Jan. 9, 2004 | 10:02 AM ET

I’m traveling today. Here’s a fight I had with Errol Morris about “The Fog of War.” The original column was here.

On to Slacker Friday...

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Eric --
I don’t usually use the “chickenhawk” argument because I believe it to be a clumsy weapon too easily turned back on the people who wield it. (See: “Quayle, J. Danforth in re: Clinton, William Jefferson.” I KNOW the situations were not precisely the same, and I also know that didn’t matter.)

Yeah, well, whatever...

For spectacular misuse of the first-person, it’s hard to beat the comedy team of Perle ‘n Frum, now appearing on a panel show in your neighborhood, flogging their latest work entitled, I’m paraphrasing here, “Let’s Kill Everyone Who Isn’t Us.” Take in this slim-but-potent little vial of vicarious testosterone and you find yourself enmeshed in beauties like this one:

”We have offered concrete recommendations equal to the seriousness of the threat, and the softliners have not, because we have wanted to fight, and they have not.”

If you’re keeping score at home, that “We” stuck in there is the single most indecent word yet typed in the 21st century.


Who in the bloody hell is “We”?

Now, it is true that the authors did manage to turn the tide at Foundation Ridge, that they managed alone to hold the ramparts at Thinktank Castle, that they organized the counterattack that swept the field at Buffet Flats, and that they only this week fought to victory in the Battle Of Charlie Rose. But since, as Lawrence Kaplan pointed out in his judicious review in last Sunday’s Washington Post, some of the “softliners” in question are in the employ of the U.S. military, perhaps our two heroes ought to be a little more modest about their undeniable accomplishments, or at least cut the “softliners” some slack, since some of those “softliners” are coming home in boxes these days because some honorarium-fattened hyenas have no compunction about using other people’s children to act out their imperial dreams (Perle), or as bleeding punctuation marks to the kind of high-flown rhetoric (Frum) that gets you invited once again to duel upon the greensward at Cocktail Frank Fields.

They’re lucky Charlie Rose is too much of a gentleman to vomit on camera.

Name: Stupid
Eric, it’s Stupid to make a fuss about the No Child Left Behind scandal (at least it should be a scandal).  But first a brief response to Nancy Pickard, who took me to task about Howard Dean in true friendly Midwesterner style. 

I’ll give a mea culpa on Dean’s reaching out to women, but not yet on his lack of African-American support (I think the South Carolina polls showing it going to Sharpton are more representative—I just see no heat there at all compared to White yuppies).  More important is the fundraising: Dean’s $40 million is impressive, but Dubya trounces him with $120 million (and no primary expenditures).  I fear the Dean camp is expecting too much from its peasant army.

So apparently both the Dubya administration and local school districts are flouting the No Child Left Behind Act.  Schools are cooking their test score results and graduation rates (in Chicago it’s reported that some schools simply toss suspicious exams).  Some states are openly flouting major requirements of the act, like reporting and testing teacher quality.  Students in chronically abysmal schools get a sham lottery to get into better ones (here in Chicago 240,000 students in failing schools qualified for 1,000 openings in acceptable schools).  The response of the Department of Education has been to turn a blind eye. 

And what do the Dems do?  Filibuster until Dubya agrees to support his own program? Hardly. Teacher unions and local school officials hate this law. The most (only?) progressive thing to come out of the Dubya administration, and all the Dems can muster is a little carping for campaign fodder.  What they should do is demand enforcement of the Act at all levels of government, all the time bleating “unfunded mandate.” Yes, state budgets are hurting, but a lot of them need education finance reform anyway.  And talk about an opportunity to ask why our schools take a back seat to Iraq—the endlessly funded mandate! 

