Nothing here has happened yet ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I've got a new "Think Again" column called "Limbaugh and the Military: No Story There," here, and a new Nation column, "Burns's 'War': What is It Good For?" It hurts me to end a sentence with a preposition, but there you are ...

The CBS Sunday Morning profile of Lynne Cheney last weekend, reported on here by the Times, does not present the frequent problem of an "appearance of conflict of interest" about which we hear so much in media circles. It presents a literal conflict of interest; one that was easily avoidable by CBS, which either just couldn't be bothered or wanted to curry favor with the Cheneys and so ignored it. The correspondent, Rita Braver, did inform viewers that her husband, the Washington lawyer Robert B. Barnett, had represented Ms. Cheney in her publishing deal. And it's true that they do not stand to profit monetarily from the book's sales. But neither of these factors addresses the real point. Bob Barnett is in a market with other agents to represent high-profile Washington clients. Those clients are going to have a right to conclude that not only can Mr. Barnett negotiate a good deal for them, he can also provide an entry to a friendly interview on a key morning program. I'm not saying Barnett would ever say this or even imply it; I know him slightly and have no reason to doubt his integrity. But it's a natural conclusion to draw and one that will immeasurably help him in his competition for clients. And the CBS argument that Ms. Braver "was the best person" for the interview, well, I don't even know what that means. But NPR had enough integrity to refuse to try it when Bush and company tried to pick their own interviewer, Juan Williams, a couple of weeks ago. And to the degree that CBS takes its reputation as a news organization seriously, it's got proverbial egg all over its face. Too bad there's no on-air ombudsman for the network, or any network, alas ...

Speaking of literary manipulation, I see that Norman Podhoretz's World War IV has fallen to No. 35 on The New York Times bestseller list. Last week it was up to No. 13. This struck me as curious, when I noticed it, because the book is entirely without merit of any kind, except as a warning signal to liberal hawks of just what lays at the end of the Horowitz/Hitchens/Podhoretz road. (I wrote about it here.) Anyway, after I had written about, and therefore clearly read it -- I got my copy free from the publisher -- I received a gift of the book from Amazon from a gentleman who identified himself as "a friend of Norman Podhoretz." I knew someone who was Mr. Podhoretz's publicity rep once upon a time, and he said privately that he had never had a bestseller but had always desperately wanted one. Well, now he has one, one at No. 13 anyway; I wonder if he, or some wealthy person or foundation, bought it for him. It's a common practice among right-wingers, and while it's not exactly dishonorable, it is rather sneaky.

Glenn Greenwald on Joe Klein and FISA.

From our sponsors:

There's zero proof that voters ever cared about Hillary Clinton's cackle or John Edwards' haircuts or Al Gore's sighs -- stories that consume so much of the press corps' time, energy, and interest. For instance, throughout the extensive cackle coverage, do you recall reading or hearing a single quote from an actual voter who expressed interest, let alone concern, about Clinton's laugh? Read more here.

From TomDispatch:

How can we understand our world if we have hardly a clue about the mini-worlds where planning for our future takes place? Nick Turse, who covers the Pentagon for TomDispatch, recently spent time behind the closed doors of a Pentagon-approved conference on urban warfare that had in mind nothing less than planning weaponry, strategy, and policy for the next hundred years. He spent two days listening to key players and planners in "Urban Operations," or more familiarly UO, as well as Pentagon power-brokers, active duty and retired U.S. military personnel, foreign coalition partners, representatives of big and small defense contractors, and academics who support their work, all gathered at the "Joint Urban Operations, 2007" conference and discussing weaponry so futuristic that you last encountered it in science fiction films.

With Turse, you get to spend a little time with military-supported planners, who, while noshing on burnt eggrolls and chocolate-chip cookies, are also considering hand-launched tiny spy drones, "sense through walls" technology, weaponry so "precise" that it can take a floor out of a building, leaving the floors above and below largely intact, and the far reaches of "non-lethal weaponry." For these men, the fighting in Baghdad today is the future of American warfare in the burgeoning slum cities of the developing world over the next century.

As Turse concludes: "With their surprisingly bloodless language, antiseptic PowerPoint presentations, and calm tones, these men are still planning Iraq-style wars of tomorrow. What makes this chilling is not only that they envision a future of endless urban warfare, but that they have the power to drive such a war-fighting doctrine into that future; that they have the power to mold strategy and advance weaponry that can, in the end, lock Americans into policies that are unlikely to make it beyond these conference-room doors, no less into public debate, before they are unleashed."

Marty Peretz Quote of the Day:

Marty Peretz, 9/14/06:

Senator Russ Feingold (quite predictably; he is after all the most politically-correct person in the Senate) thinks "Islamic fascists" is offensive to Muslims. But that is not the question. The real issue is whether Islamic thought is now suffused with fascist characteristics and whether it has been open to these all along. It is not a matter of whether the phrase hurts anyone's feelings. "Fascist ideology doesn't have anything to do with the way global terrorist networks think or operate," says Feingold. Has he not even watched the TV clips of Hezbollah fighters marching? But it's not just goose-stepping feet. Militant Islam captures an adherent's life, children, thought, associations, views of good and evil, and empowers him or her to kill with a sense of righteousness. If that isn't fascistic, I don't know what is.

