Slacker Friday


We've got a new "Think Again" column here called "Shallow Reporting on Deep Drilling."

Oh, and I'm making two public appearances next week:

  • Monday, September 15, 3:30 p.m.: "Reclaiming Liberalism," sponsored by the Wolfe Institute for the Humanites at Brooklyn College, Woody Tanger Auditorium, Brooklyn College Library.

Quotes of the Day:

On her assertion that it's not unusual for a vice president to have not met world leaders: "Palin was mistaken, at least where recent history is concerned," per ABC's Lisa Chinn.

"If you were to ask every living vice president -- they would say she's wrong," ABC's Jake Tapper reported on "GMA" Friday. "Palin would be the first vice president in 32 years who had never met a foreign head of state."

Charlie Gibson, who also works for ABC News and obviously prepared for his interview, and just as obviously has access to the same information as Chinn and Tapper, offers his correction to Palin's false statement:

" "

From TomDispatch:

Tom Engelhardt begins his latest post at with a little-noted passage from Jane Mayer's bestselling book The Dark Side in which, soon after 9-11 and a nerve-gas scare in the White House, Vice President Cheney embunkered himself and, when he traveled in the nation's capital, only did so in an armored motorcade with gas mask, biochemical survival suit, and medical doctor at his side. "Has any wartime president -- forget the vice-president -- including Abraham Lincoln... or Franklin D. Roosevelt at the height of World War II," Engelhardt asks, "ever been so bizarrely overprotected in the nation's capital? Has any administration ever placed such value on the preservation of the life of a single official?" This, he suggests, is the value of one.

In the rest of the piece, Engelhardt explores the Global War of Terror the vice president helped set loose on lands thousands of miles distant in which no price in human abasement or human life proved too high to pay -- as long as it was paid by someone else.

That is, he says, the "value of none" -- and it was recently paid by up to 60 Afghan children. He then carefully dissects the strange set of events, including Special Forces operatives, U.S. air power, American cover-ups, grainy videos of the dead, and even the appearance in Afghanistan (for Fox News) of Oliver North of Iran-Contra infamy that led to, and tried to dispose of, those 60 dead children. This is but a recent example of the almost constant creation of "collateral damage" as a central part of the Bush administration's War on Terror.

Consider this the analysis of a style of ruling -- and killing -- and valuing that has been going on for more than seven years. Engelhardt concludes this way:

"Of course, it matters what you value and what you dismiss as valueless. When you overvalue yourself and undervalue others, you naturally overestimate your own power and are remarkably blind to the potential power of others -- you underestimate them, that is. This might be said to be a reasonable summary of the short, bitter history of the Bush era.

"In this way, not just Vice President Cheney but the President and his top officials have remained self-protectively embunkered throughout their years in office. The 60 or so children slaughtered in Azizabad, each of whom belonged to some family, don't matter to them. But they do matter. And when you kill them, and so many others like them, you surely play with fire."

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc --

"Took all my money/Wrecked my new car/Now she's with one of my goodtime buddies/Drinkin' in some crosstown bar."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Gitanarias" (James Booker) -- Once again this week, I neglected to adorn with cosmetics the heard of swine pulling the large Mardi Gras float spelling out in gardenias how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First -- I am exceedingly slow, so let me see if I can parse my way through the thickets of MSNBC's new abject capitula ... er ... policy. In an attempt to recapture the "credibility" that certain very important anonymous employees believe that the network has lost, MSNBC has decided that this should be the standard of coverage for the rest of the election.

Part The Second: Perhaps the worst newspaper column ever written. I mean, my six-parry is a lot better than it was in 1999, so I should perhaps vote for the Republican ticket. I mean, holy Christ on a Jetski, Middlemarch? I used to wonder how SNL came up with the idea for the old "Lord and Lady Douchebag" skit. I wonder no longer.

