"I don't wanna be a pinhead no more. I just met a nurse that I could go for."

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

This story, headlined "Bush Directive Increases Sway on Regulation," demonstrates why I could never work as a "real" reporter for a major newspaper. The story explains:

President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president's priorities.

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.

The White House said the executive order was not meant to rein in any one agency. But business executives and consumer advocates said the administration was particularly concerned about rules and guidance issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In an interview on Monday, Jeffrey A. Rosen, general counsel at the White House Office of Management and Budget, said, "This is a classic good-government measure that will make federal agencies more open and accountable."

Business groups welcomed the executive order, saying it had the potential to reduce what they saw as the burden of federal regulations. This burden is of great concern to many groups, including small businesses, that have given strong political and financial backing to Mr. Bush.

See, if I were writing this story, I would feel compelled to bring up the following incident which explains, IMNSHO, what is actually motivating this power grab.

Remember this? In December, 2005, James E. Hansen, the longtime director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, gave a dangerous speech of the sort that frightens George Bush. He said there should be a prompt reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming. After Dr. Hansen gave his speech, he was told that thenceforth the Institute's public affairs staff would be required to "review his lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard website and requests for interviews from journalists." We later found out that NASA's media gatekeeper was a 24-year-old former Bush campaign worker who had "accidentally" claimed earning a college degree when, in fact, he was a dropout. That's here and here.

In the meantime, be even more very afraid ...

Someone send Cass Sunstein the memo: On TNR's Open University site, here, the esteemed polymathic U of C law professor comments on Peter Beinart's essay on Barack Obama by asking: "Obvious questions: Why does Beinart think that? What's the empirical evidence? Has he studied public opinion polls with respect to Obama? Has he investigated competing hypotheses?"

Um, dude. The whole point in writing in an opinion magazine like TNR, particularly TNR, but also particularly Slate (and, well, the rest of 'em too), is to be able to make categorical statements with zero empirical evidence. If you "feel" something is true, it's true, or at least true enough to base a column on it. I actually agree with Beinart about Obama, but Sunstein's questions are a useful reminder of just how airy all this stuff is.

And while we're over there, look who is suddenly not perfect ... We can give Matt and Glenn and Ezra and Spencer some props on that, methinks.

P.S. I know it makes me look like a meanie, but I couldn't resist this: "She could live on the millions in royalties from her 23 exercise videos and God only knows how much Ted Turner gave her in alimony." Is there no honor between people who live off the riches of their ex-spouses? Doesn't Ms. Fonda deserve a little credit for, you know, earning a bit of her own money, as opposed to say, using your ex-wife's inherited fortune to destroy America's most important liberal magazine and being forced to sell off controlling interest, over and over, while cutting the salaries of your already underpaid staff?

Just asking ...

Hey, look, here:

Gov. Eliot Spitzer declared on Monday that he would propose a major increase in state aid for New York's public schools in his first budget and would seek vastly expanded oversight of local school districts, including wide powers to remove school boards or force the dismissal of superintendents for repeated failures.

Laying out an expansive agenda in a speech at the State Education Department, Mr. Spitzer said he was proposing "the largest infusion of resources in our state's history" but left a specific number for Wednesday, when he is to unveil his budget. Officials who have been briefed on the governor's plans said he would propose $1.4 billion in added education spending statewide for the coming fiscal year, increasing to $7 billion in added annual spending after four years.

The largest share of that $7 billion -- about $3.1 billion -- would go to New York City. Combined with $2.2 billion in added city education spending over the next four years proposed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, city schools ultimately stand to gain $5.3 billion a year -- a huge windfall even for a school district that already spends more than $15 billion a year.

This is truly cause for celebration, and not only for New York City school parents. America is a worthless concept if we don't put our money where our collective mouth is when it comes to providing all our children with decent educational opportunities. Just one question: Didn't the NYC teachers' union endorse George Pataki for governor -- the man who refused to disburse these moneys even when it was so ordered by the courts? (Spitzer is doing it voluntarily.) Didn't the liberal New York Times editorial page also endorse Pataki? Doesn't everyone agree that Pataki was not even particularly competent? Are these two institutions supposed to be impossibly liberal? So what the hell is going on? (That's a rhetorical question, but the answer to the Times part, at least, can be found under: "Refs, Working the ..."

