Slacker Friday


From yesterday: I experiment with the iron laws of journalism today by writing a stand-alone Nation column on the continued media obsession with assassinating Al Gore's character called "The Assault on Reality," here, as well as a follow-up column on the same topic, but with a different emphasis (and no word limit), for my CAP Think Again column. That one is cleverly called "The Assault on Reality, Continued," and it's here. Oh, and I did a Guardian thing in favor of ending affirmative action by race and replacing it with affirmative action by class.

Eric R. writes about the duel of Dick Cheney vs. Aaron Burr over the title of Most Dangerous Vice President, here.

And here's Atrios on how Joe Klein and Tom Friedman are really the same person, give or take a billion dollars.

Perhaps Newsweek should hire young Ezra to atone for decades of Robert Samuelson columns like this one.

Who to hire to atone for Michael Gerson?

I love Arianna, knows God, and am happy to be featured on HuffPo a lot, but people, Madonna's arm? This is news? Oy.

See how much damage a sloppy study can do when combined with an unthinking media? Isn't it funny that "Mr. Conflict of Interest" thinks he can lecture other journalists about conflicts?

From our sponsors:

Kurtz again cited report on journalists' donations without noting that only tiny fraction gave at all

In his June 25 "Media Notes" column in The Washington Post, Howard Kurtz cited an MSNBC report and wrote that journalists "overwhelmingly gave to Democrats," again without noting that the 143 journalists identified in the study as having made political contributions "are a tiny fraction of the roughly 100,000 staffers in newsrooms across the nation," as MSNBC itself stated. As Media Matters for America has noted, the people named in the MSNBC report represent less than two-tenths of 1 percent of news staff in this country.

In listing examples of journalists contributing to campaigns, Kurtz cited "New Yorker writer Mark Singer, who profiled Howard Dean in 2004 and then gave $250 to Dean's America Coming Together [ACT]." But ACT was not "Dean's ," and it was not identified as "Dean's" in MSNBC's report. ACT was an independent advocacy group that was not affiliated with Dean's presidential campaign.

In a June 25 chat session, Kurtz did finally note that "99 percent of journalists DON'T contribute to candidates or political parties." He also argued that a different standard should be applied to corporate owners of media organizations: "It's widely known that media corporations and executives make political donations to protect what they see as their interests. I'm not wild about the practice, but they're in a different category than working journalists."

As Media Matters also documented, Kurtz similarly referred to the study without citing the percentage on the June 24 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, which he hosts. Throughout the Reliable Sources segment, the on-screen text read: "Journalists' Donations: Many Give to Democrats." Kurtz did not acknowledge the tiny percentage even after one of his guests, Huffington Post media editor Rachel Sklar, pointed it out, saying that the number who gave was "like one percent."

From TomDispatch:

In a week dominated by the CIA -- the Agency of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s -- it might be easy enough to forget the Agency of the new century, the one known for creating its own offshore Bermuda triangle of injustice, including a global system of secret (or borrowed) prisons, as well as for kidnappings, ghost prisoners, torture, covert programs aimed at "regime change," and, of course, that notorious "intelligence" that helped the Bush administration scare Congress and the public into its war of choice.

In an on-line exclusive piece from the upcoming New York Review of Books at, Thomas Powers, well-known expert on the CIA and author of Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to al-Qaeda, considers that "great open question of the decade" -- how we got into Iraq -- in the context of CIA Director George Tenet's new memoir. He presents a devastating, slam-dunk account of what Tenet must have known about the president's (and vice president's) intentions on Iraq and when he must have known it. In the process, he explores just why the CIA seemed so incapable of producing actual, serviceable, accurate "intelligence" in 2002-2003. This remains a remarkable tale, one that must not be forgotten.

Considering Tenet's memoir, Powers concludes his piece this way: "Thus George Tenet broods about his hurt feelings. In the flood of his many parting thoughts he never returns to his original question about the moment when war became inevitable, which was in any case rhetorical. More to the point would have been answerable questions, the kind any fair historian would put to him: When did Tenet first hear the President talk about 'regime change'? When did he realize that Iraq was next on the President's agenda? When did he understand that WMD were to be the heart of the argument for war? And when did he know that without Curveball and without the aluminum tubes, Colin Powell would have been left standing in front of the UN with nothing?"

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc --

"I was born, lucky me/ in a land that I love."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click -- "Lollipop Mama," Clarence Samuels. I have neglected again to paint across the forehead of Thomas Jefferson on Mount Rushmore how much I love New Orleans.

I don't care what your views are on the basis for affirmative action -- and yours are lovely ones with beautiful herds of snow-white unicorns gamboling through them, by the way -- the fact that the last Chief Justice of my lifetime either can't understand Brown v. Board, or interprets it with the kind of mendacity usually used to sell aluminum siding does not fill me with confidence.

