I’ve got a new "Think Again" column called "Money for Nothing" and it’s here

If you read this article in the Forward, you’ll see that every single leader of every major Jewish organization has chosen to side with the government of Israel over the representative of their own government when it comes to the government of Israel’s right to attack American Jewish organizations. This is not surprising, but it is disturbing, to nothing of revealing. And were this any other country, it would be impossible. Here is the key quote: Alan Solow, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, issued a statement praising Oren and criticizing Rosenthal: "As an official ofthe United States government, it is inappropriate for the anti-Semitism envoy to be expressing her personal views on the positions Ambassador Oren has taken as well as on the subject of who needs to be heard from in the Jewish community." Really? Who appointed Solow Pope of the Jews?

I wrote a column about a similar controversy in Moment this month here I actually don’t like the title of this column. It’s not really about J Street, it’s about the insistence by Abe Foxman, et al that American Jews have no right to free speech should their views disagree with those of the Israeli government. It’s about Jewish McCarthyism, whether one agrees with J Street or not. (And Oh, look, here is the root of my anti-Palin animus. Who’d a thunkit?)

All this reminds me of something funny that happened with my previous two columns. What happens when you criticize the "pro-Israel" neocons? You get attacked on a website called "Israpundit" as "Eric (I Never Met An Anti-Semite I Didn’t Like) Alterman" and put on a list of "Five American Psuedo Jews I Would Like To Outfit In Chabad Lubavitch Garb And Parachute Into A Meeting Of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades." And whathappens when you write a sympathetic column about Israeli cinema twoweeks later? You get attacked on a website called, I kid you not, "The Angry Arab" as"callous and insensitive toward the Palestinians" as " all his writingson the Palestinians and Arabs in general drip with racism and contemptfor the natives."

And speaking of that first column, people think I pay a lot of attention to Marty Peretz. This is only a half-truth. I don’t really care about Peretz. I don’t ever recall speaking to the man and he has done me nopersonal harm in any way. True, I can’t really respect a man whose only accomplishments in public life are negative ones and whose entire career is based on his exploitation of two ex-wives inherited fortunes, but he’s hardly important in an of himself. What I do care about are the respective fates of American liberalism and American and Israeli judaism. I judge TNR’s contributions to both of these phenomena to be decidedly destructive in large measure because of the writings of its editor-in-chief on these topics, both in the The New Republic and elsewhere. Peretz’s racist screeds, published on his blog pretty much speak for themselves. And as far as I can tell, nobody in aposition of authority anywhere will defend them. But defenders of TNR lately have been arguing that however objectionable Peretz’s writings on the website of the magazine may be, they are irrelevant to its overall quality because they are shunted off to a ghettoized blog where everyone understands they are to be tolerated, but not taken seriously. I disagree about the meaning of "everybody" but even accepting it for the purpose of argument, the fact that TNR thinks Peretz’s complaint that Obama is too nice to Arabs in his Cairo speeches was one of its "Best of" articles for the year undermines that excuse as well. It’s one thing to tolerate racism, reaction and ignorance because the guy owns the printing press. It’s quite another to celebrate it, here TNR’s Best of 2009: Peretz on Obama’s Cairo Speech.

I’m turning 50 next week and I’ll be filing from somewhere funny. Since the actuarial tables are looking darker and darker–what exactly is a"herniated disc" anyway–I thought I better start preparing to make my final exit, since I’m clearly on a downhill slope. (And I’ve not even mentioned the "angry arabs" and Jews who want to dress me up in Chabadclothing.)

With that in mind, I thought I do the world the favor of printing the funeral mix I’ve been working on for a decade now, just in case. It changes a little bit over time, but if either plane goes down…. You can the mix in my itunes file–it’s the only playlist I’ve made.

Eric’s Funeral Mix:

Before the service:

Bruce Springsteen, The Fever, Winterland, 1978

Allman Brothers Band, One Way Out from Eat A Peach

Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias, To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before…

Clapton, Harrison, Dylan, etc, My Back Pages from the 1993 Bob Dylan tribute concert

Played low during the service:

Van Morrison, The Band, Roger Waters Comfortably Numb from The Wall, live

Eric Clapton with the Allman Brothers Why does Love Got to be so Sad? From the Beacon show of 3/20/09

Any post 1973-live Dead beginning with Help/Slip/Frank…

Following the End of the Service:

Elvis Presley, A Little Less Conversation, (A Little More Action, Please) remixed version

Leonard Cohen, Closing Time, from Live in London

Allman Brothers Band, Ain’t Waistin’ Time No More from Eat A Peach

The Clash, I Fought the Law (studio)

The Mail:

Name: Don Hynes

Postal: Portland OR

Hi Eric,

In regard to your column on Israeli film, I’m one of those blogosphere types referred to who has perhaps regrettably "placed (Israel) in the pantheon of leftist bugbears out of all proportion to the size of the country and the (undoubted) wrongs it has committed."

I take some flack on my blog for one-sidedness but it is hard to see beyond Gaza, Lebanon, etc. Perhaps its what we’ll come to know as "the Obama effect" or in biblical language "to those whom much has been given much is required."

