my surname. His very first blog post (oh what a day!) reads like a parody of the form. By the time the first three sentences wind to their merciful end, he's already accused Democrats of sounding like "ill-informed dilettantes" and accused Paul Krugman of "making a fool out of himself." Ill-informed? Foolish? Tsk tsk, those bloggers and their language.

Klein's actual complaint is staggering in its mendacity: Democrats, who he thinks are right about the uselessness of a "surge" strategy, are being too nasty in saying so. Let's go over that again: In Joe Klein's very first blog post, his initial chance to opine in an instant and high-profile medium, he doesn't choose to inveigh against a dangerous and counterproductive strategy which he admittedly believes would cost thousands of lives and prolong an immoral, grievously wrong-headed war. No, he chooses to toss off a tantrum against Democrats who are too rhetorically dismissive of the strategy he admittedly believes would cost thousands of lives and prolong an immoral, grievously wrong-headed war.

What is wrong with these people?




And from yesterday, five and six: here and here.

(Wait, there's more, here and here.)

From the National Security Archive:

Charter 77 After 30 Years

Washington D.C., January 6, 2007 - The Czechoslovak human rights activists who launched the landmark Charter 77 movement secretly gathered their first 240 signatures on handwritten cards without leaving copies with the signators, but were arrested 30 years ago today by the secret police on charges of "subversion" and "hostility to the socialist state and social system" before they could deliver the original Charter to the Federal Assembly, according to Charter 77 and Czechoslovak secret police documents published in English for the first time on the National Security Archive Web site (www.nsarchive.org).

But the Chartists had already arranged for publication of their manifesto in the western press, where the Charter was featured in major articles on January 7, 1977 in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Corriere della Sera, The Times of London, and Le Monde. One of those arrested on January 6, 1977, was Charter 77 co-spokesperson Vaclav Havel.

The Web posting includes:

  • original drafts of the Charter with handwritten edits by Vaclav Havel and Pavel Kohout (who originally proposed the name "Charter 77");
  • typed and handwritten agendas for the conspiratorial meetings of the nascent Chartists in December 1976 and January 1977 to organize the gathering of the first signatures;
  • the original signature cards of Vaclav Havel and other leading Chartists;
  • the January 5, 1977 letter to the Federal Assembly signed by Charter's three spokespersons that was confiscated by the secret police from Havel and his companions January 6 on their way to present the Charter to the authorities;
  • the first secret police report from January 6, 1977 calling the Charter a "crude attack" by "hostile elements" who "have been winning over other anti-socialist elements";
  • the January 14, 1977 legal opinion by the Czechoslovak Communist authorities finding Charter 77 to be "untrue and grossly slanderous ... clearly pursuing the aim of evoking hatred and hostility towards, or at least distrust of, the socialist social and state system of the republic";
  • the secret police report from April 1977 recording the decision of the Communist Party Presidium not to prosecute anyone solely on the basis of signing the Charter, but on other grounds;
  • contemporary reporting on Charter 77 in previously secret documents by the CIA, the U.S. State Department, and the German and French embassies in Prague;
  • Professor Precan's 1978 commentary on the impact of Charter 77;
  • contemporary U.S. official statements about Charter 77 from the Congressional Record and presidential documents;
  • Vaclav Havel's own reminiscences about Charter 77, courtesy of Paul Wilson, who translated (from the Czech) Havel's answers to questions from Karel Hvizd'ala for the 1990 book Disturbing the Peace (New York: Alfred A. Knopf).

For the full text of the posting and the documents, see here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Robert Asher
Hometown: Willimantic, CT

Dear Eric:

I recently had 30 students in a U.S. history class I am teaching complete a survey on how they obtain news. Only one read a state-wide paper, the Hartford Courant. The rest either read hometown papers or websites like MSN and Yahoo and CNN. So since the Courant has no DC correspondent any more, all my students rely on AP and CNN and other news services for their news, no matter where they read it. The new head of the AP was trained at the Hartford Courant, clearly under the eye of the Chicago Tribune. Remember the movie Tight Little Island??????


Name: Jesse Zander Corum
Hometown: Portland, OR

I saw the frightening little piece on American news sources and I immediately thought of this local newspaper piece. It focuses on Portland television, but I'm sure it's not much different in any other market. Basically, it points out that after the commercials, sensational weather reports, celebrity gossip and self-promotion (the network's evening programming is not news) there's no time left to report on any state or local politics, including a hard-fought mayoral race. Big surprise, I know, but a group has decided to use the numbers to challenge the stations' broadcast license renewals, arguing that they're failing to serve the public interest. Having watched all of the local stations at one time or another, I know they're not busy reporting national politics either. What really irks me is that TV stations and networks feel so entitled to the airwaves.

