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Eric Alterman | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

Well-chosen words on music, movies and politics, with the occasional special guest.

Slacker Friday

I’ve got a new “Think Again” column called “What’s Wrong with this Mainstream Media Picture?” about coverage of DISCLOSE Act, here.

 

And my new Nation column about the MSM’s embrace of Breitbartism and nuttiness regarding Journolist, is here.

 

Now here's Charles:
 

CHARLES PIERCE
NEWTON, MA.

Hey Doc:
   

     "Nothing from nothing leaves nothing/You gotta have something/if you want to be with me."

     Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "(They Call Me) Doctor Professor Longhair" (Professor Longhair) -- If the Republicans start telling me I don't love New Orleans, I'm setting Anthony Weiner on they asses again. Just sayin'.

     Part The First: My money's on this action's never getting to court, but I'd buy tickets to the discovery process as requested by the plantiff. Oh, yes. I would do that.

     Part The Second: The Cynic returns, baffled as always.

     Part The Third: Go ahead. Tell me that the reason for this is that we need 60 votes to pass something in the Senate. He wants this power because he wants this power. Period. Constitutional law professor, my arse.

     Part The Fourth: Behold, the most honest man in Nevada, except, of course, for that part about lying that he'd ever said these things. As a matter of fact, because his children don't look Hispanic is precisely why they don't have to worry about the Arizona law.

     Part The Fifth: Outside of The Band, whose first two albums retired the trophy in this category, no band ever has developed in its music such a finely drawn individual country of the imagination than have the Drive By Truckers. Their latest, The Big To-Do, is growing on me by the hour. This is the South where even Atticus Funch doesn't dare troll for clients. "The Wig He Made Her Wear" can legitimately be seen as a direct link to  "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)", except that the events in the former take place after the rural economic dread that hangs over every note of the latter like smoke over a cornfield has settled in for 30 years or so. Somebody smarter than me once said that the only original insight George Wallace ever had was to discover that, in many important ways, all of America was Southern. With double-digit unemployment as the New Normal, this is music that the country needs right now.
     

     Part The Penultimate: And, ladies and gentlemen, it's Senator Rand Paul, brought to you by Massey Energy and the United States Supreme Court.
     

     Part The Ultimate: Time pretty much decided to blow goats this week. I'm going to leave aside the Send-Your-Kids-But-Not-Mine freak-show to people more bloodthirsty than I.  Rather, I'd like to address the woeful ongoing unrequited romance between Joe Klein and His Own Private Newt Gingrich. Every couple of years, it seems, Klein writes this same column, possibly in violet ink across the cover of his Trapper-Keeper. It's about how "visionary" and "creative" the former speaker is, only to have Gingrich once again revert to type and break Joe's heart. In fact, if you really want to know when a lot of the problems with elite political discourse began, recall the Intertoobz back to the days of the candy-coated stories about Newt Gingrich in the wake of the 1994 midterm elections.
     

As should be obvious to everyone by now, Gingrich's primary accomplishment as a national political figure was to bring in an incredible cast of drunkards, boobs, lechers, and incompetents -- the latter two categories, by the way, would include Gingrich himself -- whom he then so alienated that they tried to throw his ass out once, failed, and then succeeded later, after Newt had let the impeachment circus run away with the country. His effect on the national polity has been universally negative. His vaunted "ideas," including his lifelong devotion to that meathead, Alvin Toffler, always read like a non-too-bright, but ambitious, teenager set loose in the New Nonfiction section of his local Borders. His credentials as a historian -- which include his partial authorship of a couple of Confederophile pseudohistories -- make Jonah Goldberg look like Thuycidides. If the man has had a genuine intellectual thought in his life, to paraphrase the great Dan Jenkins, he took it out in the yard and played with it. And, yet, Joe Klein is not the only one who looks at the 2012 Republican presidential field, (rightly) considers it a little light on the old gray matter, and then thinks to himself, "You know who could bring some gravitas to this whole operation? Newt Gingrich, Trained Historian!" Then Newt goes out and starts shilling another overripe hunk of Regnery sausage in which The Trained Historian writes: "The secular socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.” This indicates that The Trained Historian is now doing his primary-source research off placards at Tea Party rallies. It also indicates (again) that, if Newt Gingrich is a historian, then every chicken who plays tic-tac-toe is Boris Spassky. And everyone pretends to be mystified  as to how this possibly could have happened.

 

P.S -- While I appreciate The Landlord's having taken up the cudgel on my behalf, I'd like also to point out to reader Perhach that my 2004 post plainly had to do with telling the Democrats not to vote for any Bush agenda items simply because he'd finally won a presidential election. That is, it was a call for Democrats not to get rolled, something that even Mr. Perhach will have to admit has been a problem recently. Nowhere did I suggest, or even imply, that the Democrats should simply stall every single piece of legislation going forward. That's irresponsible governance and I would not support it under either party. If that's unclear, I'm sure Rep. Weiner would be glad to explain it to you.
 

 

 

Editor's Note:  To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.

Do You Know Who Eric Alterman Is?

First things first: How awesome is this?

“Eric Alterman. Do you know who Eric Alterman is? The left may treat him as a giant. I know that they do. He's a kook! He's a far-left fringe kook. But do you know who he is? Do you?”

Rush Limbaugh

Ok, back to work.

I’ve got a new “Think Again” column called “What’s Wrong with this Mainstream Media Picture?” about coverage of DISCLOSE Act, here.

And my new Nation column about the MSM’s embrace of Breitbartism and nuttiness regarding Journolist, is here.

Jeffrey Goldberg finally addressed my response to his Nascar post, in fact, twice, here and here. To those, like the younger Podhoretz who fail to understand the symbolism that anti-Zabars ideology occupies on the right,  and who Goldberg, at least last time I checked, funnily terms to be the editor of “Mother Jones”—for which he is just about as qualified as he is to be editor of Commentary—see the short excerpt from “Why We’re Liberals” below.

Oh and I did a short Daily Beast recommendation for two new books, Rosanne Cash's new memoir (surprise, surprise) and Christine Stansell's new history of feminism, here.

By the way, I have never written much about this, because it’s a hard issue for which to find reliable evidence, but I have always believed that the intensity of both the hatred of liberals and the hatred of the media on parts of the right was really a kind of coded version old-fashioned Jew hatred and hence, Jewish neocons and others play with it at their own peril. It deserves a much longer, much more careful exegesis, but I have noticed an awful lot of Jew hatred cropping up on conservative websites in light of the false and defamatory articles about Journolist that have been dribbling out of Tucker Carlson’s terrible website. Here is a tiny sampling:

JournoList - more like Jewnourlist.  Nothing but jews conspiring to defame White Americans.  I particularlly like your cult member Eric Alterman calling White Americans “fn ret*rds”.  I think more people are waking up to the fact that we have a hostile elite ruling America.

Comment by PeteMoylan on 7/22/10 at 11:13 am

I’m starting to appreciate what T.S. Eliot meant when he noted the undesirability to a society of any large number of free-thinking jews. The country founded by Jefferson, Madison, Washington and Franklin is dead.

Comment by Nietzschean on 7/22/10 at 7:45 pm

The Founders tried to warn America about jews.  We should have listened.  Jews are nation destroyers.  Look at the filth that thst this country has become with jews in control.

Comment by PeteMoylan on 7/24/10 at 12:52 pm

Complaints, complaints, complaints. B!tch and moan, b!tch and moan. Boo effin hoo. Ruling America is very hard work, and do we get any appreciation for it? Of course not!

Comment by Ben Plonie on 7/24/10 at 7:51 pm

You can find more like that here.

And speaking of Journolist, I never paid much attention to Roger Simon before, but he sure does seem to be a very silly man. And it’s not just for foolishness like this (which Reed addresses below). There’s also this quote below, about, I kid you not, the next President of these United States, RNC Chairman Michael Steele:

“It is not unthinkable. A demographic plan exists: The Democratic candidates who win the presidency never win the white vote. Jimmy Carter didn’t, Bill Clinton didn’t (twice) and Barack Obama didn’t. What they do to gain victory is win enough of the white vote and an overwhelming minority vote.

As a black Republican nominee, Steele could get many of the white votes a Republican usually gets while cutting into the Democratic black vote. In this manner, he could defeat Obama in 2012. And that would be his pitch for getting his party’s nomination.” No really, that’s here.

 

Now back to Zabar’s The below is from “Why We’re Liberals:”

During the Republican convention in New York City in 2004, to take a trivial but revealing example, New York Times political correspondent—now op-ed columnist—John Tierney termed the city’s Upper West Side, “the neighborhood that has called itself "the conscience of the nation," something that is clearly false, as it is also impossible, given that no neighborhood can call itself anything. Even worse, in the same article purported to be “looking for liberal New Yorkers who might be re-examining their consciences,” outside the food store, Zabar’s. Exactly why such shoppers should be ‘re-examining consciences,”  Tierney did not even bother to say. He merely assumed that the neighborhood was filled with liberals and liberal consciences required re-examining.

Morning Joe" co-host Willie Geist set out to find McCain supporters on New York's famously liberal Upper West Side, putting on a McCain-Palin t-shirt and parking himself in front of the legendary Jewish deli Zabar's. He ended up finding one Republican couple, but not before being greeted with scorn and bewilderment by passersby, many of whom said that they didn't know a single person in the neighborhood who is planning to vote for John McCain.

Back in the studio, Mika Brzezniski and Mike Barnicle were deeply disturbed by the way Willie was received in the neighborhood. Barnicle said, "That is an important cultural piece, and it proves why so many people are so right — no pun intended — to really loathe so many on the left. Those people are so close-minded."

