Slacker Friday

Slacker Friday

What Would Tom Paine Think?


First things first: We’ve got a new "Think Again" column called "Blame Gitmo" here.

My new Nation column is called "What Would Molly Say?" and that’s here.

Also, I keep forgetting to mention this lecture/discussion in honor of Tom Paine I’m doing next week at the Ethical Culture Society in NewYork, which is naturally free and open to the public. Here’s the invitation, (with apologies for the excessive degree of self-promotion, even by Internet standards, but thanks to the Center for Inquiry for the kind words). It will take place Wednesday, January 20 at 7pm at the New York Society for Ethical Culture headquarters:


What Would Tom Paine Think? Liberal Values In Obama’s First Year


A special event with Eric Alterman

Please join the Center for Inquiry-NYC and the New York Society for Ethical Culture for the annual Thomas Paine Memorial lecture, featuring Eric Alterman.

Alterman is a media columnist for The Nation and Distinguished Professorof English and Journalism at Brooklyn College, and a Senior Fellow of the Center for American Progress, the World Policy Institute and the Nation Institute. This event takes place exactly one year after the inauguration of President Obama, and Paine’s views–on issues ranging from economic justice to freedom of and from religion–are highly relevant to some of the most significant political controversies that have emerged during the first year of the new administration.

The event is co-sponsored by the Center for Inquiry-New York City with the New York Society for Ethical Culture and will be held at the Ethical Culture headquarters, 64th Street & Central Park West, beginning at 7p.m. A question-and-answer period and author book signing will follow.

Alterman, widely praised for his incisive criticism of the media, is the author, most recently, of Why We’re Liberals: A Handbook for Reviving America’s Most Important Ideals (2008) and What Liberal Media?:TheTruth About Bias And The News. He is also a regular contributor toThe Daily Beast. For more information visit

Alterman’s passionate, persuasive, and polemical writing–always backed up by scrupulous research–is in the best tradition of the independent  journalism of Thomas Paine, the preeminent propagandist of the American Revolution; radical economic thinker, and passionate advocate for the separation of church and state. Following a tradition established by freethinkers in New York in the early 1820s, the Center for Inquiry always celebrates the anniversary of Paine’s birthday (Jan. 29, 1737) with a talk by a distinguished journalist or scholar.

OK, enough (finally) about me…



Hey Doc: When you’re troubled and you can’t relax/Close your eyes and think on this."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Mon Reve" (Eveline Michel) — You can move me anywhere in the NBC late-night lineup and I’ll still love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First:

I believe that Martha Coakley will managed to fall across the finish line ahead of Ayla’s dad up here in the special election next Tuesday, but probably just barely,and by a lot less than John Kerry beat Bill Weld back in the day. Tedium to apathy and back again, as Mr. Roberts writes to his old shipmates.

Part The Second:

I have a running feud with TNT because they never run enough old-school Law And Order episodes to suit me, and never run any at all with the original cast, including Michael Moriarty’s Ben Stone, the most righteously indignant Catholic character in the history of TV. This is even more unfortunate since Moriarty seems to have gone, in the immortal phrase of the late George V. Higgins, as soft as church music. "Gentlemen, your business is politics. Mine is running a saloon."

 Part The Penultimate:

I have enormous respect for The Landlord, so I will moderate my commentary on the Drudge ‘n Grudge book written by his pal and the execrable Mark Halperin, who is to political journalism what E.coli is to steakhouses. The sourcing is laughable. The anecdotes petty, where they are not trivial, and indecent, where they are not petty and trivial. It exists, apparently, to dish dirt about the Clinton and Edwards marriages, thereby providing Andrea Mitchell with her quadrennial orgasm.It reeks of access-whoring of the $5-blowjob-under-the-overpass sort, whereit does not reek of cheap, frat-boy sexism, and I include the Palin passages in this. (Hey, Steve Schmidt. You’re done, pal. She’s still famous and you’re still a hack. Get over it.) There is not a single, solitary ounce of substance anywhere in these 200-odd pages. Go ahead. Look up"health-care"in the Index.

 I’ll wait.

Back so soon?

(It’s in there, but only in the context of political strategy in the individual campaigns. Nice, fellas. Have David Axelrod take out your appendix some time.)

You will also note that the war in Afghanistan — indeed, the country of Afghanistan — gets three mentions: the first in the context of Hillary Clinton’s having gone there, the second a passing mention o fBarack Obama’s having gone there and how icky that made John McCain feel, and the last one as a measure of how hard people had to work to make Sarah Palin look like less of a dope. There’s one mention of al Qaeda, probably because there wasn’t room for any more, what with recycling a 10-year old quote from an anonymous woman who said of John Edwards, "I like that he’s got a fat wife." (A two-fer of sniggering middle-school half wittery!) Actual voters? Forget it. Giving a fuck about them won’t get you a table at The Palm, or chuckles from the assorted elderly fools and plagiarists on theset of Morning Joe. The book should make every serious, decent journalist want to take a shower from now until the Horsemen ride. But, as I said,out of respect for the Landlord, I will decline the opportunity to make my real feelings known.

Part The Ultimate:

Simply put, this judge is out of his mind. This defense got laughed out of court in Florida a few years back, when the late Paul Hill was running amok, and it was laughed out of court for good legal and political reasons. Allow evidence of justification to be presented as a legitimate defense in these kind of cases and you are declaring open season on health-care providers in this country, whether the defense succeeds at trial or not. I have heard a lot of easy outrage about how we can’t try Islamic extremists in our criminal courts because their super-human terrorist rhetorical mind-tricks will convince juries to let them loose, where upon they will move in next door and use their thought-beams to bring down airliners atop nursery schools.(Scott Brown, the empty suit running for the Senate up here, has been notably full of shit on this issue throughout the campaign.) If that’s true, then isn’t allowing a terrorist like Scott Roeder to espouse this defense in open court running the risk of having him convince the next unbalanced armed god-botherer to conduct high-caliber missionary work? After all, Roeder will get up and explain that, yes, he actually killed someone. Stalked George Tiller and shot him down, not at the clinic, whereTiller worked, but in Tiller’s church, where Tiller was no imminent threat to anyone. Salim Hamdan, to name one person we tossed into Gitmo and declined to bring to trial, never killed anyone, but Republicans are worried that, if we allow Hamdan to come before a civilian court, he might spread the message of the international caliphate by telepathy. To hell with the judge, this whole country’s gone crazy.

Name: Michael Rapoport

Hometown: Montclair, NJ

Re: Molly Ivins – Don’t know if you’ve mentioned this before, but Kathleen Turner will be portraying Molly in a one-woman show set to premiere in Philadelphia in March.

Eric replies: Thanks Michael, I forgot to mention that.

Name: John Manning

Hometown: Cleveland, OH


For another view of Haiti, and a great book, check out Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

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