He's a real Nowhere Man ...

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I've got a new "Think Again" column here Called "Bad Rates Risin'," about the scandalous rise in postal rates for small magazines.

Perhaps you're surprised, perhaps you're not, that Mickey Kaus thinks it appropriate to traffic in right-wing internet porn, first about John Edwards and now about Hillary Clinton. (Think he's behind those "bull-dyke" emails? Well, it's unclear as yet ...) Still, I admit to be a little surprised that Perrry Bacon Jr. and the editors of The Washington Post think it's a good idea to print false and defamatory rumors about Barack Obama on the front page of their newspaper without at least pointing out that the people trying to sell them have a history of lying and slandering individuals whenever they feel like it for political purposes. Look at this:

Despite his denials, rumors and e-mails circulating on the Internet continue to allege that Obama (D-Ill.) is a Muslim, a "Muslim plant" in a conspiracy against America, and that, if elected president, he would take the oath of office using a Koran, rather than a Bible, as did Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the only Muslim in Congress, when he was sworn in earlier this year.

So it's just his "denials," huh? The Washington Post is in no position to decide whether these allegations are true. It just puts them on the front page and lets the reader decide.

And again, here:

Obama aides sharply disputed the initial stories suggesting that he was a Muslim, and in Iowa, the campaign keeps a letter at its offices, signed by five members of the local clergy, vouching for the candidate's Christian faith. Aware that his religious belief remains an issue, Obama has denied a separate charge: that he does not hold his hand to his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance. This rumor stemmed from a photo that was taken while the national anthem was being played.

And look at the sourcing:

An early rumor about Obama's faith came from Insight, a conservative online magazine. The Insight article said Obama had "spent at least four years in a so-called madrassa, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia." It attributed this detail to background information the Clinton campaign had been collecting.

After Obama denied the rumor, Jeffrey Kuhner, Insight's editor, said Obama's "concealment and deception was to be the issue, not so much his Muslim heritage," and he suggested that the source of the madrassa rumor was the Clinton campaign. The Clinton campaign denied the charge.

Human Events, another conservative magazine, published on its Web site a package of articles called "Barack Obama Exposed." One of them was titled "The First Muslim President?"

Robert Spencer, a conservative activist, wrote in Human Events that "given Obama's politics, it will not be hard to present him internationally as someone who understands Islam and Muslims, and thus will be able to smooth over the hostility between the Islamic world and the West -- our first Muslim President."

Conservative talk-show hosts have occasionally repeated the rumor, with Michael Savage noting Obama's "background" in a "Muslim madrassa in Indonesia" in June, and Rush Limbaugh saying in September that he occasionally got "confused" between Obama and Osama bin Laden. Others repeatedly use the senator's middle name, Hussein.

The rumors about Obama have been echoed on Internet message boards and chain e-mails.

Bryan Keelin of Charleston, S.C., who works with an organization of churches there, posted on an Internet board his suspicion that Obama is a Muslim. "I assume his father instructed him on the ways of being a Muslim," said Keelin, who described himself in an interview as a conservative Republican who will vote for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

"The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the U.S. from the inside out," says one of the e-mails that was posted recently on a blog at BarackObama.com, the campaign's Web site, by an Obama supporter who warned of an attempt to "Swift Boat" the candidate. "What better way to start than at the highest level, through the President of the United States, one of their own!"

Another e-mail, on a site called Snopes.com that tracks Internet rumors, starts, "Be careful, be very careful." It notes that "Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim," and that "since it is politically expedient to be a Christian when you are seeking political office in the United States, Obama joined the United Church of Christ to help purge any notion that he is still a Muslim."

A CBS News poll in August showed that a huge number of voters said they did not know Obama's faith, but among those who said they did, 7 percent thought he was a Muslim, while only 6 percent thought he was a Protestant Christian.

"The underlying point is that if you can somehow pin Islam on him, that would be a fatal blow," Hooper said. "It's offensive. It speaks to the rising level of anti-Muslim feeling in our society."

Shameful.

On the other hand, this is true. Not only did Rudy G ditch his wife and children in a public press conference for a woman who picked him up in a cigar bar, he charged the security bill to a city agency that is supposed to provide legal aid to the indigent, no really. Congratulations, Christian conservatives, on your values candidate.

Time has a short correction in re: Joe Klein. It reads:

In the original version of this story, Joe Klein wrote that the House Democratic version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would allow a court review of individual foreign surveillance targets. Republicans believe the bill can be interpreted that way, but Democrats don't.

As Comrade Greenwald notes:

Leave aside the false description of what Klein wrote. He didn't say that "the House Democratic version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would allow a court review of individual foreign surveillance targets." He said that their bill "would require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target's calls to be approved by the FISA court" and "would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans." But the editor's false characterization of Klein's original lie about the House FISA bill is the least of the issues here.

All Time can say about this matter is that Republicans say one thing and Democrats claim another. Who is right? Is one side lying? What does the bill actually say, in reality?

That's not for Time to say. After all, they're journalists, not partisans. So they just write down what each side says. It's not for them to say what is true, even if one side is lying.

