11:23 AM ET

MOSTLY SLACKER FRIDAY
Quote of the Day:

“I feel like I have been duped, I don’t mind telling you,” Cleland admits. “Everybody in the administration was selling this used car. The problem is all the wheels have fallen off the car and we’ve got a lemon.”

Max Cleland

, triple amputee Vietnam vet, in an interview with Eric Boehlert.

Working the Refs,PART XXXVIII.

Speaking of McSweeney’s,this is very funny. This too.

I’ve not had time to read this article on Dick Cheney yet, but perhaps we all should.

A working class hero is something to be. President Bush needed five chefs in England. I’ll say it again. President Bush needed five chefs in England.

I generally believe it’s pointless to argue with morons, but the blogosphere sometimes makes it impossible to adhere to that rule. I keep reading in right-wing weblogs that I have somehow “discovered” Castro’s repression because I happen to sign a letter protesting it. The letter was published in The New York Review of Books and partially republished in The Wall Street Journal.

I must say, even the logic eludes me here. First of all, I’m getting credit I don’t deserve. I didn’t write the letter, not even a comma. I never spoke to the people who did. In fact, I don’t even know who did. More to the point, none of these smart folks can point to a single quotation of mine where I ever said anything remotely sympathetic about Castro or Cuban communism. The argument seems to be that only sensible protestors -the hypocritical supporters of fascist dictators like say, the Rupert Murdoch or the Wall Street Journal editors -should be allowed to condemn alleged dictatorships of the left. Just imagine what these boneheads would have written if they read somewhere that I refused to sign the letter. Reels the mind….

Alter-reviews: I saw John Gorka last night at The Bottom Line which, apparently, still needs saving. It was about as relaxed a show as is imaginable. He had two songs planned, my two favorite as a matter of fact, “Land of the Bottom Line” and “I Saw a Stranger With Your Hair,” and then took requests all night on napkins handed up by the crowd. He said he had been accused of being overly slick in the past but was trying to get past that. He managed. The guy has a beautiful, full, and powerful voice and writes moving honest songs. He could lighten up a little, but so could we all. Anyway, if you’re just starting, start with “Land.”

Here’s Sal on the new Al Green, album, “I Can’t Stop”: “His first album in almost ten years reunites the Reverend with legendary Memphis producer Willie Mitchell, who produced all of Al’s ’70s classics, as well as the Hodges Brothers, who backed Al and Willie up on those classic records. Green’s voice has held up incredibly well over the years, and the vibe of the record will take you back to a time and place when musicians played real instruments, and the highest paid major league ballplayer was Steve Balboni.”

And Here’s the great jazz biographer, Ashley Kahn on same.

This just in: Have fun. I’m on The Nation Cruise:

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN sets holiday benefit concerts with THE MAX WEINBERG 7 & FRIENDS

Asbury Park, New Jersey shows on December 5, 6 and 7, 2003 will raise funds for local charities / organizations

NOVEMBER 20, 2003 BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN with THE MAX WEINBERG 7 & FRIENDS have confirmed three holiday benefit concerts in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The shows are set for December 5, 6 and 7 and will take place at the Asbury Park Convention Hall. Local charities and organizations will receive proceeds from the concerts.Tickets for each concert are scheduled to go on sale Saturday, November 22 at 10:00 AM through Ticketmaster Charge By Phone ONLY. The ticket price is $100.Showtime is 7:30 PM each night.Ticket restrictions: *Two (2) ticket limit per person.*Two (2) ticket limit per show per phone callPierce’s Corner:
Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Eric —Quick Alter-Review: the new “Let It Be” is as maddening as the original was, although “The Long And Winding Road” is exposed finally as the piece of ur-hackwork from Sir Paul that you always knew it was. And “One After 909” is still my favorite cut on the album, but why the line, “C’mon, baby, don’t be cold as ice,” still cracks me up after 33 years is beyond me. C, I guess, because I miss Charles Haughtry and the Deaf-Ades.You may have noticed this week that, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got tired of Keyshawn Johnson’s act, they declared him “deactivated,” which meant that he couldn’t play for them or anyone else this season — plus the designation has a nice little Asimovian flavor to it, as though Keyshawn was over in the corner, his head slumped, and the light gone out in his eyes. Can we do that to Wee Tommy Daschle, please? Just deactivate him, until we manage to rid ourselves of the porkpie Energy legislation and the Medicare fraudulence for which the AARP has taken such an ungainly dive. These are monumental embarrassments even by the standards of the Cash ‘n Carry crew in the White House, and they are very big fish in very small barrels for any Senate Minority Leader who actually wants to, you know, like, lead the minority. Line up some revolted R’s and squeeze the rest of them until they sing soprano. There are times to dig down and find your Inner Lyndon, and this is one of them.One of the unacknowledged subtexts of the controversy over “The Reagans” is the fact that his own family and (most of all) his political family would stick needles in their eyes rather than admit to the possibility that Mr. Reagan was a symptomatic Alzheimer’s patient while he was still president — even though it was obvious during the Louisville debate with Mondale that the president didn’t know where he was, and even though there are hints of it in every memoir of the period from Lawrence Walsh’s to Ollie North’s. Ask me why, and I’ll speculate that: a) there were people around the presidency who preferred an impaired Reagan to VP Poppy Bush, whom they did not trust, and b) darker still, there were people who preferred to have an impaired Reagan around when the subpoenas began to fly. I’d like to see the real neurology reports from Walter Reed, if there are any.This weekend — official Opening Day for The Roches “Three Kings” season!P.S. — The pressure’s just too great, now that the Supreme Judicial Court has said the constitution can’t forbid gay people to marry each other here in the Commonwealth. I don’t know whether to dissolve my marriage (Its VERY FOUNDATIONS are in peril, y’know), run off with an Irish Setter (Thanks, Rick Santorum), or ask Barney Frank what he’s doing Saturday night. What can I say, I’m an embattled heterosexual and God has taken a walk on us.Here’s Stupid:Eric, it’s Stupid to ignore the biggest battle in the war on terrorism. Not Iraq, energy independence. For the last two days I’ve been surveying the blogosphere and I don’t see any mention of the monstrosity that passed the House. (And unless I missed something this includes Altercation - I’m hurt!) The NY Times covers it...on page 14.The bill is a sad piece of work. First, it’s tiny in scope: $32 billion over 10 years. We spend that much in Iraq in 8 months! Compare that to the post-9/11 calls for an energy independence version of “let’s put a man on the moon.” Second, it’s largely pork. Third, next to nothing goes towards alternative energy development. Finally, it shows the worst side of the Dems and moderate GOP’ers - the sop that was thrown to them was abandoning ANWAR drilling (though it sets that up in the future by funding a new Alaskan pipeline). Apologies to Kristof, but ANWAR is an elitist environmentalist issue, especially when you compare it to what passed: immunity for gasoline manufactures for MTBE poisoning. What, the Dems can morph Pat Buchanan when it comes to Iraq, but they can’t trot out his “owls over people” rhetoric for this? There has been some talk of filibustering in the senate, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Here’s a response to Stupid from last week:
Name: Tomas Inguanzo
Hometown: Miami, FL

