Deep down in the hole ...


I did a post-Iowa analysis Friday morning for the Guardian here.

Take a look at the two Sunday page-one takeouts in the Times' election coverage, here and here. Honk if you see any substance whatsoever. It's one thing for The Note to cover politics as if it were a high school gossip sheet, but when the Newspaper of Record does the same, one has to ask, what is its purpose anymore? We can get this stuff faster and funnier elsewhere, and who really cares that has not already read it the day before? And speaking of which, is this a parody of his Time colleagues? Atrios, among others, wants to know. And Chris Hayes explains part of the problem, here.

Bloomberg is a liberal Democrat. Those who support the idea of his candidacy are either people who stand to see some of that $1 billion he'll be handing out if he runs; fools and naifs of the sort that supported Nader, albeit of the right-center rather than the far-left; people who hate Democrats and want to elect a Republican but cannot, either for personal or professional reasons, admit this. (See under "Broder, David.")

Media McCain love laid bare.

Michael O'Hanlon completes his journey to neocondom ($). (Notice that the beliefs of the vast majority of Americans, who want out of Iraq ASAP, are entirely irrelevant here.)

It's not every neocon hack who can somehow garner a negative review in the neocon-hack-loving arts pages of The Wall Street Journal, so let's all take a moment to congratulate Jonah Goldberg (and lament the liberal fascist takeover of those once reliable pages).

Typical Yankee class (defend this, Siva...):

Several years ago, as the Yankees negotiated to build a new stadium in the South Bronx, the neighborhood faced the realities of a massive construction project in its midst: parks would be closed and moved, traffic would be horrendous, life would be, for a while, a hassle.

So, as one way to make up for these inconveniences, the Yankees and elected officials signed a community benefits agreement. It required that the team would give roughly $1.2 million a year, starting when the work began, to various community groups through a special panel. The deal was similar to agreements in other major projects, like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Columbia University's expansion into Harlem.

But nearly 17 months after construction began, as workers race to complete the new Yankee Stadium by opening day 2009, none of that money has been distributed, and the group responsible for administering it has never met.

The seven-member panel also has not chosen a permanent chairman, registered as a charity with either the Internal Revenue Service or the state attorney general's office, or selected recipients for $800,000 in grants or $450,000 in free tickets, merchandise and athletic equipment.


From TomDispatch:

Chalmers Johnson's book Blowback came out in 2000, 18 months before the attacks of 9-11. Its prescient analysis made it a prophetic text -- and propelled it onto bestseller lists after the 9-11 attacks. It also put the word "blowback," a CIA term of trade, into popular culture -- along with the allied phrase "unintended consequences" which Gov. Bill Richardson, for instance, used in the Democratic debate on ABC Saturday night). Even before 9-11, Johnson could see clearly what the film Charlie Wilson's War, written and directed by two of the entertainment industry's best known liberals, refused to see in 2007 -- that the Agency's anti-Soviet Afghan jihad would prove a blowback disaster. By now, we know -- or at least should know -- that it was, by far, the greatest of those disasters in our history.

So, with all the reviews in, Johnson turns to the strangeness of both Charlie Wilson's War and the reviewer culture that went with it, trying to make sense of one of the more bizarre acts of cultural denial (and cultural celebration) in recent memory. As he suggests:

One of the severe side effects of imperialism in its advanced stages seems to be that it rots the brains of the imperialists. They start believing that they are the bearers of civilization, the bringers of light to 'primitives' and 'savages' (largely so identified because of their resistance to being 'liberated' by us), the carriers of science and modernity to backward peoples, beacons and guides for citizens of the 'underdeveloped world.' ... When imperialist activities produce unmentionable outcomes, such as those well known to anyone paying attention to Afghanistan since about 1990, then ideological thinking kicks in. The horror story is suppressed, or reinterpreted as something benign or ridiculous (a "comedy"), or simply curtailed before the denouement becomes obvious.

Hence, Charlie Wilson's odd new category, an "imperialist comedy" -- and so, as Johnson points out, the movie and its mainstream chorus of approval represents a small tragedy for the rest of us. "Simply put, it is imperialist propaganda and the tragedy is that four-and-a-half years after we invaded Iraq and destroyed it, such dangerously misleading nonsense is still being offered to a gullible public."

(Eric adds: Still, it's a really good movie....)

Slacker Monday

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc --

"Look at him, in the mirror breathing/What is happening in his head?"


Holy Lord God On A Moped, was Saturday a bad night for the Republican Party. I've seen fjords that didn't look that old and white -- what with Fred Thompson trying not to think of the bottle of Maker's Mark back in the Green Room, and John McCain wondering when somebody would come from offstage and slip a straitjacket on this Paul fellow. (I'm serious. McCain appeared to be seriously considering calling security.) Meanwhile, Mitt Romney took too many salvos below the waterline to count, and seemed to be couching his answers in English translated only seconds earlier from the original Urdu. Rudy! chose to campaign passionately on how decent he was to the sick children of illegal immigrants, which is probably the best indication we have that he's given up on being nominated by this particular party. The best moment came when the subject of health care arose and it became very clear that not only do none of these guys -- with the possible exception of the Huck -- have any plans to cope with the problem, they don't see much of a problem there to begin with. They are cultish in their devotion to some sort of strange absolutist concept of "individual choice" unfamiliar to anyone who's dealt with an insurance company at any time in the past 50 years. They don't even have a vocabulary through which to discuss the problem. Mitt tried to make hay out of his mandated-insurance plan in Massachusetts, which is falling apart because the HMO's jacked their rates to the moon the first chance they got. (HMO's lusting for profits? Who'd'a guessed?) But he rambled and fumbled and sank into his shoes again. Great googly-moogly, that's a bad issue for them.