Part The Third: They just don't give a rat's ass any more. Shouldn't some television network or another point out that, for all the campaign sturm und drang, the incumbent United States government has pretty much fallen completely apart? Isn't that, like, a bad thing or something?

Part The Fourth: Also from The Assignment Desk, y'all probably should get some folks on this, which is positively my favorite scandal of the past seven years not involving Neil Bush and Thai hookers. Sex! Drugs! Bureaucrats! Whoo-hoo! That's sleaze you can believe in, my friends. And if you think I'm going to start chanting, "Drill, baby, drill!" right now, you're sadly mistaken and should be ashamed of yourself.

Part The Fifth: This is a nice fact-check of FactCheck but I was struck by the name "Viveca Novak" at the end of the piece. Viveca Novak? This Viveca Novak, provider of last-minute alibis and savior of doughy criminal keisters? Why, yes, in fact, that very one. I'm certainly convinced.

Part The Sixth: Against all odds, the security guards at the offices of Salon get sockless drunk, pass out, and allow crazy people to sneak in and type things on the computers again. "... Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment ..." Please, somebody get the net.

Part The Last: I would appreciate it if spin-drunk political reporters wouldn't type up and publish smarmy surrender documents for what some of us still believe to be an honorable and important craft. I really would.

Apparently, one of the final straws at MSNBC was Keith Olbermann's apology following the playing of this video at the Republican National Convention. What was astonishing to me was that nobody at MSNBC or NBC News pointed out how dreadfully incomplete the video was. You will note that the video jumps right from the Iranian hostage crisis to the 1998 attacks on the two American embassies and the bombing of the USS Cole. Nobody in the NBC journalistic family -- not even Tom Brokaw, the man who discovered World War II -- was historian enough to mention some conspicuous omissions in the timeline. Like this, for example. Or this. Or most of the rest of these, at least some of which led directly to this, a really bad idea at the time that looks even worse in retrospect. Coincidentally, I'm sure, all of these apparently obscure events took place while Republican presidents were in charge. I believe the elite media should probably have mentioned this. It might also have been worthy of note to point out that the GOP standard bearer always has been a bit unclear as to what negotiating with terrorists really means.

Name: Merrill R. Frank
Hometown: Jackson Heights, NYC

Dr. On 9-11 just about every daily newspaper commemorated the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our country on their respective front pages -- except one.

We can all assume the various talking heads on FOX, i.e. Bernie Goldberg, would get a whole news cycle of apoplectic fake outrage if any other news source forgot, as our illustrious commander in chief always reminds us -- The Lessons of 9-11.

Name: Jacquie Mardell
Hometown: Santa Clara, CA

I want to thank LTC Bateman for issuing the call to write down 9-11 as it happened to me. I took him up on it and am in the middle of mine. I wonder when I will be 'done', meaning it feels as I write that the event is still not concluded. I am revisiting the anger I feel at people who co-opted the precious singleness of purpose that we Americans felt with each other and with other citizens around the world. I am angry with the small-minded people who have co-opted the flag and the word "patriot" and made them both cheap meaningless symbols of the narrowest kind of thinking. The election coverage today and the utter vapidity and paucity of serious discussion of real issues indicate that that narrowness prevails even today, even when I would have thought we had had enough. You see, 9-11 never really ends, not as long as people can use it to benefit themselves and suppress others, thereby stomping all over the memories of those who died that day.

Thanks again, LTC Bob. I can't say that writing this piece is an agreeable process, but I see why it must be done.

Name: Karl Witter
Hometown: Bloomfield, CT

As hosts of the ServiceNation non-political event, Time Managing Editor Richard Stengel and PBS Senior Correspondent Judy Woodruff covered themselves in offal tonight.

My detector went off when Stengel couldn't ask a question about non-governmental org efficiencies without framing it through a quote from Newt (I love the private sector -- ask any of my think tanks) Gingrich.

