Check ignition and may God's love be with you ...

We've got a new “Think Again” column here called “The End of Network News?”

I almost never listen to the radio and so, therefore, I don't listen to Air America. Without having an opinion about her show, therefore, I simply cannot imagine what moral principle could be at stake in Randi Rhodes' refusing to apologize for calling both Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro “big fucking whore[s]” in public in an event in which she was affiliated with her employer. It is quite obviously a stupid and ultimately indefensible thing to say in public and as a representative of any corporation. If Rhodes wanted to write an essay comparing the Clinton campaign to prostitution, or something, there would be something to discuss here. But merely refusing to apologize when you are obviously wrong is hardly a principle worth protecting. That said, two other comments:

1) Sam Seder is best thing I ever do hear on the radio when I do hear it, which is never, except when I'm on it, but I'm a big fan of Sam's and think Air America needs to smarten up quite a bit and Sam is clearly the best option for that. (People tell me Rachel Maddow is also terrific, and so that's worth mentioning.)

2) Speaking of Air America, I was invited to tape a Radio Nation interview yesterday with Laura Flanders. Laura is the niece of Alexander Cockburn (as she herself mentions during the course of the interview), but in accepting the invitation, I expected her to be civil and honest, at least in her discussion of Why We're Liberals. Instead she was intensely hostile, misrepresented my work, and called me names. It's rather unpleasant to have to write about this, because it was not the fault of anyone at The Nation, which invited me and which very much discourages attacks by one staff member or columnist on another -- and Laura, I am assured, gave no one any advance warning that she was planning to do this -- and I obviously would not have accepted their invitation to do the show had I known what she had in store for me. (I have refused all requests from Limbaugh/O'Reilly types on the right and have no desire to engage with those who will predictably misrepresent my work and descend into personal abuse.) But as I said, I was surprised and ambushed, and having made that fact clear, I'm a big boy and can take care of myself and have no problem with anyone listening to the segment when it is broadcast this weekend and drawing their own conclusions. I don't know exactly when the program airs, though.

From Eric Boehlert: “Did Obama fib to ABC's Jake Tapper about sneaking a smoke? I have no idea. Does it matter in terms of Obama's White House run? I can't imagine how it would. But Tapper thought it was all a Very Big Deal. Read more here."

From TomDispatch:

Tom Engelhardt offers “9 propositions on the U.S. air war for terror,” starting with “the farther away you are from the ground, the clearer things are likely to look, the more god-like you are likely to feel, the less human those you attack are likely to be to you.” What he describes through those nine propositions is the sort of long-term War on Terror disaster from the air that we are already witnessing on the ground. His ninth is this: “U.S. air power has, in the last six and a half years, been an effective force in a war for terror, not against it.”

Force creates counterforce and, Engelhardt suggests, “the application of force, especially from the air, is a reliable engine for the creation of enemies. It is a force multiplier (and not just for U.S. forces either). Every time an air strike is called in anywhere on the planet, anyone who orders it should automatically assume that left in its wake will be grieving, angry husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, relatives, friends -- people vowing revenge, a pool of potential candidates filled with the anger of genuine injustice. From the point of view of your actual enemies, you can't bomb, missile, and strafe often enough, because when you do so, you are more or less guaranteed to create their newest recruits.”

He then shows, from obscure news reports (though from reliable news agencies), that the U.S. air war in Iraq (and Afghanistan) just in recent weeks has been regularly killing civilians “by mistake” ; that these mistakes have been repeated so regularly, week after week, month after month as to be the heart of American-style air war.

The effects of sudden, unexpected death from the air should be familiar to Americans. After all, as he points out, “after 9/11, Americans, from the President on down, spent months, if not years in mourning, performing rites of remembrance, and swearing revenge against those who had done this to us. Do we not imagine that others, even when the spotlight isn't on them, react similarly? Do we not think that they, too, are capable of swearing revenge and acting accordingly?”