From Our Sponsors:

First of all, congrats to our sponsors on this Times editor's note:

A front-page article on Sunday reported on Barack Obama's years at Harvard Law School. It included a quotation from Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore, who said that Mr. Obama's inclusive leadership style as president of the Harvard Law Review would not be as effective in running a country.

The Times later learned that Mr. Klain is an informal adviser to Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, who is expected to announce on Wednesday that he is running for president. Mr. Klain's affiliation with the Biden campaign should have been disclosed in the article. (Some credit would have been nice.)

Also this:

ABC's Tapper questions "authentic[ity]" of Democrats but not Republicans

Andrew Sullivan on Sen. Clinton's "cootie vibes": "I just can't stand her" Congrats to my friends at both Time and The Atlantic on that.

Savage on Sen. Bernie Sanders: "a dirty socialist" who should "go to hell"

Alter-reviews:

Petey and I saw Bob Seger at the Garden last Thursday. I've never seen him before and it was a night for genuine nostalgia and some serious rock n' roll kitsch. The interesting thing about Seger live is that he doesn't really play guitar, except on the acoustic numbers. These were for me, the unchallenged highlights of the show. The pathos and quiet power of "Night Moves" and "Against the Wind" are the equal to almost anything in the rock canon. On the other hand, the stuff for which Seger is best known -- the all-out rockers -- felt a little silly to me, since he was just singing them and pumping his fists in the air over and over and singing about stuff that however, heartfelt, just doesn't work as well 35 or so years later. The crowd, which was mostly even older than I am, went for these songs in a big way, but I felt myself alienated by them. "Old Time Rock & Roll" was great once-upon-a-time, but today it feels stale; "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" less so, but still. It's a delicate balance, this 61-year-old rocker thing, and while Seger still has the energy and the same vocal chops, it's really the mid-tempo, more musing songs that will serve as his legacy. The Times review of the show is quite a bit more generous than I was feeling, so read that and decide for yourself.

Happy birthday, Chalkie, and congratulations, again, Dr. Diana Roberta Silver.

Correspondence Corner:

Dear Professor,

Firstly, we beg your pardon if our email bothered you all. We'd like to introduce ourself to you. We are students of some small private universities in Sumedang, INDONESIA. Sumedang regency is a remote place in Java Island. Our University are Sebelas April University and Winaya Mukti University. We come from group studies that concerns with intellectual discourses, especially in Politics and International Relations.

As students from remote place we have little access for our education. But in our shortages, we try to intensify our studies by holding a group discussion. We have a group discussion, that is Sumedang Student Association for Politics and International Studies.

We have discussed with our members that we have to try an initiative for getting a help for books' donation from abroad, because we know that it is very difficult to get books donation in Indonesia, especially in english version.

We are very grateful and glad if you could donate us books for our studies. And we are trying now for building up a small library for our study group. We are interested in the themes of Political Theory, International Relations, Comparative Politics, British Politics, American Politics, Political Philosophy, World Politics, International Political Economy, Public Policy, and other related books and journals.

We are sure that your donations will be very important and useful for helping us in getting knowledge.

Here is our mailing address (secretariat):

Sumedang Student Association for Politics and International Studies

PMII Unpad Kmp. Warung Kalde Blk. Eiger Kec. Jatinangor Kab. SUMEDANG 45363 INDONESIA

Thank you very much for your attention and kindness.

Best Wishes,

Sumedang Student Association for Politics and International Studies

Name: LTC Bob
Hometown: Capitol Hill

Mr. Gygi is, sadly, mistaken.

I did not learn of the "four mosques blown up" from Ms. Malkin. Being a news junkie with a continuous habit of updating from news sites, I learned of it from the AP.

That was what THEY wrote, first.

If you don't know how the AP works, it's like this. They print continually expanding and updating versions of the same story. Usually, on a small story, there is only one version. But on a biggie, and breaking (something in the past 20 minutes), it might be ultimately 3, 6, or even 10 versions. But the versions are supposed to build upon each other. The FACTS are not supposed to change. Quotes are not supposed to change.

But they did.

When that happens, skeptic follower of the MSM that I am, my eyebrow raises and I look into it.

Malkin is only one of dozens. And yes, they *are* mostly on the left. And yes, they often *do* make claims, extrapolated from the evidence, which goes too far. But it is, and remains to this point, a great and enduring (and for me, stomach-turning) shame of the left ... that none of those examining and crowing about the problems with a news source CHANGING THE STORY, CHANGING THE WITNESS STATEMENTS, IN IRAQ, has been from the left.

