Well-chosen words on music, movies and politics, with the occasional special guest.
First things first, we have a new Think Again column herecalled "Spying on Journalists? Why the Silence?" and a new Nation column called "The Defamation League," here, whichaddresses, among other things, smears against Bill Moyers.
Second, there's my more detailed response to The New Republic's JonathanChait. It's long, but responding to slurs takes much more time thanmaking them in the first place:
I'll admit it. I spent a little while on Tuesday wondering why The NewRepublic's Jonathan Chait wants people to think he's stupid. I don'timagine Chait really is stupid. I've admired much of his work in thepast. But he is clearly willing to pretend when it suits his purpose.If you think "stupid" overly harsh, then perhaps "dishonest" would bemore appropriate.
He writes, here:
The Nation's Eric Alterman recently wrotethat in the United States, "right-wing Jewish organizations andneoconservative pundits dominate nearly all Middle East discussion."
This is a pretty radical claim, one I don't agree with--recent coverstories in both Time and Newsweek have reflected the J Street line--but one for which you could produce at least some evidence. The sumtotal of the evidence he did produce were three blog posts appearing in,respectively, The New Republic, The Weekly Standard and Commentary.
Let's begin at the beginning: In the above paragraph, Chait purposelycut the qualifier in that sentence which began, here."Within the mainstreammedia punditocracy," because, as I mentioned here, "reporting on Israel/Palestine has become much fairer to thecomplexities of the conflict during the past decades; the punditocracyremains mired in the McCarthyite-style accusations of Chait's boss,Marty Peretz and his mini-me James Kirchick." Next, Chait insists thatthe three blog items I quoted in my column provide "the sum total of theevidence [I] did produce." Now Chait knows quite well he is describinga column that was necessarily under a thousand words. He knows that thefact of conservative domination of the debate was not even the point ofthe column. I was merely giving examples of the tendency before leadingto my larger point, which was the desire of those like Peretz, JamesKirchick and Commentary's Noah Pollak, to try to avoid debate by usingschoolyard insults against those with whom they disagree for the purposeof delegitimizing their points of view. To say that the "sum total" ofmy proof is lacking is to betray a complete misunderstanding of a) whata column is, and; b) what the column in question was addressing. SinceChait writes a column himself, and presumably knows better, well, youcan draw your own conclusion.
Alterman, perhaps using hyperbole to compensate forthe lack of evidence, called the authors "Thought Police." You mayrecall that the term "Thought Police" was coined by George Orwell's1984 to describe a breed of futuristic secret police that would exceedeven the draconian methods employed by Stalin and Hitler. ApparentlyAlterman believes equivalent powers are now wielded by a handful ofZionist bloggers. I'm trying to imagine what Alterman would say iffascism really does come to America. Perhaps he'll think to himself,while hanging from his thumbs in some dungeon, "Well, this is prettybad, but not as bad as when I was criticized by Commentary online."
This, too, strikes me as purposefully idiotic. I don't know Chaitpersonally, but I have a hard time he's gotten this far in life withoutever encountering the literary concept of "metaphor." When a comediancomes off stage and says "I killed," he does not mean that he literallyended a person's life. When an audience member describes a musician'sperformance that "blew me away," again, he rarely is seeking to implyaerial flight. Chait allows the weasel word "apparently" to do yeoman'sduty here, taking the concept to which I was referring for metaphoricalpurposes and stretching well beyond what he knows was intended. Purposefully stupid or just plain stupid? I really can't say.
In my most recent Nation column, see above, I begin by noting the factthat the Israeli-Palestinian conflict gives birth to more irony than ishealthy and the example above is no exception. In the first place,Chait's magazine is proud of its policing role in the Middle Eastdebate. One of its top editors crowed to me while I was writing Sound & Fury, "We're the cops." To the degree that Peretz/Kirchick/Chait's attempts are less effective than they used to be, well that's a reflection of a welcome decline of the magazine's influence under Peretz's leadership rather than any lack of effort on theirpart.
Perhaps there is something in the water supply at TNR that turns peoplemanic when writing about Israel and/or American Jews. (Am I the onlyperson to notice that Martin Peretz, sounding like a Yiddish JamesDobson or Jimmy Swaggart, recently described Hebron as "the place whereAbraham actually bought land and where the patriarchy and matriarchy ofIsrael was spawned...") "Actually bought?" Hello Marty? The Old Testament is not exactlyhistory. There's no evidence anywhere that these people even everexisted. To treat it as such is crazy, even by Peretzian standards.
And then there is young Kirchick, whose obsession with J Street and the samewriters to whom Chait refers--specifically myself, Ezra Klein and MathewYglesias--led to his being forced to admit that he was inventing factsout of thin air, something Chait is too skillful to do at least, and young Kirchick might wish to take a lesson the art of the more artful smear.
And I fear I must note also the endorsement of this very same Chaitianparagraph, by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic, who reprinted it on his blog, and titled his post, for some reason, "J Street, Walt and Mearsheimer, and Jewish Martyrdom," though it refers only to me and not to Stephen Walt, John Measheimer, J-Street or Jewish martyrdom.
Goldberg, too, I fear, has also apparently spent too much timedrinking from Marty Peretz's water cooler. He authored justly infamous review in TNR in which, as Dylan Matthews points out, compared Mearsheimer, who holds an endowed chair at the University of Chicago, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was chosen by his colleagues in the field as the fifth most influential, and thirdmost interesting, international relations scholar alive, and Wald, andextremely respected and admired Harvard International Relations scholar,to "Father Coughlin, Charles Lindbergh, Louis Farrakhan, David Duke,Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and bin Laden." More recently, he comparedMearsheimer to Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, who is terrorist, ananti-Semite and a Holocaust denier.
It's not fair to tar everyone at TNR with this brush. Many of itswriters smartly avoid the issue and do excellent work untainted by theassociation. Almost alone, John Judis has taken Peretz on in a few ofhis most outrageous assertions and has been repaid with the sameschoolyard taunts--" churlish and bumptious" most recently-- enjoyed bythe rest of us. (See hereand here)
But it is all so obviously absurd. Remember, none of the people here arequestioning Israel's right to exist. Many of us, myself included, arenice Jewish bar-mitzvah boys and proud-pro Zionists--not that thatshould matter for the purposes of debate and discussion. And believe me,ladies and germs, were you to read the abusive mail I receive at TheNation, you'd think I was under the secret pay of either AIPAC orMossad, depending on who is writing. And yet writers as well-regardedas Goldberg and Chait are apparently incapable of treating theiropponents with even a modicum of respect, humiliating themselves anddamaging their own reputations in the in the process.
Israel has much to recommend it as a society, a cultural phenomenon andhomeland for millions of Jews. But it sure has been murder on thereputations of the writers and editors of a for once-liberal,once-weekly, once-respected little magazine called The New Republic.
Rodney Crowell sings "Portraits of Women" live:I saw a really lovely show last weekend. Rodney Crowell, of whom I wasnot particularly a big fan going in, played The Allen Room with a smallacoustic group and guest appearances by our friend, Herself, (and the exMrs. Crowell) Rosanne Cash, and a remarkably charming and deadpansouthern country singer named Minton Sparks, who carried her handbag andlooked like an even sexier librarian than you-know-who. Anyway, Crowellwas the revelation to me. The song cycle was entitled "Portraits ofWomen,"--and while the songs were not really portraits of women, theywere quiet, finely honed, beautifully crafted and sensitively deliveredportraits of people in trouble. There was not an ounce of old-timeredneckery in the set. Indeed, he sang a two-song cycle of "I Wish ItWould Rain" and "Wandering Boy," both from his 2001 album, The HoustonKid--which told a story of a pair of twins, one of whom has AIDS,which is about as (mercifully) distant from Garth Brooks as one can getthese days. Anyway, I am going to have spend more time with Mr. Crowelland his catalogue in the future. Rosanne was in fine fettle, as if shehad never been away. The Times reviewed the show here, but oddly, thewriter made no mention at all of the wonderful Ms. Sparks, which is hardto believe, if, in fact, he saw her.
I would also like to second the suggestion found here at "Let the parties begin." To accompany the new music issue of OA, they've put together the greatest giveaway CD I've ever heard; an incredible collection of stuff that even if you collect this stuff, and I do, you probably don't have. There's a bunchof pieces on the site too--and hey, check out Chuck Jackson's threads,and there's also this rich collectionof essays pulled together between cloth covers, Read it in bed; read it with headphones on or keep it in the bathroom. It's the kind of thing that can be enjoyed for years and years and years. And shame on me for not making a bigger deal about this wonderful magazine when it needed more help. It's a real treasure.
Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
I am sure that if Fred Hiatt had not already completed the destruction of any ounce of respectability that the Washington Post editorial page enjoyed, he would indeed say someday that he regretted his description of Bill Kristol--and his gratuitous shot at the New York Times. But Hiatt clearly has no clue, so why should we be surprised?
As you detailed in one of your books, William Safire had problems as the house conservative at the Times, but they were of his doing. When it hit him that he should not just sit there and talk to himself, he became a good columnist. Kristol never tried, and it showed.
Name: Joel Berger
Hometown: Montrose NY
As a lefty Jew, I admit to a whole lot of trepidation regarding the recent Gaza incursion. I agree with you that it was a disaster for the Israelis. But when I read such letters as Tim Kane's (January 27), I cringe to think that a majority of those who oppose Israel's actions seem to just not care at all whether the Jews in Israel live or die. Am I being paranoid here?