I checked out after Judy Woodruff opened a question to Obama about military service with, "One of the consequences of 9-11 is the wars in Afghanistan and then Iraq..."

Name: Tom Puleo
Hometown: West Hartford, CT

As an 18-year staff writer at the Hartford Courant who just took a corporate buyout, I would like to say this: One of the first rules I ever learned in journalism is that we [reporters] are under no obligation to pass along bullshit. None. That job is called stenographer. Keep up the great work, Eric.

Name: Ben Vernia
Hometown: Arlington, VA

In covering ongoing domestic political campaigns, reporters enter a Heisenbergian dilemma: they can't observe and report on the events without affecting them. Although this is probably true of any news story, the linkage between coverage and consequence is nowhere tighter than in a presidential race.

The Post's editors and reporters apparently believe that by adopting a pseudo-objective viewpoint, and reporting as if nothing really matters and nothing is demonstrable, they can keep their hands clean, but their aloofness just makes them a tool for Republican spin, and removes any hope of providing a factual counterweight to unscrupulous media outlets such as Fox.

Campaign reporters do not write the "first draft of history"; they write the first draft of our future. Either they don't understand their responsibility for a rational political outcome, or they don't care.

Name: Bill
Hometown: White Plains

Every American should be shown this link.

Isn't Torie Clarke John McCain's spokesperson?

The book, Lipstick on a Pig, was written in 2006, by Torie Clarke.

This whole meshugana is exactly what she wrote about in her book. Making non-issues the issue.

And where is the press?

Keep up the good work, Doc.

Name: Marc in Denver
Hometown: Denver

How could the media make the truth stick? How about mockery. "And, for the fourteenth day in a row, Candidate A misstated her/his position on Issue X." Do it on a daily basis (like Rush, or Olbermann, or Ted Koppel, on the show that turned into Nightline), and either they will stop, or people in the audience will have to fight giggles when the lie pops out.

Name: Barbara C.
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, FL

Eric ...

I am so sick and tired the way this country bought into the conservative spin these past few elections. Have you noticed how "shocked" I tell you the MSM is that McCain is coming up in the polling? If the Democrats lose another election due to our "sit by and watch" press and the Right Wing affinity for divisive and culture war politics ... I can only offer all of you at the end of this campaign a bumper sticker that reads: "We'll Always Have Europe" ...

Name: Scott Martin
Hometown: Bogalusa, LA

Is it just me, or do the quotes from Chuck Norris on CNN sound remarkably like the jock trying to ad lib a report at the end of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure? I was half-expecting Pundit Norris to conclude with "San Dimas High School Football Rules!"

Name: Guillermo Lamas
Hometown: Beverly Hills, CA

Tu publicación esta muy malo. Señor Lorenzo Lamas es un hombre muy intelligente y muy versátil en las cosas políticas. Usted necesita disculparse a Señor Lamas. Ahora. ¡Pero, es verdad, Señor Chuck Norris es un idiota grande! Un favor, ya no hablen mal de Lorenzo Lamas. ¿Si?

George Zornick replies: If Lorenzo Lamas is very politically active, I apologize. But Renegade was one awful show.

Name: Steve Thorne
Hometown: Somewhere in California

Chuck Norris on CNN debating politics with Arianna Huffington? Another Chuck Norris joke is born, but this one's on him.

Name: Jeff Weed
Hometown: Little Elm, TX

Dr. A,

Kudos for the 2 Quadrophenia references in a single week! I think it's The Who's best album -- an enlightened opinion I believe you've expressed on this very site before.

Name: Mark Richard
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio

I really don't get your prediction that the Mets are done for. This morning's paper has them 3 1/2 up with three weeks + to go. Is this one of those "believe the worst so you can be pleasantly surprised" things.

On the other hand, there was 2007.

Eric replies: I think they may take the division but no further. You can't win many playoff games with a bullpen like that. (Of course, these are words I'd be happy to eat ...)

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