I walk streets of fire ...


I've noticed two stories of late that do not seem to interest my hometown paper, The New York Times, terribly much:

1) The baseball team from the same hometown that has been in first place since the first day of the season and is playing incredible baseball, giving up a total of one run in the past 20 (or more) innings and featuring an inside-the-parker (sort-of) by the leadoff hitter in the first of these games; a leadoff hitter who happens to be the most exciting player in baseball. Anyway, what I really love about these guys, circa 2007, is their team-ness. Look at this photo for just a June victory. I get all choked up just looking at it. Anyway, the Times is far more interested in another team that plays in this town, one that, despite having the largest payroll in baseball by far, has no chance whatever of winning either its division or the wild card, is not even playing .500 ball, and who desperately paid a gazillion dollars to a pitcher whose career is just as suspicious late-in-life-improvement-wise as the notorious Barry Bonds to join its roster of already admitted steroid abusers.

2) The deliberate endangering of the health of the heroic workers who volunteered to help their country in its hour of need. OK, this time I'm serious(er). Buried in today's metro section, here is a story about a group of congressmen, led by New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, who questioned then-EPA Administrator Christine Whitman yesterday about her misleading statements about the quality of the air down there in the immediate aftermath of the attack. Whitman's outrage, Rudy's posturing, and Bush's bald-faced lying will not make this issue go away; but the media ignoring it might. The Daily News won a Pulitzer for its coverage of exactly this story; is that what is making the Times editors so reticent in looking into the cold, dark heart of our leadership; a leadership that sacrifices innocents on the altar of its own ideological obsession and unwillingness to admit error, literally every day? I have a friend who devoted the two weeks after 9-11 to serving food to rescue workers down at Bouley Bakery. A few months ago, her lung collapsed for reasons the doctors cannot explain. All over the city, people's lives have been ruined by the health effects that derive from their heroism. I understand why Bush administration officials -- present and former -- want the story to go away, and of course, so does Rudy. But why have the Times and the rest of the media -- save the Daily News -- shown such little interest? Is the truth, in this case, just too disturbing?

Quote of the Day: "Our government has knowingly exposed thousands of American citizens unnecessarily to deadly hazardous materials. ... And because it has never admitted the truth, Americans remain at grave risk to this day." -- Jerrold Nadler.

TNR appears to have updated exactly the same story I did for The Nation 10 years ago: taking the National Review cruise and living to tell the tale. Mine was called "Heart of Whiteness" and has never appeared online, though it was in a collection of the best of The Nation onceuponatime. Mine ran at more than 5,000 words, so I got the chance to make a lot of jokes, as well as a few bad predictions. I've not read Johann Hari's piece yet, and I'm already late with Altercation so I'll see if I have something to say later. You can read it here.

Fun facts:

1) The Nation started its cruises after sending me on National Review's and seeing what a great moneymaker it was, though on the Nation cruise, we buy the wine for the guests when they sit at our tables, while at NR, when I went at least, they were too cheap to do this.

2) TNR was going to have a cruise once, but hardly anyone signed up and they canceled it. Marty Peretz later said it was "gauche" or something, as if someone had put a gun to his head and forced him to try it.

3) Marty is apparently on a cruise right now. (This has a VH1 "Pop-up Video" feel to it, doesn't it?) I wonder if he brought along that imaginary book of his to read in a deck chair.

4) The bar on speaking my name in TNR this week apparently extends not only to acknowledging my Marty profile -- True? False? Slander? Genius? -- but also to the fact of this exact cruise story has been done once before.

5) Other notable cruise stories: P.J. O'Rourke on a Soviet-American friendship cruise in Harper's in its Michael Kinsley days, more than 20 years ago, and David Foster Wallace, also in Harper's, I don't remember when but a bit before mine.

And if we could get a million people a day, then friends, we'd have a movement: the Get-Dick-the-Dictator-Cheney-Off the-Federal-Payroll Movement.

Seriously, join up. We've let these people trample our democracy for too long.

From TomDispatch:

It's fitting that, just as Roger Morris' Robert Gates profile reaches its sizzling conclusion, a CIA document dump has put the years when our Secretary of Defense first entered the agency back in the news. Assassination plots against foreign leaders, kidnappings, warrantless wiretapping of reporters, the illegal opening of American mail, illegal break-ins, behavior modification experiments on "unwitting" citizens, illegal surveillance of domestic dissident groups and critics of the Agency -- it seems never to end.

