Keep it for the birds and bees Slacker Friday

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I put this up before the president's insane speech on Wednesday. And I get all shrill here, And I've got a Nation column called "Iraq and the Sin of Good Judgment," here.

It's been a week since the AP was vindicated in its battle with warbloggers who for weeks accused the global news agency of manufacturing a "fake" and "bogus" source in Iraq. Yet one week later, Howard Kurtz has yet to address the media controversy in the pages of The Washington Post. Safe to say that if the story had turned out differently -- if the bloggers caught the AP making stuff up -- the only question would have been whether Kurtz's AP story ran above or below the fold on the front page of the Post.

The Future of Music's study on the effect of radio consolidation is here.

Sunday's my birthday. Here's what I want:

The Lawrence Community Shelter: My friend/hero Loring Henderson is both the day and night (!) manager of this shelter, and it's the only place that takes in people no matter what their problem may be. You can imagine how difficult life must be for the people who make the sacrifice to work there. Actually, I can't either, which is one of many reasons I send them money.

The Doe Fund puts homeless people to work, cleaning up the city, in nice, clean dignified uniforms. It's not a perfect solution by any means, but it's better than any of the available alternatives.

Music for Youth is a nonprofit initiative with a mission to identify, fund, and lend experience to innovative programs that make quality music education available to underprivileged young people, which I think is a great thing.

The Actors Theatre Workshop is an established pioneer in nonprofit theatre that produces classical and contemporary plays, develops new dramatic works, trains and develops actors, writers, and directors while making a difference in the lives of homeless children and the community at large.

If those are too local/parochial for your taste, there's Doctors Without Borders and Human Rights Watch. There are no excuses, however.

Pay up, even if you only read this to get your circulation going ...

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Final points about Who By Numbers, aka Pete's Suicide Note: a) it contains the last great Entwistle song, "Success Story"; b) both Daltrey's singing and Townshend's writing are top-notch, and "In A Hand Or A Face," which is THE most underrated song in the catalogue, is a triumph for the greatest rock rhythm section ever, and c) on the CD, you get a superb 1975 live take of "Behind Blue Eyes." For some reason, all their live stuff is either Tommy-era performances or late-in-the-career victory laps. We've needed a live collection from the Who's Next period for years. (Sal? White courtesy phone, please.)

Anyway ...

OK, I'm convinced.

Impeach him. Quickly.

I know all the good political reasons for not doing it, and I agree with every one of them. They are all sound and sensible. None of them matter a damn. He's going to start up with Syria and Iran. The Congress -- just now stumbling around the bedroom looking for its glasses and wondering where it tossed its pants on that night back in '02 when it was drunk -- is scared to death. At a committee hearing on Thursday, Joe Biden threw the Constitution at Condi Rice and she pretty much just handed him a lollipop in return. Meanwhile, Chuck Hagel, who knows something about this, reminded her that he'd been a grunt in Cambodia back when there weren't supposed to be any American grunts in Cambodia. She sat there like an ice sculpture.

Then, there was this little ditty, from one of last week's gaggles:

Q: But in terms of anything out of the Pentagon -- the troops, deployment, any of the programs we initiate -- the president, alone, has the authority to --

MR. SNOW: You know what? I don't want to play junior constitutional lawyer on this, so let's wait until we see what happens, if you have specific questions about constitutional authority. But, you know, Congress has the power of the purse. The president has the ability to exercise his own authority if he thinks Congress has voted the wrong way.

OK, that last comment is the ballgame. If Congress says no, he can do it anyway, because his pet AG and a couple of third-string academics say he can, or because big baby Jesus commands him to do it, or because he's the Decider. He is impervious to persuasion; not listening to Jim Baker was sheer ingratitude, if nothing else, given the fact that he'd be digging dry holes in Midland if Baker hadn't helped bail him out all those times. He recognizes no limits. Hell, if you did impeach him, and if you did convict him, I think it's even money he wouldn't recognize the Congress' power to do THAT. Of all the wreckage that's accumulated over the past seven years, the "unitary executive" is the one that most desperately needs to be swept away. I'm not sure there's another way to do that.

Name: Brian Donohue
Hometown: http://dailyrevolution.net

I see that Friedman [$] of the Times is spouting out against the surge/escalation, calling it "contemptible" and an insult to our intelligence. Don't you think he might have added, "Boy, did I ever have my head up my ass on this one for two years ..."?

Nah ... after all, when you're a glorified pundit for the paper of record, what's the point of humility?

Name: Stephen Carver
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

If Bush's method of "addressing" Iran and Syria in his speech is not the definition of "escalation," then I don't know what is: "We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

On the very same day our President Insanity said all this, our troops were ordered to enter the Iranian consulate in northern Iraq.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but aren't consulates and embassies considered "home territory" for the country residing on the grounds? If so, we invaded Iran yesterday on the orders of George W. Bush.

Bush's language is slippery (his speechwriter should be tried for treason under the auspices of the Patriot Act) and he's deliberately provoking Iran to create an "event" that will "force" us into a war with Iran ("Remember the Maine!"). Thus the troop buildup and escalation of the Vietnam...ooops, I mean, the Iraq war.

At least Lyndon Johnson (wrongly) believed his generals when they told him escalating would give us a chance to win in Vietnam. Bush SAYS he listens to his generals, but fires them when they disagree with anything he says. His escalation seems to be a point of personal vanity. I am truly frightened by the combination of his immense arrogance on one hand and his moral turpitude on the other. He has absolutely no regard for human life because he truly believes he (and only he) is on a personal mission from G-d to create Armageddon. Isn't that the definition of an insane person? Can't some psychiatrist simply declare him insane and have him removed from office?

