Talking is cheap, people follow like sheep ...


... Even though there is nowhere to go ...

I've got a new "Think Again" column, "The Viral Center," here.

I'm going to Sundance today, thanks to the Creative Coalition, and you know, with the time difference, we'll have guest-star Altercators Monday through Wednesday. I'm looking forward to see the movie version of Brian Morton's brilliant, "Starting Out in the Evening," and also to seeing my friend Deb Kogan's kid starring in his first movie, Joshua, though I may not because they ignored my email requesting tickets.

Speaking of Sundance (last year), didn't I tell you about Little Miss Sunshine? Also, Thank You for Smoking. That dog blowjob movie didn't do as well as I hoped, though. (And by the way, if you are a Nadergnome and go see that Nader movie, and manage to make it all the way into hour four of your hero's life story -- you know, the one where he helps cause the Iraq war and becomes Bush's Best Friend for Life -- and you decide you can't live another second without telling me how much you hate me, how about maybe you get a life instead? K? Just a suggestion ...)

White House Correspondents: Yes, we are gerbils on spin-wheels.

Quote of the Day: "They don't want anyone knocking the president. He's really over the coals right now, and he's worried about his legacy," added Little, a longtime Las Vegas resident.

Police state update.

Credit Where It's Due Department:

1) Harry Reid: "This morning, I'd like to be clear: The President does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking Congressional authorization."

2 Nancy Pelosi: "The president knows that because the troops are in harm's way, that we won't cut off the resources. That's why he's moving so quickly to put them in harm's way."

3) National Review for the hed: "Time Inc. Lays Off 289 Persons of the Year."

Speaking of which, Time could have kept a bunch of people and fired Joe Klein. If they had, they would have saved a lot of money by not bothering with this column and instead reprinted this two-month-old column by Tom Edsall, which said much the same thing better, sooner and, I'm guessing, a hell of a lot cheaper. (They could also fire Krauthammer, Kristol and Sully and run old speeches by Joe McCarthy, and Roy Cohn, and then probably keep all 298 people for the $.

From Our Sponsors:

Live Doper Rush Limbaugh makes racist dick joke about Obama, here.

Media ignored unanswered questions about Bush's new domestic surveillance program.

From the Benton Foundation:


Rep Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) will head the Domestic Policy panel of the House Government Reform Committee. Even before that announcement was made, Rep. Kucinich raised some eyebrows when he told a media reform conference in Memphis that his panel would hold hearings on reviving the Fairness Doctrine and on media ownership issues. The Fairness Doctrine, adopted in 1949 by the FCC and generally abandoned during the Reagan administration in the 1980s, required stations airing information on controversial issues of public importance to offer contrasting points of views. From the 1970s to the early 1980s it was interpreted as also requiring stations that presented attacks or criticism to seek out and provide equal time for the other side. Any plans to revive it would likely spark a major fight with broadcasters. Recently when President Bush announced his Iraq policy in a prime-time speech, the Democratic Party response by Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin wasn't aired by most broadcasters. The Fairness Doctrine could have required broadcasters to air that response. An aide to the congressman declined to confirm plans for hearings and specifically whether any would be held on the Fairness Doctrine. She said that while media issues will be a high priority, it won't be the panel's only focus.


Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday yielded little new information about the Bush administration's sudden revelation that it would seek court approval for its domestic eavesdropping activities. At a Department of Justice oversight hearing scheduled before the government announcement on Wednesday, Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and ranking Republican Arlen Specter (PA) said they were pleased to hear that future activities associated with a controversial National Security Agency operation known as the Terrorist Surveillance Program would undergo review by judges on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. But many critical questions about the scope and content of the court orders remain unanswered, committee members said.

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc -

She talks kinda lazy/and people say she's crazy ... You know, I like this starting-posts-with-lyrics thing.

One of the great things about being a Who fan always has been the arguments you can have with other Who fans. Let me say to the two blokes who responded: a) I am sorry that I have only bought Who's Next in five of its 390 iterations since 1971 (Pete doesn't need my money that badly), and b) no, neither of the Entwistle tracks on Who Are You cuts "Success Story." In fact, absent the monumental title track, that whole album is a particular disappointment to me. Moon's half-dead. Daltrey's not much more than a bellow. Pete's writing is falling into an extraordinarily prolix period, and most of the songs sound half-finished at best.

Anyway ...

To my mind, there's some real journalistic finagling going on in that Newsweek piece that argues that the generals have been given a pass for the unfolding catastrophe in Iraq. At one point, the authors -- John Barry and Evan Thomas -- discuss the "myth" that has grown up around General Eric Shinseki's famous prediction that securing the sandbox would require several hundred thousand soldiers. (This, as the authors point out, was dismissed as "outlandish" by Paul Wolfowitz, who could screw up a two-car funeral if you spotted him the hearse.) Barry and Thomas report that Shinseki never raised this concern in meetings with the president -- "the real time for truth-telling," according to the authors -- and they source this claim to "two participants who did not want to be identified discussing presidential meetings." Then, as the cherry on top, they quote Shinseki himself as saying he should have "pressed harder with the president." Shinseki tells them, "Probably that's fair."

Well, just a minute here.

