Believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear ...


Due to website problems yesterday, Eric will not be updating today so as not to overload readers who did not get to see yesterday's Altercation ... oh, and Eric adds: "Go Sox."

I've stayed out of round two of the Walt-Mearsheimer fight for a few reasons. One is, I'll admit, I'm tired of the tsoris I get from the Likudnik Lobby -- note: not the "Jewish lobby," and not even the "Israel lobby," but only the Lukidnik Lobby, in which I include Alan Dershowitz, Marty Peretz, Abe Foxman, and Cathy Hughes (whether they themselves would include themselves, I don't really care). I recently found out that my rather mild, moderate, pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, pro-peace position almost cost me dearly -- and would have, without the intervention of a dear friend -- and I can't even tell you in which direction, though I have a pretty good guess. I'm willing to endure this crap on behalf of my own views and values but not on behalf of someone else's. Second, though I've not had time to read the book, my impression is that it takes the original argument -- with which I mostly but not entirely agreed -- to a place I would not go. AIPAC and its friends do not explain the fact that we went to war in Iraq. (Dick Cheney, and to a lesser extent, alas, George W. Bush, do.) Not having read the book, I can't even tell you whether they in fact argue that, since the authors have been so routinely slandered in so many places, but either way, I'm going to let it be someone else's problem. Call me a coward if you like, but I'm an awfully busy coward.

That said, I would like to call everyone's attention to an important article that appears in the current issue of International Security that relates to the press coverage of the conflict. It is a non-negotiable "fact," according to the Likudnik Lobby and many gullible supporters of Israel, that The New York Times' coverage of Israel is somehow unsympathetic to Israel. Indeed, The New York Sun -- an entire daily newspaper -- would not exist except for that reason. So if The New York Times is actually biased on behalf of the Israeli narrative, then you can bet that so, too, is most of the U.S. media. Jerome Slater, university research scholar at the State University of New York at Buffalo, surveys six years of Middle East coverage in The New York Times and Ha'aretz and discovers the following: The United States' near-unconditional support of Israel's policies toward the Palestinians has been disastrous not only for Israelis and Palestinians, but also for U.S. national interests. The largely uninformed and uncritical media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the United States -- especially in The New York Times -- holds the Palestinians largely responsible for the lack of progress toward a two-state solution. On the other hand, Israeli media -- in particular, Ha'aretz -- has been much more critical of Israeli policies. The U.S. government is less likely to call on Israel to change its policies toward Palestinians until public discourse in the United States begins to demand such change.

Read the whole thing, examine the evidence, and make up your own mind. Note that personally, I do not agree with all of it -- I don't, for instance, think it likely that Arafat was willing to actually make peace at Wye because he had done none of the groundwork to prepare his nation, but I don't think that the Israelis acted in good faith after Camp David either, and so genuine peace was not really on the table. In any case, what is not important is the argument but the evidence. This is exactly the kind of media analysis that, save for the studies done my sponsors here at Media Matters, is so rare, despite the oft-thrown-around charge of "media bias."

And by the way, get ready for a mini Walt-Mearsheimer episode, as International Security is published jointly by Harvard and MIT ... (And perhaps CAMERA, FLAME, the ADL, TNR, etc., ought to be spending their time and money on Ha'aretz rather than the Times, CNN and NPR, and the Sun editors ought to be spending their time and their funders' money on Ha'aretz, telling Israelis what they should be allowed to read about their own country, rather than consistently harassing the Times, the Post, CNN, and NPR.)

"Muting the Alarm over the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The New York Times versus Haaretz, 2000-06" by Jerome Slater is here.

From TomDispatch:

"They can't help themselves. They want to confess...." is the way Tom Engelhardt begins "Bush's Pentagon Papers," with the latest Bush administration torture-document revelations in mind. He reframes the torture debate, taking it beyond the "shocked, shocked" response that goes with repeated revelations of secret administration memoranda that provide pretzeled legalisms justifying acts of torture and abuse.

Engelhardt focuses instead on the almost unprecedented public record that has been created in these last years by the most secretive administration in our history. Never, he points out, has an administration -- and hardly has a torturing regime anywhere -- had so many of its secret documents aired while it was still in the act. Seldom has a ruling group made such an open case for its own crimes, the collected documents of which can today be purchased in any bookstore in the land. "It's as if," he writes, "to offer a Vietnam comparison, the contents of The Pentagon Papers had simply slipped out into the light of day, one by one, without a Daniel Ellsberg in sight, without anyone quite realizing it had happened."

