Baby, this time it's for real ...


David Brooks writes here ($), "As Les Gelb says, unless the thirst for vengeance has driven the leaders in Iraq beyond the realm of reason, it should be possible to persuade them to see where their best interests lie." Thing is, if I were an Iraqi, I'd be pretty skeptical at this point about just what David Brooks thinks are my best interests. In fact, if I were David Brooks, I might even take this opportunity to express a little skepticism about my ability to be all-knowing about all things, particularly as these things relate to Iraq, a country which, amazingly, was a great deal freer and better functioning under a murderous, psychopathological dictator than it is under Brooks and Co.

If you want a few details of what happens to the kind of people who trust in the judgment of Brooks and friends, turn your Week in Review section back a few pages to this. Here's a snippet:

When American officials were debating whether to send more troops in December, I went to see an Iraqi government official. The prospect of more troops infuriated him. More Americans would simply prolong the war, he said.

"If you don't allow the minority to lose, you will carry on forever," he said.

The remarks struck me as a powerful insight into the Shiites' thinking. Abused under Mr. Hussein, they still act like an oppressed class. That means Iraqis are looking into a future of war, at least in the near term. As one young Shiite in Sadr City said to me: "This just has to burn itself out."

Hazim al-Aaraji, a disciple of the renegade Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, understands this. A cleric himself, he is looking for foot soldiers for the war. On a warm October afternoon, as he bustled around his mosque in western Baghdad, he said the ideal disciples would have "an empty mind," and a weapon. Surprised by the word choice, an Iraqi friend I was with stopped him, to clarify his intent. Once again, he used the word "empty." The frank remark spoke of a new power balance, in which radicals rule and moderates have no voice. For many families I have become attached to here, the country is no longer recognizable.

Meanwhile, the problem with Dinesh is apparently that he's too brave, too right, too good for the rest of us.

I say this with some frequency, but methinks it cannot really be said frequently enough: The most powerful force in the universe is that of man's inability to admit that he was wrong. Tommie T has his own inimitable take on that phenomenon, here.

More on Brooks' reliability here from Ezra. Ezra, also, on Matt and crazy racist Marty. Jonah's comments are truly disgusting; Matt/Charles respond.

M.J. here on TNR's proposed war with Iran on behalf of Israel.

Todd G teaches Senator Webb a thing or two about the historical record, or at least the complications thereof.

Retire already, David Broder.

I fundamentally disagree with with the Times public editor, here, as well as the views of the Times editors. He writes:

Times editors have carefully made clear their disapproval of the expression of a personal opinion about Iraq on national television by the paper's chief military correspondent, Michael Gordon.

The rumored military buildup in Iraq was a hot topic on the Jan. 8 "Charlie Rose" show, and the host asked Mr. Gordon if he believed "victory is within our grasp." The transcript of Mr. Gordon's response, which he stressed was "purely personal," includes these comments:

"So I think, you know, as a purely personal view, I think it's worth it [sic] one last effort for sure to try to get this right, because my personal view is we've never really tried to win. We've simply been managing our way to defeat. And I think that if it's done right, I think that there is the chance to accomplish something."

Of course I disagree with Gordon. But if he believes it, what's the point of hiding it from the public? The guy is obviously well-informed. His views undoubtedly inform his journalism. His editors and friends are all aware of his views. What's the point of keeping only Times readers in the dark?

Things that will [apparently] get you banned at a right-wing blog site, here:

For insisting that it is indecent to call 9/11 widows whores and whiners

For disagreeing that despite our best intentions, we liberated no one -- corollary for daring to say that we actually made Iraq worse than it was before we overthrew saddam

For protesting calling John Murtha a coward.

For insisting that your republicans shouldn't call for a war that they will not serve in

For arguing that there were no WMDs found.

For making the point that Iraq and 9/11 were not conflated events

For pointing out that global [warming] is an absolute, provable fact, and that the only supporters of the opposition have been paid for their non scientific opinions

For saying that US healthcare sucks or that US healthcare is worse than French healthcare

For pointing out that dinosaurs were mostly gone by the time man showed up and that to teach creationism to our children is superstition.

