Dysfunctional Slacker Friday

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I've got a new "Think Again" column, here, called "The Powerlessness of Positive Thinking," about the neocon attempt to sell the success of the "surge," but my Nation column, "The Real Fake News," about Fox, appears to be behind a pay wall, here.

Siva's got an op-ed about NBC and Virginia Tech on MSNBC.com here. Way to risk your gig, bub. We're proud of you.

Goddam Hollywood conservative elitists:

Jamison Foser watched 30 Rock and noticed this pretty decent but right-wing joke: In talking about a piece of lingerie, Tina Fey said something along the lines of, "If I wanted to pay $600 to get my breasts pinched, I would have gone to that fundraiser at the Clintons'."

Last week, the lovely and talented Ms. Fey said she was going to pretend to vote for Obama but would secretly vote for Lorne Michaels' hero, John McCain.

Someone get Brent Bozell on the case...

Meanwhile, Eric R. compares the Iraq war with its cousin, the invasion of Bolshevik Russia by the U.S. and its allies in 1918-19, leaning on Ann Hagedorn's new book Savage Peace. That's here. It's quite a good book, by the way.

From TomDispatch:

Stop the presses! Yesterday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and TomDispatch offers two takes on the still-roiling subject. Tom Engelhardt offers a 3-minute primer for a busy world on just what the AG didn't say. Here's a brief selection: "I can only recall ... I don't recall ... I did not know ... it appears ... I was not responsible for... I have no recollection ... Again, Senator, I was not responsible for compiling that..." and so on. Then David Swanson, TomDispatch regular and co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org (among many other groups), reviews the morning testimony, beginning with this grimly amusing recap:

When can we put the 'consensus' of the senior leadership of the Department of Justice, CSLDJ (pronounced Con Sell Dodge), under oath and ask it questions and then impeach it?

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales assured the Senate Judiciary Committee today that nothing improper has been done and that, in addition, he's not to blame for it, because he simply obeyed the CSLDJ, although he does not actually remember having done so. And if members of the CSLDJ contradict Gonzales or have acted in ways he does not approve of, well, you'll just have to ask Mr. Sampson about that."

Swanson unerringly catches the tone of the day in the Senate hearing -- as well as the high and low points of questioning and then wonders: "How to hold the executive branch to account? The current dilemma seems like a real mystery, something our Constitution just does not provide a solution for. Even if we could get rid of Gonzales, who would replace him? Who, appointed by George Bush and Dick Cheney would obey and enforce the law? The answer is simple enough: Nobody."

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce

Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:

"Call out the instigators/Because there's something in the air."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click -- Bob French's Original Tuxedo Jazz Band (with Sista Teedy): "You Got The Right Key, But The Wrong Keyhole." Have I mentioned how much I love New Orleans?

It's going to be a lot of fun watching all the sensible, centrist Democrats who have spent 15 years tossing overboard piecemeal the privacy rights of 51 percent of the population -- and, yes, I'm looking at you, Carville and Begala -- explain why it really is to the party's electoral advantage to have the medical decisions of every American woman hostage to the whims of some Jesus-happy yahoo in the South Carolina legislature. "Safe, legal, and rare," was always a cop-out, and this week, we found out why. This is about regulating the right to choose out of existence, and then coming for birth control, and, finally, coming for the implied right to privacy its own self. Just stop now, OK? Y'all look like idiots. There's no appeasing these people. God, can we be done with triangulation now? Can we be done with assuming the other side is interested in compromise -- or even in the general public interest? I was going to post on the political utility of anger anyway this week. Listen up, you people, and especially you, Barack. Know, please, what you're running against. There are elements of the ruling political philosophy that need to be crushed savagely into the earth and the ground above them salted so that they never rise again. Theocratic meddling in a woman's medical decisions is one part of it. So is the "unitary executive." (The next time I see John Yoo in Washington, he'd better be selling me a hot dog on the Mall.) So is the rhetorical vandalism that was on exhibit in the aftermath of the horror at Virginia Tech. (There should be serious, Imus-level consequences for any television news program that ever puts Neal Boortz on the air again, and the sponsors of his radio program should take a sales hit that makes their ears ring like the Bells Of St. Mary's.) Movement Conservatism, if it ever was an actual philosophy, has been thoroughly taken over by political sociopaths. This has to be ended, and it's plain that the Republicans can't or won't do it, so it's up to you folks. The country's not divided. The country knows the damage that has been done to it, and it's demanding that someone pay for it. Get angry at the waste in Iraq, the cavalier dismissal of a woman's right to control her own body, the looting of the government for private interests, the loss of an entire American city to floods and neglect, the cynicism, the casual disregard of the Constitution, and the pure authoritarian arrogance of a party that enabled this festival of fruitcakery. Please, I beg you, leave the better angels of my nature alone. They're going to sit this one out.

Oh, and Doc, my choice for a title is, "The Bestest Book Ever About The Bestest Political Philosophy Ever By The Bestest Author Not Named Pierce." Run it by the marketing folks.

If John McCain's going to be covering hit tunes from 1980, wouldn't he have been better off with "Brass In Pocket" or, at least that damned piña colada song, rather than this old favorite?

