"Shake hands with your Uncle Mahmoud ..."

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I did a piece for the Prospect on Bill Kristol and the Times, which apparently asks the question: What was The New York Times thinking when it hired neocon propagandist Bill Kristol for its op-ed pages? Clearly, not about the sensibilities of its readers. It's here, but apparently behind a pay wall.

Congrats to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his victory in the U.S.-Iraq war. I see "the Iranian leader went from Baghdad's airport to a meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who gave him a red-carpet welcome. The two kissed four times on the cheek in the traditional fashion and a band played the two countries' national anthems." I note also that "Ahmadinejad arrived in Iraq a day after Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came to Baghdad on an unannounced visit with commanders and Iraqi officials." I think it was Matt Yglesias who first noticed that the Iranian PM can make a scheduled, highly publicized visit to Iraq, but no U.S. official can show up except unannounced, and with enough muscle to power another Normandy invasion. Congrats also to William Kristol, Richard Perle, Norman Podhoretz, etc., for not being laughed out of every room in which they've ever been for maintaining to this day that this invasion was a good idea.

I don't comment on the actual sayings and doings of presidential candidates in this blog, lest someone, somewhere take what I say as an "endorsement." So I hope everyone understands that when I mention, apropos of Hillary Clinton's SNL appearance, that Lorne Michaels considers himself to be a close friend of John McCain's and threw the guy the most crowded party of all time at the Four Seasons during the '04 Convention. Oh, and the Tina Fey character on 30 Rock said she was pretending to be an Obama supporter but was really voting for McCain. Oh, and the last time SNL was consistently funny was when Bill Murray was still on the show, but of course that might have been the drugs kicking in ...

But while we're on the topic, it looks like it was "Why are Women Such Idiots?" Day at the Washington Post Outlook section yesterday, I guess.

Dear fellow women:

Why are you all so stupid?

Love,
Charlotte Allen

Dear fellow women:

Why are you not strategic enough to form a meaningful political movement directed at taking power?

Love,
Linda Hirshman

Really, what's the matter with you chicks? Oh, I see. According to Ms. Allen, you have smaller brains, even proportionately speaking, than men. Lucky you've got boobs, otherwise why bother with you at all? Next week: Why are Negroes so shiftless, Jews so stingy, Puerto Ricans so dirty, Irish drunk all the time, Mexicans lazy, and white male Washington Post editors so wonderful?

This just in: Obama Not A Muslim, As Far as Hillary Knows:

"You said you'd take Senator Obama at his word that he's not ... a Muslim. You don't believe that he's ... ," Kroft said.

"No. No, there is nothing to base that on. As far as I know," she said.

Here.

Let the recriminations begin. (Shorter Mark Penn: "Clinton campaign? Never heard of it ...")

Nothing in the above should be construed as an endorsement of any candidate, any time, in any race, ever.

Speaking of women and their small-brained bodies -- and I realize this might not be the most appropriate introduction for this -- but if, for any reason, and I can imagine many, your life has not yet or is not likely to give you the opportunity to examine the female genitalia in a post-coital state and you would like this opportunity, but not in a pornographic setting but rather in a beautiful, uplifting one, then get thee to the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- do I have to mention what city? -- to see Gustave Courbet's amazing painting "The Origin of the World" as well as the rest of the amazing, uplifting Courbet exhibition which opened last week. It's been a difficult painting to see over the years, for reasons detailed here. (I see that Linda Nochlin, who I think is my mother's cousin, or something, has written a book on the guy. She is said to be an important art historian so read that one and make the first Dr. A's day ...)

What's on Bruce's iPod? "Linda Paloma"? Are you mad, man? (Two nosebleeds left to sell for Nassau, email below if interested ...)

Give her a raise, already, will ya: A Lydia DePillis uses Slate's "Today's Papers" column to plug the book by her boss, Jacob Weisberg, in the guise of an actual news item. She writes, here:

Anyone wanting to read one more Bush retrospective might pick up Bushism chronicler and Slate editor Jacob Weisberg's book The Bush Tragedy, which reviewer Alan Brinkley deems "mostly persuasive," if occasionally "highly speculative." Brinkley also points out that tragedies usually involve some amount of talent squandered and self-awareness of failure, which Weisberg argues that this presidency lacks."

