Slacker Friday


I've got a new Nation column here, called "A Meta-Read Is a Better Read," and the Bloggingheads hour I did with Mickey Kaus is here, about which I've written a little bit below.

The republic ends like this and this and this and this.

(The Mets' season ends like this, but that's for another day.)

TP summarizes the Post article:

The Post's piece immediately cuts to the central issue: The new "rules for the detention, interrogation, prosecution and trials of terrorism suspects" are "far different from those in the familiar American criminal justice system." The paper reviews all the important divergences, from the acceptance of "evidence collected through hearsay or coercion" to the rejection of "the right to a speedy trial." Where does that leave the American legal system? The Post, citing constitutional scholars, argues that "the bill pushes at the edges of so much settled U.S. law that its passage will not be the last word on America's detainee policies." As Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh tells the paper, "it's not clear that most of the members understand what they've done."

Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) voted against the bill, and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) voted for it. (Be honest: Switch parties, guys. Now.)

Meanwhile, the president has in the last month given numerous speeches and addresses focusing on "victory" in Iraq. Over three years after the 2003 invasion, it's not unreasonable to speak of George Bush's Iraq. The President himself likes to refer to that country as the "central front [or theater] in our fight against terrorism" and a leaked National Intelligence Estimate recently confirmed that Iraq is now indeed just that -- a literal motor for the creation of terrorism.

So what exactly does "victory" in George Bush's Iraq look like 1,288 days after the invasion of that country began with a "shock-and-awe" attack on downtown Baghdad? In 21 questions (and answers) adding up to a grim but realistic snapshot of Bush's Iraq, Tom Engelhardt pulls together much of what is known. The questions range from: "How many freelance militias are there in Baghdad?" to "How many Iraqi civilians are being killed countrywide?" and "How many Sunnis support the insurgency?"

He concludes: "This week, the count of American war dead in Iraq passed 2,700. The Iraqi dead are literally uncountable. Iraq is the tragedy of our times, an event that has brought out, and will continue to bring out, the worst in us all. It is carnage incarnate. Every time the President mentions 'victory' these days, the word 'loss' should come to our minds. A few more victories like this one and the world will be an unimaginable place. Back in 2004, the head of the Arab League, Amr Mussa, warned, 'The gates of hell are open in Iraq.' Then it was just an image. Remarkably enough, it has taken barely two more years for us to arrive at those gates on which, it is said, is inscribed the phrase, 'Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.' "

Worst president ever, continued.

Isn't it a bit odd that FNCs' Roger Ailes lit into Clinton for his Chris Wallace interview, complaining that Clinton's heated exchange, when pressed with questions about bin Laden, represented "an attack on all journalists." Odd, because back in 1988, Ailes schooled Bush 41 on how to attack Dan Rather on the air when he pressed the VP with questions about Iran-Contra. See all of this week's Ailes-related hypocrisies here.

Hey, Mickster, I would have agreed about the fence, too. I do think good fences make good neighbors, and anyway now, all we have are bad fences, and the people who suffer the most are those trying to cross. But anyway, two points of clarification of what I did say:

1) I stand by my "breathtaking assertion" --"We didn't learn very much after the war that we didn't know before the war." We knew pretty well there were no significant connections to Al Qaeda. We had a pretty good idea that they had no nuclear program, though we didn't know if for certain. And we knew that Hans Blix and his team could not find any WMDs, though they had everything they needed to do so. We've learned a lot more about why that might have been, but we certainly knew that no invasion was necessary while the inspectors were in there doing their job, something that Bush has now lied about three times, at least. What we didn't know was just how dishonest and incompetent the administration was, but I don't think that's what you meant.

2) In re my fear of the Rove machine: In thinking about it, the "flip-flop" argument works against senators but not governors, because it's so easy to misportray parliamentary votes as something they are not. So Obama should run now before he's got a bunch of votes to misportray. That's why it was harder to Clinton and would be harder to do to your friend Rendell (and maybe Mark Warner). Running things also appeals to voters but it leaves you open to Willie Horton type issues which were not your fault but require you to be the kind of person to fight back.(And as for Marty, I went easy. Didn't mention "no qualificationsor-achievements -- save-a-couple-of-rich-wives-thing, fer instance.)

Meanwhile, ABC's The Note, which is apparently not being paid by Random House to do this, informs us that "[i]f you missed last Tuesday's book party" -- or in other words, were insufficiently sanguine, merry, boyish, super, inexhaustible, global, boffo, glowing, ever-elegant, dapper, lovely, and amazing to be invited -- you can see Karl Rove and John McCain yukking it up with their loyal subjects, here.

Does ESPN lie for Republicans? Stranger things have happened.

"Bloggers and Parties" interesting essay, here.

From the Benton Foundation:


U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, who ordered a halt to the Bush administration's program of domestic wiretapping, on Thursday allowed the surveillance to continue for a week to allow an appeals court to weigh in on an issue expected to end up with the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Taylor in Detroit denied the Justice Department's request for a lengthy stay pending an appeal of her August ruling that the National Security Agency's five-year-old surveillance program violates the civil rights of Americans. Instead, Judge Taylor gave the government a seven-day window to get a stay from a federal appeals court before that court hears arguments on the legality of the wiretap program.