That makes it very hard to abandon knee-jerk support of Israel, even when I disagree with its actions.
Name: Charles Hinton
Hometown: Satellite Beach, FL
A lifelong Democrat here, and I fell for Obama's infrastructure rebuild pitch.
Now I see the stimulus package and it is short on infrastructure and long--really long--on tax reductions to appease Republicans.
I have a fear that Obama is selling out his principles to win favor from the Republicans. After all--as he said--he won. The Republicans will never support the stimulus bill because they have not much to lose if it succeeds and everything to gain if at some point they might be able to say "I told you so" if it is less than a success in the near term.
How can the Democrats not see that tax reductions put more money in the pockets of people still employed (of whom some will save it) while infrastructure activities give people jobs who at present have no money.
Name: Tom Hawthorn
Hometown: Victoria, B.C., Canada
Former style would have had your au pair as a "French Quebec(k)er." (It could be spelled either as Quebecer or Quebecker.) Today, she would more likely be described as a Quebecoise, which means a female from Quebec. You were fortunate to have her as a minder.
My first concert, I'm sorry to admit, was Chicago at the Montreal Forum. When my kids sneer, I tell them I was expecting to see the Black Hawks.
Name: Rory Downward
Hometown: Oakland, CA
I first saw Elton John of his solo tour in 1980 (kind of solo, the incredible Ray Cooper joined him for the second half of the 3 hour show). I'd always been a fan, but to see him play alone, without all the glitz, was a joy to behold. I don't know if you've seen it, but the CD release of "11/17/70" has the complete show, not just the cuts from the album release. I still finding amazing that so much sound can come out of a bass, drums & piano.
While I miss reading you on a daily basis, I'm glad you still have a voice here.
If this were a real blog, I'd have more crowing to do regarding theTimes' decision to drop William Kristol from its op-ed page. I wrote acolumn about his hiring for the American Prospect last year which hasbeen reposted here. The point I want to reiterate is this, when the Times was overwhelmed by complaints for the insult Kristol represented to its readership,editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal, speaking to Politico, dismissedall criticism of this "serious, respected conservative intellectual" as"intolerant," "absurd," and indicative of a "weird fear of opposingviews." Despite post-Jayson Blair promises of greater transparency, theTimes itself offered no new coverage of the controversy, and none ofKristol's colleagues on the page apparently thought it wise to weigh in,either.
Now, apparently, Rosenthal has come around to the views of his critics.Kristol was a failure as a columnist and a weekly embarrassment to thepaper. Where's the apology?
Meanwhile, the Post's Fred Hiatt may or may not regret his commentsabout Kristol here but it hardly matters. It's pretty widely acceptedthat the Post's page is a conservative-driven hodgepodge that does notrival the Times for influence or respect, fairly or not. Kristol won'tdo much damage on page containing the likes of Krauthammer Tyrrell,Novak, etc...
Also, if this were a real blog, I suppose I'd have more to say inresponse to Jonathan Chait's nasty TNR columns and posts on the debateover Israel, here.
I will however point out that by pointing toTime and Newsweek as evidence to subvert my thesis, he is eluding my point, which was addressed specifically to the punditocracy debate, notto the reporting. Reporting on Israel/Palestine has become much fairerto the complexities of the conflict during the past decades; thepunditocracy remains mired in the McCarthyite-style accusations ofChait's boss, Marty Peretz and his mini-me James Kirchick. My columncontained an explicit criticism of the Nation's coverage ofGaza--indeed, I would not have published it if it did not. Where'sChait's criticism of Peretz , who, after all, does not even own themagazine anymore, having been forced to sell it off after having nearlydestroyed it during his thirty year tenure, and his vicious McCarthyiteattacks on Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias and Spencer Ackerman, all of whomare more accomplished in their young lives than Peretz. (Unless youinclude negative accomplishments, that is.) Chait knows thistoo--indeed, just about everybody knows it. John Judis has recentlystepped up to the plate to criticize Peretz's antics and been paid backwith more schoolyard taunts. Big deal. It only increases the respectJohn has earned out in the real world. So why the one-sided attacks byChait and not a word about the cancer inside his own magazine? Itdoesn't take much courage, alas, to attack Alterman or Ackerman in TNR.
In the meantime, I've not written anything about the invasion itself. Ididn't see how it could improve Israel's position or promote peace, butI waited in the hopes I would be proven wrong. It appears that onceagain, yet another war, cheered upon from the armchairs of TNR'soffices has proven a demonstrable moraland political disaster, to say nothing of the near-destruction of thesupport for Fatah and increased worldwide support for Hamas, and thewidespread hatred of Israel worldwide.
Read Mike Kazin on the inauguration here.
Scroll down on Sal's Blog for some amazing stuff including Bruce's DJing gig and the best of "Spectacle" on Youtube. You owe him one. Also Jerry...
Congrats to the folks at Big Love for the brilliant use of "Burn Downthe Mission" at the end of the show this week. I saw my first twoconcerts ever in fifth grade, with my beautiful French Quebecian aupair, Celine. The first was a bill of Sly, Ike and Tina, Rare Earthat the Garden and Gladys Knight and the Pips, but Sly came on so late, we only saw a half hour of theshow, because my parents were parked outside panicking. The second wasElton at Carnegie Hall. He wore jean overalls and played the same showyou can hear on "11/17/70." It was one of the greatest things ever,though it spoiled me for a long time.
Name: Tim Kane
Hometown: Mesa, Arizona
I am hoping you will comment on the 60 Minutes piece that Bob Simon did on the plight of West Bank Palestinians.
This was, I thought, decent journalism: comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comforted. However it was quite difficult to take. As Mitchell goes off to make piece in there, this piece seemed to indicate that it is not possible, at least in a conventional sense of a two state solutions.
I've commented here (or back at Media Matter's site) that the one thing I gained from reading about Churchill is that one has to acknowledge legitimate rising aspirations of ones advisaries (though not their illegitimate aspirations).
The 60 Minutes piece was obviously one sided, but from a side or a perspective we never seem to get access to. If it were a legal case both sides would be able to present their views and rebut the other sides, etc...but it seems in America we only get the Israeli view and slim view of that as it is (I know little of the internal debates going on in Israel over the questions of one or two state settlements).
The 60 Minutes piece suggest that a 'two state solution' is no longer possible. The intransigence of the Jewish settlers seems arrogant if not conceited. There's no guarantee that a one state solution could be resolved favorably for the Israeli Jews--in fact Simon seemed to suggest it means either ethnic cleansing, one man one vote, or apartheid. He went on to imply that apartheid ultimately means one mane one vote.
Simon said that in ten years the Palestinians would pose a majority in the combined territories of West Bank, Israel and Gaza. I checked the CIA's website, and that already seems the case.
What that seems to indicate to me is that the ambition of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, despite the immense power of the Israeli military and lobby, is hanging by a thread. Perhaps the settlers wouldn't mind ethnic cleansing, but that would likely make Israel the most pariahed state in History.
All in all, I find this quite difficult to grasp. I understand that nearly 99 percent of Jews back Israel and the idea of a homeland for Jews. Are they in denial about the situation? How do they see this working out?
The settlers in the West Bank are like the right wing Republican party operatives who believe that what they need to do to win elections is to be even more right wing. It seems to me that they can't realize that their very positions are destroying themselves. I thought self preservation was a natural instinct in all beings, but apparently not in extremist conservatives.
Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC
Back in 2000, many said Al Gore needed to concede and not fight on, despite having more votes, because he would be perceived as a sore loser. In 2004, despite numerous irregularities in Ohio, John Kerry was warned do not attempt to fight the election result because you will be perceived as a sore loser. No one likes a sore loser was the frequent claim. Both Gore and Kerry were warned about getting lawyers involved. Now I know a senate election is not the same as the presidential, but where are all the calls about Norm Coleman being a sore loser? Why isn't he being told to concede already? This is a man who after a thorough recount (which was not allowed in Florida in 2000) has lost the election. It was close, but it is still a loss. Yet, he won't back down. Shouldn't he be being called a sore loser (and many other things) for his refusal to step aside?
Name: Barbara Swalm
Hometown: Portland, ME
I liked Obama's speech more than you--I was hoping for less "loftiness" and more hardness (which to my mind he delivered). Our place of business has a lobby TV--always tuned to FOX, so we got to listen to the dolts on that network. They could not even identify the cabinet or advisors. Sheesh.
I'm surprised some folks are thinking that the first quarter is going to be an improvement over the last (given GDP). The financial crisis is going to continue---its not a question about bank's having money, it's about the credit worthiness of the borrowers at this point. Commercial and Industrial (C&I) customers are being hit because of a lack of demand for product. Bank's need to be prudent with cash so credit tightens, because the cash flow of the customer is tight. The REIT world is going to continue to have refinancing needs, many of the buildings they have are not providing sufficient cash flow to cover refinanced P&I, so they are going to have to sell properties that do cash flow (but won't support a ton of debt) at prices that are going to continue to drive down the prices in the commercial property sector. AIG isn't able to sell off profitable segments of it's business (no takers, credit is tight and many in the financial services business don't have the balance sheet strength to take them) so Citi is going to have problems off loading some of it business segments.
