Anybody here seen my old friend Martin?


When did Martin Amis -- whose early journalism is among the best I've ever read -- become such a jerk? According to this morning's Times review, here:

[H]e suggests that Western liberals acted as if "suicide-mass murder" committed by Islamic terrorists was "reasonable, indeed logical and even admirable." And he makes sweeping statements without supplying any facts to back them up: "With Iran, too, we have a population that is strongly if ambivalently pro-American. To the youth of Iran (a large majority), America is the Mahdi -- the redeemer, the Lord of Time."

My fear is that nobody told Amis that his friend Christopher Hitchens has lost his mind. He relies on Hitchens' lies and slanders, as well as the now-discredited arguments of Bernard Lewis, to embarrass himself as the kind of thoughtless performance art that, sadly, characterizes Christopher. In fact, the number of people who called themselves "liberal" and supported the invasion of Afghanistan -- Andrew Sullivan's imputation of fifth-columnism and Karl Rove's deliberate lies notwithstanding -- was approximately 90 percent, you lazy Brits ... (I can't find it now, but I wrote a column about that number once -- in response to Rove's stupid comments before the New York Conservative Party.)

I can't tell who wrote this post, but it sickens me. If Paul Krugman thinks Obama is unelectable in this country because of his race, then he is a brave man for saying so. He may even be right. None of us knows. To reward that bravery and honesty with a smarmy post like this one strikes me as shameful. Is any alternative evidence presented? Is it somehow better to pretend? I disagree with Krugman's interpretation of the history of liberalism, but the man presents his evidence and makes his case. Nothing of the sort can be said of this kind of silly, self-righteous criticism.

"Having an oil company fund a blog about climate change is like having a wolf underwrite a blog dedicated to life expectancy among chickens." Go Ezra.

The Pulitzers, I thought, were great:

  • Awarded to The Washington Post for the work of Dana Priest, Anne Hull and photographer Michel du Cille in exposing mistreatment of wounded veterans at Walter Reed Hospital, evoking a national outcry and producing reforms by federal officials.
  • Awarded to Jo Becker and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post for their lucid exploration of Vice President Dick Cheney and his powerful yet sometimes disguised influence on national policy.
  • Awarded to Steve Fainaru of The Washington Post for his heavily reported series on private security contractors in Iraq that operate outside most of the laws governing American forces.
  • History: Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: the Transformation of America, 1815-1848.
  • General Nonfiction: Saul Friedländer, The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 -- In his second volume of a history of the Holocaust, Mr. Friedländer, 75, interwove segments from contemporary journals and letters into the more general description of the atrocities. "Usually the history of the Holocaust is written from the viewpoint of German documents and archives," said Mr. Friedländer, who was born in Prague, escaped to France in 1939 and emigrated to Israel in 1948. He teaches history at the University of California, Los Angeles.
  • Drama: Tracy Letts, August: Osage County.
  • Special Citations: Bob Dylan (Actually, that one's silly. Bob Dylan's entire career don't need no stinkin' Pulitzer.)

I will be on a panel on the media Wednesday morning in Washington at a conference titled "Toward a New New Deal: FDR's Liberalism and the Future of American Democracy," sponsored by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute and the Roosevelt Institution, which is something different. It is described thusly:

This one-day symposium will explore the intellectual heritage, policies and political implementation of the New Deal and look at how the liberal vision of government embodied in the New Deal can be applied to the very different circumstances our nation confronts today.

Confirmed speakers include: Henry Aaron, Jonathan Alter, Eric Alterman, Joel Barkin, Deepak Bhargava, Robert Borosage, Alan Brinkley, Robert Greenstein, Robert Kuttner, William Leuchtenburg, Nell Minow, Larry Mishel, Tony Payton, Miles Rapoport, James Roosevelt Jr., Simon Rosenberg, Margaret Simms, and Katrina vanden Heuvel.

It's free, and you can read all about it here.

I will also be speaking at the Scarsdale, New York, library on Thursday evening at 8 or so, talking about you-know-what.

