Slacker Friday

I've got a new Think Again column, here, called “Defining Civil War Up.”

And Jim Fallows has a must-read here about our guilt in Iraq and what is finally, to be done.

CAP's Action Fund has a 100 Days Agenda, here.

I guessed I must have missed Marty Peretz's or Charles Krauthammer's or Alan Dershowitz's, etc., condemnation of the Palestinians for this report. How dare they, um, get their land stolen by the Israeli settlers and then force the poor Israelis to lie about it all these years. Me thinks Gershom Gorenberg is saying something so-called friends of Israel like these ought to hear: “Difficult as dismantling the settlement enterprise will be, it is essential not only for a diplomatic solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is needed to restore Israel to itself.”

HNN interviews our buddy Damon Linker.

And speaking of theocons, it's deja vu all over again: Lose an unnecessary war? Blame the media.

Reach up and touch the sky! Thanks to Bruce Henke for pointing me towards, what, for this old fart anyway, is the greatest YouTube find ever, and here too, though this version slightly drags. And no, since you ask, I will never, never, never forgive my parents for New Year's Eve, 1976/77. Or was it 77/78? My mind's a blur, but I'm still pissed.

(Todd Gitlin asked me if anyone could upload Leonard Cohen's “Closing Time” since he saw it once and now can't find it...)

Alter mini-movie reviews:

Volver: Yes, yes, yes!. Casino Royale: Why not? Children of Men: Um, not so much. Blood Diamond: Great as propaganda; as a movie, well, yes and no, but at least as much no as yes. But goodness gracious, that woman is beautiful, and not just for a “journalist” ...

So, how about that Kramer? (The way he just, you know, says stuff ... thanks, Petey)

From our sponsors:

Wolf Blitzer said “I have to assume [Powell] honestly believed” 2003 U.N. speech, ignoring evidence to contrary

On the November 29 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) said of former Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 5, 2003, speech to the United Nations Security Council, in which Powell alleged that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was involved in terrorism: "[T]he suspicion is that he and others may have known that the facts were not true." Host Wolf Blitzer replied: “You're not accusing Colin Powell of deliberately lying to the American people.” Blitzer added, “I assume, knowing him as I do for so many years, that he honestly believed when he was told at the CIA that there were weapons of mass destruction stockpiles -- and he said that before the U.N. Security Council -- I have to assume he honestly believed it.” Blitzer then asked Rangel, "[D]on't you believe that Colin Powell is a man of integrity that believed what he said?"

MSNBC baselessly characterized Iraq Study Group's call for withdrawal “relatively soon” as “similar” to Bush's position

On the same day that President Bush said, “We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job done,” MSNBC correspondent Jeannie Ohm described the reported forthcoming recommendation by the Iraq Study Group for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq as “similar to what the president has been saying.”

Wash. Post identified Harman as “strong-on-defense” Democrat

In a November 29 article about incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) decision to pass over Reps. Jane Harman (D-CA) and Alcee Hasting (D-FL) to chair the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in the 110th Congress, The Washington Post identified Harman as a “strong-on-defense 'Blue Dog' Democrat,” drawing an implicit distinction with the average, presumably “weak-on-defense” Democrat. The Post's characterization echoes a practice previously noted by Media Matters for America of the media's labeling of those in favor of the Iraq invasion as "pro-military" or supportive of the troops, in implicit contrast with those who opposed it or now support withdrawal as somehow “anti-military” or not supportive of the troops.

Eric adds:

I forget who found this one, probably the bosses as well: “NBC's star correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, explained just what Harman's faults were in the eyes of the liberal Pelosi: Harman was 'too moderate, too centrist, even though she is the most credible Democrat on all of these issues ...' ”

Want to know what all those words actually mean to Mitchell and the Post? They mean someone who says stuff like this, which Michael Crowley found:

“There's a strong intelligence case that Iraq has not destroyed its weapons of mass destruction and is building the capability to use them,” said Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House intelligence committee. “There's a growing al Qaeda presence in Iraq, and I think the case can be made that there is a growing affiliation” between Baghdad and terrorist groups.

From The Note: “On Sunday, you will not want to miss George Stephanopoulos' exclusive interview with the (for now) only formally announced Democratic presidential candidate, Gov. Vilsack. Another, not-yet-formally-announced Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), will join George to chat Iraq and politics as well. Check your local listings for 'This Week with George Stephanopoulos.' ” (In other words, “Only John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and conservative Democrats Need Apply...” )

Hey, look: Today ONLY, Bristol-Myers Squibb is donating $1 to AIDS relief every time someone goes to its website and moves the match to the candle and lights it. It might take a while to get a connection, but worth it. Go here.

Today is also the launch of the second annual BID 2 BEAT AIDS. This massive entertainment memorabilia auction begins at noon on eBay as a benefit for LIFEbeat, the Music Industry Fights AIDS. Go here or go directly to eBay and search “Bid 2 Beat AIDS.”

