Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

William E. Odom, a retired Army lieutenant general, was head of Army intelligence and director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan, has the best short explanation of where we stand in Iraq today, read it here, then just for fun, read in our Self-Parody Department: William Kristol said Barack Obama wants to appease terrorists like pro-slavery politician Stephen Douglas tried to appease slave-owners. Kristol said, "Obama's speech is a 'can't we get along' speech -- sort of the opposite of Lincoln. He would have been with Stephen Douglas in 1858." Here. Shouldn't all of Kristol's comments come with a warning: "Notice: This man's predictions have helped cause the death of hundreds of thousands of people, the wasting of a trillion dollars, torture, the inspiration of who knows how many terrorists and the hatred of the United States the world over, and yet he continues to attack the intelligence, integrity and patriotism of those who were correct."

(And shouldn't David Duke have a column in Time as well, just to give the magazine some intellectual consistency?)

Meanwhile, you knew Bush was helping do bin Laden's bidding for him, but did you realize that he was helping out Mr. Ahmadinejad as well? Here.

Speaking of torture and good reasons for hating America: Read this heartbreaking column by a writer who served in the Army from 1995 to 2000 as an Arabic linguist and worked in Iraq as a contract interrogator in early 2004. Here's a snippet:

Despite my best efforts, I cannot ignore the mistakes I made at the interrogation facility in Fallujah. I failed to disobey a meritless order, I failed to protect a prisoner in my custody, and I failed to uphold the standards of human decency. Instead, I intimidated, degraded and humiliated a man who could not defend himself. I compromised my values. I will never forgive myself.

American authorities continue to insist that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident in an otherwise well-run detention system. That insistence, however, stands in sharp contrast to my own experiences as an interrogator in Iraq. I watched as detainees were forced to stand naked all night, shivering in their cold cells and pleading with their captors for help. Others were subjected to long periods of isolation in pitch-black rooms. Food and sleep deprivation were common, along with a variety of physical abuse, including punching and kicking. Aggressive, and in many ways abusive, techniques were used daily in Iraq, all in the name of acquiring the intelligence necessary to bring an end to the insurgency. The violence raging there today is evidence that those tactics never worked. My memories are evidence that those tactics were terribly wrong.

While I was appalled by the conduct of my friends and colleagues, I lacked the courage to challenge the status quo. That was a failure of character and in many ways made me complicit in what went on. I'm ashamed of that failure, but as time passes, and as the memories of what I saw in Iraq continue to infect my every thought, I'm becoming more ashamed of my silence.

Back to Edwards and the bloggers: Even Times blogger Chris Sullentrop avoids the issue of Donohue's disgusting anti-Semitism when writing about Edwards, here ($). Is there an official ban on the issue at the Times? Does he have something on someone there?

Back to the Self-Parody Department: Scary but true sentence: "Newly empowered, the Democrats have hauled in everyone but the kitchen sink: from Henry Kissinger to President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski." To be fair, Brzezinski has become one of the best foreign policy analysts we have, but still... congrats, Ms. Cooper, here.

As an unintended reply to my Nation column, here, David Brooks writes: "The neopopulist caucus in the Democratic Party is like the anti-immigrant caucus in the Republican Party. Both speak for loud and angry minorities who have been hurt by globalization."

In fact, it's a majority, not a minority. Brooks simply assumes his position to be the majority position, not bothering to check the data to support it. There's really no excuse for someone with a full-time research assistant not to check this kind of thing, but to be fair, it's also the only way to be a successful neocon pundit in this country anymore, what with reality being the way it is. Anyway, here ($) is Brooks, and here is where he should have sent his assistant.

For the record, what does a sensible conservative look like? Fareed Zakaria on global warming, here.

An inequality reading list from Brad DeLong, here.

From our sponsors: Incredibly, the Times rehashed the President Clinton haircut myth long proven to be untrue, but no one can be bothered with the truth here.