Dear Alter:I just read Stupid’s letter from the 14th saying that the war in Iraq saved more lives than it killed, because the sanctions killed 15000 kids every four months, the same number of estimed Iraqi combat deaths.Reality check: Those kids died because of rampant poverty and a shortage of health related social services. Six months after the fall of Hussein, there is still rampant poverty, and still a shortage of health related social services, so how can Stupid say with any kind of certainty that all of those thousands of kids just magically stopped dying after the invasion?A much more realistic scenario is that these kids died in even greater numbers since the invasion, because the already overtaxed Iraqi health services were further burdened by the large numbers of Iraqi wounded.Stupid demanded that all such casualty reports must include the sanction deathtoll in order to be honest. Fine. Let’s get really honest. Let’s look at all deaths due to malnutrition, disease, and other such poverty related “natural causes” from both before and after the invasion. And then lets look at all combat related deaths from the time period after the fall of Hussein, a period that the afore-mentioned report didn’t touch. And when we’re done with that, let’s count up all of the deaths due to the explosion of violent crime.Name: Jacqueline Swartz
Hometown: Toronto, Canada

Dr. Alterman:Thanks for mentioning the American Jewish Community’s ignorant and arrogant take on French anti-semitism. The notion that France has regressed to the dangers of Vichy and thus should be boycotted is such nonsense that Jews in France - from Claude Lanzmann, who made the film Shoah, to Roger Cukierman, leader of the Consistery (consistoire) have spoken openly against it. The real anti-Jewish culprits are North Africans who are slamming Israel through attacks on French Jewish Synagogues and schools. These people, mostly angry, dispossessed youth are also considered dangerous by non-Jews in France - even the police won’t go into some suburban “projects” highrises. Lack of security is why so many voted for ultra-right wing law and order candidate Jean-Marie Lepen and his Front National during the first round of presidential elections. That some Jews voted for the antisemitic Lepen is no secret. Now, under President Jacques Chirac, a cabinet level meeting is planned with members of the Jewish community. Before the Intifida was imported to France, I was writing an article on a topic very much in the news there: Can French Jewry exist without the holocaust as its center? This led to an interesting exploration of friction between the Sephardic community, which grew tremendously after the war, and the Ashkenazi population, which has shrunk. I dropped the article. In a moment of self-censorship, I assumed that it would seem trivial in the face of Arab attacks on Jewish synagogues and other places. If I had written the piece, I would have included statistics that no one who accuses the French of being a bunch of incorrigible antisemites gets right: the number of French Jews who survived the Shoah is approximately 75%.To say this number is high might sound disgraceful, considering the 25% of French Jews who were murdered, but it does say something about France’s record, a record most North American Jews prefer to ignore.Name: Michael Rapoport
Eric:
Yeah, I know I promised I’d be quiet for awhile, but your link to the Times’ story on the food-bank struggles is too good an opening to let pass. I wanted to suggest an idea for something Altercation readers can do to help these worthy charities and the people who depend on them - something small and requiring next to no effort or expense, but meaningful nonetheless. If you shop regularly at a supermarket from a major chain, chances are you have one of those cards that gives you discounts or other benefits once you pile up a certain level of purchases. Around Thanksgiving time, the stores invariably offer you a free turkey. For some people, that’s going to be the turkey they put on their table next Thursday, and if that’s you, go with God, and happy Thanksgiving. But if, like a lot of people, you find yourself with a turkey or two more than you can use ... think about donating it to your local food bank. You’ll help them, and the hungry people who need them.(And while you’re at it, spend a few minutes digging through your pantry for those cans of soup or beans or whatever that you know you’re never going to eat, and toss ‘em in a bag to donate too. And write a check as well. Go here.For the Jews among the readers of this blog, here’s a perfect opportunity for tzedakah - which, remember, means giving to the needy not just out of charity or kindness, but because it’s a just and righteous thing to do. (And if anyone needs another reason, don’t forget that food banks are the favorite charities of a certain Mr. Springsteen who gets a mention in Altercation every now and again.)I know picking up a free turkey and donating it to a food bank isn’t going to change the world, and it certainly isn’t a replacement for the kind of political and governmental change that’s needed. But we all have to do what we can to make someone else’s life a little better. Easing someone’s hunger a bit next week is a start.Best,
Michael RapoportNov. 20, 2003 | 2:35 PM ET
GOD AND PROFITS
New American Progress column, “Think Again: For 9/11 Investigation, Where Is Fox?” is here today. It will be archived, with the rest of them, here if you check after Friday.And how amazing isthis? Moral of the story: When you want to organize around a progressive, democratic cause, it’s a good idea to have right-wingers on your side.It’s been a great week for we fans of schadenfreude, what with Rush, “Jacko,” and Conrad Black. But the gift just keeps on giving. The great thing about the Conrad Black takedown is that it happens to coincide with the interests of mankind, too. If Rush loses his show, that will too. “God and profits”; is there anything better? Quid Quo Presidential Medal of the Humanities. You, too, can have your own. Well perhaps you could have. But tough luck, Midge Decter, previously known for her attacks on feminists and hairy gays at the beach (or was it the other way around?), came up with the idea of writing and publishing a schoolgirl’s valentine to Don Rumsfeld first. Think I overstate? Here’s Publisher’s Weekly:“Decter’s doting paean, however, so exceedingly praises its subject that it is nearly impossible to take seriously. The book’s tone is set in an almost surreal prelude where an elegant, anonymous New York socialite confesses to Decter that she has Rumsfeld’s picture hanging in her dressing room. From there, Decter attacks Rumseld’s critics with sycophantic zeal and attempts to build events in the secretary’s life and career into the stuff of legend. Even fans of Rumsfeld’s will find that this overwrought hagiography trivializes the secretary’s impressive, if at times controversial, career.” What’s next? “Unchain my Heart Dick Cheney?”