I don't like the stimulus package, I think its directing cash where it doesn't need to go (financial services. Let them fail, put the money into work projects that improve the infrastructure (and creates jobs) and into new industries and let's recreate the financial services world. Its a lot more radical, but at least we take the hits now, rather than later. Yes, I work in the financial services arena and went trough the late 80s and early 90s crash.
Name: Mark Dolce
When the jokes write themselves...from The Politico's article, "Obama to GOP: 'I Won'":
"How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives?" Boehner asked. "How does that stimulate the economy?"
Boehner said congressional Republicans are also concerned about the "size of the package."
First off, we have a new "Think Again" column entitled "Free Ride to theFinish Line," about guess who, which is here. Second, I came across thisgenuinely lovely review--ten years after itspublication--of my Springsteen book, so thanks to Scott Parker for this.
Ok, here's an actual Inauguration post:
So let's face it. The Inauguration was pretty much a disaster.
The DC cops did not care if anyone actually saw the speech.(I was in the crowd sent into the tunnel to nowhere, where nobody knewnothing. At the gate I ended up in--the wrong one for my ticket--themetal detectors broke and everyone had to be hand-searched. Thousandsof people with tickets, who travelled thousands of miles, spent thespeech crammed together in a tiny area unable to see or hear anything. Ileft, but only after I was literally kicked in the head by a small childon his father's shoulders.
Obama gave, by my calculations, only his fifth best speech atbest; not as good as: the 2004 convention, the Martin Luther King Dayspeech in Alabama, the race speech, the Denver speech and maybe some Inever heard nor saw.
Most of the events I went to were actually catastrophes. Ienjoyed the HuffPost party but I only got in because I was with VictorNavasky, who had visited his friend Kenny Lerer, and been given apurple wristband, which allowed me to talk my way into two more purplearmbands. Otherwise, I would have been with the freezing hordes who wereeventually turned away, without having been invited. Also the drinklines were ten deep. I do not exaggerate.
Another event I went to--a big one--was so awful, at thelevel of the wrist-band I was originally given that it felt like a punchin the face to the people who had paid thousands of dollars to be there;bad food, no access to the entertainment, and believe it or not, aping-pong table as the only thing to do, besides stare at the lobbyistsand their clients who had been roped in without due diligence. I didn'tpay anything, and eventually, I was able to land a decent wristband, andso I had a good time, but it struck me as symbolic. For a few thousandbucks or so, the contempt was palpable. For twenty grand, you weretreated decently. (I'm not being more specific because I've notcommitted to burning this particular bridge yet.)
One band I went to see, paying fifty bucks in cabs,round-trip, did not come on in time for me to stay away long enough tosee them. (Jason Isabel--the guy who left the DBTs when he got divorcedfrom one of its members.) I think it was around midnight.
"The Rising" with a gospel chorus, was a great idea that justdid not work. Did we really need a Black president to have Garth Brookssing an Isley Brothers song?
Where was the jazz? Where was the real country? Where forgoodness sakes, was the great Ralph Stanley, who made the most movingObama endorsement of all?
Plus there was a bunch of screw ups that were my fault. But here's thething. It was great anyway. Lots and lots of people came to spend ahappy historical moment with their friends and were not going to letanything ruin it. I didn't either--once I finally got over my shock onthe subway. The crowds were impossible, but as Mike Tomasky put it to meover coffee, "It was an Obama inauguration, not a Rolling Stonesconcert." Everybody was really nice to everybody else. You couldn'tbelieve how many people asked me if I was ok or if I wanted some Tylenolafter I got kicked in the head. And the fact that these people didn'tget and had tickets and traveled so far, well, it was amazing how goodhumored they were, especially since it was due to the uncaringincompetence of those in whom they had no choice but to place theirfaith. But despite everything, I had a wonderful time. It's no smallthing to take your country back from the clutches of actual evil....
Oh wait, here's an actual piece of reporting; I talked to Jamie Fox onSunday night and he told me that he had kept his Obama imitation secretfrom the show's producers and everyone else. He had worked on it formonths, but sprang it on the Obamas and everybody else. I said that wasa good thing, because in addition to jazz and country and Ralph Stanley,the other glaring lack in the show was humor, and "everybody" knows,Obama and the rest of us, could use a little humor...
Alter-reviews: Cherry Orchard at BAM and the new Kind of Blue.
The night before I left for Washington, I traveled to BAM's HarveyTheater to a really wonderful production of The Cherry Orchard. I'vealways felt that Chekov located the ideal vortex between profundityabout human emotion, good humored affection for his often patheticcharacters and great dialogue, and The Cherry Orchard, which was his finalouting, has all of these characteristics is abundance, plus the addedtalents of Tom Stoppard, our greatest living playwright, and directorSam Mendes, and a cast that featured Simon Russell Beale, Sinead Cusak,Rebecca Hall (of Woody Allen's Vicky Christina Barcelona), JoshHamilton, Richard Eastman and Ethan Hawke. It's the opening salvo inBAM's new British-American "Bridge Project" launched by Mendes and hiswife, Kate Winslet, and Kevin Spacey--who is directing the Old Vic--andwho somehow managed to land $2.8 million bucks from BOA in about theworld's worst economic environment for fundraising. It's a fantasticseason for Chekov, with Seagull just finishing on Broadway and Vanyaopening up off-Broadway, both also with wonderful casts--and I'm sorry,but my city is back to being the Greatest City in the World, though I'lladmit, Washington had better music last week. Winter's Tale, alsodirected by Mendes, will begin in February and play together withOrchard through March, and there are lectures and workshops and stuffif you want to go to that. All the info is here.
Kind of Blue: Legacy Edition
What is there left to say about Kind of Blue? It's bigger than atwo-ton gorilla in the world of Jazz. I read somewhere, and I tend tobelieve, that it remains the best-selling album in jazz, even today.That means every year, not just all-together. It's great, but is itreally that great? (I was tempted to say, but "So What?" but that feltlame.) I personally have owned at least five different versions. Thisone comes with complete studio sessions on 2 CDs, including falsestarts, alternate takes and a 17-minute 1960 live version of "So What,"and a nice essay by Francin Davis, and a well-done booklet. If you don'thave it, now is obviously the time. If you do, well, it's not soexpensive for the new stuff and the cool packaging. The amazon page ishere but there's not muchthere yet.
This week on Moyers:
America saw an historic moment with the inauguration of President Obama,but was it a progressive landmark? Bill Moyers sits down with Columbialaw professor and Nation columnist Patricia Williams and Princetonpolitics and African American studies professor Melissa Harris-Lacewellabout the significance of this milestone and what it means for thefuture. Then, political columnist and blogger David Sirota and WallStreet Journal columnist Thomas Frank talk with Bill Moyers about theexpectations of this administration and what must be accomplished forObama to be considered a progressive President.
Bank CEO (and Bailout Recipient) Says Bailout Failing Community Banks: As another $350 billion flies out the door, ANP looks at one small bailed-out bank. Eagle Bank, a community bank headquartered inMaryland, received many millions of dollars of TARP money, but is having trouble making loans. You'd think it's CEO, Ron Paul (no, not that Ron Paul),would be thrilled, but he's not. Paul says the government has not takenfleeing depositors into account and, as a result, small banks and theirsurrounding communities will suffer.
Kingston and the Coal Lobby's Grip on the EPA: In March of 2000, during the last days of the Clinton administration,the EPA decided coal ash was a hazardous waste. Then, two months later, it flipped. If the EPA had stuck to its guns, the Kingston Coal Ash disaster in Tennessee might have been averted. Now, momentum is building tofederally regulate coal ash. Will the EPA make the same mistake twice?
Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
"After all that I've been through/It opened up my eyes/And nowI'm/one toke over the line, sweet Jesus."
One Time, One-Time-Only Daily WWOZ Pick To Click: "Sweet And Hot"(Jack Teagarden) -- Once again. I failed this week to get the defensiveline of the Arizona Cardinals to adorn themselves in pearls and feathersand sing about how much I love New Orleans.
Some short takes while I instruct The Landlord in what the word"embargo" means.
(If I were Drudge-- "MUST CREDIT! MUST CREDIT! WHOOP! WHOOP! FUNNYHAT! FUNNY HAT!" -- , he'd be a dead man. Of course, were I Drudge, I'dalready be dead from a combination of poisonous self-loathing and acuriousPolynesian malady I'd picked up from the staff of The Politico, but Idigress.)
Part The First: Oh, for the love of god, just shut up. At least they were kind enough to embed a video to demonstrate exactly how big a festival of fools they are.
Part The Second: KO had a stunning pair of segments this week with Russell Tice, the formeranalyst-turned-whistleblower at the National Security Agency. In short,the illegal surveillance over the past eight years was vast and, as nearlyas I can tell from what Tice said, almost completely limitless. I'm startingto wonder if a critical mass isn't building that will require even the mosttimorous Democrats to start considering investigations into at leastsome of White House Horrors 2.0.
Part The Third: But that's a little less likely if this happens. The whole New York Senatemishigoss has been fascinating to those of us across the border to theeast because we are getting ourselves ready for the complete bloodbaththat's going to ensue when Edward Kennedy is no longer our seniorsenator.The odd part, of course, is why all this personal material (alleged andotherwise) about Caroline Kennedy is coming out after her push for thenomination had cratered for good. It seems from afar like getting toughwith the Kennedys--and, by extension, with Michael Bloomberg -- is theopening volley in Paterson's re-election campaign. But, at this point intime, trading a surprise Democratic House pick-up--and one that's notlikely to be repeated the next time around--for a Lieberdog senator istranscendentally stupid politics.