I mean, come on ... is his personal physician a patriot, or what?

Name: Rodger Coleman
Hometown: Nashville, TN

I've been reading your blog every day for years now and I always enjoy your writing. I am usually very sympathetic to your point of view and your progressive politics. But, as someone who actually *chose* to leave the Elite Northeast (Boston) after 16 years and moved to Tennessee, I bristle at this kind of knee-jerk condemnation of The South by people whose politics I otherwise respect.

Indeed, The South has a tortuous history worthy of condemnation. But let me tell you this: one of the reasons why I chose to move to Nashville was that it is not even remotely as segregated and classist a city as Boston, Massachusetts. If you've ever spent much time in Beantown, it's obvious within minutes of being here.

Sure, New York City is a wonderful place. But, I can't afford to live there and the United States is more than just the two coasts. It should be acknowledged that there are bigots, religious fanatics, warmongers, and authoritarian cultists everywhere -- not just in The South. Snobbish elitism does not serve the progressive cause in any way and only serves to alienate the very people who may actually agree with your policies, but despise your attitude.

Just my two cents from Flyover Country.

Eric replies: Hey, Rog, read what I wrote. I was speaking entirely politically. I was not making any value judgements about either place. (And by the way, Nashville, like Austin, does not count as the South, poltically, as both went heavily for Kerry.)

Name: Brian Campbell
Hometown: Carrollton, GA

As a fiscally pragmatic socially liberal Southerner who has consistently voted for Democratic leadership my entire adult life I have to take issue with your recent insulting comments regarding "The South." So we're a different country are we? You hear my funny accent and already you know I'm a racist. Excuse me, but doesn't that make you a bigot? Why is it that we're not allowed to be judged by the content of our character? Didn't we produce Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton? (And as far as I'm concerned George W. Bush is a Yalie from Kennebunkport.) Ask a black man living in New York, Boston, Detroit, Chicago or Los Angeles if he thinks racism begins at the Mason-Dixon line. Springsteen didn't write "American Skin" about something that happened down here, you know.

I enjoy your work, Eric, and agree with you on a great many things. But lay off the ignorant generalizations about me and my people. It's intellectually lazy and shows an ugly side of you.

Eric replies: Hey Brian, read the text. What exactly did I say that wasn't true? Did I say that all Southerners were racists? Did I say anything at all that wasn't explicitly political, rather than social or sociological? I think Stooge fans have a right to be annoyed, but please don't make me add "the fact that Southerners get all in your face without even reading the text" to my list of genuine prejudices ... (And ask Camden's two finest alumni, David and Margaret, if I don't love the South ....)

Name: Steve
Hometown: Raleigh

I'm not all that keen on the DLC myself, but if we (Dems) are the big tent party, we need to have room for a center-right group. That aside, why the gratuitous slam of the south? Why the mean-spirited willingness to write off a whole section of the country (that is growing and will therefore be increasingly important in national elections)?

Most of the increase in black elected officials in the past 30 years has occurred in six states, five of which are in the South -- Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina. And guess what, most of them are Dems. While I join other progressives in lauding the second elected black governor (MA) who was inaugurated last week, don't forget it was us goobers (in VA) that did it first -- 17 years ago. I worked successfully last fall to help elect an African-American to the NC House of Representatives in a majority white district. And now Ty Harrell represents me in the NC 41st House District - a minority representative in a suburban district. I guess it is a good thing my neighbors did not know that "White people do not vote for black people" here. There is a reason that there has been a net influx of African-Americans (among others) moving to the south in recent years. Yes, it is a "different country," and it has plenty of room to improve. But we're not all backward, misogynistic racists here. Some of us even wear shoes on a regular basis and have most of our own teeth. Maybe it is time you adjusted your prejudices and preconceptions.

Such parochialism does not become you. You should apologize.

Eric replies: See above. (Ok, this one has a little data, but still not enough detail. Did a majority of white folk in your district vote for the black candidate? If so, then yes, yours is a genuine exception to the rule. It doesn't disprove it. And it certainly does not undermine the larger case made by Harold Ford's loss to a crazy person who ran a proto-lynching advertisement. But it would demand a caveat. The fact of a black increase in population is responsible for the increase in black elected officials proves my case, not yours, bub. (Though it is aided by the anti-progressive gerrymandering schemes of the Black Caucus.) And since no Southern state is even close to having a black majority of voters, much less one that can overcome white prejudice against black candidates, you'll get no apology from me, bub.

And by the way, why is it that these three progressive intelligent readers all see fit to ignore what I actually said?

Name: John A.
Hometown: Houston, TX

Dear Dr.

In reference to your suggestion that we write off the South, sadly there is a lot of truth in what you write. But believe it or not, some of us do have running water, wear shoes, and have more than a sixth-grade education. From your past posts, you seem like a Randy Newman fan. Remember what he wrote.

Eric replies: A big Randy Newman fan, bub. As it happens, way back in 1974, I took my mom to see the premiere of "Good Old Boys" at what was then Philharmonic Hall, featuring Randy with the New York Philharmonic. It's still a masterpiece. (And my God, do I need to say it again? There's plenty of racism everywhere, including, dare I say, inside of yours truly.) But where I live, bub, white people vote for blacks and straight people vote for gays. (How many openly gay elected officials do you have in the land of cotton, again?) That's a fact of life and attacking my elitism -- to which I readily and happily cop -- does not change it. It only changes the subject.

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