East side, west side, everybody's coming down ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I did a short thing on the Democrats' vote on the war last week for Tomasky that got lost for a while, but it's here.

I see from everywhere that Fred Thompson is getting into the race. As of today, I'd make him the favorite for the nomination, as he, alone, appeals to every faction of the party and is also electable. As of today, I'd also make Hillary Clinton the favorite for the Democratic nomination. And I'd not be able to call that race. If Obama catches and passes Hillary I'd not be able to call that race either. But if Edwards should win -- based on his sweep of the first three primaries, labor support and aggressive antiwar platform, I think he'd beat Thompson in a "future" vs. "the past" kind of thing, since Thompson cannot really renounce his association with Bush as much as will be necessary. If Al Gore should get in the race -- well, it'd have to be quick -- he'd clean up, methinks, though he'd have to run against the media, too.

For instance, I read in The Note that The Washington Post's Dana Milbank plumbs the book's depths to find clues to Gore's political ambitions. Campaign treatise it's not, Milbank writes: "Imagine the Iowa hog farmer cracking open 'Assault on Reason,' and meeting Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Paine, John Kenneth Galbraith, Walter Lippmann, Johannes Gutenberg, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Jefferson and Marshall McLuhan -- all before finishing the introduction."

I don't know a lot of Iowa farmers, true, but I think it amazingly insulting that Milbank thinks those names are above their collective heads. But anything to mock Gore, even the fact that he treats people with sufficient respect to expect them to understand the arguments of their country's founders and intellectual heroes.

The Times business section has a terrific column by David Leonhardt in which he examines Lou Dobbs' cavalier disregard for facts in the service of his racist, ideological obsessions. I would make the point that Dobbs is the norm insofar as cable TV news goes, rather than the exception. Most cable hosts are both uninterested in evidence and in the grip of ideological obsession. Remember, CNN -- home to Dobbs, a financial contributor to the Republican Party, by the way -- and MSNBC -- home to Joe Scarborough, who appears on the platform as a supporter of George W. Bush; Tucker Carlson; and love-struck Tweety -- are somehow liberal. Howard Kurtz recently made that crazy claim -- as if he were doing the work of Mrs. Kurtz, a Republican campaign consultant -- and people call it a coincidence.

Speaking of ideology: Was the right-wing, neocon ideology of The Wall Street Journal editorial page responsible for the murder of Daniel Pearl? By the logic of the page's own Bret Stephens, well ... read this and draw your own conclusion.

Isn't former New York Times reporter Jeff Gerth writing the definitive book about Hillary Clinton sort of like Judith Miller deciding to write the definitive book about Iraq's WMDs? It just doesn't add up. Boehlert has more here.

How about those Mets? Who's got an apartment -- and a few extras for me at Fenway -- in October?

And sorry, but we got a few nasty letters from Yankee fans, and so we are forced at least to consider the following calculation:

Cost per 2007 Yankee victory, so far:

$195 million payroll divided by 21 wins = $9.29 million per (rounded)

Cost per 2007 Mets victory:

$116 million payroll divided by 33 wins = $3.51 million per (rounded)

Just saying ...

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Stephen Hirsch
Hometown: Basking Ridge, NJ

One of the problems the anti-war movement has had in building an effective movement (as opposed to expressing how they feel) is the lack of a good analogy. The Hitler/fascist thing does feel good, and does have some basis in reality (i.e., they both were based on mythical "stab in the back" theories that lead to catastrophe), but it's just not helpful. While nobody really knows what lies in the black hearts of Bush and Cheney, most supporters of this fiasco didn't have the willful destruction of the Iraqi nation (as opposed to state) in mind.

The better analogy is to the Irish potato famine. That horror was mostly due to incompetence, stupidity and an uncaring unconcern for the fate of colonial subjects. Doesn't that sound more familiar?

Name: Tom Andersen
Hometown: Pound Ridge, NY

Edward Herrmann played FDR in a TV mini-series 25 or so years ago. Maybe that's why he reminds you of FDR.

Name: Jesse Zander Corum
Hometown: Portland, OR

Of course Edward Herrmann reminds you of FDR -- he played the president in John Huston's "Annie." To me, Herrmann will always be Richard Gilmore, who, despite being an obvious Republican, inspires similar warm-fuzzies.

As for the border fence: I understand your arguments, but I think building a border fence is just as impratical as deporting everyone, just due to geography. We've built fences on all the easy parts already. That's why people are dying out in the desert trying to get across. So to complete a fence, we'll have to build across desert and mountains and all sorts of remote, difficult terrain. And then what? Do we really think that nobody in Mexico has a pair of bolt-cutters or a ladder? Last week on The Colbert Report, Ms Buchanan claimed that we'll be able to detect any breach in the fence and dispatch border patrol agents immediately, but that's a joke too. Even if we have agents every few miles (across a barren desert) those few minutes of reaction time would let people escape or hide. Besides, any system sensitive enough to detect people crossing the fence would undoubtedly get false-positives from birds, lizards and other animals who couldn't care less about our foolish human borders. And Kenneth from Philadelphia raises a crucial (and usually ignored) issue of a fence's considerable environmental impact.

Like you, I make no claim to being an expert; I've just interpreted general knowledge differently. What we need is the opinions of geologists and biologists and construction engineers who aren't vying for the contract. Then we can decide if a fence is feasible or not.

