Is she really going out with him?

We've got a new Think Again column called “The Boys in the Bubble,” and it's here. I'll be on a panel at Royce Hall at the LA Times Book Festival at 2:30 (on the UCLA campus) with Arianna Huffington, David Frum, and Dan Schnur, and I'll be signing books at the Nation's booth before the panel at 12:30.

When it comes to “free trade,” Times “liberal” pundit Nicholas Kristof is an unapologetic ideologue. For the millionth time (or so), he equates the Democrats adhering to the country's majority position on trade with the Bush administration's incompetence, ideological obsession, corruption, etc. He even calls it “doing the same thing on trade,” as if the fact that their supporters, and a majority of Americans, are not entitled to any voice whatever in economic policy, and that theories to which Kristof happens to adhere are somehow as powerful as the powerful reaction in reality that Bush's catastrophic policies have produced. With a degree of ideological obsession that would be hard to believe were we not seeing it also in Bush and Cheney, this ideologue writes: “But a test of intellectual honesty is your willingness to hold your own side to the same standard and to point out pandering in those politicians you normally admire.” He then compares it to Kyoto. The idea that anyone is actually allowed to disagree with Kristof's ideological assumptions -- even if they happen to have Ph.D.s in the relevant subject -- is written off as ridiculous. (And remember, once again, the guy using the other side's arguments to attack his own side is the “liberal Nicholas Kristof.” ) In any case, a friend notices that in this morning's column Kristof admits that Colombian flowers already come in to the U.S. duty-free. Twenty-eight planeloads a day of them. But then, we are told by Kristof that businesses are “reluctant to invest in flower farms” unless the Colombia free-trade agreement passes. What do they want besides duty-free delivery? Should we send them flowers too? When you add Maureen Dowd and William Kristol, I find myself wishing that the Times would re-institute Times Select to prevent the influence of the kind of nonsense in which it specializes from spreading any more than is unavoidable.

I've written before about the Potemkin aspects of The New York Sun -- on most days the doorpeople of my building do not even bother to put most of them out for their alleged “subscribers” to pick them up because so few people pick them up. I do, though, because its arts and culture section is often interesting and because its lack of quality control with regard to its neocon-biased writing and reporting is often revealing in unintentional ways.

Yesterday, for instance, I noticed an op-ed by Larry Kudlow, which was a pretty lazy, frothy attack on Obama and defense of George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson. (That makes David Brooks, Dorothy Rabinowitz, Larry Kudlow and John Fund in their corner, though to be fair, they also deserve Liz Smith and the folks at Page Six.)

Take a look at how incompetently Kudlow defends Gibson's crocodile tears about taxes for people making over $200K a year: “In fact, in America's largest cities, a firefighter married to a schoolteacher can earn close to $200,000 filing jointly. So not only will each spouse separately pay more for Social Security and health care under Mr. Obama's plan, together they'll also be slammed by Mr. Obama's cap-gains tax increase.” In the first place, if they earn “close to,” that means “less than.” So the whole thing is, by its own admission, irrelevant. In the second place, well, where is the evidence? I happened to pick up my Sun this morning and read on the letters page from Henry Kurtz of Riverdale, who stated that “today the average annual salary for a full professor of history is only $70,000.” Well, which is it, Mr. Sun Editor? No one at ABC has come forward to defend Gibson's nutty assertion in a previous debate that two professors at a college in New Hampshire are likely to earn $200,000. (And what percentage of academics are actually full professors, anyway?) Really, this line of argument is so shoddy as to be insulting to those of us who bother to think it through.

Speaking of the overall awfulness of ABC's (and almost everyone else in the MSM's) coverage of almost everything that's actually important, take a look at this new study:

Abstract: Criticism of the news media's performance in the months before the Iraq war has been profuse. Scholars, commentators, and journalists themselves have argued the media aided the Bush administration in its march to war by failing to air a wide-ranging debate that offered analysis and commentary from diverse perspectives. As a result, critics say, the public was denied the opportunity to weigh the claims of those arguing both for and against military action in Iraq. In this paper, we report the results of a systematic analysis of ABC and CBS nightly news coverage in the eight months before the invasion (Aug. 1, 2002 through March 19, 2003). We find news coverage conformed in some ways to the conventional wisdom: Bush administration officials were the most frequently quoted sources, the voices of anti-war groups and opposition Democrats were barely audible, and the overall thrust of coverage favored a pro-war perspective. But while domestic dissent on the war was minimal, opposition from abroad -- in particular, from Iraq and officials from countries such as France, who argued for a diplomatic solution to the standoff -- was commonly reported on the networks.