As for the Dems, well, I'm sorry but it's time for one of them to start running Agnew-like against the punditocracy. Charlie Gibson was utterly smug and pretty plainly has less idea about what goes on in the country than he does about hydrodynamics on Pluto. I liked the way they all slapped him back on The Surge, but we need more of this. Two professors at St. Anselm -- a tiny Catholic college, albeit one that had the perspicacity to accept me 30 years ago, even though I went elsewhere -- make $200,000 a year? Two "New York City public schoolteachers" do? I was very disappointed when none of the candidates lit the insufferable d**khead up for that. And can we please have an end to the stupid scary hypotheticals, please? The Obama-Edwards double-team on Clinton was great drama, and I thought HRC swung back with genuine gusto. Good for her, although I think she's cratering. But I don't think I quite recognized before that the enthusiasm gap between the two parties is matched now by a gravitas gap. There is about the Republican field -- and especially in the way they still truckle to the Avignon Presidency, which is responsible in the first place for the pickle they're in -- a sense that they really don't understand that the war's gone bad, the economy's staggering, and the Constitution's hanging by the "D" in Madison's name. Does McCain really believe that General David Petraeus is "one of the greatest military commanders in the country's history"? Does Mitt Romney really believe Fred Kagan is "one of the most brilliant strategists" we have? Am I on drugs or are they?

Tune in next week. Same Bat-time. Same Bat-channel.

(Have a drink, Fred. You've earned it.)

Name: LTC. Bob Bateman
Hometown: Washington, DC

I did not know Major Andrew Olmsted, but we had things in common. We wrote, online, about our experiences. We were both 38 when we went to Iraq. We loved our country, our wives, and getting in a good argument now and again. I would have liked to have met him, but that is no longer possible because he died on 3 January. It appears, as he predicted, that a sniper got him.

Not, however, before he put an interesting twist on an age-old action.

I cannot offer a reliable statistic on how many people do this, but I would hazard a guess that it is in the majority. It is the action of writing your "final letter." I wrote four myself. One to each of my three daughters, and one to my fiancee. I left them here in the States with a trusted friend. He was charged with delivery. My sister was charged with sending a note to this friend's e-mail address, in case something happened. (She, as a blood relative, would know. My friend would not, until informed.) Happily, and obviously, I returned at the end of my tour and my friend was told to burn the letters unopened. Major Olmsted took it another route. He wrote his final letter in the form of a blog entry ... to be posted in the event of his death.

I agree with 100 percent of his sentiments. I believe that it might help the nation if you at least examine his last words, yourself, here.

You can write to LTC Bob at

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

Charlie's going to continue to be disappointed in Obama if he thinks the candidate must come forward and say he's going to prosecute the Bush administration. I'm not saying I wouldn't relish that announcement, but it's completely counter to the narrative Obama's weaving. Frankly, I think that's a good thing because despite how much I want to see the incumbents criminally charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced, singing that tune won't get anyone elected.

Should Obama be elected, there's nothing to prevent the Attorney General whom he appoints from naming a special prosecutor to look into all of the corruption of the last 7+ years. As a constitutional scholar, Obama would owe the country that much in order to restore the constitutional integrity of the government. I think he's up to it, and I'm willing to listen to speeches about hope and healing for the next year in order to get there.

Name: Robert Cox
Hometown: Doylestown, Pennsylvania

Dr. A,

I have loved Pierce since he observed that watching the Yankees flail at Tim Wakefield knuckleballs was like watching Bob Novak try to tell the truth.

But I find his hand wringing on Obama to be indulgent. Here we have a liberal black man who could win. He's intelligent and inspiring and he opposed the war. It's not rocket science.

Name: Rich Siegel
Hometown: Northbrook IL

I'm sure I'm not the first to say -- or think -- this, but it seems that Obama has the potential to be the same sort of transforming figure for Democrats that Reagan was for the Republicans.

His speech last night was soaring, inspiring and uniting. He gives everyone a warm feeling of inclusion, and at the same time he has a genuine, Saul Alinsky community organizer background an approach that will translate into genuine progressive policy.

As an added benefit, he totally demolishes any rationale for a "unity 08" or Bloomberg post-partisan candidacy.

(And I hope this doesn't sound too much like Chris Matthews rhapsodizing about Mitt Romney's shoulders.)

Name: Kurt Weldon
Hometown: Los Angeles

I'm with Charles Pierce, in his reticence about Obama. Serious damage has been done to this country, and only a couple of Democratic candidates have clearly acknowledged that. Dodd has made an issue of the damage done to our Constitution. Edwards has made an issue of the damage done to the engine that once drove our prosperity -- America's middle class. Hope is great, but the people who've spent the last generation hard-wiring despair and greed into the system are not going to go away without a fight. Edwards acknowledges that. He'll have my vote on February 5th.

Name: Joe Raskin
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Dr. Alterman --

Thanks for running the link to the article on the great Dion DiMucci.

Lou Reed called Dion the "Coolest Guy in The World" when inducting him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I see no reason for disagreeing with him.

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