Funny, I read that review, as I read everything Alan Brinkley writes, and the part I was most significant was this: Weisberg's "analysis is not as original or startling as he sometimes claims; his explanations of Bush's behavior are often highly speculative; and he relies too much on such overworked clichés."

Ms. DePillis didn't exactly leave it out, but neither did she give the reader its full flavor or power. And she introduced the above by including a plug for another book, Robin Wright's on the Middle East, as if the "Today's Paper's" columns just happened to include book plugs every day, no big deal that it happens to be for her boss and happens to gloss over what the reviewer actually had to say. On second thought, a raise is not enough. Better double her salary; talent like that is rare ...

Department of No Comment: "The Spine" by Martin Peretz: "A Fool Unknowingly Contradicts Himself."

I never heard of Doug Stanhope before watching him on HBO. Dude makes some sense, especially about the part where he says "They bought their team! They're supposed to win. That's like going to casino and cheering for the house." At least I think he does. I missed the first part so I wonder who he might be mentioning ...

OK, here's a clue:

"A-Rod will single-handedly boost the value of YES too, perhaps by as much as $100 million, according to Vince Gennaro, a financial consultant to a number of big-league teams; he predicts that A-Rod could generate roughly $450 million for the Yankees over the course of his 10-year contract.

That's assuming a lot, though. A-Rod may be as close as you can get to a sure thing in baseball, but he and his contract nevertheless represent a big gamble for the Yankees. The club puts the total value of his deal at $275 million, plus an extra $30 million if he breaks Barry Bonds's home-run record. But the Yankees will almost certainly exceed the luxury-tax threshold for the duration of his time with the team (and the rest of eternity, for that matter), which means that they'll have to pay an extra 40 cents for every dollar A-Rod earns. Thus, he'll cost the team on the order of $427 million."

From TomDispatch:

A recent ARG poll put George W. Bush's job approval rating at 19 percent, giving "lame duck" a new meaning in the last year of his presidency. Finally, recognizing a genuine opening, the Democratic Congress has been moving. Congressional hearings were held that split harshly along party lines, focusing on a big Republican pitchman who, like so many before him in these last years, made outrageous denials, while swearing that others had "misremembered" the facts. This time, however, the Democrats hung together and delivered a no-nonsense message to the White House: We're coming after your man. A prosecution now seems to be in the cards.

For Congress now, no lesser subjects like Iraq or the political staffing of the Justice Department, but a matter that makes a difference whether you live in Boston, New York, or Houston. We're talking, of course, about the Roger ("The Rocket") Clemens story, which, as former New York Times sports columnist and TomDispatch Jock Culture Correspondent Robert Lipsyte explains brilliantly, actually does catch something essential about our last lamentable seven-plus years in Bush hell.

Lipsyte begins this short, punchy, provocative piece this way:

The genius of Roger Clemens lies in the fact that he created the monster of himself. He is both Dr. Clemenstein, inventor of a more powerful man, and Clemenstein, the age-defying result, an ogre who defines ur-masculinity today. He is a big, white Republican who makes his own rules, lies, cheats, and mixes family values and intimidation. Roger Clemens also manipulated and sacrificed associates to accomplish his mission. He was able to do this not only because scientific additions made him bigger and stronger, but because subtractions enabled him to believe in the preeminence of the creature he had become. The drugs went in and the soul came out.

We will see him go down. Of course, it's too late to matter much; like the present President, he's already done his damage ...

Correspondence Corner:

Name: DrSteveB
Hometown: NYC

Thanks for posting my open letter regarding the Anti-Defamation League's not being okay with McCain's equivocating over his own statement that the Constitution founded the U.S. as a Christian nation, while by comparison the ADL was satisfied with Obama's clear rejection of Farrakhan.

Now there is an even more direct comparison to be made. McCain actively sought and has now received the direct endorsement of the anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic religious bigot pastor John Hagee. Will the press go after McCain for this direct link, on and off for months on end, just as they have gone after Obama for his indirect link to Farrakhan. Or will there be a double-standard?