Part The Fourth: Fr. Richard John Neuhaus passed away this week. Itis no exaggeration to rank Neuhaus as one of the nuttiest priests sinceBenedict IV, who dug up the corpse of his predecessor and excommunicatedit, thereby ensuring that all the other nutty priests forever would becompeting for second place. Here's a little something-something from a while back from Andrew, who'skinder than I would have been, or intend to be, even now that the old rascal'sdead. In 1996, you may recall, exercised as always by women and theirreproductive rights--and, for the moment, by the lubricious horrorthat was Bill Clinton -Neuhaus and his First Things magazine published asymposium entitled "The End Of Democracy?" which was as close to anexercise in outright sedition as you're likely to read in your life.Eternal rest grant unto him, o Lord, and may the Blessed John XXIII kickhis ass all over paradise for eternity.
Part The Fifth: Holy Mother of God. Was this guy always this unhinged? How'd he ever stay unconfined longenough to get elected to anything?
Part The Last: When I'm not reading The Politico to discover justhowlame the Intertubes can be, I generally go visit the folks at this new place. Some day,cyber-archaeologistsare going to dig down through the levels of suckitude that make up therightist blogosphere, and they're going to think that this place was thehome of all the gods of suckitude. Look, I liked The Dark Knight, too,butwhen did it become a cause celebre for the Flogging Jim Caviezel crowd? Of course, my aesthetic bona fides do not include being on Facebook and Twitter, sowhat do I know?
Anyway, I was stunned that the plucky little rocker from Jerseydidn't get a nomination, not stunned at all that people still lovey-loveMs. Winslet, happy for Melissa Leo, happier for Josh Brolin, who had agreat year, and overjoyed that the great Martin McDonagh's script for InBruges got selected because my favorite movie line of the year is,"What's a 50-year old lollipop man doing knowing karate? Was he fookin'Chinese?"
Anyway, the best movie I saw this year was Man On Wire anyway.
Name: Maureen Holland
Hometown: South Venice Beach FL
Well Eric, Following you guys around the innertubes is no burden, but really--a jump page?--you ask a bit much with this 'READ MORE' business. Addles my mind. But I'll adapt. Just don't go away. You remain my moral anchor. And yeah, very nice job on Matthews and good on you for appearing on a day when he opted for sanity and clarity. He's good when he's not crazy.
Eric replies: Agree on both counts, but they tell me that if you clickon the link for today, it's ok, but if you click on "Altercation" youget a jump. I don't really understand the hows and whys...
Name: Daniel Hermsen
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wi
Regarding your Think Again column, "Scarborough Fare," I was amused by his assessment of Obama's "dainty" bowling style as a sign that he is not manly enough to be Commander-in-Chief. It reminded me of a ridiculous statement Scarborough made during the 2004 presidential campaign. He likened Americans to people living in a cabin in the woods, who know that a ferocious bear (terrorists) is coming to attack. "Who do you want to be sitting at the front door with a gun to protect you?" he asked. The choice being the strong, tough George W. Bush or the weak, metrosexual, John Kerry. What a laughable question, I figured I'd take the war hero, who had been in battle and killed people, vs the draft evader, who spent the Vietnam war years golfing. But to Scarborough, Bush was the obvious choice. As for bowling being the measure of strength, I would note that my 89 year old father still bowls every week, but is much too frail to consider playing basketball. So maybe basketball is a better barometer. However we don't really know if McCain is good at bowling or basketball, so we were forced to make an uninformed choice when we went to the polls.
Name: Greg Panfile
Hometown: Tuckahoe NY
Charles, the line in Omaha by Moby Grape is "Now my friends, the storms are behind, no more rain, from where we came..." in order for the rain to stop you need to have it raining first, songwriting 101;-).
One can spend one's time in many worse ways that with watching not only all of The Prisoner but all of Secret Agent aka Danger Man. It's incredibly tightly written and acted spy noir that captures things about 1000 times more accurately than anything Bond, but unfortunately lacks any vocals from Shirley Bassey. There's also this episode about a village...
Takedown on Meacham and Thomas, feckless talentless brainless Villagers both, thank you... also you failed to note that over at Salon it appears a victim of a very unfortunate traumatic brain injury got access to one of their computers and committed what has to be called verborrhea, yet again.
And a pleasure to have LTC Bob carry over. Citizen, soldier, scholar, gentleman, and damn good writer and thinker.
Name: M. George Stevenson
Hometown: Bronx, NY
Dear Dr. A:
Congratulations on your new home, I'm afraid I must tweak you on the footnote to your "Gaza Agonistes" piece, with which I am otherwise in full agreement: Please don't turn into another Midlantic "taker" of decisions. Americans have always made decisions and, in my recollection as a newspaper editor for the last twnety years, didn't start reverting to the less confident, weaselier British verb in any great numbers until George Will & Co. began trying to justify Bush v. Gore and, perhaps subconsciously, adopted the usage as a way to suggest there were limited options and that it was the best we could hope for. (Look for my scholarly article on this theory once I'ver crafted the appropriate Nexis search.)
Best wishes for your continuing good works,
Name: John N Cox
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Dear Dr. Alterman:
As we appear to share a similar opinion on Ralph Nader, I thought you might appreciate following quote: "The Aviation Consumer Action Project, a Ralph Nader group, says that in an attempted water landing, a wide body jet would 'shatter like a raw egg dropped on pavement, killing most if not all passengers on impact, even in calm seas with well-trained pilots and good landing trajectories.'" Link: http://www.slate.com/id/1003275/
Name: Ken Daniels
Hometown: Florence, KY
Welcome back LTC Bateman. I'm a big fan and an avid reader of your columns, so yours is a welcome return.
I do have one minor quibble though, and I hope I've just misread your assertion that "To that end I figured it just made sense to write for the audience least likely to have a whole lot of experience with or personal direct connections to the military in general and the Army in particular". If I interpret that correctly, I think you're buying into a false stereotype peddled and perpetuated by the conservative rightwing in this country. We're not all anti-military liberals who've never served our country. I'm about as opposed to the current Iraq fiasco and its neocon champions as a guy could be, and yet I enlisted in the US Army at age 18 during the mid-1980s. Though I despise the very thought of him now, Ronald Reagan was my CiC. I'm a proud veteran of the 101st--joined the Army to "see the world" and got stationed in my home state--go figure.
Again, if I misinterpreted, then my apologies, but I think you might want to avoid careless assumptions in the future.
Thanks for the otherwise splendid work, KD
Name: Mark Woldin
Hometown: Elizondo, Navarra, Spain
Hi, Eric. I was amused to see Pierce's remarks on the concert. I thought them loose and unthoughtful, but correct in many ways. It wasdismaying how vulgar and mindless the concert was. There is a pomposity in presenting the inauguration as a global event, which it is not in any real sense. In fact is quite specifically our national event. To that end only American artists should perform. We should show the world who we are, what we do. Does anyone need to hear U2 -- surely the most presumptuous and self- aggrandizing band ever -- yet again. (Not to mention that Bono offended by bringing up himself, the campaign, and Middle East politics.) Why not chuck the whole crew and start again, as a parlor game: The history of American music: Stephen Foster, J.P. Sousa, Civil War songs, Dixieland, Ragtime, Big Band, Bee Bop, Porter, Berlin, Gershwin, Folk, Country (I don't much like it but half the country does) -- Willie Nelson, Roseanne Cash or clemency for Hank Williams, Jr.? Zydeco, Mariachi, show music, Bernstein, Copeland, Carter, Glass, etc. Instead we get a run down, irritating compendium of record-smashers and honeys in leather pants, the usual thing for a worldwide benefit, instead of the august moment of the transfer of power from the worst to the best.
Name: John Athridge
Hometown: Washington, DC
Hey Doc, I'm guessing you probably know this already, but just in caseyou didn't hear: the woman who fell on to the subway tracks before theinaugural was saved by a police officer. He dove down and rolled themboth underneath the platform and away from the train. She had adisclocated shoulder, but that's it. Saw it on the local news when Igot home. Was very surprised that bit of heroism got so littleattention.
Eric replies: Thanks, this is truly amazing. When I left the station, Iwas sure, whoever it was, was dead and from the hands I saw, I hadassumed it was a little girl.
Name: Brian Dixon
Hometown: Alexandria, VA
Witnessing the woman fall onto the subway tracks must have been horrible. Just hearing the news on the radio that morning was quite painful. You'll be pleased to know that the woman who fell onto the Subway track on Inauguration Day wasn't run over by the train and wasn't seriously injured. An out of town transit police officer pushed her under the platform where there is space to avoid the wheels. Even many DCers don't know that safety trick. Kudos to that officer who I think was from Houston. Sending on guy back to Crawford in exchange for this one from Houston was a big trade up, I'd say
Name: Kathleen Berger
Hometown: Madrid, Spain
Uh - did Pierce really refer to Renee Fleming as "that woman?" For heaven's sake, she's America's sweetheart opera star. She's been on major network talk shows, won a Grammy, been the face of Rolex, been in an Annie Leibovitz book and had a dessert named after her by Daniel Boulud. How 'bout we pay a bit better attention, what say?.