And, yo, Tavis Smiley, my brother, the 2008 presidential election is not ... about ... you.

Those of us familiar with Massachusetts politics refer to the "iron law of journalism" that you mentioned as, "double-dipping." Thank you.

Forgive my cynicism but, whenever the CIA makes a clean breast of all the horrors it perpetrated 30 years ago, I just assume that the agency's doing even worse things now.

And, oh, mercy, we have a "constitutional showdown" on our hands. Or, perhaps, even a constitutional crisis! (Cue the scary CNN tympani.) Watch how this now unfolds among our political elite. There will not be enough pearls for them all to clutch. There will be fistfights over spots on the fainting couch. There will be appeals -- long and lachrymose -- from the Aunt Pittypats of the Beltway for a "sensible" and/or "bipartisan" solution to the fact that the people in a criminal White House have decided to flip off congressional subpoenas. I guarantee you, Joe Lieberman's already in makeup, which is being applied with loving thoroughness by Dean Broder. The template was set in 2000 when, even though the country was rocking right along, Chris and Little Tim and everyone they eat dinner with on Nantucket argued that "the country" needed "closure" on that messy business down in Florida. Rather than just letting the whole thing get hashed out in the House of Representatives where it belonged, and where we likely would have had C-Plus Augustus foisted on us anyway, we end up with a goofball Supreme Court decision that sits in the law books like something somebody put there with a can of spray paint. The Gang Of 14 "compromise" -- thanks for Sammy Alito, by the way -- was another example. The Republicans proposed to blow up the rules of the Senate for the purposes of pure power politics, and they paid no substantial political price for it. Now, we've got a renegade Executive resisting proper congressional oversight, using arguments you wouldn't accept from your five-year old. Won't anyone step in and save us from the terrors of self-government?

Well, screw it. The nice thing about our Constitution is that we're supposed to have constitutional showdowns. In fact, we're supposed to have a lot more of them than we do. This is not a crisis. This is the way the system is supposed to work. The constitutional crisis, if you're looking for one, lies in the events under investigation, not the investigation itself. A vice president who claims, in turn, that he is a fourth branch of government, and then, two of them at once? A president who admits to breaking the law, and says he'll do it again? These are constitutional crises. Constitutional showdowns are how we solve them. If we're going to have a constitutional showdown, then let's have a by-god real one. Play it out, by the rules, all the way. And get yourself some warm milk and a blankie if democracy scares you too damn much. Jesus, these people ...

Name: Mark Alterman
Hometown: Alma, KS

Two comments recently, one by Ted Koppel and one by Bill O'Reilly: Ted raised the question why we tolerate 43,000 deaths on the highways every year but get upset about 3,000 soldiers in Iraq. Fair and Balanced said to folks who want to get out of Iraq, "Come on, what are you going to do, turn off your air conditioners and quit driving?"

I will eventually get a solar charger for my laptop. In the meantime, I'm riding a bike whenever I can, and I haven't yet turned on the air conditioner.

Eric replies: We related, bub?

Name: Roy Hanley
Hometown: Atascadero, California

The biggest problem we progressives face is the purity trolls. This blog term I think is useful to describe people who criticize you for being willing to consider any alternative that might work. The only problem I have with the fence idea is that no one talks about putting a fence up around the Canadian border, but since I try not to be a purity troll I just want to know how much illegal immigration comes that way. So much information out there, and very difficult to filter the truthful information from the slanted. Would that we could all allow discussion of ideas and then pick the best one without attacking people for thinking out loud. Oh well. Try being a Giants fan, it hurts worse.

Name: Larry Cowan
Hometown: Temple, TX

To all those who call for the impeachment of Cheney and/or Bush I would remind you of two facts. One, this administration will be out of office in Jan 09. Even if it were politically possible to impeach them both before then, the improvement in governance would be quite limited. Two, a better pair of candidates for impeachment are Scalia and Thomas. By violating the Constitution and not recusing themselves in Bush v. Gore, despite direct family participation on Bush's side, this pair will continue to harm the country for decades to come. An added bonus to impeaching Scalia and Thomas is that it would serve as a stern warning to Alito and Roberts to serve the nation, not the oligarchs.

Name: David Fuller
Hometown: Peotone, IL


You asked, "Should the Democrats try to impeach Cheney or Gonzales, both, or neither?"

