Out to the west of Lambert's Cove ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Eric A. has a new "Think Again" column here called "The Rise and Rise of Netroots Nation" and a Guardian column on Rudy the family guy here.

While Alterman's roughing it in Bellagio (not the one in Vegas), it's Eric Boehlert here, helping fill in the dog days of summer.

How many of you knew that 26 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq in the last week? I didn't either until I stumbled across this article via Google. Could the media's slow-playing of this story be behind the slight uptick in public opinion support for Bush's surge? Greg Sargent has more thoughts on recent war coverage here.

Hey, look: If you write for The New Yorker and get the Iraq war completely wrong, and also write a couple of over-the-top scare pieces during the battle's run-up, David Bradley at The Atlantic will court you for years, "mak[ing] you feel like you're God's gift to journalism." To the losers go the spoils.

On newsstands now, a couple of mongo takedowns of NBC's creepy To Catch a Predator series, which seems to obliterate every conceivable notion of what honest, independent journalism is supposed to be. Both the Rolling Stone and Esquire exposés are must-reads.

Speaking of, here is Max Blumenthal's latest report from the evangelical frontline.

Glenn Beck continues his arctic streak on TV, finishing in last place for, like, the umpteenth time this year. Well played, CNN.

I know Alterman was cheering Bonds' mighty swat Tuesday night, but I can't say I was. And of course what's so distressing for ball fans is that most people didn't seem to be cheering it. Even the players involved. Did you see during the replays of No. 756 how Bond's son was pretty much the only person in the Giants' dugout who reacted with instant joy to Barry's home run? Same with another TV angle that captured the Washington Nationals' dugout; players appeared to be completely nonplussed by the milestone. Bonds just gets no respect among ballplayers. Pretty sad state of affairs.

Do you miss Mark Halperin like I miss Mark Halperin? Fear not: he handicapped the Republican candidates for Time this week in the wake of their Sunday debate. And guess what, according to Halperin, the top-tier GOP players are doing just swell!

Contrast Halperin's cheerleading with Josh's Marshall's more realistic take, also post-debate: "The third [point] is just how weak this field really is -- something I knew but hadn't seen yet quite so up close. I can't imagine that a sentient Republican could have watched that 90 minutes and not been at least quietly aghast."

Meanwhile, warbloggers are cheering because an Army flack announced that the allegations Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp made as a diarist in the pages of The New Republic about abhorrent behavior by some of Beauchamp's fellow soldiers serving in Iraq were "false." Actually, to be precise, the Army, in its statement, announced that Beauchamp's "platoon and company were interviewed and no one could substantiate the claims." Basically, the Army couldn't confirm Beauchamp's reporting. But really, how hard did the Army try? About as hard as it tried to nail down the Pat Tillman story days after his death? And oh yeah, the Army will not make public the findings of its Beauchamp investigation; we just have to take their word for it.

I'll make two quick points. First, the fact that warbloggers have spent such an enormous amount of time and energy trying to fact-check a couple of diary entries from a modest-circulation weekly magazine, while Iraq, four years after the warbloggers' beloved invasion, continues to descend into even further turmoil, says a lot about how desperate the pro-war bloggers are to claim even the slightest semblance of victory on any Iraq-related topic.

Secondly, I'm feeling a distinct sense of déjà vu because last winter it was Pentagon sources who were whispering into the ears of warbloggers about how an Associated Press police source named Jamil Hussein was a fake, that he was a phony the AP had concocted as a way to fabricate bad news from Iraq. (Because, y'know, we're winning over there.) Indeed, the Hussein story only reached DEFCON level 5 among obsessive, dead-end warbloggers because a Pentagon official went on the record and declared that U.S. forces could find no proof that Hussein existed. (Sort of like the Pentagon this week declared it could find no proof that Beauchamp stories were true.)

For warbloggers, who pretend to be quasi-journalists, the statement from the Pentagon represented the only source they needed to declare Hussein a fake and a fraud. End of story.

Of course, later, thanks to the Iraqi government, we learned that the Pentagon got it 100 percent wrong because Jamil Hussein did exist, he was a police captain, and he was an AP source. Given that fact, and that the Pentagon left the warbloggers hanging out to dry on the Hussein story, forced to sputter on in defeat about how they had raised "valid questions" in the episode, you'd think the warbloggers would tread more carefully this time around. But warbloggers are incapable of embracing logic. Not when there's a chance to smear journalists. So once again, they say the only source they need to declare Beauchamp a fake is a Pentagon report they're not allowed to read, and a quote from a Pentagon source who won't go on the record, but who has already been contradicted by the Army's point person on this story.

And trust me, in the world of the press-hating warbloggers, where anti-press conspiracies are haphazardly stitched together, this is considered an air-tight case.

P.S. Is it too much to ask reporters who are covering the current TNR controversy to give news consumers some context and mention that warbloggers pretty much launched the exact same press jihad against the AP this winter and that warbloggers were completely discredited in the process?

Go ahead and try it. We'll wait.

