Not a trace ... of doubt in my mind ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Some background to this funny fight between Garance and Ann Althouse:

A few months ago, Bob Wright asked me to do a BHTV with Ms. Althouse. I knew nothing about her at all, except that she accused a female liberal blogger who met with Bill Clinton of having breasts ... or something. I never could figure out what it was really. I said "OK," with the caveat that I wanted her to talk about why she, as a woman, thought it appropriate to call attention to the fact that another woman standing near Clinton happen to have breasts. I mean, my daughter will have breasts one day, and I want to be able to prepare her in case she needs to apologize for them. When Althouse emailed me to discuss potential topics, I said what I said to Bob, which was that we could talk about anything, as long as it included that topic. She got all huffy and pulled out of the discussion. Then she attacked me on her blog and again on the op-ed page of The New York Times. Here, she flips out -- is there any other word? -- with Garance when the latter merely refers to it. Garance is duly surprised by the hysteria -- as will you be if you watch it, I imagine -- but the fact is, she is getting crazy about the fact that she says Garance did not prepare the topic in advance. I tried to do that, and she flipped out as well.

And by the way, when she accidentally says, "You're really just undermining my point," she's right on. And by the way, calling the people at Tapped "vicious, ugly people" is not really a good argument for the civility of your side, ma'am.

(Oh, and I see from the researchers in the comments that Tapped has pretty much never mentioned Althouse. Really, these right-wingers make everything too easy ...)

I have always felt that Alex Cockburn and Andy Sullivan are twin sons of different mothers in the way they used evidence to support exactly the opposite argument to which the evidence pointed. Here is Michael Bérubé on Cockburn: "And while I don't imagine that we in the US could have stopped the criminally insane Cheney Administration from launching war in Iraq, I do wonder whether the American opposition to this war could have been more popular and more widespread four years ago. And sometimes I even lie awake and wonder how best to deal with people as intellectually dishonest as Alexander Cockburn."

Now here is Jonathan Raban on Little Roy:

On September 11, 2001, Sullivan described the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as "the single most devastating act of war since Nagasaki." In the days that followed, he excoriated liberal critics of the administration as "nihilists" and traitors. Sounding disquietingly like Joe McCarthy, he warned that "the decadent left in its enclaves along the coasts is not dead -- and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column." He denounced Susan Sontag as "contemptible" and "a pretentious buffoon." He called on America to set a heroic example to the world: "We must show [other countries] as we have never shown them before that a deep humanity and an unremitting rage are not incompatible." On September 16, he appeared to be on his way to the nearest army recruitment center when, having invoked Roosevelt and Churchill, he wrote, "the torch they raised is now passed to us. What a privilege. What an opportunity -- especially for my generation and those younger.

For more than two years, Sullivan relentlessly shilled for Bush and for the war on terror, including its "central front" in Iraq. It wasn't until the early months of 2004 that he broke with the "shrewd," "quiet," "underestimated" figure of the President, first over Bush's endorsement of a constitutional ban on gay marriage, then in moral repugnance at the evidence of government-condoned torture at Abu Ghraib. In October 2004, he "endorsed" -- as he rather grandly put it, as if he were an editorial board -- John Kerry as "the lesser of two risks." Since then he has attacked the administration with all the vehemence he formerly lavished on its detractors. Nowadays, on Sullivan's blog, Rumsfeld is labeled a "war criminal," Bush a "boneless wonder."

In The Conservative Soul, he attributes his change of heart to a belated return to rigorous Oakshottian skepticism, and as he expounds Oakeshott, gracefully and in satisfying detail, one is almost won over. Certainly Oakeshott's strictures on the dangers of overweening government power, harnessed to Rationalist dreams and visions, apply very well to the high-handed, high-spending near tyranny of the Bush administration before the midterm elections checked its progress, and Sullivan deserves thanks for bringing Oakeshott into the argument.

But his journalism belies his vaunted skepticism. There is in Sullivan's makeup a most un-Oakshottian quickness to take passionate sides, a schoolboy tendency to hero-worship (Thatcher ... Reagan ... Oakeshott ... Bush ... and now it seems he may be warming up fast to Barack Obama), and an Oxford debater's ready access to the rhetoric of condescending scorn. Where Oakeshott stood self-consciously aloof from practical politics, Sullivan splashes excitedly about in them like a dog in a mud puddle, snarling ferociously at any other dog who challenges his position du jour. He's less a skeptic than a mercurial, and somewhat flirtatious, born believer.

