Carry that weight ...


As the cable shows occupy themselves with campaign to-and-fro, Olympic swimmers, and stab-in-the-dark vice-presidential speculation, take some time to read this piece from the invaluable Gareth Porter about recent developments in Iraq.

One crucial revelation -- that should be carefully studied and kept in mind this fall, as presidential debates about Iraq policy will no doubt concern themselves largely with the troop surge -- concerns Moqtada al-Sadr's decision to not to launch a concerted military resistance to U.S. and Iraqi government campaigns, to weaken his Mahdi Army, and then to give up his political-military power positions without having been militarily defeated. This led to a substantial reduction in violence, but Porter re-states the much-ignored fact that "the primary reason for Sadr's willingness to give up military resistance was a strategic understanding with Iran to shift to political and diplomatic resistance to the U.S. military presence."

Porter succinctly describes how power relationships in Iraq are shifting: While al-Maliki necessarily relied on U.S. military power to establish his government, the fact that it's Shiite-dominated has created a gravitational pull towards the Shiite Iranian regime and away from the United States, which has much closer relationships with Sunni states in the region. Porter's piece is mainly concerned with the opinion shared by many U.S. officials that al-Maliki is becoming very cavalier as he navigates through these new power arrangements -- he's probably overconfident in his government's ability to fight for itself, and more importantly, he is "even less inclined than before to make accommodations with former Sunni insurgents now on the U.S. payroll in the militias called 'Sons of Iraq'." Re-starting that conflict would likely reverse any past security gains and plunge the country into deeper turmoil.

Take a look at the account -- these are the developments that the media should be explaining clearly to the American people, and forcing the presidential candidates to grapple with.

The Note in the tank, continued: How stupid do you have to be to be a right-winger and not get quoted in The Note? Try this:

Could crime become an issue for Obama? "Murders [in Chicago] have risen 18 percent over a year ago. Assaults in the city involving guns are also rising. City officials, Police Supt. Jody Weis and the police force are increasingly coming under criticism," James Oliphant writes in the Chicago Tribune. "But some Republicans say part of the blame also lies with Obama."

Try it yourself at home. "The basement in my house flooded twice last week. Some Republicans say part of the blame also lies with Obama."

George Zornick adds: I'd recommend Frank Rich's column this week, as he argues what we essentially argued in "Loving John McCain" -- that for all the talk of the "unknown" Barack Obama, the press really needs to spend some time examining the ever-changing policies and priorities of Senator McCain.

Rich also addresses a common myth we described in our piece: "McCain never called for Donald Rumsfeld to be fired and didn't start criticizing the war plan until late August 2003, nearly four months after 'Mission Accomplished.' " It's really pretty simple -- McCain heralded Rumsfeld, even saying (as noted in the Times' good piece yesterday on his response to September 11) that he would name Rumsfeld to his own cabinet. He indeed did offer strong criticisms of Rumsfeld as the war soured, but always stopped short of calling for him to be fired. Even when Fox News host Shepard Smith asked him, "Does Donald Rumsfeld need to step down?" on November 8, 2006 -- hours before President Bush announced Rumsfeld's resignation -- McCain responded that it was "a decision to be made by the president."

Still, as Media Matters notes, it's a persistent little myth -- just recently, here is Jonah Goldberg writing it, and here is The Wall Street Journal saying so.

Sean Hannity makes Jon Stewart's job a lot harder: If you tuned into Hannity's America last night, Sean promised to show "the exact type of nuclear weapon Iran is working on and what impact a nuclear attack could have on our capital." There were maps of D.C. and everything. (One strike could wipe out the White House and the Capitol, by the way). Next week: What would happen if Syria resurrected a species of Tyrannosaurus Rex, a la Jurassic Park, and set them loose in downtown Miami?

Is this serious? I would pay money to see her walking around the streets of New York City, interrogating street vendors about a lack of McCain campaign hats. Don't conservatives believe in the free market?

Quote of the Day: " 'The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous," Ms. Wallace said." Here.

Just ask ace Timesman Bill Kristol.