(An historical aside: You know, you can trace the entire history of neoconservatism to the time when the then-still liberal Norman Podhoretz was having lunch with George McGovern about three decades ago, and they were picking a table to eat at and McGovern said something unkind about the looks of a woman at one table spoiling his appetite that I fear even included a canine reference. The woman turned out to be Decter, Podhoretz’s wife, and the rest is history. The story originally appeared in Sid Blumenthal’s book, “The Rise of the Counter-Establishment,” and was repeated in a Washington Post’s review of it. With a perfect talent for making an already ugly situation even uglier, Podhoretz wrote in a letter demanding a retraction, thereby calling attention to what must have been a horrifying situation for Decter, only to have McGovern confirm the story for everybody. And yes, this does explain a lot about John P. “Normanson” Podhoretz too, but let’s leave that for another day.)Next on Oprah: “Communist Dictators and the conservative media moguls who love them.”Bernie Goldberg is passing along lies in his new book, “Arrogance,” originally perpetrated by Brent Bozell. Anyone can make a mistake, but let’s see what Bernie does to correct them, now that this one, as least, has been revealed. And what the hell is Howie trying to imply when he writes, “I wonder if the remains would have been found if Dean wasn’t running for president.” Is he saying that Howard Dean is somehow exploiting his brother’s dead remains? Is he saying he took advantage of his candidacy to find them. Is he making any sense at all? You be the judge.Talk to Thom Yorke. Ask him if he read the copy of WLM? I sent him. Another sign of the times: Why don’t these slackers spend their dividend tax cuts already?Reading Assignments:Martin Amis on Saul BellowGeorge Soros on The Bubble of American SupremacyThomas Powers on The Vanishing Case for WarRichard Rorty responds to Habermas and Derrida in Dissent. (Look in Book Reviews)Alter-sortof-review: I’m a great admirer of Dave Eggers both as an author of stunning originality and pathos but also as a dedicated institution builder, something that is far too rare among people on my side of things. He is also an audacious S.O.B., and never more so than in his decision to publish William Vollmann’s Rising Up and Rising Down, “a critique of terrorist, defensive, military and police activity,” along with an attempt to construct a moral calculus for the human use of violence. It’s a mere 3,298 pages long, gorgeously published as seven hardcover volumes and released simultaneously in a burgundy, cloth-covered box with gold foil detail. I was honored when Dave selected me to be one of the reviewers of the set, but if I were to retain any self-respect whatever, I had to decline. I know how to cheat when I read and review but not when I’m allegedly reviewing a work of this magnitude. So I have to admit I have just about no idea whatever you’ll find in this incredible work -but I trust Dave’s judgment and even if I didn’t, look what this erudite fellow in Publisher’s Weekly has to say. You can order it relatively inexpensively -for what it is- here. And congrats to the mad McSweeney’s crew for making it happen. Check out their good works here. And this is pretty funny.Correspondents’ corner:
Name: Don Dougherty
Hometown: Lynbrook New York

Dear Eric: As a classroom teacher in middle school and high school since 1967, I think that I have a unique perspective on the “No Child Left Behind” fiasco, maybe not unique but certainly cynical. It all makes sense if one accepts the premise that the people running the country are really setting the stage for vouchers, an argument that they will make as soon as the public schools, underfunded and overbureaucratized, fail to meet the standards. The suburban high school where I teach cannot afford to build the labs needed to complete the science requirements in the new laws.My wife teaches third grade in New York City, and the only thing that the city seems to care about are the test scores (for third graders, for God’s sake). Meanwhile she gets memos about how the chairs are to be aligned. The school cannot afford to hire subs for absent teachers so when someone is sick, their students get placed in already overcrowded rooms. It would make a great comedy but who’s laughing.The elites do not want the masses educated, not if it detracts from more important matters such as $23 billion in tax breaks for oil and gas companies, and the missile defense system. The media would rather demonize the teachers, and I don’t know if you caught the New York Daily News reporting on Randi Weingarten’s appearence in front of the City Council Committee as a classic case. Eva Moskowitz and Mayor Bloomy were complaining that it’s too hard to get rid of bad teachers (there are currently eleven cases out of one hundred and forty thousand teachers awaiting disposition of their cases). That sounds like a real plague of terrible teachers to me. This sort of thing goes all the time everywhere, even in top-flight suburban districts. It will continue to go in suburbia until the financing of schools is not dependent on the property tax and until in city schools, it is understood that it is in the whole country’s interest to save public schools even when most of the children are not those of the elites. Vouchers would take us back to the pre-Horace Mann concept of the few very well-educated and the many as the cannon fodder for the New American Century. Take Care.Name: Doug Ratay
Hometown: Gainesville, FL