This week on Moyers:

As food prices go sky high and millions go hungry in America, why are tax dollars being spent on farmers who don't farm? Bill Moyers Journal teams up with the PBS series Exposé: America's Investigative Reports to follow the trail of Washington Post reporters who uncovered more than $15 billion in “wasteful, unnecessary, or redundant expenditures” that have flowed from Washington to America's farmers. The broadcast also looks at shortages at America's food banks; and Bill Moyers talks with David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, about challenges of combating hunger and the new farm bill being negotiated in Congress.

Slacker Friday:

Name: Ian
Hometown: Los Angeles

When faced with a story like that of Rick Rescorla, it's hard to know what to say or how to respond. Rescorla was a soldier's soldier. He did was he was ordered to do, and he did it to the best of his ability. He was for the men but he was also for the mission. That's what I draw from LTC Bateman's moving tale. But every soldier depends on their civilian commanders to make the right decision in committing those soldiers to war.

We do not have such civilian commanders in charge. The current civilian commanders are liars. Of that there is no question. They are probably criminals under U.S. law. They are probably war criminals under international law. I hope we find out. So all soldiers are in a tough spot. If they tell the truth about what's really going over there they are insubordinate (Shinseki; Fallon), subject to forced retirement. And if they act against their orders well that brings us to mutiny, and as we've seen in so many other countries, when you set loose the military against the government -- even when it's for a righteous cause -- you end up with regime change. You end up with military leaders who are slow to relinquish their new power. (Can you spell Musharraf?) The military cannot get us out of this mess. Only the authorities who brought us in can bring us out. That leaves the job to the next president and the next congress. That means that in the next year a lot more people are going to die who didn't have to die. And that's a tragedy as big as the death of Rick Rescorla, doing his job.

Name: Tim Dukes
Hometown: Austin, TX

A amazing piece, LTC Bateman! A picture of a true warrior (as opposed to warmonger). You would think the Morgan Stanley guys who literally owed their lives to him would do something to enshrine his memory. I'm not holding my breath here.

Name: Darren Franzen
Hometown: Arlington Heights, IL

Back in May LTC Bateman told us about corridor three at the Pentagon and the Friday ritual more people should be aware of...

I just set a calendar entry for Fridays, and I'll be remembering Col. Rescorla, too.

I don't know how to thank LTC Bateman for the insight, or Dr. Alterman for introducing him to me. Namaste, gentlemen!

Name: Chuck
Hometown: Kansas City

I don't know what to make of Col. Bob's essay and comments, but I think that probably was the idea.

Even though he feels Gen. Petraeus is only doing his job, and might even think he would just be replaced by someone else if he refused, as so many others have, I don't see the connection between the Petraeus/Crocker report and 9/11 or his friend Rick Rescorla's heroism, whether in Vietnam or the World Trade Center.

I will say if we had many more Rick Rescorlas in the upper ranks of the military or other positions in this Administration, we wouldn't have to worry about the war in Iraq, since we would have either focused on those who attacked us on 9/11, or would have ended the war much earlier than year 5.

A totally different question I've been meaning to ask -- how is it the John Yoos and Douglas Feiths get prestigious jobs at some of our leading universities? Could someone hire Matthew Diaz to balance this out?

Name: Lee Kellogg
Hometown: Dayton, OH

Hi again from BDO,

Maybe you can clear something up for me. The proud war-fighters on the talktalktalk space keep saying Iraq will be just fine if we can make it like South Korea. It seems like those South Koreans are never going to stand up for themselves, control their own borders, and stand tall among nations. Seems to me we ought to be able to get the hell out of there by now. Why would we want to send soldiers and dollars to prop up two impotent governments? Let's prop up some country that can defend itself. I propose we invade Scotland. They still like Americans so we won't have to fight. Then we give them money, get to play lots of golf (not all courses cost a congressional bribe), meet some great folks, and not worry about any evil-doers. The Vikings and the English will leave us all alone. How the hell did the Korean situation become the paradigm for American international diplomacy?