While grabbing a slice of Two Boots pizza in Grand Central Tuesday night on my way to Shea Stadium for a Mets game (don't tell my first-grader Yankee-fanatic son), I picked up a discarded August 6 edition of Barron's and read a letter to the readers from editor and president Edwin Finn, who wanted to take a moment to reassure readers about Rupert Murdoch's purchase of Dow Jones & Co., which publishes Barron's as well as, of course, The Wall Street Journal. Finn eagerly announced that he hoped the new Murdoch deal would mean Barron's would one day have its own show on the Fox Business Channel. Oh joy, I hope Barron's likes cleavage with its stock market coverage. Because that's what Fox's Neil Cavuto, the face of the new Fox Business Channel, traffics in.

I also liked how Finn assured readers that a special committee had been set up in the wake of Murdoch's announced purchase to ensure that the editorial integrity of Barron's and the Journal is maintained. One small fact Finn forgot to mention: The special committee is being chaired by a GOP yes-man who not only faithfully regurgitates Republican talking points in print for a living, but who in early 2003 predicted the fighting in Iraq would be "relatively inconsequential," and who months later declared that America had won the Iraq war in "a cakewalk."

That's who Murdoch has tapped to protect the Journal's editorial integrity? Good luck. I mean, was Sean Hannity not available? Read more about the phony special committee here.

As Altercation's YearlyKos correspondent, I came away from the Chicago convention amazed at what the netroots have been able to build, and in such a short period of time. I'm stating the obvious when I say that Al Gore would have been elected president if the netroots existed in 2000, if only because that inventing-the-Internet nonsense would have been shot down in a matter of days.

Regarding YK's dog and pony show, I'd basically agree with Matt Stoller, who, like many, thought Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) stumbled when, asked if she would swear off contributions from lobbyists, she came to their aide, insisting lobbyists also represent everyday Americans. I understood the point she was making, but politically it was awkward, as well as poorly argued. However, I can't imagine it's going to make a dime's worth of difference in the end because, as Stoller pal Chris Bowers recently pointed out, almost nobody is paying attention to the campaign right now (except for journalists, lobbyists, bloggers, volunteers, and consultants.)

Need proof? The GOP candidates staged a debate last Sunday on ABC's This Week and the program came in last place among the network morning talk shows. Days later, when the Dems faced off in Chicago on MSNBC, it also was a weak performer, ratings-wise.

It's true that if you look at the graphic at accompanies Bowers' piece, it indicates people are paying more attention this year than they did to previous White House campaigns. Proof that the blanket news coverage is justified, right? Nope. Because what's missing from that graphic is the explanation that in previous presidential runs, the campaigns barely even existed yet. Meaning, we've never had a 22-month-long presidential campaign before. And I pray we never do again. (Newt and I are in heated agreement.)

I guess my hope is that if the Iowa caucus does actually get moved to mid-December, it will finally kill itself off and we can be done with it already.

I couldn't let this NY Times weekend article pass without comment. Headlined "Slowly, Clinton Shifts on War, Quieting Foes," the pie conceded that Sen. Hillary's Clinton 2002 vote to authorizing the war had not shaped to be such a big problem on the campaign trail.

You don't say.

Back in February, the Times, along with the rest of the MSM, was writing feverishly about what a huge, unmanageable headache Clinton's war vote had become on the campaign trail -- i.e., it was her "biggest political challenge." At the time I noted that the press was straining mightily to prop up that storyline. That, if you looked at the polling, a clear majority of Democrats didn't even think her Iraq vote was a mistake. And just a very small percentage of Democrats (14 percent), thought Clinton should even apologize for the vote.

At least now we're all on the same page. It only took the Times five months to catch up.

And Howie watches the media for a living?

Speaking of the Chicago trip, back at my hotel room Friday night I caught this performance on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, a program I'm sure I've never watched for more than 10 minutes before. (It's on very late, and the host seems unfunny.) Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I was so completely mesmerized by a musical performance on network television show, the way I was by this one. It was Nellie McKay singing "Long and Lazy River." (Although I admit at the time I did not know that, which may have added to my belated sense of discovery.)

She truly is from another era. Just timeless. That song literally could have been from any decade in the last half-century. And her phrasing! Such confidence. What's even more amazing is that her bare, unaccompanied version of "Long and Lazy River" on The Late Late Show, as I quickly discovered via iTunes, was far superior to the studio take, which got bogged down by soft-jazz horns.

The good news is McKay (pronounced "Mc-EYE"), has another album due out in September. She'll be appearing at Joe's Pub in NYC on August 22.

Note: When are the late-night shows hosted by Letterman and Leno and others going to start identifying musical acts on-screen as they perform? It really is maddening to be channel surfing and to come across a great performance and have no way to instantly know who the artist is. And half the time the host fails to identify the artist right after the song is over. It's so annoying, partly because the solution is so obvious. Put the name of the artist in the lower left corner while they're performing. Thank you.

By August each summer, I get feeling so landlocked ("Holed up in a cave of concrete," as JT once put it), and desperate to be sailing on the Terry Nova, I start tuning into 'MVY online. But that only adds to the pangs of regret, as my mind starts to think back to swordfish dinners at the Home Port in Menemsha, and comedy nights spent at the Hot Tin Roof out by the airport. Ought to be on my way right now.

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