Slacker Friday

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

We've got a new "Think Again" column called "Iraq Isn't Vietnam, but America Is Still America," which is here. My Nation column is called "The Lies of Quinn-Broderville" and is here.

From TomDispatch:

No one has, until now, investigated and put together a full picture of how that homeland-security state has invaded college and university campuses across the country -- and how deeply it has settled in. So consider Michael Gould-Wartofsky's groundbreaking "Repress U, How to Build a Homeland Security Campus," jointly published by TomDispatch.com and The Nation magazine.

In November 2006, the Taser infamously broke into the news on campus when a student at the University of Florida, questioning Senator John Kerry harshly, was dragged off, Tased, and subdued by campus police. His plea, "Don't Tase me, bro!," is now the stuff of bumper stickers, T-shirts, and cell phone ring tones. But this, suggests Gould-Wartofsky, was just the tip of the homeland-security presence on campus. As his piece begins: "Free speech zones. Taser guns. Hidden cameras. Data mining. A new security curriculum. Private security contractors... Welcome to the new homeland security campus."

"Repress U" then lays out in striking detail the "seven-step mission" involved in building such a campus. These steps include targeting dissidents; building up campus police arsenals; surveilling the campus; mining student records; tracking foreign-born students; taking over the curriculum, the classroom and the laboratory; and privatizing (which includes partnering up with firms like the notorious Blackwater).

Gould-Wartofsky describes both the successes of those who want to turn the campus into a national-security fortress and the sometimes successful resistance to such moves. This is a startling report that concludes: "If the tightening grip of the homeland security complex isn't loosened, the latest towers of higher education will be built not of ivory, but of Kevlar for the over-armored, over-armed campuses of America."

This week on Moyers:

With all the talk of change coming out of the campaigns, can we expect big money to lose its grip on Washington? Bill Moyers interviews New York Times investigative reporter and Pulitzer Prize-winner David Cay Johnston, who says America's system has been rigged to benefit the super-rich. Also on the program: He won in Iowa and lost in New Hampshire, but what does Obama's candidacy tell us about the politics of race in America? Bill Moyers talks with Shelby Steele, who has written widely on race in American society and is author of the recent book A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win. And leading expert on media and politics Kathleen Hall Jamieson sorts spin from reality after the primary.

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

"Hey buddy, would you like to buy a watch real cheap/ Here on the street/ I got six on each arm and two more round my feet."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Got No Blues Today" (Big Daddy O) -- Once again, I have forgot to pay the rental on the luxury liner that would cruise up and down the eastern seaboard, blowing on its foghorn the international code for how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: Arianna, you know I love you madly but, if you're going to tee up the NYT for hiring Butcher Bill Kristol for its op-ed page, your case'd have a dab more credibility if your own website didn't regularly host equally truthless -- but marginally less successful -- weasels like this guy. Just sayin'.

Part The Second: Rupert Murdoch has done, and will do, many bad things to this country, but one of his Fox Sports channels now brings me Minnesota high school hockey. I watched my beloved Warroad Warriors drop one to Roseau the other night. Good on ya, mate.

Part The Third: Somebody has to throw a blanket over Chris Matthews very soon. Is it possible that anyone voted for Hillary Clinton the other night, you know, on the merits? And Ms. FDL is right on the money -- it's time for everybody's surrogates to STFU for a while.

Part The Fourth: If you heard him give his election-night-speech on the radio, you couldn't help but notice that John McCain has begun to sound exactly like the late Fulton J. Sheen, the radio/TV priest of my youth.

Part The Last: Note to Tucker Carlson: While it's nice that they're now letting you wear the big-boy ties, you should know that, contrary to what you told several viewers at midnight on Tuesday, Stokely Carmichael was not one of the original members of the Black Panthers. He once attempted to broker a merger between the Panthers and SNCC, and got named a Grand Poobah or something for his trouble, but the Panthers were founded in 1965, while Stokely was still organizing in Mississippi. Please carefully put history back where you found it, OK?