Eric Boehlert adds: First came Jamil Hussein. And now Bilal Hussein. Two colossal, Iraq-based media embarrassments in just over one year. Michelle Malkin, you're en fuego! What will warbloggers do next in their never-ending quest to reveal the AP's terrorist ties? Read more here.

Hey, look at Rosanne's New York Times blog and listen to the song she wrote with Joe Henry.

From TomDispatch:

Think of it as gilding the pain. In a week when Citibank released news of quarterly losses of $5.1 billion and sweeping job cuts, food riots dotted the planet, oil hit $117 a barrel, and regular gas prices averaged $3.47 a gallon at the pump, it was revealed that hedge fund manager John Paulson of Paulson & Co. had hauled in a nifty $3.7 billion all by himself last year “by shorting, or betting against, subprime mortgage securities and collateralized debt obligations.” In other words, by betting on the pure misery of others.

What a moment, as our Gilded Age begins to peel and flake, as the myth of the “ownership society” confronts a rising “foreclosure society,” for Steve Fraser, an expert in the history of America's love/hate relationship with Wall Street, to consider this Gilded Age in the context of the original one at the end of the nineteenth century.

Fraser begins: “Google 'second Gilded Age' and you will get ferried to 7,000 possible sites where you can learn more about what you already instinctively know. That we are living through a gilded age has become a journalistic commonplace. The unmistakable drift of all the talk about it is a Yogi Berra-ism: it's a matter of déjà vu all over again. But is it? Is turn-of-the-century America a replica of the world Mark Twain first christened 'gilded' in his debut bestseller back in the 1870s?”

The question this remarkable exploratory essay focuses on is the difference between that raucous nineteenth century moment of Great Fears and Great Hopes, when faux American aristocrats paraded in their finery while the streets were filled with angry but hopeful crowds, when so many were seeking an active way out -- and what Fraser calls “the Great Silence” of our era. Think of it as a movement from a moment when evangelical preachers pronounced anathema on capitalist greed to one where televangelists deify it.

Of our moment in what he calls a “dis-accumulation” economy, he concludes:

The current break-down of the financial system is portentous. It threatens a general economic implosion more serious than anyone has witnessed for many decades. Depression, if that is what it turns out to be, together with the agonies of a misbegotten and lost war no one believes in any longer, could undermine whatever is left of the threadbare credibility of our Gilded Age elite. Legitimacy is a precious possession; once lost it's not easily retrieved. Today, the myth of the 'ownership society' confronts the reality of the “foreclosure society.” The great silence of the second Gilded Age may give way to the great noise of the first.

This Week on Moyers:

Bill Moyers interviews the Reverend Jeremiah Wright in his first broadcast interview with a journalist since he became embroiled in a controversy for his remarks and his relationship with Barack Obama. Wright, who retired in early 2008, as pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, where Senator Obama is a member, has been at the center of controversy for comments he made during sermons, which surfaced in the press in March.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Ed
Hometown: Arlington, TX

How soon until the Colonel retires from the military and runs for president? I'll be counting the days ...

Name: Ian
Hometown: Los Angeles

Because most of us know that Iraq will go down as one of the greatest cackups [sic] in history, we desperately want someone to stand against it and so we hope that the people who are actually doing the fighting will join us in opposition. But I have to agree with LTC Bateman and repeat what I've said before: As soon as you let the military verbally oppose the decisions of their civilian commanders, it is one short step for them to actionably oppose those commanders and seize power for reasons that write themselves (the good of the country; to prevent the destruction of their beloved service; in the name of humanity). How much louder a message the military commanders might have delivered if they have resigned en masse. That would be push back. And should LTC Bateman or any other military man respond by saying, They should give up their careers for this? I say, Yes, they should give up their careers if what they are ordered to do crosses whatever line they set for themselves.

Name: Chuck
Hometown: Kansas City

I find Col. Bob's comparison of Adm. Fallon to Gen. MacArthur disingenuous at best. He argues they both were insubordinate to the civilian leadership, so both needed to go.

Gen. MacArthur provoked the Chinese, and they became involved in the Korean War. Adm. Fallon wanted a troop reduction in Iraq, and no provocation with Iran, and looked quite correct when the NIE on Iran proved the civilian leadership's insistence on Iran's imminent nuclear weapons program was basically a fabrication.

One man escalates a war, the other tries to end one, and possibly head off another. One man sees himself as an Emperor, another is tuned out by his civilian superiors in favor of his subordinate, who is now tabbed to replace him.

