I did a "Think Again" column about the Supreme Court decision oncampaign spending called "Cour Disposes, Media Yawn" and that’s here.

And here’s my Nation column on Game Change.

And here is my discussion last week on Bill Moyers’ program with MelissaHarris-Lacewell about Obama’s first years.

Death is not taking any holidays…

A story from the olden days of publishing:

Then he said, "Bill Shawn has recommended you, and I’d like you topublish my novel." I said, "What novel?" He said, "Oh, it isn’tfinished. It’s about a kid in New York during the Christmas holidays." I said, "Listen, you’ve made a contract, let’s shake hands." So we shook hands on it.

So in the past week, we’ve lost J.D. Salinger, Howard Zinn, Louis Auchincloss, Robert Parker and Kate McGarrigle, all of whom meant a great deal to me at one point or another in my now quite long life. A few days before that, Eric Rohmer, who, after Woody Allen and perhaps Truffaut, was my favorite director ever. I’d have to admit that my most intense relationship was with Salinger, coming as it did in adolescence. In my current life, it was Parker, who dependably, published one fine novel a year to be read on audio by the great Joe Montenega and people say he was on his way downhill but I never noticed. I wish I had gotten a chance to meet him and thank him. I’m glad I never met Salinger. I did spend an evening one night talking about him with Joyce Maynard and he sounded kind of scary. Now that he is gone, I eagerly look forward to finding out what he’s been doing for the past half century. I sure hope it was writing. Thanks to Rick Hertzberg, I got to have dinner with Kate and her sister Anna a few years back after he interviewed the two of them for The New Yorker festival. She told very funny stories about Bob Dylan. What more could you ask of a dinner companion? And those early albums hold up wonderfully well, as does their terrific Christmas cd and video. I also loved Mr. Auchincloss, in part because he was also a deeply dependable writer and in part because I have this weird fascination with rich WASPs, and most of what I know about them comes from him. His novelistic take on the life of Walter Lippmann is also invaluable to me, though it’s a long way from his best book. (I’d say Rector of Justin or Honorable Men.) And of course I admired the grit and generosity of spirit Howard Zinn tremendously, even though I obviously had my differences with him on historical matters.

Here’s Dave Zirin on Zinn.

Because I’m too lazy to look beyond The New Yorker for the rest:

 Here’s Luke Menand on Holden.

 Here’s Rick Hertzberg on Kate M.

Here’s Jon Michaud on Auchincloss.

Here’s Richard Brody on Rohmer.

And here’s Megan O’Rourke on bereavement.

The mail:

Name: Larry Rasnick

Hometown: Clawson, MI

Doctor, I am not the sharpest tack in the crayon box so please help me. If corporations are headquartered in a mailbox in the Bahamas or other tax friendly country, can they still dump tons-o-bucks on their Republican pals during elections?

Eric replies: Short answer, yes.

Name: Robert Calloway

Hometown: Lebanon, TN

I fear the corporate take-over of America is complete with this latest Supreme Court ruling. Can you see any environmental or social responsibility legislation being passed now, forget health care. I see OSHA out the window, mine safety, any kind of workplace safety eroded, then gone, control of water, food production, energy. They’ll complete the take-over of public education, privatize everything and impoverish working people of this country and give corporations the third world workforce they have always longed for, right here at home. Bush’s legacy complete. With media muffled, dissipated, and fractured, most people won’t even notice, until it is too late. Thank you for your journalism.

Name: Steve Thorne

Hometown: Somewhere in California

Thanks to a 5-4 majority of the United States Supreme Court, I can apparently now form a corporation and register it to vote. Why not? It’s the next step in humanizing corporations along the lines of the robot in Asimov’s "Bicentennial Man."

The Board of Directors will hold a meeting during each election cycle, decide how the corporation’s vote shall be cast and designate an officer to carry out the act at the polling place where the corporation has its primary business offices.

On a related note, the Democratic Party should take heart from this decision in that it shows what great deeds a majority of only one person can accomplish.