In Washington D.C., Joe Scarborough — who often complains that Democrats fail to see beyond the Upper West Side and Georgetown — said, "There's some really, really hostile people on the left who just think that they are intellectually superior."

Pentagon Papers 2: Electronic Boogaloo?

By Reed Richardson

Another week, another revelation (or 91,000 online revelations, to be precise) about how our nation’s massive military and intelligence structure isn’t really succeeding at its stated mission. And once again, a major national security story bursts onto the scene and within a day or two, begins to evanesce out of the national conversation. This time, what’s increasingly replacing it involves a media meta-debate about the very story itself, one that eschews much of the actual content of the Afghanistan war logs and instead focuses on questioning Wikileaks’ true motives behind digitally archiving the raw data and obsessing over the historic parallels between them and the Pentagon Papers from four decades ago.

To a large extent, though, this is understandable. After all, though the composition, viewpoints, and governmental mendacity uncovered in the individual AfPak war logs differ greatly from the original Pentagon Papers, the Wikileaks documents, when combined with last week’s Washington Post series on our runaway national intelligence infrastructure, do paint an eerily similar and dismal composite of a nation foundering at war. (Indeed, for a chilling sense of deja vu, just read through then-Senator Mike Gravel’s short introduction to the Senate’s publication of the full Pentagon Papers from 39 years ago.) And today’s revelation that Wikileaks knowingly published the names of hundreds of the U.S. military’s Afghani informants, possibly endangering their lives, makes that organization’s role and reasons for facilitating the leaks a completely legitimate story to pursue.

What’s not so legitimate, however, is when Politico’s chief political columnist perpetrates sanctimonious sentimentality like this under the banner of a journalistic ethics lesson. At first blush, it might be tempting to simply dismiss Roger Simon’s “embarrassing” (his word) column—in which he all but ignores the big news of the week and instead chooses to rehash the JournoList saga and patronize its young founder, Ezra Klein—as little more than a 1,031-word curmudgeonly rant (that, for my money, Paul Lynde, did a far better job of here.) But to do so is shortsighted, as its tone and conclusions are emblematic of ongoing predicament plaguing journalism.

For all Simon’s talk of “we informed the public,” “we reported without fear or favor,” and “it was almost a holy calling,” it’s worth noting that the glorious priesthood of the early 1970s, when her first broke into journalism, had more than a few prickly rules about just who exactly was allowed to join in and lead the crusade. Or, as the multitudes of women and minorities from that era, destined to never be promoted past the copy desk or discriminated against before they could even set foot in the newsroom, might point out: “What do you mean, we, white man?”

When Simon lays it on thicker: “The lines were not muddy. We played it straight,” his idealized fable of journalism might best be described, to put it gently, as what comes out of the southern end of a northbound horse. In fact, the media’s ethical lines weren’t really well-drawn at all—an Associated Press Managing Editors study from 1974 found that fewer than 10% of newspapers had ethics codes. And in this vacuum, the notion of “playing it straight” that Simon homilizes about allowed for a lot of gray areas, as former Philadelphia Inquirer managing editor Gene Foreman writes in “The Ethical Journalist:

“As the 1970s began, a press pass entitled the bearer and his or her family to so-called freebies […] Although accepting those gratuities could be seen as selling out to the people being covered, only a minority of journalists abstained.” [italics mine]

Now I’ve never met Roger Simon and so I can’t tell you if he’s so pure of heart that he’s always been among that chaste minority, but when he speaks with the collective ‘we,’ he’s joining some not so wholly virtuous company.

Selective memory when it comes to events from nearly forty years ago is but a venial sin, however. We all do it to some extent. What’s more galling is when Simon returns his focus to today—this “new, angrier, more destructive age”—and starts gnashing his teeth over the motes in other journalists’ eyes without acknowledging the occasional, embarrassing log in his own. Then, in true he-said, she-said fashion, he balances a quote from Klein explaining exactly how nothing unethical occurred with a quote of ethical tsk-tsking from Tucker Carlson.

“What they did discredits journalism in general, and honorable liberal journalists in particular. I know plenty of progressives who have a healthy skepticism even of candidates they voted for. Most of the members of Journolist [sic] didn’t.

These crocodile tears for “honorable journalism” are particularly rich coming from Carlson, since it is his website, The Daily Caller, that not only violated established journalistic ethics by releasing the off-the-record JournoList emails, but also published an unabashed political hit piece under the guise of political commentary just two days earlier. Neither transgression, it’s worth noting, Simon found the space in his column to criticize. So why include Carlson at all? Because in the second part of his quote, Carlson willingly stokes the back-in-my-day, anti-politics fires that, I think, still colors Simon’s view of journalism.

OK, so those comments on his bio page about looking down on politicians are meant to be laughed off as a joke, but can you imagine a religion columnist similarly mocking the well-documented transgressions of the priesthood in his bio or a sports columnist sarcastically heaping scorn upon “the dumb jocks” he has to cover? There is some there there, in other words.

Indeed, I suspect that the growing acceptance of journalists like Klein, who willingly move between advocacy and so-called objective journalism, and media partners like Wikileaks, which have pointed, sometime complicated agendas, is at the core of the ethical uneasiness that Simon and many others in the mainstream media now express. But in a digital age where privacy—both personal and institutional—is rapidly shrinking, it’s imperative for journalism to embrace transparency if it is to continue to serve our democracy. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange told the New Yorker last month: “To be completely impartial is to be an idiot. This would mean that we would have to treat the dust in the street the same as the lives of people who have been killed.” Whether the media likes it not, they may have learned a valuable lesson this week: you go to print on a war story with the sources you have, not necessarily the ones you want.

 The Mail:

Aaron Perhach

Forty Fort, Pennsylvania 

Dear Dr. Alterman,

Shorty after the 2004 election, Charles Pierce offered some advise to the Democrats. His advise was summed up in one word: "No." Now that the shoe is on the other foot, you and Mr. Pierce no longer see the virtue of being the Party of "no". Why the double standard?

Eric replies: Well, number one, if Pierce said it that by definition means I did not. We are, after all, different people. And number two, is it a double standard to support something one supports and oppose a completely different thing one opposes?  I think not. “Mr. Alterman, you said no to the glass of oil and vomit but yes to the Grey Goose martini on the rocks with a twist. Why the double standard?”

Larry Derfner 

Modi'in, Israel 

Here’s a Jerusalem Post column I wrote during Campaign 2008 about hunting and stock car racing.

RATTLING THE CAGE

‘Feh’ on Hunting

There was a story in The Jerusalem Post recently about how Sarah Palin was driving a lot of the old Jews in Florida back into the hands of the Democrats. They still didn't particularly like Barack Obama, but they disliked Palin more, explained Steve Geller, a Jewish Democratic politician down there.

It wasn't just the evangelical thing, he said.  “Most of our South Florida condo people are appalled at seeing her standing over a moose.”

Finally. Thank God. I'd like to shake the hands of those South Florida condo people for saying what American Jews have been afraid to say ever since the rise of the Right: We don't like hunting. We don't admire hunters. In fact, we think they're a little strange, maybe even a little bit sick – and with some of them, more than a little bit.

What sort of person kills animals for sport? For fun? You see this picture of Sarah Palin kneeling in the snow over this moose she's just shot, and the moose is lying there bleeding from the mouth – and everybody's supposed to applaud. This is women's equality – women can kill moose, too.

By the way, this is not just a Republican thing; Hillary Clinton told the story over and over about how she learned to hunt from her father. In 2004, John Kerry made sure everyone knew he may be a Democrat with a Boston accent, but he was a hunter, damnit.

Obviously, they were going after the redneck vote, showing they weren't prissy urban liberals, they were real, red-blooded Americans. That's what you have to do to get elected president ever since 1980, when Reagan took over and country became cool.

And I have to laugh at these Jewish Republicans who are kvelling over Palin and what a regular, down-to-earth gal she is. I'd like to see some of these verbose Jewish neocons tromping around Alaska with a hunting rifle going after caribou, whatever the hell that is.

Why don't they admit that they're put off by Palin's exploits in the snow, and by hunting in principle, just like those Florida condo people are. This is not a Jewish thing, and, as a Jew, I'm happy to say it's not. I know there are a few Jewish hunters out there, and I want to say I feel sorry for you, you and all your gentile friends, that this is how you find joy in life – by killing deer, and moose, and rabbits, and ducks, and birds and whatever other animals you enjoy shooting.

By the way, I don't mean to tar all gentiles as barbarians – I know that millions and millions of gentiles are also sickened by hunting, maybe most of them are. But let's face it, even if most gentiles aren't hunters, virtually all hunters are gentiles.

After all, how many Jews are members of the National Rifle Association? (No, you cannot count Charlton Heston, RIP.)

And I'm not one of those people who want to outlaw hunting. I don't think it's “murder,” I don't think animals have the same rights as people. Actually, I'm no great animal lover at all. Actually, if you want to know the truth, I identify with the humorist Fran Lebowitz, who, when asked to name her favorite animal, replied: “Steak.”

And I don't hate guns, either; I got a big kick out of target practice in the army. I'm also not a stickler for gun control; I understand that in some places and some situations, a gun is a good thing to have, and I'm not convinced that rounding up guns in America would bring the crime rate down to European levels.

It's just that I don't like the idea of killing animals for pleasure, and I don't think being a hunter is anything to be proud of. I wouldn't do it, and frankly, I don't think I could be friends with somebody who did it, or at least somebody who did it passionately, and it seems to me that all hunters are passionate about hunting. It doesn't strike me as a hobby you can pursue half-heartedly.