The Times asserted that "the dispute illustrates that politicians are acutely aware that a jet-setting image can be dangerous," adding that "President Bill Clinton spent a long time living down the tale of his haircut on Air Force One as flights were delayed at Los Angeles International Airport, even though there is dispute over whether other planes were affected." In fact, there exists no "dispute over whether other planes were affected" -- the claim that Clinton's haircut delayed air traffic at LAX or elsewhere is flatly disproved by Federal Aviation Administration records, as reported more than 13 years ago.

And look here: The Politico's Mike Allen is in the tank for, well, whoever wants stupid and untrue things published about Barack Obama.

Lifted from Mickey:

Now here's a real conflict of interest: WaPo/CNN reporter Howie Kurtz defends Tim Russert on Kurtz's show, "Reliable Sources." WaPo/CNN reporter Howie Kurtz gets invited on Meet the Press by Tim Russert.** ... Howie Kurtz could make something out of that! ... P.S.: As far as I can see Kurtz hadn't been on Russert's show since March of 2002. ...

**--For conflict of interest purposes, it doesn't matter much which came first, the defense or the payoff -- sorry, I mean the invitation. ...

Did you know we had 125,000 contractors in Iraq? I didn't. Scary, huh?

From TomDispatch:

While the rest of us are waiting for the president's "surge" plan to begin, and so for results to come in, sociologist Michael Schwartz points out that it's already been under way and the early results are not encouraging for the Bush administration.

The new plan was actually launched with a fierce offensive against the long-embattled Sunni neighborhood of Haifa Street in Baghdad, a day before the President officially announced it to Americans. The new surge plan, Schwartz writes, has already been tested in the last few weeks and found to be most successful -- in further depopulating Baghdad neighborhoods as well as creating more destruction, greater sectarian violence, and new levels of animosity.

He offers a devastating overview of another bit of Bush administration planning that takes us right through the "gates of Hell." He considers both what's old and what's new (heightened air power and increased ethnic cleansing) in the "early returns" from Haifa Street and concludes:

The Haifa Street battle sadly shows that Bush's new strategy will measurably increase the violence in Baghdad above already intolerable levels. With more troops at their disposal, American generals will try to pacify many more neighborhoods like Haifa Street and cities like Tal Afar that need "to be brought back under Iraqi security control." And when they do this, they will bring the same mix of horror that they brought to Haifa Street, including brutal air power, house-to-house searches and fighting, sectarian violence, massive dislocation, and ethnic cleansing.

Like the other campaigns initiated by the U.S. occupation of Iraq, this new strategy will make things measurably worse.

Alter-reviews:

A short blues history lesson on "Big Pete Peterson" from his publicists on the occasion of his second album.

Big Pete Pearson was raised by his grandparents in St. John's, Texas, a Baptist community just outside Austin where his grandfather was a minister and his grandmother ran a local mission. In Austin, he was known as L.P. Pearson and played his first gig at age 9 at the Triple J, a local beer joint. His grandparents thought he was playing guitar and singing with a spiritual group at the church.

Big Pete played the three string bass with the Jets, fronted by Blues Boy Hubbard, and frequently sat in with T.D. Bell and the Cadillacs. He was a major influence on his now famous cousin W.C. Clark, "One of the things I learned from L.P. was that a guitar had six strings, but all we needed was three. L.P. is a man that has a lot of little boy in him and is so full of jolly."

Big Pete first arrived in Phoenix in the late 1950s, finally settling there in the mid-'60s. Along the way he sat in with T-Bone Walker, Big Joe Turner, Little Junior Parker, B.B. King, Bobby Blue Bland, Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and many others.

In 2001, after 50 years of honing his craft, Big Pete Pearson released his first recording, One More Drink, on the Blue Witch Record label, His new one is called I'm Here Baby. Go here if you want more info.

You'll like it if you like that sort of thing. It's got W.C. Clark (vocals/guitar), Ike Turner (guitar), Kid Ramos (guitar), B-3 Hammond master Joey DeFrancesco and Johnny Dyer (harmonica) on it.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Matt Shirley
Hometown: Gurnee, IL

Dr. Alterman,

Nice try, Mr. Cross, but sorry; I'm not buying. Let's review the bidding, shall we?

