You've got to be taught to hate and fear ...


We've got a new Think Again, called "The Case of the Missing Scandal," and I think it's worth looking at, since it's something I had not even heard of until George brought it to my attention. And my new Nation column is called "Say it Ain't So, Joe."

Yet another conflict of interest for Howard Kurtz? I didn't realize such a thing was mathematically possible. Kurtz's tenure at the Post is one of the blackest spots on the legacy of Len Downie as he goes off into the night. No way Ben Bradlee would have stood for it.

Every once in a while I read a story that makes me wonder whether democracy in America is possible or even desirable. I read one of those yesterday, headlined "Rachael Ray ad pulled as pundit sees terror link: Malkin claimed scarf similar to those worn by murderous Islamic extremists." Here. reported that "Dunkin' Donuts pulled a television spot featuring talk show host and Food Network personality Rachael Ray this weekend after a Fox news commentator associated it with terrorists. In the ad, Ray is wearing a scarf that Michelle Malkin said in her nationally syndicated column resembled a kiffiyeh, Middle Eastern garb that is 'popularized by Yasser Arafat and a regular adornment of Muslim terrorists appearing in beheading and hostage-taking videos.' " While Dunkin's Senior Vice President for Communications, Margie Myers, "issued a statement saying the scarf 'was selected by a stylist for the advertising shoot. Absolutely no symbolism was intended,' " Dunkin' Donuts pulled the commercial "because the possibility of misperception detracted from its original intention to promote our iced coffee."

In her column, Malkin further insisted that "actor Colin Farrell, rapper Kanye West and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean have been photographed in similar scarves that were 'distinctive hate couture.' "

I'm sorry, but this woman is a racist and possibly an idiot. And Dunkin' Donuts is apparently run by people who are cowards and who believe that Americans are also racist and idiots. There are Dunkin' Donuts sprouting like weeds in my neighborhood. I am henceforth boycotting all of them. And it won't even be difficult to explain to my 10-year-old why. She knows we don't patronize racists, even if we like their food. (The coffee bites, by the way.)

This just in: Remember when ABC held a debate at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia and didn't ask a single question about the Constitution?

Barack Obama is not waiting to be asked. "During a fund-raiser in Denver, Obama -- a former constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago Law School -- was asked what he hoped to accomplish during his first 100 days in office.

"I would call my attorney general in and review every single executive order issued by George Bush and overturn those laws or executive decisions that I feel violate the constitution," said Obama." Here.

Quote of the Day: CNN's Jessica Yellin: "The press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war presented in way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings," Yellin said.

"And my own experience at the White House was that the higher the president's approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives -- and I was not at this network at the time -- but the more pressure I had from news executives to put on positive stories about the president, I think over time ...."

It pains me, albeit only slightly, to say this, but everybody needs to read Jeffrey Toobin's absolutely wonderful and brilliantly done profile of Roger Stone this week, here. It's really a masterpiece of the genre and contains lots of information all political journalists need to know. I'm putting it on my syllabus for the "Journalism of Ideas" course. Here's a snippet:

McCain's route to victory, Stone believes, is a Nixonian slash-and-burn campaign against Barack Obama, the likely Democratic nominee. "Obama and his wife are élitists and they're weak," Stone told me. "They don't share middle-class values. Middle-class Americans are proud of their country, and they are not. He thinks he's going to sit down with Iran and Hamas. How do you know he's not going to shake hands with a suicide bomber? You can't sit down with people who don't want to sit down. All he's going to do is raise taxes, which is going to give the government more money but it's not going to create any jobs." Stone added, "McCain himself should not run a slash-and-burn campaign, but a slash-and-burn campaign will have to be run by others." ... "Remember," Stone said. "Politics is not about uniting people. It's about dividing people. And getting your fifty-one per cent."

The following is the beginning of Bernie Avishai's blog post called "Connect The Dots # 6: Tell Me Who Your Friends...

One. From Jodi Kantor's Page One article in the New York Times, entitled "As Obama Heads to Florida, Many of Its Jews Have Doubts":

"Novel and exotic rumors about Mr. Obama have flourished. Among many older Jews, and some younger ones, as well, he has become a conduit for Jewish anxiety about Israel, Iran, anti-Semitism and race... Mr. Obama might fill his administration with followers of Louis Farrakhan, worried Sherry Ziegler."

