Up Front


Liberal bloggers waging war on what they call "cocktail-weenie journalism" should cheer the latest move by The New York Times. Following a heated argument at the Times table during the annual White House Correspondents Association awards dinner between Times guest Karl Rove and singer Sheryl Crow -- which was, embarrassingly, first reported in a competing paper -- the Times decided to pull out of the annual bore-fest, known colloquially as the "prom."

The paper thus joins the ranks of jaded Washingtonians who have known for years that the dinner -- which features bad comedy and worse food -- is the low-light of the weekend, a movable (within the Beltway) feast that grows each year, and now kicks off with Friday-night cocktail parties, followed by a Saturday brunch, dozens of pre-dinner cocktail parties, at least three competing Saturday night after-parties, and a Sunday brunch, along with countless other small events and dinners as out-of-town guests catch up with the D.C. folk.

Clearly, many Washington reporters relish the excuse to dress up and drink once a year (actually, many don't need an excuse). Even if the dinner diminishes in importance, the opportunity it provides to hold subsidiary soirées ensures it will never be eliminated. But why not? The Washington press corps could just dump the dinner, hold an annual cocktail party that triggers the ancillary festivities, and be done with it -- the weenies, Rich Little, and all.

--Garance Franke-Ruta

Deploying Dick
It's a tough time for the brave men and women charged with coming up with raisons d'être for Dick Cheney. Of late, his job has narrowed to serving as bad cop in our long-distance dialog with Iran. Even as Condi Rice was trying to persuade the mullahs of Tehran to help us leave Iraq (to them), Cheney was aboard one of two U.S. carriers in the Persian Gulf warning the same mullahs to behave, and vowing that the U.S. would continue to control the sea-lanes surrounding Iran for the foreseeable future.

Since it's no small expense to deploy two carrier groups in the Gulf, however, here's an idea: Keep one carrier group there, withdraw the second, and deploy Cheney in its stead. He looks buoyant enough, with sufficient hot-air content to simultaneously bob along and threaten Iran. This will also keep him far from American voters, for which Republican candidates will be deeply grateful.

Now, then: What to do with W.?

No There There
Remember the line in Hitchcock's North by Northwest when the farmer notes the peculiarity of the crop-duster dusting where there aren't any crops?

That's nothing, it turns out, compared to nation building where there isn't any nation. Consider, for instance, the efforts of Iraqi legislators to equitably divide the nation's oil. In legislation drafted by the Shia-dominated cabinet (legislation that's been kicking around since February), fully 93 percent of Iraq's oilfields are to be entrusted to the national oil company, controlled by the Shia government in Baghdad. The fields include a number in areas controlled by the Kurdish regional government, whose Web site prominently displays the words "WRONG" and "TOO BIG" by that 93 percent figure. Not surprisingly, the legislation still languishes in the legislature.

We ask you: Is this a country that needs U.S. forces or a good divorce lawyer?

Offshoring Offshorers
For auto workers who have spent years seething at arrogant newspaper editorialists who celebrated the offshoring of factory jobs, help -- no, make that revenge -- may be on the way. The 2-year-old Web site pasadenanow.com- -- a mom-and-pop operation that covers some of the news that's fit to print in Pasadena, California, home of the Rose Parade -- has hired two low-dollar reporters based in India to cover its hometown. "They're working now on profiles of Pasadena community leaders," editor-publisher James Macpherson (no, not the great Civil War historian) told the Prospect when we reached him by phone.

What the stories may sacrifice in local color, political and social context, and kindred inessentials is plainly more than compensated for by the writers' wages: Each will earn $10,400 a year, according to the Associated Press, for turning out roughly 15 stories a week. But this trade-off of local know-nothingism for low-overhead wouldn't be necessary for journalists working solely in the realm of ideas -- that is, editorial writers. Since universal truths are universal, editorials can be written anywhere.

Keep that in mind, Rupert, when the Journal is yours.

Classy Ballparks
When Prospect Executive Editor Harold Meyerson was a lad, spending his youth in Dodger Stadium to observe the miracle of Sandy Koufax's pitching, tickets came in three categories -- box seats, bleachers, and general admission. The Dodgers have never since had a player comparable to the great Koufax, but that hasn't kept ticket prices from rising -- and differentiating, to drive prices even higher.

Where once there were only three price levels for tickets, today, according to a report in the L.A. Times, there are 83. There are dugout boxes, third–base-side boxes -- for all we know, Infield Fly Rule boxes -- all to extract more revenue from those able and willing to pay.

Since baseball teams play 162 games a year, tickets are still generally affordable, but stadiums, which once upon a time were a fairly egalitarian place, are now as microtargeted and class-stratified as everything else in our post–middle-class land. Desegregating baseball racially, resegregating baseball economically: The Dodgers giveth; and the Dodgers taketh away.



Have You Politicized Your Federal Agency?
A quick self-diagnostic test

At the FDA, I have:
a. Approved drugs impartially and based on rigorous tests of safety.
b. Approved drugs only with testing, but drugs made by campaign contributors seem to move faster up through the pile.
c. Approved drugs that imbue Republicans with paranormal upper-body strength while leaving Democrats emaciated and, as a rule, infertile.

At the Department of Agriculture, I have:
a. Encouraged setting certain requirements for animal-waste management.
b. Trusted the market to find the optimal methods of animal-waste management.
c. Draped Harry Reid's house in excrement.

At the Department of Transportation, I have:
a. Approved new taxiways at airports that are expanding.
b. Approved a new taxiway at Dallas/Fort Worth airport but rejected one at Logan.
c. Arranged for political opponents to take controversial "death flights."

At the Department of Labor, I have:
a. Aggressively enforced existing labor laws regarding collective bargaining.
b. Reviewed complaints from labor organizers but dismissed most.
c. Outsourced labor law enforcement to Colombian paramilitaries.

At Treasury, I have:
a. Encouraged the IRS to enforce all aspects of the tax code.
b. Slow-walked enforcement of the estate and capital-gains taxes.
c. Arranged for the RNC to borrow Fort Knox for a much-praised fund-raising event.

At the Department of Interior, I have:
a. Helped deliver irrigation to areas most in need.
b. Delivered irrigation that, according to analysts, favored Arizona over California.
c. Cut off all water to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

At the Department of Justice, I have:
a. Encouraged prosecutors to bring indictments as needed.
b. Regularly communicated policy priorities from the White House and pressured prosecutors to follow the White House lead.
c. Taken orders from Karl Rove, obstructed justice, and lied like a complete idiot.

-- T.A. Frank




"After seeing what he did in Iraq and the World Bank, he should become head of the National Republican Congressional Committee."
--Eric Alterman, columnist, The Nation

"Special Counselor to President Sarkozy."
--Bruce Ackerman, professor, Yale Law School

"Making license plates at Leavenworth."
--James Bamford, author, A Pretext for War

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