She's filing her nails while they're dragging the lake


If you are the kind of person who wants to read the gossipy stuff before the important stuff, you can click here to get to what I really hope is my last comment on the intensely silly proportions my "debate" with Ana Marie Cox has taken on.

OK, everybody back now? Most of today's links require little or no comment from yours truly.

Liar. Torturer. Murderer? The memo in which Bush tried to convince Tony Blair to bomb Al-Jazeera and purposely murder journalists is real. Otherwise, how could two Britons be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act?

Most of Moyers's report involves serious, respected journalists who let themselves be swept up in war fever and who were manipulated by the administration sources who had cozied up to them. Instead of investigating administration claims about al-Qaeda and WMDs and such, cable news offered up hours and hours of talking-head television.


Tim Russert, of NBC's "Meet the Press," looks intimidated by Moyers and somewhat unnerved by his questions, but at least he agreed to be interviewed. Among those who declined -- and thus became a part of the story more than they already were -- are Judith Miller of the New York Times, a reporter who became a relentless drumbeater for war; Times pundit William Safire, who'd predicted that Iraqis would welcome Americans as liberators when they marched into Baghdad; columnist Charles Krauthammer, another hawkish columnist who's usually anything but camera-shy; and Fox boss Roger Ailes.

William Kristol, a conservative columnist who, Moyers says, "led the march to Baghdad behind a battery of Washington microphones ... has not responded to any of our requests for an interview, but he still shows up on TV as an expert, most often on Fox News."

That's here, and the show is tonight.

"Rudy Giuliani said if a Democrat is elected president in 2008, America will be at risk for another terrorist attack on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001," here.

"We have had a remarkable run these last thirty years. Israel has flourished under the pax Americana. There has been no general Arab-Israeli war since 1973, and peace prevails on most of Israel's borders. The country's population has grown, foreign investment has poured in. Israel has expanding relations with the up-and-coming powers in the world. And American Jewry has gained stature and influence, in part by mediating for Israel. This has been a long and productive peace." Martin Kramer on the geopolitics of the Jews, here.

Coverage of books has been one of the easiest things to cut. And the cuts have tended to come early and often. They have taken the form of various measures, including shrinking the space available for reviews and interviews; reductions of freelance budgets; and the increased use of syndicated material. Most book pages have always had very small staffs. Now it is rare that more than one editor handles the reviews full-time, and in many cases the entire section has been closed down.

Such cuts are usually explained as a matter of economic necessity - the decisions framed in terms of meeting the perceived interests of the public. But the reduction or elimination of book coverage has occurred even in cities where readers clearly want and expect it.

Perhaps the most striking example (the case that, for many of us, revealed the shape of things to come) is that of The San Francisco Chronicle. In 2001, the editors decided to shut down its freestanding book supplement - shifting its diminished literary coverage to the back of the paper's entertainment section. A strong protest went up from readers and bookstore owners in the Bay Area, with its large literary and academic communities.

And so the book section was saved, if on a smaller scale - at least for a while. Last year the section was cut by two pages, then cut again recently. "We used to run something like 15 reviews a week," said its editor, Oscar Villalon, in August. "Now in a good week we run about 10, but we've had as few as six."

More recent developments elsewhere are equally discouraging. The Los Angeles Times is now combining its book supplement with the opinion section. Last week The Atlanta Journal-Constitution eliminated the position of its book-review editor as part of a "staff reorganization." It is worth mentioning that Atlanta, which recently hosted the conference of the Associated Writing Programs, is listed the country's 15th most literate city (well ahead of New York, as it happens). Other examples abound."

-- Scott McLemee on the disappearance of book review sections, here.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared this week that EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and other agency officials can't be held constitutionally liable for making rosy declarations about air quality in the days following the World Trade Center's destruction.

The opinion, written by the court's chief judge, Dennis Jacobs, said opening EPA workers up to lawsuits for giving out bad information during a crisis could have a catastrophic side effect.

That's here.

City officials, trying to discredit Gonzalez's scoop, called a press conference, at which Mayor Rudy Giuliani declared that "the problems created ... are not health-threatening." In the back channels, as Gonzalez himself later wrote in his book Fallout: The Environmental Consequences of the World Trade Center Collapse, "one of Giuliani's deputy mayors called a top editor at the News to complain." The head of the New York City Partnership and Chamber of Commerce fired off a letter calling Gonzalez's column "a sick Halloween prank." EPA director Christie Whitman immediately wrote Zuckerman, accusing Gonzalez of trying to "alarm" people, and her complaint ran on the op-ed page days later. Its opening could scarcely have been more patronizing: "Those of us in government and the media share an obligation to provide members of the public, in a responsible and calm manner ... " Gonzalez's attempts to follow up his scoop were met with the "obvious displeasure of the paper's top editors," who delayed and sometimes killed his columns, he wrote in his book.

