Ground Control to Len Downie:

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Fire Novak:

Indeed, [Richard] Hohlt is such a good source that after [Robert] Novak finished his column naming [Valerie] Plame, he testified, he did something most journalists rarely do: he gave the lobbyist an advance copy of his column. What Novak didn't tell the jury is what the lobbyist then did with it: Hohlt confirmed to NEWSWEEK that he faxed the forthcoming column to their mutual friend Karl Rove (one of Novak's sources for the Plame leak), thereby giving the White House a heads up on the bombshell to come.

What more do you need to know? The guy cleared his Plame-leak column with Rove in advance. Are there any rules at all on the Washington Post edit page?

Hey, Mickster, what's that about unions per se being the problem with the auto industry again? I mean, German unions are really, really strong -- much more powerful than our own and their economy is far more unionized. How then, to explain this: "As of November 2006, according to the Power Information Network, a division of J.D. Power & Associates that tracks such sales data, Toyota's cars in the U.S. (including its Lexus and Scion brands) had an average turn rate of 27 days. BMW was second at 31; Honda was third at 32. Ford was at 82 and G.M. at 83. And Daimler-Chrysler was at 107."

And one more thing: I wouldn't worry too much about those Democrats who opposed the escalation on account of it working too well. This contrarianism for contrarianism's sake to which Slate is addicted is done better by Mickey than anyone else over there -- save of course The Great Lord Kinsley -- but he's been beating this dead horse of "progress" in Iraq forever on the basis of next-to-no-evidence. Go back through your posts on the topic sir. I seem to remember one about 14 months ago that was sourced -- believe it or not -- to an email sent to an Atlantic Monthly intern subbing for your buddy Andrew. The notion that the "surge" can work is nonsense. It is not enough troops to accomplish anything, as even the authors of the surge (and John McCain) have admitted at moments of rare honesty.

Here's more Kinsley, by the way:

Congressional opponents of the Iraq war are "supporting the troops" in the best possible way: by trying to bring them home to safety and their families. It is those -- those few, apart from President Bush -- who want to send even more troops to Iraq who should feel defensive about their support for the troops. Some of those troops are on their third tour of duty in Iraq, and few of them are pleased to be there. Maybe, as Bush and his advisers no doubt sincerely believe, the drip drip drip of young American blood is worth it. Maybe the critics underestimate the peril of pulling out. Maybe the "surge" will turn out to be a huge success and vindicate Bush's strategy. But please -- let's not pretend that staying the course is a favor to the troops.

Remember when Fox's Juan Williams said there was no way Obama could raise any money in Hollywood? Keep on listening to that fellow.

John Podhoretz: I'm even crazier than Scaife. (But still not as good-looking ...)

Once again, Matt saves me the trouble, here. (Would it be overly cruel to compare Jimmy Carter's legacy for humankind with that of say, your typical editor of The New Republic?) Here, too.

Pigs fly.

Wisdom from Paul Kennedy.

Good sense on global warming and the Bush administration's deliberate helping of the enemy, here.

Logrolling in our time:

Andersen likes David Carr's videos and says the Timesman "is preternaturally perfect for the web -- a friendly, wisecracking 50-year-old character with a Minnesota rasp," here.

Thursday | March 8, 2007
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
Media, Politics & "Heyday"

Meet Kurt Andersen, co-founder of Spy, host of WNYC's Studio 360, columnist and former editor-in-chief of New York magazine, at a conversation about media, politics and his just-published second novel, "Heyday," set in the boisterous America of the 19th century, a portrait of a country coming of age.

Interviewed by David Carr, New York Times "Media Equation" columnist and the "Carpetbagger" blogger on nytimes.com.

Humor corner:

How would you like to have your book reviewed by a guy who says stuff like this?

"I think he's someone who is very strategic in his thinking," said Aaron L. Friedberg, a Princeton University professor who served as an adviser to Cheney on national security from 2003 to 2005. "He's prepared to make adjustments and trade-offs as the situation warrants. . . . I suspect in a number of situations he would have preferred to push harder and take a tougher stand, but he has always been a pragmatist."

I didn't like it either ...