Name: Paul Kingman
Hometown: New Bern, NC
I don't know Mr. Pierce, I read your words today and then watched the show on DVR. On your inference, I fast forwarded through the speeches and listened just to the music. Yeah, I rolled through the ones you suggested except I thought the duo of Will.I.Am, Sheryl Crow were good and the trio with Herbie Hancock stunning (Jon Bon Jovi did fine, despite your warning), Stevie Wonder smoking. I would argue Dr. John more than the Neville Brothers though, because you are right: New Orleans was sorely missing. I did listen to Obama, then Pete Seeger, (explaining to my 17-year-old son that Pete Seeger wrote "Abiyoyo," his favorite book every night for 3 years when cute). I found it to be a great celebration, a celebration of a President (yes I capitalize it,) a President; the first one to share my cultural values, my music, my dreams, my generation. I told my son, that I hope there is another President in his day who excites him and his son as much as this one does the two of us. So Mr. Pierce, I don't know, based on your editing suggestions, it worked for me as an exceptional piece of Americana, that I hope (but I doubt) we'll see again in our lifetime.
Name: Jim Wiseman
Hometown: Downingtown, PA
Hi Eric, I'm repeating a couple of questions I posed in one of your emails "lost in cyberspace" in your first week at The Nation. Why have you changed your wonderful list of links? You dropped Paul Krugman, Digby, effectively Matt Yglesias(click on the link and you'll see what I mean), and others. Much as I enjoy reading Altercation, being able to noodle through all the best blogs on the net was one of its attractions. I hope you'll restore them in time.
Eric replies: I don't know, actually. I made the last list. I did notmake this one for my own use, actually, and figured it would proveuseful for others. I don't know who made this one, but we are gettingit back. Thanks for caring.
First off, we have a new "Think Again" column entitled "Free Ride to theFinish Line," about guess who, which is here.
Second off, I have nothing much to say about the inauguration, in partbecause I just do, and in part because on my way there, I witnessed,from about ten feet away, the person run over by the subway car, and Iwas too upset afterward to actually find my way to the Capitol, thoughwith the way things were, that might not have helped. I listened to thespeech from a chair in a Mexican restaurant, but I did not see it. Still, it was pretty good, I thought.
Here's Pierce a day early. I'll have the rest of the mail tomorrow.Thanks for saying hello.
"And here I sit so patiently/Waiting to find out what price/Youhave to pay to get out of/Going through all these things twice."
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "How Can You Leave Me Now? (The NewOrleans Jazz Band)--I solemnly swear that I will execute my lovefor New Orleans faithfully.
Part The First: How about we all get together and agree as a nationto take a six-month moratorium on anything that has to do with AbrahamLincoln? Let's give the poor old soul a rest.
Part The Second: OK, now the bad stuff. That fiasco on Sunday onthe steps of the Lincoln Memorial was so utterly, toweringly, transcendentlylame that you'd have thought Chuck Berry had died as a child. I'm surethe fellow-feeling on the mall was fabulous, but, goddamn, was that aterrible concert. If it weren't for U2 and the closing hootenanny -- Thank Godthat Pete and Bruce decided to sing even the pinko verses, but they at leastshould have invited Arlo up there to sing his pappy's song with them--it could have been easily confused with my daughter's seventh-grademusicale.
We couldn't get ALL of Marian Anderson, instead of Josh (Will Emote For Food) Groban and whoever that woman was? And Bettie Levette doesnot need Jon Bon F**king Jovi to help out on "Change Is Gonna Come,"much less take the last two choruses. James Taylor? We can't do better thanJames Taylor, who proceeded to sing a song that makes "Sweet Baby James"sound like "I Fought The Law"? A rock-and-roll medley that begins withthe pustulating swill of "American Pie," and in any case is sung by GarthBrooks? Not a single solitary act from New Orleans? Not one of theMarsalises was free? How about instead of Will I.Am and Sheryl Crowdoing "One Love," we invite the damn Neville Brothers?
And that's not even getting to the preposterous spoken wordsegments in which everybody had trouble with the prompters and the echoes. HasTom Hanks shut up yet? It's a celebration honoring the inauguration of aDemocratic progressive, and yet there's room for some platitudinousbull**it from Ronald Reagan, but none for, say, the "We shall overcome"section of LBJ's voting-rights speech? Joe Biden's Daltrey-esquebellowing was the closest thing the show had to a true rock-and-roll moment. Igotta tell you, post-partisanship sure makes for one lousy show.
Part The Third: I spent some time on Monday and Tuesday monitoringthe superstars of wingnut radio and, my god, are those folks the livingdefinition of "We got nothin'" these days. Laura Ingraham was reduced tosneering at -- and I am not making this up, Dr. Freud--the size of thebrush that Obama was using to paint that school on Monday. (Also, everyother call during the time I was listening came from Mississippi orSouth Carolina.) On Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh amused himself by bleeping outObama's middle name while replaying Obama's taking of the oath. All the while,of course, a couple of million people danced joyously all around them. Somegarden parties are so big, you don't even notice the skunks.
Part The Fourth: Things I did not know before Tuesday: that JohnQuincy Adams took the oath with his hand on a volume of constitutionallaw, and not on a Bible. This immediately made him my favorite presidentnamed Adams.
Part The Last: My friend, Bob Ryan, the quintessential Americansportswriter, pointed out that Aretha's remarkable headgear on Tuesdaywas unquestionably a tribute to the late Bessie Smith. Surprised that never occurred to Gibson or Stephanopolous.
For several years now, I have advocated marching the entireWashington press corps off to a Journalism re-education camp in theSmokies. The bright young cats 'n kittens at Ye Old House Of Mulch ForBrains, of course, would be at the head of the column. They've alreadyproduced what is likely going to remain the most singularly dumbassedanalysis of the entire Obama Era.
This is the distilled essence of what you get when political journalismbecomes only about politics--worse, when it becomes only aboutWashington politics. (And it doesn't even really succeed at that. Is there an ounce of data proving that President Obama would be advantaged by taking any ofthese idiotic suggestions?) It is also the distilled essence of whathappens to political journalism when so many people who practice itcan't really write any more. (Which is why we should all give thanks for thelikes of Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker.) Is there any indication in this piece that either author -- most notably, the egregious Harris, who debasedhimself forever by trolling for support from that greasy little grifterMatt Drudge--ever have reported anything in their lives, beyond pollingdata and campaign gossip?
What possible resonance does any of thisnonsense have in the life of anyone who lives anywhere else in the country? Anout-of-work factory worker's going to get better healthcare becauseObama slaps around the AFL-CIO? Do you think any of these people knowsanything about how Social Security actually works in the world? They know it asa political marker, nothing more. They assess its value in terms ofpolitical advantage; they sure as hell don't assess its value as a social program, since they clearly don't have the rumor of a clue about that.
Say what you will about the smug, arrogant bright-kid syndrome afflicting The NewRepublic. At the very least, they have people who occasionally get on anairplane for reasons beyond covering a campaign. The Politico is thework of clowns and mountebanks, not journalists. People in this businessshould be laughing at it.
You will not find many people with less sympathy for Sumner Redstone,the insanely egomaniacal, right-wing head of Viacom. That's why it's ashame that in order to "get" him, Portfolio published such an amateurishhatchet job on the guy by ex-gossip writer, Lloyd Grove, here. I tell my students there's a simple rule for how toidentify a crappy hatchet-job from a more skillful one; does it containblind negative quotes that do not contain any facts that were obtainableon the record. Look what Grove lets his sources get away with,shamelessly, and quite early in the piece: "A prominent talent agenttrashes Redstone as "the most disliked man in Hollywood." A formerViacom executive calls him "a scumbag," while another claims he's "themost egocentric human being you could ever run across."
The rest of it is what you would expect from a gossipeuse: heavy ontitillation about Redstone's marriage and the decorations in his house;nothing at all about the questions should a piece might raise about themanner in which the most powerful titans of media business go aboutdoing their business. Compare to Michael Wolff's reporting on RupertMurdoch in Vanity Fair--which is no less gossipy--well, compared toalmost anything, it stinks. But it's also too bad, because Redstonecooperated with the reporter and now the chance to explore these issueswith him in a smart, hard-headed fashion will forever be lost. ...
Name: Pete Axelrod
Hometown: Brisbane, Qld Australia
My late father George Axelrod wrote the screenplay for Breakfast at Tiffany's and was reasonably happy with the result except for the casting of Mickey Rooney which he found appalling. That and Manchurian Candidate, in my view were his two best films.
Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
"Now my friends/What's gone down behind/No more rain/From where wecame." Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click--"Lover Come Back To Me" (CassandraWilson)--I refuse to negotiate a ceasefire with anyone who doubtshow much I love New Orleans.
Part The First: Remember how everybody said Ted Kennedy had to bequiet during the Clarence Thomas hearings because of his penchant forchasing skirts around the Hill? OK, so those were the good old days.
Here, then, is the face of Republican opposition during the most important fiscal crisis inhalf-a-century. Yeah, that guy. I'm afraid he's going to take all $350 million of the remaining bailout money, leave it on the dresser, and then walk out of the room.
Part The Third: I can't say I'll miss George Voinovich one way orthe other, but the fact that he made John Bolton's life miserable for even asecond makes me wave at least a little fondly in his direction. IfJeebus is truly my amigo, Marcy Kaptur runs for this seat and wins, but I can'tsee it.
