Special holiday edition Slacker Friday

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

The New Think Again, is back up here. It's called "The Complicated Corruptions of Rupert Murdoch and The Wall Street Journal."

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc --

"He chases 'round this desert 'cause he thinks that's where I'll be/That's why I love mankind."

This week's WWOZ Pick To Click -- "Call The Police" by the Palmetto Bug Stompers. Did I leave on the dresser this morning the note that says how much I love New Orleans?

Did it escape everyone's attention that the president of the United States was both delusional and despicable this week? It is a considerable parlay, even by his standards. He stood up at a press conference and told David Gregory that only he, the mighty C-Plus Augustus, and his pet war are standing between Gregory's children and a horrible death. I can tell you conclusively that, if a major-league manager stood up in his post-game presser and said anything that weird and indecent, the media paid to cover the team wouldn't stop talking about it for a month and a half. A while back, Ozzie Guillen had some fascinating things to say on several occasions regarding gay people, and those comments haven't just followed him, they have come to define his public persona. (Note to Jack Shafer -- this may be why Al Gore ignored sports coverage in his critique of the media's sad fascination with shiny baubles. Sports journalists do the job they way it's supposed to be done. Presented with manifest incompetence on the part of a player at the job he has been hired to do, it doesn't take a sports columnist seven years to feel safe enough to call the player a f**k-up.) The president ran off at the mouth in such a fashion as to call into question how closely he's dancing with reality these days, and it just sort of filters into the news and is diluted and gone within 24 hours.

Look, sport. I'll take care of my kids. One of the ways I'll do it is to make sure that you and your creepazoid vice-president don't send them off to be killed on the basis of lies, trickeration, and the fact that you never flattened Daddy on the front lawn that night you were sockless. Another of the ways I'll do it is to make sure they fight as hard as they can to recapture the constitutional rights -- and the culture of civil liberties -- to which they are entitled by nature and by nature's god, to make sure they never again have to live under a government staffed by legacy idiots and the products of fourth-rate right-wing diploma mills. The last way I'll do it is to make sure they recognize and appreciate those things about this country that actually are worth fighting for -- most of which you wouldn't recognize if they fell off a shelf onto your head. Protect my kids? Ace, I wouldn't hire you to mow my lawn.

Name: Marty Rhodes
Hometown: Oklahoma City, OK

Dr. A,

I find myself in agreement with almost all of what you say about immigration, except for the fence part. Unlike you, I believe that symbols do matter. The Berlin wall mattered. That is why President Reagan is remembered for his "tear down this wall" statement. Gitmo matters because it is a symbol of American abuse of military power and of due process.

A massive border fence would become, in my opinion, a symbol that would further isolate the United States from the rest of the world community and for that reason it should be avoided, if possible. I also believe that a massive border fence would be unnecessary, if we would vigorously enforce our existing laws against the hiring of illegal alien workers. But because the majority of our elected officials are effectively owned by the enemies of labor, I don't expect that to happen any time soon. I figure that will happen right after they start doing something about the off-shoring of our jobs.

Name: John
Hometown: Kinnelon, NJ

President Bush gave the commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy this week. Those poor cadets -- having to suffer through the President giving himself a pat on the back just to graduate.

Between these two phrases, which were the only references to the future of those men and women:

"You'll need all this training to help keep your fellow citizens safe."

"The men and women of the Coast Guard know how to navigate the storm. We're counting on you to help America weather the challenges that lie ahead. As you begin your Coast Guard careers, you can approach the future with confidence, because our nation has faced dangerous enemies before, and emerged victorious every time."

were 2,682 words about Al Qaeda and Iraq. To use a CG phase: Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot? I'm sure the CG cadets were asking -- "And how does that affect me during search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, marine safety, aids to navigation, etc.?"

Go Coast Guard!

Name: Dale Wright
Hometown: St. Helens, OR

Eric, for me, it's not so easy to distinguish the symbolism and the reality of such a thing as a fence. Real life and blood conflicts seem to me to be as much about symbolism-status, recognition-respect, etc., as about reality. I'm not even sure it makes sense to distinguish the two.

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

Monica Goodling's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee may not have delivered the scintillating drama that many had hoped for, but the "political theater" as the president likes to call it had at least one memorable sequence. Indeed most of the questioning lacked effective focus -- of course, we'll leave aside the effusive gratitude and congratulations by Republican members of the committee who seem to think that a witness who requires immunity is worthy of praise. But for one bright moment Adam Schiff, D of California, showed that he understood what this hearing was about--not Monica Goodling's wrong-doing, but Alberto Gonzales' lack of fitness for the office of the Attorney General.

