I'm all right, Jack, keep your hands off my stack ...


So Murdoch is on the threshold of getting the Journal, here. This is bad news for everyone in the world who is not related to, or a well-paid employee of, Rupert Murdoch. When the Journal news staff turns its attention to a news story, it tends to do a far more intelligent job than any other newspaper. This is in part because it is not as persnickety about allowing reporters to write what they know to be true without having to put it into the mouths of someone else who has been given the authority to say whatever it is that is known to be true. Murdoch papers do this too, but almost always in the service of their boss's business interests or his extreme right-wing ideology. (And yes, he and they do set aside the latter on occasion, but only in the interests of the former.) So Murdoch will destroy the reporting capacities of the Journal over time, and we will lose this invaluable news source.

For liberals, however, the transformation of ownership is actually a mixed bag. While it's important for liberals to have as much truth out there as possible since it tends to support our arguments, it's still a mixed bag due to the power and prestige its very nearly insane right-wing editorial page derives from its relationship to news staff's terrific reporting. In this morning's paper for instance, the expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program is termed, I kid you not, "stealthy, slow-motion socialism," here. This too will die with Murdoch, and so we will have one less problem in the world.

This movie sounds great, huh? And what an exciting website ... Here's a snippet of the interview:

Q: Do you worry about glamorizing a killer?

No. This is not action film. It's a real story based on a real person. Even the most monstrous people on earth have a human side to them that can shed light on all of us.

From TomDispatch:

Inside-the-Beltway journalism has now declared Washington to be in "stalemate," set up for two months of sound and fury over Iraq with no discernable movement on actual Iraq policy to be expected. And it's true, Congress is indeed deep in the big muddy of whether the President's surge plan in Iraq has met its "benchmarks" (suggested by the White House), and of whether or not to wait for the President's general, David Petraeus, to report back in September on "progress" before insisting on what is likely to be a relatively modest change of strategy.

When you think about it, that's little short of a miracle for the Bush administration. After all, you have a President rounding in at 27 percent "approval" ratings in a nation where about 70 percent of the public now believes we are on "the wrong track" and yet Bush and his people are still, however desperately, capable of setting the "benchmarks" for -- and of framing -- the debate in Washington. As Tom Engelhardt comments: "Short, perhaps, of Jefferson Davis, has any American leader ever been more relentlessly wrong? Since September 12, 2001, hardly a single move this administration has made in foreign policy hasn't turned out -- and relatively quickly at that -- to be the equivalent of a roadside bomb, exploding under the Humvee of American foreign policy."

In his piece, "Wrong Again!" he lays out, in brief, carefully sourced paragraphs (followed by a version of the line "wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong again!") the actual record of the president and his administration on Iraq (and allied topics) since 2001. It is a remarkable cavalcade of stupidity. Here's but a single example:

Top administration officials, the President, and/or Vice President claimed that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear program; that he was searching for yellowcake uranium in Niger; that the Iraqi dictator had an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction (and that they knew where these were); that he had "mobile biological warfare labs"; that he had unmanned aerial vehicles capable of spraying the East Coast of the U.S. (hundreds of miles inland, no less) with deadly toxins, including anthrax; that he was allied with al-Qaeda; and that he had something to do with the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong again!

Alter-reviews: The Ministry of Special Cases

I finished Parker yesterday and now I'm listening to Nathan Englander's The Ministry of Special Cases. I shouldn't be surprised, given how great For the Relief of Unbearable Urges is, but I find myself reading and marveling all over again. The novel is set among the Jews in Buenos Aires in the 1970s, as the military proceeds with its lethal persecution, torturing and disappearing thousands of people. Englander is funny and tragic in a particularly Jewish way, and the comic aspects of Ministry only deepen your horror as the tragedy he describes unfolds. Both the comedy and the tragedy feel so true, so real, that it's hard to get the story out of your head when you've got something you really have to do. It's read by Arthur Morey and is available unabridged.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Michael Rapoport


At the risk of being derided as humorless, please allow me to point out that Bush, Cheney, etc. were in fact NOT born in March 1948, and that item is complete BS. This is from Snopes.com, a website devoted to debunking urban legends and other hoaxes, here.

