What did we learn last night? Well, we learned that for the first time since, well, I'm having trouble remembering, 1968 perhaps, we cannot predict who will be either major party's presidential nominee, something for which our press corps is decidedly unprepared because it does not allow for a clear, unthinking narrative on the basis of which they can ignore certain kinds of evidence and misuse and pervert others. What is more apparent, however, is that virtually all the media produced in the New Hampshire-based tsunami we just experienced was worse than useless; not only arrogant, mindless and sheeplike, per usual, but also wrong on the very horse-race measurements upon which these faux smarties pride themselves. Did anyone at all call the Democratic contest correctly? Do actual real people really care about silly pundit predictions? How can an entire industry continue to exist when the product it provides is both unwanted and defective, and proven repeatedly to be so? That's my question for the day.
We're not even No. 2: "UK living standards outstrip US; Living standards outstrip those across the Atlantic for first time in over a century," here. My economist friends made me remove the sentence from Why We're Liberals that compared per capita income across nations because they did not think it a reliable measurement of much. And so I won't make too big a deal of this, except to say that friends of certain cockeyed columnists might wish to point out that they might be happier, wealthier and wiser were they to return to their (now) rich homelands, what with all the fifth-columnists here waiting to undermine the virtuous red states with our Gore votes ...
Seriously, don't you think it's kind of interesting that this New York Sun editorial does not even bother to notice that Israel is a different country than the one of which Obama, et al, are hoping to be president? I mean, perhaps it is in the interest of the United States of America to support the Israeli government -- or, more accurately for the Sun's purposes, the Israeli Likud Party -- in everything it says and does. Don't you think that's a case that at least needs to be made, rather than assumed? Apparently the editors of the Sun are confident that this is not the case, and I would submit, dear reader, that this assumption is damn close to the reason for this entire enterprise's otherwise inexplicable existence.
Alter-appearance, coming to a bookstore near you: We've started updating the "events" page on ericalterman.com, here, since I'll be doing a lot of traveling in the spring for the book, and I'm open to trying to arrange gigs with good groups in areas I'll be around if it turns out to be convenient for all involved and someone's willing to put it together. For starters, there's a Saturday at the end of March when I'll be free in Seattle if I can be useful there. (Totally unrelated to that fact, alas, I could maybe use a Springsteen ticket that night as well ...)
Not only does the high-profile hiring of Kristol flout a recently announced hiring freeze inside the New York Times newsroom, but a Times spokeswoman confirmed to me that Kristol will become the first political columnist hired by the newspaper in the modern era who will be allowed to keep a full-time publishing job outside the Times. And in this case, as editor of Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Standard, Kristol will continue to draw a paycheck from a direct Times competitor, since Murdoch, as the new owner of the Wall Street Journal, has made it quite plain that he plans on using the business daily to directly compete against The New York Times, which Murdoch claims is elitist and liberal.
Oh yeah, Kristol will be given further exemption from the Times' employee guidelines and allowed to remain on the board of policy think tanks. Could the Times have found a more tangled set of conflicts if they tried?
Perhaps the most troubling part of the Times' depressing personnel move is that the paper's publisher is under the illusion that Kristol's work will help offset the paper's liberal columnists, such as ... Dowd.
(And don't cry for me, MoDo.)
In the TV debate last Saturday night among the Democratic candidates for president -- after a week in which the price of a barrel of oil briefly touched $100, unemployment hit 5 percent, the stock market had the worst three-day start since the Great Depression, and the word "recession" was in the headlines -- ABC moderator Charlie Gibson announced that the first 15-minute segment would be taken up with "what is generally agreed to be ... the greatest threat to the United States today."
As it happened, what he had on his mind was a fantasy scenario involving the potential destruction of an American city with a Pakistani loose nuke in the hands of Al Qaeda. In this -- other than channeling Rudy Giuliani -- he managed to catch the essence of what may be George W. Bush's major legacy to this country: an obsessive focus on the "Global War on Terror" (also known by the world's least elegant acronym, GWOT).
In the administration's eyes, almost immediately after the attacks of 9-11, the GWOT came to be seen as the key to the magic kingdom, the lever with which the planet could be pried open for American dominion. It was to become the measure of everything global ("Are you for us or against us..."), as was the "security" and "safety" (narrowly defined) of Americans.
Six years later, Tom Engelhardt offers a fantasy scenario of his own:
Imagine that, by some unknown process, the GWOT succeeds. Instantly. Al-Qaeda and other like-minded or wannabe terrorist groups are simply wiped off the face of the Earth. They cease to exist. Tomorrow. No al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. No original al-Qaeda (with its local admixtures) in the Pakistani tribal areas or Afghanistan. No al-Qaedan-style car bombers lurking in London. No more hijacked vehicles heading for American buildings or U.S. Navy vessels. No more trains blowing up in Madrid railway stations. No more al-Qaeda-labeled suicide car bombs going off in Algiers, or Istanbul, or anywhere else. The end. Finis.
Then he asks the reader to glance around a post-GWOT world theoretically made safe for Americans and ask, in part:
If the Global War on Terror were over, what would be left? What would we be rid of? What would be changed? Would oil be, say, $60 a barrel, or even $20 a barrel? Would Russia return to being an impoverished nearly Third World country, as it was before 2001, rather than a rising energy superpower? Would the Iraq War be over? Would the Arctic Sea re-ice? ... Would all those dollars in Chinese and Middle Eastern hands return to the U.S. treasury? ... Would we suddenly be hailed around the world for our "victory" and feared once again as the "sole superpower," the planetary "hyperpower"? Would we no longer be in, or near, recession? Would hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs begin flowing back into the country? Would the housing market bounce back? Would unemployment drop?
The answer to each of these questions is, obviously, no. In the rest of the piece, he explores the greatest achievement of George W. Bush's Global War on Terror -- for American rulers and ruled alike -- blocking out the world as it was, blocking out, that is, reality. And he asks the question: Did GWOT functionally turn us into a nation of cowards?
Name: Thomas Heiden
Hometown: Stratford, CT
The closest thing to a "crisis" Bloomberg ever faced was the Republican National Convention. How did he respond? With storm troopers, reckless illegal detentions, and general strong-arm tactics any fascist would admire. He does not deserve the praise "liberal," and it is terrifying to think what he could/would do as president in a real crisis.
The fact that Glenn Greenwald should bring up Congressman John Sweeney's name at this particular time is interesting. One of the local Albany TV stations reported this morning that the now former congressman had a run-in with the law on 12/27, after he stiffed the cabbie who drove him home that night from a strip club. That episode follows by about a month his arrest for DWI, after he was caught weaving along a local interstate with a semi-clad young woman sitting in his lap.
Clearly, former Congressman Sweeney is going through a "rough patch" in his life and is due some sympathy- or at least pity. But then there's the fact that he played such an instrumental role in that "Bourgeois Riot" during the recount in Florida - an event that led to the installation of the benighted Bush/Cheney administration seven years ago. Given all the pain and suffering that has been inflicted on so many by that administration, it's hard to avoid a sense of poetic justice in seeing someone so arrogant brought low.
Peretz wasn't even original. Harrison was also enabled to buy The New Republic by marrying a rich heiress. The difference is that Harrison revitalized the magazine and kept it an important voice of the left. Peretz was much less kind to his purchase, as Dr. Alterman often reminds us.