Two. Rumors? American Jews not related to Sherry Ziegler, but who have a worried cousin with access to a "forward" button, will have received an email link last February to a column written by Jerusalem-based novelist Naomi Ragen:

"If I had a Rabbi, for example, who publicly supported and honored a despicable racist, I'd change shuls. Mr. Obama's distancing himself [from Louis Farrakhan] , even during a political campaign, has not included either changing churches or spiritual leaders. In light of this, the fact that Mr. Obama's father and step-father were both Muslim, and that he spent part of his childhood in a Muslim school in Indonesia perhaps should begin to concern us."

Three. If I had a Rabbi who...? From another Naomi Ragen column, written for Arutz Sheva, the West Bank settlers' media site, on the March 23, 2006; Ragen was ruminating on the approaching Israeli election:

"The coalition of the National Religious Party and the National Union, with Effie Eitam, whom I deeply respect..."

Four. The words of Effie Eitam, whom Ragen "deeply respects":

"We will have to do three things: Expel most of the Judea and Samaria Arabs from here... We will have to make another decision, to remove the Israeli Arabs from the political system. Also here things are clear and simple: We have raised a fifth column, a group of traitors of the first degree, and therefore we cannot continue to approve such a hostile and great presence inside Israel's political system... The third thing: We will have to act differently than everything we have known so far opposite the Iranian threat. These are three things that will entail a change in our war ethics."

You can read the rest here.

From Eric Boehlert:

"This year, the press has treated Sen. Ted Kennedy as a singularly powerful figure in the Democratic Party and a commanding spokesman for the American left. Unfortunately, that hasn't always been the case. Just a few years ago, when Republicans were riding high on Iraq war fever and Democrats were seen as on the retreat politically, the press cavalierly snubbed Kennedy and his prophetic anti-war address." Read more here.

This Week on Moyers:

Bill Moyers interviews former talk show host Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro in this rebroadcast about the true cost of war and the documentary Body of War, depicting the moving story of one veteran dealing with the aftermath of war. With extensive excerpts from the film, the filmmakers talk about Iraq war veteran Tomas Young, who was shot and paralyzed less than a week into his tour of duty. Three years in the making, Body of War tells the poignant tale of the young man's journey from joining the service after 9-11 to fight in Afghanistan, to living with devastating wounds after being deployed to Iraq instead.


Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks -- Real Emotional Trash

Real Emotional Trash is the fourth "solo" LP from Stephen Malkmus and is out on Matador Records. (This one is credited with The Jicks, like Malkmus' second album, Pig Lib.) He is joined by drummer Janet Weiss, bassist Joanna Bolme, and guitar/keyboardist Mike Clark. I kinda like but don't love these guys. The guitar work is good. The lyrics are confusing. There's a sort of Deadhead vibe, but for some reason it feels more distant, less inviting. Still, it's pleasant and virtuosic. More information is available here.

The Best of Joy Division -- Rhino Records

On the 30-year anniversary of Joy Division's creation last year, Rhino Records reissued expanded collector's editions of the quartet's work. This year, Rhino is extending the commemoration by releasing a single-disc collection, The Best of Joy Division, 14 tracks that "distill the essence of the band's signature mix of shadow and beauty." It's a mix of singles, album tracks, and live recordings. More information is available here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: John Sherman
Hometown: Moorhead, MN

The combined sense of the Rove and Carlson quotes is that, in the Bush White House, rudimentary literacy requires a left-wing ghost writer.

Name: Barbara
Hometown: Portland, ME

So Scott McClellan acknowledges what the sane people of the world already knew -- that Bush is an incompetent on every level. Too bad it has come so late in his presidency. Of course, the headlines are about "misleading" on Iraq. How about the rest of it? That he is all that the "liberals" thought him to be: lacking in intellectual curiosity, fudging the facts to fit his warped constructs, under the control of the evil duo, Darth and Rover, and unable to synthesize information and facts to reach a reasonable conclusion. No one seems to be spending too much time on his criticism of the press and its lack of critical insight into the administration either. Sigh ... too little too late. Hopefully the Democrats can use this to their advantage -- although they don't seem to be able to capitalize on much right now.

Course, none of this is as important as Obama confusing two concentration camps -- now that requires more analysis than any of the plans put forward by ANY of the candidates to deal with anything of ANY importance to the American people.

The press just doesn't get it.

Name: Ken G
Hometown: Cherry Hill, NJ

As a follow up to the article you linked regarding the jump in PTSD cases, I feel compelled to add a little background, which, unfortunately, again shows our commander-in-chief to be either staggeringly clueless or frighteningly uncaring or, perhaps, both.