I say neither. Not because both don't deserve it -- there's no doubt in my mind that they do deserve it, and ought to be convicted. The problem with it is this: Democrats suck at framing issues (right now anyway), and the SCLM doesn't help them any, either -- because they let the right wing flacks say anything they want. So because

1) the political backlash prior to the '08 elections would favor Republicans, at a time when those indicating they are liberals and / or Democrats is on the rise, and

2) the fact that the Senate would never be able to convict either of the liars because they couldn't muster the necessary 2/3 vote to convict him (do you really think that many Republican Senators would vote to convict?), and

3) it wouldn't help any that Roberts would preside over the trial (not saying he would hurt, but he surely wouldn't help any).

No matter how you look at it, Democrats lose -- they wouldn't get the convictions (giving Gonzales and Cheney an aura of exoneration), plus they'd lose seats in the House and Senate. If we're to fix the things this Administration has screwed up, we'll need more votes in each chamber -- not less (or worse, lose the majorities we have).

Try them as criminals after the elections, if that's a legal possibility - but not before. A President Giuliani (or Romney, or McCain, or Thompson) frankly scares the crap out of me.

Just my $0.02.

Name: Joe Stancati
Hometown: Ottawa Hills, OH

Dear Eric,

I've admired your work since I read "What Liberal Media" in 2003 in my senior year in college. You're one of the most intelligent journalists in the country and I bought that book for my little sister who wanted to learn about what politics is in America today. But several months ago you appeared in a bloggingheads dialogue with Mickey Kaus where you said that you favored our troops staying in Iraq rather than leaving because someone had convinced you that the consequences of leaving now would be worse. Even assuming that's true, who exactly do you think is going to conduct this continued occupation of Iraq, and what do we know about their competency? I hope you recant that statement; everyone makes mistakes. I lost a lot of respect for you when I heard you say that and it's bothered me since then, so I wanted to send this even though I'm busy studying for the NY bar exam. (By the way, I commend you for avoiding law school.)

Eric replies: Thanks for your comments and your tone. My position is this. I favor the withdrawal of US troops ASAP. But I think we need to have in place when that happens, a replacement force of roughly 50,000 troops, including US troops, under an international flag -- be it NATO, the UN, or, though I think this a pipe dream, the Arab League -- to prevent far worse bloodshed than we are seeing today between Sunnis and Shia, on the one hand, and a Turkish invasion of Kurdistan on the other. Those troops unfortunately, will probably have to stay for decades. This is all the fault of the Bush administration and supporters of this war in the media and elsewhere, but it is unfortunately a fact of life.

Name: Jack Phillips
Hometown: Kansas City, MO

Would you or one of the other Altercators please explain the case of Mr. Nifong? What did the Duke rape case prosecutor do that makes his case so much worse than other prosecutors who have accused innocent people, used unreliable witnesses and withheld evidence from the defense? These actions occur with disturbing frequency. Most of the other prosecutors do not get fired and disbarred. What is the big difference? The Duke players were white and had money? What if the players had been black and the dancer white? The media played a big role in this case -- first one way and then the other. What happened?

Name: Jason Boskey
Hometown: Seattle, WA


You think those positions would alienate your base?

The reality is that we need to fix the job trade somehow (the exporting of good paying jobs while we import those who will work the lower paying jobs for even less), so immigration reform in some form is a good thing, so long as the legal immigrants are given the same options as illegal immigrants.

Until people realize that, as you said, it's more based on class than race that people are left behind, we can't get anywhere. As sad as it is to say, if you practice affirmative action by class, the race part will take care of itself. Unfortunately, and just as sad, it won't change what is already developed in people's hearts and minds.

Name: Brian Richmond
Hometown: Richton Park, IL

JJ Coker said "As the Chinese say, prediction is very difficult, especially in regards to the future. Wasn't it Yogi Berra who said that?"

OK, now I just had to look it up. According to here, it was Niels Bohr who said that. Yogi Berra said "The future ain't what it used to be."

Name: Steve
Hometown: Las Cruces, NM

I, too, am an engineer. And, I was a Republican when I was too young to vote. But, as I learned more about the world, I became a Democrat or a liberal if you will. As I learned about how people act and that there are very few absolutes in life, it was easier to reject the ideas of conservatives.

As for my workplace, we have a mix. There are a couple Libertarians, there are a couple liberals, and there are a few mixes of fiscal conservatives and personal issue liberals. There is one Libertarian who calls me a communist because I think his ideas are kooky, while he thinks my ideas are kooky. We can work together than respect each other outside the political realm.

Name: Cervantes
Hometown: Cambridge, Mass.

Eric: Re La Dowd, when I explained to her that (and why) I found so much of her writing inane at best, her response was predictable: instead of trying to defend the indefensible, she simply advised me to read some other columnist instead. The notion that there is such a thing as the public discourse, and that she ought to take some responsibility for its quality ... these ideas are obviously foreign to her ... as her writing itself suggests in the first place.

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