Part The Last: Please explain to me why Harry Reid broke so much rocktrying to avoid the inevitable with Roland Burris and yet barely broke anail in defense of the Senate's right to have its subpoenas honored.And, after you do that, please explain to me why there's a federal grand juryempaneled to examine whether Roger Clemens lied to Congress about whathe shot into his caboose and when, and yet nobody's going to prosecute this knob for lying to Congress about the destruction of the United States Department Of Justice. Sorry, Rog. We know what's really important.
As it happens, I have come to know a great many magazine editors inmy time. I've worked with one of the best of them for nearly twenty years. It is now my considered opinion that Jon Meacham of Newsweek is the worst editor of a major magazine that I have ever seen. This began to dawn on me when Jesus and/or His Pappy started popping up on the cover of Newsweek so often that I began to wonder if the magazine was considering changingits name to Galilean Woodworking Illustrated. Then along came thisparticularly weepy abcess, which proved that Jon Meacham is such a bad editor that he couldn;t even see what a hack Jon Meacham is as a writer. If Jon Meacham were an actual editor, he wouldcall in Jon Meacham, the hack writer, and read him this passage:
In this light, Obama has more in common with Reagan thanappearances might suggest. Reagan's loyalists believed in his issues, or at least one of his issues, and they believed in him. They were anxious for a change from the incumbent administration at a time of shattered confidence andeconomic turmoil. The comparison is revealing, for it may foreshadow thenature of the next four or eight years. Like Reagan, Obama is an astuteperformer, a maker of myths and a teller of stories.
He would then ask Meacham the writer if the parallel seems exact enough, since Reagan was not a "teller of tales." He was a monumental liar. He did not liberate the death camps. There was no "welfare queen with 80 names." There was a Russian word for "freedom." Contrary to his own statements, he was up to his eyeballs in Iran-Contra, too, but those are the kind of lies that both Meacham The Editor and Meacham The Writer believe are the exclusive province of the Great Men in their Rolodex, as we shall see in a moment. If he were a real editor, Meacham would tell Meacham The Writer that there is a profound difference between being a "teller of stories" and what we like to call a "maker-up of sh*t." He would then send Meacham The Writer back to cover cops and zoning boards for a while until he learned his craft properly.
However, all of that was prelude to this remarkably rancid pustulation that Meacham and hismagazine loosed on the country this week. (The good Reverend evenvisited the largely deserted Wrinkle Farm to defend it. Two things on which official Washington seems to be unanimous: one, that Israel is always right, and b) that Don Imus is still cool. Taylor was one of the most prominent sheet-sniffing yahoos during the Clinton days--PaulaJones' lawsuit apparently was more important to American values than areeither The Bill of Rights or the Nuremberg Principles--and Thomas isone of those Washington types who wonder nightly where the next John McCloyis coming from. This piece tells you all that you need to know about thewhole sorry lot of them.
America requires courage because living the idea of it is such adamned risk. It was a risk at the start and it remains a risk today.Soldiers understand that more than anyone else. It's why the JAG Corpslawyers were such heroes. It's why the Army put together the fieldmanual on interrogations in the wake of WWII. Because they know more thananyone else does what happens if we shirk from the risk of America. To read howglibly these two tremulous little careerists toss aside that manual infavor of "puzzling" over the "dilemmas" raised by the actions of acriminal poltroon like Richard Cheney is to see an attack on the US military farbeyond anything any liberal ever allegedly concocted. The soldiers knowabout the country because they take an oath to its fundamental law. Andthey know that, without the risk inherent in that law, then thecountry's just Great Britain with better beachfront property.
Stuart Taylor and Evan Thomas are cowards. Jon Meacham is a cowardwho put a great brand-name of American journalism at the service ofcowardice. Cowards as journalists, which is bad. Cowards as citizens, which isimmeasurably worse.
From: Ronald Radosh
I am furious and insulted you left me off of your list along with mycomrades Peretz and Kirchick. Please revise and include me among thoseyou left off. I wrote my attack on J St before either of them. I toodespise J Street. But I wouldn't expect you to do anything but have aposition of moral equivalence, akin to what you held during the ColdWar. I would re-read your piece on Israel that you wrote when sanitysuddenly took hold and you did actual reporting. Maybe you should goback to one of the areas Hamas is bombing and stay there a few weeks. Ron
Name: Kevin Philips Bong
Hometown: Luten, England
I completely agree with your list today except that I would have had Breakfast at Tiffany and Funny Face DVD above "Robert Gordon, andthe Fab Faux, live" instead of the other way around. Besides this glaring error, your list and commentary are perfect.
Name: Seymour Friendly
Postal: Re: "Gaza Agonistes"
Mr. Alterman, your writing contained this gem:
" ... The middle, meanwhile, is a muddle because it's not so easy to figure out how a small, powerful but beleaguered nation ought to address a threat from an implacable ideological foe who lives on your doorstep, is sworn to your destruction, lobs missiles into your cities and hides behind its civilian population ..."
Even Israeli media has placed the death and destruction we are all witnessing in Gaza, with shocked consciences, as closely linked to Israel's election on February 10. Israeli polls, according to Israeli media, have shown a miraculous turnaround in the electoral approval ratings for the incumbent regime leaders in Israel.
In between pondering the "implacable ideological foe" and the "hiding behind its civilian population" (which in your reasoning apparently apologizes for Germany's bombing of London into ruins in World War II, as Churchill and the British military had stationed themselves throughout London, hiding amongst its civilians.
Name: Jeff Weed
Hometown: Little Elm, TX
The 2009 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees have been announced:
The performer inductees are: Jeff Beck, Little Anthony & the Imperials Metallica, Run-D.M.C., Bobby Womack
Early Influence Category Inductee: Wanda Jackson
Sidemen Category Inductees: Bill Black, DJ Fontana, Spooner Oldham
I really have no major problems with these, I guess. Finalists passed over include Chic, War and The Stooges. I don't dislike The Stooges as much as you, Doc, but like the MC5, they're a band that I wanted to like but could never really get into. Metallica's induction is probably not thrilling you either given your antipathy towards most heavy metal, but they are a historically significant band. Here's a few more artists the Hall might look at in the coming years:
The Clovers--The major omission by the Hall and would have been a more appropriate "Early Influence" inductee than Wanda Jackson.
Norman Whitfield--Legendary Motown producer and songwriter whose omission is puzzling (as is Tom Dowd's).
Todd Rundgren--Great producer, performer and songwriter needs to be given a look by the Hall.
Hall & Oates--The most commercially successful duo of the rock era and well-deserving of recognition.
Rush--Yeah, lots of people hate them, but they've been enormously influential and their albums still make the top 10. I am admittedly a geeky Rush fan and proud of it!
The Moody Blues--OK, so I have a soft spot for prog-rock. They should still be voted in, although it's very unlikely to happen.
Others at least deserving a look by the Rock Hall include: Genesis, Peter Gabriel, The Cars, Kool and the Gang, Jesse Belvin, The Hollies, Def Leppard, Heart and Deep Purple. Feel free to add your own suggestions, fellow Altercators.
Name: Cindy Morgan
Hometown Irvine CA
I was a little afraid when Altercation moved you would not go with him. I am very relieved to see you are still with this blog.
I wanted to thank you for the video of the crew from the battleship that did the Black Eyed Peas song. It reminded me that these are young, fun loving kids that are doing their duty to their country and not killing machines, which unfortunately is how I personally look at the soldiers when I see the pictures in magazines. I am against any war, which is always about one man showing he has power. I believe the armed services are nessesary to defend our country but not to invade and occupy a foreign country. I have all the respect for the armed services but I got a little distracted by Bush's War and wasn't showing my children that the services deserve respect and our support. I would actually be proud if my son joined the army but not until Bush's War is over.
Thank you for reminding me.
Name: John Loehr
Hometown: Free Union, Virginia
LTC Bob- If you really want "to write for the audience least likely to have a whole lot of experience with or personal direct connections to the military" you should probably go to Powerline, LGF or maybe the NRO. In contrast to the right wing chicken hawks, on most liberal blogs, there are usually a few posters who have actually served in the military. Seriously, I have been reading you for several years now and I was a disappointed that you would repeat the insinuation that liberals are unfamiliar with and don't understand the military.
Name: Colin Lynch
Hometown: Newark, NJ
I'm glad to see the LTC is still in the mix at the new altercation. Iwas somewhat concerned over the change in venue, but am glad I can lookforward to both his, as well as Pierce's and, of course Eric's, gems ofwisdom. Note: Good job on Matthews last night!
We've got a new Think Again column called "Scarborough's Fare" here and my new Nation column, "Gaza Agonistes" is here. I contributed to the Brennan Center's symposium on suggestions for President Obama here.
I need to let you know that I've been planning to run the letters, perusual, but the first week's batch were lost somewhere in cyberspace.So if they are still relevant, please resend to Altercationmail@gmail.comIn the meantime, the rest of today's Altercation is about music andmovies, etc, which is the way things are going to be sometimes, fornow. And away we go....