Name: Darryl Phillips

Hometown: Sallisaw, OK

Yesterday’s SCOTUS decision is being decried as an end to participatory democracy, as big corporations can now buy elections with limitless company money.

But I think we’re missing the bigger picture. What the Court did is make a forceful statement further giving corporations the exact same rights as natural (human) people. So let us carry that idea to the logical conclusion and in the process put an end to the idea of corporate "persondom." When that concept is ended, democracy for all the real human people can blossom.

If a corporation is a person, then can one corporation own another? Worse yet, can it buy another corporation with the intent of shutting it down and selling off the parts?

If a corporation is a person, doesn’t it follow that laws can be passed to send it to prison? This would have the same effect as a human being imprisoned: loss of freedom to function in society, loss of ability to work and earn income, etc.

If a corporation is a person, does it have a sex? Even the most balanced hermaphrodite declares a gender for societal purposes. If corporations can join others of the same gender, then natural persons could too. And then we get into three-way arrangements…..!

If a corporation is a person, then the same bankruptcy rules must apply. Ditto for "too big to fail" and bailouts. Under the 14th amendment, equal protection must be provided to all persons, thus you or I should be eligible for bailouts, for pre-arranged bankruptcy and all the other perks businesses enjoy.

Obviously this could go on and on. And it should. I think the Court may have had in mind the need to declare that corporations are not persons at all. They weren’t faced with that question here, so could not answer it. But if we follow the paths above, we soon come back to the root question and corporations must lose their personhood.

And then, we’re back on the path toward freedom and democracy.

Name: Megan Williams

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Dr. A! Finally saw Moyers on Sunday afternoon. You were pre-empted for Haiti and the internet kept buffering. Gotta say you were positively CHARMING. Generally, I see you with an adversary and you are much more stern than you were with Moyers. I am part of the electorate that WANTS to listen to two professors discuss democracy but the biggest take-a-way was that I, too, took a breath because we had a president that was the smartest guy in the room. OK that’s over. I’m now out there fighting. Thanx!

Name: Bob Tallman

Hometown: Crestwood, KY


Nice job on Moyers. I would just point out that though Obama’s first year strategy must be changed, as you stated, I believe Obama’s "strategy" is policy for many of his appointees.

Until we see someone like Geithner, Summers or Rahm given the boot I will take the President’s populism with a grain of salt. The Administration’s continued support of Ben Bernanke despite the announced opposition of several Democratic Senators does not bode well.

Speeches are nice but Obama needs to demonstrate some forceful action with respect to Wall St. It won’t be easy given the fact Chris Dodd appears to view his political liberation as an opportunity to focus exclusively on the interests of bankers, freed as he is now from the concerns of those pesky voters. A Democrat might have thought that as Banking Committee Chair Dodd would be using his new found freedom to do the opposite.

Name: Bill Reed

Hometown: Keaau, HI

I saw you with Melissa Harris-Lacewell on Moyers. You’re right on the money about the Democrats letting the other party frame the debate. George Lakoff has been making this point for many years, and they haven’t paid close enough attention to him. Keep after them, please.

Name: Mohan Sagar

Hometown: Denver, CO

Mr. Alterman

I saw your discussion on Bill Moyers by webcast this morning and it "was just what the doctor ordered." At the time that this program had originally aired, I was, at what was supposed to have been a quiet dinner with friends, hearing an "I told you so" soliloquy by a Republican guest.

It was nice to hear a more rational perspective on the President. Here’s hoping that he sees the program, too, and takes the hint. I doubt, however, that my Republican buddy will.

Name: Ed Tracey

Hometown: Lebanon, NH


Years ago Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim asked his old Orangemen roommate when would he enter politics.

When he finally did at age 66, he went for a post not for thefaint-hearted: mayor of Detroit, with his old Pistons teammate BobLanier asking "What are you thinking?"

It’s too soon to tell how he will fare, but Dave Bing even makes a second pot of coffee for his office (hazelnut) for those who drink it.