My New Think Again column is called, “And they Call it Democracy,” and it’s here.

Here are two good questions I saw raised in this fine article from the often neocon-friendly Tablet magazine profile of J Street:

It’s not clear how J Street’s tax returns wound up being released to the general public. People involved with the organization speculate, darkly, that in an election cycle awash in money from undisclosed sources, only an intentional leak from inside the IRS could explain why J Street was the only group apparently affected. “Why only J Street? Who in the IRS did that? Were they affiliated with our adversaries? I don’t know the answers,” said Victor A. Kovner, a prominent New York attorney and longtime board member of Americans for Peace Now who is co-chair of the finance committee for J Street’s PAC. “We didn’t announce who they were because they had an expectation of confidentiality.”

But the controversy over the Soros revelation, while driven by J Street’s regular critics on the right, gained traction among even its sympathizers because it hit a nerve that had nothing to do with political litmus tests. It was instead about the kind of group J Street’s supporters wanted to imagine they were building, which is to say, the antithesis of AIPAC, which many of the left view as overly secretive. “J Street has positioned itself so that it smells and feels OK to that constituency that does not have its sole Jewish identity through Israel politics,” said Bunzl. “It is an organization that smells and feels good to people who go to shul.”

Speaking, as we often do, of Jews, I was leaving Dizzy’s at Jazz at Lincoln Center last night where I saw Kenny Warner do a show with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra and I entered into an elevator full of them. I wondered aloud at the oddity of the sight, I mean Jews like Jazz, but not only Jews… I was informed that they were there for a benefit performance to raise money for the American Jewish World Service. Now as it happens, I actually wrote a check this year to the AJWS for $528 and raised $472 more this year in honor of a friend of mine who does some work for them, but I don’t recall an invite. But given the excellent show I saw, I didn’t mind.  But all this is by way of suggesting you watch this wonderful Judd Apatow video and give them some gelt yourself.

Also on the topic of funny videos, this is sadly hysterical and this is a great political commercial.

Now for the Big News:

Letters from a Semi-Foreign Land
Vol. I, ISSUE 1. 28 September 2010

Hello again Altercators. It has been a while, I know, since I was last here. But then that is somewhat understandable, given my reasons for writing with/for Eric in the first place. As many recall from when I first started here on Altercation, at the invitation of my good friend (and sometime Vice-Presidential Running Mate) Charlie Pierce, my presence was initially without any purpose at all, other than to help explain some things about the military to Pierce, which he then asked if he could pass on to you. Over the course of a few postings back in 2004 I realized that I really should have something of a reason, and what I settled on was something simple. I would show you, a part of the American public, something of the life of a career professional military officer, both at home in the States, and then while I was at war. That was all.

So, when I left Iraq in 2006, there was not a whole lot more left for me to say. I’d let you all see a little bit of what I saw, passed on a few observations, a few insights, a few frustrations and then I was back, tucked away in a safe little cubicle in the Pentagon. And believe me, for all the drama that is associated in the general public perception of that place, the reality is almost completely mundane. Dilbert would feel immediately and completely comfortable in quite a few areas of that building. Then, when I got word about the assassination of my translator that spring, well I thought that was about enough for then.

And so now, why am I back? Well, for just about the same reason as the first time: I am going to war again. Not with US troops to Iraq this time though. No, I’ll be heading out with a NATO headquarters known as the “ARRC” (the “Allied Rapid Reaction Corps”), which is currently based in a beautiful corner of a beautiful country which is only semi-foreign to most Americans, the United Kingdom.

I only just arrived here a few weeks ago, and I am still getting my feet underneath me, but whilst here (See? I’m already beginning to write like a Brit) I’ll send Eric some updates. Then in the new year there will be a period of silence for a bit while I am in transit, before finally I will start updating you from Afghanistan. We’ll see what happens from there. For now, I’ll just sign off with the note that it’s good to be back.

As always, you can write to me at [email protected] I’ll do my best to keep up.

Asher Fried
Croton on Hudson NY

Face facts man, the poem was funny

Daphne Chyprious
Springfield, IlI.

I’m surprised Mr. Chancery the Poet didn’t write of "Eric the Hysteric." And it actually rhymes, unlike "ferret," which he no doubt settled on after much deliberation.

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