This is all a long winded way of saying thank you for your very fine column. We’ve got to get the fuel off this fire collectively without taking the ostrich route and your analysis is spot on.

Name: Charles Rossi

Postal: Media, PA

Mr. Alterman:

I admire your work and your commitment very much and always enjoy reading your columns and your blog.

In the matter of Martin Peretz, who is often a target of your criticism, I thought you might enjoy this post from "The Philosopher’s Stone," a blog written by the eminent professor of political philosophy Robert Paul Wolff (now retired).

Friday, December 25, 2009 AL GORE — AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH All of us, I imagine, have a soft spot in our hearts for Al Gore. Robbed of the presidency by a judicial coup worthy of a banana republic, he sucked it up and made himself the international voice of global warming, winning, along the way, a Nobel Prize, an Academy Award, and a Pulitzer Prize — surely a feat never to be matched.

This morning, I was idly surfing the web [yes, yes, it is Christmas morning — I must get a life], when my eye fell on a startling phrase: "Martin Peretz, Al Gore’s mentor and one of his closest advisers…." "That can’t be right," I said to myself, but a bit of googling confirmed that Peretz had been one of Gore’s undergraduate Government instructors at Harvard, and had gone on to become a close advisor to the future Vice-President.

Let me tell you a story about Marty Peretz. This goes back a ways. It starts half a century ago in Cambridge, Mass, when I was a young Instructor in Philosophy and General Education at Harvard, and part of an informal group of left-leaning young academics who called ourselves, rather self-importantly, The New Left Club of Cambridge [for those too young to remember, The New Left Club was an important left-wing organization in England and the founder of The New Left Review.] It was an interesting group: Gabe and Joyce Kolko, who went on to do really interesting writing on the left [it is worth looking up Gabe Kolko’s early book, Wealth and Power in America.]; Michael Walzer, a political theorist who taught Government for many years at Harvard before relocating to the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study; Gordon Feldman, Nadav Safran, even, believe it or not, Stephen and Abigail Thernstrom, later to become fanatic rightwing neo-cons. I was friendly with all of them, and in fact we used to gather every so often for bag lunches in my office. In those days, Marty Peretz was an obnoxious sycophantic little wannabe who hung around with us trying to get accepted into the group. He had gone to Brandeis, where he had attached himself to the columnist Max Lerner.

The defining moment for our group was Kennedy’s invasion of Cuba. We had all supported Kennedy enthusiastically [despite Barrington Moore’s cautionary warning to me one day that there was not a dime’s worth of difference between him and Richard Nixon]. Kennedy, after all, was a Harvard graduate, a liberal, an author [we did not then know that it was Ted Sorensen who had actually written Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, Profiles in Courage], and to top it off, his wife spoke French. What was not to like? But when he invaded Cuba, each of us had a dark moment of the soul. Kennedy was a liberal. If liberals invaded Cuba, then we were not liberals. But what were we? Faute de mieux, we decided we were Radicals, even though that notion had very little content for us beyond "not a liberal like Kennedy."

Max Lerner the next day wrote a column in the New York POST defending the invasion, and Peretz, ever the suck-up, sided with Lerner, which pretty much finished him, in my eyes anyway.

Time passed, and we scattered. I went on to the University of Chicago, then for seven years to Columbia, and in 1971 to the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. In 1973, when I was living in a lovely federal style brick house on a quiet dead end street in Northampton, I got a call one day from a young man who introduced himself as a political scientist in New York City. He was part of a group called Political Scientists for Impeachment who wanted to place an ad in the NY TIMES calling for the removal from office of Richard Nixon. The TIMES, not surprisingly, wanted the money for the ad up front, and he was calling to ask whether I could get in touch with Barrington Moore, Jr. and Martin Peretz. Peretz by this time had married rich and had bought himself The New Republic magazine, which until then had been a pretty good left-liberal journal of opinion.

I told the caller that there was no use getting hold of Moore — he never gave money to anything, even though he was, in a modest way, independently wealthy. [The caller knew that I knew Moore because Barry, Herbert Marcuse, and I had published a little book together in 1965]. But I thought I could reach Peretz through Walzer. I hadn’t talked to Mike in a while, but I knew he was at Harvard, so I found his number and gave him a call. We spent a little time catching up — I asked him how his wife and daughter were, he asked about my wife and two small sons — and then I explained why I had called.

There was a long pause — so long I was afraid the connection had been broken. Then, in a soft voice, Walzer said, "Well, you see, we are supporting Nixon." I was so stunned I was sure I had misheard him. I had never even met anyone supporting Nixon. I spluttered and protested for a bit, asking in a dozen different ways what on earth he was talking about. There was another pause, even longer than the first, and then, in that sweet, soft voice that Jewish men use when they are explaining sadly why they are stabbing you in the back, he said, "Well, you see, Israel."

Suddenly, the scales fell from my eyes. Despite his anti-semitism [now well documented by the White House tapes], Nixon was, for geo- political reasons, a strong supporter of the state of Israel, and that fact, apparently, trumped all other considerations in the eyes of Peretz and Walzer. I was so embarrassed for Walzer that I made a few inane remarks and got off the phone as fast as I could. That was thirty-six years ago, and despite the fact that Michael Walzer and I are both prominent American political theorists, I have never spoken another word to him to this day.

