Slacker Friday


We've got a new "Think Again" column here called "Getting Iraq Right."

A thousand words? (Or a million)? [Thanks, Petey.]

From TomDispatch:

Few have found it strange that American military spokesmen long referred to the Sunni insurgents they fought in Iraq as "anti-Iraqi forces" (though now that they are allied with them, the same insurgents are termed "concerned citizens" or "Sons of Iraq"); or that our President and Vice President regularly tell other countries what they "must" do to avoid "foreign interference" in the affairs of Iraq; or that our top diplomats should land in Pakistan on the day of the swearing in of the new prime minister to "discuss" the President's War on Terror; or that our planes and drones cruise the skies of the planet looking for terror suspects or simply our enemies to "take out" (whether a government grants permission for an attack on its territory or not).

As Tom Engelhardt writes : "None of the advice offered to others, of course, do our leaders apply to themselves for reasons far too obvious to explain. Wherever Americans go -- sometimes in huge numbers, usually well-armed, and, after a while, deeply entrenched in bases the size of small towns that they love to build -- they feel comfortable.... Though there are natives of one brand or another everywhere, they consider themselves the planet's only true natives. Their motto might be: Wherever we hang our hats (or helmets) is home."

Engelhardt then explore what this American imperial sense of "at homeness" has led to, first in terms of Bush administration planning (yes, there was some!) for the occupation of Iraq and, more recently, in terms of the Iraqi government's failed offensive in the oil port of Basra. He considers just why the troops we trained didn't "stand up" and why Muqtada al-Sadr's militia did -- and why whatever General Petraeus says before Congress next week, however sane and pragmatic he sounds, however impressive looking his charts and graphs, his testimony cannot help but be delusional.

He concludes: "Yes, of course, American planes and drones will continue to cruise the skies of the globe 'taking out' enemies..., American diplomats and high military officials will continue to travel the planet in packs, indicating, however politely, what politicians, military men, and diplomats elsewhere 'must' do, and American military men will continue to train the Iraqi army in the hopes that, in 2018 if not sooner, it will stand up. And yet, as long as we mistake ourselves for 'the natives,' as long as we are convinced that our interests are paramount everywhere, and feel that we must be part of the solution to every problem, our problems -- and the world's -- will only multiply."

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc --

"The man I shot, I was in his homeland/I was there to help him/but he didn't want me there."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Here To Stay" (Kemit Ruffins) -- Once again, I failed to use my mind-control skills to get Tucker Carlson to sing "Chapel Of Love" as a tribute to how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: Momma says knock you out. Ms. E. seems to have noticed that John McCain's may be the first presidential campaign in history that employs not a single person who knows what the f**k they're talking about. Hell, at least Reagan had Mike Deaver to make the TV pictures shine.

Part The Second: The John Adams biopic could have done without two scenes: 1) the smallpox vaccination bloodletting (Ewww!) in Part One, and 2) the wigless John-and-Abigail sex (Double ewwww!) at the beginning of Sunday's episode. Ms. Linney's terrific, however, as is Stephen Dillane's fascinatingly detached Thomas Jefferson. Giamatti's good, too, but he always is, and I think he's going to get a lot better as Adams gets crazier later on.

Part The Third: Matsuzaka-san kicked a lot of tuchus in the opener Tuesday night. Give it up, Siv. Resistance is futile.

Part The Fourth: As a proud charter member of the cast of this radio program, I am, naturally, over the moon about this. Not bad for a show that once quizzed John McCain about drive-thru lap dancers.

Part The Fifth: I'm sorry, but it has to be said. Big Beaver Road? In my old sportswriting days, that was the exit we used to take to get to all of those great Pistons-Celtics playoff series in the spring. I've been waiting for 20 years for that street to become a viable punchline. And, not for nothing, but it's Exit No. 69, too. You can look it up.

Part The Sixth: 18 number ones?. I can't name any of them.

Part The Last: Media Matters has put out a very useful corrective to the endless McCainopalooza that threatens to drown us all in bilge. The fact that the book utterly misconstrues (to the point of tone-deafness) the tone of my 1998 Esquire profile of the man should not prevent you from buying it.