That's here.

Seven years ago, a Missouri doctor discovered a troubling pattern at a microwave popcorn plant in the town of Jasper. After an additive was modified to produce a more buttery taste, nine workers came down with a rare, life-threatening disease that was ravaging their lungs.

Puzzled Missouri health authorities turned to two federal agencies in Washington. Scientists at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which investigates the causes of workplace health problems, moved quickly to examine patients, inspect factories and run tests. Within months, they concluded that the workers became ill after exposure to diacetyl, a food-flavoring agent.

But the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, charged with overseeing workplace safety, reacted with far less urgency. It did not step up plant inspections or mandate safety standards for businesses, even as more workers became ill.

On Tuesday, the top official at the agency told lawmakers at a Congressional hearing that it would prepare a safety bulletin and plan to inspect a few dozen of the thousands of food plants that use the additive.

That response reflects OSHA's practices under the Bush administration.

That's here.

Since the tax code encourages joint filing (by making taxes lower for those who do), many couples figure that the "extra" dollars the wife brings in will be piled on top of the husband's income and taxed at the highest rates, close to 50 percent, according to estimates made by Ed McCaffery, a tax professor at the University of Southern California. Considering the cost of child care, couples often conclude that her working adds nothing to the family treasury.

If married couples were taxed as the separate income earners they often are, women would be liberated from some of the pressure to reduce their "labor force participation," as the labor bureau would say.

-- Linda Hirshman, here.

David Bell disposes of Charles Krauthammer's typically dishonest argument about gun control, though here, Christopher Orr notes that he blamed Barack Obama. (I see from Jason Zengerle, here, that Krauthammer also blamed the Palestinians for causing the massacre. This may be a new record of craziness for an allegedly sane person, though perhaps Marty Peretz will soon top it...) Anyway, what a fine choice for a Time columnist.

O'Reilly: We are the world.

This bee story is really scary, huh?

Crazy good Sopranos blogging, here.

Once more with feeling:

Gawker-Gate: A Few Final (One Hopes) Points of Clarification

A cocktail-party conversation into which I was foolishly corralled has reached ridiculous proportions of debate and discussion. The transcript, believe it or not, is here. I'd like to clarify a few points:

1) I was minding my own business at a brunch when Ana initiated this conversation. I had no intention of speaking to her, and had I known that what I was saying would be inaccurately passed along to a website that cared nothing for accuracy, I would never have done so. My whole point here is that (as with Joe Klein) I rarely if ever go around looking for fights with people with whom I happen to disagree. I do that enough in print, for a living, without wishing to make it my entire life. (This also speaks to the relevance of the use of "my friend" in the text, as in "I don't feel a need to hassle my friends.")

2) In every instance, I am responding to accusations that she is leveling at me. I told her I'm fine with what she does. My issue with Time is that they hired a "liberal" gossip writer who specializes in articles about "ass-fucking" to offset their conservative heavy-hitters who regularly abuse liberals. If she or anyone else wishes to spend their lives as gossip writers, all I ask is that they try to be accurate when it's about me -- which I see turns out to be far too much to ask.

3) Also in every instance, Ana is telling me how to behave, not the other way around. She is insisting that I subordinate my social life to my professional life and hassle my friends and acquaintances every time I see them when they do something with which I happen to disagree. I tell her I feel no responsibility to do this; in fact, writing about our differences strikes me as going pretty far. Yet note the irony. She works for Time, I don't, and yet she insists it's my job to confront its editor, not hers. I'm afraid I disagree, though the one time I did meet John Huey, who is not my friend, I did -- extremely politely and asking whether he minded discussing it -- raise the issue. What's more, I never asked for Ana's opinion of what I should do, much less initiate a conversation about this.

4) Ana apologized for her behavior toward me, which ought to tell you something.

5) Gawker's entirely unsourced coverage has been demonstrated to be false by the transcript, though I've yet to see any corrections posted.

6) Amazingly, many people in the blogosphere seem to think this is important, again, with precious little concern for accuracy. "Eat the Press" has the conversation taking place at the Correspondent's Dinner, which I did not attend, even though my posts also appear at HuffPo and the incident's location is clearly described. I saw one blog entry lecturing me by a man named "Richard Bradley" -- who, perhaps, understandably, changed his name from "Richard Blow" after writing a ghoulishly exploitative get-rich-quick book cashing in on the death of John Kennedy Jr. -- in which he makes two mistakes in his first two sentences, and then goes on to call me names and instruct me about the irrelevance of "MSM" as if my work for The Nation or Media Matters or as a professor at CUNY constitutes the MSM, as opposed to, say, The Hearst Corporation, which used to employ Mr. Bradley, back when he had a patron named "John Kennedy" (and his name was still "Richard Blow").