Meet Mr. Konflict of Interest.

Now meet Mrs. Konflict of Interest. (Thanks, Pierce.)

Let's hear if for Nora:

Last night on 60 Minutes, Katie Couric kept referring to "Some people." She said that "some" were saying the Edwardses were courageous, and "others" were saying they were callous and ambitious. She said that some people were wondering how someone could be president if he was "distracted" by his wife's health. (This question, in a year when there are two presidential candidates who are themselves cancer survivors, seemed particularly disingenuous.) (And never mind that it was being asked by someone who managed to keep working while dealing with her own husband's terminal illness.)

By the way, I worked with Katie's late husband at MSNBC, and I sure didn't hear him relying on the phony "Some people" crutch.

Someone needs to tell Richard Cohen in the raptures of Kennedy worship that John Kennedy didn't exactly write Profiles in Courage, while Obama did write his books, and to a writer, that ought to make some difference. (And I doubt that Reagan even read the books he was alleged to have written.)

Arguments for anti-Semites:

Last week's Boston Legal offered pro-Israeli propaganda coming out of the mouth of a sympathetic character with no rebuttal, just the way Hollywood Jews are supposed to do, according to anti-Semites.

Still, it was interesting ...

I don't read The Politico, but Glenn Greenwald does, and so maybe you don't need to.

Eric Rauchway says there are more heirs to Arthur Schlesinger Jr. than you think, here.

Microsoft destroys the world.

This is pretty funny ...

From the Benton Foundation:

(An oldie but goodie)

GIVING AWAY THE AIRWAVES [SOURCE: New York Times ($) 3/27/1997, AUTHOR: Bob Dole] [Commentary]

Ten years ago, then former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-KS) decried the giveaway of valuable spectrum in order to help broadcast TV stations transition to digital technology. He valued the giveaway at $12-70 billion and noted the lack of coverage of the issue in the mainstream press. "The broadcasters insist that they need these airwaves -- on which they will duplicate their programming in digital -- to make the transition to high-definition television. O.K., but why not pay a fair price?" Dole wrote. As it is, this mandated transition to digital television is going to cost taxpayers plenty. Consumers will find their current televisions rendered obsolete by digital broadcasts. Replacing all 222 million TV sets in the country could cost upward of $200 billion. That's pretty serious sticker shock for ''free'' broadcast television. He concluded: "Taxpayers should demand better from the President, Congress, the F.C.C. and the broadcasters. After all, we're talking about billions of dollars -- and that's your money."

LET'S GET STARTED ON DTV [SOURCE: Center for American Progress, AUTHOR: Mark Lloyd] [Commentary]

The biggest problem with the transition to digital television in the United States is that the Federal Communications Commission under the Bush administration has locked the public out of the process of determining what the benefits of the transition might be. What's more, yesteryear's Republican-controlled Congress set the rules regarding this transition. Thus the public interest obligations of digital broadcasters remain undefined and insufficient money has been set aside for the digital conversion. Both problems need to be addressed by Congress this year. Let's get the transition to digital underway and spend the money allocated by the 109th Congress. The 110th Congress must devote the resources to determine whether there remain unmet needs. And if poor Americans are cut off because funds run out, Congress must then allocate additional funds to ensure that all Americans can make the transition to digital TV.

NOT NEUTRALITY [SOURCE: In These Times, AUTHOR: Brian Cook]

Why are the Communications Workers of America opting out of the Save the Internet coalition? Last May, when the House was considering pro-neutrality legislation, CWA President Larry Cohen wrote a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, arguing that if such a bill passed, "investment in the physical infrastructure necessary to provide high-speed Internet would slow down, the U.S. will fall even further behind the rest of the world, and our rural and low-income populations will wait even longer to enter the digital age." Meanwhile, at the state level, the CWA has vociferously opposed attempts, most notably in Michigan, to mandate net neutrality in the local and state franchise agreements with telecommunications companies that set up conditions of service quality and community benefit provisions. Debbie Goldman, a research economist at the CWA, says the union is simply more concerned with building out networks and increasing their speed, which she believes will render moot any concerns about congestion. "If we have 100 mbps, we'd have so much capacity that the whole issue [of congestion] goes away," Goldman says. "The real goal is getting big, big broadband so that there isn't an issue of congestion, which then raises concerns about whether there'd be different types of service. That's the real goal: How do you get it built? How do you get to big broadband?"