The House voted late Thursday to rewrite the nation's domestic wiretap laws, giving President Bush new power to monitor the e-mail and phone records of U.S. citizens during terrorism investigations without having to obtain court approval. But lawmakers were unlikely to deliver final legislation to the White House before leaving this weekend for the election campaign, a setback for the administration, which has made national security a pillar of its strategy to maintain Republican control of Congress. The House measure would endorse the once-secret program Bush launched after Sept. 11, authorizing the National Security Agency to monitor international communications between terrorism suspects and people in the U.S. without first obtaining warrants. It would also set new rules for warrantless surveillance during emergencies and give Congress a bigger role in monitoring the surveillance. The measure was approved, 232 to 191, with 18 Democrats supporting it. Thirteen Republicans opposed the bill. (requires registration)


The full House of Representatives appears poised to vote on a version of the Wilson wiretapping bill (H.R. 5825) that includes the worst elements of earlier versions of the bill approved by the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. CDT opposes this bill and its counterpart in the Senate, the Specter-Cheney bill. September 28, 2006.

New CDT Analysis

Group Letter Opposing Latest Version of Wilson Bill


The American Federation of Television & Radio Artists is trying to get as many of its 25,000 members to attend the FCC's planned Oct. 3 public hearing on media ownership rules as possible, and they won't have much good to say about Big Media. The Writers Guild is expected to weigh in as well on the effects of consolidation on newsgathering and reporting. If Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/Push coalition and members of the Congressional Black Caucus have their way, the L.A. ranks will be further swelled by hundreds of volunteer/activists talking about the impact on diversity of ownership and the coverage of issues of importance to African Americans. One former station exec said he would advise broadcasters to make sure they were out in force in L.A. to make their case, too.

*** More on next week's hearing in LA ***

FCC Hearings and Home Court Advantage?

Part of the FCC hearing will take place in El Segundo, California. The mayor there, Kelly McDowell, is the oldest brother of FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell. Harold Feld writes, "[I]t raises obvious concerns about giving pro-consolidation folks a "home court" advantage. As Mayor, Kelly McDowell is uniquely positioned to encourage witnesses who will support the current FCC's policy of relaxing ownership rules while subtly discouraging attendance by folks who might challenge accepted FCC positions. This puts the pressure on Martin to ensure not merely impartiality, but the appearance of impartiality. After the recent reports that -- prior to Martin becoming chair -- the FCC suppressed studies demonstrating the negative impacts of media consolidation, public trust for the FCC as an institution interested in an impartial investigation and analysis of the facts is at an all-time low." More here.

Broad-based Coalition Mobilizes for FCC Hearings in Los Angeles

FCC Finally Faces the Public in L.A.

Congresswoman Watson to Deliver Opening Remarks

H'wood to voice concerns about media consolidation

Slacker Friday:

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago

Hey Eric, it's Stupid to fantasize about Susan Collins. Don't you feel like we are failing? For whatever reasons (lack of unity, media bias, etc.) we are not convincing the nation that Dubya represents something fundamentally different from politics as usual, that underneath the veneer of normalcy our economy and security outlook is seriously diseased. Some news junkies get it, even conservative ones are catching on, but the message doesn't penetrate much further. The Dems may meander into some success in 2006 (or not), but those races are turning on quirks of the candidates rather than any major ideological shifts. It's hard to envision any of the current Dem prospects winning in 2008, and people have caught-on that McCain's moderate poses are fraudulent and nobody else has a prayer of getting through the GOP primary.

Me, I dream of the real John McCain: Susan Collins. She's one of the dwindling "moderate Republicans" and one who has shown more respect for freedom of speech than, say, Olympia Snowe. Imagine if the Dems could flip her and run a "unity/save the nation" campaign in 2008. As chairman of the Senate's homeland security committee and a member of the armed services committee she's no lightweight on defense issues. Moderate voters suspicious of John Kerry's pledges of fiscal restraint could rely on Collins' voting record. She's solid on social issues from abortion rights to stem cell research. Oh yeah, and she voted for meaningful energy independence (a hard raise on fuel efficiency requirements). Collins is Hillary Clinton without the baggage. I understand progressives would be wary of her support for the Iraq war, but really, at this point aren't we just looking for someone who doesn't ignore the obvious? Wouldn't a former Republican/moderate Dem have a better chance of de-politicizing Iraq and the war on terror in general? Not only would a flipped Republican pierce the media haze and make an impression on voters (the Dems brightest moment in the last six years was when Jim Jeffords flipped), but I think voters would appreciate someone not overly ambitious, in contrast to the superegos bandied about both parties.

Name: George P. Doyle
Hometown: Chapel Hill, NC

Dear Eric,

Good to find you again!

May I remind my friends of Article I, Sect. 9 of the Constitution:

"The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it."

We are giving up our core principles and it is very sad to watch. Is this country doomed?