Dr. Alterman, Love your site. Thanks so much for the work you do. I’m writing to inform you and your readers that there are Democrats out here who don’t think that No Child Left Behind is Satan’s Spawn. In response to Pat O’Neill’s post from 11/19, no, a horizontal survey of only new cancer patients wouldn’t tell us much about a particular treatment, but it would tell us how our public health system is doing (e.g. if less people are getting cancer every year, then our system of preventative medicine is working). Likewise, a standards based test in the 5th grade examines the cumulative education students are receiving in K-5. The test is interested in assessing the preparedness of students moving on to middle school given their entire elementary experience. If students don’t have the basic skills after 6 years of school, then we should know why and start trying to fix the problem.Poor/minority vs. affluent white test score gaps exist in almost every school system in this country. NCLB exposes these gaps by requiring schools to report disaggregated data and further requires improvement among all groups. Maybe Karl Rove thinks he can use this data to dismantle public education. I think that we can not improve public education for ALL students without facing the reality of the system. NCLB can probably be improved. NCLB can certainly be better funded. However, just because W signed the bill doesn’t mean that we should ignore the problem.You may find it interesting to check out the materials at The Education Trust for more complete info on NCLB.Name: Keith Kurtz
Hometown: Arlington, VA
With regard to crediting the “No Child Left Behind” Act with increasing scores, did Mickey Kaus even look at the data: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/mathematics/results2003/natscalescore.aspScores have been rising since 1990. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) gives credit for the math score rise to their organization:“The rise in mathematics scores of the nation’s fourth and eighth graders in the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released today show the continuing effect of mathematics standards developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). ”While I think they may be overstating their case - based on my doubt over the extent to which teachers are familiar with and understand the NCTM standards, especially in the early grades - they certainly have a stronger case than the NCLB Act, since the original NCTM Standards were published in 1989.And, as anyone familiar with the “Math Wars” debate knows, “Standards-based reform” as used by the NCTM and “Standards-based reform” as pushed by the high-stakes testing crowd are very different animals.Name: Dan Tompkins
Hometown: Haddonfield, NJ

Eric! Please be careful!“...the Post has buried this as it does all of Walter Pincus’ terrific reporting.”Pincus IS terrific - and he’s 70 years old! - but you’re wrong. He did 152 stories in 2003, 44 of them on page one. We should all be so buried. For a while he was getting buried, but then the Post woke up. Woodward helped in this, to his great credit. Name: Glenn Lambert
Hometown: Land of the Dead