The South Florida condo people have a term for it: goyishe naches. Gentiles' idea of happiness. Not all gentiles, of course, but too many of them, including Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and, of course, Dick Cheney. (Just think – if the yidden in Florida had known all along that Cheney was such a remarkably eager hunter, Al Gore probably would have won in 2000.)

So let's all of us Jews, or virtually all of us, along with the vast, civilized majority of gentiles, stand up and say: Feh on hunting! You think that makes you a man, or a strong woman? It makes you a nut! You should be ashamed of yourselves! Unless you're starving, leave the poor animals alone!

And now that we've told the rednecks and the politicians who pander to them what we think of that great American pastime, shall we talk about stock car racing?

Michael Green

Las Vegas, Nevada

Brother Pierce clearly is slipping.  He segues from the PBS special on Merle Haggard into a reference to Willie Nelson without mentioning "Pancho and Lefty"?  For shame, Brother Pierce.  You lose one point on the next "Wait, Wait."

I have always thought of Tucker Carlson as an intellectual poseur who couldn't think his way out of a paper bag, much less punch his way out of it, but I always will be grateful to Jon Stewart for going on the late and unlamented "Crossfire" and showing the country what Carlson's mainstream media protectors and allies never would show:  that there is no there there.

Meanwhile, Friday night, National Public Radio gave an hour of prime-time to an obituary on Daniel Schorr.  If you missed it, get to NPR and listen to it.  True, Schorr was a bit fast on his feet in explaining some of his problems at CBS, but it was just a perfect example of why NPR is a national treasure ... that, and "Wait, Wait," among other things.

Eric replies: I disagree with the all of the above, except the part about Crossfire. Someone needs to learn that there is a great deal more to Willie and Merle than one Townes van Zandt song (or even one album, however great.)

Josh Silver

Freepress.net

Eric,

These are really trying times, as we watch Obama’s approach to our issues mirror his approach that led to weakened health care and financial reforms, and his failed climate legislation: noble efforts that favored backroom industry dealmaking.  (Please do blog or post this email, as it is not meant for public distribution.)

As I write this, the failure of FCC oversight is so acute that it verges on farcical. The April ruling by a federal court not only prevents the FCC from policing the activities of providers like AT&T and Comcast, it leaves the agency unable to enact most of President Obama’s big promises, like making the Internet more affordable and accessible and protecting Net Neutrality. 

As I’ve outlined many times over, the failure of previous administrations to ensure competition has left U.S. customers paying much more for much slower service than consumers in Europe and Asia. Here, phone and cable companies enjoy a duopoly in 96 percent of U.S. communities; an uncompetitive market by any measure.

Reasserting FCC authority could be accomplished by a simple majority vote by the current commissioners. But in today’s Washington, nothing in the public interest is simple, and FCC Chairman Genachowski is thus far side-stepping reasserting that authority in a meaningful way.  His rationale? The overwhelming pressure he’s getting from a Congress captured by a telecom juggernaut that is second only to Big Pharma in lobbying expenditures.

Op-eds, advertisements and letters from lobbyists, PR firms, think tanks and fake grassroots groups flood Genachowski’s office.   A cottage industry of political mercenaries continue calling us “radical” and “fringe.” (check out this cool site we built to document the groups attacking us)  In this environment, truth becomes irrelevant, and the attacks work. We now have a majority of the US House (including 74 Democrats) urging the FCC to remain powerless.  It’s common knowledge that there are more than 40 senators lined up with phone and cable companies as well.

But rather than make good on Mr. Obama’s promise to “take a back seat to no one on Net Neutrality,” the Obama FCC is holding closed-door meetings with industry to cut a deal. Chairman Genachowski will likely announce “mission accomplished” with fake versions of Net Neutrality riddled with loopholes called “paid prioritization” and “managed services” that would allow Internet providers to create fast lanes for preferred clients and leave everyone else in the slow lane.

Rather than push for increased competition among Internet providers – the best way to drive down costs and increase choices for consumers – the Obama FCC gave up the effort before the debate even began, by leaving it out of their National Broadband Plan.  And rather than promote then-Sen. Obama’s call for “an open media market that represents all of the voices in our diverse nation and allows them to be heard,” Obama’s FCC has made no indication that it plans to block or set aggressive conditions on Comcast’s purchase of NBC Universal— the biggest media merger in a generation.

We’re now pulling every lever we have. We’re increasing our organizing capacity and putting together dozens of in-district meetings in August. We’re hosting a public hearing in Minneapolis with Commissioners Copps and Clyburn .  We’re continuing to run a 24/7 rapid response communications and research operation to debunk the steady stream of articles, op-eds, public letters, events, ads, faux-research and other tools of the companies.  Most of it can be found here.

And our long term work continues on policies to promote journalism, more robust public media, and the other areas of Internet policy.

I will confess that the past year has been extremely frustrating, as we’ve seen a total of zero substantive media and tech promises fulfilled by Team Obama. It shines a light on the profound problem of money in politics, and how the system fundamentally favors industry over the public interest, no matter the costs.

It’s a reminder to everyone: if we don’t address money in politics and create a critical, accountable Fourth Estate, we’re screwed. It’s that simple.

I promise my next update will be a little less sardonic. As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Best,

Josh

PS. Check out this incredible excerpt from Al Franken’s speech on our issues at Netroots Nation. It’s inspiring.

Editor’s Note: To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.

Not-so-Slacker Friday

I’ve got a new “Think Again” column entitled “Economist, Heal Thyself,” here.

And I did a Daily Beast column over the weekend called “No Bounce for Obama,” here.

And the responses to "Kabuki Democracy" continue to come at a pretty fast and furious pace, alas the vast majority of them focus on the very first sentence of the piece and ignore the other 16,990 words in it.

I’ll save any additional responses for the book version. Meanwhile…

A few things before we get to Pierce. First of all, congratulations to the New York Times on the announcement of an ethics trial of my corrupt congressman, Charlie Rangel on twenty-eight different counts of various forms of payoffs and false tax filings. After all, Rangel is not only a liberal but he was a powerful liberal as well as a powerful symbol of black political power. Now, he’s a stereotypical example of clubhouse political corruption, which many racists will interpret as particular to blacks. It isn’t. It’s power, but the fact is, many liberal politicians of color have been given a pass for much of their careers because liberals have been so quick to throw around the charge of racism at anyone who challenges their cozy political arrangements. In 2009, the Sunlight Foundation documented twenty-eight instances in which Rangel omitted assets worth between $239,026 and $831,000 that were either purchased, sold or held from his financial disclosures.

Like the Times, I am sometimes accused of being in the pocket of the Democratic establishment, both by holier-than-thou leftists and right-wing apparatchiks. I’d like to point out that the very first column I published in The Nation after the 2008 election was to call on Obama to repudiate the corrupt hack Rangel. And the most depressing day of the 2008 election for me was the day I received an e-mail from the Obama campaign insisting that I “vote for Charlie Rangel for change.” Read more from Sunlight's Reporting Group, including links to his fundraisers.

Yesterday, I responded to Jeffrey Goldberg’s post about my leaked comments from Journolist. Because they lacked any context whatever, I asked him to link to them on his post, and sent it to him as an e-mail. But he has not done so. Shall I say I’m surprised? I shan’t. But because of Goldberg’s post, in addition to the right-wing hate mail, I’ve been getting a lot of huffy e-mails from people who sound like they think they’re my mother, instructing me on what a disappointment I am to them, and demanding that I respond personally to their concerns about my character. Sorry, ain’t gonna happen. Do your homework, folks. I responded yesterday. Now get on with your lives. (But on the topic of the leaked listserve posts, do see Ezra Klein’s response to Tucker Carlson here)

Too Top Secret

Greetings Altercators,

Reed Richardson here. I’m an Altercator from way back in the MSNBC/version 1.0 days, and have been an occasional contributor over the years, but now I’ll be helping out Eric with the running the blog and posting a bit more frequently myself.

If you haven’t had a chance to read through the Washington Post’s exhaustive and rather frightening series “Top Secret America,” it’s worth checking out all three parts.

Unfortunately, the “Top Secret” series' unnerving revelations were intentionally undermined (when they weren’t being completely buried under the cable-TV frenzy sparked by the execrable Andrew Brietbart’s misleading video of USDA administrator Shirley Sherrod) by a conservative punditocracy intent on a) belittling the reporting as nothing more than clever or b) ignoring the reporting altogether to instead suggest but of course never specify, bias on the part of William Arkin, one of the Poststory’s co-authors, because of his personal political beliefs.

Ably assisting this latter piece of right-wing framing was this unfortunate Politico story, which included this ridiculously unsupported and weaselly statement: “Arkin, according to his Post biography, later did stints at Greenpeace International and Human Rights Watch — activist associations that might not pass the classic standard of journalistic objectivity that has been much debated in the wake of Post blogger David Weigel’s resignation from the Post.” (italics mine).

To his credit, Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli stood up for Arkin’s co-byline role, noting: “Because he had been working with us regularly before this began, and because his previous roles are fairly well-known and transparent, and because they didn’t really play into the research he was doing with this story, we were quite comfortable with his participation.” (again, italics mine). However, compare Brauchli’s level-headedness standard here for Arkin, whose previous criticism of the U.S. military and intelligence communities were part and parcel of his expertise on the subject, to his reasons for accepting Weigel’s resignation last month after that reporter’s impolitic comments on JournOList became public: “Dave did excellent work for us,” Brauchli said. But, “we can't have any tolerance for the perception that people are conflicted or bring a bias to their work. . . . There's abundant room on our Web site for a wide range of viewpoints, and we should be transparent about everybody's viewpoint.”

