Slacker Friday

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I've got a new Think Again column called "Still the Same," here.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations, on the causes and consequences of climate change. For the first time the group asserted with near certainty -- more than 90 percent confidence -- that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases were the main drivers of warming since 1950, here.

AEI: We put our mouths where our sponsors' money is ("Real Scientists Need Not Apply").

Invading Iran, from the same smart fellows who brought you Iraq, here.

The shrill one pays tribute to Molly, here ($):

The highlights: Nov. 19, 2002: "The greatest risk for us in invading Iraq is probably not war itself, so much as: What happens after we win? ... There is a batty degree of triumphalism loose in this country right now."

Jan. 16, 2003: "I assume we can defeat Hussein without great cost to our side (God forgive me if that is hubris). The problem is what happens after we win. The country is 20 percent Kurd, 20 percent Sunni and 60 percent Shiite. Can you say, 'Horrible three-way civil war?' "

July 14, 2003: "I opposed the war in Iraq because I thought it would lead to the peace from hell, but I'd rather not see my prediction come true and I don't think we have much time left to avert it. That the occupation is not going well is apparent to everyone but Donald Rumsfeld. ... We don't need people with credentials as right-wing ideologues and corporate privatizers -- we need people who know how to fix water and power plants."

Oct. 7, 2003: "Good thing we won the war, because the peace sure looks like a quagmire. ...

"I've got an even-money bet out that says more Americans will be killed in the peace than in the war, and more Iraqis will be killed by Americans in the peace than in the war. Not the first time I've had a bet out that I hoped I'd lose."

So Molly Ivins -- who didn't mingle with the great and famous, didn't have sources high in the administration, and never claimed special expertise on national security or the Middle East -- got almost everything right. Meanwhile, how did those who did have all those credentials do?

With very few exceptions, they got everything wrong. They bought the obviously cooked case for war -- or found their own reasons to endorse the invasion. They didn't see the folly of the venture, which was almost as obvious in prospect as it is with the benefit of hindsight. And they took years to realize that everything we were being told about progress in Iraq was a lie.

Was Molly smarter than all the experts? No, she was just braver.

From our sponsors:

CNN Headline News invites Glenn Beck to come on the air and simply lie, here.

Purporting to present views of "constitutional scholars," NPR quoted only Bush admin. supporter, without citing his conservative bona fides.

ABC aired Limbaugh as "observer" on race issues in Biden controversy.

Alter-reviews: No reviews today, but I'm going to an American Songbook Tribute to my friends Alan and Marilyn Bergman tonight, and taking the kid back to Lincoln Center, this time to Merkin Hall for their Broadway Playhouse Series tribute to Charles Strouse. Sunday night, I got Jonathan Richman at the Knitting Factory. For those of you who like your bands replete with historical irony, I noticed a band called "Alger Hiss" playing at the Knit on 2/15. Ask them about the secret Far Asian protocol at Yalta.

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

"Play it straight, or play it from left field/You got to play it just the way you feel."

Aw, dammit all to hell.

A year or so ago, we lost a gentle soul named John Ferguson, the first great editor I ever had, who'd cut his professional teeth at The Texas Observer under Kaye Northcott and Molly Ivins. Every great story John had, and he had a rack of them, began with the phrase, "One day, Northcott and Ivins..." and went from there. So, in 1980, when I met Ms. I. for the first time, I told her that I considered her, if not a professional mother, at the very least, a professional aunt. She got a very big kick out of that. (It was then, I believe, that I passed along the ultimate Boston compliment and told her I thought her work was "wicked smart." Hey, if she can drop the Texas lingo on me ...) When John passed, and she couldn't make the memorial service, she asked us to send along the eulogies we'd read. That was the last time I heard from her. Now she's gone, and so is Father Robert Drinan, S.J., a brave and decent man who entered The Society (as the Jesuits call it) shortly after my uncle Michael did, and who always returned my calls as a congressman, and as an ex-congressman, because of that. (My European history professor once said that there were only three things you needed to know about European history: the nobility is always corrupt, the middle-class is never ready to take control, and the Jesuits are always being expelled.) Two brilliant troublemakers, gone at a time in which there is so much brilliant trouble to be made.

I think the reason neither of them really fit the role of modern media celebrity -- I mean, Jesus, Gloria Borger is preferable on TV to Molly Ivins? Maureen Dowd is a better writer? Yeah, and I'm the Tsar of all the Russias -- is that they believed too strongly and too genuinely in too many things for an era in which we've spent two goddamn weeks talking about a caesura in a remark Hillary Clinton made in Iowa a flat year before anyone votes there. Molly made a point often of how much she liked good politicians and believed in the political system. And Father Drinan -- I know. I know. But the honorific is a tic of my Papist heritage that I can't lose -- was deadly serious about deadly serious topics -- war and peace, economic justice. That's not the way we do political commentary -- or politics, alas -- very much any more. What do we get? Michael Kinsley stuffing his IQ into a jar and defending Scooter Libby on the grounds of Business As Usual. Two weeks of idiocy about a caesura in a remark made by Hillary Clinton in Iowa a flat year before anyone votes there. (And let's not get into the fact that the very thought of an HRC candidacy seems to have driven Chris Matthews into some serious brain-fever). Snarky "Messiah Watches" about Barack Obama. The worst thing you can do at the Kool Kids table is be either sincere or serious. Sorry, you pack of smug, insufferable bastards -- a war's gone bad and the country's a mess, and you never were funny, anyway, not like Molly was. So go and take your little slambooks and wreck some other profession for a while. The grown-ups have work to do.