Hey Eric, Glad (and somewhat surprised, since I didn’t know you were a fan) to see your plug for the Dead’s “Closing of Winterland” CD. I was the co-host of the radio/TV simulcast way back when, and the co-author (along with my brother, who works with the Dead) of the liner notes on the DVD and CD. I’m also on one of the extras, interviewing Weir, Hart, and Kesey at 2 a.m. on that very crazy night.It was my pleasure last week to attend the release party at the Fillmore in SF, where an abridged version was played on a giant screen and superb sound system. What they’ve done with the sound mix is just amazing. Turn it up, and see if your new apartment can survive Phil’s boomiest bass notes!It was also a pleasure to remember Jerry on a night when his face (and playing) is filled with delight throughout. Seeing this show did a lot to soften my memories of the later, often pained-looking Garcia.Nov. 19, 2003 | 12:59 PM ET
RUSH, BLACK, PERLE AND JACKO: WHO’S GOING TO WALK FIRST?
Is Rush a money-laundering crook? I can’t wait for the perp walk. Conrad Black’s too. “Shame on Hollinger’s directors for letting themselves be used as corporate hood ornaments, lending legitimacy to Lord Black’s financial manipulations and relentless social climbing.” (Is it tempting fate to hope that Perle perp walk isn’t far behind? ) Meanwhile, why is “JACKO” being hounded now when his peculiar tendencies in the sex arena have been known for decades and were laid out quite extensively in a biography -that got no attention? Is it because he is broke and can’t move units anymore and that’s why the industry no longer feels a need to protect him? I have no idea, but I’d like to know how he got away without being criminally investigated for so long. You’d think he was a Catholic priest or something. In any case, this argument is settled, finally. Don’t hit your kid.More megabucks, Marty, please? “Over the past 12 months, the firmly antiwar Nation’s audited circulation has climbed to 158,810, pushing it past the field’s longtime leader, the National Review, which has 157,616 paid subscribers. The New Republic has made a business decision to allow its rate base - the number of subscribers a publication promises its advertisers - to shrink from an inflated 85,000 to a core readership of about 60,000. As a consequence and, perhaps, in some measure because of the magazine’s stand on the war, audited circulation is now 61,723.” (But you might want to stay away from the Conrad Black fellow.) “Thank You Sir, May I have Another” If Andy thinks the Massachusetts ruling makes him “FREE AT LAST,” (his words, his caps) but George W. Bush is doing everything he can to overturn the decision, then perhaps he might wish to explain to just how it is that he has lended his talents as a propagandist to the slaveholders and their interests all these years, as in, for instance, here. Or is a little thing like his own “freedom” insufficiently important when it comes to things like beating up the liberals who have been fighting, marching and agitating for it -against Andy’s masters?Meanwhile, this decision is good news -at least in the short and medium term- for the Republicans. Like the war in Iraq, it will both unite and energize them and divide Democrats, while simultaneously painting them as the party of the fringe. I am not saying this is fair. I am saying this is life -in these good old U Ses of A. Whether it will actually do gays any good remains to be seen.Who is James Glassman and what is Tech Central Station? Ask Nick Confessore.Alter-reviews: I’ve seen two amazing movies about death, sex, love, philosophy and politics recently. The first was “Angels in America,” which Frank Rich discusses better than I can, at these rates anyway. But let me say I can’t wait to see the misghigas once it hits. The other is “Barbarian Invasions,” a kind of sequel to Denys Arcand’s 1986 film, “The Decline of the American Empire.” Try not to miss either one. (“Jesus of Montreal” (1989) was great too, by the way.)There’s a new Dead DVD called “The Closing of Winterland” recorded during my favorite period of the band, with Keith and Donna and a pudgy Jerry just about to go gray at the end of 1978. (The New Year enters riding a massive joint from the heavens.) It’s really terrific, with 6.5 hours of music on two discs, and lots of extras including a New Riders video, “Glendale Train,” and the Blues Brothers. It really shows the band’s amazing versatility from “Dark Star/St. Stephen” to “Good Lovin,” and the sound quality is first rate. There’s a four-cd version too, but I’ve not heard it. The Allman Brothers Live at the Beacon DVD also has great sound, but, idiotically, they put a single encore “One Way Out,” alone on the second disc, with nothing else but a lot of worthless junk. Also, Warren Haynes must have negotiated a lot of singing parts as part of his deal to return to the band (with Derek Trucks), and this is kind of painful. He almost ruins “Soulshine,” the greatest late-period band-authored song they’ve come up with in the past twenty years, but not quite. I would start with the previous DVD, “Live at the Great Woods,” which still has Dickie on it and hence, avoids some of the sameness of the sound here, as well as said Mr. Haynes’ vocals. Meanwhile, I also like the “COLDPLAY LIVE 2003” DVD/CD release. They are a very smart, musically imaginative band with a Radiohead/Television like dreamy quality to their songs, though I’ll be damned if I can understand what a single one of them is about. Correspondent’ Corner: An awful lot of people got angry at my printing Anne Thompson’s letter yesterday. I thought doing so would be instructive. People who read weblogs like this one are not often exposed to views like hers and I didn’t think I was running the risk of her convincing anyone of anything. Many of you wrote in to argue with Ms. Thompson, which I think misses the point. The point is that people like this exist and my guess is, in much larger numbers than is known or understood in the elite media. Of course, I can’t know this, and I am just as likely wrong as right. But I was lectured once in very much these terms by two separate dinner companions on a National Review Alaska cruise a few years ago. It seemed like a decent argument for printing the letter anyway. After all, the president of the United States and his chief law enforcement officer did not pay tribute to the administration and faculty of Bob Jones University because they think the values it professes are rare and unimportant to their respective political bases. Here’s one of the many objections I received. Please consider the subject closed. Name: Rabbi Michael Bernstein
Hometown: Longmeadow, MA
As for the woman who wrote in with a screed about Judaism: You give her too much air-time by keeping her missive on the web-site without comment. While the vast majority of readers will not agree with the totality of what she says, her letter, unrebutted, sparks a variety of prejudicial feelings and enforces several dangerous stereotypes. No matter what their interpretation of the Jewish religion or the politics of Israel, no responsible person with any understanding of being Jewish or knowledge of the basic tenets of Judaism could come to any of her sweeping generalizations about Jews and Judaism. As you know, “eye for an eye,” lack of forgiveness, biblical descriptions of genocide, and the perceived inclusivity of Jews are all false accusations against the Jewish interpretation of scripture. The ancient world of the Bible is a backdrop to centuries of extraordinary study and thinking about how to live a holy life and improve the world. Rabbinic thought has long understood eye for an eye as a call for just compensation for injury. The Biblical descriptions of the wars and conquest of Israel provide the history of the Children of Israel, not a prescription for the future (G-d forbid). And the role of Jews as part of a faith and common destiny is just one of the relationships between G-d and humanity. Finally, as you know, the politics of Israel are only partly about the Jewish faith (or Islam for that matter.) The writer is entitled to her opinion, which relegates all who are not Christian to at best “incomplete validity” and perpetuates the worst lies about the motivations of the State of Israel. However, her views do not deserve such an uncritical airing. I know it is sometimes worse to answer folly, but it is also important to know when to answer someone who denies the very authenticity of your own identity.Thank you and peace (L’shalom)Name: Pat O’Neill
Hometown: Folsom, PA
In regard to “No Child Left Behind”, you wrote: “Meanwhile, the tests keep changing and therefore make comparisons on a year to year basis quite complicated.”My local school superintendent makes this comparison. We are testing this year’s fifth graders, and then next year’s fifth graders, and then the following year’s fifth graders, all in an attempt to determine whether the programs we are using are improving student achievement. What we’re NOT doing is testing the same group of students every year—in other words, this year’s fifth graders, who will be next year’s sixth graders, the following year’s seventh graders, etc. This is like doing a medical survey of all those who come down with cancer this year, followed by a survey of all those who come down with cancer next year, etc.—in an attempt to determine if the treatment of THIS year’s cancer patients is effective.Name: Mark Cashman