1) Where's the "myth" that's grown up around Shinseki's comments? He told the Congress exactly what he did. Wolfowitz -- and half the administration, if memory serves -- did indeed ridicule the notion. He was clearly right. They were clearly wrong. What Barry and Thomas regard as "myth" likely refers to the fact that people who were right have been using Shinseki's congressional testimony like a tackhammer on the people who were wrong.

2) What is with this bizarre sourcing? Nobody EVER "wants to be identified discussing presidential meetings." That's how you get fired. My spidey-sense tells me that this particular tidbit came out of Ye Olde White House Ratf**king Shoppe. Since there's no reason ever again to believe anything that comes out of that bottomless well of lies and poison, Barry and Thomas owed their readers a bit more precision.

3) Using Shinseki's quote to support the anonymous slander that he choked in the clutch seems indefensible. I suspect at this point Shinseki regrets not having tied the president to a chair until he listened to common sense. Was Shinseki talking about "pressing harder with the president" in those particular meetings? (And good luck with that, by the way.) If not, this is just cheap.

OK, so impeaching C-Plus Augustus is a political non-starter for the moment, as is the golden dream of packing him and ol' Shoot-'Em-In-The-Head off to the moons of Neptune. But who's to say we can't do something about their pet Attorney General? It was a tough week for our buddy, Thumbscrews J. Coatholder. Suddenly, almost as if there were a Democratic Congress empowered to do actual oversight, he remembers that, back in '02, he'd left that pad of FISA warrants under his copy of Waterboarding Illustrated. (Found it! Good job.) And now there's this nasty bit of featherbedding whereby he's managed to get both Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy gumming his leg. Read that item. The stonewalling alone ought to be enough the begin hearings on his removal from office. He is not the White House counsel. He is the Attorney General of the United States. He works for us, not for his patron. And yet he's never made that transition. He's as much a creature of the political operation of this White House as John Mitchell was a creature of Nixon's, and he's at the very center of almost everything that, in a more sensible universe, would constitute impeachable offenses against this president.

And, no, this is not the norm. Beyond the example of Elliot Richardson, there's the precedent of Janet Reno who, after all, preposterously gave Ken Starr permission to go sniffing for presidential DNA in his investigation of a phony scandal involving a failed land deal. From first to last, this Attorney General has behaved like the second-string in-house lawyer he always has been. Recall that, for example, during his nomination hearings before the Senate, he was asked by Russ Feingold whether the president had the inherent power to order warrantless searches of Americans, and Thumbscrews declined to answer what he called a "hypothetical," even though he knew full well how non-hypothetical the question really was. How you can be that contemptuous of Congress and not be in contempt of Congress is not for small minds to ponder, I guess. But accountability has to start somewhere. It might as well start with him.

Name: Steve
Hometown: New Jersey


I think the one poll that sticks out is Bush's approval number of 39% (I had to keep checking it because I thought I was seeing things). Considering what Bush has singlehandedly done to the country and the world, I'd be doing back flips over that number if I was him.

But seriously, what could 39% of the country possibly be thinking? Thirty-nine percent!

I'd hate to think of the circumstances under which we'd see that number slide down to where it belongs, if that's at all possible.

Scary if you ask me.

Name: Bob
Hometown: Easton

I saw D'Souza on Colbert this week and nearly fell out of my seat. I have never heard such a string of falsehoods laid out as fact. My favorite was this..." Well, Roosevelt gave away Eastern Europe at Yalta, and then the Russians invaded Afghanistan..." Nice four decade jump. I guess he didn't read the recent revelations that then President Carter was doing covert ops over there, which happened to be what the Russians were saying at the time and using as their reason to invade. Dr. Alterman, you're a published author ... how do these guys get published?

Name: Grant Miner
Hometown: Costa Mesa, CA

Reading the Air Force's sanctimonious statement regarding the servicewoman who posed for a Playboy centerfold, I can't help but remember Col. Kurtz's observation from "Apocalypse Now": "We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won't let them write 'f*ck' on the side of their airplane because IT'S OBSCENE!"

Name: Mark Cashman
Hometown: Yonkers, NY

Re: David Broder: I sent him this after reading his useless column today:

"That is not a goal worth one American life. And if it turns out that's what all this amounts to, then we will have no choice."

And what then? And how long will you go on saying that? You keep moving the goalposts. Another six months. Another six months. Condoleezza Rice, when asked at the recent Senate hearing about what we would do if al-Maliki doesn't step up, refused to answer the question. She said it was unwise to think about a Plan B when you're trying to make Plan A work. That's exactly the approach the administration took when it invaded. Assume the best and make no plans for the worst. Idiots. Nothing about this war was ever worth one American life. As long as influential commentators like you continue to enable this pig-headed, arrogant adolescent in the White House, more unnecessary American deaths will ensue. Recognize it and say it. Bush will not change course unless he is forced to.

Name: Terry
Hometown: Cheyenne

Thanks you for saying "Retire, already," re Broder.

I'm always up for a tip about a good new musical artist, and will check her out. Have you ever been into Jane Siberry? I figure the circles of your life have brought you in touch with such musical sophistications long before me, but she is new to me. I have just received a two-CD retrospective of her stuff, and my head is way into it. I'm wondering if she falls into the McLean "this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you" Vincent category, in that other than the exquisite song "Calling All Angels," her stuff isn't widely known. I also see she just changed her name to Issa. She's going to be at Joe's Pub in NY next December.

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