Slacker Friday

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

We have a new Think Again column here, "Iraq Disappears from View," on the declining quantity and quality of Iraq war coverage. Also, The Nation published an excerpt of Why We're Liberals, which you can find here. I'm at Town Hall in Seattle tonight (see full schedule below), sponsored by Elliott Bay Books. And I'll be on The Colbert Report Monday night, talking about what L. Brent Bozell III has already picked as the "Dumbest Book of the Year" (that's here), which is a pretty brave prediction given that this is only March. If Brent is not your cup of ideological tea, I came across this smart commentary on Daily Kos, which illustrates at least one of the reasons I wanted to write the book in the first place, and so I'm pleased to see it. If it makes sense to you, or you simply wish to annoy Mr. Bozell and company, the book itself, Why We're Liberals, is here.

(Oh, and I taped a conversation about the book with my friend Brian Gruber, CEO of Fora.tv, when I was in San Francisco, and you can find it here.)

From TomDispatch:

When it comes to economics, Tom Engelhardt claims he would benefit from an "Economics for Dummies" course, but the fact is -- he writes -- you don't need to understand economics to know the economic peril we're in. You only have to grasp the history of the Bush administration thus far. Just consider the record: Bush's men and women have proven incapable of rebuilding two countries that the U.S. military occupied and damaged at the President's orders; they not only couldn't rebuild an American city that nature (and the Army Corps of Engineers) had damaged, but turned a natural disaster into a man-made catastrophe that has yet to end; and, despite a reputation for being the most disciplined, tough, and focused administration in memory, they couldn't even secure their fondest inside-the-Beltway dream: constructing a generation-long Pax Republicana in Washington.

In fact, they've proven themselves good at only two things: destruction and looting. Americans, according to the latest poll, have already assessed the Bush administration for what it's worth and drawn the logical conclusion: that most of us are now trapped inside the equivalent of the Superdome in a fast-flooding region with no evacuation plan in sight. A sizeable majority of Americans think a "depression" is likely and most of the rest are worried.

Engelhardt concludes: "Ten months is a long, long time when only their hands are near the pilot's wheel of the ship of state and water's already seeping through the hull. It's an eon for an administration capable of sinking New Orleans in a matter of days, and Iraq in little more than months. Or, thought of another way, it's plenty of time if your expertise happens to lie in deconstruction. After all, barring a miracle, you're talking about the little administration that couldn't, no matter how hard Ben Bernanke may try. So, even if you, like me, know next to nothing about economics, you already know enough to be afraid, very afraid."

The Why We're Liberals official tour:

Friday, March 28, 7:30 p.m.
Town Hall Seattle
sponsored by Elliott Bay Book Co.
Seattle, WA

Thursday, April 10, 7:45 p.m.
Scarsdale Public Library
Scarsdale, NY

Saturday, April 26, 2:30 p.m.
Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA

Wednesday, April 30
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:

"And to big Jim Dwyer, the man of wire, who was often heard to say/'I'm a freeborn man of the USA.' "

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Cherry Pie" (Marvin and Johnny) -- Once again, the electricity failed just as I was about to ignite the string of sodium vapor lamps laid across the forehead of Teddy Roosevelt on Mt. Rushmore that would have spelled out how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First -- KO, you know I love you, but the show is growing simultaneously more self-important and more utterly oblivious. It's a considerable parlay. For example, it's OK to roast Brit Hume for fluffing McCain. But, if you do, you should: a) account for the fact that Chuck Todd admitted as much at almost the same time and did not exempt himself at all, and b) confront the beams in your own eye labeled "Russert" and "Matthews." For pure McCain worship, those two make Brit Hume look like Amy Goodman. Also, if you're going to have somebody on to talk about Hillary Clinton's burgeoning problem with historical accuracy, you simply have to do better than Margaret Carlson, the chipmunky fathead who, back in 2000, admitted it was more "fun" to report about all that made-up stuff concerning Al Gore. How'd that work out, anyway? The Rolodex needs to expand, big guy.

Part The Second -- Circumstances dictated that I watch a lot of MSNBC the other day. Every 15 minutes, there was another faceoff between a "Republican strategist" and a "Democratic strategist." I never heard of any of these people. Do any of them actually work on campaigns? You know, like, strategizing?

Part The Third -- Hey, folks. John McCain gave a speech about how peachy things were in Iraq on the very same day that the whole place erupted in kaleidoscopic violence. Is there any reason why he should be greeted with anything but laughter for the next couple of months? Anybody notice the incongruity? Anybody? Bueller? Anyway, here's a late Easter gift suggestion for any friends you might have on the Straight Talk Express.

Part The Fourth -- I have never read anything funnier than this on the Intertubes in my life.