George Zornick writes: You may be familiar with the unofficial boycott of Iraq on ABC's Nightline, a pretty good news program that's covering topics ranging from teens laboring in Bolivian mines to steroids in baseball, but which never seems to have time for segments on the ongoing conflict. As Eric Boehlert wrote last week:

Last November, I noted that ABC's Nightline, its long-running signature news program, had essentially boycotted Iraq as a news story. I found that over an 18-week span, from mid-July through late November, Nightline aired approximately 230 separate news segments, only one of which was about events on the ground in Iraq. In the 17 weeks since then, Nightline has continued to look the other way, which means that over a nearly nine-month span, during which time more than 300 reports aired, Nightline has effectively ignored the war in Iraq as a news event.

Well, we see in The New York Times that the show's producers have caved to the pressure! By ... granting an hour-long interview to General David Petraeus and Ambassodor Ryan Crocker, on the Army's pre-set terms. The Army offered the Petraeus interview to all five major news networks based on "certain requirements," like having Crocker be part of the interview, and having it run for an entire hour, and "ABC best met our request," according to an official. The president of ABC News reportedly got directly involved; the interview will take up Tuesday night's hour of Nightline.

It is possible that the show's return to the subject of Iraq, instead of being an hour-long stage for Petraeus and Crocker to say whatever they want to say about Iraq without harassment from anti-war senators, will actually ask a lot of tough questions of the two commanders. But even if the best-case turns out to be true, let's hope Nightline quickly does even more Iraq segments in the coming weeks -- because, presumably by the Army's design, tomorrow's show won't have any time for real reporting on the deep troubles in Iraq, but rather will be taken up entirely by Petraeus and Crocker. It would a shame to wait another 35 weeks for that reporting ...

We noted yesterday that now the Justice Department is suing News Corp. for refusing to pay $56,000 in FCC-imposed fines for scenes in the show Married by America; the offensive segments include the "thrusting of a male stripper's crotch into a woman's face." We noted previously that there were only three unique complaints about the show.

Just to give a little context to how arbitrary and ultimately misguided these fines are, here is what I saw on a Cops 20th anniversary show at 8 p.m. this past Saturday night, in no particular order: two suspects getting shot by police officers; one apparently calm man shot and repeatedly shocked with a stun gun; one man already on the ground being whacked with a billy club as if the officer were digging a ditch; and one obese, deranged housewife who threatened police officers with a butcher knife, and was subsequently drilled to the ground by a cop, thereby installing said knife handle-deep into her bloody abdomen. Somehow these gleeful expressions of police violence are OK with the FCC (this show already ran once in September and there were no fines), but not, for the love of god ... thrusting!

On the topic of the raging debate over the veracity of Hillary Clinton's health care horror story, about a pregnant woman being turned away from a hospital because of a lack of insurance and later dying, Trudy Lieberman at CJR writes: "Beyond candidate stumbles, we would like to see news outlets find the real health care stories and problems that are out there -- there are so many -- and then ask a better question: How would each candidate's plan change the stories?"

That seems like exactly the right point. This is a clear case where discussing a candidate's policies is needed, instead of horse-race hysteria. It's true that candidates should always be truthful and be called on it when they're not, but the commotion over this incident seems out-sized. Does anyone actually challenge her underlying point, that thousands of people in America die every year because they don't have access to health care? Shouldn't we be talking about that? Hillary's missteps in telling the story were perhaps an issue of shoddy staff work, but she certainly wasn't foisting a fundamental untruth on the American public.

From TomDispatch:

Seymour Hersh has called Patrick Cockburn, who writes for the British paper, The Independent, "quite simply, the best Western journalist at work in Iraq today." It's hard to disagree with that. In a war of reportorial embedment, he's been a unilateral, an almost recklessly, daringly free agent.

As you watch General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker go through their paces today and tomorrow, don't imagine them alone at that table in front of a Senate committee. There's a ghostly figure beside them, that "hot-headed" "radical cleric," Muqtada al-Sadr, who has made a mockery of their plans for a pacified Iraq. For those of us who don't know enough about that shadowy figure, Patrick Cockburn is, at this second, riding to the rescue. When it comes to timing, you couldn't ask for better. His book on Sadr, Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq, is being published this very day as the cleric fights for news space with the general.