That a story as important to our democracy as "Top Secret America" can still be published is a victory for journalism no doubt, but the fact that it can be so easily steamrolled out of national conversation by an editorially capricious media, elements of which are even evident at the newspaper that published the same story, speaks to a larger war being lost.

CHARLES PIERCE
NEWTON, MA

Hey Doc:    

"Matthew stood by the wall and watched his love below/Her pale hair came in rings down below her shoulders. 

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Funky Penguin (Part I)": Dennis Lee and the Notables:  If it's OK with the White House political staff, I wouldl ike to say unequivocally that I love, love, love New Orleans, and I don't give a flying fuck what Glenn Beck or Megyn Kelly thinks of that.      

Part The First: Oh, goody. I'd almost forgotten about this manufactured outrage, and who better to bring it back to life than a sick-wife-dumping political failure? If you want to know precisely when political journalism went completely off the freaking trolley, go back and read the coverage of this megalomaniac back in 1994. Now, he's scrambling to keep up with Princess Dumbass of the Northwoods. I hope they both run. The debates between intellectual vacuity and intellectual pretension will be a joy to behold.  

Part The Second: The new PBS American Masters show on Merle Haggardis pretty damn good. I rarely go a week without thanking in my heart James Ryan -- MIT economist, itinerant harp player, and barbecue genius -- for being the person who introduced me to "Mama Tried" on the jukebox of the late, lamented HooDoo BBQ in Kenmore Square, lo these 30-odd years ago. Also, nostalgic shout-out to Lily, Greatest Of All Waitresses.    

Part The Third: And, anyway, game over, kids. If Willie says she's a hero, she's a damn hero, and the rest of you can go to freaking Conroe and argue about it.  And, note to AOL News, there is enough sociopathy inherent in this mess without your having to go out and solicit the opinion of sociopaths long past their sell-by date. Ruth Marcus guarantees that the dinner invites will keep rolling in. (Back in the summer of 1998, I met both Vilsacks at a party and they seemed like nice folks and, truth be told, if Minnesota hadn't gone and elected a professional wrestler, Vilsack's win would have been the gubernatorial upset of the year. When he became such a public wanker eludes me.)  In fact, we've clearly reached the point in the story where it's customary for Andrew Breitbart to throw up in a cab and go home.      

Part The Fourth: You may have missed it while the other sewage was¨reaching high tide, but Tucker Carlson, the least excusable person in public life, has put all that venture capital being sucked up by his little vanity project behind publishing e-mails from the now-defunct JournoList. (Ed. note: I was not a member and, had I been asked, I would have declined on the principle of inclusion first enunciated by Groucho Marx.) What I would like to know from either Tucker or any of the various unemployables on whom he is squandering OPM is whether or not the writers in question actually, you know, wrote about those things that have so exercised the folks at his shiny new wankfarm, or if the folks on JournoList simply bitched about things among themselves. Did any of the Evil Geniuses actually write a piece advocating that the FCC go medieval on Fox News? Did one of them actually call Fred Barnes a racist in print somewhere? If not, here is no news here, not that Tucker ever would notice. Why doesn't he just sit down at a Starbucks on Capitol Hill and copy down what people are saying at the next table?   

Part The Fifth: Can't they just give Dana Priest the Pulitzer now and avoid the rush next spring? Jeebus, what a job she did. Who knew that the intelligence community had so much in common with a public-works program here in Massachusetts? I half-expect we'll see a photo of 12 analysts, standing around a bank of computers, all of them leaning on shovels.    

Part The Penultimate: Great get over at Josh's joint. Only a fool believes anything happens by accident these days. That said, Josh should stop shopping at Ye Olde House Of Horseshit  analogies. Holy mother of god, David Berkowitz?      

Part The Ultimate: Don't talk about class in this country. Ever. Joe McCarthy wrung those issues out of the national political dialogue 50 years ago, and they haven't managed to seep back in to any great extent. To intimate that this is a class-based society is to undermine the pious bullshit of both parties. To admit that this country is perfectly willing to make peace with intractable poverty -- and that it's coming to be perfectly willing to make peace with chronic unemployment edging toward double figures --  is to inject spiders into the cotton-candy of ournational county fair and to contribute to the harshing of various mellows all up and down the mean streets of Georgetown. Worse, though, is to point out that poor and struggling white folks have more in common with poor and struggling black folks than they do with the wealthy and successful white folks who play them perennially for suckers. That's the truth that so much of the country's institutional racism was designed to crush to earth every time it rose. (The best history of it that I know is Diane McWhorter' luminous and magisterial Carry Me Home, about how the Birmingham gentry ginned up hate and fear among poor white people so that the latter would do the real dirty work as regards to fighting against integration.) On that field, pointing out that poverty and economic exploitation are admirably biracial in who they victimize, you are dead -- quite literally in the caseof Martin Luther King, Jr., who was working that territory when someone shot him in the throat.    

That's also the part of Shirley Sherrod's story that's getting lost in the meta media hooley that's broken out in the last week. That was very clearly the subject of the talk she gave that started the whole thing rolling. (It is far more about class divisions and reaching across them than it is a personal narrative of racial reconciliation, though it is that, too.) Hey, she is telling them -- and now, us -- we're all stuck in ¨rigged game, and it's not getting any better. It's getting worse, the watery new financial-regulation bill notwithstanding. "Stop being such easy marks," she tells us. "Stand with each other, like we did, like I am doing now." She doesn't want her job back. Now that's she's got everyone's attention, she'd like to see some changes made. Good for her. My god, to borrow a line from Jack Nicholson, did these people fuck with the wrong Marine.

P.S. -- This one goes out to Tom Vilsack and Jim Messina, which latter I liked better when he was singing with Kenny Loggins.

The mail:

Greg Panfile
Scarsdale, NY 

The disappointment in Obama is not caused by a flaw in his character but by two things: money and Connecticut. You can't pass bills without votes, and those votes depend on fundraising, and that fundraising is corrupted, ergo the votes are corrupted.  You can't pass any of these bills without the execrable JoeMentum Lieberman, who represents, in this order: 1. a foreign country 2. insurance companies 3. defense contractors 4. his own ego 5. his citizen constituents.  The system is garbage in, garbage, out, and it is not Obama putting the garbage in. He can't be FDR because it's 10% (or 15%) unemployment, not 25%, and people aren't selling apples in the streets.  The votes are not there, not yet anyway, hopefully it won't get so bad that they will be!  In the meantime, scoring his presidency a year and a half into it, with two wars, a deep recession, and the lovely parting gift of an open gash in the earth spewing forth ancient liquid carbon... well, it is a tad premature.  The government never had people capable of stopping oil leaks a mile below the ocean just sitting around waiting to be deployed by Obama, leaving 'writers' like MoDo to complain he wasn't doing a good job channeling Robert Young in 1954.  Well excuse me, as Steve Martin might say.  You don't read much about how wonderful the Prez is now that the leak is stopped, though. Scoring this election in July, given Obama's essentially hoopster operating system, is also very premature.  The action will be in the fall when real people with real lives, as opposed to residents of the vast cable chatter wasteland and the farther precincts if Blogistan start paying attention to Congress.  At that point it is fairly certain that Obama and the Dems will pay much more attention to job creation and helping the unemployed, trapping the Republicans into either going along with that (and defusing it as a political issue) or blocking it, and taking the heat.  Y'all need to take the summer off like in the old days and pay attention when the kids are back in school and the leaves start to turn.  If the Prez et al stay passive then, yeah, they're toast.  But the score only counts when the clock runs out; till then it's just a temporary state of affairs.  The Republicans have played themselves into exhaustion and foul trouble and lead by four points at halftime.  Two three pointers and it turns around.  Just you watch. 

Stephen Carver
Los Angeles

"Context matters."  Truer words have never been spoken (regarding politics). It's amazing how I agree with you when you say it, yet disagree with Glenn Beck when he said the exact same thing on his show regarding the Shirley Sherrod incident on July 20 or thereabouts.Not only does context matter, but the veracity of the person speaking (or writing) the phrase also matters.  Needless to say, you beat Mr. Beck hands down on this one.As a proud liberal who grew up in the Buckle of the Bible Belt (Austin, TX), I completely understood your comment regarding the "NASCAR" folks after the Obama election.  While not a huge fan of NASCAR (I find it pretty boring to watch), I do enjoy country music, fireworks on the 4th, and some flag waving.  ("The Star Spangled Banner" usually makes me cry with pride.) As I used to argue with my very conservative father: my liberalism is based in the concept that we can make this country better.  It's good as it is; in many ways, it IS the best country on the planet, and in other ways, it needs to be improved.  Equality for all is essential if we are to call ourselves one people. Discrimination of any form needs to be eliminated.  Religious tolerance must be the goal for all religions, even for those who don't have a faith.  Looking out for the less fortunate among us, whether it be through disability, financial hardship, or personal failure, is essential to a compassionate country.That is what people like Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter and their ilk don't get.  It's not about "middle America" versus the coasts.  It's about ALL Americans being equal.  Those conservative elites (and almost all elites are conservative) are just trying to pull the wool over the eyes of every "true-blooded" American...while they steal us blind.

MJ Roberts
NYC 

Okay: 1) They ARE fucking retards, and 2) Goldberg is a worm.I especially like his bullshit about how he loves NASCAR and "I have not run into racists, anti-Semites or conspiracy-mongerers at NASCAR events, either." I'm sure this will entice hordes of the oil-stained to his ridiculous site where they'll encounter a million topics that they'll find more or less incomprehensible.