Part The Fifth -- Unless it's this. Next, it's Jonah Goldberg and the Soul Train Dancers!

Part The Last: I'm not sold on the Obama Phenom. However, I have to admit it takes a great gob of what my hockey-playing friends would call the ol' sang-froid to chill on the beach for a couple of days just as the idiocy was hitting high tide in the campaign back home.

It is almost impossible to measure how utterly, hopelessly moronic this is. I've been less horrified than most people by the tone of the Clinton campaign -- I'm from Massachusetts, folks; this is kindergarten stuff -- but I've been continually gobsmacked by its relentless public stupidity. It's been a long time since anybody with any brains took a rodeo clown like James Carville seriously, but calling Bill Richardson "Judas"? During Holy Week? And then standing by it? And having the candidate sit down with Richard Mellon F**king Scaife in order to reopen the Jeremiah Wright issue? Why not just schedule a photo op with Hillary leaning on a cannon in Fort Marcy Park? How about a picnic along the railroad tracks leading to the Mena airport? Maybe raise some money with a Find The Black Love Child contest? This is just unimaginable to me. And there was only one reason to do it. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is read by about 37 people every day. (During football season, that number may rise to 52.) She didn't need to do an interview with this tinker-toy operation, much less have her photo taken with the presiding ghoul. I believe firmly that this was about injecting the Wright story more deeply into the sewers of the public dialogue through which Dickie Scaife has been spelunking for almost 20 years. She ought to be thrown out of the party for this alone. Obama's been wrongfooting the Clintons since January, and they don't like it much. (Remember, they set great store in being the Smartest Kids In The Room.) But, in its reactions, the Clinton campaign seems to be losing about 80 IQ points a day. If this thing goes on another month, they're going to have to water these guys every morning.

Name: Paul in NC
Hometown: Charlotte, NC

Your readers and commenters seem not to mourn the demise of the newspaper on the premise that the MSM deserves its corporate fate, and that the web is preferable anyway because it offers an infinite diversity of viewpoints. Democracy is better served.

But how long will it be before corporate America, through the power of its purse, prevails upon government to enact laws, rules, and regulations that conglomerate the web into the same narrow, stale, owned-lock-stock-and-and-barrel media outlets that today we know as the MSM.

Think the web is too diffuse for that to happen? Hell, they've already begun with the net neutrality battle.

Name: Bret Thompson
Hometown: Cambridge, MA

Hi Eric,

I was just sitting in a bookstore this evening, skimming Why We're Liberals. I'd like to share my thoughts about the chapter you wrote on religion. It made me think about an essay you recommended a few weeks ago, when Obama insisted in a speech that he wasn't a liberal. I think that the 'transactional/transformational' paradigm discussed in Eric Schneiderman's essay is very relevant, also, when we are talking about religion in American life.

Rhetoric aside, the message of your chapter on religion seemed to be, Americans are religious, so liberals had better learn to love religion or they will continue to lose elections. Okay, so that's a great strategy - in the short term. But if atheists and agnostics stay in the closet, and if liberals feel compelled to try to act religious -- and look stupid and insincere in the bargain -- then 30 or 40 years from now there will *still* be more Americans believing in angels than believe in evolution.

Name: B.L. Webb
Hometown: Edmonton, Canada

After reading Jim Garry's comments about how the real horror of the Iraq invasion has been almost totally concealed from the public by the Bushies, in collusion with their toadies in the MSM, I am reminded of how the general public did not begin to turn against the Vietnam war until similar horrific images were brought into their living rooms every night on the evening news.

The hawks and neocons learned their lessons well, and made sure that was never going to happen again.

Unfortunately for all concerned, they succeeded all too well. History repeats, as it always does.

Name: Kevin Ohlson
Hometown: Charlotte, VT

It is not the refund that matters, but the actual tax owed which can be found on Form 1040 line something or other. I suspect when attorney Ben Miller looks carefully he will find he did pay more tax than his girlfriend.

I don't know how rich you have to be to benefit from the Bush tax cuts. I don't think Ben or I are. However, I am fortunate to have a high paying high-tech job. My wife is a teacher. We pay more tax to the Federal Government than her salary.

Here is why this year I am continuing my 32 year tradition of not voting for a Republican. My taxes didn't rebuild a failing bridge, provide health care to somebody without, help a disaster victim, maintain a distressed National Park, help shore up Social Security, or any of thousands of worthwhile uses. My taxes were Pissed Away in 15 seconds in Iraq.

Name: Bruce E
Hometown: Austin, TX

Joel D mentioned that "I'm having a hard time thinking of any (intentionally) humorous writers for newspapers that regularly delve into the politics of the day." I would suggest that he look to the Miami Herald and read Carl Hiaasen.

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