7) A few people have focused on the fact that, in the discussion, I appear to privilege the opinion media over "reporting." As I try to explain, when I say, "In a better world ..." before being cut off, this is, I think, the way it is, rather than the way it should be -- which is why I've written two books about the opinion media. I wish it weren't true but I fear it is, hence the focus of my work. (This point goes over the head of the apparently unedited writer at "Eat the Press" as well.)

8) So again, to sum up. I did not ask to have this conversation. I did not ask to have it reported on or taped. I did not demand anything of Ms. Cox or anyone else. I simply responded as best I could to her myriad accusations against me -- accusations that strike me as rather hostile and hypocritical given her own position at Time. She later apologized, and I accepted. When the sister site of Ms. Cox's former employer, Gawker, misreported the incident and provided no sources whatever -- and I re-emphasize, the only people present were myself, two Observer reporters, and Ms. Cox herself -- I sought to correct the record. When the Observer printed its handy transcript, it bore out my version in every single respect. Maybe I'm not the best judge of this, but I gotta say, from my end, I really don't see the problem.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Brian Donohue

In the Greg Mitchell piece you linked to yesterday, there was a list of chickenhawk pundits who refused to meet Moyers:

Thomas Friedman
Bill Kristol
Roger Ailes
Charles Krauthammer
Judith Miller
William Safire

I would recommend that we all let their respective media outlets know exactly what brave warriors we think they are for running away from a 75 year old man with a microphone. You can use FAIR's convenient contact list.

Name: ASullivan
Hometown: Washington DC

David Halberstam is dead. A man who looked honestly at the world around him, who chronicled its achievements (in sports) and failures (in war).

Halberstam realized that our best and brightest took us into Vietnam. What shabby remnant ran the ad campaign that led us into Iraq?

In the tragedy of Vietnam, we learned the limits and the responsibility of our power in the world. In the travesty of Iraq, a war whose cost and losses the Fearless W trivializes (while decrying the "artifice" of deciding we need to end it) ,we may have failed to notice our evaporation as a world power.

Name: Merrill R. Frank
Hometown: Jackson Hgts NYC


I'm surprised this one has slipped people's minds.

Though some might think it would be self-reverential the old Phil Ochs song "Love Me, I'm a Liberal" would be appropriate. The cultural references are dated but priceless.

Eric replies: Yes, dear, but Phil was on the wrong side of that one ... (and I want to be loved for me, not my politics).

Name: Reed Richardson
Hometown: Ridgewood, NJ


I was saddened to hear the news of David Halberstam's death. I had the privilege of hearing him speak to my graduating class at the Columbia J-School two years ago and though his speech was brief (link here) I still look back upon it as perhaps one the best descriptions of what it really means to be a journalist. Whether it was the Vietnam War or Bill Belichick, his ability to tell a great story, no matter the subject, will truly be missed.

Name: Rick Kane
Hometown: Locust Grove, Virginia

Hi Doc, I was reading this article from National Journal, and the sentences below blew me away, particularly the word "potential":

"The potential Achilles' heel of the White House strategy is that it relies on events in Iraq that are, to a large degree, outside of U.S. control. In a move that further weakened an already shaky Iraqi government, for instance, six Cabinet members loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr quit their jobs on April 16 to protest the government's unwillingness to back a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops."

When you are fighting a war, and the events and tempo are outside your control, that means the other side has the initiative and is winning. We sat back and surrendered the initiative in summer of 2003, and the strategic objective we have set for ourselves (a stable Iraqi Government) is something on which we are completely reliant on Iraqi actors and cooperation, again something outside our control.

As Senator Reid has accurately stated that war and those objectives are will o'wisps and are lost.

My office is near Arlington Cemetery. I can look out at the funereal ceremonies, and I remember Horace, "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori."

For the full article, see here.

Name: Ian
Hometown: Los Angeles

I keep reflecting on Gonzales' appearance last week before the Senate. If he really can't recall as much as says he can't recall then he's hopelessly incompetent and should be dismissed immediately. No one in such a position of authority and importance can be that dim (can they?). And since they can't possibly be, and we all know they can't possibly be, then several things: he's lying, perjuring himself before congress; his attorneys have suborned perjury because they had to have instructed him to use the Sgt. Schultz defense; and the man who most likely issued the list of firings -- Rove. I hope this is the tipping point. All those Republican operatives fanning out to say that no crime has been committed, I think we can be sure they protest too much. If they say no crime has been committed, we can be sure a crime has been committed.

Name: Dan Garfinkel
Hometown: Pittsburgh

Don't ban guns -- tax bullets to make them prohibitively expensive. Bullets bought at the same time as a hunting license and in specific calibers appropriate to the license would be exempt. Use the money to maintain the enforcement data for gun sales.

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