  • Mr. Nader accused VP Gore of being the same thing as Gov. Bush.
  • The Green Party had a choice of strategy. They could have gone after polling 5% of the vote nationally, which if they were successful, would have improved their status for Federal matching funds in the next Presidential campaign. If they wanted that, they would have gone hard at the solid "blue states" where there were more potential Green voters to be had, and where they would not have endangered VP Gore's chances to carry the state. On the other hand, they could have gone after the close, swing states in the hopes of tipping the balance away from VP Gore in that State, to make a point. The Green Party chose the latter, including and especially Florida.
  • The sum total of Democratic and Green votes was a clear majority nationally, and in Florida.
  • The pre-election polls clearly indicated the sum total of Democratic and Green votes would be a clear majority. Gov Bush, not VP Gore, was inaugurated in Jan. 2001.

Spare me the ifs and buts. Mr. Nader INTENTIONALLY cost VP Gore the election. Just because others had a role to play, and VP Gore could have, or arguably did in fact, win the election, that does not reduce Mr. Nader's role. He set out to cost VP Gore electoral votes, he did so, and those electoral votes were the margin of victory or defeat.

Thanks, Ralph. And you and your supporters' sanctimony and self-serving excuse-making in the intervening years have done nothing to rehabilitate you.

Name: John B
Hometown: Des Moines, IA

When I read this, all I could say is "Wow!" The idea that the Justice Department could dismiss US Attorneys for any reason or none at all, replace them with anyone of their choosing, all with no input, approval, or override capability on the part of Congress is mind boggling. In terms of authoritarian potential this is second only to the power the Bush Administration believes it has to "disappear" people. If you want a thorough smear of the next Democratic presidential candidate install a political operative in his/her home state to run the operation from a federal court house. If the heat is starting to get to the next Duke Cunningham (or the current one) dismiss the prosecutor and make it go away. If you need a favorable court ruling on almost anything go shopping for a court that you think is most likely to produce the correct result and send a hired gun to file an appropriate case. US citizens have reason to feel confidence in the justice system because it's administered mostly by career professionals who have respect in the system. This should completely blow away the confidence of anyone paying attention.

Name: Matt Duss
Hometown: Seattle

Hi Eric,

As a liberal who studies the Middle East and has a deep affection for both Arab and Jewish culture in the region, I very much appreciate your consistent criticism of Marty Peretz's vile bigotry.

I've compiled some of Peretz's more pungent examples at a website as a resource for anyone making the case against him. As I say on the site, my intention is not to embarrass Peretz, which I think is probably impossible. My intention is to expose Peretz's racism against Arabs, especially the Palestinian people, and to place his writing in the context of a career spent scorning, smearing, and sneering at Arab and Islamic cultures, so that American liberals can no longer pretend not to know that the owner and editor-in-chief of one of America's most prominent liberal magazines is an enthusiastic bigot.

Thanks.

Name: Michael
Hometown: Concord, NH

So much of what a real bookstore does is impossible to duplicate on the Internet. Last night, my wife and I hosted an event for NH English teachers here at our bookstore. We spoke to them for over an hour about new books, books to assign their students, and old favorites for pleasure reading, and there was a great give and take. When real bookstores go under because of pressure from the Internet or anonymous chain stores, that kind of experience, an important part of our literary culture and community, is lost. And you won't get it back. It isn't intangible -- or it's only as intangible as the liberal arts.

It breaks my heart whenever I see bloggers I admire linking to Amazon. Is it the nickels Amazon sends a blogger's way -- or is it pure laziness, in not finding the publisher to link to, instead? -- I never know. But I've given up trying to reform Kos, Atrios, and the rest. It's a betrayal of their values to link to a corporate behemoth that eliminates social capital in this country, but I suppose Amazon is rapacious capitalism with a smiley face on it, so who cares and why fight it, yes?

On a more positive note, your book What Liberal Media? continues to impress readers -- most recently mentioned on my local radio show, when I had Amy Goodman on as a guest.

Name: Carlton
Hometown: Portland, OR

The Van Morrison duet that gives me chills is "I Cover the Waterfront" with John Lee Hooker on Mr. Lucky (1991).

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