How can the angels get to sleep when the devil leaves his porch light on?

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Remember that key fact Al Gore mentions in An Inconvenient Truth, that a statistically insignificant number of peer-reviewed scientific journals questioned the reality of global warming and the role of human activity in causing it, but over fifty percent of journalistic articles did? Well, that's the kind of intellectual irresponsibility that actually endangers lives by passing along misinformation that is created by people with an obvious material interest in keeping our defenses down. It hides under the guise of "objectivity," but that's nonsense. Are there two sides to the debate over whether gravity exists as well?

Anyway, my point is, even with the issue closed on the scientific front, this indefensible practice continues. Look at what showed up in The Washington Post's front page coverage of the report last week, here:

Some critics, however, question the push for nationwide limits on emissions from power plants, automobiles and other industrial sources. At the George C. Marshall Institute, a think tank that receives funding from Exxon Mobil, chief executive William O'Keefe and President Jeff Kueter issued a statement urging "great caution in reading too much" into the report until the panel releases its detailed scientific documentation a few months from now.

"Claims being made that a climate catastrophe later this century is more certain are unjustified," they said, adding that "the underlying state of knowledge does not justify scare tactics or provide sufficient support for proposals . . . to suppress energy use and impose large economic burdens on the U.S. economy."

Oh, really? Where's their evidence? Does the reporter even ask? Do the editors? Why pass along this garbage as if it's legitimate science? We know, for instance, as the Post picks up today, here, that these outfits are literally buying dissent from scientists by advertising for results in advance of the actual experimentation. (Good for the Post for crediting the Guardian on this story.) Really, this is not only annoying; it's also dangerous.

Hey, look: Rupert Murdoch admits manipulating the media over Iraq, here. We note also that Murdoch is giving his children $100 million each. This is one of the many, many, many reasons I never tell my daughter that the truth will win out or that virtue will be rewarded. It's one lie she can live without. Need more evidence? How about this example of evil, triumphant?

Mr. [Robert] Novak spoke publicly only when Mr. Armitage's role as a source was about to be revealed last fall in the book, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War by David Corn and Michael Isikoff and was publicly acknowledged by Mr. Armitage himself. And this is what Mr. Novak said: "Armitage's silence the next 2 1/2 years caused intense pain for his colleagues in government and enabled partisan Democrats in Congress to falsely accuse Rove of being my primary source," adding, "Armitage's tardy self-disclosure is tainted because it is deceptive."

Substitute a couple of proper nouns and the paragraph neatly summarizes Mr. Novak's behavior as well. Remember that while he was not saying a word publicly, he was doing plenty of talking -- to prosecutors, to the F.B.I., to the grand jury. He cooperated, having been released from what he said was a tacit agreement to keep the name of his source secret.

Given the outcome for the other journalists involved in the case -- they fought the law and the law won -- Mr. Novak's decision not only seems self-serving but canny at a time when government is able to use subpoena power to get what it wants.

(From David Carr's column, here.)

McCain Suck-Up Watch.

Marty Peretz Self-Parody Watch: "[I]magine being an aide to an intellectual nothing." Here.

Rest in peace, Abe Rosenthal.

Whitney Balliet on Duke Ellington.

Clive James on Kinsley Amis, here.

From TomDispatch: The repetitive and dismal headlines from Afghanistan, even if largely tucked away, tell the story of our "other war" -- more U.S. (and NATO) troops, more military aid, more reconstruction funds, more fighting, more casualties, heavier weaponry, more air power, more bad news, and predictions of worse to come -- and under such headlines lie deeper tragedies that seldom make the headlines anywhere. Ann Jones, who has spent much time as a humanitarian aid worker in Afghanistan these last years and has written a moving book, Kabul in Winter, on her experiences, turns to one of those tragedies: the subject that used to be the pride of the Bush administration -- the "liberation" of Afghan women.

She paints a powerful portrait of the actual state of Afghan women, whose "liberation" has proven mostly theoretical. After all, 85 percent of Afghan women are illiterate, about 95 percent are estimated to be routinely subject to violence in the home, where most are confined. ("Public space and public life," Jones writes, "belong almost exclusively to men. President Karzai heads the country while his wife, a qualified gynecologist with needed skills, stays at home.") But above all, Jones considers the fact that women are "by custom and practice, the property of men. They may be traded and sold like any commodity."

For the present fate of women, especially in the southern provinces of Afghanistan, where the Taliban presence is on the rise, she concludes:

I blame George W. Bush, the 'liberator' who looked the other way. In 2001, the United States military claimed responsibility for these provinces, the heart of Taliban country; but diverted to adventures in the oilfields of Iraq, it failed for five years to provide the security international humanitarians needed to do the promised work of reconstruction... It's winter in Afghanistan now. No time to make war. But come spring, the Taliban promise a new offensive to throw out Karzai and foreign invaders. The British commander of NATO forces has already warned: 'We could actually fail here.' He also advised a British reporter that Westerners shouldn't even mention women's rights when more important things are at stake. As if security is not a woman's right. And peace.

Alter-reviews:

I was lucky enough to be at the American Songbook celebration of my friends Alan and Marilyn Bergman's 50th anniversary in the lyric-writing biz at the Allen Room on Friday night. I'm down with the Times' Stephen Holden, here, that "To hear Tony Bennett sing 'How Do You Keep the Music Playing?' is to receive a lesson in how to strip a song to its bones and discover primal forces hiding below romantic sentiments." I mean, man, the dude is 80 and has barely lost a note. The other highlights were too numerous to mention. Lari White did her shiksa version of a "Yentl" that -- by showcasing the material rather than the singer -- actually improved on the original. I never heard of Melissa Errico before, but she's beautiful and talented and funny and sings like a dream. Lucie Arnaz did a yeoman's job of stepping in for Tyne Daly at the last minute, and while her slinky outfit did justice to what apparently are her good eating habits, her range did not quite match the demands of her material. Another quiet thrill was Alan Bergman's quiet, modest rendition of "The Windmills of Your Mind," later joined by Marilyn, whom I'm told has never sung in public before. There was a lot of love in the room, and almost as much talent. We should all be so appreciated and going so strong in our ninth decades.