We write letters (ADL's emails are contactus@adl.org & adlmedia@adl.org):

"Like the ADL in Oct 2007, I remain concerned by John McCain's unresolved false statement that the constitution established the U.S. as a Christian Nation, and now his embrace of Pastor John Hagee. As you know, Hagee is religious bigot, who has said the Holocaust was part of God's master plan to corral Jews into Israel; that Jews had been responsible for their persecution throughout history because of a failure to properly accept God. Hagee believes that 25% of Jews will convert and the rest will be slaughtered by Jesus and spend eternity in hell. Hagee has referred to the Catholic Church as 'The Great Whore', 'an apostate church', 'the anti-Christ', and a 'false cult system.' Hagee said New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they recipients of the judgment of God for that. In Jan. ADL said it was satisfied with Obama's rejection of Farrakhan. Despite it being unsolicited, Obama has again rejected Farrakhan's support. Meanwhile, McCain has sought and now embraced Hageeâ€TMs support; isn't that worse?"

See also here.

Name: Michael Rapoport
Hometown:

Eric:

Regarding John Hagee: Bill Moyers had an excellent piece about him last fall that can be seen here.

Name: Jack Phillips
Hometown: Kansas City, MO

Dr. A:

The NY Times brings up the question of McCain's eligibility for the presidency because he was not born in the US but rather the Panama Canal Zone where his father was stationed as a naval officer. I have no ax to grind with the military (I'm a retired LTC in the Army Reserve), but I think there is an important point to be made about how we apply the Constitution. Do we apply it rigidly -- exactly as written and intended at the time of ratification (1789) or do we interpret it fluidly so that it makes sense in our modern times? In this area, Republicans want flexibility for themselves and rigidity for everyone else. If McCain wants the benefit of judicial activism through modern flexible interpretation of the Constitution, let him publicly reject the foolish rigidity of "strict construction" and "originalism" which right wingers advocate and recently appointed justices claim to rely as they drag American justice back to the 16th Century. It is worth remembering that the original wording of constitutional protections did not apply to women, or blacks or Native Americans and it took considerably more than a few acts of Congress to straighten it out. I believe in a flexible interpretation of the Constitution but I find nothing especially urgent about McCain's ambitions.

Name: Brian Donohue
Hometown: http://dailyrevolution.net

This is admittedly an uncomfortable place for me to be, but I'm going to come to the defense of my mayor. His recent comments on global warming (at the UN) and the need for gun control (after NIU) are better than most liberals have been able to manage lately. As for letting the rumor mill spin all that time over a Naderesque run, why not? It got him and the city some attention, and he made the right call in the end. I've also been reading his empire's home page every day, and I have to admit it's the best online economic news trove I've seen.

Now he will win me all the way back to Bloomie-mania by doing two things:

1. Do a John Edwards-style mea culpa on the disgraceful behavior of both yourself and your goon police force during the 2004 RNC. Take responsibility, just say "I was wrong, and I wish I had it to do over again, and it will never happen again on my watch."

2. Give me a job (I'm applying to scads of city jobs because the corporations have all stopped hiring consultants -- but take Dub at his word, it's not really a recession, just a nice deep-breath type of slowdown. History will say that, like the occupation of Iraq, it was a great moment).

Name: Ed in Montana
Hometown: Helena, Montana

Eric

Reader Richard Berndt writes on February 28th: "Why don't the netroots and alternative media host debates?"

Well, we did. A Democratic presidential candidates debate was held last August in Chicago at YearlyKos 2007. The moderators were mcjoan from DailyKos and Matt Bai from the New York Times Magazine with questions from the audience handled by Jeffrey Feldstein of Frameshop.com.

Every Democratic candidate attended except Senator Biden, and the questions were much better than the inane ones asked by Mr. Russert and Mr. Blitzer. The two hour debate was followed by "meet the candidates" sessions that were very well attended.

Reporting on the netroots debate was picked up by the major print media and I think the video was carried by CSPAN.

Name: Robert von Bargen
Hometown: Santa Monica, the Bluest of the Blue!

Have you seen any significant media coverage of the six month truce (recently renewed) by Moqtada al Sadr? The conventional wisdom assumes that the Surge has been effective. It ignores the effects of this action by a guy who is capable of enormous mischief. Do you think the administration has bought him off?

Name: Robert Cook
Hometown: Eastham, MA

Eric,

"Mr. Fantasy" was certainly the highlight for me and moment I was waiting for, but Clapton's guitar work on "Double Trouble" and "Voodoo Chile" were also highlights. Even beyond these, however, it was the opportunity to hear these two perform together, for the first time for most of us there, the four songs that comprised side one of "Blind Faith," plus the way these two great musicians complemented each other, that made this such a great show.

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