For insisting that helping Katrina victims should come before painting school houses in Iraq

For arguing that the use of force is not "the only thing they understand" -- or that torture " is OK with Arabs and its OK with us frankly" ( meaning the site administrator).

For pointing out that Arabs, Hamas, Persians, Hezbollah, Al-Quaeda and muslims are not the same people. Also that insurgents are not terrorists

For quoting passages out of the Bible and insisting that if you are to take it literally, then an adulterer like Henry Hyde should be stoned to death.

For making the point that comparing Bush to Truman and Clinton to Stalin is probably the other way around.

You go, girl.

Fu**ing Russert.

On the ridiculousness of Sundance in general and this Miller woman in particular:

So here, according to staffers at the various swag suites, are the things that may be popping up on the online auction site, courtesy of Ms. Miller: From the Fred Segal boutique, $300 in Le Mystère Lingerie panties, which they said Miller took after telling them she'd forgotten to pack her "knickers"; $200 boots by Earth shoes; a $400 Portolano brown cashmere shawl; and a $450 Linea Pelle handbag. From the Kari Feinstein Style Lounge, a $1,200 Melrose Mac laptop, which staffers said Miller was "very excited" to take. From the Jessica Meisels Marquee Lounge, $8,000 of Lia Sophia jewelry, an $800 Botkier bag and $900 in Dermalogica skin care products, which she was delighted to receive, according to those present, because she's been traveling for a month and has run out of "everything."


P.S. I love Steve Buscemi, and want to love Theo Van Gogh, but Interview was so annoying I literally had to leave with a half-hour to go.

But wait, there's also this: Though it didn't take home any awards, Starting Out in the Evening, directed and co-written by Andrew Wagner, stood out at Sundance. It stars Frank Langella as an aging, nearly forgotten novelist, Lily Taylor as his daughter and Lauren Ambrose as the dewy-eyed but formidable graduate student who wants to rescue the writer from obscurity. Set in New York's literary world, Starting Out was unusual in this ever-youthful festival for being intelligent, involving, and conspicuously adult. Here.

Read the book, here.

P.S. that excellent guy on TMC informs me that while Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton are (or were) tied for most Oscar nominations without a victory, Peter did accept a lifetime achievement award or something in 2003. So it's OK if we give it to that Half Nelson guy.

From TomDispatch: In the coming week, whole forests will be pulped to explicate the most obscure aspects of what TomDispatch Jock Culture Scribe (and former New York Times sports columnist) Robert Lipsyte assures us is this country's ultimate Holy Day, Super Bowl Sunday. His latest piece may not save your soul, but it will certainly save you untold hours of pre-game watching and reading.

Lipsyte, who covered Super Bowls II and III as a sports columnist, begins by considering three early members of the Church of Pro Football: Vince Lombardi, Joe Namath, and Pete Rozelle. "Back then," he writes, "I called them the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, which was joke-y and misinformed. They were not the Trinity. They were saints of the church of pro football -- hard-working, talented non-WASP products of Americanization -- and role models for what a coach, a superstar, and a sports commissioner should be."

He traces the National Football League from their years until it became what we now view any Sunday -- "a bloated, pretentious empire -- it is currently penetrating both the European and Chinese markets -- destroying its young with steroids, obesity (we are approaching the 400-pound lineman), and untreated head injuries." And then he considers Pat Tillman, who died for our sins in Afghanistan, and wonders whether, in football-religious terms, he could be The One, the only one who really walked away from the sport.

Don't miss a sports columnist who can conclude a piece on the Super Bowl with this line -- "As Dr. Falwell, George Bush, and their coach, the Devil, agree, Just win, baby."

