We’ve got a new Think Again column called “Scarborough’s Fare” here andmy new Nation column, “Gaza Agonistes” is here.

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.

Short Takes:

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 Second: RIP to Number Six. And, of course, to John Drake, who’s the guy they’re singing about.

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 Fourth: Unexpected conservative cooperation with theoverall marketing plan continues apace. Thanks, guys.

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

Dear Eric,

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

Dr. A,

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

LTC Bateman,

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!