Engelhardt makes sense of the obsessional nature of the Bush administration's focus on torture and the conundrum that it produced. In search of a world where they could do anything, Bush, Cheney, and their top officials reached instinctively for torture, not for its practical value, but as a symbol. After all, if you could get the right to torture, then you could assumedly get the right to do just about anything in your commander-in-chief presidency. With this urge came another -- to make their power public; hence, the existence of Guantanamo as the public face of their secret offshore penal system. But with that urge also came outsized fears of future prosecution. In other words, every urge to brag about what they could do, looked at in a slightly different light, seemed to be an admission or confession of wrongdoing that had to be dealt with.

He sums things up this way: "Of course, plumbing the psychology of a single individual while in office -- of a President or a Vice President -- is a nearly impossible task. Plumbing the psychology of an administration? Who can do it? And yet, sometimes officials may essentially do it for you. They may leave bureaucratic clues everywhere and then, as if seized by an impulsion, return again and again to what can only be termed the scene of the crime. Documents they just couldn't not write. Acts they just couldn't not take. Think of these as the Freudian slips of officials under pressure. Think of them as small, repeated confessions granted under the interrogation of reality and history, under the fearful pressure of the future, and granted in the best way possible: willingly, without opposition, and not under torture."

Alter-reviews: New Blues by Eric

Blue Bella has a whole set of traditional Chicago blues by people with whom you may not be familiar, as I was not. Please allow them to introduce themselves ...

Nick Moss and the Flip Tops - Play It 'Til Tomorrow

Nick Moss & the Flip Tops are following up their 2006 CD Live at Chan's with Play It 'Til Tomorrow - a double CD of Chicago blues. The group, which received four 2007 Blues Music Awards nominations, features both original and cover songs, including renditions of Floyd Jones' "Rising Wind" and Lefty Dizz's "Bad Avenue." It features guest appearances by mandolin player Gerry Hundt and pianist Barrelhouse Chuck. You can find more information on the album here.

Gerry Hundt -- Since Way Back

This is Hundt's exploration and salute to the blues mandolin, which he actually only took up a few years ago. There are 11 original tracks alongside covers of songs by Otis Spann and Jimmy Rogers. Throughout the album are clear signs of Hundt's influences on his new instrument -- Johnny Young, Yank Rachell and Carl Martin. Barrelhouse Chuck is features on a bonus track, playing piano. More information is available here.

The Kilborn Alley Blues Band -- Tear Chicago Down

This ensemble group won a Blues Music Awards nomination for Best New Artist Debut for last year's Put It In The Alley, and they are following it up with Tear Chicago Down, 12 songs featuring cameos from Nick Moss, Gerry Hundt, and Abraham Johnson. The ensemble features guitar, harmonica, bass and drums, and projects a Chicago Blues style. More information on the release can be found here.

Bill Lupkin -- Hard Pill to Swallow

Harp master Bill Lupkin put together 14 original blues song on this album, his follow-up to last year's Where I Come From. Aside from playing harmonica, Lupkin also sings on the album. A veteran of Chicago blues bars, Lupkin has played with the likes of Jimmy Rogers, Johnny Young and Eddie Taylor. Nick Moss and Gerry Hundt back Lupkin up on guitar and mandolin. More information on Lupkin's album can be found here.

I'll be following up later in the week with contemporary unsung blues heroes from other artists and labels with which, you, like me, might not be aware ...

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Rob M
Hometown: NY

I thought we were supposed to root for the team with the smaller payroll?

Eric replies: Except when it involves the Mets or the Red Sox, or would you argue that loyalty counts for nothing, and money everything?

Name: Jim Williamson
Hometown: Boston

I bought "Carnage and Culture" a few years ago because his thesis sounded provocative. As I read it, I found that the logical premises for Hanson's arguments kept shifting. By the end, I concluded that the incoherence of Hanson's thinking was matched only by the stiffness and pomposity of his prose.

So, I'm looking forward to seeing what Bateman thinks about his work.

Name: Brian Donohue
Hometown: Brooklyn

I'm sure you know all about this already, Dr. A: RSF's freedom of the press ratings are out, and the US rates #48, just behind Nicaragua (but we beat out Togo, thank god!).

The top 14 positions for press freedom are all held by European nations.

Eric replies: I did not, thanks.

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