Let's hear it for the Iranian academic exile community:


By Gholam Reza Afkhami and over one hundred others

To the Editors:

We the undersigned Iranians,

Notwithstanding our diverse views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;

Considering that the Nazis' coldly planned "Final Solution" and their ensuing campaign of genocide against Jews and other minorities during World War II constitute undeniable historical facts;

Deploring that the denial of these unspeakable crimes has become a propaganda tool that the Islamic Republic of Iran is using to further its own agendas;

Noting that the new brand of anti-Semitism prevalent in the Middle East today is rooted in European ideological doctrines of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and has no precedent in Iran's history;

Emphasizing that this is not the first time that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has resorted to the denial and distortion of historical facts;

Recalling that this government has refused to acknowledge, among other things, its mass execution of its own citizens in 1988, when thousands of political prisoners, previously sentenced to prison terms, were secretly executed because of their beliefs;

[We] Strongly condemn the Holocaust Conference sponsored by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Tehran on December 11-12, 2006, and its attempt to falsify history;

Pay homage to the memory of the millions of Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and express our empathy for the survivors of this immense tragedy as well as all other victims of crimes against humanity across the world.

Abadi, Delnaz (Filmmaker, USA)
Abghari, Shahla (Professor, Life University, USA)
Abghari, Siavash (Professor/Chair, Department of Business Administration, Morehouse College, USA)

More here.

Alter-Public Service Announcement:

JUST A REMINDER ... all cell phone numbers are being released to telemarketing companies and you will start to receive sale calls. YOU WILL BE CHARGED FOR THESE CALLS.

To prevent this, call the following number from your cell phone: 888-382-1222. It is the National DO NOT CALL list. It will only take a minute of your time. It blocks your number for five (5) years.


Correspondence Corner:

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, in supporting Bush's "surge" plan, says that this is the Iraqi government's last chance. But how could that be? Presumably McConnell agrees with Bush's claims that this is the defining struggle of our time and that a democratically governed Iraq is the cornerstone of a new alignment in the Middle East. So if the "surge" plan fails, we certainly cannot pull out. If that were the case, then it wouldn't be as crucial that we succeed to begin with; the defining struggle of our time would not cease to be defining, according to the president's logic (though perhaps surge failure would define him even more pointedly as a failure). No, we'd have to do something else: you know escalation on an even grander scale, both in troop strength and in geographical footprint. And surely, McConnell isn't suggesting that the Maliki government would be disbanded and a new American designed government installed because that would deny Iraqis their right to self-determination.

So what does it mean to say that this is Maliki's last chance? Condoleezza Rice wouldn't say what would happen next because, she contends, that's "bad policy," but apparently McConnell has some ideas. He should share them with us. He must explain how the next steps he imagines justify the surge plan.

Name: Brian P. Evans
Hometown: San Diego, CA

If I may be allowed to add one more comment regarding habeas corpus, Bush didn't suspend it. Congress did. It was the Military Commissions Act that did it.

Yes, Bush signed it, but Bush can't sign what Congress doesn't pass. What we need to do is lobby our Congresscritters to pass legislation that reiterates the right of habeas corpus, even to those considered to be threats to national security. Bush won't sign it, of course, but if we can get the Congressfolk to make (brief!) public statements about how our intelligence and police operatives are competent people whom we trust and that we don't need to revoke our fundamental American rights to bring them to justice, it might keep driving Bush's numbers down, identify who the anti-American Republicans (and Democrats) who would vote against such a thing are, and perhaps we can start cleaning house.

Name: Mason Macklem
Hometown: Halifax, N.S., Canada

Hi Eric,

I am a big fan of your appearances on, and have only recently started reading Altercation as a result of your appearances, but have become a big fan of your writing as well. I just finished watching your diavlog with Mickey Kaus, and I have one issue to take up with you on the topic of economics-based affirmative action.

The case currently before the Supreme Court with regards to affirmative action is discussing the ability of elementary and high-schools to consider race as a factor when assigning children to schools. I am currently completing my Ph.D. in Computing Science, but my own memories of elementary and high school are almost entirely negative. My father had been running a small business unsuccessfully, and upon the bankruptcy of his business my family and I moved to a new city in order to try to start over. We bought a trailer in our former town, moved it to a trailer-park in another town with higher real-estate prices, and hoped to use this as an investment to help get through the process of rebuilding our family finances. But in the meantime we as a family lived there.