Name: Matt Shirley
Hometown: Gurnee, IL

Dr. Alterman,

I have no idea who Mary Ann Akers is. However, did you notice that she is perpetuating the smear job on Sen. Obama? She described Fox's mistake on this story thusly: "It was 'Fox and Friends' host Steve Doocy who aired the Insight magazine piece, which reported that operatives connected to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) found out that Obama, as a child, was educated at a Muslim madrassah in Indonesia."

Nowhere in her reportage is there any mention of the fact that Sen. Obama was NOT educated at a Muslim madrassah, or that Sen Clinton's "operatives" did NOT have anything to do with the false report. If there was an Olympic mendacity competition, Ms. Akers would blow the lid off of the degree of difficulty with this dive! She's managed to write a column about a discredited, false story in a way that implicitly perpetuates the falsehoods, AND made it sound like Sen. Obama is the bad guy for refusing to talk to the Network that first put it out there.

I guess this is how the "swift boat" script is going to run in 2008. [sigh]

Name: LTC Bob Bateman
Hometown: Currently at Sea, aboard USCG Cutter Dallas

Readers can rest assured that if and when I ever begin to look for reasons why any war waged during my career may be lost, I will start with looking inside my own shirt, and then work outwards. Given my personal beliefs about the benefits and value of the media, I don't think I will *ever* get there. Journalism protects our rights, just as my profession protects our liberty. They are, at least, equally important, and I don't think journalism has seriously let us down in about 104 years. You can Google "Bateman" and WNYC or NPR On the Media to get a full appreciation of the depth of my sentiments there. Or you can take my word for it.

Regards from the Deep Blue,

LTC Bob

Name: John
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Dr. A, I'm a bit confused. As mentioned in your article, Huckabee says "I think it's one thing to have a debate and a discussion about this strategy, but to openly oppose, in essence, the strategy, I think that can be a very risky thing for our troops."

So we can debate the surge, as long as everybody supports it in the end. Doesn't sound like a very spirited debate.

Name: Jonathan
Hometown: San Diego

On Sam Seder today, you mentioned you thought some people on Air America are "way out there."

I'm curious about who you meant. I'm a big listener to AAR, and your opinions mean a lot to me -- Janeane's not there anymore, so who were you referring to?

Eric replies: Well I was thinking primarily of Janeane, with whom I co-hosted for Sam a couple of times, and to be honest, I don't listen much, but when I appeared at a hearing on media bias with Randi Rhodes I did find her to be rather "out there."

Name: Catherine
Hometown: New York, NY

Hi Eric,

Thanks for your Think Again column about the protest last weekend. I marched in it as part of the CodePink contingent, and that we continue to be marginalized both amazes and saddens me. Two D.C. taxi drivers and one delivery man told me later that weekend that they wished they could have been there, but they had to work. From how knowledgeably they spoke about the war, I believed them. Dozens of others cheered us and gave us the thumbs up signs on the streets and subways as we made our way to the protest. How many more Americans would come to these kinds of marches if they were financially and geographically able to? One of the great things about keeping the minimum wage low, and the middle class financially unstable is how few of them can fully participate in our democracy.

We do now represent the mainstream of public opinion, and even though we were ahead of it, none of us that I know of are busy saying "I told you so." (Except to the politicians and pundits.) We're happy for the company. We'd like to have that reflected in both the media and in these statements and sound-bites made by politicians. The very same ones who were wrong all along and who somehow manage to sleep at night as they throw life after life into early and eternal graves, in a desperately pathetic and morally reprehensible attempt to come out of this with both their current and historical reputations untarnished. I don't even wish to know how they sleep nights. The very concept remains blessedly unfathomable to me.

Name: Janis Canon
Hometown: Traverse City, MI

Although I only knew her through her written words, I am also mourning the loss of Molly. Since I've always listed her as one I would choose to have as company on a desert island, it was nice to hear you confirm my belief that she would give me enough laughs and challenges to fill the otherwise empty hours.

I think Molly might like my choice of song lines:

Still, at the end of every hard-earned day, people find some reason to believe.

Eric replies: "Reason to Believe" was my original title for It Ain't No Sin, but my editor thought it reminded everyone of the Tim Hardin/Rod Stewart song. It's great, though.

Name: Jay Sherman-Godfrey
Hometown: Astoria, NY

So many...

How 'bout:

"To be a zombie all the time
requires such dedication."

-- Eno

Name: Paul Kingman
Hometown: New Bern, NC

"I'd rather be a free man in my grave, than living as a puppet or a slave."

Name: Catherine
Hometown:
Chesterfield, VA

Maybe it's a little long for the contest, but I can't think of anything that comes close to this:

There's a dark cloud rising from the desert floor
I packed my bags and I'm heading straight into the storm
Gonna be a twister to blow everything down
That ain't got the faith to stand its ground
Blow away the dreams that tear you apart
Blow away the dreams that break your heart
Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted

Name: Jim Coll
Hometown: Carnation, WA

Well, as once posted here on Altercation, I nominate the entirety of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," particularly the last two stanzas, which somehow I never learned in grade school.

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