But they're both insubordinate so they're both wrong and need to go. At least we're in good hands with the non-political totally subordinate Gen. Petraeus now. And the great civilian leadership in the White House and Defense Dept., men of integrity like President Bush and former SecDef Rumsfeld. Heaven help us, and our troops.

Name: Simon
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

As usual, an excellent article by LTC Bateman. While I don't question his ultimate conclusion that the military must be subordinate to the elected executive, it seems to me that there are times when an Officer in the Military should, and must, speak out despite orders and regulations which might prevent him from doing so.

For instance, what about a “hypothetical” situation in which a President claims that the military has told him that it will only take 150,000 troops to pacify a country, or that significant progress is being made on the ground. Does an officer who knows otherwise, and has told the President so, not owe the public the truth?

Or what about a situation where the President has blamed the use of torture on a few low-level rogue people in the army, when a general knows for a fact that the orders in fact came from the politicians, and maybe even the President?

I know, these “hypotheticals” do seem awfully unlikely, don't they?

LTC Bateman, I have a great deal of respect for you, and have been a fan of your writings on this website for a long time now.

But are there not times when one is justified in disobeying an order, especially one meant to silence dissent?

Is it not a healthier democracy when the process, and the debate in particular, is transparent?

Thanks again for the excellent column LTC Bateman, and the informative blog as always Eric.

Name: Jim Garry
Hometown: Delmar, NY

Lt. Col. Bateman wrote,

“But when you talk to a reporter and your position is so divergent, you are effectively speaking to the world and setting your own policy for the United States. Our democratic republic was designed to prevent exactly that situation. In 225 years that original logic has not lost its force. ”

In “normal times” with relative sanity being displayed by an administration, I'd agree with that statement. But I would hope that if a civilian leadership issued orders that were a threat to the well being of the country and humanity, our military leadership would not blindly follow the leader.

There is a difference between all former U.S. civilian leadership and the current one which has so clearly demonstrated that it has no respect for facts, treaties, or humanity, and fabricates information to a degree never before imagined of a U.S. administration. It has continually attempted to run roughshod over our Constitution and the rest of the world.

Lt Colonel, if the Bush administration ordered a nuclear attack on Iran tomorrow, would you feel obligated to keep your mouth shut and follow orders?

Name: Nicholas Pisano
Hometown: Albuquerque, NM

Hello Eric,

Old Navy guy here to take exception to LTC Bateman's assessment of Admiral Fallon's conduct. From the sidelines -- and, yes, I had my own Pentagon tour -- the article in question sounded quite a bit like old fashioned inter-service rivalry. Given that the LTC sees and hears things around him where did he get the idea that a Commander-in-Chief of an operational theatre must only spout the party line or that flag (no parentheses needed) or general officers, with the exception of MacArthur and perhaps Fallon, have expressed political opinions?

Military officers have the same prejudices and variety of views as the general populace. The drawn-out and somewhat labored summary of MacArthur's career proved the opposite point the LTC was hoping to make. For most of his 50+ years of service MacArthur expressed political views and aligned himself with certain political factions without reprisal. Only when his public utterances came close to provoking a third world war was his recalled by the president. Up until that time he frequently spoke to the press and expressed both personal and public views on a variety of military topics. There are other more recent examples: Admiral Hyman Rickover, General Curtis LeMay and General Colin Powell among others.

LTC Bateman asserts that Admiral Fallon's “relief of command was good for the nation.” He goes on to assert that the Admiral conducted his own foreign policy, though his public utterances with very few exceptions mirrored the same utterances by his superior, the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. How odd. How many senior officers at the general and flag level realized no repercussions for more serious offenses such as the conduct under their command at the Navy's Tailhook Convention, the Air Force Academy, My Lai, Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib prison? Oh wait, these were offenses, though illegal and unethical, that were supported by the political elites in power at the time.

History has a funny way of coming around to bite you when you only know a little of it so here is the definition of conducting foreign policy illegally: selling missiles to a terrorist state and using the proceeds to establish an illegal privy purse for the president to hire death squads to kill third-world people. Oliver North conducted foreign policy illegally. Admiral Poindexter conducted foreign policy illegally. Admiral Fallon did the job of a warfighting CINC under Goldwater-Nichols but was impolitic in expressing his view that war with Iran was not imminent. Given that such a statement could be easily glossed over if it was viewed as being premature, the fact that it is given importance points to the probable attempt of a lawless lame-duck Administration and their military enablers, like the sycophantic General Petraeus, to be planning to provoke a war with Iran.