And yet, you have to read Morris on Gates to realize how much this list still lacks when it comes to the acts of the CIA. It is, after all, one of the ironies of our moment that our (relatively) new secretary of defense now travels the American world -- to Kabul and Baghdad in particular, where he frets about Tehran -- only to find himself, in essence, confronting (though our media never bothers to say so) the consequences of the misdeeds of his younger self.

Earlier Morris has covered the world and spy agency that "made Bob." Now, he turns to the world that Bob made -- it's a remarkable tale of terror bombs and secret plots, of internecine warfare on the Potomac as in the Hindu Kush. Morris reveals, among other things, just how much the Carter administration led the way in skullduggery from Nicaragua to Afghanistan, even before Reagan and his CIA director William Casey appeared on the scene -- and just how much Bob Gates was part of it all, the intelligence Zelig of the past 30 years.

This is a remarkable, rip-roaring conclusion to a major history of covert operations in our last half-century-plus of imperial history and Morris concludes this way about our new secretary of defense:

The challenges facing Gates, of course, involve far more than simply damage control.... It is not a predicament that can be escaped simply by staving off some further bonfire -- like a mad attack on Iranian nuclear facilities; nor will Gates, even if successful, be capable of taking more than the initial steps in a rescue in the eighteen months that are likely (though hardly destined) to be the extent of his Pentagon rule. But in none of it -- neither the apparently encouraging contrast to Rumsfeld, nor the simple avoidance of disaster in Iran -- does his record, his life story, give us grounds for more than the frailest of hopes. Yet, it is a mark of our time, an era he helped make, that, for the moment, Bob Gates, of all people, may be the last and best hope we have.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Aaron
Hometown: Forty Fort, Pennsylvania

You've never commented on it, but I'm curious. Are you at all upset about the fact that your prediction of a Kerry "landslide" was wrong?

Eric replies: Well, of course I'm upset I was wrong; look who the president is. As for my own predictive abilities, I'd have to see the language. I don't put much stock in predictions, however. That's not my job.

Name: J DAlessandro
Hometown: Crestwood, NY

Dr. A, you've got a major decision ahead of you: when to pull the plug on the McCain Suck-Up Watch? Mack's approval ratings are below Huckabee levels in some states, and the Straight Talk flacks in the media are being ignored by the voters. They apparently suck at sucking up.

Name: Lisa Smith
Hometown: Quincy, MA

Dr. A.,

As I marvel at yet another entry from your friend in Newton, Massachusetts, I bow down before you for introducing me to the brilliance that is Charles Pierce. Your own righteous contributions to sane American political discourse will assure you a spot in heaven, but sharing The Pierce with us will surely get you in the VIP line.

Name: Neal Heidler
Hometown: Bloomington, IN

Gerald Ford was appointed V.P., and was never elected president.

Eric replies: See the list again, bub.

Name: Bill Dedman
Hometown: Boston


You, and Matt, are wrong to say that a former copy editor at The Atlantic Monthly made a donation.

Martha Spaulding was the magazine's deputy managing editor when she gave $500 to the Democratic National Committee.

Eric replies: Well it strikes me that a deputy managing editor might be responsible, largely, for copyediting, and the like, rather than the political content of the magazine, and I know that in my dealings with The Atlantic and publishing a few articles there, I never had any dealings with the deputy managing editor. Still, I appreciate Mr. Dedman's clarification and am happy to note it here, absent further clarification from Young Yglesias.

Name: Rich Gallagher
Hometown: Fishkill, NY

Dear Eric,

Charles Pierce hit the nail on the head regarding Mitt Romney's self-serving claim, "I longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam ..."

I spent the better part of two years (1969-1970) aboard an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea. I didn't much want to be there, and I sure as hell didn't long to be "in Vietnam." I doubt that very many of the soldiers on the ground wanted to be there, either.

I have never begrudged anyone who lawfully avoided military service during the Vietnam War. Many of my friends had student deferments and then drew favorable lottery numbers or became schoolteachers and got vocational deferments. But none of them ever claimed to have "longed" to have served in Vietnam.

One question for Romney. If you truly longed to be in Vietnam, why didn't you enlist when your deferments ended? Perhaps you had other priorities?

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