Name: David S. Bernstein
Hometown: Boston, Phoenix
Just wanted to throw my two cents to you on the neocon/anti-semitism flap. Yes, the gang should not be able to wrap themselves in an anti-semitism cloak of invincibility. Given. But there’s also lots of anti-semitism out there, especially outside America but also within, that does look at the neocons as a Jewish cabal plotting the takedown of the Arab world. Believe me, plenty of us Jews wished from the get-go that the guy behind the curtain on the Iraq attack was named something other than Wolfowitz. That doesn’t let Brooks off the hook, but you can’t let the anti-semites off the hook just because the Jews they’re blaming happen to actually be at fault.Jan. 8, 2004 | 12:34 PM ET

Brooks Agonistes:  The more I think about it, the furiouser I get at my friend David Brooks for his egregious attempt to silence all criticism of neoconservative jihadists by equating even the use of the term with anti-Semitism. In the first place, the accusation devalues the accusation and increases the room for genuine anti-Semites to spread their bile—the crying wolf syndrome. In the second, I know Brooks is too smart to mean what he professes to say. I mean the term is self-chosen by the people who operate under its rubric and is used frequently by the likes of Irving Kristol and Norman Podohoretz to describe themselves. I have on the shelf of my library, five books: John Erman’s The Rise of Neoconservatism, Cary Dorrien’s The Neoconservative Mind, Peter Steinfels’ The Neoconservatives, Mark Gerson’s The Essential Neoconservative Reader and Irving Kristol’s Neoconservatism; Autobiography of an Idea. Is Brooks saying all of these people are playing at anti-Semitism? Really, it’s beyond stupid and Brooks is quite smart so he really should apologize before he loses all credibility with his fair-minded (and well-wishing) critics.

Mickey and Josh both have more useful things to say about Brooks and the corollary of his false and silly charge as it relates to Wes Clark.  Kaus writes, “Clark may be unhinged, paranoid and pandering with his talk of a "list of countries" (including "Syria and maybe Lebanon") that he thinks there is a neoconservative "inclination" to invade. Or he may be right. I don't know. But he's not anti-Semitic.”  Well, what about the fact that the neocons themselves admit it? Remember this letter written in the immediate aftermath of 9/11?  It’s a Neocon Manifesto and it sure gives the impression of wanting the U.S. to attack Syria and Lebanon, as well as the West Bank. And when Charlie Rose asked Perle and David Frum how they liked the idea of an invasion of Syria the other night, they both seemed pretty down with the idea in the deeply sympathetic hour he gave them.

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration reasserts its right to suspend, ignore and otherwise trash the Bill of Rights if it decides to call you a terrorist.

Today's American Progress column is entitled “Think Again: The Myths of National Security Credibility.”  It’s a critique of an otherwise thoughtful treatment of the topic by the journalist James Traub in a New York Times Magazine cover story last Sunday, entitled “ The Things They Carry.” You can also find it archived here. The Center’s home page is here and you can sign up for its incredibly voluminous and tough-minded “Progress Report” here.

Jonathan Cohn makes one of the best cases for Dean so far, here.  TNR demonstrates just how central it is to the liberal project with its full-throated endorsement of Neo-Republican Lieberman here. See also the cases for Clark, Gephardt and Edwards.

On nuking cities from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists: here.

But do they vote?

The great Del McCoury in the WSJ, here.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Marilyn King Reece
Hometown: Rainsville, Alabama

Can I nominate still another quotation from the same Tony Kushner interview? It's not often that anyone outside Alabama notices that the "Ten Commandments judge" was ruled against and removed. Even here, we still kinda get it:

MJ: When was the last time that a belief in the system paid off?

TK: It was the day they got that fu**ing Ten Commandments monument out of Alabama. I found that thrilling. With all the blows that the Bush administration has delivered to the separation of church and state -- we have a president who can't stop talking about his relationship to Jesus while he gleefully murders thousands of people -- it turns out that we still kind of get it.

Name: Mark Fox
Hometown: Toronto,Ontario

The ADL published a letter to the editor of the New York Post concerning Ralph Peters dated Jan 6th here.