Mother Jones reports here that neocon kibitzer Michael Ledeen has left the American Enterprise Institute. This gives me a chance to tell the story of literally 21 years ago, when the story broke in The Washington Post that Ledeen's academic career had been plagued with accusations of plagiarism and resume-padding, forcing him to leave academia under a cloud -- to say nothing of his shadowy dealings with the Italian secret service, and I happened to be writing a profile of him during the Iran-contra scandal, in which he was also deeply embroiled. When I raised the issue of the plagiarism with him at his house where his wife served me spaghetti with butter sauce and water, he threatened to put my head through his dining-room window. He promised to sue me if I mentioned it even with his denials. But I did, and he didn't. In any case, even when I called AEI then, the secretaries had been instructed to say that he had practically nothing to do with the place and that they would hardly recognize him if they saw him ... nothing, and I mean nothing, ever changes in Washington. Ledeen, by the way, was at the time a valued contributor to The New Republic, and before coming to Washington billed himself as its "Rome Correspondent," though at the time I could find no one at the magazine who could confirm that status of this.

Meanwhile, the most excellent Matt Duss pulls together Marty Peretz's classy posts on the late poet Mahmoud Darwish. Over at Think Progress Wonk Room, he writes:

As proof that we here in the Wonk Room are interested in calling out bigotry in a totally non-partisan fashion, since I posted on Ralph Peters yesterday, today I note that former New Republic owner and editor in chief/continuing liberal embarrassment Marty Peretz -- who TNR's current editors have stashed in the attic and away from the children while he indulges his obsessive anti-Arab racism like a deranged uncle with a ham radio -- has now seen fit to sneer at the death of beloved Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish not once, not twice, but thrice.

And here, in decided contrast to the above, we are proud to say, is our good friend Danny Goldberg on the legendary record producer and original Atlantic Records partner Jerry Wexler, who just passed away at the age of 91.Danny met Wexler in the late 1960s and 25 years later was appointed to Wexler's old job as president of Atlantic Records. These memories are adapted from Danny's forthcoming book, Bumping Into Geniuses, to be published next month by Gotham Books:

"There aren't any secrets," Atlantic Records President Jerry Wexler growled at me, as if I were the dumbest person he had ever met. I was nineteen and it was the winter of 1969, more than thirty-five years before Wexler would be immortalized by Richard Schiff's portrayal of him in the movie Ray. I was writing a column for the weekly trade magazine Record World when Wexler had asked one of his executives, Danny Fields, to gather a group of young journalists who wrote about rock and roll. The real Wexler was far more imposing than the cinematic version. He was broad shouldered, with a salt and pepper beard and sunken eyes that gave him the look of an Old Testament prophet. He had a defiantly thick Bronx accent, an intimidating intellect, and the ultimate rock and roll and R&B pedigrees.

Some months earlier, at the storied Greenwich Village nightclub The Village Gate, I had seen a talented R&B singer named Judy Clay dedicate her hit, "Storybook Children," to Wexler who stood up and waved with an understated noblesse oblige.

I had no idea what a record company President did but I was stunned that such a soulful singer would publicly acknowledge a mere businessman. I soon discovered that Wexler had also worked with Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, and Sam and Dave, and had been the person at Atlantic who actually signed Led Zeppelin. (Dusty Springfield had used Jimmy Page as a session guitarist on one of her pop/R&B records and told Wexler to check out the band Page was forming after the break-up of the Yardbirds).

My awe at Wexler's résumé was reinforced by seeing his house in Great Neck, Long Island, which had an entire room filled with gold records and a living room with original Legers. Amidst thick marijuana smoke, Wexler played records on his state of the art stereo, alternating acetate of a forthcoming Delaney and Bonnie album with the Beatles Abbey Road. It was a relief to know that even an insider like Wexler was a Beatles fan. "Those guys sure know what they're doing," he sighed listening to the end of "Carry That Weight." During a moment between songs, in a lame attempt to enter the conversation, I asked Wexler if he was going to an upcoming conference on the music business. "I never go to those things," he snarled, "The premise is that you can go there and learn secrets. First of all there aren't any secrets." He paused dramatically and then with a wolfish grin concluded, "and second of all, if there were any secrets, we wouldn't tell them." I spent many years trying to get Wexler to respect me enough to give me a job but it never happened.