By the way, the proudest thing I can say this week is that Charlie Savage works for my newspaper. Slainte!

Name: Robert Dirmeyer

Hometown: Madison, AL

A terrible realization struck me on the way to work this morning. The most frightening aspect of the U.S. Attorney Scandal is not that we have a corrupt, incompetent, political hack as Attorney General. The most frightening thing is that this hack could only find 8 U.S. Attorneys that he wanted to replace. This can only mean that the other 80+ U.S. Attorneys are true Bush loyalists willing to pursue political prosecutions against Democrats and look the other way on Republican corruption. Frightening indeed.

Name: Michael Roberts

Hometown: Boston, MA

RE: Lt. Col. Bob Bateman

A fine bit of venting from Lt. Col. Bob Bateman! It reminds me that I've thought we should send Grover Norquist to Iraq. It has a weak central government with little ability to enforce taxation and everyone has to look out for their own safety with their own guns.

It's Grover Norquist's own paradise on earth! What is he waiting for?

Can't you practically taste all the delicious freedom from here -- or is it all a big lie, Grover?

Name: JS

Hometown: Des Moines

I don't read all the posts by Bob Bateman. It depends on how much Philanthropy I want to take in on any one day; however, I was cheering his statements yesterday regarding guns, the NRA, and the Wild West mentality.

It reminded me of the thoughts I have whenever I see a poster that reads something to the effect that if you want to keep your guns, vote Republican. That's so pathetic.

I was really getting po'd by a plethora of statements coming from the GOP saying that anyone who did not support the Iraq war was not being patriotic. So I decided to do some research on what the numbers were relative to who had served and who had not served in the military of the active members of Congress prior to the November 2006 midterm elections. I did not include the women for this study.

Of the Democrats, several had served. Of the Republicans, very, very few had served. So what does that mean? What pops into my head is something on the order of foul excrement.

The Republicans in the House and the Senate are not going to stand in your way when it comes to allowing you to have as many guns as you want with as many rounds per minute you want, and you will be set to protect your home, family, and Country, but when you're on the battlefield you'll have to look far and wide to find any Republican from, or related to, the U.S. Congress.

I don't know what word choice you would use to describe this. What pops into my mind are words like: hypocrisy, lemming, cowardice, and arrogance, just to mention a few.

Name: Larry Howe

Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric--

Robin McNeil's America at a Crossroads telecasts on PBS this week have made for some gripping, and infuriating, television. The infuriating part comes in two forms:

1. It is increasingly indisputably clear that the invasion of Iraq was a catastrophe from before it began, and that we have accomplished virtually all of Al Qaeda's goals in process. Moreover, despite the pass General Petraeus has received from the media and Congressional Democrats, one little snippet in which he uncomfortably denies knowing anything about atrocities to which others claim to have alerted him suggests that he too deserves more scrutiny.

2. Even more infuriatingly, PBS gave Richard Perle his own film crew and include his shameful propaganda as part of the series. One is tempted to give Perle credit for meeting with opponents on camera -- from family members of killed GIs, who in their grief have now become active war protestors, to a right-wing insider like Pat Buchanan who takes a different view than Perle -- if the final cut weren't so dishonest. No doubt these moments are intended to lend him credibility and integrity that he flatly doesn't deserve. Giving Perle control over the narrative allows him to frame himself as reasonably and respectfully disagreeing with his opponents, and then to re-spout all of the lies that he helped to manufacturer and disseminate when no one is around to scream "Liar!"

No doubt this is PBS's attempt to be fair and balanced. But truth should not be so ill-served by being countered with falsehood as if the latter were an equally valid alternative.

Name: CNW

Hometown: Philadelphia

I read that Ray Charles said something like "The press shouldn't print drunk talk" when someone told him what Elvis Costello said about him.

Name: Beth Harrison

Hometown: Arlington, VA

Must correct Rob Stafford of San Diego (and I can because I'm from Oklahoma) -- If I say I'm a Democrat I'd show a picture of WILL ROGERS, the great Western wit, not Roy Rogers, the movie cowboy. And the correct quotation is "I'm not a member of an organized party. I'm a Democrat."

Name: Nate

Hometown: Portland, OR

The comment from Thomas Heiden certainly doesn't paint him as a "gun nut". But he does argue persuasivly about the "right" to own a gun, which I mostly hear from conservatives. And of course, they usually pull out the "guns don't kill people, people kill people" line. To counter this idiocy, I respond with "Well, then, how can you deny me my right to use recreational drugs? After all, drugs don't kill people -- people kill themselves..." It's all about "freedom" and "pursuit of happiness", right? I'm not saying I'd use cocaine or buy a gun, but what is it with deciding that the first is a prohibited evil, and the latter is a sacred freedom?

As for your book title, I find the introduction to Sean Wilentz' The Rise of American Democracy very interesting, where he carefully explains the logic both in the title and the subtitle, From Jefferson to Lincoln. So how about something like, "The Liberal Tradition -- From [*****] to [*****]"? It is a history, right? So define the parameters, and right in the title, use a couple of well known folks to captivate interest from all. Your previous works and titles spoke for themselves, about lying presidents and liberal media (not!), but I think you're going to have to stretch harder on this one to captivate the interest of all passersby.