Hometown: Yonker, NY
This is unbelievable. Yonkers, the 4th largest city in New York State, is eliminating all extra-curricular activities from its schools and cutting 502 jobs. Yeah, let’s cut taxes some more. Gimme, gimme, gimme. Screw the states. Screw the cities. But keep them steel tarrifs and farm subsidies coming. What a mess. Nov. 18, 2003 | 1:41 PM ET
OF MORONS & THE CONSTITUTION
This just in:52 percent of Americans are not morons. Speaking of which, here’s an entry from David Sirota’s Progress Report which continues to amaze on a daily basis:9/11 ‘Didn’t Repeal the Constitution’With today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Bush Administration’s response to 9/11, the question remains: Does the President have the power unilaterally to strip away the constitutional rights of a U.S. citizen? Jose Padilla, a US citizen designated an “enemy combatant” by the President, has been detained on a naval brig in South Carolina for the last 15 months. Padilla, who has not been charged with any crime, has not been permitted to communicate with an attorney (or anyone else). A federal appeals court yesterday, during oral arguments regarding the circumstances of Padilla’s detention, was sharply critical of the President’s actions. Judge Barron D. Parker (nominated to the federal appeals court by President Bush): “Were we to construe the Constitution as permitting this kind of power in the executive…we would be effecting a sea change in the constitutional life of this country and making changes that would be unprecedented in civilized society.” Judge Rosemary S. Pooler: “As terrible as 9/11 was, it didn’t repeal the Constitution.” Deputy Solicitor General Paul D. Clement argued that Padilla’s detention was permissible because the President has a “reservoir of authority to respond when the battlefield is in the United States.” But Jenny Martinez, an attorney who argued on Padilla’s behalf explained the problem with government’s position: “Under their theory, they can do this to any American. They can pick up any person off the street and, so long as the president turns in a piece of paper that says that that person is associated with al-Qaida, that person has no rights and the courts are powerless to intervene… that has never been the law in this country and it cannot be the law.” Yassir Hamdi, a U.S. citizen, has also been designated an enemy combatant and as been held incommunicado in South Carolina for more than two years. (For more about enemy combatants and other civil liberties issues see the American Progress report: Strengthening American By Defending Our Liberties)And if you never did get to see Matthew Yglesias’s fine column for my Think Again feature for the Center for American Progress, on misreporting of alleged Iraqi-terrorist connections, it’s still there.All Apologies: It’s been nearly a week since the new testosterone study has made a monkey of Andy and The New York Times Magazine. Anybody seen a correction (or an apology) yet? Then again, not only has The New York Times continued to ignore the incredible Tiger Force story for more than a month now— Peter Jennings dealt with the story at some length on the ABC Evening News Wednesday and Thursday, and also it was on Nightline Wednesday night— it has been more than fourteen months since Judith Miller and Michael Gordon reported on the front page that Iraq had “embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb” by trying to purchase “specially designed aluminum tubes” that unidentified administration sources believed were for centrifuges to enrich uranium. It added, also as a statement of fact, “Mr. Hussein’s dogged insistence on pursuing his nuclear ambitions along with what defectors described in interviews as Iraq’s push to improve and expand Baghdad’s chemical and biological arsenals, have brought Iraq and the United States to the brink of war.”Then again, has O’Reilly apologized on that WMD thing like he promised he would?Repeat after me: What Liberal Media?Alter-review: Taking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime” (Rhino) Name: Sal Nunziato
I’ve been a fan of the Talking Heads from day one. From their debut “Talking Heads ’77”, through the Brian Eno produced trilogy of “More Songs About Buildings And Food”, “Fear Of Music”, and “Remain In Light”, David Byrne’s material was ground-breaking and quite honestly, there was nothing like it at the time. The new box set from Rhino, “Once In A Lifetime” has all that terrific music-brains and dancing at the same time, but nothing new, which is more than a bit disappointing. It does come with a bonus DVD featuring a video collection featuring unissued material, but you know, a big suit only goes so far. And where’s that terrific live compilation, still not available on CD, “The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads”; which corrected a lot of misimpressions on the name, too. Musically, the box set plays very well, though there’s a clear fall-off both in danceability and originality with Disc Three, ten of whose 17 tracks are drawn either from “Naked” and “True Stories” lps, which are really just Byrne solo records. Much of the rest was on “Sand In The Vaseline,” a 2 cd anthology, but it’s sounds cleaner and stronger here. This was the seminal band of the late seventies and early eighties. Listen to Once In A Lifetime: Box Set to remember/find out why. Eric adds: Sal was reviewing the advance of the box set and was not able to note a few things that I think, more than tip it into the category of “must-have.” In the first place, while it is unlikely to fit on any of the shelves you currently have your cds on, “Once in a Lifetime” has absolutely the coolest packaging I’ve seen in years. It’s like a long, thin child’s picture book, or perhaps a Paul Gauguin-sketchbook, if Gauguin used sketchbooks that were about as tall as a cd jewel case and as long as say, four cd jewel cases. The artwork, beautifully reproduced and signed “Valencia, 2001”-guaranteed to make you stand up and say “Que-ce que c’est?” Lots of essays by the band, Rick Moody, Mary Gaitskill, timelines photos, etc, in the 80 page booklet and five previously unreleased tracks, as well as few that have never been on cd before. All of the bands videos, plus three more, are on the DVD. I also like the third disc better than Sal does, and find it quite danceable, though one cannot help but admit that a certain calcification had set in by this time bloom was off the proverbial rose of the band’s incredible period of sonic innovation. Anyway, there’s more here. Pierce’s corner:
Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Eric — Because Every Day — even days when I am anointed to be among the “media elite” — Is Slacker Friday, Part The XXI. I beg the indulgence of the company because I may need to go on at some length here. You may have noticed that Bernard Goldberg - the sole occupant of his own media cosmos — has produced another spasm of richly subsidized typing, Imagine my surprise to find myself on Page 208. Bernie there has ground out a 52-word chapter of which 46 of the words are mine — specifically, a sentence from an Edward Kennedy profile that I wrote in the Boston Globe Magazine last January 5. The sentence reads: “If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62-years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age.”This appears under the headline: “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up,” which I presume Bernie actually wrote, shortly before developing the bends at the four-word mark. I also presume that it’s a joke — although that’s hard to determine.God, is this fathead really the best they can do?The sentence in question is the concluding line in a long section describing the impact on Kennedy’s public career of the fact that a woman drowned in his car one night. Earlier in the passage, one can read the following:“Plutocrats’ justice and an implausible (but effective) cover-up followed.”Or,“She denies to him forever the moral credibility that lay behind not merely all those rhetorical thunderclaps that came so easily in the New Frontier, but also Robert Kennedy’s anguished appeals to the country’s better angels...He learned to plod, because soaring made him look ridiculous.”Or, perhaps,“And if his name were Edward Moore, he would have done time.”Plainly, the line cited by Goldberg was an ironic twist — meant to suggest a certain unacknowledged moral deadweight in the senator’s career. Some Kennedy staffers with whom I had dinner at a friend’s house a week later spent most of the cocktail hour chaffing me over it, and that noted member of the Weather Underground, James Taranto, quoted the line in Opinion Journal and concluded that I “really must hate Ted Kennedy,” which is also not true, but is evidence that Taranto at least can read. Of course, Mark Steyn, the world’s most embarrassing Canadian not named David Frum, read the line in much the same way that Goldberg did, and blithered around for half a column over it.In fact, I am willing to bet Bernie half his advance that he read Steyn’s column, and not my entire original piece, before he decided to use me to fill up 30 percent of page 208. Otherwise, he’s being deliberately obtuse for effect. Or he’s a subliterate mook. Anyway, you’d think he’d know better after the beating Al Franken handed him in re: John Chancellor — but I defy him to prove me wrong. You’re a hack, Bernie, or you’re a dishonest hack. Your choice.Name: Eric Rauchway
Location: London