Well, two days in New Hampshire, and I know less about this election than I knew a week ago. On Monday night last, I saw McCain, two busloads of alleged reporters in tow, give an utterly astonishing speech on the steps of the town hall in Exeter. Ten years ago, I spent a month with him for an Esquire profile, so I know the depths of the charm. But this was the most bloodthirsty campaign speech I ever heard. We are surrounded by enemies. John himself is personally going to get medieval on those Iranian speedboats. He's personally going to make that sad bastard who burned his passport "regret his decision." He's going to follow Osama bin Laden personally "through the gates of hell" if necessary. Send him an earmark, and he's personally going to "make you famous." At this point, McCain seemed to be running for sheriff of Nottingham. This was 10 or 15 minutes of unbridled public paranoia. It screamed for coverage. It got none. Rather, the inevitable election night fluffing ensued. I like the man a great deal, and there's nothing low and sneaky about this campaigning. It's just a bit, well, nutzoid.

And, not for nothing, all you cats 'n kittens on all the buses, but this week's most important story concerning the 2008 election took place in Washington, and not in Nashua. The Supreme Court of these United States seems poised to find some narrow bureaucratic reason to give constitutional imprimatur to official Republican voter-suppression efforts in Indiana and elsewhere. As near as I could determine, this case never came up at any point during the weekend, but it could work to obviate in part everything else that happened. (Black voters in Georgia, for example, are going to be delighted.) Written in response to a "problem" that its own defenders admit doesn't exist, the law is almost farcical in its intellectual corruption, which means it likely will find a ready audience among the cowardly piddlers who represent the most lasting legacy of the Avignon Presidency. And I don't want to give the Obamaphiles any more reason to throw rocks, but I would point out that Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito -- To say nothing of Tony (99-0) Scalia -- both represent the triumph of Broderian bipartisanship. (The Great Compromise, remember? In which the Democratic senators reached across the aisle to maintain their right to filibuster by agreeing never to do so.) Is this the kind of healing we need? Is this the kind of bipartisan good faith through which we once again become a great nation?

Yes, we can.

But sometimes, we damn well shouldn't.

p.s. -- At the Hillary event Monday night, she talked about setting up a Government Blogging Corps. I think we found a place for me and my running mate to land after we finish our second term. (Bateman was nowhere to be found in NH, BTW, while I was doing all the heavy lifting for the ticket. The post-election memoirs are not going to be kind.)

Name: T. O'Dell
Hometown: Port Angeles, WA

In today's WSJ there's an op-ed from McCain and (former Democrat) Lieberman praising the success of the surge. "... conditions in that country have been utterly transformed," they gush. "Al Qaeda has been beaten back" yet we don't know if the "success" will continue or how many troops we need to keep for how long to reach our objective: Victory. What constitutes victory is never defined.

Less (no?) coverage is given Congressman Wexler's recent comments on the war:

"The Surge had a clear and defined objective -- to create stability and security -- enabling the Iraqi government to enact lasting political solutions and foster genuine reconciliation and cooperation between Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds. This has not happened."

But I note that he gives a few more tangible indications of the lack of success:

"...little on the ground supports the assertion that Iraqis are ready to stand up and govern themselves. Too few Iraqi troops are trained, equipped and combat ready, and they cannot yet provide adequate security. Loyalty is also an issue in the Iraqi army as Al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents infliltrate their defense forces. The consequences turned deadly just recently when an Iraqi soldier purposely killed two U.S. troops.

On the streets of Baghdad and Mosul, the Sunni and Shia factions have paused their fighting, awaiting guarantees and protections that have not yet been delivered. As Iraqi refugees return, there is no mechanism to help them rebuild their lives, nor recover their now-occupied homes. Neighborhoods once mixed are now segregated.

In Northern Iraq, Kurdish terrorists conducting nefarious operations across the border into Turkey have compelled our NATO ally to strike at bases, inflaming tensions between Baghdad and Ankara."

Will the MSM look at these allegations of success vs. failure, compare them to the goals stated at the beginning of the surge and provide evidence that one or the other is correct?

Or is that too much like reporting?

Name: Merrill R. Frank
Hometown: Jackson Heights, NYC

Dr.

Much is made over Sen. Clinton's crying and show of emotion and whether this makes her unfit to stand up to adversaries and project herself as a strong leader.

Back in 2000 when Sen. McCain and his family were trashed by a bunch of folks right out of Deliverance, he did little to counter them and ended up contacting a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome by embracing these rubes as a means to a path to the White House. You figure a guy who endured brutal torture at the Hanoi Hilton would defend one's honor or at least use his vaulted naval boxing skills to fight back at them. Yet he is still considered to be the tough "maverick" and no one seems to question his tenacity and judgment to lead the country.

Eric replies: "Amen, sister."

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