Alter-reviews:

New Lucinda Williams by Sal, and dirty (not) French movies by Eric:

It took a long time and a lot of convincing to realize that Lucinda Williams was worth my time. I remember working music retail in 1992 and feeling completely out of the loop, as customer after customer asked for Lucinda's then-new release Sweet Old World. I listened to it and thought, "It's OK, but it's no Achtung Baby."

Fifteen years and three excellent albums later, I get Lucinda Williams.

A new Lucinda CD is an event. You never know if it will actually see the light of day. She is notoriously unhappy with her sessions, notoriously unhappy with her musicians, and well....notoriously unhappy. Or is she? Let's not confuse unhappiness with honesty. The new CD West is brutally honest.

On the whole, the sound of West is not unlike Dylan's Time Out Of Mind. Plenty of space amidst the textures. And the songs are all "in your face." There are no hidden messages in "Are You Alright," "Mama You Sweet," and "Come On." Lucinda's lyrics often seem like actual conversations and arguments set to music. Williams lost her mother recently, and on "Fancy Funeral," my fave track on West, she could easily have been talking to an aunt, or sister, or cousin. I know I have had this conversation before.

There was a scene in the oft-maligned 1985 film The Year of the Dragon that, over 20 years later, still gets me. Mickey Rourke's wife is brutally murdered as an act of vengeance by the Chinese gang leader he is trying to put away. The funeral scene had no dialogue. It's just Mickey crying. And as each person walks in to pay his respects, Mickey cries harder. No dialogue needed. It was "bleeping" heavy. Lucinda does this with her lyrics. Less is more almost exclusively. And you usually get it.

-- Sal, NYCD

I don't know about you, but I admit to being a big fan of arty movies with lots of beautiful French women making love to one another where you actually get to feel high-minded rather than loser-y for going to see them. To that end, a classic in the genre has to be Jean-Claude Brisseau's Exterminating Angels, which, not surprisingly, "wowed" them at Cannes last year. Check out this brilliant excuse for a plot: "A successful filmmaker auditions a number of nubile young actresses for his next project, an earnest investigation of the 'taboos of female pleasure' and the sensual mysteries of the female orgasm. Much graphic masturbation (but no intercourse) ensues, in a variety of settings, punctuated by brief, Orphée-style radio transmissions of cryptic free-associative poetry ... " I saw it at Film Comment's current series at Lincoln Center's Walter Reed theater over the weekend, and it did not disappoint in this extremely demanding category.

On that note, I am also, it turns out, a fan of arty movies with lots of beautiful German women making love to one another. I mention this because I saw a couple of these, like, sometime in the past 20 years, and I can't remember the names or directors of them. One was about a young philosophy graduate student who meets three very nice sisters buying his first suit to give a talk on his first book. I saw that one at AFI in the late '80s, I think, so it was also very above-board. Second, when I was staying at the Adlon in Berlin (to see Bruce, care of Time, thanks very much) in 1999, I saw one about a woman who is invited into a Vermeer painting. That one was on late-night German TV and would be a bit iffy were it not for the fact that it was Vermeer and all. Anybody have a clue about either one? (Did I mention that we have more Vermeers here in NY than any other city? Ha.)

This just in:

Posthumous Warren Zevon

Fans of the sardonic rock 'n' roller Warren Zevon (1947-2003) can mark May 1 on their calendars as the date for the release of a new two-CD set and a memoir. The set, "Preludes -- Rare and Unreleased Recordings" (Ammal/New West), features 16 songs, including 6 unreleased tracks, compiled by Zevon's son, Jordan, from 126 unreleased outtakes and demos recorded before 1976. The memoir, "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon" (Ecco/HarperCollins), was assembled at his request by his former wife and lifelong companion, Crystal Zevon, from the recollections of his colleagues, friends and lovers.

From TomDispatch:

The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made major headlines around the world for its confirmation that human-made climate change was indeed a reality. But despite the headlines, suggests environmentalist and author Bill McKibben in a striking piece, "Warning on Warming," for the latest issue of The New York Review of Books (released on-line by TomDispatch.com), this is the least of the report's news. Largely ignored (and somewhat obscured by the document's bureaucratic prose) are a series of startling points: that carbon in the atmosphere is increasing at a faster rate than ever; that temperature increases would have been higher, except for a blanket of soot and pollution temporarily helping to retard warming; and that "almost everything frozen on Earth is melting."