Entering the new school in Grade 5, the children were entirely welcoming to me; however, over the course of my first year there, I started to notice that fewer and fewer children were associating with me. I gradually started to learn from my teacher that this was largely because of the fact that my family lived in a trailer park: this trailer park happened to be located near a number of high-end residential areas, so that most of my classmates were from wealthy families, and thus their parents began to encourage their children to avoid associating with me as a member of a "lower" financial tier. Once our trailer sold, my parents used the money to finance building a new house nearby as a second investment to continue rebuilding from; once we moved from the trailer park, a large number of my classmates who had previously been avoiding me suddenly became good friends with me again. It took literally years for me to understand the process that went on, as my parents and my teacher tried to shelter me from the dynamics at play, but these experiences have been a filter through which has defined so much of my politics since then.

In my case, there was a very clear physical delimiter that made my family's financial situation detreminable from the outside, namely that I lived in a trailer park surrounded by large houses. If my family had originally moved into the house in that neighborhood, then none of the wealthier families around us would have had any reason to suspect our limited finances (it was only the selling of that house that finally pulled our family through the bankruptcy). Now imagine if we had not lived in the trailer park, but that I needed to divulge my family's financial situation in order to get into that school: then the stigma would still have been there, and I likely would not have received that second chance with many of my classmates. It seems to me that economics-based affirmative action requires a level of disclosure about personal finances that it is not fair to expect people to be comfortable with divulging.

I realize that there are two obvious objections to this argument: the first is that this argument can be extended to affirmative action of any kind, so that people should not have to divulge on an entrance form what race they are when being considered for entrance/acceptance/etc. And the second is that if they are uncomfortable, then people always have the option to not divulge their personal finances, at the expense of not gaining advantage from any economics-based affirmative action programs. (As an example of this type, I have found out in recent years that my mother's side of the family is Metis, and that this information was hidden from the rest of our family by her father, who was determined to avoid the social stigma attached to being of native ancestry during the middle half of the past century. Because I have only recently learned this information, I have never used this information to gain from any of the educational advantages -- free tuition, housing credits, etc. -- that are available to Native-Canadians.) I acknowledge both of these objections, but they both seem to relate less to the notion of economics-based affirmative action, and more to the entire idea of affirmative action of any form as a policy.

I have never seen this intrusiveness objection properly addressed among economics-based affirmative action proponents, and I would be curious to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Name: Brian Gygi
Hometown: Albany, CA

Major Bob [Lt. Col. Bob Bateman] buys into Malkin's rewriting of history by claiming the mosques were "blown up." The initial claim was that they were fire bombed and indeed of the two mosques she shows, there is quite a bit of damage to them. But by this linguistic trick Malkin is able to claim she has debunked the report. It is a standard maneuver of the right-wing pundits, moving the goalposts and sadly, Major Bob swallows it wholesale out of his distrust of AP.

Name: David Dennie
Hometown: Norfolk, Virginia

Dear E --

O.K., all right, white flag! I surrender on the question of using rock lyrics in the blog heds. The popular consensus, based on the published responses, is in favor, so go for it. But, everybody out there in Altercation-land, don't blame me if really bad puns are next!

Also, kudos to the estimable Mr. Pierce, who beat me to the punch on pointing out that The Band's Rock of Ages absolutely represents their pinnacle as a live band. The Last Waltz is enjoyable, at times even wonderful, to be sure, but Rock of Ages is *sublime*, due in no small part, it should be mentioned, to the spectacular horn backing throughout the album, horns which were arranged by none other than the resurgent-in-2006 Allen Toussaint.

And *that* leads me around to mentioning that last summer's Toussaint/Elvis Costello tour was certainly the musical event of the year, with the performance that I saw at Wolf Trap hands-down in my all-time top-10 concerts. (The Montreal show that was captured on the "Hot As a Pistol, Keen As a Blade" DVD seems to me just a shade less outstanding than the one I saw, but if you missed the tour, it's still well worth getting.)

So, as the late great Billy Preston said: "Will it go 'round in circles?!" (Hey, I'm actually getting into this lyric-quotin' thing!)

Name: Chris Hensel
Hometown: Media, PA

Rock of Ages? I'll have to listen again.

Before the Flood has always been my pick for best live Band music, followed by TLW, with Rock of Ages (except for "...Rock and Roll Shoes" bringing up the rear.

Could be I'm wrong...


Loved the Springsteen thing.

...that I love her endlessly...

Eric adds: "Rock of Ages," seconded.

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