Eric replies: Nope.

Name: Daily Eric Reader

Hometown: just got back from Illinois, locked the front door oh boy

How about " Liberal: Continuous Improvement for All"?

Eric replies: Nope.

Name: Anthony Ross

Hometown: Minneapolis

Dr. Alterman --

Part of the problem I'm having with the various suggested titles for your book is the prominence of the word "Liberal." Let's face it, putting that in the title is only to guarantee that those who most need to read it won't go anywhere near it.

Given your fondness for allusion, I'd like the suggest the title "Common Sense."

Eric replies: Nope.

Name: George G

Hometown: Upstate NY

The Emancipated Liberal

Eric replies: Nope.

Name: John

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

How bout:

"Liberal America"

"How Liberals Built America"

"Why Liberals Matter"

"Liberalism: The True American Way"

"More Than Just Micheal Moore"

Eric replies: Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope.

Name: Bill Millard

Hometown: New York

"The Enduring Strengths of Liberalism."

"Liberal: It Means Free."

"The Courage to Act Liberally."

"Liberalism: The True Bedrock of America."

Or something along those lines. You get the picture: a title that reasserts the robustness of American liberalism, a political philosophy befitting free men and women.

A title choice is an exercise in applied memetics. The right wing has been getting a free pass on circulating the fallacious meme "conservative = strong, liberal = weak" for far too long, with horrible psychopolitical consequences for the nation. ("Oooh, big tough papa Cheney, protect us from those scary terrorists, and don't worry about that pesky Constitution." "Real men don't care about the environment." "A social safety net is for losers." Ad infinitum, ad nauseam.)

It would be refreshing as hell to see a different and more accurate meme gain some traction: one that reaffirms the connection between strength of character and liberalism's generous, progressive spirit.

Isn't it the fearmongers, bullies, kleptocrats, privilege-hoarders, and low-roaders of the right who are the real cowards? Sure looks that way from here....

Eric replies: Nope, nope, nope, nope.

Name: Chuck Williams

Hometown: Kansas City

How about, "I think, therefore I am Liberal," or "A Reasonable Man"?

Eric replies: Nope.

Name: Peter Noteboom

Hometown: Austin Tx

If you were Atrios I'd suggest "Dirty F*ing Hippies: An Argument for Contemporary Liberalism" as the title for your book. Too bad you have too much class to go that route -- it would be pretty funny.

Eric replies: Nope.

Name: Bob B.

Hometown: Kansas City, MO

Any interest in using "The Liberal Advocate" for your book's title.

(No charge, of course.)

Eric replies: Nope.

Name: Maureen Holland

Hometown: South Venice Beach FL

Get the word CITIZEN in there Eric. Cuz for me, that's what being a liberal is all about.

Name: Gary Page

Hometown: Arlington Heights, IL

How about "A Liberal Dose of Good Sense"?

Eric replies: Nope.

Name: Michael Roberts

Hometown: Boston, MA

How about, "I'm not Some Damn, Stinkin', Nutjob, Cronyist CONSERVATIVE -- Hoch-Ptooo." With "conservative" in some weird font with some stinky fumes rising from the word, you know, like conservatives try to make liberal into a dirty word.

Eric replies: Nope.

Name: Meryl

Hometown: Brooklyn

Eric, why limit yourself to just one title? Here are some suggestions to help you appeal to more than one constituency:

For the gals: "Liberal -- and Loving It!"

For the Jews: "Liberal, schmiberal, as long as he loves his mother."

For the oenophiles: "Liberalism...fruity, with just a hint of that woodsy fragrance."

Just havin' fun...good luck!

Eric replies: Nope, nope, nope.

Name: Ed

Hometown: Arlington, TX

"Liberal Doses"

Eric replies: Nope.

Name: Bob Hawks

Hometown: Chicago

"AND YOU DO TOO: Love America for what it is, not for what it ain't."

Eric replies: Nope.

Name: Bill Strachan

Hometown: Enfield, CT

Eric,

How about "Liberal -- Right for America"!

Hope you appreciate the irony?!?!

Eric replies: Nope.

Name: Margie

Hometown: Austin, Texas

How about, "Hell Yes, I'm a Liberal (but I still stayed at a Holiday Inn Express anyway...)"!

p.s. Love your column.

Eric replies: Nope.

Name: Mike Bultemeier

Hometown: Bolingbrook, IL

Try: Liberalism: The Fact-Based Initiative

Or: Liberal Is the New Moderate

Or if you're feeling frisky: Mad Liberals: President Bush should go [verb] himself with a [noun]

Eric replies: Nope, nope, nope.

Name: james warren

Hometown: Federal Way WA

Coming Home: Liberalism and the Exploration of Democracy

Common Sense and Patriotism: The Endurance of Liberalism

The Heart of Liberalism: The Humanity of Good Will. (I almost typed "Good Will and Grace"!)

Liberalism Abides: The American Exploration

America's Liberal Experiment

And lastly: "I Heart my Pekingese"?

Eric replies: Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope.

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