Name: Christopher Barnes
Hometown: Studio City, CA

I read with my usual head shaking frustration yesterday that Secretary Rice has essentially issued an ultimatum to Sudan -- get clean or the UN will come after you. This is the same Dr. Rice who ignored this part of the world as it was consumed by a conflagration. This is the same Dr. Rice that is even now ignoring the daily toll of death in Iraq and Afghanistan and both countries' sharp return to the oppression of women. This is the same Dr. Rice whose subordinate treats the UN with open contempt, encouraged no doubt by the good doctor herself. This is the same Dr. Rice who, in the face of horrifying civilian casualties arising from the recent Israeli/Hezbollah conflict effectively said "We need to let them kill each other some more before we try to do anything." And this is the same Dr. Rice who can ignore and downplay our own forays into torture and mass killing because, after all, we're the good guys. I guess it's safe to say she's "shocked, shocked to find out there's evildoing going on here."

Name: Jim O'Connor (Draftee in 1969)
Hometown: New York City

Dear Eric,

I agree with Roy from New Jersey that the war in Iraq would either be over or never happened if there was still a draft.

I've always thought that two years of National Service for all able bodied American men and women -- with no exemptions for anyone -- would be a positive thing for our country and our young citizens.

And, of course, with all those congressional sons and daughters in uniform....

Name: Jeff Barnes
Hometown: Hoboken, NJ

Dr. A.,

I love your blog and read it every day. In the name of furthering the cause, I'd like to point out some misleading (or perhaps just ill-informed) comments made by Jeff from Baltimore.

I largely agree with his thesis -- that the US tends to dismiss real threats and go after imaginary ones because we lump all Central and South American countries into the same "banana republic" category, and we lump most Middle Eastern countries into the same mental category. But I wish he would get some of his particulars correct so as not to undermine his own arguments.

First of all, Iran is not a true democracy. He is correct to point out that they have a democratically elected president, but he is forgetting about the good old "Supreme Leader" who actually has the final say. Yes, the supreme leader is appointed by an "elected" council, but the council candidates are always vetted by the supreme leader, making what observers have called a closed loop of power -- hardly a true democracy. All of this is to say that Jeff is right that Americans (and their leaders) have tended to see Iran and pre-war Iraq as more or less the same, when of course they were wildly different. But the difference does not lie in Iran's supposedly "democratic" nature!

As for Chavez, whom Jeff says is wrongly being dismissed as a tin-pot dictator because of his crazy rhetoric, I would say read Wednesday's link to "The Talented Mr. Chavez" in the Altantic Monthly online. As you'll learn, Chavez is, unfortunately, moving in the direction of dictatorship all the time, even though he is democratically elected. And there is a certain degree to which his power and influence over the US *can* be dismissed. The main weapons at Chavez's disposal--his oil wealth and the US's dependence on his oil exports--don't actually amount to any kind of a strategic threat to the US. Due to the peculiarities of the infrastructure that links Venezualan crude to US refineries, Chavez can't easily re-direct that portion of his exports. So his shutting of the taps is not exactly likely.

My point it this, Jeff. Don't distract from your excellent points, (Iran has been elevated to top dog in the Middle East by Iraq's implosion), by making patently absurd ones (Gee, if Bush wanted so badly to see democracy in the Middle East, he should have just looked at Iran!) The issues with Chavez are subtler, but important still. Arguing that Bush's dislike of Chavez's autocratic tendencies and his refusal to take Chavez seriously as a threat are part and parcel of Bush's ignorance of the world at large (which is, admittedly, tremendous) doesn't hold water on closer scrutiny.

Let's all get together and cudgel the Bushies with their true failings (which are legion), but let's be careful not to give ammunition to the other side with questionable assertions.

Name: John
Hometown: Kinnelon, NJ


Must have been in the small print somewhere - sure, Chavez hates Bush and the US doesn't care for him either; however, 65% of Venezuelan oil exports go to... THE US! It accounts for 10% of our oil imports. There are friends and enemies, and name calling, then, as Vito Corleone said "Business is business."

Name: Reverend Jesse Williams
Hometown: Oakland, CA

Mr. Alterman,

Please do not use profanity. It is a sign of immaturity and demeans you, your readers and those for whom you work.

Westchester, IL

Enjoy the concert! I just saw Eric Clapton in Chicago last week and he was great. Derek Trucks is amazing and very nearly stole the show (not dissing Eric -- he was being very generous with his bandmates). Also, Robert Cray did a great job opening the show with a straight hard blues performance with only one of his pop singles inserted in the middle. He also came out during Eric's performance and jammed with the band, taking solos and singing. All in all a great experience. Finally, this concert started exactly on time. Cray opened at precisely 7:30 and Eric at precisely 8:30. They are truly pros who respect their audience.

Eric replies: I'm printing this one because it saves me the trouble of saying exactly the same thing, but NAMES people...

Name: Kirk Bjornsgaard
Hometown: Norman, OK


You mention that "... Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman reformed to record four new songs, forgetting to invite Michael Clarke and Gene Clark."

Uh, Eric? Michael and Gene are dead. Have been for some time.

Eric replies: But were they dead back in 1990 when the reformation took place? If so, I apologize and appreciate the correction. If not, then, um, not.

Back on Tuesday.

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