This should have been John Yoo's week for being roasted on the public spit. His memos came out. There's an interview in Esquire where he attempts (badly) to get out from under his role as the waterboarding consigliere. He stands -- behind a podium at a respected law school -- revealed as the almost perfect apparatchik, a guy who would have found a way to make the trains to the internment camps run on time. The Frontline series on Bush's war demonstrates pretty clearly that moral courage was in short supply in and around the Avignon Presidency. (Secretary Powell? Isn't this your soul in the sink? Hello? Bueller?) But the people who really are astonishing are people like Yoo, who sprang with such alacrity to the task of dismantling America. A guy picks up the phone at the DOJ over a weekend and he's blue-penciling the Bill of Rights, and the respective role of the Congress and the president, and the integrity of international treaties, and virtually everything that differentiates the United States from East freaking Germany? Too bad the janitor didn't pick up the phone. Is there any doubt that, if C-Plus Augustus had wanted a legal opinion that allowed him to pick off pedestrians at random from the Truman Balcony, Yoo would have written a memo to that very effect? He should be pumping gas in the Imperial Valley for a living. He should be kept away from the law for the same reason we keep Charlie Manson out of the cutlery drawer. He should have been the story but, of course, Barack Obama went bowling.

Name: Gary B
Hometown: Brookhaven, New York

Eric --

I think your resentment in the mortgage bailout crisis is misplaced.

While the victims (targets of the predatory lenders) should have known better, many if not most, are the less educated, lower income members of our society. These are people who believed that the American Dream may be possible for them, and the sharks were all too willing to play into that.

The predators, backed by the bankruptcy law of 2005, may have convinced themselves that they had nothing to lose. They, most of all, should have realized that the combination of low interest rates and soaring real estate values could not continue forever.

And let's not leave out the founders of the feast, the Bush regime, that did away with whatever regulations remained in the industry, and follow an every man for himself philosophy when it comes to government intervention regarding any misfortune (e.g. New Orleans) in the lives of its citizens.

Name: RS Janes
Hometown: Chicago, IL

Mr. Alterman, I've watched CNN for years and you forgot to include on your list of "liberal Democrats" at CNN such regulars as Terry Jeffrey, Bay Buchanan, Amy Holmes and former Republican Congressman J.C. Watts, not to mention that Time Warner gives an hour of airtime every weeknight on CNN Headline News to the low-rated and murder-minded Glenn Beck. (Beck's so far gone he's uttered crank-speak like, "Every night I get down on my knees and pray that Dennis Kucinich will burst into flames," and "I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it.")

Among the ranks of noticeably conservative-leaning reporters and anchors are Bush Iraq spokesman Dan Senor's wife Campbell Brown, Dana Bash, Candy Crowley, John King, Kyra Phillips, Wolf Blitzer and ex-CNN anchor Judy Woodruff.

Name: Jim Carlile
Hometown: Burbank California

Hi Eric,

So Stephen Colbert is not really a conservative? Say it ain't so! Next Tim Graham will be telling us that Jon Swift isn't one either! How do these guys figure these things out?

Name: Barbara C.
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale


Your scathing comment on why Rupert Murdoch is not considered insane....was absolutely hilarious. I just argued with someone at work who insists that religion should absolutely be a part of our political process. I told her -- then you better start watching Fox News.

Good luck with the book -- Keep up the good work.

Name: Ensign Jack Lennon
Hometown: San Diego


Please tell Jeff Lichtman that drilling a hole in the cabin floor will not cause the boat to sink. Now, if you were to drill a hole in the hull, well, that's quite a different story.

Name: Jon Pinyan
Hometown: Allendale, NJ

It's probable that Tim Graham's commenter confused you with Jonathan Alter. Also, the quote mark "error" is one I frequently intentionally make, and is standard British usage, on the logic that the period is not part of the quotation and thus shouldn't be inside the quotation marks. Still, any way you slice it, his argument is damaged by ineptitude.

Name: Eric Alterman
Hometown: New York, New York.

Happy birthday, kid. Double-digits!

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