Years later when I became an executive at Atlantic, the word about Wexler was that he had been both ruthless and contentious when it came to business and yet undeniably a great lover of music. If anything he was perceived a purist who had no interest in slavishly following the constantly changing trends of commercial music. His heart and soul were wedded to southern R&B and country music and he had a thinly veiled contempt for most commercial rock bands, even those on Atlantic. As a young man he had aspirations to be a writer and was a life-long leftie and long time subscriber to and avid reader of The Nation. He continued to listen to artists whose work was rooted in roots music and always called me for copies of Steve Earle's latest album. Wexler had been a mentor to countless producers and record executives.

I wish Wexler had lived long enough to see Barack Obama elected President. During the 1950s Wexler not only produced records by the likes of Ray Charles and Joe Turner but was an enormous force in pressuring pop radio stations to integrate their playlists paving the way for Motown and for the integration of the Top 40 which often served a soundtrack to the civil rights movement. Recently on a trip to LA I ran into a retired R&B promotion man named Cecil Holmes who was anxious to reminisce about his time in the business. "You can't imagine what Jerry Wexler meant in the fifties and sixties," he said "there were black babies all over the country who were named Jerry."

To read more about Bumping into Geniuses, go here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Greg Grandin
Hometown: Brooklyn


Good column on the Times and Ehrenreich. Actually, it is even worse. This is the second time the Sunday NYT's Book Review has done her in. See its similar snooty review by Alexandra Jacobs of her Bait and Switch book. Some time after this review came out, the Times public editor mentioned, in a column on the book-review process unrelated to this Ehrenreich review, that the "main qualities of a good reviewer" are, among others, "a willingness to take the book on its own terms" and a "track record (because established authors have a right to be assessed by equally established reviewers)." At the time she wrote this, Alexandra Jacobs was the social calendar editor of the New York Observer -- so much for the expectation of being "assessed by equally established reviewers."

Name: mg
Hometown: Livermore, CA

Eve Fairbanks' critique of Barbara Ehrenreich could be much shorter:

"One prefers one's reading to amuse, rather than inform."

Thankfully, not everyone agrees with her. Keep the information flowing, Dr. A. and co-Altercators.

Name: Mary

You ask, "What reporters, and what phone records?" One of the reporters was Raymond Bonner, who I noted would not be surprising to find on the list. After all, Raymond Bonner first came to journalistic fame during the early Reagan years:

"Back in the Reagan days of lawlessness when the administration was supporting the right wing strongmen in El Salvador, Raymond Bonner was one of two reporters that reported on the El Mozote assacre where the Reagan backed right-wing death squad murdered an entire village of innocent people. The warmongers in Reagan's administration tried to destroy Bonner's career for his reporting on this story and they accused him of distributing propaganda. It took years before the El Mozote massacre was acknowledged as true within this country when the village was exhumed and the bodies that documented the massacre were unearthed."

Name: Kurt Weldon
Hometown: Los Angeles

As much as I agree with your assessment of Eve Fairbank's review of Barbara Ehrenreich's book, I have to take exception to this:

"No music critic in the world would ever complain that an album of three-minute pop singles somehow did not measure up to 'Kind of Blue,' or 'Sergeant Pepper.' "

Perhaps not -- but substitute the U2 album of your choice for "Kind of Blue" and "Bruce Springsteen" for "Sergeant Pepper" and you have almost every review I've ever read from Robert Hillburn in the LA Times.

Which is why I stopped reading anything by Robert Hillburn.

And for other reasons, I stopped reading the Times as well ...

Name: Brian Geving
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

In response to Jim from NH, the NY Times will list Corsi's book as #1 on the bestseller list, but will also make it clear that it is the result of bulk sales. I think that bulk sales of an obvious political hitjob make it clear that it doesn't belong on the bestseller list, but it's an improvement to doing nothing.

Name: Keenanjay
Hometown: Santa Rosa Beach, FL

Pierce, just as weblogs post warnings of links that are NSFW (not safe for work) you really need to post a warning before a blind link that opens to reveal the hideous caricature of Camille Paglia at Maybe "protect your eyes" or NSFS (not safe for the sane).

Name: Steve Scott
Hometown: Scotts Valley, CA

I consider myself a big NFL football fan, but I gave up backing any particular team a long time ago ... ditto for the other sports too. I refuse to give my allegience to a team of mercenaries as they all are. I prefer to appreciate a sport, a team, or a player based on factors other than geography. Seat licenses definitely step over that line. Given that the Olympics are on now, perhaps we can all choose a different sport, team, and player to root for? Did you see the team handball competition?

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