Frederic B. McNally
Philadelphia, PA  

Let us face the facts that if a corporate controlled media isn't supporting the most far right people, then they haven't attended a training session in how to bust unions, pay the lowest wages, use unpaid interns, misclassify people as salaried to avoid paying overtime, and pollute with impunity until caught when their lawyers bargain it down to a small fine as the cost of doing business. Always socialize the problems and keep the profits when times are good. Declare bankruptcy to stiff your suppliers and praise the concept of a new beginning as a limited liability corporation. I'd rather see Lloyds of London forced onto corporations so if money is lost, the shareholders must pay into the corporation to cover the losses. If you make money you profit but if you lose money you only pay if the shareholders are wiped out completely? General Motors is too big to fail, so wipe out the old shareholders and now ask the money managers to invest in the stock of the new General Motors. I'd love to see the Biblical Jubilee every seven years to wipe out my debts. 

Aaron Perhach
Forty Fort, Pennsylvania  

Dear Dr. Alterman,

What a thrill it is for me to be thoroughly vindicated! Despite the fact that you called me a "jerk" for politely asking you to apologize for writting "What Liberal Media?" 7 years ago, its obvious now that the basic premise of your book has been completely discredited. Ezra Kline's "Journolist 400" has become your Waterloo. 

Yours truly, 

Aaron Perhach 

Forty Fort, Pennsylvania 

Eric replies: “What a jerk…”

T. ODell Langley
British Columbia

Imagine being by the water, an inlet of the Salish Sea, Eagles soar overhead, snowcapped peaks frame the cityscape. Seven stages of musicians from around the world perform ten hours a day for three days. Luckily I didn't have to imagine it -that was the Vancouver Folk Festival last weekend. That's Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada for the geographically challenged. A couple of highlights for me: Bob Brozman  - a guitar god! Utah Phillips meets Rev. Gary Davis on steroids. Self-described migrant worker from a dying empire, he segues from Hawaian to ragtime to Madagascaran to delta blues with a few bars of Purple Haze thrown in for humour. Don't miss him if you get a chance. Peatbog Faeries are a world folk fusion ensemble from the Isle of Man (Scotland). Bagpies and fiddles plus banjo, electric bass and horns create a sound like no other. Finally and most satisfying were the many times various acts sharing the stage invited each other to jam. Sometimes for the entire set. Wow. If you are a world or acoustic music fan, add this festival to your bucket list and I hope you make it this lifetime.

Editor's Note: To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.

Nattering Nabobs of Nascar

I’ve got a new “Think Again” column entitled “Economist, Heal Thyself,” here.

And I did a Daily Beast column over the weekend called “No Bounce for Obama,” here.

And the responses to “Kabuki Democracy” continue to come at a pretty fast and furious pace, alas the vast majority of them focus on the very first sentence of the piece and ignore the other 16,990 words in it.

I’ll save any additional responses for the book version. Meanwhile…

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg is among the best known and, for better or worse, most respected journalists who is wasting his time with the purposely deceptive and dishonestly edited purloined transcripts of old “Journolist” discussions being dribbled out daily on The Daily Caller. (For some background, see my column here.) On one of them, I am quoted, on the day of Obama’s election, saying that among the people we were not going to have to listen to anymore were “fucking Nascar retards.”  I’ve been getting a steady stream of hate email since the quote was published, and one genuinely hurt note from a friendly reader with a retarded child. I offer that reader my sincere apologies for my poor choice of words in the excitement of the moment. HOWEVER….

The problem with ripping things out of context for pundits is that context matters. I don’t have anything at all against people who like Nascar, (though even the concept of how such a thing could be enjoyable, admittedly, continues to elude me).  People can like whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. To the degree that I do have an objection to Nascar, it is ecological.

What I objected to, and what I’ve written about frequently—and would have been understood, I imagine, by most of the people in that private, off-the-record conversation—was the putatively liberal mainstream media treating the folks who like Nascar as “real Americans” and the rest of us who like jazz, foreign films, and prefer pinot noir to Budweiser as un-American commies who should have no say in our country’s future. This is why I am always defending New York, academics, the Upper West Side, even Zabar’s which always appear to be fair game with the So-called Liberal Media. With the election of a law professor, ex-Harvard Law Review editor from Hyde Park who made no apologies for his brilliant writing talents and middle-to-high-brow tastes in literature , I thought we would finally stop hearing from  pundits like John Podhoretz, Ann Coulter, David Brooks,  Michael Ledeen and Laura Ingraham telling us that real Americans are white, Christian, live in the middle of the country and hate people like myself and my friends.

(And Mr. Goldberg, I’d appreciate a link.)

Here’s the argument I made at some length in Why We’re Liberals:
 

First, note that conservatives deem only certain American groups and institutions to be legitimately “patriotic.” That list would include the military, conservative Christian churches, NASCAR, the Grand Ol’ Opry, and holiday parades (both patriotic and Christian), but would exclude unions, jazz festivals, mainstream Christian churches and non-Christian houses of worship, pickup basketball games, nearly all moviemaking, and protest marches. Red states are considered to be by mere definition more patriotic than blue states. Recall that following 9/11, Andrew Sullivan, the (then) conservative blogger, warned Americans —à la Joe McCarthy—tobe alert about traitors in their midst, whom he helpfully identified not as among people living in “the middle part of the country—the great red zone that voted for Bush” but as among Gore voters—the majority, by the way, and particularly in the city where the Twin Towers attack had taken place. Nevertheless, Sullivan professed to spy a “decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts [that] is not dead—and may well mount a fifth column. Let’s stipulate that the above description of patriotism is the product of both ideological manipulation and McCarthyite insinuation, and can be rejected out of hand. (It’s hard to square, anyway, with the fact that both Nashville, Tennessee, and Austin, Texas, the twin homes of country music, went Democratic by significant margins in 2004.)

Later on in the book, I wrote:

In observing the members of the conservative elite denouncing “elitists,” it can be diffi cult to tell your players without the proverbial scorecard. For instance, the radio talk-show host and former conservative cable host Laura Ingraham has written an entire book about the dangers posed by liberal elites, entitled Shut Up & Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics, lawyer, and graduate of Dartmouth and the University of Virginia Law School, who now lives in an expensive home in Washington, D.C., distinguishes between liberal elitists and those whom she terms “true Americans.” She begins her treatise by explaining who these “elite Americans” are and what they think: “They think we’re stupid. They think our patriotism is stupid. They think our churchgoing is stupid. They think having more than two children is stupid. They think where we live—anywhere but near or in a few major cities—is stupid. They think our SUVs are stupid. They think owning a gun is stupid. They think our abiding belief in the goodness of America and its founding principles is stupid.” In Ingraham’s case, as in many others, one detects a strain of anti- Semitism in her insistent elite-bashing. During the flap over Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ—more about which below—Ingraham announced, “I want to see any movie that drives the anti-Christian entertainment elite crazy.” Presumably Ingraham did not mean to imply that this “anti-Christian entertainment elite” was mostly made up of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, or Scientologists.

Ingraham is joined in her crusade by another ex-MSNBC pundette, the second-generation Connecticut lawyer and Cornell University alumna Ann Coulter, who rhapsodizes about red-state denizens, as Nunberg notes, “with the effusiveness of a fifth-grader reporting on a zoo visit.” “I loved Kansas City! It’s my favorite place in the world. . . . It’s the opposite of this town. They’re Americans, they’re so great, they’re rooting for America!” “I love Texas Republicans! . . . Americans are so cool!” “Queens, baseball games—those are my people. American people.” Like Ingraham, Coulter distinguishes between “us” and “them” on the basis of attitude, rather than income, though the multimillionaire does allow that “the whole point of being a liberal is to feel superior to people with less money.” She continues:

"They promote immoral destructive behavior because they are snobs, they embrace criminals because they are snobs, they oppose tax cuts because they are snobs. Every pernicious idea to come down the pike is instantly embraced by liberals to show how powerful they are. Liberals hate society and want to bring it down to reinforce their sense of invincibility. Secure in the knowledge that their beachfront haciendas will still be standing when the smoke clears, they giddily fiddle with the little people’s morals."

John Podhoretz, the son of neoconservatism’s second couple, Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, who attended elite private schools and the University of Chicago before his father’s political connections helped him secure jobs in the media empires of Sun Myung Moon and Rupert Murdoch, also professes to see America through rose-hued glasses. “Bush Red is a simpler place,” he explains, on the basis of a visit to Las Vegas. It’s a land “where people mourn the death of NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, root lustily for their teams, go to church, and find comfort in old-fashioned verities.” His comrade-in-antiintellectual- arms, former CBS News reporter Bernard Goldberg, who has spent a career working within what conservatives would call the “liberal media elite” and who wrote a book comparing his former friend Dan Rather to a “prison bitch,” has sworn off all association with liberals even when he agrees with them, he says, “because of their elitism. They look down their snobby noses at ordinary Americans who eat at Red Lobster or because they like to bowl or they go to church on a regular basis or because they fly the flag on the Fourth of July."