Notice: There will be a Michael Brecker memorial on Tuesday, February 20 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street, New York.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Rheinhard
Hometown:

Eric,

After learning of Molly's death Wednesday evening, and since I couldn't sleep because of illness anyway, I thought to capture and edit some video I took of her speaking to the "Rolling Thunder Down Home Democracy Tour" in Austin in 2002. I think her words capture why she was so well liked by so many: warm, funny, and very down-to-earth. As Jim Hightower (who introduced her) said afterward, "People say, 'You're from Texas where George Bush is; you're from Texas where Tom DeLay and Dick Armey are.' I tell them, 'No, I'm from Texas where Molly Ivins is! That's my Texas!' "

Name: Peter Connolly
Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Dear Eric (as I guess readers are allowed to call you):

You and Charles Pierce backhandedly disparage Kinsley's column but don't bother refuting his arguments. Why is he wrong that if journalists should not be compelled to disclose the identity of leakers that leakers should not be prosecuted for leaking the information? Why isn't the Libby trial, with its parade of journalists giving compelled testimony, and Libby facing years in jail and the ruin of his life, a threat to freedom of the press? It sure as hell is a threat to future leaks, I would think. And some of those leaks might involve information that the public needs to have, such as, say, an imminent attack on Iran. Also, why is it just to prosecute Libby, who, at worst, lied to prosecutors about what he said to journalists about a story which never ran, at least based on his disclosures, while Richard Armitage and Robert Novak, who are actually responsible for the disclosure of Valerie Plame's identity, go on with their lives unmolested? Isn't this a classic case of special prosecutor overreaching, wrong in exactly the same way as it was wrong to impeach Bill Clinton for "perjury" about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, which perjury had been elicited in a deposition in a civil lawsuit about a different matter? In my view, if Fitzgerald couldn't make a case out of the circumstances of the actual disclosure of Plame's identity he should have closed up shop and gone back to more useful endeavors. Prosecution for "derivative" crimes when the prosecutor can't make a case on the crime he or she is investigating is an engine of oppression. Liberals don't like Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney and wish to see them hurt. That is what this is about. But the collateral damage to other values liberals in theory care about will be considerable. It already is.

Name: Alex Swingle
Hometown: NYC

I know this topic was covered over a week ago, but I just thought of something while waiting for the congested 6 train for work (yes, I am an elitist Upper East Sider).

Not long after 9/11, this radical "Christian" group from Topeka, KS, called The Westboro Baptist Church, known for their anti-gay protests and "God Hates Fags" banners, announced they would demonstrate in front of the NY Fire Dept. HQ. Basically their stance was that America deserved what happened that day due to our decadent society, deviant behavior, tolerance of homosexuality blah blah blah. At the time I was incensed, perhaps I needed an outlet to vent at, but the fact they would have the audacity to come here and cheer the deaths of firefighters right in our backyard. I was also outraged how this group was dismissed by many, including some of my family and friends, as "fringe" not worth getting upset about.

Well, fast forward five years, and Dinesh D'Souza has published a book basically saying, er, more "eloquently" the same thing the supposedly fringe Westboro Baptist Church did. And guess what, as I am writing this the book ranks #259 on Amazon. So apparently these ideas werent so "fringe" after all, eh?

I always suspected that there was some percentage of this country that was glad this happened, particularly in NYC, which usually has to vie with San Francisco as the ninth circle of hell. That is also why I felt the Republicans holding their Convention here with their crocodile tears seemed a bit phony to me. Perhaps they should hold it in Topeka in '08.

Name: Jack Wallace
Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Hey Doc,

Everyone knows the old adage: "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it." I whole-heartedly agree with this. But apparently the current administration doesn't. For all this talk about escalation in Iraq (not surge, as that isn't even a military definition), I keep thinking of one lyric from CCR. (Plus, the discussion of best rock lyric got me thinking as well. Not the best, I admit, but still a great song.)

"Yeah, some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
ooh, they send you down to war, Lord,
And when you ask them, how much should we give,
oh, they only answer, more, more, more."

Why does that sound like it could have been written today as well? Of course, the only thing we're being asked to give is more of our young. No other sacrifices: no rationing, no war bonds to pay for the war, no growing of a victory garden. Didn't anyone learn from Wilson and FDR how to run a war? I only hope that we are saved from the history students that got C's in college, and that our country finally realizes that we can't continue to make the same mistakes as previous generations, or that the U.S. shouldn't be so egotistical as to think that we can take the same actions as generations before us and expect a different outcome just because we're doing it.

Side note: I saw Fogerty perform this on the Mall in Washington for the millennium concert New Years Eve 1999. Awesome performance, and one I never thought I would see ever being performed in front of Lincoln and the Washington Monument.

Name: Eileen Bennett
Hometown:

I should have submitted this 2 weeks ago, but it's appropriate any time:

"Early morning, April 4:
Shot rings out in a Memphis sky.
Free at last, they took your life --
They could not take your
Pride, in the name of Love."

Name: Dr. Diana Silver
Hometown:New York, New York

"I went home with a waitress.
The way I always do.
How was I to know
She was with the Russians, too?"

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