And, given the nature of the document, important as it is, this is in itself only part of the climate-change news. As McKibben writes: "The process by which the IPCC conducts its deliberations -- scientists and national government representatives quibbling at enormous length over wording and interpretation -- is Byzantine at best, and makes the group's achievements all the more impressive. But it sacrifices up-to-the-minute assessment of data in favor of lowest-common-denominator conclusions that are essentially beyond argument. That's a reasonable method, but one result is that the 'shocking' conclusions of the new report in fact lag behind the most recent findings of climate science by several years."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Hani Sabra
Hometown: New York

Hi Doc,

One of the sadder aspects of Mr. Kirchick's Examiner piece is this laugher of a basic factual error: "Yes, the Palestinians have not received a fair shake in history. But neither have black Christians harassed under Arab rule in Darfur." Huh? First, the blacks in Darfur have not been harassed; they are being massacred on a massive scale. But if Kirchick cared a whit enough to include it in an Op-Ed piece, he'd know Darfuris are nearly all Muslim. (Of course, Sudan has engaged in killing of Christians -- and followers of traditional non-Abrahamic religions-- but that was in their conflict with the south.)

Name: mb
Hometown: Jackson, MS

Why would anyone be shocked or even mildly surprised to find Iranian weapons in Iraq? Once we toppled Saddam, who was stopping Iran from coming to the aid of their Shiite buddies in Iraq? Not us, we've been too busy fighting Iran's enemies in Iraq, the Sunnis. Our actions in Iraq have set the stage for Iran to have major influence in Iraq in the near term as well as far into the future. We are the reason Iranian weapons are in Iraq. We are the "Mullahs' " enablers.

Name: Greg
Hometown: Granite City, IL

If super-sniper rifles found in Iraq were, in fact, manufactured in Austria and sent to Iran, it's quite clear that we should begin to lay out the case for invading Austria immediately after we finish bombing Iran.

Name: Tom
Hometown: Seattle

Hey Doc,

So the drumbeat on Iran has started in earnest and grows. I don't find it particularly alarming in that I guess I assumed that Iran would support their Shia brethren in whatever method they thought they could get away with. But what of the Sunni? Are they not also targeting American soldiers? Are they not armed to the teeth? Are we so naive to assume that the Saudis aren't doing EXACTLY the same thing with their Sunni brethren? Yes, the same Saudis who sheltered terrorists and got off scot-free since 9-11. Hey Georgey, where's the outrage against the kingdom? Hey MSM, where's the reporting on who's backing the Sunnis? And where are they getting their weapons? Just asking ...

Name: steve
Hometown: Los Angeles

"The absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence" isn't a Rumsfeldism if by Rumsfeldism you mean an aphorism coined by Rummy. Marcia Clark used the expression in the OJ trial, and astronomer Carl Sagan reportedly used it in his Cosmos series (and may be the coiner).

Eric replies: Carl Sagan was a great guy. I visited him at his house in Ithaca once, which was built into a cliff overlooking one of the gorges. He had a whole library of Latin and Greek.

Name: Scott Brady
Hometown: Sacramento, CA

As asullivan so aptly stated in his letter dated 2/16:

4. And finally, this city: For the past six years, Karl Rove has been quietly seeding every sector of the federal government with his loyalists. These people are not chosen for their expertise, and indeed, many have no competence for their assigned posts. Indeed, many of these people are not in the usual political posts. They're everywhere, and they're undermining and driving out trained and competent civil servants.

This is far worse than nepotism. It's a deliberate effort to hamstring and corrupt the modern federal government created by FDR -- probably particularly because it was created by FDR.

This is an issue which has vexed me for the last few years and has seen little to any press. Example after example of the concerted effort to replace traditionally non-political positions with political operatives exists throughout this government from the National Park Service to the IRS. If the Dems are able to take back the White House in '08 and hold Congress, they will face not only the monumental task of cleaning up "Shrub's" messes but that of cleaning out his minions from their entrenched hiding places. They can't make a can of bug spray big enough for the job.

Name: Richard King
Hometown: Nottingham UK

Re best American political novels -- you miss E.L. Doctorow's The Book of Daniel, which is now hardly mentioned when Doctorow's various books are mentioned. It's by far his best and I think as good as Warren's All the King's Men. I saw the movie the other day on Showtime, though and it sucks.