Schiff walked Goodling through the criteria for removing US Attorneys from office that she'd previously alluded to, and then asked her to confront the fact that according to those criteria Gonzales should be fired. It was quite a sight watching Goodling gradually catch the drift of where Schiff was leading her. She appeared to shrink in front of the microphone as her answers became more and more irrelevant knowing that she'd be asked to pass the same judgment on her boss as she had in weighing the careers and qualifications of attorneys whose briefcases neither she nor Gonzales are qualified to carry.

Now it's up to the Congress to keep the spotlight on Gonzales and put more pressure on Rove and Miers for an appearance. While they're at it, they can also emphasize that Bush's support for Gonzales given the AG's pathetic performance as a witness in his Congressional appearances, as well as his late night visit to an ICU to coerce authorization for illegal activity, shows us something rather damning about the president himself. By the way, where was Comey when Gonzales was nominated to AG?

Last, I'm not changing my tune on Nader until he donates a thousand or more copies of my book to anybody he wants.

Name: Lou Cabron
Hometown: San Francisco, CA

The first part you may know. 500 of Rove's DOJ emails were mistakenly sent to Whitehouse.org. They immediately forwarded them to voter-suppression investigative journalist Greg Palast, and then the Republican Party mistakenly confirmed them in a BBC interview. Robert F. Kennedy Junior (also a law professor) reviews them and says they show "an illegal way of getting rid of black votes." Palast says they'd affect 4.5 million votes.

In a new interview Thursday, Palast says he's shared his emails with Committee Chair John Conyers, and says Conyers is "keeping his power dry." He also explains the explosive perspective these emails shed on the DOJ hearings. (The most explosive phrase is "a sleeper cell of anti-Constitutional saboteurs who will explode in 2008, led by the new prosecutor for Arkansas, Tim Griffin....") More here.

Name: Traven
Hometown: Seattle

Not to beat a dead (immigration horse), but Ga Jennings is way off in asserting that "60%" of illegal immigrants are visa overstays. The true figure is more like 20-25%. And it's important to remember that of visa overstays, (a) many are relatives of US citizens/legal permanent residents who are eligible for an immigrant visa but don't want to wait for their number to come up (many, many years in some instances) and (b) all have had to get a visa, which includes at least a run through the "watchlist" of known criminals, terrorists, etc., as well as a vetting from a consular officer -- I was one until recently -- that may also uncover bad folks not on the watchlist. Also, fences do work, albeit imperfectly. Otherwise the pro-illegal immigrant lobby wouldn't be so opposed to them.

Name: Mark D
Hometown: Chicago

Last night I happened upon a museum review in The New York Times by Edward Rothstein called "Adam and Eve in the Land of the Dinosaurs." This "museum," funded and operated by fundamentalist Christians, was also reviewed a few years back by none other than Charlie Pierce. His piece is called "Greetings from Idiot America." Let's do a little comparison of the two approaches, shall we?

Rothstein, NYT:

But step a little farther into the entrance hall, and you come upon a pastoral scene undreamt of by any natural history museum. Two prehistoric children play near a burbling waterfall, thoroughly at home in the natural world. Dinosaurs cavort nearby, their animatronic mechanisms turning them into alluring companions, their gaping mouths seeming not threatening, but almost welcoming, as an Apatosaurus munches on leaves a few yards away.

What is this, then? A reproduction of a childhood fantasy in which dinosaurs are friends of inquisitive youngsters? The kind of fantasy that doesn't care that human beings and these prefossilized thunder-lizards are usually thought to have been separated by millions of years? No, this really is meant to be more like one of those literal dioramas of the traditional natural history museum, an imagining of a real habitat, with plant life and landscape reproduced in meticulous detail.

No, Ed, it is a fantasy, promoted by nuts. Rothstein goes on and on like this, sustaining that dreadful tone of distance and respect normally reserved for serious people who do serious work. Bending so far backwards he could compete for a spot on a team of Chinese Contortionists, he writes: "Whether you are willing to grant the premises of this museum almost becomes irrelevant as you are drawn into its mixture of spectacle and narrative." So what is the "almost" holding us back? A cerebral cortex? Is the Times so cowed by the Right's "elitist" moniker that its writers can't say plainly what any first grader could?

Let's look at how Pierce frames his piece. Pierce in Esquire:

Outside, several of them stop to be interviewed by a video crew. They have come from Indiana, one woman says, two toddlers toddling at her feet, because they have been home-schooling their children and they have given them this adventure as a kind of field trip. The whole group then bustles into the lobby of the building, where they are greeted by the long neck of a huge, herbivorous dinosaur. The kids run past that and around a corner, where stands another, smaller dinosaur.

Which is wearing a saddle.

