If the dollar bills are crisp

Folks, today's edition features Altercation regular Charles Pierce, as Eric continues his reporting work overseas. But first we'd like to direct you to the website of the Progressive Book Club (join, by the way) for two interviews with Eric -- one is a video, “Eric Alterman on Being Liberal and Proud of It,” and another is an audio interview on how liberals are closing the “God Gap.” Enjoy.

Charles Pierce, presumptive Altercation VP nominee, stopping by to altercate alternately while the Doc is off doing Secret Liberal Stuff. Unlike the previous occupant of this space, I promise not to compare myself to a confessed steroid sucker, nor to profane the memory of the actual second-best baseball player ever by attempting to usurp Willie's title on behalf of Madonna's (cough, hack) Kabbalah partner. If they do get together, I hope la Ciccone isn't expecting much action in October.

“I don't care if she wobbles like a duck or talks with a lisp/I still think I'm in good luck if the dollar bills are crisp.”

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: The House I Live In (Paul Robeson) -- Another week has passed, and I have failed to develop an ectoplasmic Bob Schieffer to tut-tut me about my failure to respect John McCain's lack of comment regarding how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: One of the first times I ever became aware of the redoubtable Bob Somerby was when he was dealing with this particular passel of dumbassery from our elite media. I mention this now only because John McCain, one of the two people most likely to be the next president of the United States, is seriously considering putting on his ticket a man who not only just signed into law a transparent bunco scheme, but also has written quite seriously of his adventures in casting out demons. Let me be quite plain. If you think your prayers cast out a demon, you are completely freaking nuts, and so is anyone who believes you did so. I know this may discomfit the Reach-Out-And-Touch-Someone Concern Troll Wing of the Obamacratic Party, but there is absolutely no response to this notion except raucous and continuous ridicule. I have an interesting, and eternally problematic, relationship with the church of my birth but, holy Mother of God, it occasionally does try to remove itself from weeping statues, insect galls shaped like the Savior's head, and other vestigial medieval nonsense. This person, to cite one example. If Hillary and Eleanor could be a fake story in the mainstream media for a couple weeks, shouldn't someone, somewhere, on my electric television set be talking about this real one?

Part The Second: This piece has an intriguing premise. Indeed, back in 1997, when I was interviewing John McCain for an Esquire profile, he said pretty much the same thing -- that, until he was shot down, he was having a pretty good Vietnam War for himself, hot food and clean sheets every night. (He even told me a funny story about how he once had to make an emergency landing and spend a night in-country. His first thought? “Get me back to my aircraft carrier.” ) Kaplan's thesis might also explain why Jim Webb and Chuck Hagel -- both former grunts -- have been conspicuously impatient with McCain, whom they both claimed as a friend.

Part The Third: I have only one question regarding this: Why? And quoting Mike Barnicle on anything pretty much means you've given up on, you know, ethics.

Part The Fourth: Here's a remarkable argument starter. I weep for my alma mater. Not only does The Boston Phoenix get Massachusetts wrong -- The Pixies over the J. Geils Band? Not in this dimension -- but this is the only best-of rock-and-roll list that I've ever seen that does not include, anywhere that I can find, the name of Elvis Presley.

Part The Fifth: Young Ezra Writes A Good Sentence Here -- “Liberals learn about conservatism from David Brooks, but conservatives learn conservatism from Rush.” As the kidz say, read it all.

Part The Sixth: Holy Jesus Windsurfing Christ, what in the hell is wrong with the superstars of public broadcasting these days? Ken Burns can't make movies fast enough to make up for this kind of abject twittery.

Part The Seventh: Recent public dissention notwithstanding, the Bateman/Pierce '08 ticket remains firm in our mutual resolve to appoint this fellow to the newly created Cabinet-level position of Secretary Of Kicking The Ass Of The People In Charge, Including Us. This is not negotiable.

Part The Last: This is my favorite new joint down by the docks of Blogistan. My favorite entry in Turley's CV is the fact that he fought a personal injury case on behalf of the folks who work at Area 51. Only the Earthlings, I presume.