Oh yeah, the Oregonian followed up with this editorial, which I include because I know you're a sucker for Springsteen.

Name: Jeff Weed
Hometown: Little Elm, TX

Dr. A,

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2007 is in: Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, R.E.M., The Ronettes (an iffy selection here -- Philles Records label-mates The Crystals and Darlene Love have better HOF credentials, IMHO), Patti Smith and Van Halen. No non-performers have been announced for induction this year, so rather than giving my annual laundry list of overlooked artists, I'd like to make a case for some behind-the-boards contributors who deserve consideration for the Hall:

Tom Dowd. His exclusion is puzzling since the late Ahmet Ertegun was such a dominant figure in the Hall of Fame and Dowd was so significant to Atlantic Records early success as an engineer and a producer. Produced Eric Clapton/Derek & the Dominos, Aretha Franklin, The Rascals, The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rod Stewart and many others.

Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. The most successful proponents of the Philly Sound -- produced The O'Jays, Jerry Butler, Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes among others.

Glyn Johns. Worked as an engineer and/or producer for The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin and The Eagles. Great ear for what sounds good, even though he's reportedly deaf in one of them.

In the coming years, Rick Rubin, Arthur Baker, and Robert John "Mutt" Lange may also receive strong consideration. All have good arguments on their behalf for the Hall.

On an unrelated note -- Pierce was right all along about that Keith Olbermann fellow...

Eric replies: This year's choices were quite good, though I concur with your reservations. Patti is Susan Lucci no more, and it's a thrill that she's being inducted with Michael Stipe, who is perhaps her most devoted supporter among musicians. And I agree with the voters about who did not make it, too. Still, I think Van Halen sucked.

Name: Chris Inebnit
Hometown: Goshen, IN

I agree with Joe Raskin of Brooklyn that The Who By Numbers is the Who's most underrated album.

However, the song he cites, "Guitar and Pen," is actually on the group's following album, Who Are You.

My favorite Who By Numbers tracks are "However Much I Booze" and "They're All In Love." Townshend was never more brutally honest, and that's saying something.

Eric replies: Who Are You is pretty great, too, though.

(Stolen from here)

Dear David Lister,

You quoted me this morning in your Arts column in The Independent. I spoke about the West London street I grew up in, that because it was near two railway marshalling yards, had been particularly heavily bombed by the Germans.

There is a new context for this idea of mine that '60s loud and aggressive rock rose from the unique post-war mood of denial in the older generation. They had seen too much horror, found an uneasy peace, and could engage the subject no more. It is clear that such a silence might lead the teenager I was to write My Generation, and turn up my guitar to emulate the sound of bombers. What might be less clear to your readers is why I might bring all this up today.

I think rock music is about to throw off some of its testosterone driven defiance. I may be wrong, but wherever I look today I see younger musicians demanding a new level of intimacy from their audience. 'Unplugged' rock is not exactly what is happening. It is more a return to the traditions of Bert Jansch, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Ewan McColl, Dave Van Ronk, Big Bill Broonzy, Joan Baez and even early Bob Dylan. This is not entirely about Protest, rather about music performed gently that expresses a single idea along the single pathway of the conscience of an individual musician daring to speak up about something they might uniquely believe. Even anger is delivered gently.

To my mind this is a more fitting way to make music in today's political climate than standing on a stage hiding behind a virtual armory of heavy metal weaponry. It is not Pacifism. It is not denial. It is a sharing of individual morality.

A good example is Alexi Murdoch with 'Orange Sky' - a bleak picture of a polluted, radiation-damaged planet, and a damaged family, relieved briefly by the hopeful and inspirational chorus My salvation lies in your love. (You can listen to an excerpt of this track on iTunes).

I'm not certain where this new powerful gentleness has come from. Perhaps the invasion of Iraq, the horrible mess that we now face on top of the horrible mess we made when we created the country in the first place, is sifting down through the current generation of songwriters and producing a quieter voice. Faced with the atrocity of 9/11, my song Won't Get Fooled Again had defiant value when played to the people who had to clear up the mess in New York. The song is futile in the context of the present day except as a nostalgic reference to the way we were. I sang in 1971 about protecting my family against Hippies and their absurd psychedelic 'revolution', not a threatening foreign ideology beyond my understanding in 2007.

For my part, so I don't appear to be a hypocrite when I next stand on stage with my guitar and pretend to be a B-52, I find it hard to let go of loud rock music as a natural expression of my inner psyche. This is a confused position to take in a world in which being more powerful than one's enemy achieves very little.

Don't worry, I am not quite finished screaming as I leap over the top, I am too entrenched now in my rock method to change overnight, but survival is not always the result of heroism, in or out of the arena of the Arts.

Best regards,
Pete Townshend

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.