From the Benton Foundation:


The Bush administration is unlikely to allow the incoming Democratic majority in Congress to learn details about its domestic spying program and interrogation policy, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) said Thursday. He added he would welcome detailed congressional oversight of the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping: “We have to really get into the details as to what the program is, as to how many people they are tapping, what they're finding out.” Specter and other critics say the program has violated U.S. laws, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which requires warrants for all intelligence surveillance.

RAIDING YOUR INBOX [SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, AUTHOR: Editorial Staff] [Commentary]

IN THE LATEST illustration of the Bush administration's disregard for your privacy, the Justice Department is trying to convince a panel of federal judges that the FBI should be free to read your e-mail without obtaining a warrant. It's not all your e-mail -- only messages left on a Web-based system such as Hotmail or on your Internet service provider's computers. A 1986 law forbids the interception and disclosure of e-mail and other online transmissions without a warrant. But there is an exception. If the messages are more than 180 days old, they can be obtained merely with a subpoena or a court order, which investigators can obtain more easily than a warrant. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals should rein in the feds and strike down the provisions of the law that are out of sync with the technological realities of the broadband era -- and the privacy expectations of Americans.


For a new Democratic Congress facing big environmental issues from global warming to dwindling fisheries, the first step may be keeping the nation's top environmental libraries from closing - and saving their myriad tomes from ending up as recycled cardboard. To meet a proposed 2007 budget cut, the Environmental Protection Agency has in recent months shuttered regional branches in Chicago, Dallas, and Kansas City, Mo., serving 15 states, and has cut hours and restricted access to four other regional libraries, affecting 16 states. Two additional libraries in the EPA's Washington headquarters closed in October. Until these closures, the EPA had 26 libraries, brimming with a trove of environmental science in 500,000 books, 25,000 maps, thousands of studies and decades of research -- much of it irreplaceable, experts say. EPA officials say the closures are part of a plan “to modernize and improve” services while trimming $2 million from its budget. Under the plan, “unique” library documents would be “digitized” as part of a shift to online retrieval. But while electronic databases are easy to access, they could end up being more costly to use -- and thousands of those “unique” paper documents may now sit for years in repositories waiting for the funding needed to “digitize” them, critics say. Meanwhile, the closings are proceeding so quickly that key materials are likely to be lost or inaccessible for a long time, EPA librarians say.


Two former FCC officials say the FCC's current indecency enforcement regime is unconstitutional. Saying indecency enforcement has morphed from a restrained effort to regulate “clear, flagrant instances of indecency language” by a few to an ever-expanding campaign against “ordinary radio and TV programming” that affects the many, Henry Geller and Glen Robinson have filed an amicus brief in CBS' challenge to the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake fine against CBS stations. Both are veterans of the more restrained policy. Geller is former general counsel and special assistant to the chairman of the FCC in the 1960s, while Robinson was a commissioner in the mid 1970s. Pointing out that they have been associated with indecency controversy in the past, including the Pacifica decision--the so-called “seven dirty words” decision--they say they have sympathy for the FCC's concern but that the FCC is on a censorship “crusade” that will chill even the blandest programming.


As communications technologies converge, courts must rein in the Federal Communications Commission's continued efforts to expand its authority to regulate speech over broadcast media. That is the key message of two friend-of-the-court briefs CDT filed this week in conjunction with Adam Thierer of the Progress and Freedom Foundation (PFF) in the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 2nd and 3rd Circuits. As an organization focused on the Internet and emerging digital technology, CDT has not typically involved itself in the broadcast indecency debate. But the FCC's increased indecency enforcement is likely in this age of convergence to threaten the underlying freedom of other digital communications. November 30, 2006

From The National Security Archive:

The National Security Archive today is posting some of the most important documents to come out of the Iran-Contra affair, which burst onto the public scene 20 years ago. President Ronald Reagan's press conference on November 25, 1986,explicitly linked for the first time the covert arms-for-hostages deals with Iran and the secret U.S. backing for the Nicaraguan Contras.

The scandal over covert arms deals with Iran and secret U.S. backing for the Nicaraguan Contras created huge problems for President Ronald Reagan because of his abandonment of long-standing U.S. policy against dealing with terrorists and the public perception that he had lied to cover up the story. Ultimately, the administration's tactic of focusing attention on the diversion of Iran arms funds to the Contras, which Reagan apparently was unaware of but which was only one of a number of related covert acts he authorized, arguably deflected public attention long enough to prevent his impeachment.

Among the documents being posted are records that relate to the actions (or inaction) of Robert M. Gates, the current nominee to replace Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense. Gates came under fire for deliberately looking the other way as the Iran and Contra programs went along, instead of attempting to put an end to them. Questions about his role derailed his nomination to head the CIA in 1987, although he ultimately was named DCI four years later, in 1991, under President George H.W. Bush.

The documents were made available on the Archive's Web site, here.