Geez, your colleague Katrina vanden H. is all over the McKinley assassination — as staged in _London_. Doesn’t she know there’s a fine American, historical recounting of that event on bookshelves today? Meanwhile, miles away from Buckingham Palace in a rundown part of London, another kind of protest is being staged during Bush’s visit. Americans: A New Century Begins with an Act of Blood, is a play about the rise and decline of imperial power. Eric Schlosser—who demolished the junk food industry in the best-selling Fast Food Nation —wrote it in 1985, at a time when Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were giving old imperial attitudes a new spin for a new generation. Empire has once again become fashionable. So, ironically a play written nearly twenty years ago, about early 20th century America’s determination to replace Britain as the world’s leading imperial power, is being staged for the first time asKing George arrives in London.Set in the period before and after President William McKinley’s assassination, “Americans” explores the fall of the British empire, the birth of the American colossus, and the historical parallels between the late 19th and 20th centuries. “On both sides of the Atlantic,” Schlosser says, “worship of the ‘free market’, growing corporate power, union-busting and a widening gap between rich and poor suggested the dawn of another Gilded Age.”Leon Czolgosz,, the anarchist who assassinated McKinley at the Pan American Exposition in 1901, is a central figure in the play, and many of his lines resonate today. “If America chooses to become the big bully of the world,” he tells another US President, “I promise you, America will pay.” Czolgosz saw himself as a Brutus warning his country against the horrors that tyranny and the misuse of power would inflict. One of the most chilling moments in the play has the unrepentant Czolgosz going to the electric chair warning the assembled witnesses that American cities will one day go up in flames, paying the price for “your outrageous vanity.”The great Southern writer William Faulkner eloquently noted that the past is never dead. It isn’t even past. Schlosser speaks for the millions of Americans who understand what Faulkner meant.Name: Anne Thompson
Mr. Alterman,
As an American citizen and consumer of both print and television media, I have become increasingly concerned over what I perceive to be a completely liberal-biased slant as well as unquestioning support for both the brutal policies of Israel as well as the Jewish faith. Judaism is an incomplete religion and our country is NOT a “Judeo-Christian” nation. America was founded on the principles of Christianity and Christianity ALONE. To give any credence to the Jewish faith is to say that it is a true faith, which it is NOT. To give unquestioning support to the state of Israel, despite its horrid brutality, is criminal. Ariel Sharon has spent the last 40 years deceiving the Lebanese Christian community, committing mass genocide, lying to the American and European public and, in general, behaving worse than any tyrant currently recorded in history. To support Judaism and the state of Israel, in its current form, is disgraceful. Allow me to explain why the Jewish religion is an incomplete religion and why Jews MUST convert to Christianity AT ALL COSTS.The incompleteness of Judaism:1. Judaism believes in an eye for an eye, there is no such thing as forgiveness.2. Judaism consistently promotes mass genocide, while Christianity promotes isolating hostile elements within an opposition group and removing those elements, but leaving the group intact and converting them to Christianity.3. Judaism is an inclusive group, meaning that the religion does not proselytize nor does it accept outside membership. This essentially sets Jews up for inbreeding, which causes all sorts of neurological and degenerative diseases. 4. Judaism is suspicious and hostile of outsiders.5. Judaism creates a group of people who are paranoid, isolated, inbred, and unforgiving.What kind of life is this for anyone? Christianity is an open, loving, forgiving religion. Christianity does not submit to genocide of a group in which there exist bad members, but rather advocates the elimination of those bad members, specifically, while leaving the group intact and converting them to Christianity. Christianity is superior to Judaism in many ways and Jews must and should convert to Christianity as soon as possible. To state that Judaism, in any form, is an acceptable type of worship to our Lord is deplorable. JUDAISM IS FALLACY! The media’s ongoing support of this incomplete faith and its false tenets is an injustice to the world. America cannot and WILL NOT TOLERATE the ongoing atrocities committed by the Israelis, the Mossad, and the Jewish people. The Jews MUST CONVERT to Christianity IMMEDIATELY. The violence in the Middle East will go on for a thousand years if they are not converted. The ongoing tensions in American society will continue if the Jews do not convert. It is CRITICAL that Jews convert. I thank you for your time and consideration and may God bless you and yours.Nov. 17, 2003 | 12:34 PM ET
THE PHONY CONNECTION Case Open Again, and boy, that was quick. DOD to Weekly Standard (and Fox News, as well as about a few zillion prowar bloggerz) re alleged big scoop on Iraq and Al Qaida: “Um, never mind.” We await a corrections. The CIA says it’s nonsense too though the Post has buried this as it does all of Walter Pincus’ terrific reporting. This ridiculous stretching on the part of the administration and its yes men in the media of the phony Iraq/Al Qaida connection well beyond its breaking point is all the more infuriating when you realize that in order to justify this ruinous war, they had to pretend to be attacking a supplier and funder of “Al Qaida-type” organizations-to borrow the president’s own weasel words, when in fact, they were letting Al Qaida get away and reqroup for more terrorist attacks. We may have seen the results of that colossally counterproductive decision over the weekend in Istanbul and will no doubt see it here someday, where we remain hopelessly unprepared.In Europethere’s no SCLM, and so nobody has to pretend that this invasion has been anything but a disaster. Still, someone should tell the Post editorial board.How hated is Bush? Rule of thumb: If you have to get permission to murder people in advance of a presidential visit, it’s probably not such a hot idea to begin with. Bush ♥ Tits as long as they are the right ones.Israel is still a democracyfor Jews, and that’s bad news for the George Bush’s buddy, Arik Sharon. MJ Rosenberg of Israel Policy Forumwrites: “There is something a bit surreal about the idea that the Israeli government is