The week (September 22): Nobody asked me, but…

Echoing the late, great Jimmy Cannon: Nobody asked me, but…

IF RICHARD ARMITAGE, former Undersecretary of State, did threaten Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf in 2001 that the U.S. would bomb Pakistan “back to the Stone Age” if it didn’t cooperate in the war against terrorism after 9/11, was he consciously drawing on Gen. Curtis E. LeMay’s infamous proposed solution to the Vietnam War (“‘bomb them back into the Stone Age.”)? Not surprisingly, Armitage denies he made the threat.

For his part, LeMay later claimed that the Stone Age suggestion—which appeared in his 1965 autobiography ”Mission With LeMay”—had been inserted by his collaborator, historian MacKinlay Kantor, without LeMay’sknowledge (but never offered any proof of his own innocence). LeMay also ran for Vice President on George Wallace’s American Independent Party ticket in 1968 (where he suggested that nuclear weapons should remain an option in Vietnam). No wonder that the character of General Buck Turgidson of “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” was thought to be based on “Bombs Away” LeMay.

BRENDAN NYHAN WORE OUT his welcome at The American Prospect‘s media criticism blog, he says, because he “slammed two liberal blogs for using an airline employee’s suicide after 9/11 to take a cheap shot at President Bush.” Nyhan adds in a post on Time‘s PoliticalBite that he quit after “Sam Rosenfeld, the magazine’s online editor, asked that I focus my blogging on conservative targets.”

Nyhan asks plaintively: “…isn’t open and honest debate a value that liberals prize?” He quotes from an emailed defense offered by TAP editor Michael Tomasky: “The Prospect has always opposed a ‘pox on both houses’ posture, and that’s what we came to believe you were doing.”

Nyhan suggests that The American Prospect may have been swayed by another consideration—one perhaps more commercial in nature:

One important factor shaping TAP’s decision may have been the popularity of Democratic bloggers like Atrios, who pump out a stream of pre-filtered news and commentary. Before the rise of online competition, opinion magazines had some freedom to be idiosyncratic and less partisan than their readers. The initial incarnation of the Prospect, for example, had a thoughtful, academic tone. But the availability of more points of view online (while laudable in many ways) has paradoxically increased the pressure on ideological publications to pander to readers, who have the option of seeking out exclusively partisan blogs instead.

Right-of-center publications—on or off the Web—aren’t any more welcoming to independent or ideologically suspect views, from what I can see. Many partisans don’t want the facts to get in the way of their deeply held opinions.

Nyhan continues to blog—independently—at

ANDY GARCIA’S DEEPLY PERSONAL film, “The Lost City,” about the trials and tribulations of a Cuban family after the Revolution is now available on DVD and is definitely worth the rental fee (for the wonderful soundtrack music alone!) The movie also features the luminous Inés Sastre as Garcia’s love interest, and two strange performances by Bill Murray and Dustin Hoffman. It took Garcia nearly two decades to bring his vision to the screen.

Let’s hope that after Castro’s death and the inevitable return of freedom to Cuba, Gracia follows with a sequel capturing the experience of exiled Cubans returning to their beloved island (and confronting the gap between memory and reality).

IF PETE ROSE AND JOSE CANSECO disappeared from the public eye, they would make an awful lot of baseball fans quite happy. They violate soul singer Bobby Womack’s sage advice: “Leave them wanting more and you know they’ll call you back.”

VOLKSWAGEN CONTINUES TO RUN those television commercials where a peaceful drive in a Jetta or Passat is shockingly interrupted by a violent air-bag-popping accident. Sorry, but the ads are creepy. The shock value wears off, I’m afraid, on second viewing, just as the high school Driver Education class crash videos do—and you wonder whether Volkswagen realizes that lots of viewers (like me) dislike have their emotions manipulated.

PROVING THAT ELECTORAL INCOMPETENCE is bipartisan, the latest reports of uncounted votes, polling machine breakdowns and Election Day chaos come from heavily Democratic Maryland and Massachusetts.

THINK CURRENT DISDAIN FOR CONGRESS is widespread (as the latest opinion surveys show)? Mark Twain once sneered: “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

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Copyright © 2006 Jefferson Flanders
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