I know it's supposed to be a joke, and doubtless you printed it in the spirit of us all having a good laugh. But I'll bet there's a not-inconsiderable number of people out there who read that item and said, "Wow! I didn't know that! Isn't that weird?"

I'm probably taking this entirely too seriously, but it bugs me when a respected, credible source like Altercation spreads misinformation, even in fun. Please don't do it.

Also, the dustup with Bush and the Presidential Scholars has in fact gotten a modicum of other coverage, including CNN, the Boston Globe, the Huffington Post and most notably Maureen Dowd, here.

Eric replies: Mea culpa. In truth, I thought the Roswell story too silly to check, but I suppose that was an error on my part.

Name: David Fuller
Hometown: Peotone, IL

Hi Dr. A.,

That story about the Presidential Scholars delivering a letter to President Bush was mentioned by Keith Olbermann on his MSNBC show "Countdown," here:

First, here are COUNTDOWN's top three news makers of this day. Actually, the top 50 news makers of this day, all tied for first place. They are 50 of the 141 high school seniors honored today at the White House as the annual 2007 presidential scholars. They met Mr. Bush and presented him with a hand written letter, Dear Mr. President, it reads, "as members of the presidential scholars class of 2007, we have been told that we represent the best and the brightest of our nation. Therefore, we believe that we have a responsibility to voice our convictions."

"We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Conventions to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants."

One of the students told the reporters that the president by claiming this country does not torture. I guess all the other stuff he didn't disagree with. Those 50 kids are my heroes.

Granted, not quite as detailed as the account you shared, but it has been mentioned. MSNBC.com has a similar story, but missing some useful context.

Keep up the good work.

Name: Jack Cheng
Hometown: Boston

Maybe it's the local angle of a Wellesley girl done good, but the local NPR outlet (WBUR) and the local paper (Globe, at least the digital version I read, Boston.com) did cover the story about the high school students confronting the president over torture.

Name: Craig
Hometown: Richmond, VA


On This Week, George Will fretted about the consequences of a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq could, saying,

"We are in danger of having, George, a Weimar moment in our politics. German politics was embittered disastrously by the belief that they were on the cusp of victory in 1918 and were stabbed in the back by the civilian leadership that didn't understand Germany's military prowess. There is a constituency in this town that believes we're winning in Iraq, that we have at last figured it out, that the indices of success are there. And if we pull out and have the kind of disastrous consequences, telegenic disastrous consequences or could have, we're going to have people saying, 'We had it won and threw it away.' "

In other words, pulling out of Iraq could cause delusional beltway hawks to bring down the republic.

Name: Jim Hass
Hometown: Glendale, CA

I've been back and forth on the question of a pardon for Nixon. At first, I hated the idea. But then, it seemed, I could see the point of getting the divisive past behind us.

But now I realize how wrong I was. Nixon claimed the presidency was something it was not, and thereby he committed many crimes. He should have been tried for those crimes and imprisoned. We should have had it out then. Then we might have been much quicker in recognizing the danger signs in GWB and his Svengali, the Veep.

Name: Sam Nixon
Hometown: Boise, ID

Kevin Baker wrote an excellent piece on Giuliani's political mentality, published in the August edition of Harper's. Included is a great recapitulation of pre-Giuliani New York and the accomplishments of David Dinkins. He continues by illustrating some fascinating similarities between Giuliani and Bill Clinton concerning a disconnect between each man's political success and their overall job performance. I happen to be a huge Bill fan and so, of course, I cringe at this comparison. But still, it's worth looking into ...

Name: Meryl
Hometown: Brooklyn

Dear Eric, Loudon Wainwright is a great songwriter, but he didn't write "Daughter." Peter Blegvad did. It's on his album "Just Woke Up," released the same year my daughter was born. It's a lovely song -- would love to see the actual writer given credit!

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.