Posted by M. Duss

Correspondence Corner:

Name: John Moore
Hometown: San Francisco

Dear Dr. A.,

Just one little footnote to your post about the Supreme Court's refusal to hear the Khaled el-Masri case. The administration won dismissal of the case in the lower courts based upon the so-called "state secrets" privilege. As you correctly explain, that privilege is a judicially created doctrine.

What should be interesting for contemporary observers, though, is that the Supreme Court case that created this privilege was itself based upon lies. The original case arose in a suit by the widows of Air Force pilots who had died in a plane crash. The government successfully argued for dismissal of the suit, claiming that the plane had been on a secret mission and that allowing the lawsuit to go forward would impermissibly compromise "state secrets." The U.S. Supreme Court agreed, and so the privilege was born. Trouble is, when the records of the crash were declassified decades later, they demonstrated conclusively that the plane had not been on any kind of secret mission, so there were in fact no state secrets to protect. In other words, the government lied to the courts to get the suit dismissed, and the courts -- including the Supreme Court -- bought into the story. This should be enough to make the courts skeptical of these kinds of claims, especially when they come from an administration as reliably mendacious as this one.

And on the media coverage side, kudos to Nina Totenberg for bringing up this point in her NPR report on the Supreme Court's refusal to hear el-Masri's case. From what I've seen, most correspondents have missed this important bit of historical context.

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

I find it odd that Siva chimed in about your objection to the Yankee payroll without mentioning that he noted much earlier in the season, when his team was double-digit games back, that what matters is where you stand at the end of the season. Well now it's the end of that season for the Yankees and they neither won their division, which he seemed to imply they would, and they're gone from the playoffs -- yet again.

As a Red Sox fan, I'll acknowledge that both can happen to good teams as well as bad. And the Yankees are a good team, but they are not the juggernaut that so many Yankee fans seem to assume.

And as for payroll disparity, yes, Steinbrenner pays a luxury tax, but not because he wants to. And he pays bloated salaries simply because he can afford to -- not because he has lots of money, but because he's in a market that will return the value. Fans think in terms of playoff appearances, pennants, and World Series wins, but most owners, and especially Steinbrenner think in terms of profit. To be sure more playoff success is something he'd like to see, but because it's a revenue rainstorm.

Fans of teams other than the Yankees concern themselves with market and payroll disparity because it potentially unsettles competitive fairness. Money is the financial equivalent of anabolic steroids. You can build big muscular teams with enough capital. Doesn't mean you'll win it all, but it can certainly increase your likelihood.

I'm of course happy with the success of the Red Sox, but I'm not happy about their growing tendency toward runaway payroll. The overcapitalization of something as ephemeral as sports in a time when so many more meaningful aspects of our society go undercapitalized is a larger concern to me.

Name: Kevin Bartner
Hometown: Alpharetta, GA

Eric,

I suggest you remind Siva that in the past three years, the Mets have won 50% more post season games than the Yanks. (6 to 4)

Name: Ed in Westchester
Hometown: Scarsdale

Poor Siva, apparently he forgot 2006. The Mets played in and won the NLDS and went to game 7 in the NLCS. The Yankees fell to the Tigers in the ALDS.

Name: Ken D'Antuono
Hometown: Woodstock, GA

Please see that Rich and Siva pay a bit more attention to baseball. Rich, the Dodgers last playoff appearance was 2006, not 1995 as you stated. Siva, by my count the Mets played 7 playoff games in 2006.

Eric replies: Go Sox!

Name: Joe Raskin
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Dr. Alterman --

You weren't the only person waiting for the outcome of that WNEW-FM vote.

Although a number of the WNEW-FM jocks are still around (although it's always a little odd to see Pete Fornatale doing pledge breaks on Channel 13), the radio station is not, and I'll always miss it. I refuse to listen to what's at 102.7 now.

Name: Paul
Hometown: Denver

"... he's a better rock 'n' roll performer than anybody has ever been at anything. Yeah, it sounds silly, but it has to be true of someone, and after about 125 shows during the past 31 years, this is my nomination."

I have to agree with you. It's silly. Not to diminish Springsteen's obvious talent or anything, but better than Tiger Woods playing golf or Michael Jordan playing basketball? Better than Mozart, Bach and/or Beethoven composing? Better than Lennon/McCartney composing?

That's just 30 seconds off the top of my head in two categories.

Keep up the good work.

Eric replies: I have to agree with me, too. It was silly -- not quite Brendan Nyhan silly -- but even sillier than I intended owing to sloppy writing. What I was trying to get at was the gap between Springsteen's performance and everyone else's. You can't compare Springsteen's performances with Lennon/McCartney compositions, but you can compare those to Jagger/Richards and Dylan; Tiger Woods can be compared to Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer; Mozart, to Bach or Brahms or Beethoven, etc. (I dunno if anyone compares to Michael Jordan; that one might work.) Anyway, my point is that live, no one in my experience of 37 years of concert-going, which is a few thousand concerts, has ever come close ...

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.