...speaking of movies, Pan's Labyrinth is great, and speaking of old movies, I caught a Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire Irving Berlin vehicle on my favorite station, TCM, the other day called Blue Sky. It has Astaire's best dancing evah, IMNSHO, on "Putting on the Ritz."

Eric replies: If I'm not mistaken, Edgar thinks it's his best book too. But I don't think it falls under the category of "political" the way ATKM does. Shame on me for forgetting Henry Adams' Democracy, though. It's the drugs, I'm assuming.

Name: HL Green
Hometown: Highland Park, NJ

It may not be in quite the same league as All the Kings Men and The Last Hurrah, but Ward Just's Echo House, a multigenerational tale of Washington insiders, has a claim as an important American political novel. Moreover, while everyone says as you can read here that Curley was the inspiration for the Last Hurrah, I think a case can be made that O'Connor was also thinking about Frank Hague of Jersey City.

Why not just let Martin Peretz rant alone.

Eric replies: I read that. It's pretty good. I've not read The Last Hurrah. I guess I will. Great flick, though.

Name: Justin
Hometown: Allentown, PA

Eric,

The ritual dance towards hostilities continues. The story says that incursions of Iranian vessels into Iraqi waters have been occurring for months but that "activity rose last week" and that the US Navy is on the lookout for "miscommunications or miscalculations."

My thought: if you ratchet up the rhetoric enough without the opportunity to actually discuss issues with the enemy (real or perceived), "miscommunications or miscalculations" are practically guaranteed.

Name: Ltc Bob Bateman
Hometown: Washington, DC

I have not seen anything additional coming out of the European press, or Iraq, about the sniper rifle story I linked to in Der Speigel (and through it, the UK newspaper the Daily Telegraph). Accordingly, I am beginning to doubt the quality of that reporting. No sniper rifles = no "smoking gun" in that regard. I will keep my eye open, but this may be a simple case of bad European journalism. Time will tell.

Andrew Cockburn, to whom I would not usually give the time of day, makes a seemingly logical and well founded case in the LA Times. I do not know munitions well enough to confirm or deny his assertion, but I must say that it seems at least plausible (otherwise I would not note this).

Meantime, Al Jazeera reports a spending spree on military hardware (mostly European, apparently) in the Gulf, led by Saudi Arabia. For those who don't know, while Saudi is immensely rich in oil, if one gets sectarian about it, it is Shia who live atop about 80% of Saudi's oil. Al Jazeera's story is here.

And, for those who read French, Le Monde popped on something I had not noticed in the American press...the incontrovertible fact that, gee, Japan is an independent nation with their own foreign policy.

On another front, a friend of mine sent me the following over the weekend. We are both much used to hearing various politicians talk about how the "troop morale" will be "damaged" by this, that, or the other thing. We also both think that the majority of these speculations come from people who have never been troops themselves, let alone troops in combat, as have we both. Accordingly, my friend finally decided to do what I should have done some time ago. He made a list. Sometimes lists are fun. Below, with only a little editing for explanatory purposes, is the list.

Pundits and politicians seem both greatly concerned and badly informed about troop morale. As a troop myself, I thought I'd start a dialogue of the 10 best and 10 worst things for my morale. I hope others will chime in with their nominations.

Ten worst:

1. Getting blown up
2. Buddies getting blown up
3. Re-securing a town we secured year before last
4. 'Taps'
5. The 'catch and release' detainee program
6. Colostomy bags
7. Civilian young men who won't look me in the eye when I'm in uniform
8. Any scene from any shopping mall anywhere in America
9. Editorials pointing out that casualties are 'light by historical standards'
10. Lies

Ten best:

1. Iraqis willing to fight for their country
2. Good sergeants
3. Clean, dry socks and t-shirts
4. Cigarettes and Chi without body armor
5. The USO at the DFW airport
6. Meeting an Iraqi leader from my last tour who's still alive
7. "Nothing significant to report"
8. Sleep & KBR macadamia nut cookies (tie)
9. Dead generals (this one is hypothetical, at least for the last six years, but Ridgeway said "it's good for the troops' morale to see a dead general every once in a while.")
10. Truth

Conspicuous by its absence is any speech by any politician, except those that fall in category 10. Hope this helps.

I have smart friends.

You can write to Colonel Bob at R_Bateman_LTC@hotmail.com

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