Jan. 7, 2004 | 2:10 PM ET

No publication on the planet did a worse job of prognosticating the effects of the Clinton tax hike than the Wall Street Journal. As I wrote in What Liberal Media:

When, after twelve years of supply-side-inspired deficits threatened to cripple the economy, Bill Clinton was forced to clean up the economic mess, Journal editors had no doubt about what would happen. Clinton's proposals, they predicted, would 'cripple' the economy. When the plan passed, the paper promised, "[W]e are seeing the early signs of the stagflation that we knew so well during the Carter presidency."
"Hysteria" would not be too strong a term to describe the Journal’s reaction to the Clinton plan.  The headline, "The Class Warfare Economy” was attended by a cartoon of a guillotine.  The tiny rise in the nation’s top marginal tax rates to a level where they remained the second lowest in the industrialized world did not turn out well for the editors. The Clinton years resulted in an unbroken expansion of the economy in which the vast majority of its benefits were tiled towards the very wealthy—in other words, the people on whom “class war” had allegedly been declared.

So I guess it’s a good sign that similarly misplaced knives are out for Wesley Clark’s excellent new tax program. They term it a “ Clintonian tax hike.”  The Clark campaign should trumpet that endorsement to the heavens. The Washington Post’s Bart Gellman continues to embarrass both the Bush Administration and the New York Times with his reporting of how easily both were taken in by Chalabi et al on Saddam’s alleged WMD arsenal, thereby taking this country to war and alienating the opinion of virtually all humankind on the basis of patently false arguments. See his latest here.David Brooks continues to take richly deserved hits here from Mickey Kaus and herefrom New York Times letter writers for his sloppy attempt to equate all criticism of Neocons with anti-Semitism, thereby insinuating that any criticism of anyone who is Jewish for doing anything is somehow beyond the pale. As one of those liberals who counted Brooks as his favorite conservative before he began his Times column, I too, am wondering what the hell has happened to his good judgment. Meanwhile, here’s more anti-Semitism from the folks at the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Neocon World Review.If only Pete Rose had claimed he bet on baseball games and then lied about it because he suspected other teams of harboring ties to Al Qaida and building weapons of mass destruction, then the Washington Post editors would have called him a patriot and supported him down the line, even without that lame apology. Wonderful woman, that Condi Rice. Too bad she couldn’t be bothered to read the State of the Union. In defense of cannnibalism.Quote of the day, Howard DeanOne professor who made a big impression was Wolfgang Leonhard, who taught Russian history. He’d been a Party official in East Germany and had defected. A fantastic lecturer. He once told us, ‘Pravda lies in such a way that not even the opposite is so.’ That really hit home. I felt he wasn’t just referring to the Soviet government but to our own at the time. You knew it from some of the things Nixon talked about—denying the bombing of Cambodia—or from Kissinger’s ‘Peace is at hand’ statement, when clearly peace wasn’t at hand. They said these things just to get reelected. I think there are some similarities between George Bush’s Administration and Richard Nixon’s Administration: a tremendous cynicism about the future of the country; a lack of ability to instill hope in the American people; a war which doesn’t have clear principles behind it; and a group of people around the President