Name: John Loehr
Hometown: Free Union, Virginia (Virgil Goode's district)

It's not just the Weekly Standard ridiculing Al Gore -- check out the editorial page of the NYT. David Brooks makes fun of Gore for advocating intelligent and thoughtful solutions to our problems, and ridicules Gore's "graduate student" writing style. Then Brooks makes this incredible statement:

Gore seems to have come up with a theory that the upper, logical mind sits on top of, and should master, the primitive and more emotional mind below. He thinks this can be done through a technical process that minimizes information flow to the lower brain and maximizes information flow to the higher brain.

The reality, of course, is that there is no neat distinction between the "higher" and "lower" parts of the brain. There are no neat distinctions between the "rational" mind and the "visceral" body. The mind is a much more complex network of feedback loops than accounted for in Gore's simplistic pseudoscience.

Leaving aside what the present executive's well known deference to his visceral instincts has wrought, I was under the impression that the history of human civilization, culture, art and science was a record of the application of reason and intelligence to our more "primitive" and "visceral" instincts.

Brooks also ridicules Gore for comparing the Internet to the printing press as an organ of political discourse, stating, "Has Al Gore ever actually looked at the Internet?" and lamenting the incivility of the content. This hazy nostalgia makes you wonder if David Brooks has ever looked at any 18th or 19th century political writing.

"But, hey, nobody ever died from contact with pomposity ..." No, Mr. Brooks, but a lot of people have died over the past few years due to a lack of intelligent thought analysis being applied to our policies.

Name: Rob Stafford
Hometown: San Diego

Are you sick of the fence yet?

As you know, I live in San Diego. I can't speak to if the general demographics have shifted in that period of time -- there are few things I'm actually more incurious about -- but I can tell you that 20 years ago at my local community college, the population was largely lily white. Today, it resembles the general population. One small gain.

Your suggestion would not have gone over well here in many circles, including the one I could best describe as 'liberal,' but is close enough to the opinion I have shared with my students that I could appreciate it. An effective barrier with no other change in policy would be ... unhelpful, at best. Our current policy -- which I think existed well before * took office -- none-the-less matches perfectly with the POTUS and his M.O.: flout the law of the land, use national resources through a complicated 'scheme' to redistribute that fast cash to big pharma/big oil/MIC, bleed off a little to bribe the religious right, and make taxpayers take up the slack.

If you do it well, you can poison the whole concept of '"federal government" as an added bonus.

I can't say the problem is simple -- but the part I care about is -- we have three choices: 1) enforce the law of the land -- which will hurt (primarily) big business, and to a lesser extent, illegal immigrants, 2) change the law of the land to something we can all live with, or 3) continue to act hypocritically -- poisoning the well both at home & abroad. I, personally, would prefer option 1 or option 2, as living substantially differently than how I talk is too exhausting (for me) to want to do much. Maybe I need to get into meth & prostitutes -- that might help.

But I digress.

A last thought: throughout all of human history, how long has the idea of "illegal immigration" meant anything to anybody? A century? A century and a half? Maybe the reason why some people's parents "came here legally" wasn't because they were so in love with following the rules, but because "legal immigration" at the time they entered the country meant crossing the border, picking a spot, and settling down -- or perhaps it meant giving immigration your name (which they promptly Americanized), and your country of origin, and then being dumped on the street -- as if you were, say, an indigent patient in a private hospital in Los Angeles.

Thanks for a great column -- as usual.

Name: Ravi Giroti
Hometown: San Francisco

Hi Eric,

I've always been an avid reader of your blog and would like to take this opportunity to apprise you of a few facts that're largely unknown and ignored in the media.

While it is commendable to acknowledge the plight of the 12 million or so illegal immigrants, nobody of any consequence either from the political arena or from the media has had anything to say about the suffering the system imposes on those who're here legally. I'm specifically talking about people who're in the US on H1-B visas. These are the people who've never broken the law, paid large sums of money in taxes and contributions to Social Security and Medicaid -- with no benefits being accrued ever in most cases. While I don't dispute the fact that there is a dire need for labor in this country it is no longer a secret that the US is slowly losing its preeminent position in the world of science and technology. With an ever increasing reliance on brains imported from other countries -- often-times honed in grad schools in the US, the treatment meted out to such people at times like these leaves a bad taste. There is nothing in the CIR bill being debated in the Senate that would be beneficial to the many who've been trying very hard to attain the promise of the American dream. For someone like me who's spent almost a decade of my life in the US -- working my way through grad school, working longer and harder than most of my US born colleagues, spending several years waiting in line for a green card, this bill finally succeeds in breaking the will to fight anymore. Unfortunately, mine is not an isolated case and there're many thousands of people like me for whom the American dream has turned sour and feels increasingly more like the American nightmare. Wonder how many entrepreneurial ventures that would have fueled the great economic engine of this country in the future would die a premature death due to the gross injustice bills like the CIR impose. It would be great if someone like you were to write about the plight of the people who're here legally and whose contributions and relevance to the economic well-being of this country are being completely ignored -- or Lou Dobbed I should say. Keep up the good work. Your blog is one of the ever decreasing bright spots in the gloom and morbidity of my legal migrant experience in the US ;-)

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