Slacker Friday


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."

Oh, and the talk I gave at Google is here. And there's a podcast (I think) of the entire "Future of News" conference organized by Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy available too, here. The panel I did was called "Economics of News," but you may find something else interesting. I did a longer talk on the topic yesterday to the Canadian Media Research Consortium in Toronto -- a beautiful city, by the way, but with too much construction going on -- but I don't know if anything will be made available.

From TomDispatch:

In a recent speech, presidential candidate Sen. John McCain gave Americans something precious to look forward to: victory in Iraq by January 2013, a mere four and a half years into the distant future. In fact, "the greatest critic of the initial four years" of the war has given Americans so many things to look forward to when it comes to Iraq -- and he's been doing so for years.

Fortunately, TomDispatch had two experts on this (and many other) subjects lurking in the wings: Christopher Cerf and former Nation editor and publisher Victor Navasky, respectively, CEO and president of the Institute of Expertology. They have recently produced a rollicking ride through Bush administration expertise -- a book entitled Mission Accomplished!, a compendium of the quotes that launched a thousand ships and that you simply can't believe anyone actually said. It seemed the right moment to let them loose on the McCain record on Iraq.

In their post, "McCain (Mis)Speaks," they offer us a range of classic McCain statements: "I believe ... that the Iraqi people will greet us as liberators" (2003); "This conflict is ... going to be relatively short" (2003); "Only the most deluded of us could doubt the necessity of this war" (2004); and the range of times that the senator definitively predicted that "the next three to six months will be critical."

In fairness to the senator, they contextualize his comments, surrounding them with such illuminating companions as Douglas Feith's "This month will be a political turning point for Iraq" (July 7, 2003), and President Bush's "A turning point will come two weeks from today" (June 16, 2004).

Alter-review: R.E.M.'s Accelerate by Sal

As much as I liked the underappreciated Around The Sun, I swore I'd never buy another R.E.M. album again. That's how much I disliked Monster, New Adventures in Hi-Fi (is that even the name of it?), Up, and Reveal -- the dismal four-pack that followed two of the best albums of the '90s, Out Of Time and Automatic for the People. But, I must admit, hearing bits and pieces of the recently released Accelerate weeks before its release intrigued me. So I bought it. (I am one of the 46 people who still like buying CDs.) Accelerate is darn good!

It may be a little too late for R.E.M., but Accelerate has everything that has been missing from the band's output over the last decade: short, fat, hooky rock songs. The opener, "Living Well Is The Best Revenge," and the closer, "I'm Gonna DJ," are the two weakest tracks, sounding too desperately like R.E.M. wanting to sound like R.E.M. But the meat and potatoes are really satisfying. "Man-Sized Wreath" and "Supernatural Superserious" rival anything from their masterpiece, Life's Rich Pageant. And my favorite track, "Mr. Richards," sounds a bit like what I imagine The Beatles would have sounded like if they were from Seattle circa 1991 instead of Liverpool circa 1963. More information is available here.

--Sal Nunziato
"Momofuku-ing since 1964"

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:

"J'suis the Grand Zombie, the yellow belt of choison/Ain't afraid of no tom cat, fill my brain with poison." Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "New Orleans Waltz" (Grayson Capps) -- Once again, I have failed to engage my vast legions of mindless minions to inundate Dick Morris with emails, phone calls, and thought beams until he surrenders, paints himself gold and purple, and sashays down Rampart Street in a big old hat, waving a parasol, and telling everyone he meets how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: HBO's Recount is so good that it's over-the-top infuriating. The casting's impeccable. (Big ups, as the kidz say, to Tom Wilkinson's Jim Baker and to Worcester's own Denis Leary.) The emotional wallop of the film, of course, has less to do with the actual production, and far more to do with the seven-year Festival Of Fruitcakes that ensued after the events depicted therein occurred. For me, the key moment comes when Wilkinson's Baker purrs to his staff, "I think it's time for our supporters to start exercising their First Amendment rights." Pure poisoned honey. Leave it to Democrats to bring a flounder to a gunfight.

Part The Second: KO, you know I love you, but the "Special Comment" club is coming out of the bag a little too often these days. They've bordered on performance art for a while now, but, seriously, the one about the HRC/RFK kerfuffle reads like Great Aunt Maudie wrote it five minutes after seeing a spider on the chifforobe. "The politics of this nation are steeped enough in blood, Senator Clinton, you cannot and must note invoke that imagery!" Well, melodramatic thunderation always settles things for me (I weep for my nation whenever I'm reminded that somebody ventilated James Garfield.) This kind of graceless mopery is why the Lord created good whiskey and cold showers.