Admiral Fallon did the honorable thing: he took responsibility for what he said and resigned without great fanfare. He didn't threaten to use nuclear weapons on another people or to unilaterally invade another country in contravention of the order of the civilian authority as did MacArthur. Nor I would guess, given a more recent and apropos example, does he think that the American people only have their say every four years and that the unitary executive under the Commander-in-Chief powers has unlimited executive power to use a standing army for whatever purpose that executive may see fit.

Name: K. Castro
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

I greatly appreciate that LTC Bateman writes in a very balanced and nonpartisan manner, so I'm sure it was in the interest of brevity (even a cursory post on Douglas MacArthur usually requires many pages), that he omitted a malicious element of the good General's past: his role in eliminating the Bonus Army in 1932, a protesting group of roughly 10,000 WWI vets (my grandfather among them), who marched on Washington DC to voice their opposition to the withholding of needed funding in the middle of the Depression, which was to be allocated to them through the Patman Bill. The story is probably well enough known for Altercation readers, so I won't recap it in depth here; but the image of MacArthur riding roughshod over those WWI vets, utilizing tanks, mounted saber-wielding cavalry, and infantry with fixed bayonets, in the streets of Washington DC, illustrated a vivid picture of, as the good LTC cites, “a whole duffle bag of ego.”

Incidentally, the WWI vets got their funding, and all was well, presumably; however, that's not the main point of my rambling. I'm not a psychologist, but in my amateur opinion, MacArthur certainly had his issues with his father, who was a decorated Civil War general - decorated enough to have been presented the Congressional Medal of Honor. The rebellious son, with his runaway ego and temper, his continuous contempt of his civilian troubling must it have been to have grown up with a legendary Civil War soldier and hero as a father?

Fast forward 60 years or so. Virtually unreported, blithely dismissed, or viewed as quirky personality traits by the MSM is the current Republican candidate's past and present proclivity towards butting heads against anything remotely resembling collaboration and cooperation. His temper and foul language is recently receiving only the tiniest of media coverage. His standing at the Naval Academy was somewhat less than stellar, but reading the MSM press releases, you'd think he graduated at the top of his class (...not the case. Look it up). The party-boy reputation before his POW incarceration, his later adultery, the Keating Five issue, all point to someone with a seeming innate inability to play well in the sandbox with the other tots. The son is still rebelling against his father (in this case, it might include a grandfather, also an admiral!).

And this is who this country might be saddled with as a President in January? In MacArthur's case, Truman was right to have sacked him. His psychological baggage was apparently getting the better of him. Our current President....well, let's not go there; not enough time. But the Republican nominee is still chafing under the wing of his father, long dead, and we may be the recipient of this unresolved conflict. If the MSM media had any reverence or understanding of history, they would see that these relationships continuously reappear and manifest themselves time and time again. It remains to be seen if the Democratic nominee, whoever that will be, will damage the party to such a degree in the ongoing slugfest with their common opponent, that this trainwreck who calls himself McCain slips through in November.

Name: D.R. Marvel (fmr S/Sgt USMC)

Truman met MacArthur on Wake Island, not Guam...

Which is only a small detail, but the LtCol's other fabulist ideas about Korea are at least as mistaken ... (Inchon was, in fact, one of the biggest mistakes of the war in Korea).

Name: Rich Gallagher
Hometown: Fishkill, NY

Dear Eric,

An Associated Press story about the Pennsylvania primary which appears today makes the following claim: “Moreover, party leaders are growing impatient with the drawn-out struggle and have watched nervously as McCain, his nomination race long settled, has climbed in opinion polls.”

The story cites no evidence that McCain has been climbing in opinion polls, so I took a look for myself.

A USA Today/Gallup Poll released on March 18 showed Obama leading McCain by 2 points and Clinton leading McCain by 5 points.

A USA Today/Gallup Poll released on April 22 showed Obama leading McCain by 3 points and Clinton leading McCain by 6 points.

So McCain's “climb” in the polls has actually shown him to be losing ground.

Name: Cathy D
Memphis, TN

Professor Alterman:

As a grieving E Street fan, I appreciate your posting the information about the Danny Federici Melanoma Fund. I sent in a pitifully small but heartfelt donation as a tiny gesture of appreciation for the immeasurable joy Bruce, Danny, and the rest of the band have brought to my life for decades. Imagine the amount of research funds that could be raised if every longtime Springsteen fan sent in just a few dollars. I can think of no better tribute to Phantom Dan than to overwhelm the good doctors at Sloan-Kettering with MILLIONS of dollars donated in his name.

Many thanks!