It is an English saddle, hornless and battered. Apparently, this was a dinosaur used for dressage competitions and stakes races. Any working dinosaur accustomed to the rigors of ranch work and herding other dinosaurs along the dusty trail almost certainly would wear a sturdy western saddle.

This is very much a show dinosaur.

[snip]

Dinosaurs with saddles?

Dinosaurs on Noah's Ark?

Welcome to your new Eden.

Welcome to Idiot America.

Pierce connects this Creationist fantasy "museum" to the larger assault on intelligence that coincided with the ascendancy of the Calvinist Cavemen currently occupying the White House. While his piece is more wide-ranging than Rothstein's, Pierce gets it right with a blended tone of mockery and outrage. I would love to hear from Rothstein that he wrote a scathing piece, but it was rejected by the editors, who rewrote it. However, I think that's just my fantasy.

Name: Bob Wenning
Hometown: Chicago

I haven't seen much about the Democrats caving on the Iraq funding bill on this blog to this point, but I have to say I'm not that shocked. This is not necessarily because I think the Dems are spineless, but the reality is that they didn't have the votes to override a veto. Most members of the press concluded this weeks ago and now many of them are surprised that it has come to pass, I suppose to fit the 'storyline' that the Dems are spineless.

I'm not necessarily saying this is one of the Democrats' better moments, but there is only so much that can be done when you don't have the votes (Jonathan Alter has a good analysis here). I think their mistake was starting with the timetables that they knew 1) would not be acceptable to Bush; 2) they would be painted as surrender monkeys; and 3) would not help resolve the ongoing problems of an unstable Iraq.

I think they should have simply mandated (to the extent possible via legislation) that the Baker-Hamilton Commission recommendations be implemented. These recommendations included significant reductions in the number of troops there and would limit their assignment to training Iraqi troops, chasing Al-Qaeda and trying to prevent the spread of the war and de-stabilization of other countries (and out of the middle of Sunni-Shiite battles). Unfortunately, the reality is that Bush's War has put us in a situation where some US military presence will be necessary in Iraq for some time to come. It would be nice to get out completely in the next year or so, but I don't think it's realistic, particularly considering the strategic importance of the Middle East.

Name: John Cox
Hometown: Charlotte, NC

Well it looks like the Democrats blinked first in the game of political "Chicken" with President Bush. There will be no withdrawal time table in the Iraq War appropriation. I guess the Democrats just weren't prepared to gamble soldiers' lives in hopes that President Bush would blink first. In retrospect, this was a game the Democrats were never going to win. President Bush has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to throw lives away for the slightest sort of political advantage. So throwing a few more lives away to demonstrate his "toughness" towards Democrats would have been an opportunity that President Bush would have gladly seized to rally his ever shrinking base.

Name: Rick Kane
Hometown: Locust Grove, Virginia

Like the neoconservatives with the Army, Mr. Turse is willing to risk the lives of MSM correspondents on a story that simply can't be covered unless one is suicidal. Frankly, this is the nature of war, and it will get worse as the war goes on and coarsens the sensibility of those fighting a guerilla war where the irregulars arise from and are in fact part of the civilian population. Human rights violations are not exclusive to our forces.

From TAPPED "The body of one of the three missing U.S. soldiers was found south of Baghdad in the Euphrates River yesterday. The soldier has been identified as 20-year-old Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr. "Hassan al-Jibouri, 32, said he saw the body with head wounds and whip marks on its back floating on the river Wednesday morning."

If these "head wounds" are drill holes from a power tool, a form of torture common to ethnic kidnappings, this could mean that Anzack was tortured to death with a power drill and a whip. This is a common approach among the Iraqi death squads.

Name: Carlos
Hometown: Portland ME

I think the point you're missing from the Edwards $55,000 speech kerfuffle: his speech was on poverty and the "two Americas" meme. No matter how he explains it, it seems ironic and hypocritical. And that's why it's attracted notice.

They all get paid big bucks for speeches and more power to them but Edwards' seems particularly unseemly.

Name: Alan Deikman
Hometown: Fremont, California

It's good to know that your old pal Ralph Nader doesn't carry a grudge. Although I can't imagine how you could not have mixed feelings about that (given your writing on the subject over the last six years). I wonder what you might say to him should you ever speak again.

My suggestion is to extend what Howard Dean told him in the last debate they had that I heard. In 2000, his biggest sin wasn't ego or policy or passion. His contribution really has only boiled down to letting the "perfect" become the enemy of the good. His own mindset aside, let us hope that most of his followers have given up that folly forever.

Name: Siva Vaidhyanathan
Hometown: Yankeetown

Queens, Cleveland. Yeah. This is Yankeetown, Bub!

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