Part The Third: WWII vets don't take no guff from chicken hawks. Brother Gilbert seems dopey enough to have a show on CNN any day now.

Part The Fourth: R.I.P., Sydney Pollack. "A guy named Les asked you to marry him?" His greatest moment from a great romantic comedy, regardless of what elite liberal opinion-makers may believe.

Part The Last: Why aren't invertebrates like these guys ever at my poker table? I swear, you could steal the Dunkin' Donuts guy's car by email.

As soon as the excerpts from Watching Scotty Grow: The White House Years started floating around, I had an evil feeling that most of the stuff he wrote about the essential duplicity of his former boss would probably get drowned out in the public discourse by the howls of the press people whom he accused of not having done their duty by the country during the run-up to C-Plus Augustus' excellent adventure. Sure enough, we're hearing more defensive caterwauling from the likes of Charlie Gibson and David Gregory. This comes not long after Bob Woodward tut-tutted the work of the McClatchy Washington bureau, which told the truth while Woodward was holding Colin Powell's coat. Anyway, a lot of this seems to center on the difference between "questioning" the president and "debating" him, something that Gibson and Gregory both seem to set great store by in constructing their respective alibis. Apparently, "Some people say you're lying your ass off, sir," is "questioning" the president, while "The IAEA has documentation that rather proves you're lying your ass off, sir," is "debating" him. It is interesting that all of the outcry from our injured darlings concerns the events leading up to the Iraq war. None of them are touching McClellan's revelations regarding the Valerie Plame affair, in the course of which Tim Russert (the Washington bureau chief of Gregory's network) testified under oath that, when a government official talks to him, Russert presumes the conversation is off the record. (Fire him yesterday.) According to the book, Karl Rove was, ah, rather more intimately involved in this high-level ratf**king than he has previously acknowledged. You remember Karl Rove, right? He and David Gregory once worked the vaudeville circuit together. Just shut up and take your medicine, the lot of you.

P.S. -- OK, I watched a lot of Scotty Across The Cable last night. (Geez, KO, get a room, will you?) It took me about that long to decide that he is indeed the oleaginous little weasel he always was, except now he's telling a bit of the truth. What convinced me not to be convinced is this notion he's floating that he came to Washington believing that "the president" intended to govern in a bipartisan, responsible fashion, and then it all went sour. This, of course, is complete horse hockey, unless Scotty was drunk for the first six months of the administration. Hell, one of its very first acts was to put out slanderous fictions about how the Clintons and their staffers trashed the White House on their way out the door. (Probably to divert attention from all those people in the street who'd still not "gotten over" how the Avignon Presidency was installed in the first place.) This forced a damn GAO report, for pity's sake, and that report made the entire White House communications staff out to be a bunch of bumbling poolroom liars right from jump. And, assuming he had the brains God gave the average andiron, Scotty had to know from considerable experience in Texas that the appointment of a Gaboon viper like Karl Rove as deputy White House chief of staff meant a lot of things, but that a commitment to bipartisan, good government probably was not one of them. Please to be giving me a freaking break here.

Name: Richard Taylor
Hometown: San Antonio

Thanks for your perspective on Dunkin' Donuts caving in to the ravings of Malkin. I am not currently living where they are available but have often enjoyed Dunkin' Donuts when living in areas where they are available. No longer, though. I refuse to subsidize a level of cowardice displayed by their management in caving so rapidly to the lunacy.

Stupidity and timidity are not to be rewarded.

Name: Ali Hakim
Hometown: Dearborn, MI

I join in your outrage over Dunkin' Donuts pulling an ad because a right-wing nut saw a "terrorist" scarf in the ad. Did I miss the memo saying that we have left the United States and entered the Twilight Zone? Or perhaps one of Bush's secret laws has suspended the First Amendment? In any event, the first day of the Obama administration can't possible come soon enough.

Name: Paul Rabin
Hometown: West Village/Pawling, NY

Dr. A,

I urge all those who read your blog to do what I did.

I went here and let them know that when I see someone drinking their coffee or eating their doughnuts (two vile products, in my opinion) I will ask them why they support a prejudiced, bigoted corporation.

I asked them what they had to fear from a scarf. I haven't heard back from them.