Michael Ledeen, Washington-based National Review contributor and neoconservative think-tank denizen, offered up a classic of the genre in September 2007, when he bragged of a road trip he took with his wife “to Indianapolis for a Toby Keith concert, where [they] partied with something like 25,000 happy rednecks.” Ledeen paid tribute to Keith as a “a wonderful performer,” not least because of his deeply moving patriotic songs like “American Soldier,” “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” “The Taliban,” and so on, but he could not help adding how “great” it was to be among “rednecks, a.k.a. real Americans,” and “to see Toby say ‘don’t ever apologize for your patriotism,’ and then lift the middle finger of his right hand to the skies and say, ‘F*** ’Em!’ ” This profanity-laced salutation proved a particularly welcome antidote in the Ledeen household to what he diagnosed as the “disgusting anti- Americanism in Washington,” and so he recommended to his conservative readers, “You ought to try it. Does wonders for the spirit.” Alas, what nobody told the American Enterprise Institute resident scholar was the fact that “happy redneck” Toby Keith was actually a proud, cardcarrying Democrat and a committed opponent of the wars championed by Ledeen and company in the AEI’s decidedly inner-Beltway offices. In red-state America, explains the slumming blue stater David Brooks, “the self is small”; whereas in blue-state America, “the self is uncommonly large.”

Unlike the citizens of the states that voted for Al Gore, according to Andrew Sullivan, they can even be trusted not to betray their country on behalf of Islamic terrorists. While unelite America is wonderful in every way, it’s just not a place where a Laura Ingraham or Rush Limbaugh or Bernard Goldberg or Ann Coulter or John Podhoretz or Newt Gingrich or Peggy Noonan or Andrew Sullivan or Michael Ledeen or David Brooks would ever choose to live.

 

 

Editor's Note: To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.

Slacker Friday ("Welcome Back Carlos Beltran" edition)

You may have heard—actually, it was here last week—that I published a 17,000 word essay on our political system and the problems any president, Obama in particular, but any potential progressive would face in trying to move it, on The Nation’s website last week. That’s here.

For my Think Again column this week, I round up some of the responses it has so far received. It’s called “Kabuki Democracy: The Responses” and that’s here.

Also, my latest Moment column is called "Israel's Greatest Enemy: Israel" and it's here.

I don’t feel like writing much on this long lazy afternoon, but I saw three shows last week when I was back in town and here are the world’s shortest reviews.

1)  Jill Sobule and Julia Sweeney at City Winery:  Incredibly fun and moving, I had no idea, and neither, probably do you. So see them if you can, trust me. (But Jilly, dahlink, Leslie Gore does not know your song.  Wouldn’t an impromptu “It’s My Party” singalong have been fun?) What wonderful women….

2)  Steve Earle and Allison Moorer and Rosanne Cash at City Winery: I know you’re jealous already. Steve and Allison are doing two more shows, the next two Thursdays. One with Greg Trooper and the other with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Tickets are appropriately scarce, so move on it.  He’s also touring with Hot Tuna. It’s nice of Steve to share my musical taste so intensely this summer.

3)  Cheap Trick and Squeeze at Radio City. How much does Cheap Trick suck, particularly if you get there late and miss “Ain’t That A Shame” and “I Want You to Want Me”? A great deal alas, and “Surrender” does not come close to making up for it, great as the studio version may be.  Anyway, they sucked.  Squeeze was just fine, though, so it was ok. Interesting how both bands can sound like the Beatles and nothing like each other.

Slacker Friday:

Charles Pierce
Newton, MA 

Hey Doc:

Let me take you baby down to the river bed/Got to tell you something go right o your head.

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Check Yo Bucket" (Eddie Bo)—I love New Orleans with all the mechanism in Dick Cheney's heart.

Part The First: I am glad that Dick Cheney once again was able to take advantage the benefits of single-payer, government-run health care. For some reason, his plucky battle against his failing heart reminded me of this piece I wrote for Esquire a few years back.

Part The Second: How Mark Halperin gets from his front door to the sidewalk without trading all the money in his pockets for a bag of magic beans continues to mystify and amaze. Again, I ask—why are these clucks never at my poker table?

Part The Penultimate: A question. Control of the U.S. Senate is hanging by a thread, given what may happen next November. It is possible that the balance of power in that body next year may well be in the hands of an ultraconservative claque made up of Jim DeMint, Rand Paul, and Sharron Angle, among others. (DeMint's already talking about it.) That being the case, do liberals really want to get rid of the filibuster? Really?

Part The Ultimate: The Landlord doesn't need me to defend his work, but he's getting a bad rap in the saloons along the docks of Blogistan for one line in his recent magnum opus: "Few progressives would take issue with the argument that, significant accomplishments notwithstanding, the Obama presidency has been a big disappointment.” This has been interpreted by some people to be the policy equivalent of Mrs. Lincoln's opinion about Our American Cousin. Roger Simon got the ball rolling, but Roger Simon is pretty much a clown, but then the folks at Balloon Juice chimed in. Actually, what The Landlord said there is neither contradictory, nor particularly unmoored in history. Legislative accomplishments, in fact, can be significant while, at the same time, hallmarks of a disappointing presidency. For example, the 1957 Civil Rights Act was unquestionably "significant." (It was the first such bill passed since Reconstruction). But its passage certainly was not proof that the Eisenhower Administration—or the Congress of the time—were not "disappointing" in the area of civil rights. This is why we had to have seven more years of violence and bloodshed before the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act were proposed and passed.

Now it will be argued that the Obama administration's achievements in health-care reform and financial-regulatory reform can be seen as "stepping stones" to better legislation down the line. In fact, that's the primary argument being made in favor of both of them since, on their merits, they're pretty weak beer. If so, then ask yourself fairly—has the White House demonstrated that its treating these significant accomplishments as important way-stations on the road to Something Better? Are they campaigning for more and better Democrats so as to have a Congress that will build on the foundation already laid? Are they making the case for the measures already passed in an effective and meaningful way, so as to make sure the foundation isn't smashed to rubble come next January?

(The history of the 1957 Civil Rights Act is instructive here. Having passed it, the political establishment took a deep breath and tried to declare victory. The forward momentum didn't become irresistible until Dr. King and the rest of the movement made it impossible to ignore.)

Not to mention the fact that, handing over the "reform" of entitlements to a former Morgan Stanley tea-sipper, and the implementation of the health-care reform to a former Max Baucus staffer who once was the vice-president of Wellpoint, don't reassure me at all that this administration considers its achievements as important steps toward a more equitable economic system or a more sensible health-care system. But to argue that an administration cannot pass "significant" legislation and nonetheless be "disappointing" is pretty damn silly. Under Richard Nixon, we got OSHA, the EPA, and the Clean Water Act, and I still think his presidency was something of a letdown.

P.S.—Despite this adminstration's "significant accomplishment," the continued employment of a yutz like Tim Geithner in a job wherein he can mess with Elizabeth Warren makes this administration a "disappointment."

Dave Richie
Birmingham, AL

Dr. A,

I finally got finished with your lengthy piece on the Obama presidency. I have tried to stay away from this, especially with my fellow conservatives, given the short period of time Obama has been our president. But it is, I think fair to say that liberals are somewhat if not bitterly disappointed. What do you expect of a man who is simply media driven? He has no idea how to make an executive decision. Therefore its all left to underlings and "90's style bureaucrats to get the job done. At least Clinton had the good sense to appoint competent people and then let them do their job before groping another intern. You have to give "..ole sticky britches.." credit. He got a few things done. But look at the incompetent boobs Obama has appointed. This gang makes Bush's idiots look positively brilliant. It is useful in my business, chemical manufacturing on a relatively small scale, to assess problems as though the perpetrator of a mistake is simply doing what I told him to do. This isolates the solution to my responsibility alone. You cannot solve problems of this magnitude without full engagement. That is something you will never see from this president. Neither the left wing media (Rachel (god, am I smart) Maddow nor Bill (god, am I smart) O'Reilly have much to do with this. Reagan and the '80's democrats proved you could move things forward if you didn't care who got the credit. In the last 4 presidencies and several congresses we simply haven't seen a constructive approach. Good to see your still capable of throwing some truly sharp elbow.

Konstantin Doren
Boiceville, NY

You only use the word "unemployment" once in your "Kabuki" article. It is a winning issue for Dems. If they push through all sorts of ways of helping unemployed, especially the extension of unemployment payments, without the 60-vote majority, I very much doubt most Americans will punish the Dems at the polls in November. Do you think Americans would vote against the Democrats if they had passed legislation that extended unemployment benefits and created a jobs and retraining program? Voters do not really care about Senate filibusters and other Senate rules. Let the GOP forcefully support cutting off unemployed and see how far that gets them. It is clear that the Dems and GOP and Obama are simply waiting for the private market to recover; that is the only jobs creation program underway in Washington. The Dems only want to allow unemployed a few more unemployment checks, but only if they can get 60 Senators to agree. Failing to end the wars, doing nothing to get people back to work and pushing through a health care program that forces middle class people to purchase the shitty insurance policies that the health care industry offers only reinforces the thinking that Obama and the Dems are no different than the Republicans. I never got on the Obama bandwagon, so am not surprised that the difference between the Bush and the Obama administrations is mainly in the change of the White House stationary. That The Nation has acquiesced to this obvious folly does not make the pill any less bitter to swallow.

J.R. Taylor
Washington D.C.

From your latest Think Again: My guess is that Noonan never made it to those arguments, but I can’t be sure. Methinks Peggy no thinky when too many drinky. Keep giving 'em hell . . .

Fr: Eric Alterman
To: Carlos Beltran

Welcome back, bub.

To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.

More Kabuki-ism

You may have heard—actually, it was here last week—that I published a 17,000 word essay on our political system and the problems any president, Obama in particular, but any potential progressive would face in trying to move it, on The Nation’s website last week. That’s here.

For my Think Again column this week, I round up some of the responses it has so far received. It’s called “Kabuki Democracy: The Responses” and that’s here.

Also, my latest Moment column is called "Israel's Greatest Enemy: Israel" and it's here.