Robert Gordon, and the Fab Faux, live:
Aging is funny sometimes (but mostly not). Not funny in a good way,obviously, but in a way that makes people feel, and act dumb. Take mefor instance. (Please.) Last week, I went down to BB King's in TimesSquare to catch a show in honor of the King's birthday by Robert Gordonand Chris Spedding. I used to see Robert all the time, back in highschool, when he was singing "Fire" and had just released the greatalbums "Fresh Fish Special"--named in hnor of Elvi's prison haircut in"Jailhouse Rock" and "Rockabilly Boogie." He wore wife-beaterundershirts and spouted a massive pompadour and this greaser-style stuckme as rather silly, but his voice was magnificent. And the music, whilea throwback, was not imitative. It was original within the narrowcontext of 1950s rock, which, I need remind you, "will never die."
Anyway, while I did pick up the albums on cd, I hadn't given Robert muchthought until I noticed the show, and when he came out, well damn, Ithought it was the guy's old man. I had forgotten, alas, that I wasthirty years old too. Shit. And here's the cool part. He soundedgreat--90 percent as good as ever. And it didn't seem to bother him atall that he was so much older. Rock and roll may not age gracefully, butit does age. And Robert Gordon's tribute to the king was not the kind oftribute you'd see if Elvis had not actually inspired people. It was aguy who took what Elvis gave us and made it his own, and then ours.While not exactly "red hot"--and Gordon avoided the mostadolescence--associated songs of his oeuvre, it was plenty hot enough.The whole thing gave me some hope in my increasing advanced age.
Also on the topic of tribute bands, just before the new year, I saw theFab Faux perform "The White Album" at Terminal 6. (They did "Let it Be"and "Abbey Road" the night before.) Again, like Robert Gordon and ChrisSpedding, these terrific musicians manage the difficult trick ofavoiding the kitsch typically associated with the genre by putting theirown stamp on the music, (It helps that the Beatles never played any ofthese songs live.) It's amazing how rich this music sounds when properlypaid--and it took the Fabs, as many as fifteen or sixteen musicians topull it off on occasion, but how rewarding to hear it as close to theway it meant to be played as we are ever likely to. Don't be put off by"Beatlemania"-style tributes if they come to town. This is somethingmuch more musical--and on occasion, almost magical. I could have livedwithout "Revolution #9," though.
Breakfast at Tiffany and Funny Face, on DVD
You've never had the chance to fall in love with Audrey Hepburn, well,your time has come. Paramount Home Entertainment is giving usdouble-disc dvd versions of both Breakfast at Tiffany's--which shouldbe called Breakfast at Tiffany, unless they deliberately making fun ofHolly on purpose--doing more than justice to Truman Capote'ssurprisingly charming novella. Aside from George Peppard, it's got agreat cast of winner of two Oscars®, here's the romantic comedy thatsparkles like diamonds! From the opening strains of Patricia Neal,Buddy Ebsen, Martin Balsam and a crazed Mickey Rooney. Great Manciniscore, too. Funny Face, which was originally a 1927 George GershwinBroadway musical gives us one of Fred Astaire's most wondrousperformances and a fantasy-view of the New York magazine world that isas irrestable as it is unbelievable. The songs include: "S'wonderful","How Long Has This Been Going On" and "He Loves and She Loves"; and thecrazy opener, Kay Thompson's "Think Pink".
Both come with complete discs of extras including lots of documentaries,trailers, and other stuff if you've got a lot of time on your hands. Look it up...
Dexter's First Season on DVD:
I'm also planning to give another shot to Showtime's Dexter whose firstseason just came out on blu-ray. I'm not sure I can handle asympathetic serial killer and I didn't think I could when the show wasfirst broadcast but it's been getting great reviews and this is onlytwelve episodes, and everything's better on bluray so what the hell. Itcomes with a bunch of extras, too, including the first two episodes ofthe third season and of The United States of Tara. Its ratings are asfollows: "US Rating: Not Rated; Canadian Rating: 14A (Gory Scenes/ Brutal Violence/Disturbing Content)"
This Week on Moyers:
Bill Moyers speaks with historian Simon Schama, who spent monthstraveling across America in the run-up to an historic election todiscover what events in our nation's past can tell us about how we livetoday and what's in store for the future. In his four-part BBC series TheAmerican Future: A History, Schama looks at how conflicts in the pastresonate in political life today, addressing such issues as landresources, war, faith and immigration. Simon Schama is professor of arthistory and history at Columbia University in New York, and he has alsowritten and presented more than thirty documentaries for the BBC.
Hello Altercators, old and new. LTC Bob here, just checking in to thenew place.
All this Altercation moving around these past few years really has notbugged me too much. The reason is fairly obvious if you know who I am,or perhaps more specifically, what I am. Among other things (writer,father, historian, husband, singer-of-bad-songs, university professor),I am a professional US Army infantry officer, and I have been for almosttwenty years now. That's what that little "LTC" in front of my namemeans. Iam a Lieutenant Colonel, and that is the way that the Army abbreviatesthat rank.** This matters, you see, because be it peace or war, wesoldiers are America's gypsies. Indeed, by the time my oldest daughterwas nine years old she had lived in Hawaii, Kentucky, Texas, Ohio, NewYork, and was in the midst of moving to her sixth state, Virginia. Thatis just the way it is for Soldiers and their families. Packing up andmoving is so much a part of the experience that it ceases to be uniquein any way. So one more Altercation jump really does not make too muchof a difference on this end, my motivation remains the same.
I write for Eric's page because, well, I think that it is important thatpeople should have some knowledge of, and connection to, their ownmilitary. To that end I figured it just made sense to write for theaudience least likely to have a whole lot of experience with or personaldirect connections to the military in general and the Army inparticular. At the same time I hope to demystify where needed, explainsome things, and express outrage when appropriate...mostly on issuesrelating either to the US military or some of my other afflictions,notably journalism and history. All of which brought me to Eric's pagevia my buddy (and former running mate) Pierce.
Now since these are new digs, that means that some healthy proportion ofall of you out there reading this have never heard of me. That's cool.I'm not exactly famous by any stretch of the imagination, so don'tworry. You are in a majority consisting of 5.999999 Billion. But withthat being said I suppose I ought to start out with some disclaimers,just so that we can get them out of the way.
1. No, I am not a Public Relations person (or as we callthem in the Army, Public Affairs Officers). Nor am I a virtual avatarcreated by some consortium of PR and Intel people working deep in thebowels of the Pentagon, intent on twisting your malleable minds. Ireally do exist. I live on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, for now andseveral Altercation readers have actually met me, as have Eric, Pierceand others.
2. Nothing I write is vetted by any higher authority. At thesame time, you will not see me violating "OPSEC" (Operational Security,meaning that I won't tell you any secret stuff), and you will not see memaking any disparaging comments about any currently seated politicalleader of either political party. That is the small trade off, the bitof my First Amendment rights that I give up in return for the power given to me by Congress.
3. Yes, I am a historian. I was once a professor at West Point, thenfor alittle bit at George Mason, and currently I teach grad students in theSecurity Studies program at Georgetown University in my spare time afterwork. It is fun. I really like being a professor. As we used to say atUSMA, "I teach for free, but I get paid to grade."
4. Yes, I write a lot of other stuff inotherplaces, all of which meets the same criteria as you see in #1. I've gota hint for you though: When I am really pissed about a current eventwhich I am not allowed to talk about directly, I am not above writing anarticle using historical foundations. Readers can then decide forthemselves if there are parallels.
5. I am, by nature, combative. Gee, who would think that ofan infantry officer? It also means that I am more than happy to, well,'altercate.' That's why I include my e-mail address. If something Iwrote really pisses you off, tell me about it. You might convince me Iwas wrong, or I might change your mind. Either way I am a devoutbeliever in the Hegelian dialectic.
6. Relevant due to #1, nothing I ever write here is approvedby the US Government. These are all solely my opinions, observations,and thoughts, and do not reflect the official positions of the USG, theDepartment of Defense, the United States Army, any unit I have ever beenin, or even my own mom and dad. Got that?
OK, well, enough about me. On to important things.
A few months ago I was in Sri Lanka, visiting my wife. (She was thenposted at the US Embassy, Colombo.) It gave me a new appreciation forthe situation there. It is a physically beautiful country which is beingtorn apart by some of the ugliest human beings extant. In my opinionthere is no 'up' side to this conflict at all. Both sides are so deeplymired in feces that it is nearly impossible to extract them. TheSinhalese-Buddhist majority has demonstrated that they are willing toslaughter, massacre, and commit atrocities, and the Tamil-Hindu minorityliterally invented the modern use of the indiscriminate suicide bomber.And then, on the other side of the planet, this happened today.
But you know what? It did not happen before thisappeared. He knew it was coming, and he kept writing anyway. That,friends, is courage. Writing his own beyond-the-grave final editorialjust validates that fact. Ashort extract here, though I recommend following the link:
And Then They Came For Me
No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their livesfor their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. Inthe course of the past few years, the independent media haveincreasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutionshave been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists havebeen harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honor to belong toall those categories and now especially the last.
So long as Sri Lanka can continue to generate men and womenwith the courage of Lasantha Wickrematunge, men who manifest theunbelievable courage needed to wield the power of the pen even whendirectly faced with the power of the sword, then they might, possibly,have a chance. RIP Mr. Wickremantunge. I did not know you. I wish I had.Your country will miss you.
Department of Pissing Me Off
This kind of thing just pisses us off, and it should get you mad tooIhope. It does not matter Left or Right, gender or religion, region ornationality, this kind of moronic behavior is dysfunctional. Indeed, itpisses me off so much that I once wrote a book about it. And believe me,you really have to be pissed to write a whole book about something.