whose main allegiance is to each other and their ideology rather than to the United States.I still don’t know if he can possibly beat Bush—and I do think Wesley Clark, John Edwards and Dick Gephardt, in that order, probably can-- but I can’t help liking the guy better every day.An aside: Leonhard was indeed an amazing lecturer. I audited his classes when in graduate school and we became friendly. What many people don’t know about him is that when he defected, he did so to Yugoslavia, where he helped Tito wipe out his Stalinist enemies, before he became the great Sovietologist for which he was so admired by so many Yale students.Grover Norquist compares inheritance taxes to Hitler.  New York Post and National Review columnist Ralph Peters compares Howard Dean to Goebbels. And yet somehow, the Anti-Defamation League—working hand in glove with the flacks of the Republican Party, are upset only about two of 1500 amateur advertisements that Moveon.org has already repudiated. What would it be like to have a genuinely liberal media, I wonder. Anyway, Times coverage of this burning issue is here.My cup runneth over: Laura Ingraham will be joining Al, Tucker and myself on Sunday! Info here.Correspondents’ Corner:Name: Matthew
Hometown: Denver
I'm sorry but, when did 'neo' come to mean 'Jew'?  It seems that there are quite of few people out there that think just a bit too highly of themselves and/or are a bit paranoid thinking people are talking about them.Speaking for myself, though I'm sure others see it the same way, the word "neocon" infers the New World Order Conservatives.  If we take the word 'neo', it's actually a subset of 'ne' and with one of the definitions of 'neo' being New World (as in neotropical), "neocon" meaning New World Order Conservative only fits.  Within that definition, I don't see any religious intonations, only the continued pursuit and continuance of the conservative, over-the-top right wing (mostly from the Christian extremists) idiology brought to us by George Sr. on Sept 11, 1991.  Yes, a decade to the day of the much more significant 9/11.I wish I still had a link to that speech.  Reading it a decade later with history in between now and when first given... it's no wonder why there are so many conspiracy theories out there.[The speech was 1990, not 1991. The full text can be found by searching the Thomas site for H7414 in the 101st Congress. -Ed.]Name: Jason Kirkpatrick
Hometown: Houston, TX
Dear Eric,
I just got back from Europe and boy is my dollar tired.  My wife and I spent about $3,500 total which, had we gone last year when the dollar had not yet been devalued by 30% against the Euro as part of Bush's Brazilianesque monetray policy, was about $800 more than we should have spent.  At $300 per tax cut we just lost ours.  Any chance George might send me another rebate?One of the long lost stories not hitting the airwaves these days is the fact that while in 2003 the DJIA went up by 35%, the value of the dollar was devalued by 30%, which if you were a European investor means that you only gained 5%, hardly a high return for the risk incurred (historically US equities returns average 20-25% in non-devaluing years).  Essentially, much of the "growth" touted by Bush as the result of his tax cuts are actually attributable for his policy of devaluing the dollar and thus devaluing the value of US employee output and US goods and services (funny because I don't feel like I am doing 30% less work).While this trick is marginally good in kick-starting short term growth, the after-effects, higher inflation and interest rates, will start eating into people's pockets far more significantly than any tax increase.  Just ask Brazil.Jan. 6, 2004 | 1:40 PM ET