So that Martin Peretz is Al Gore’s old instructor, mentor, and close political advisor.

It makes one think. Posted by Robert Paul Wolff at 6:03 AM Labels: Al Gore, Israel, Martin Peretz, Michael Walzer

Name: James Wiseman

Postal: Downingtown, PA 19335

Hi Eric, While I’m sure you don’t really need any additions to your collection, nevertheless I present you with yet another vapid Maureen Dowd quote:

"Even before a Nigerian with Al Qaeda links tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet headed to Detroit, travelers could see we had made no progress toward a technologically wondrous Philip K. Dick universe." (NYT, 12/29/09)

To what "wondrous Philip K. Dick universe." was she referring, I wonder? The ultra grim ones displayed in "A Scanner Darkly" or "Martian Time-Slip", or the only marginally less grim "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep"? Perhaps the melancholy alternative history of "The Man in the High Castle"? Dowd has obviously never read a word of Dick, who perhaps more than any other major SF writer focused on how technological advancement , without concurrent advancements in human values and culture, was a recipe for disaster. Jessh! Even to an amateur like me, she consistently comes across as a total lightweight.

Name: Marc Foster

Postal: Indialantic, Fl

Maybe Mr.Pierce should consider a resolution of his own not to be such a schmuck. First, that Ms.Hamsher is a cancer survivior has Jack shit to do with whether she is right about HCR. Second, if you have an argument, make it. Calling the bill a POS is not an argument. I’ve read what Nate has to say and what Mr. Pierce has to say and I’m going with Nate. Especially since Ezra K.,Paul K.,and Matt Y. agree with Nate.

Name: Charles Hinton

Postal: Satellite Beach, FL

This is for Charles Pierce – Please speak plainly. Don’t assume I have all the knowledge you have. If I did I wouldn’t have to read your stuff.

I have read this piece and I can only guess at the inuendo of what is meant. Please write in a straighforward way/

"The SSI program was largely destroyed because a Democratic president facing re-election willingly took a dive because a revived Republican congressional majority made him nervous. The frenzy was stoked by the misuse of a graduate school homework assignment by some of the biggest names in elite American journalism, including ABC News and Bob Woodward. One of the central figures was the office crank in a local Social Security office in Pennsylvania. Because of this heedless, reckless political overreaction, a lot of broken lives were made immeasurably more painful, including that of one little boy in Mississippi who had a malformed heart"

Name: Cheryl Haaker

Postal: Albuquerque

Misc. Pointless Gripes (but not about you!)

All week, NPR, The Nation, and other media have been talking about "the end of the decade."

Where are the whinging purists who were everywhere at the end of 1999, telling everyone that no, Jan 1, 2000 was NOT the end of the century/millenium; Jan 1, 2001 was? Where have THEY gone?

(Note: I’m for the "odometer-style" decade designation myself.)

Also, when can we hear an end to the stale, antiquated discussion of whether "we" need to call that decade the "Aughts" or the "Naughts"? Where do they find those words, anyway? Certainly not in contemporary speech or writing. "Aught" & "Naught" went out in 1910, as far as I know.

The best part of the end of year celebrations, in my opinion, was AMC (American Movie Classics) all-day Three Stooges Marathon, featuring newly restored film from those American movie classics, Moe, Larry, Curley, Curley Joe, and Curley’s other replacements.

Let’s also shed a New Years’ tear for the short lives of the funniest fat guys – the Curleys, Belushi, Candy, etc.

Name: Don Hynes

Postal: Portland OR

Hi Eric,

I thought of you last night as Bruce Springsteen was honored at Kennedy Center. Bruce received a wonderful tribute from John Stewart as I’m sure you heard, funny, poignant and spot on. Stewart’s joke about Bruce born a child of Dylan and James Brown was close to the truth, Dylan and the Godfather having fathered the wave that Bruce rode to glory. You’ve written on several occasions how you felt the generation before yours spoiled the well with the 60s and early 70s protests and the like, even recently with gross behavior at the Beacon. There are a lot of broken bones in our crowd Eric, but Ron Kovic really said something in his words to Bruce. Kovic wheelchair bound symbolizing the many, many who were so wounded during the wars of the sixties, at home and abroad, acknowledging how Bruce picked up those who had fallen in his run during the 70’s, gave voice to the many tragic stories (and continues to) while lifting us all, and as only Kovic could say with such authority, made us proud to be "born in the USA." I’m much more a "Nebraska" fan than the Boss’s arena rock, but I’m so thankful for his music, for his inspiration, and last night, sitting there beside another tribute to what we all hope is "rising up," our first African American President and his beautiful and intelligent wife. Your generation is at the helm now Eric, and many of us are truly glad. I never liked Clinton or Bush and if any of my generation are proud of that legacy so be it. Like Pierce, I’ve got my edge, and proud of it. I’m not retiring, not just yet, and I am saluting along with Ron Kovic, the new wave of leadership.