My baby whispers in my ear ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I've got a new Think Again column here called "The More Things Change ..."

Well, this is quite a scoop. The Bush administration lied to everyone, again, in order to be able to engage in torture while at the same time professing to find torture "abhorrent." At what point will it cease to be considered bad manners to point out that these people are congenital liars, and they lie for the purpose of uncivilized behavior? I'm guessing never. Tomorrow, today, in five minutes you will read everywhere that George Bush or Dick Cheney said "blah, blah, blah" and therefore "blah, blah, blah." Of course, the opposite is more likely to be true. This is not an evil country, but it is one that allows itself to be willfully misled by people with evil intent, with the grand poohbahs of the punditocracy running interference. It's a shame they will never be tried for their crimes, but perhaps they will in a just afterlife of some sort.

I certainly have no argument with today's lead in the Times, but what's with sticking the story of Bush's veto of the SCHIP bill on page A18? Bush's preference for allowing poor kids to get sick and die for his own ideological obsession is a fundamental fact of his presidency and of the Republican Party's guiding ideology. The administration did its best to ensure that this veto would be done in secret and insofar as The New York Times is concerned, the strategy was a spectacular success.

America's Least Wanted:

Is there any group in all of human history with a greater talent for their own victimization than American neocons? On the cover of The New Republic, Jeffrey Goldberg is worried that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer are trying to intimidate American Jews into silence. The irony actually hurts my tummy here, as Marty Peretz's entire three-decade tenure in running TNR (with his wife's fortune, of course) has been one long, largely successful effort to intimidate people, particularly American Jews, from disagreeing with their hawkish views on Israel. Most American Jews do disagree, according to polls by the American Jewish Committee, cited in my article here. But few are wiling to risk the opprobrium and personal insults that inevitably accompany merely giving voice to these views. Meanwhile, Roger Cohen's appearance on the Times op-ed page makes me nostalgic for the good old days of Times Select, when most people had no access to this nonsense. Cohen is sad, like his colleague on the page, that "neocons" are blamed for all their destructive accomplishments in Iraq, America, and elsewhere. Not everyone who supported this catastrophic war is a neocon, of course, or even a Bush supporter, but all of them are people who thought this war was worth empowering Bush and the neocons to carry out their nefarious plans. The fact that it was these malignant, incompetent ideologues who were going to be running this war was reason enough for sensible people to oppose it.

Of course, I would agree with Cohen if he were really calling for a return to civility in public discourse. But the truth is, while Cohen thinks it's not nice to call people "neocons," he's apparently in favor of calling people who had the good sense to oppose this war all kinds of names. Either Cohen thinks we all have no memories or he just wants to give hypocrisy a bad name." Readers may remember I wrote about Cohen's name-calling tendencies in a Nation column earlier this year. Here is the relevant excerpt:

According to [Roger] Cohen, writing in the IHT and on the Times website, the people who tried to save America and the world from the horrific catastrophe we must now endure are nothing but "hyperventilating left-liberals [whose] hatred of Bush is so intense that rational argument usually goes out the window." We are "so convinced that the Iraq invasion was no more than an American grab for oil and military bases...[we] have forgotten the myriad crimes of Saddam Hussein." We are "America-hating, over-the-top rant[ers] of the left -- the kind that equates Guantánamo with the Gulag and holds that the real threat to human rights comes from the White House rather than Al Qaeda." And for good measure, we also "equate the conservative leadership of a great democracy with dictatorship."

To support these amazing charges, Cohen quotes exactly one person: Scottish MP George Galloway, last seen making an ass of himself on the reality TV show for washed-up gossip fodder, Celebrity Big Brother. Galloway, who was thrown out of the Labour Party, can be said to represent the "left-liberals" here and abroad about as well as, say, ex-KKK Grand Wizard and Holocaust denier David Duke represents the right.

Naturally curious about the actual evil-doers he had in mind, I e-mailed Cohen and politely asked for specifics. He was on vacation with his family and replied by BlackBerry that he would not be able to respond. A few minutes later, however, he apparently changed his mind and replied with a lengthy and rather hostile set of questions regarding my own views on Iraq, including: "What makes you think you can express an informed opinion...?"

The same Cohen column that inveighed against Bush-bashers contained an endorsement of what he called "an expression of moderate sanity," a document titled "American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto," which, he explained, "precisely because of its sanity ... has received too little attention." Cohen celebrates this manifesto -- which, naturally, embraces the incompetence dodge -- as an alternative to "sterile screaming in the wilderness, tired of the comfortably ensconced 'hindsighters' poring over every American error in Iraq, tired of facile anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism masquerading as anti-Zionism."