Neocon job
I’m grateful to Josh Marshall for writing this post this morning and saving me the trouble.  It is a neat little trick these Neocons have going; some seem to believe that the fact that so many of them are Jewish ought to make them immune to criticism, even though virtually every promise, prediction and assertion they made regarding the war has turned to dust. 

I go back and forth on the issue of just how sincere their alleged “idealism” may be. I mean, after all, if you take your Strauss seriously—as they do—the philosopher argues for the right to deceive the people to achieve a larger purpose. As I argue in the forthcoming " Book on Bush," it just so happens that the man whom Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz chose to provide their president with exactly the kind of intelligence needed to justify an invasion, Abram M. Shulsky, is, like Wolfowitz and many other neocons, an admirer of the movement’s founding father, the late political philosopher and refugee from Nazi Germany, Leo Strauss, who died in 1973. Together with PNAC head, Gary Schmitt, he authored an essay published in 1999 entitled “Leo Strauss and the World of Intelligence (By Which We Do Not Mean Nous).”  In it, the authors argue that Strauss’s idea of hidden meaning “alerts one to the possibility that political life may be closely linked to deception.  Indeed, it suggests that deception is the norm in political life, and the hope, to say nothing of the expectation, of establishing a politics that can dispense with it is the exception.”

The Washington Post’s story on Egypt inspired similar thoughts this morning. The neocons and the Bush imperialists insist that the ultimate aim of their policy is a democratic Middle East. But the fact is, the more “democratic” these nations become, the more anti-American and anti-Israel they become. Neocons never deal with that fact because they don’t really take the possibility seriously. (If they did, would we ever even have heard the words “Ahmed Chalabi?”) There is no indication that U.S. foreign policy is encouraging Egypt to become a democracy; nor Saudi Arabia, nor Pakistan, etc. etc. These tyrants are “our sonofabitches” even if, in the latter case, they promote terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons to rogue regimes.

Bush gave a soaring speech about the need for democracy across the Middle East recently. Has he done anything at all to promote it?  Ditto the Israeli hawks who insist it’s impossible to make peace with a non-democratic enemy. In the first place, the experience of Egypt obviously belies that claim. In the second, the last thing in the world Israel needs is a democratic Middle East, where nations that now merely talk tough would have to act tough as well. It’s a shame that part of the job of mainstream reporter appears to be to take this hypocritical nonsense seriously, making it nearly impossible to have a sensible discussion on the topic.

But enough about you
Speaking of the new book, it’s gotten two reviews so far: Publishers Weekly says “The two progressive champions make no effort to hide their dislike of Bush… but the weight of their evidence and their reasonable tone make it difficult to dismiss them as ideologues…  Expect liberal cognoscenti to back this book in droves as the election campaigns heat up.”  And Kirkus Reviews says, “Molly Ivins, Al Franken, and Michael Moore are mere gadflies compared to Nation columnist Alterman (What Liberal Media?), and New York politico Green, who issue a sweeping, powerful indictment of Bush 43...Carefully researched and plenty passionate: a veritable bible for Bush-Bashers."   It should start appearing in stores in the next couple of weeks.

Other odds and ends.  I’ll be appearing on a panel with Al Franken and Tucker Carlson for the New York Times Arts and Leisure Weekend this Saturday, information is here. And if you missed my Nation column last week on Dean and the media, it’s here.

Yet another conservative decides it’s Ok to go to the Hitler analogy; the problem this time: taxes.

Three bands I just discovered and like:

  1. Dropkick Murphys
  2. The Weakerthans
  3. The Black Keys

Check em out.

Here’s another rave review from the New York Observer of the 3298 page,  Rising Up and Rising Down, by William T. Vollmann, described as “part intellectual history, part factual reportage and part philosophical treatise—often all rolled together in one idealistic stab at cosmic explication,” published by McSweeney’s and available in a beautifully published box set for $120. I plan to spend small portions of the next decade making my way through it and once again, I tip my proverbial hat to Vollmann and everyone at McSweeney’s for both the project’s ambitiousness and its audacity. The fact that the people who’ve actually read the whole thing say it works is almost too impressive to be believed.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Carol
Hometown: Dayton, OH

Laura Kipnis' smug and possibly self-serving little rant blaming everybody's favorite whipping girl, the culture of feminist victimology, for universities' current moves to ban or regulate professor student couplings conveniently ignores the really serious problem at heart here: students, especially graduate students, sexually involved with professors receive significant preferential treatment over equally- or better-able students who aren't in the professor-boffing market. This treatment is not limited just to better grades, but spreads out to the awarding of employment or "employment" as research assistants and aides, by that professor or his/her colleagues, and, more importantly, generally better access to favors and considerations when applying to graduate degree programs and tenure line faculty positions.

Universities can and should be great levellers as well as raisers: the last and only real place in this country where one can improve one's lot based on one's willingness to work and on the resulting accomplishments. Universities are also, historically, those places where the lot of all of humankind is bettered, whether through  passionate reasearch leading to scientific and technoligical advance; the unprofitable, but essential, study and preservation of the biosphere; careful analysis and research of our  physical past and our cultural heritages, leading to a greater self knowledge by humankind of humankind. This important work has historically been done by people willing to sublimate their desires for individual pleasure and reward (from the wealth associated with the business world to the unlimited fucking around with all willing bodies associated with the imaginary world of teenage dreamland) in favor of a greater good.