The Mail:

When I write about Israel, I tend to focus on its political issues with the Palestinians and the rest of the world. But right now, there’s an enormous storm brewing between Israel and American Jews; one that calls into question the legitimacy of reform, reconstructionist and conservative  Judaism in the official eyes of the Israeli state. My friend (and rabbi) David Gelfand wrote a letter to Bibi Netanyahu about it and gave me permission to print it below.
 
The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister of Israel
Office of the Prime Minister
Jerusalem, Israel 
 
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,
I am writing to you with urgency to quickly and passionately request your immediate intervention to prevent passage of the legislation being brought forward by MK David Rotem which challenges the authenticity of tens of thousands of people who have and who will yet choose Judaism and become active Jews, committed to the perpetuation of Judaism and thereby supporters and lovers of Israel.

My congregation in New York City is surely overwhelmingly and deeply concerned about the intention to grant the Chief Rabbinate sole control over conversion in Israel.  This is truly a hot button issue in our community and one that people care about with much intensity and concern. Such legislation would be an open attack on the legitimacy of non-Orthodox Jewry, which composes the vast majority of world Jewry.

While we are supportive of efforts to create greater accessibility to conversion courts in Israel, the overall impact of the Rotem Bill will seriously set back these efforts. Should this bill be enacted, it will exacerbate a widening gap between Diaspora and Israel communities, which we are working very hard to avoid.

Temple Israel of the City of New York where I serve as the Senior Rabbi firmly and strongly believes that it is imperative that you, as leader of Israel, and as one who cares deeply about the well-being of  Klal Yisrael,  the unity of the Jewish people, intervene and urge immediate withdrawal of this bill.

I look forward to your serious consideration of this matter which could rip apart Diaspora Jewry from what is too often a tenuous connection to the State of Israel.  I write to you not only as a congregational rabbi and an ohav Yisrael, an ardent Zionist, but also as Vice-President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism which represents some 1.9 million Jews around the world in over 30 countries, as well as a communal Jewish leader who also sits on the Board of Governors of the Hebrew Union College that remains fully committed to this issue and is a vibrant and visible presence in Jerusalem.

Wishing you well and seeking your cooperation and the withdrawal of this damaging piece of legislation.

Respectfully,
Rabbi David Gelfand
 
Rabbi David Gelfand
Temple Israel
112 East 75th Street
New York, NY

Jeffrey Steinberg
Leesburg, Virginia

Eric,

If Obama had not, himself, been so wedded to the Wall Street and hedge funds for funding of his campaign, he would have taken a much more FDR-modeled approach to the crisis, which, as you undoubtedly understand, bears many striking similarities to the crisis FDR faced when he came into office in March 1933.  There was a mood in the Democratic Party, during the post-2004 period, briefly, of combatting Bush and Cheney, by reinvigorating the FDR legacy. This was true during the successful campaign to defeat the privatization of Social Security, and, at one point, I recall, a group of Democratic Senators and Congressmen (I recall Dick Durban being one) showed up at the FDR Memorial, to proudly proclaim that they were "FDR Democrats."  Unfortunately, the policies from the Obama White House, particularly the economic policies, have been dominated by a Wall Street-oriented, anti-FDR faction (Summers and Geithner, to name just two).  There was no job creation or infrastructure investment, to speak of, in the $800 billion stimulus package, the core element of health care reform--the Independent Payments Advisory Commission--is a direct assault against Medicare and Medicaid, and care for the elderly and chronically ill. And the financial reform bill, as you catalogued in your lengthy Nation piece, was so much of a compromise with Wall Street that it did nothing to alter the way the game is rigged. The White House aggressively intervened, through Dodd and Frank, to kill off the efforts to restore Glass Steagall separation of the banks, which would have forced a write down or write off of the speculative portion of the debts on the books of the banks. So I don't despair over the inability to impose a progressive agenda.  I despair that Obama has proven to be such a fraud, when held up to the best standards of the Democratic Party--FDR, some of the JFK impulses, and LBJ's Medicare/Medicaid before he got destroyed by Vietnam. I have not yet read your book on Obama, but have recently read, and greatly appreciated your book on FDR. So you know the difference! Hope for a reply.

Eric replies: Well, I’ve not written a book about Obama and Jonathan Alter, not me, wrote the one about FDR, but OK…

To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.

Slacker Friday

I’ve got a new “Think Again” column called,"‘No Opinions Except Ours,' Says the Washington Post,” and that’s here.

Also, I did this insanely long piece for The Nation, just under 17,000 words, and it’s called “Kabuki Democracy: Why a Progressive Presidency Is Impossible, for Now.” This is the main url, and this is the single page version.

CHARLES PIERCE
NEWTON MA.

Hey Doc:

"Do you really think I care/what you read or what you wear?/I want you to/join together with the band."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "He Will Understand And Say Well Done" (Tommy Sanction)—If people understood what miracles really are, and now often they really can happen, they would have a smidgen of a slice of a portion of an understanding of how much I love New Orleans.

Part The First: Occasionally, the wish for tumbrels becomes nearly irresistable.

Part The Second: Oh look, Morning Dead Intern is on mushrooms again. And there's a push to move Princess Dumbass of the Northwoods into the chairmanship of the RNC. And, oddly enough, Levi Johnston picks just this moment to issue an enormously believable spontaneous apology. Which prompts only one serious question—how much, exactly, did the apology cost?

Part The Third: I am happy that Adam Serwer has his own blog now, mostly because he's the go-to guy for stories like this one. However, once she's confirmed, during some lull in some proceeding, Justice Kagan probably could ask Justice Thomas about that "shameful and morbid sexual response" business.

Part The Fourth: The one thing that has worried me the most about the Obama Adminstration is its transparent devotion to the Golden Age of the Pericles of the Ozarks. They are now about to ride off the cliff with it. This is not going to be pretty.

Part The Fifth: Note to all editors, and this especially includes you op-ed editors: any piece that comes in seriously using the phrase "ClimateGate," or referring to the "controversy" over global warming spurred by some hacked e-mails, forthwith should be sent back to the author for a major rewrite.

Part The Penultimate: Go ahead. Elect her. I freaking quit, is all.

Part The Ultimate: Just this week, several specimens of the Asian Longhorned Beetle were found on the grounds of the Faulkner Hospital in my old neighborhood of Jamaica Plain in Boston. The Faulkner is directly across the street from the Arnold Arboretum, which is one of the city's great treasures, and the place where my wife and I went last year to hear about the threat that the ALB poses to hardwood trees everywhere. In Worcester, where I grew up, they already have cut down nearly 28,000 trees because of ALB infestation. If they cross the street, the Arboretum can be destroyed. If they get into the massive hardwood forests that extend from the Adirondacks and upper New England into Canada, well, that's pretty much the ballgame. What the hell, you always wanted plastic living room furniture anyway, didn't you?

And I guarantee you, somewhere in this country, somebody who makes their living talking on a radio program thought this was just the funniest damn thing. Or perhaps several somebodies.

That's all we do now. Laugh at stuff. Make fun of things. Cheer our side. Boo the other side. Meanwhile, the actual problems keep piling up. (It's not just the ALB. The bats are dying off, and nobody knows why, except Welcome To Malarialand! some day soon.) We argue about nonsense. We encourage irrationality and we enable insanity. We take the following things as gospel, despite the fact that they are all demonstrably, dangerously and (in many cases) laughably wrong: that giant corporations have consciences and any concept of the general good; that to win the political argument means that the problem, whatever it is, has been solved, or never existed in the first place; that elections cannot be expected to have meaningful consequences, and that, because there are two sides to every argument, they both must be right or, at least, equally worthy of respect. Meanwhile, we don't vote, and we engage as citizens largely vicariously, and the problems, unsolved, worsen. My lord, Yeats was a helluva poet.

I have no solutions for all of this. The forces arrayed on the other side are too strong.

 

Michael Green
Las Vegas, NV

Your wonderful vivisection of the journalistic equivalent of Prince—the Washington Post, formerly known as a newspaper—as great as it is, also needs to emphasize more strongly that if David Weigel writes those things privately about conservatives, he is following in a wonderful tradition.  Phil Potter, a Baltimore Sun reporter renowned for his toughness—and I believe considered a conservative—used to start his news stories about Joe McCarthy by writing, "Joseph McCarthy, the no-good lying son of a bitch from Wisconsin," then rip it out and write his real story.  Weigel should have known better, but the Post long, long since should have known better.

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Obama, At Length

I’ve got a new “Think Again” column called,"‘No Opinions Except Ours,' Says the Washington Post,” and that’s here.

Also, I did this insanely long piece for The Nation, just under 17,000 words, and it’s called “Kabuki Democracy: Why a Progressive Presidency Is Impossible, for Now.” This is the main url, and this is the single page version.

Danielle Ivory is back here. Companies with a financial interest paid for thousands of studies federal regulators are using to assess the health risks of a widely-used herbicide -- while independent studies documenting potentially harmful effects on humans have not been included in research the EPA deems relevant. 

EPA records obtained by Danielle Ivory at The Huffington Post Investigative Fund show that at least half the 6,611 studies the agency is reviewing to help make its decision were conducted by scientists and organizations with a financial stake in atrazine, including its manufacturer, Syngenta. More than 80 percent of studies on which the EPA are relying have never been published. This means that they have not undergone rigorous “peer review” by independent scientists. At the same time several prominent studies by independent academic scientists in well-respected scientific journals – showing negative reproductive effects of atrazine in animals and humans – are absent from the EPA’s list.

EPA Senior Policy Analyst William Jordan told the Investigative Fund that industry-sponsored studies tend to be "scientifically more robust than are the studies generated by people in academia" because "companies spend more money on their studies and can attend to details that are potentially important that people in academia just can't afford to do."