Studies during World War II determined that the average rifleman in combat maintained peak efficiency up to about 90 days of cumulative combat. Thereafter, efficiency decreased and ultimately, if not otherwise wounded, they became "psychiatric casualties" after 200 to 240 cumulative days in combat. Once they became "psychiatric casualties," soldiers could be treated and made useful again in rear echelon duties but they were rarely able to become effective combat rifle men again. It was further determined that "Rest and Recuperation" (R & R) could "stop the clock" on the cumulative days of combat, but it could not "turn back the clock." In other words, whether a rifleman served in combat for 240 consecutive days or for 240 single days with R & R in between, they were still likely to become psychiatric casualties. Interestingly, studies during the Vietnam War initially did not seem to support the figures calculated in World War II. However, further study determined that actually the figures from World War II were correct, but, since in Vietnam a soldier was invariably a target to insurgent snipers and mortar barrages and bombs whether on a search and destroy mission or at base camp or on R & R in Saigon, the "combat clock" continued to tick even during times that were seemingly non-combat. In others words, it is not the least bit shocking that most of the men who served as riflemen for a one-year tour in Vietnam suffered from some level of PTSD upon completion of their tour.

To be clear, these studies were performed by the U.S. military and are well-known among military historians and presumably within the military as well. In fact, I first learned about them during a sophomore-level college course in military history in the 1980s, and I have since seen them quoted in many other places (including, most recently, Rick Atkinson's "The Day of Battle," if anybody needs a reference). The point here is that Iraq is probably a lot more like Vietnam than the battlefields of World War II. In other words, whether on patrol or in combat or relaxing in one of the massive American base camps, our fighting men and women are probably battle-stressed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, while they are in Iraq. When you couple this with the fact that 240 days of cumulative combat invariably causes the average soldier to become a psychiatric casualty and our soldiers, in addition to serving multiple tours are currently serving 15-month tours, the only thing surprising to me (and to anybody with a rudimentary knowledge of military history) is that PTSD cases are not more widespread. Sadly, I suspect that they are ... or soon will be.

The only thing more disturbing is that our president and military went forward with "the surge" and the 15-month tours it required with full knowledge of this data and, thus, fully aware that most of the soldiers serving would suffer some level of PTSD as a result. Moreover they did this with a medical system they knew was wholly incapable of treating even a fraction of such cases.

Name: Andrew
Hometown: Pound Ridge, NY

Look, I am a Mets fan (or at least I am trying to be one these days), so this is not a Yankee/Met thing, but if you asked me, Jose Reyes is the most over-hyped New York shortstop, not Derek Jeter.

I could not believe the hype this kid came with. When he started, he showed no discipline at the plate, and although he has develop some since then, his on base percentage is still way too low for a lead-off hitter. He never looks like he is working the count, most often the pitcher is working him.

He has crappy instincts on the base paths (he gets picked off with regularity and, notwithstanding his speed, gets thrown out fairly regularly as well) and will at times steal when it is not the situation to steal (i.e., attempting to steal third with two outs).

He sometimes (way too much) loses focus and mails it in.

I will say he is an excellent fielder with a great arm, but offensively he's way overrated and it is only a matter of time before he starts screwing up his shoulder sliding headfirst.

Name: Peter Bartlett
Hometown: SF, CA

Thanks for showing a little appreciation for one of the best sportswriters around.

And that's no Jeteration.

Name: Dominic
Hometown: Springville, TN

Apparently, the animosity between Leisen and Charles Brackett didn't last forever. Brackett wrote the script for the 1946 Leisen film To Each His Own, a wonderful weepy with a touchingly beautiful and Oscar-winning performance by Olivia De Havilland, who ages decades in the film. Leisen was an extremely interesting director who was liked and admired by many actors, including Claudette Colbert, Ray Milland, Fred MacMurray, and -- especially -- Carole Lombard. His '30s films with Lombard, such as Hands Across the Table and Swing High, Swing Low (which I think is highly underrated), are unsung marvels. And of all the films that the great Preston Sturges wrote for other directors, the only two that he requested personal copies of were both directed by Leisen -- Remember the Night (another gem, with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, pre-Double Indemnity) and Easy Living. But the Mitchell Leisen film that I will always remember is Murder at the Vanities, a supremely bizarre musical made in 1932 before the Hayes Code was enforced, which I happened to see on the early movie in Chicago when I was a teenager. Most famous for introducing the song "Cocktail For Two," the film also featured a musical number with secretaries dancing on a giant typewriter while wearing see-through blouses and -- most hilarious and shocking in my early pot-smoking times -- Gertrude Michael singing "Sweet Marijuana" in front of a giant reefer plant. Man, I'd love to see that one again!

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