Name: Jimmy Jagiello
Hometown: Des Moines, Iowa


What's so unusual about Rachel Ray wearing a Muslim scarf? I happen to know for a fact that many people in America have Al Qaeda ties.

Name: Don MacGregor
Hometown: Enon, Ohio

Air America's Lionel commented that Malkin should have gone beyond simply condemning the scarf ... she should also have condemned Ringo Starr, because while the scarf simple resembled something Arabic, Ringo actually looks like Arafat.

Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC

Mr. Alterman,

It is always amazing to watch how the media allows itself to be pushed around by the right wing. Here we have this new book that really doesn't have anything to say that hasn't been completely obvious to anyone bothering to pay attention (which, granted, does not include most in the media). But the difference is it is being said from someone who was inside. Yet the story isn't analyzing exactly what McClellan writes. Rather, it has become, and will stay, why did he do it, and what does the Bush administration, with a deserved reputation for slandering those who attack it, think about this person?

Who cares what the Bush administration or anyone else thinks about why he did it. Let's talk about what he wrote in the book.

Of course that won't happen, because for the media to honestly analyze what is in the book, they would have to honestly analyze their shameful performance in covering the media. And as evidenced by Charlie Gibson's steadfast denials that he did anything wrong in covering the war, the media just is not going to ever do that.

Name: RuthAlice Anderson
Hometown: Portland, OR

Funny how much I have to say about a book I have not read.

1) Where are the people who resign rather than participate in corrupt activities? Mea culpas afterwards might get McClellan a pat on the back from some bloggers, but no pass from me.

2) Why on Earth is Karl Rove commenting as a political pundit on McClellan's book as though he were not completely compromised by it? Every time I think cable news has found a new level of incestuous conflict of interest, they sink still lower.

3) Carlson and Rove find it improbable he could string those sentences together yet he was responsible for the administration's message on a daily basic for years? So what are they saying, that Bush so loves to hire incompetents that he stuck with McClellan?

Name: Brian Donohue

Eric B's discussion of the Kennedy pre-war speech is more timely than even he may think, because it teaches us how to properly receive something like the revelations of a tell-all former press secretary. In my world, the foresight, deep inquiry, and insight that Kennedy demonstrated nearly six years ago is worth far more than the perfect hindsight that Scotty has finally revealed.

We're entering a time when we will require a far more intellectually agile and responsive government, from the Oval Office to the Briefing Room. That's why I want to see Alterman at that podium after Obama wins. Or, if the new prez would rather have a babe out there, Arianna or the pretty Dutch lady that runs The Nation magazine would do, too.

Name: Beth Harrison
Hometown: Arlington, VA

Eric, I've got a one-word summary for Scottie's book: DUH!

Name: Chris Martin
Hometown: Decatur, GA

Regarding the case of the missing scandal, I think you'll be happy to know that at least NPR covered it on All Things Considered and placed it on their Story of the Day podcast on Wednesday, May 7.

Name: Ken
Hometown: Lenexa, KS

Obama got my vote wrapped up by stating clearly that he would have all of Bush's executive orders reviewed. I have been waiting for SOMEONE to talk about that. The current administration has made a shambles of our constitution.

Name: Mark D
Hometown: Chicago

Doc, I concur with your recommendation of Toobin's profile of the Nixon-loving, GOP sleazemeister Roger Stone. I read it through dinner, despite the possibility of indigestion. The beauty of it is that Toobin allows his subject, Stone, to demonstrate precisely what an immoral bastard he is. Showing, not telling. It's what it's about.

Name: Barbara C.
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, FL


The complicity in the MSM was astonishing in the days leading up to "Shock and Awe". I want to know from anyone how historians will judge this president and his very loyal staff. If there is another 8 years of neo-cons ... (McCain), will there even be books left to read by the time that horrible administration would be finished? I shudder to think about it ...

Keep up the good work you do.

Name: Ed
Hometown: Scarsdale


At the risk of turning your blog into Mets central, I need to respond to Andrew.

Reyes put up in 2006 (at the age of 23) stats that surpassed those of the MVP of the NL last year (who was 27 at the time).

Young players do tend to make mistakes. As do veterans. Like Derek Jeter, who got picked off second base the other night, and then made another base running gaffe later in the game.

As for mailing it in all too frequently, I suggest Andrew look at Jose's stats for the month of May and then rethink his opinion.

Maybe the expectations of perfection are the problem.

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