Name: Kevin Downing
Hometown: Littleton, Colorado

First you harp on New York being the greatest city in the world. Then you argue over which half of Manhattan is the greatest half an island in the world. Any day now I expect to read an Altercation in which you proclaim a particular city block -- maybe even apartment building -- is the Center of the Known Universe.

We GET it. New York City is amazing. It's unique. But you're beginning to sound like an old retired farmer in the midwest (of whom I know a few) who looks out over the back forty and proclaims it “God's Country.” Sheesh.

Reading Why We're Liberals. So far, it's great. I'm recommending it to my friends, liberals and conservatives alike.

Eric replies: And it was written on the Upper West Side ...

Name: Don Cybelle
Hometown: Rochester, NY

Hi, The Gay and Lesbian mag The Advocate has been leaning more and more right for a while now (exhibit A is the recent issue offering a slimy cover story asking gays 'Are We to Blame' in the murder of Lawrence King, a young boy who was killed by a schoolmate for, among other horrors, wearing lipstick; the same issue featured a page long editorial rambling on about what a great president John McCain would make, without mentioning even once McCain's embrace of major anti-gay figures like Rev. Hagee; and elsewhere in the issue gave us a long excerpt from a book where the author, quote, “argues the [same-sex] marriage movement needs to be taken down a peg-- and fast.” ) So I'm surprised -- but not that surprised -- to find the following on today, in an editorial by James Kirchick entitled “Liberals and Their Invisible Homophobia,” which attempts to prove that liberals who say the occasional stupid thing are as bad as conservatives who, like, you know, only do minor stuff like passing specific anti-gay legislation and using anti-gay rhetoric as a continual platform to get elected. Here's Kirchick:

The liberal journalist Eric Alterman, a columnist for The Nation and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress think tank, is a particularly nasty example of the liberal homophobe. Two years ago he challenged gay, HIV-positive journalist Andrew Sullivan to prove a claim Sullivan had made about Alterman regarding military action in Afghanistan, offering to pay "$10,000 to the AIDS charity of Sullivan's choice." He mocked Sullivan, “who is HIV positive and likes to discuss this fact with reporters,” for his “remodeled bathroom in P-town.” Alterman regularly refers to Sullivan as “little Roy,” after Roy Cohn, the gay aide to Sen. Joe McCarthy who died of AIDS complications. Following Ann Coulter's labeling Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards a “faggot” in 2007, Alterman said, “Look, the word 'faggot' ... is a word one hears in private conversation quite frequently; she just said it in public.” Makes one wonder what sort of company Alterman keeps.

Well, allow me to say I keep the company of Eric Alterman, at least as far as a longtime reader of his actual work (and occasional letter writer to Altercation), and, as a gay man, I can easily say that Mr. Kirchick is slanted and selective to the point of lunacy. What Kirchick fails to mention is that calling folks like Sullivan on their hypocrisy doesn't make one anti-gay -- it's in a long tradition extending back at least to early disgust with Roy Cohn, who's seen as kind of a hypocritical monster to many gays. Embracing the party that most represses us, while partying it up in private, like both Sullivan and Cohn did? Yeah, if Eric is homophobic, then I guess so is Tony Kushner.

Altercation has featured a lot of thoughtful posts, letters, and debates on gay issues over the years, so it's infuriating to see Kirchick go fishing and pull out unflattering sections of a quote or two that try and make Eric look like some raving homophobe. Of course, Kirchick doesn't just name straight folks like Eric as homophobes. He goes on to attack the “homophobia” of gay writers like Richard Goldstein for “castigating any gay person to his right as a sell-out.”

So, let's sum up Kirchick: if you consider right-wing gays to be great big hypocritical sellouts, you're a homophobe. Gotcha. I guess then, as a gay man, that makes me a gigantic homophobe, right alongside of Eric.