From TomDispatch:

On returning from a lackluster demonstration against the Iraq War, Tom Engelhardt has come to grips with something puzzling. He writes:

I came home wondering whether some Bush-era version of the old Roman formula had indeed been working. Had bread and circuses become croissants and iPods, or Bud and American Idol, or Sony PlayStation 3 and 24? I couldn't help puzzling over the gap between public opinion on the President's war and public action, or between the conclusions opinion polls tell us so many Americans have reached and those generally reached in Washington as well as in the mainstream media.

Among the subjects touched on in his piece are:

  • Why there is a widening "credibility gap" between American public opinion and the Washington and media consensus on Iraq.
  • Why the only disqualification for appearing on TV as a pundit about Iraq seems to be: having been right from the beginning.
  • Why those who were most right -- the millions of demonstrators who poured into the streets in a vain attempt to stop the invasion of Iraq in early 2003 -- have been erased from the story of the war.
  • Why the lack of visible demonstrations (and the general lack of media attention to the ones that happened) may have actually strengthened antiwar sentiment.

He explores some of the differences between the Vietnam era and today in terms of the mobilization of protest and suggests that, in a world in which an increasing part of what matters in public life (and work life) has been "privatized" and subcontracted out, or simply outsourced, a world in which ever fewer Americans believe their leaders are listening or the American system has the ability to respond to their desires or challenges, even war protest may have been subcontracted out.

Alter-reviews:

Last of the Breed

What a thrill it was to be in the hall with Willie Nelson, Ray Price and Merle Haggard last week at Radio City. Add 'em all up and they're almost a quarter-millennium old. (Price is 81, Merle 69, and Willie, 73, but ahh, they are young at heart. Price's voice is a marvel of nature at this point -- I'd say Tony Bennett is the only octagenarian on earth who could compare. He brought his Cherokee Cowboys. Boy, were they tight. I can't believe "Crazy Arms" or "I Won't Mention It Again" or "The Other Woman (in My Life) ever sounded better. Following the intermission, Willie and Merle came on backed up by Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel. That was as great as it sounds. It was not one of those nights where Merle phoned it in, and, inspired by Willie, they went off into places that Bob Wills never got around to. What Willie's lost in voice he makes up in charm, effervescence, and extremely impressive finger-picking. When Ray joined them after about 45 minutes, well, you shoulda been there. As Sal notes of their new double album, which features songs made famous by such legends as Bob Wills, Buck Owens, Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, the Everly Brothers, and Elvis Presley, with special guests Kris Kristofferson and Vince Gill," We must admit, these three guys still sound fantastic. We're eagerly awaiting Willie's follow-up album, due in a couple of minutes."

The next night, same place, Lucinda Williams and her band played for (I'm guessing) many of the same people. I've never heard a rock band with a more pristine sound, and it was an evening of really warm emotions as she and her devoted fans were thrilled beyond words to see the girl "make it" big enough to fill Radio City, when, as she noted from the stage, 30 years earlier, she'd been playing on the streets outside, and she never quit once. She got a standing O, not just for writing better songs than almost anyone alive right now, but also just for being her brutally honest self.

The set featured the new album West, about which Sal wrote here: "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."

Read all about 'em here and here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Rich Gallagher
Hometown: Fishkill, NY

Dear Eric,

I enjoyed your Nation piece on Chris Matthews, but I'm a bit perplexed by your description of Keith Olbermann as "taken-as-a-liberal."

I catch at least part of Olbermann's program every weeknight, and his positions on most issues strike me as being genuinely liberal. At the very least, he takes on the Bush Administration with more passion and conviction than any other television commentator.

So why do you seem to have reservations about him?

Eric replies: It's not that I have reservations. I never watch the show. I never watch any news shows, to be honest. Olbermann says he's not a liberal, just an outraged citizen, and I take him at his word. I don't see why a person needs to be a liberal to be consistently infuriated by the actions of the Bush administration and its minions, which is, really, all there is to Olbermann's reputation for liberalism.