Slacker Friday:

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago

Hey Eric, it's Stupid to be serious. This week we learned the insurgency in Iraq can perpetually self-finance itself, self-financing, primarily by smuggling oil. We also learned that the big “change of direction” in Iraq will be pleading with Syria and Iran (and renewing pleas to the Saudis). Here at home we have one side, the antiwar left, saying we should withdraw as soon as practically possible. Others say that would be acting frivolously because of how large the stakes are and the sure disaster to come, thus go with the Baker-Hamilton recommendations.

The “stay longer” people would be more believable if they acted like the stakes were as high as they say. But if this is war, where is their sacrifice? It's all on the troops. Case in point: the Baker-Hamilton commission didn't consider energy policy. I don't mean long-term, I mean as a bargaining chip now. Imagine if Dubya had a gas rationing plan ready to be implemented, and that this fact had been leaked and discussed in the press (giving the stock market a chance to absorb the possibility). Wouldn't the specter of falling oil prices give Saudi Arabia and Iran some heavy incentive to help us out? What would the resulting plunge in demand do to their budgets? Do you think other oil rich nations, like Russia and Venezuela, might weigh in? Yes, it would be a bold move, but we did it in World War II. Heck, Nixon did it in the 1970s. Neocons were the loudest to tell us that waiting in the airport security line was a small price to pay for our security -- how is waiting in the gas lines for a few months that much different? The problem with this war's conduct isn't Don Rumsfeld, it's the Rove GOP and liberal hawks (yes, my hand is raised) who would not condition the war on any present, personal sacrifice. And I'll be honest, my liberal hawkish instincts are against pulling out now, especially if people like Anthony Zinni advise against it. I'd increase the troops and set a more distant pullout date. But if the “stay longer” people won't volunteer a few minutes at the gas station, our troops shouldn't volunteer a few minutes in a war zone.

Name: Steven Hart
Hometown: The Opinion Mill

Robert Lockwood Jr., who died last week at the age of 91, had the honor and the aggravation of serving as a living double-crossroads of the blues.

The Arkansas native, whose intricate guitar style was a direct influence on B.B. King, was the only player known to have been taught personally by the legendary Robert Johnson. He was also the favored sideman of Alec “Rice” Miller, aka Sonny Boy Williamson II, whose “King Biscuit Time” radio broadcasts made him something of a blues superstar. When Williamson and Lockwood headed north to Chicago, Lockwood's playing became the cornerstone of numerous singles recorded by Chess Records.

Lockwood had a reputation for arrogance that was remarkable even in a field dominated by prickly personalities. Part of it was probably exasperation at being treated like the keeper of Johnson's flame, forced to tell an endless parade of credulous blues fans and journalists that no, Robert Johnson did not become a great musician by going to a crossroads and cutting a deal with the devil. Enough of that kind of hoodoo nonsense and you too would lock the front door whenever you saw some nervous-looking acolyte come toddling up the front walk. Martin Scorsese might proclaim, with epic vacuousness, that Johnson “only existed on his records. He was pure legend.” But Lockwood knew better, and had little patience with those who didn't.

Lockwood was also proud of his musicianship, and made no bones about the fact that he considered himself several steps above the average run of blues guitarists. With his jazz chops and elegant playing he was probably right.

Born March 27, 1915 in the Arkansas hamlet of Turkey Scratch, Lockwood came under the tutelage of Robert Johnson while Johnson was paying court to his mother. He quickly mastered Johnson's guitar style and could apparently switch it on and off at will as he explored more sophisticated modes of playing. Their relationship was competitive but close, so close that Johnson's untimely death in 1938 left him unable to play the guitar for over a year. “Everything I played would remind me of Robert,” Lockwood told scholar and critic Robert Palmer in the book “Deep Blues,” “and whenever I tried to play, I would just come down in tears.” The two were so closely identified that other musicians gave Lockwood the nickname “Robert Junior,” and when he began recording, some of his signature tunes -- notably “Take a LIttle Walk With Me” and “Little Boy Blue” -- were widely assumed to be unrecorded Johnson originals that Lockwood had appropriated.

Lockwood was an impeccable sideman, capable of blending into any ensemble and quietly reinforcing that his solo recordings can sound almost anonymous, partixularly on later records like “I Got to Find Me a Woman,” where his stately style and laid-back playing frequently tip over into the somnolent. The two albums he recorded for Trix in the mid-1970s -- available on a two-CD set called The Complete Trix Recordings -- show him at his best: the tunes may not ignite, but he keeps them at a steady simmer, and fans of Eric Clapton's restrained bluesmanship will find plenty to like and admire.

Name: Steve LaSala
Hometown: Manahawkin, NJ

Thanks for the Springsteen YouTube. Who would have thought that in 1972 someone would have gotten that?

I can now proudly say that I played on the same stage as Springsteen. Unfortunately we missed each other by nine months and he went on to a certain degree of success that I somehow missed.