In 1980, Dan Rather famously went to Afghanistan, where he wore the local clothing, and got roundly ridiculed by people who otherwise couldn't carry his shoes. Basically, he was arguing that the media ought to pay attention to places where people who wear funny clothes have taken to killing each other. Of course, since then, we have had to deal with important issues like Bill Clinton's love life, Al Gore and the Internet, John Kerry's windsurfing, John Edwards' hair, and, except for a brief period after 9/11, we forgot largely what Rather was trying to tell us. (Of course, the geniuses running the major media corporations find foreign news a drag, largely because of all those, you know, foreigners involved.)

Personally, I think he might have been onto something there.

From TomDispatch:

Considering a recent front-page New York Times story about no-bid service contracts that four oil majors were getting from the Iraqi Oil Ministry (with its embedded American advisers), Nick Turse comments: “As always happens when, for whatever reason, you come late to a major story and find yourself playing catch-up on the run, there are a few corrections and blind spots in the current coverage that might be worth addressing before another five years pass. In the spirit of collegiality, I offer the following leads for the mainstream media to consider as they change gears from no-comment to hot-pursuit when it comes to the story of Iraq's most sought after commodity. I'm talking, of course, about that 'sea of oil' on which, as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz pointed out way back in May 2003, the month after Baghdad fell, Iraq 'floats.'”

Turse, author of The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, then turns to the Washington end of the Bush administration/Big Oil relationship and points out: “According to recent reports, the proposed Iraqi service contracts, which may be paid off in cash or crude oil, will be worth $500 million each. That is roughly what the Pentagon paid out on June 18th alone -- the day before the Times broke its story about Big Oil's return to Iraq -- for natural gas and aviation fuel. Over half the total amount, in excess of $268 million, was handed over to one of the oil giants set to benefit from the Iraq deal: BP (formerly British Petroleum).”

And that's just the beginning of the oily relationship between the Bush administration, a gas-guzzling Pentagon, and Big Oil in Iraq that Turse then lays out for the benefit of mainstream reporters now possibly eager -- only five years late -- to pursue this story.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Marty Cobern
Hometown: Cheshire, CT


Thank you for your most moving piece on American citizenship. It brought a tear to my eye. My grandparents arrived at the beginning of the 20th Century, but I can still recall their joy at finally passing the test to become citizens.

May all the promises of the Declaration of Independence come true for you, your family and all of us.

Name: Rob
Hometown: Boston


Nothing worth celebrating in Oklahoma? Wrong! Oklahoma City just happens to be home to the greatest rock and roll band on the face of the earth. Of course I'm talking about the Flaming Lips. Really, if you haven't been to a Lips show you haven't lived.

Name: Pat Healy
Hometown: Vallejo, CA

With all due respect to Ken Carlson, any list that relegates Guinness to 99th place (and only includes one variety at that) indicates that it was chosen by a horde of uncouth louts with the tastebuds of a dung beetle suffering severe nasal congestion.

And a question for the LTC -- the proposed Scotland-for-Michigan trade WOULD include all of the associated islands of that bonny land, would it not?

Name: David Jackson
Hometown: Belfast

LTC Bateman,

On the discussion of symbols, please spare a moment if you would and consider the plight of ice hockey fans. The hammer and sickle were undoubtedly symbols of one of the most oppressive and murderous regimes in history, but they were also the symbols of some of the greatest ice hockey players the world has ever seen (who, admittedly, mostly defected as soon as they had the chance). So I hope that if you see someone wearing a former Soviet Union hockey jersey you won't think too badly of them.

Of course, what does that say about me as a (now expat) Canadian that the first thing I think about when I see the letters CCCP is not Stalin, but Tretiak.

P.S. Irish whiskey is superior to Scottish whiskey, but then I have to say that or my father-in-law would stop serving me a snifter or two whenever I darken his doorway, which I'm sure you understand would be an unacceptable set of circumstances for me to find myself in. If you ever find yourself in Belfast please consider this an invitation to be shown this superiority first hand.