What happened to skepticism? What happened to seeking Truth? What happened to holding news sources to account for what they print? What happened to asking for facts, not rumor, and getting really really pissed when they fed you rumor instead?

Seriously. This is distressing me.

Research it yourself.

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Your item on Robert Lipsyte got me thinking. Living here in Chicago, I'm treated to the full media blitz of Super Bowl hype. Now I want the Bears to win and all -- and I'm grateful to the Colts for saving me from having to choose between the team of my birth and that of my current hometown -- but the obsession with the Super Bowl has revealed to me that the real solution to Iraq can be found in the NFL. I'm not talking about broadcasting the games to the troops or something like the silly fiasco that the USA "Dream Team" perpetrated in Barcelona in which NFL stars would take on teams from other countries. No, the solution to Iraq lies in having NFL personnel step up for duty. Pat Tillman should not be the only NFL player to wear the uniform in the defining struggle of our time. OK, he played for the Cardinals, so joining the Army Rangers was an automatic upgrade. But plenty of others should be slipping on camo over their flak jackets. Football, it has long and often been noted, is a martial sport and parallels its strategies and game plans to military maneuvers. Surely, the Bush administration could use an infusion of Lombardi-esque mettle. In his own inimitable fumbling way, the president has said something that could be paraphrased as "Victory is not everything, it's the only thing." The problem is that he had a Rumsfeld and not a Pete Rozelle or Paul Tagliabue. It seems like the war is already being talked about through sports metaphors so why not go all the way. Imagine if Belichick had been calling the shots and not Abizaid. You'd have seen halftime adjustments that would make your head spin.

There has been a lot of talk about reinstituting the draft, but why would we want to draft a bunch of pudgy 18-year-olds when real warriors are in our midst. NFL players have already been through the draft, one in which they qualify through expertise not because they can't find some other way of avoiding it. With the exception of kickers, they are all physically and mentally tough individuals. Many already sport GI haircuts -- OK, not the guys with dreads. But one of the Bears' defensive linemen is now facing charges for having unregistered firearms, including assault weapons, so I assume that he's got experience as a sharpshooter; I'm guessing he's not the only one. ESPN could get in on this action too. SportsCenter could give us updates from Kabul, Najaf, or anywhere else this defining struggle will take us, like Tehran. And all that airtime would make young Americans more than eager to enlist. Little kids would be wearing desert fatigues with "Manning" stitched over the breast pocket. No longer would the military struggle to meet its recruitment goals. All it would take to get this thing rolling is one postgame spot. Imagine, right after the Bears have won and Brian Urlacher is asked, "Hey Brian, where are you going?" And he says, "I'm going to Baghdad!" They'd be turning the crowds away at the recruitment stations.

So let's ask these heroes of the gridiron to dedicate their renowned toughness to an American enterprise even more hallowed than the Super Bowl; a victory in the Terror Bowl will make the world free and supplant soccer around the globe with the only brand of football that should really count. If the military was populated with NFL greatness, do you think Osama would still be doing his end zone dance in Tora Bora, or whatever cave he's in now? Boo-yah! I don't think so.

Name: J DAlessandro
Hometown: Crestwood, NY

It looks like a lost cause; no, not just Iraq, but this Altercation-rock-lyric-ban-that-never-was.

I propose that everyone get it out of their system once and for all, with a First Annual Altercation Top Ten of All Time Best Rock Song Lyric Contest.

I'll get it started, or continued, or whatever:

"Time will destroy you like a Mexican God."

What do I win?

Name: Alan T
Hometown: Holland, PA

Is it possible, in light of Senator Lieberman's recent announcement that he could vote for any party in the 2008 presidential election to get someone in the media to ask him this straightforward question:

Knowing what you know today, including Al Gore's vigorous opposition to the Iraq war, who would YOU now vote for in the 2000 election, and why?

Besides being terrific theater to watch reporters chase him around Washington, or Fox News, trying not to answer such a question, his attempts to avoid it would be illuminating (and potentially crucifying) for his elective future. Seriously, imagine a party's VP candidate considering voting for the other candidate for president, because "I agree more often than not with Republicans on foreign and defense policy." and "Party is important, but more important is the national interest."

Who will ask this question until it is answered?

Name: Steve M. (And Petey)
Hometown:

It ain't true. See the great urban legend debunk site.

Eric replies: It's sorta true, just not the part about the numbers being released in five days.

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