As with so much else in these last years in Iraq, Cockburn was taking Sadr's true measure while others, including actual hot-headed figures like that Bush administration viceroy in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer III, continued to look elsewhere or radically underestimate him. Thanks to Cockburn's publisher, Scribner, Tomdispatch has posted the last chapter of Cockburn's book -- a brilliant assessment of both Muqtada and the Americans.

Cockburn concludes:

The al-Sadr family has an extraordinary record of resistance to Saddam Hussein, for which they paid a heavy price. One of the gravest errors in Iraq by the United States was to try to marginalize Muqtada and his movement. Had he been part of the political process from the beginning, the chances of creating a peaceful, prosperous Iraq would have been greater.


The war in Iraq has gone on longer than World War I and, while violence diminished in the second half of 2007, nothing has been resolved. The differences between Shia and Sunni, the disputes within the respective communities, and the antagonism against the U.S. occupation are all as great as ever. The only way the Sadrists and the Mehdi Army could create confidence among the Sunni that Muqtada meant what he said when he called for unity, would be for them to be taken back voluntarily into the areas in Baghdad and elsewhere from which they have been driven. But there is no sign of this happening. The disintegration of Iraq has probably gone too far for the country to exist as anything more than a loose federation.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: BC
Hometown: Helena MT

As McCain delivers his unctuous defense for voting against Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday as being that he had not "studied the issue," why has no one raised the point that McCain is contemporaneous with King - only 6 or 7 years younger? He was 18 or 19 during the Montgomery Boycott in 1955, 26 or 27 during the March on Washington in 1963, 27 or 28 during the Nobel Peace Prize award in 1964, and 32 or 33 in 1968, when King was assassinated. He didn't spend all that time in Hanoi.

Eric replies: How dare you criticize a war hero. Why do you hate America?

Name: Dr. John Orman
Hometown: Fairfield University

Thanks for Why We're Liberals. Well done. Loved it. I am the guy who ran against Joe Lieberman in 2005 as the anti-Iraq war candidate for U.S. Senate in Connecticut and then Ned Lamont came in after I ran out of money and he did the job. I then took over Joe's fake party Connecticut for Lieberman after the 2006 election and turned it into an anti-Lieberman party. My favorite books of yours are When Presidents Lie, What Liberal Media? and the one on pundits. Keep up the good work so I have some things to use in my pop culture classes.

Name: Justin
Hometown: Chicago

Hi Eric,

I'm not defending CORE at all, but when you say that you prefer organizations that "promote the class interests of all poor Americans than those that purposely divide us on the basis of race" I have to respond by pointing out that, though some of the reasons for our disproportionate poverty and suffering might overlap with other groups, many of the reasons are separate and distinct and race-specific ideas and measures are needed to address them.

Eric replies: Well, yes, of course, which is why I allowed for the fact that my position might not be ultimately the correct one. It's not an easy call, but it's one to which I've given a lot of thought and weighed considerable evidence. I discuss it at some length in Why We're Liberals.

Name: gmoke
Hometown: Cambridge, MA

You might be interested in the Dream Reborn conference that just happened in Memphis. It seems to have been put together by Van Jones of Green For All and included speakers like Majora Carter of Sustainable South Bronx and Paul Hawken and Winona LaDuke and many others.

As you probably know, Van Jones has been talking green jobs in the inner city as a way to build a new economy for "Pookie from the corner." He is a fine speaker but this effort is a plan rather than action at this particular time.

However, it may be one of the groups that you are looking for which talk more about class than divide us by race, the civil rights of a job and a healthy environment.

Eric replies: Seconded, particularly with regard to Mr. Jones.

Name: Bill
Hometown: New York

Uh, Met?

Actually I've been an East Sider for 10 years and it's always a great pleasure and relief to visit your neighborhood with its wide sidewalks and relaxed people. All the joyless, calcified old money over here is really tiresome.

Eric replies: And dude, the Met is like, barely on the East Side at all ...

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