 

Alter-reviews:

I’ve had this theory about Clint Eastwood for a while. I even considered writing a book about him. That’s not gonna happen, so I’ll give it away for free. Here’s the thing.  The second half of Clint’s amazing 35 year/35 movie career can be read, and may very well be intended as penance for the first half. Young Clint glorified violence and treated it as not only fun but also redemptive. They were fun but in many instances, morally repulsive. (Paul Newman turned down the “Dirty Harry” role, but suggested Eastwood instead of himself.) The second, brilliant, auteurist half of his career is all about the shattering power of violence and the stultifying culture of machismo that sustains it.

Think about it. And if you get a chance, and live in the city, go see some of them at “THE COMPLETE CLINT EASTWOOD” festival at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, beginning tomorrow. (Clint will be appearing by Skype on the 10th  with a Q&A following a screening of A Fistful of Dollars.) For more information, visit www.FilmLinc.com. (You can also buy the new box set. I found one on 18th Street for only $100, but still, it’s the movies and it’s not the same.)

 

Mail:

Ed Tracey
Lebanon, New Hampshire
Professor, When they lost their team captain Michael Ballack to an injury a few weeks ago, few gave Germany much of a chance to win the 2010 World Cup. But its young players have stepped-up, and they are now in the semi-finals as I write this. Interestingly, Yossi Sarid of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz wrote, "Now more than ever, it's okay to root for Germany." In no small part, he observed, because nearly half the team was either born in a different country or are the sons of immigrants (from Nigeria, Turkey, Ghana, Poland, etc.) - all due to a change in the nation's immigration laws ten years ago (shifting away from bloodlines as the determining factor in granting citizenship). In much the same way that France's 1998 multi-cultural World Cup championship team upset right-wingers like Jean LePen, Der Spiegel reports that Germany's Neo-Nazis are not amused. More importantly, a University of Hannover professor was pleased that when a first round game-winning goal was scored by German-born Mesut Özil (of Turkish descent) an old man was (politely) corrected by a shop-keeper after he complained that a Turk won the game: "That is not a Turk, that is a German”.
 

 

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Slacker Friday

My new “Think Again” column is called "A 'Very, Very Bad' Article" and it is about the comical, but enormously worrisome reaction to Michael Hastings’ brilliant takedown of ex-General McChrystal. It's here.

I did a Daily Beast post for this morning, which, in their inimitable fashion, they named, “Sock it to Em! Obama,” and that’s here.

My new Nation column, “A Conspiracy So Immense” is about the nuttiness surrounding the firing of Dave Weigel and the end of Journolist.

Also this: on April 30, 2010, Columbia University hosted a conference on opinion journalism in American intellectual history. The conference was organized by Eric Wakin, the Lehman Curator for American History at Columbia University, and featured several notable speakers and panelists, including Victor Navasky, Michael Kazin, Andi Zeisler, Eric Alterman, Stanley Crouch and more. Video of the entire conference is embedded here

CHARLES PIERCE NEWTON, MA.
Hey Doc:
"You're going to Sodom and Gomorrah, but what do you care?/Ain't nobody there would want to marry your sister." 

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "All Kinds Of Crazy" (Abita Blues) -- I don't need any of that Bud Light Lime to bring out how much I love New Orleans. 

Part The First: Ol' Squint seems to be off the reservation a tad these days. However, Clio, the Muse of History, demands that we point out that, as hard as he may have been working, Newt always managed to find time to work on his Comely Aide hobby. 

Part The Second: Have I mentioned that the GOP in Alabama has a congressional candidate who is insane? Hang in there for the whole commercial, by the way. Very much like "Layla," it's not over when you think it is. However, this is just very funny.

Part The Third: The least surprising thing about the Dave Weigel rumpus is the involvement in it of Tucker Carlson, who bravely published Weigel's private e-mails, just as he once bravely put my private e-mail address out on the air during The Spin Room, one of Carlson's several failed television projects. Luckily, this being Tucker Carlson on television, almost nobody saw it, but one person who did sent along the first death threat of my daughter's life. (To be fair, the guy said he was going to take us all out.) Of course, when a mere blogger did something to him, Carlson whined like a scalded schoolgirl. When you're walking into the National Press Club in D.C., Tucker Carlson is pretty much what you have to scrape off your shoe.

Part The Fourth: For my money, the only guy we should be listening to right now. Well, him and Krugman.

Part The Fifth: So what do we care if BP ruins the entire Caribbean? There's a new ocean coming for them to despoil. And in only 10,000 years!

Part The Penultimate: Holy crap! Fired at last from Salon, which installed a surveillance camera on which he was filmed passed out at his desk with a half-pint of Virginia Gentleman in his teeth while crazy people came in the windows and started posting things on the Intertoobz, Waldo The Drunk Security Guard apparently has landed on his feet with a job at the NYT. I mean, really now: "American actresses have desexualized themselves, confusing sterile athleticism with female power. Their current Pilates-honed look is taut and tense — a boy’s thin limbs and narrow hips combined with amplified breasts." Woofers or tweeters, Camille, sweetie? 

Part the Ultimate: As it happens, about 13 years ago, while working on a profile for a national magazine, I ran into something of the same situation vis a vis Tiger Woods that Michael Hastings ran into as regards his infinitely more important reporting of Stanley McChrystal's intemperate remarks, the ones that have bunched the undies of so many of our elite reporters. FWIW, and speaking from my own experience, I think Hastings has acted throughout with impeccable professionalism, which is sadly lacking in almost all of his critics. This was a freakish situation. A commanding general and his staff were forced to take a bus ride from Paris to Germany because of a volcano in Iceland. At any point prior to departure, McChrystal could have told Hastings, "Look, dude. We're going to knock a few back on the trip because why-the-hell-not? Anything said on the bus is off the record. Period." At which point, Hastings could have agreed, or he could have taken another bus. (He also could have agreed, and published the remarks anyway, but that would be fundamentally dishonest, and he has not shown any predilection for that.) McChrystal is not five-years old and he did not arrive in Afghanistan on a turnip truck. Unlimited access means unlimited access. Period. In such settings, there is no such goddamn animal as informal off-the-record.

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A Raise, Please...

My new “Think Again” column is called "A 'Very, Very Bad' Article' and it is about the comical, but enormously worrisome reaction to Michael Hastings’ brilliant takedown of ex-General McChrystal. It's here.

My new Nation column, “A Conspiracy So Immense” is about the nuttiness surrounding the firing of Dave Weigel and the end of Journolist.

Also this: on April 30, 2010, Columbia University hosted a conference on opinion journalism in American intellectual history. The conference was organized by Eric Wakin, the Lehman Curator for American History at Columbia University, and featured several notable speakers and panelists, including Victor Navasky, Michael Kazin, Andi Zeisler, Eric Alterman, Stanley Crouch and more. Video of the entire conference is embedded here.

Sometimes I wonder if my readers appreciate the crap I put up with to do my job. Yes, give me a few glasses of pinot noir, followed by a Corvoisier or two (VSOP, please) and I start to cry in my beer about how tough I have it, and how sad it is that nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen.

Take for instance the mail. I used to have more jobs than I do now, and hence more money, and double hence, a full-time assistant to shield me from jerks and crazies. But no more. I do it all on my own now, and just look what I am forced to read.

The first jerk below, a Mr. Ranier Mack of Washington, DC, wrote me recently to explain to me that owing to my views of the Israel/Palestinian conflict—I support an independent state for the Palestinians, believe Israel should return all lands conquered in 1967, remunerate Palestinians for lost property, apologize for the occupation, end the siege of Gaza, negotiate immediately with Hamas despite, etc.—I am the moral equivalent of terrorist murderer Baruch Goldstein, among other awful things. See below if you doubt this. When I received this brilliant missive, I immediately asked the letters editor of The Nation to print it, in order to demonstrate the quality of the attacks to which one is subject if one takes any position outside of the extremes on the conflict. But Mr. Mack refused. What is he afraid of? He said he planned to publish something on the anti-Zionist website, supported by the Nation Institute, “Mondoweiss.” Well, if that’s true, so much the worse for Mondoweiss, but to tell you the truth, I have a hard time believing any of Mr. Mack’s claims.

The second jerk below, Aaron Perhach, thinks that the existence of “Journolist”—described above in my column—somehow negates the 400-or-so-page book I published seven years ago about the not-so-liberal nature of the mainstream media. He would like me to “apologize for writing that ridiculous book, etc., etc.” I would like Aaron (and his parents) to apologize for his ridiculous existence.

But thanks for the opportunity to show the world the hardships of my world.

Happy holiday, and enjoy the below:

Eric,

Hamas doesn't have to conform to the effete standards of a superannuated second-rate Jewish intellectual to earn a seat at the table. They're no different than Irgun or the Stern Gang. In fact, considering the murderously racist nature of the "Settler State" they're fighting—they're morally far superior to those Jewish "freedom fighters." Cling anxiously to your Jewishness if you must, but it puts you in the same camp as Ted Belman, Melanie Phillips, and Baruch Goldstein.

Ranier Mack, Washington, DC

Dear Dr. Alterman,
In light of the recent revelations concerning Ezra Kline's "Jurnolist 400", which seems to be a left-wing cabal of journalists bent on proping up the Democrats and destroying the Republicans, will you now admit that there is, in fact, a liberal media? I'd like you to apologize for writting that ridiculous book which denies the existence of a liberal media and I'd like you to publish a full retraction of its contents in every major newspaper in the country.

Thank you.

Yours truly,

Aaron Perhach
Forty Fort, Pennsylvania

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