Name: Simon King
Hometown: Toronto, ON

Eric, thanks for the great blog as always. I just wanted to pick up on something Steve Milligan said in his comment on your blog today, and to take it a step further. Steve, quite rightly, points to NAFTA, and its effect on wages in Mexico, as a driving force behind illegal immigration in the United States. But this logic ought also to be applied to America's continued outsourcing of jobs and the trade imbalance as a whole. The thing is, the United States has consistently negotiated bilateral trade agreements which do not include, and often outright bar, decent labour laws for the other nation. Essentially, these deals were negotiated so that American companies could invest in places like Vietnam with as little interference as possible (silly annoying minimum wages). The result? Whole populations turned into veritable slaves at Nike sweat shops, while the American manufacturing class becomes unemployed. Wonderful, don't you think? I wonder if Lou Dobb's has ever thought about that? Probably too busy lobbying for walls and shaming "anti-American" (read: insufficiently bigoted) politicians. But seriously, what if someone actually tried to create a trade agreement that would benefit the average American? Shocking, I know.

Name: Charles Hinton
Hometown: Satellite Beach, Fl

Steve Milligan from Colorado Springs says in regard to illegal immigration, "It is damaging to this country for a number of reasons, an overriding one being the sheer number of people that we must absorb in a time of increasing scarcity of resources." Steve misses a point that I never hear spoken of. Many years ago I read of the coming shortage of workers in the US. Those Mexican workers are picking our fruit and vegetables, roofing our houses after storms and doing essential jobs that Americans can't or won't do. If the "illegals" disappeared our housing industry would collapse and the vegetables would disappear from our table.

Name: Daphne Chyprious
Hometown: Springfield, Illinois

I'm convinced Joe Klein came to blogging not on orders from the boss but to take that old adage "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" and twist it into "If you can't ignore them or ballyhoo them out of prominence, then trod on their turf to change the rules of the game." He honestly believed he could, reluctantly and quite late, bully the blogosphere into conforming to his concept of how blogging should be conducted, which happens to be similar to how traditional punditry is played. Now, some months after he should have concluded otherwise, he is still befuddled that hordes of independent minds didn't abruptly adhere to his journalistic standards simply because he proclaimed that it be so.

Name: John S. Ransom
Hometown: Carlisle, PA

First, Eric, your Chris Matthews column was hilarious, period.

I have a question. Here's a relatively innocuous paragraph from a Washington Post story from yesterday's edition:

To the surprise of many antiwar activists, House Democratic leaders have been able to keep their conservative Blue Dog members largely onboard as they ratcheted up the bill's language. But with Republicans virtually united in opposition, Democrats can afford only 15 defections.

My eye is less likely these days, thanks to bloggers like you, to skip over claims like this one, but perhaps I'm taking it too far now. My question is, how does the author of the article know and how does he prove to his readers that anti-war activists are surprised Pelosi was able to hang on to blue dog Democrats? The general tone of the article, by the way (written by Jonathan Weisman), is that the Out of Iraq caucus in the Houses is batty for opposing the current bill. How, in general, should readers handle broad claims about poorly defined collective entities like "the anti-war movement" and what they think or do?

Name: John Shaw
Hometown: thatsoundsgood.net

Dear Dr. E.,

The linguist who busted Joe Klein is Don Foster, and he wrote a terrific book about his literary detective hunts, including his pursuit of the Anonymous author of Primary Colors. Even better than the Klein chapter is the one about how Foster unraveled Clement Moore's bogus claim to have written "A Visit From St. Nicholas," a/k/a "The Night Before Christmas." It's quite a tale, and utterly convincing.

Here's a link to Foster's book, called Author Unknown: Tales of a Literary Detective.

Name: John
Hometown: Los Angeles

Dr A., I was almost brought to audible laughter when I heard the administration's proposed alternative to the subpoenas regarding the Attorney Firing investigations. Off the record, no oath, no transcript and Administration will guide the direction of the questions??

I mean, why stop there? Why not just give them free trips to Hawaii, and a couple million in spending $ too.

I'll have to try this logic the next time some agency of authority like the police or IRS makes a request of me. "Sorry officer, but instead of giving you my license and registration, I'd be happy to meet you at a strip club (off the record) where you can buy me drinks and lap dances and we can discuss rock n' roll trivia and the 2004 Red Sox until I decide to go home."

Incidentally, does anyone else find it strange that people who love to use the phrase "accountability" ad nauseam in press conferences and on the campaign trail, seem to avoid it like the plague, or even undermine it, once they are in a position of power? Not that Democrats aren't guilty as well, but the GOP really takes the irony to stratospheric levels.

Name: Douglas Watts
Hometown: Augusta

Excellent essay on Klein. The analogy to academia is dead-on. A history professor who insists the Civil War was fought in 1890 does not get promoted, nor are they allowed to keep their position. As we know, pundits are sometimes rewarded for being consistently and massively wrong.

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