negotiating with Hezbollah over the return of an Israeli hostage and the remains of three soldiers while continuing to insist that the only Palestinians fit to serve as ‘partners’ for negotiations are those without blood on their hands. It suggests that Israel will negotiate with anyone, even Hezbollah, for the return of the dead, but has a far more restrictive policy when it comes to achieving peace for the living.” And how nice that right-wing American Jews are willing to fight for their ideology right down to the death of the last Israelis. Imagine, denouncing a peace plan for a country in which you do not even live…. Kind of gives chutzpah a bad name.Meanwhile,this lovely Website classifies writers on Israel/Palestine exclusively by ethnic/religious background and by what anti-Semitic Satalinists say about them. Of course they lack the power and resources of the Zionist Organization of America, so it’s kind of silly to worry too much about them.The Safire Game: Count up all the sleazy innuendo and unwarranted assertions in this masterpiece of conservative media manipulation. Play with friends.Pot calls kettle white; Bennett exonerates Limbaugh: It would be wrong to conclude that all right-moralizers are illegal drug-taking and gambling hypocrites, but a country with 51 percent of its citizens smart enough to have a low opinion of the former, according to Gallup, ought to be smart enough to know that. (Another hopeful sign: 69 percent “never heard of” Ann Coulter.) Still, it would also be wrong to conclude that all right-wing media moguls are crooks just because Conrad Black appears to be one. That would be guilt by association. And it would be wrong. Then again, would it surprise you?Why social scientists have no use for journalistic-much less blogger-analysis:Mickey writes: “Mickey’s Assignment Desk: Test scores in California are going up. Test scores in New York are going up. Is it possible the much-maligned No Child Left Behind Act, with its crude emphasis on testing and “standards,” is actually, you know, working?” Uh, no Mickey’s it’s not. This is the first year the NCLBA act is allegedly even in effect. Those test scores cannot possibly bear any relationship to its implementation-which is not even really happening in many places because, as you know, it is not being funded, because it hadn’t started yet when the tests were taken. In New York City, it’s caused little beside chaos and hopelessly overcrowded schools. Fortunately, my kid’s school got to opt out of the program because of its-guess what?-high scores. Are they included in this study? Betcha they are, which would screw up the thesis even further, if it had any basis with which to begin. Meanwhile, the tests keep changing and therefore make comparisons on a year to year basis quite complicated. In any case, we think it’s a little early to be passing judgment about anything but ideologically-based wishful thinking….Nice work if you can get it: “Edison Schools, a company created to run public schools like private businesses, accepted a $182 million buyout from Florida’s pension fund Wednesday in a deal that follows years of losses but promises millions of dollars for the CEO. ”The Decline of Western Civilization, part XXII: When you move into a new place, you can’t help discovering how dysfunctional our economy is. Last Friday I stayed home all day to observe the following:The furniture guys who were supposed to replace the kid’s desk and computer table between 11-2 never showed.The electrician who was supposed to put in the ceiling fans never called back. When I called them, they had never heard of me, even though they made the holes in the ceilings.The plumber who is supposed to give us an estimate for replacement of the bathtub showed up, but never gave me the estimate, and the one we called instead never called back.The guy who said it would take a week to re-cane the dining room chairs brought them back unstained when I said I needed them two weeks later because people were coming over, but never picked them up again (and hence, has not been paid).The dinner I ordered from the food store for me and the kid included some unordered lobster bisque and some sort of weird yogurt, together costing me an extra $13.00. (This New York, remember, where yogurt costs $6.99.) When I called up about it, they asked me to come by and return it, a mere fourteen blocks in each direction.And that was just Friday. The whole move went this way; lawyers lost documents; the bank failed to wire the money to the closing, nearly blowing the whole deal (and sending the whole family to live in a motel); and the moving company overcharged me by more than $500 and lost the refund check. During the 80s, I used to say, “No wonder Japan is kicking our asses.” Now I say, “And those damn neocons thought we could somehow run Iraq…” Alterreviews: Derek Trucks Band live and “Soul Serenade”Derek Trucks is so talented and musically inventive, it’s pointless to try to do justice to him in a short description. He joined Allman Brothers, before he was old enough to drink, at least legally. He’s equally comfortable playing Coltrane and Sun Ra, Indian classical music, Santana-esque latin funk as he is southern and Chicago blues. He also plays the serad. “Soul Serenade,” recorded in 2000, is a jazz album, save the killer version of “Drown in My Own Tears” with a Greg Allman vocal. It’s got equally interesting versions of the title track, of Marley’s “Rastaman Chant” and of Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro-Blue,” (which most people know from the Coltrane version). It’s nothing like last year’s “Joyful Noise,” which is also great, but is slightly more conventional. On Saturday night, he played Town Hall and barely said a word, but the music soared. Really, the kid is so poised and talented it’s hard to assimilate. I’m not so crazy about his reading list though.Correspondents’ Corner:
Name: Tim Hopton
‘Ey Eric, I meant to comment earlier on your Altereview of ‘Top’s Box Set. You mentioned Billy Gibbon’s “unique tone”... as you may be aware (but some of your readers may not know), Gibbon’s tone is due in no small part to his using a Mexican Peso as a guitar pick. It’s most evident in the harmonic squeals heard in almost every ‘Top song. Queen’s Brian May (another highly under-rated player) employs a similar technique, using a flattened British Pence as a pick. Of course the choice of guitars & amps is key in achieving a unique tone, but you can’t deny the effect of metal on metal.Bonus Piece of Useless Trivia:At least one person gave Gibbons his creds — Jimi Hendrix called Billy Gibbons the best “new guitar player” back when Billy was playing in “The Moving Sidewalks”.

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