Wednesday, June 28, 2006

BUFFETT'S SCAM Hard to believe the folks at the Wall Street Journal editorial unit had it in them: Jonathan Chait catches the page reaching a new low.

MODERATE REPUBLICANS For those keeping score at home, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) all backed the constitutional amendment on flag burning.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

HITTING BACK Just hours after Bill Keller's meandering, poorly-written open letter surfaced yesterday morning, New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau exacerbated things on The Newshour with a well-intentioned but dismal performance in a debate with Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA):
REP. CURT WELDON: This is outrageous! The New York Times, a profit-making entity, designed to improve their bottom line to make a profit, has decided that they can supersede members of Congress from both parties who are briefed on these important programs for our national security...

If members of Congress who are briefed and who are elected by the people determine that an administration has overstepped its bounds, then we have the ability and we have in a process to bring it back under control.

If the New York Times really wanted to do that, then they would have gone to members of Congress and said, "What are you going to do about this?" instead of broadcasting it all over the world. They didn't do that.

They chose the profit motive, to continue to make the profit that drives the bottom line of these newspapers. And that's outrageous.
Lichtblau's response to Weldon's bizarre and clearly facetious argument?
ERIC LICHTBLAU: Well, I think there is, certainly, a growing tension, and that goes beyond, you know, the couple of stories that I've worked on. I mean, this is something we're seeing played out on a daily and weekly basis, with clashes between the media and the administration.

And, you know, there's a raging public debate, I think, between national security and the public's right to know, and oftentimes those interests conflict.
I'm sorry, that just doesn't cut it.

Look: I'm not saying that Lichtblau--and The Times--need to wade into the slime pit with Weldon and his friends. But couldn't Lichtblau at least challenge Weldon's farcical "profit motive" insinuations. (Does anyone really believe Keller polled the circulation department before publishing the bank records story?)

And would it really hurt Lichtblau to venture just a few words about the importance of a free press in a representative democracy?

It was one thing for reporters and media institutions to adopt an above-the-fray pose about First Amendment issues in the pre-9/11 era. But today, all national security reporters need to realize that their ability to do their jobs is under genuine threat. And they need to act accordingly.

Dennis Persica of The Times-Picayune, by contrast, refuses to hide under the covers. He asks some important questions here (via Atrios):

What would we as a profession do, and what would the rest of the American citizenry do, if, for example, the U.S. Attorney's office in New York, bolstered by a cadre of armed federal marshals, barged into the offices of The New York Times today?

They could claim that the Times is a threat to national security and that they need to scour the filing cabinets and computers of Times staffers to see if they can find the source of the stories that the administration and its supporters say are threatening national security. And they could also claim that they are trying to protect the nation against future stories that they fear could be a threat to national security.

The rest of us could rail all we wanted about the raid, but if the marshals are in the Times building I think you could accurately say that they have the upper hand.


Perhaps a slight majority of the country would be outraged by such a raid, but again, what could they possibly do? This would be no Pentagon Papers case where the argument is whether or not a newspaper should be allowed to publish. This would be a case where the federal government treats a newspaper as if it were an enemy saboteur, occupies its headquarters and seized its assets. Perhaps eventually, a court might tell the marshals to leave and to give back everything they had taken. But by then serious damage would have been done.

A scary scenario, but it might be time to start thinking about how we would respond to something like that. Or better yet, how we could prevent it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

THEATRE PICK Don't miss Michael Feingold's excellent profile of actor Alvin Epstein, an incomparable theatre artist and a true American treasure.

At 81, Epstein is still a mesmerizing performer who does excellent work. And so it's pure scandal that--fifty years after the American premieres of WAITING FOR GODOT and ENDGAME--the man who originated the roles of Lucky and Clov continues to toil away in relative obscurity. Epstein should be a household name among even casual theatregoers.

That he isn't speaks volumes about our debased celebrity culture, the enfeebled role of theatre in our national dialogue and--probably--a pervasive misunderstanding among the American public about what constitutes good acting.

But that's a post for another time.

In any event, Epstein is currently appearing in the title role in KING LEAR at the La Mama Annex, for a short run that ends on July 2. I haven't yet seen the production, but it promises to be memorable.

If you can get your hands on a ticket, I'd recommend it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

CALLING PHILLY Philadelphia readers take note: Dan Aibel's short play THE BOX will be touching down at the Spark Festival for a seven-performance run from July 18-23. (Tickets are available
here .)

The play is being produced by the up-and-coming Philadelphia-based Flashpoint Theatre Company and will be directed by the ensemble's producing artistic director, Erin Lucas.

Monday, June 19, 2006

GORE: JOE WHO? Via Lamontblog: Former Vice President Al Gore has refused to back Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT)--his own running mate--against primary challenger and Connecticut businessman Ned Lamont:
I am not involved. I typically do not get involved in Democratic primaries. Joe is my close friend, Joe and Hadassah are close to Tipper and me and it would be very difficult for me to ever oppose him. But I don't get involved in primaries typically. He's a great guy and he's right on a lot of other issues.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

I know I'm taking a position that is not popular within the party," [Sen. Joseph Lieberman D-CT] said, "but that is a challenge for the party--whether it will accept diversity of opinion or is on a kind of crusade or jihad of its own to have everybody toe the line."
Is this how Lieberman woos voters? By insinuating that supporters of his primary opponent are fanatics?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

SHAME In case you missed the Saturday edition of The New York Times:
One prisoner was fed only bread and water for 17 days. Other detainees were locked for as many as seven days in cells so small that they could neither stand nor lie down, while interrogators played loud music that disrupted their sleep.

The inquiry also determined that some detainees were stripped naked, drenched with water and then interrogated in air-conditioned rooms or in cold weather. General Formica said it appeared that members of the Navy Seals had used that technique in the case of one detainee who died after questioning in Mosul in 2004, but he reported that he had no specific allegations that the use of the technique was related to that death.

Despite the findings, General Formica recommended that none of the service members be disciplined, saying what they did was wrong but not deliberate abuse. He faulted "inadequate policy guidance" rather than "personal failure" for the mistreatment, and cited the dangerous environment in which Special Operations forces carried out their missions. He said that, from his observations, none of the detainees seemed to be the worse for wear because of the treatment. "Seventeen days with only bread and water is too long," the general concluded. But he added that the military command's surgeon general had advised him "it would take longer than 17 days to develop a protein or vitamin deficiency from a diet of bread and water."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

JOEMENTUM SLOWS I alluded briefly to the Connecticut senatorial primary in my last post before I left for vacation.

Three weeks later, my sense is that it's still not widely understand that Senator Joe "three way tie for third place" Lieberman is in a heap of trouble.

Not insurmountable trouble. Not brink-of-extinction trouble. But it's still serious: The latest poll shows challenger Ned Lamont down a measly six points. (Margin of error: 7 points.)

Lieberman might fare better as an independent--and he's widely believed to be weighing an independent bid. But even in that scenario, he's still not a sure thing.

LamontBlog is your (admittedly biased) source for information on the race. And you can find out more about Ned Lamont here.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

BLOGGING RESUMED Earlier today, Brad DeLong put up a fascinating post about, yes, student loans.


CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.