Again, on the identities of these "hindsighters," "screamers," anti-Americans and anti-Semites "masquerading as anti-Zionists," Cohen was silent. Had he taken a look at the 232 manifesto signatories, meanwhile, he'd have had trouble identifying more than three, counting generously, actual liberals. The roll is dominated by the likes of Walter Laqueur, Martin Peretz, Ronald Radosh and, I kid you not, Iran/contra adventurer Michael Ledeen.

Remember, this is the "liberal" New York Times....

P.S. I see that Young Yglesias points out that Cohen is using a quotation of his in a purposely misleading fashion. This sounds like a job for the public editor.

A Kinsley Greatest Hit: AIPAC, heal thyself.

Marty Peretz Quote of the Day:

Marty Peretz, 9/29/06:

Ramadan is the Muslim daytime fasting month. Among other obligations for believers is that during this period they must make particular efforts to abjure violence.

Oops! There was plenty of evidence in The New York Times this morning and in many other news outlets that the Sunni and Shia communities in Iraq are ignoring the injunction. At least 60 Iraqis -- or, more precisely, their bodies -- were found dead, murdered in Baghdad, members of both religious sects, "many of them shot in the head at close range and bearing signs of torture." And who knows how many were shanghaied and killed in other locales!

Let's face it. There is a deep and bloody cleft in Islam. In Iraq, the Sunnis hate the Shia more than they hate us, the Americans. And the Shia hate the Sunnis, also more than they hate us. In Lebanon, the Sunnis certainly hate the Shia more than they hate the Jews. With the Lebanese Shia of the Nasrallah camp maybe their rage is evenly split. In most places where Sunni and Shia confront each other, the Jews and even the Israelis are an abstraction. But not the other Muslims, they are very real and considered vile.

By the way, happy Ramadan. You can eat -- and make love -- as soon as the sun goes down.

Posted by M. Duss

Alter-clarification: Come to think of it, I sorta do have a friend in Brooklyn named "David," and since he's a politician, he'd probably say he's a Yankee fan, but since we're only sorta friends, I don't really know. I'm pretty sure he didn't write that stupid letter, and so my point stands.

Quote of the Day Letter:

Name: Michael Kropp
Hometown: Mahwah, NJ

Kurt Weldon from LA introduces a wonderful idea, the Dylan Quote of the Day. I'll offer mine as a perfect aside to this (mis)administration:

"Steal a little and they throw you in jail/
Steal a lot and they make you king!"

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Thomas Heiden
Hometown: Stratford, CT

Eric,

Furthering your segment on the essentially ideological nature of conservatism, I'd offer the 18th century British jurist/legal historian Blackstone, who said: "Necessity begat property..."

One of the most basic parts of conservative ideology is that "property rights" are antecedent to, both historically and theoretically, "human rights."

By which you may judge what sort of people they are.

And by the way, Blackstone, Necessity begat Cooperation, which produced Surplus, which begat "Property."

Name: Barb G
Hometown: Albany NY,via brooklyn

Well, at least they didn't fire Willie. That would have been stupid. But an article I just read in the NY Observer suggests that they should trade many many players to get Johann Whatsisname from Minnesota. Milledge can go, but we need to keep speedy Carlos Gomez. Second point: I propose "National Comedy Day", and it should be October 2, Groucho's birthday. Think Congress'll go for it -- or is that an oxymoron?

Name: Karl W.
Hometown: Bloomfield, CT

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is different than every other big one I can think of, as it's not for people retired from their profession.

That being said, should it let in people who will continue recording and making bad, needless, or uninspired records? (Let us here differentiate between self-professed oldies acts, and those who try to stay relevant and on the charts.)

The fulcrum between youthful (rock) spirit and aged wisdom suits some performers more than others. Bruce, Petty and Neil still have it, but I see a future where Madonna gets in, keeps making bum CDs, and gets kicked out retroactively.

Name: Tara
Hometown: Boston

Love the column, especially with all the links to video, articles, etc. (I didn't realize how progressive Mellencamp was as I haven't really been listening. Thanks for that, he is definitely underrated as a songwriter).

It would be easier to enjoy if the links automatically opened in a new window rather than replacing your column. Yes, I know I can right click and select that option, but really, it would be much easier for you to change your default settings on the programming end. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would appreciate it!

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