In this twisted view, that is called "balance" -- writing down what each side says. As in: "Hey -- Bush officials say that there is WMD in Iraq and things are going great with the war (and a few people say otherwise). It's not for us to decide. It's not our fault if what we wrote down is a lie. We just wrote down exactly what they said." At best, they write down what each side says and then go home. That's what they're for.

What I would like to point out is that Klein now admits that he doesn't have the foggiest idea what's actually in the bill, but he simply accepted the Republicans' description of it as truth. Gee, I wonder if that's because he is the kind of pundit who has regularly made the following claims about Democrats:

  • "a party with absolutely no redeeming social value"
  • "They seem as confused as Democrats normally do"
  • "make fools of themselves even when they speak the truth"
  • "the perpetually benighted Donkey party"
  • "It's a really boring and flat party"

Etc.

Remember, until they hired Michael Kinsley -- together with the utterly discredited Bill Kristol -- these were the words of Time's most progressive columnist, who also frequently represented progressives on George Stephanopoulos' This Week program. This is, ladies and gentlemen, your liberal media at work.

This Week on Moyers:

In the wake of this week's peace summit in Annapolis, Bill Moyers Journal profiles the politically powerful group Christians United for Israel (CUFI), whose leader Pastor John Hagee wants to bring millions of Christians together to support Israel. But some say his message is dangerous: "It is time for America to ... consider a military pre-emptive strike against Iran to prevent a nuclear holocaust in Israel and a nuclear attack in America." Bill Moyers Journal reports on CUFI and then gets theological and political context on Christian Zionism from Ronald J. Sider, professor of theology, holistic ministry and public policy and director of the Sider Center on Ministry and Public Policy at Palmer Theological Seminary and president of Evangelicals for Social Action, and from M.J. Rosenberg, director of policy analysis for Israel Policy Forum.

Alter-reviews:

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss -- Raising Sand

The album, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, is the first collaboration between the two artists. They first performed together at a concert celebrating the music of Lead Belly, and began working on the album in Alison's home in Nashville with producer T Bone Burnett. It works in a big way ...

More info on the album, being released by Rounder Records, can be found here.

Paul McCartney -- The McCartney Years

This 3-DVD set highlights McCartney's post-Beatles work with more than 40 music videos, stretching from 1970's "Maybe I'm Amazed" to 2005's "Fine Line." The set also includes over two hours of concert performances, along with other bonus features such as a 2005 documentary on the making of Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. You can view the material chronologically, or in playlists drawn up by McCartney. People, it's the first-ever DVD and the first McCartney release in decades that does not suck at all, in part because there is so much early material, particularly from the '76 Wings tour (which I saw) and the Unplugged show and the early videos. More info is available here.

Donald Fagen -- Nightfly Trilogy: The Nightfly/Kamakiriad/Morph The Cat

This is a trilogy of the solo works of Donald Fagen, one-half of the legendary Steely Dan. It begins with his 1982 debut The Nightfly, which won much critical fanfare when it was released. Next is 1993's Kamakiriad, which follows the mythic lead character touring the world in a magic car. Finally there's Morph the Cat, which won a Grammy in 2006. Each disc also has bonus DVD content and some weird new technology that actually sounds pretty good and puts a picture up on your TV for each song. Plus the music is great and very much underrated. More information is available here.

The Brit Box: U.K. Indie, Shoegaze, And Brit-Pop Gems Of The Last Millenium

This is billed as the first-ever comprehensive survey of U.K. indie music. The 4-CD set has 78 tastemaker recordings from the last 15 years. Few of the hits gained U.S. success, and there is a wide variety of artists and styles, from The Stone Roses to My Bloody Valentine and Suede. Not my thing, actually, but if it's yours, Rhino's done their usual bang-up job. More here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC

Mr. Alterman --

Maybe it is my fault -- I continually go to CNN.com. But I am amazed how many times in the past few months I have seen this exact same story headline (or something remarkably similar) - "Clinton, Obama exchanges get nasty." Every time either candidate says something about the other, it is classified by CNN as "nasty." Not simply the top two candidates campaigning, pointing out differences in each other. Nasty to me would be a swift-boat style attack, or sending out misleading racist fliers. I am also shocked that not once has there been a headline, "Romney, Giuliani exchanges get nasty."

Name: Karl Weber
Hometown: Irvington NY

Eric,

You and Peter Riggs get twenty lashes with a wet noodle. "Fucking" in "fucking brilliant" is in fact an adverb, because it modifies the adjective "brilliant" -- a function reserved to adverbs. (Substitute "extremely" for "fucking" and the -ly suffix makes the adverbiality of the word more obvious.)

Name: Petey
Hometown: Briarcliff

Fucking is an adverb, but also an adjective and gerund.

So Pinker is wrong. "The fucking guy stole my wallet." Adjective. Also -- more notably -- "asshole" and "ass hole" are listed separately, but "mother fucker' is only listed as two words, which means you CAN say "motherfucker" as long as you don't pronounce the space.

Name: Jay Sherman-Godfrey
Hometown: Astoria, NY

Bad Stenographers would be a great band name.

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