The Surgeon General
President-elect Obama's choice for Surgeon General Dr. Sanjay Gupta getshit for being a "lightweight" in some corners. People wonder if he isthe right man for the job, and I cede that he looked like a rube when hescrewed up his facts in a debate with Michael Moore. But you know what?The guy is a brain surgeon, and he is a masterful communicator, and hedoes have the cojones to accept an assignment from CNN to follow ourtroops into combat back in 2003. Then, while he was there, he had tostop reporting and go back to being a surgeon...in combat. You knowwhat? That strikes me as a not-bad set of credentials when you want toconvince people of something, particularly people who might nototherwise be willing to listen to somebody from the President-elect'sside of the aisle.
You can write to LTC Bob at R_Bateman_LTC@hotmail.com
*"PCS" is "Permanent Change of Station" In the acronym crazy world inwhich I live, this is what we call "moving." Where a civilian might saysomething like, "Ah hell, corporate headquarters wants me to move toManhattan." We would say, "Ah hell, PERSCOM just sent orders for me toPCS to Camp Swampy."
** In yet another picture-perfect example of how the different servicesreally are different, we cannot even agree on how to abbreviate thisrank. The Army goes with LTC (all caps, three letters), the Marines useLtCol (all together), while the USAF goes with Lt Col (note the gap?). Ibelieve the Navy equivalent rank is, "Ye Grand High Poo-bah, Acolyte toPoseidon" or something squiddy like that, but I'm not too sure on thatso don't quote me.***
*** Obviously I am still possibly a little bitter about the sixth,consecutive, disgustingly lopsided, crushing victory of Navy over Armyin our annual football match.
This week on Moyers:
Bill Moyers sits down with United Steelworkers' International President Leo Gerard to discuss seeking economic justice for workers in the middle of an economic crisis and how he sees the future of Americanmanufacturing. Gerard shares his thoughts on how unions will fare underthe Obama administration, what kind of stimulus might be needed and whatthe future of American industry might look like.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, the main event:
Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Hey Doc --
"He could always pick the winner before they ever took a curve/#3might have the car but 43 has got the nerve."
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Kickin' Up Dust" (Robert Walter) --Because it is itself the greatest Stimulus Package ever, I will notcompromise with any dogs, blue or otherwise, on the subject of how muchI love New Orleans.
Part The First: Oh, Christ, another Unicorn Hut. I swear, this guy must have towering piles of unused aluminum sidingall over his backyard.
Part The Third: There was nothing more enjoyable on TV in the lastmonths than seeing Pete and Rog in the balcony box seats with BabsStreisand at the Kennedy Center honors.Equally splendid were their gobsmacked reaction to Bettye Levette'sstaggering transubstantiation of "Love, Reign O'er Me," and the joy going back and forth between them and that NYPD/NYFD choir. And, hey, George Jones even showed up!
Part The Fourth: Kevin Kline long has been one of our mostunderrated comic geniuses. (Even in the otherwise forgettable Tootsie knockoff Soapdish, he has moments doing Death of a Salesman in a dinner theater in Florida--"Don't call me Mr. Loman!"--that put me on the floor.) Anyway, it's lucky for us all that PBS is going to run thisabout 200 times over the next eight weeks. See it now.
Part The Last: I love Ken Burns and his work, but was thisreally necessary? The new section is bound to be the kind of heavily RedSox-centric, Curse Of The Bambino, mystical horse-pucky that has madeevery other fan of every other baseball team rightfully consider us to be themost self-indulgent crew of Utter Insufferables this side of The Corner.Ken, babe, don't do us any favors, OK? Go heavy on the '01 Diamondbacks,OK?
Well, gee, I guess I'll just set up shop over in this corner, OK?It's a little dusty, but this old lamp will work fine just as soon as Ican track down some whale oil, and I'm sure I'll find some use for WilliamDean Howells' old four-iron here in the umbrella stand. Looking out over thelandscape, I notice that many of the people on this side of things havethe vapors about the Emerging Republican Opposition, which will be abetted,it appears, by the Emerging Democratic Castrati (Sing out, DiFi!). However,I still believe in a place called Hope. (Hell, I still believe in a placecalled LBJ, but that's just me.) While Harry Reid continues to auditionfor his next job as a throw-rug in the Minority Leader's office, it'simportant to remember that the Republicans--and, especially, the brand ofconservatism that so energizes their base--are still a clown car.Never much more than a rancid bog of spittle and old resentments on its bestday--the sum total of its entire political philosophy is fairly summed upby the phrase, "Bob On A Car Phone, you're next." Movement Conservatismhas turned into a burlesque in almost all of its public forms. Its radioand TV stars are increasingly unmoored from reality. Its most famous celebrity savants have taken to recycling poisons that passed theireffective date around 1979 or so. (Annie, my sweet, what's your feeling about the Panama Canal Treaty and the Humphrey-Hawkins Bill? What's your feeling about large doses of veryheavy horse tranquilizers?) And their politicians, well, their politicians arespending an inordinate amount of their days and nights wastingeverybody's time and putting on displays that, if they came from the Ron Paul orDennis Kucinich supporters, would have had David Gregory spitting his martiniback into his "I'm One Of Karl's Boyz!" souvenir mug out of sheer helplesslaughter.
For example, this attains a level of insanity that you cannot truly appreciate unless you read the quotes in a voice similar to those which the Python boys conjured up for their drama about Doug and Dinsdale Piranha. ("Nancy Pelosi nailed my head to the floor.") And then there's this cluck.
I'd like to congratulate the voters of the 11th Congressional Districtin Michigan--at least some of whom, I'm sure, were unaware that they werere-electing the chairman of the Jim Caviezel Aramaic and FloggingSociety to represent them.
And these are the guys who are already in office. We also have theseworthies, lining up to be the next head of the Republican National Committee. I'm fairly sure that, back in the day, the IRA held leadership meetings in which personal weaponry was not discussed this extensively. I think they should all go out to the OK Corral and settle things like men.
And, finally, there's this, which is the future of the Movement Herself. By the way, John, those first two paragraphs there, what actual journalists like to call the "lede"? Well, it's better if you don't write them in such a fashion that even dead men can come up with 111 punchlines.
This is the opposition, people, fitting itself and its ideas with rubber noses and big floppy shoes. And Newt Gingrich is making noises like the King Of Neptune's Moons again. This can still turn out to be fun. Honest.
So here we are again.... Welcome to Altercation, 3.0. We began back inMay 2002, when, Joan Connell, then the opinion editor of MSNBC.com, nowonline editor here at The Nation, asked me to create what would be thefirst blog created for and sponsored by a mainstream media organization.It rested there until September 2006, when it moved to Media Matters forAmerica, where, again, we stayed for a while, before packing up at theend of 2008 and landing here.
For those of you keeping score, that's more than six and a half years ofdaily blogging. And for those of you who are not keeping score at home,well, I am. And I'm tired. And even though I've been known to lean onthe weekly Pierce here, the occasional Lt. Col Bob there, Siva, everyonce in a while, and George Zornick more and more, of late, I'm tired.This blog is going to be an intermittent one, rather than a daily one,though I think you can probably depend on Thursdays and Fridays.
What's more, there's too much stuff happening right now to know whereto begin. I mean, Economic apocalypse? Gaza? Caroline Kennedy?Blagojevich? Rangel? Richardson? Matthews/Morning Joe and Ann ******* Coulter? Just thinking about it gives me a migraine. I'm thinking wemight do more music and movies and stuff than politics, at least for alittle while, But before we do, well, here's something I'm thinkingright now. Barack Obama has made two absolutely sterling appointments inthe past few days (or has leaked them). One is Harvard Law SchoolProfessor Cass Sunstein, who is slated to become a top regulatoryofficial, You can read about that HERE.
A second is Indiana University Law Professor Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Council. That's HERE. These are tremendously important and influential--if low-profile--positionsand in reading these stories and they are being filled, literally, byjust about the best people imaginable. Of course this is not true ofall positions. It may not even be true of most positions. But when Inoticed them, I could not help but hearken back to all those stories Iread during the campaign about how similar were McCain and Obama'spositions on so many issues--to say nothing of how cute Sarah Palin wasand how scary Bill Ayers was. For goodness sakes, people, this is thestuff elections are actually about and there's just a world ofdifference between the kinds of people who will be running things underObama than would have been true under McCain. (This was true of Gore andBush as well, but someone whose name I won't mention kept insisting thatthere was not a "dime's worth of difference" between them and enoughpeople bought to allow the Supreme Court to...well you know.)That's that, and let's drink to it.
Meanwhile, We have a new Think Again column HERE called "Mainstream Media Malpractice" and I wrote a new Moment column HERE called "The Secular Spirit of Judaism," though I'm not so crazy aboutthat title...
Ok, that's all for today. We'll be back with Pierce and maybe some moremail tomorrow and we'll try to get things rolling.... Thanks fordropping by.
Is this the right room for an argument? Monty Python's funnymen famously asked. It's the right room, but it's not ready yet
Eric Alterman's blog, Altercation, takes up residence here on January 8. You can expect the same mix of politics, music, culture, reviews and attitude, guest bloggers and interesting mail from opinionated readers.
Until then, hold your arguments.