Coupling with one's students perhaps wouldn't be such a bad thing if it led to some real reflection about humanity, about the nature of sex, or power--that is, if it could be shown to actually advance the goals of the academy, perhaps if it led to something along the lines of Foucault's History of Sexuality Part I--, but Kipnis' intellectually empty article in Slate ain't anywhere near that.

Name: Richard Sattler
Hometown: Missoula, MT

Eric -
Regarding "hooking up" between students and professors, I have to say no.  As a college professor for 15 years, I am increasingly convinced that sex, even consensual sex, between professors and students is almost always a bad idea, despite some few examples to the contrary.  Personal relationships are difficult enough without the extra baggage which comes with these circumstances.  The difference in ages, the power differential, the potential for exploitation - by both sides - make this a bad idea.

Name: John Shaw
Hometown: Seattle

As one of the creators of a juvenile, jokey anti-Bush ad for the MoveOn contest, I have a bias here.  MoveOn posted the finalists today, and for at least 2 and maybe 4 of them, I'd pay money to help put on the air.  I urge curious readers to check them out.  (I'm not a finalist and didn't expect to be -- just wanted to vent spleen, have a laugh, and be part of the festival.  I wouldn't pay money to put my ad on the air, and spent no money making it.)
I don't disagree with Correspondent Michael Garin's comments for most of the ads I saw, including some of the finalists.  But there are some excellent ones, and the energy expressed & generated by 1017 ads, no matter that most wouldn't work to persuade the non-believers, is heartening.

Name: Tim Rosenstein
Hometown: Los Angeles
Re: A response to the letter you posted from Michael Garin.
First of all dude, it was a 30 second ad contest, not 60. And 30 ain't much time in which to discuss a terrible, mendacious president.

Second, not only did I make an ad I watched over 120 of them. Out of all that I watched I would say 5-10 were atrocious in some way; either too smarmy or just plain shrill and offensive (a couple contrasted Bush with Mao and/or Lenin and/or Goebbel). Maybe another 20-30 weren't bad but were too clearly preaching to the converted. And then maybe another 5-10 were just crappy and didn't make any sense at all. So that leaves around 70 or more that I watched that were passable in varying degrees. Yeah, opinion is pretty arbitrary but...

Third, if you found so many smarmy and off-putting, rather than complain to Eric (which accomplishes nothing but a projection of your indignation) why didn't you continue to watch and rate in an attempt to weed out the crap? You had the power, brothah!

And fourth, yeah, there was some bad stuff, but what would you expect? Something like 1200 ads submitted, you watch 20 and decide you need to whine to Senior Alterman?

Come on. Don't be so precious.

Name: Matt Shirley
Hometown: Scott AFB, IL

Mr. Alterman,
Can I nominate another passage from the same Tony Kushner interview for Quote of the Day?  As a life-long Democrat, and career military officer, I have often felt something like this, but without being able to articulate it as well and succinctly as Mr. Kushner has:

"There are a lot of politically active young people, but I feel that we've [the left] misled them. I have great admiration for the essayists and writers on the left, but the left decided at some point that government couldn't get it what it wanted. As a result, it's a movement of endless complaint and of a one-sided reading of American history, which misses the important point: Constitutional democracy has created astonishing and apparently irreversible social progress. All we're interested in is talking about when government doesn't work."

Jan. 5, 2004 | 1:03 PM ET

This is Security?  Hundreds of billions of dollars spent to fight “terrorism” in Iraq, and Americans are being killed by the hundreds in Iraq, where easily predictable chaos continues to reign; the perpetrator of the attacks against us is still laughing at us from his cave in Tora Bora (or whatever) and we in this country are stuck with an “Orange Alert” for who knows how long -though you can bet it will last through the State of the Union address.

Our chemical plants remain unprotected; our nuclear plants remain unprotected; our ports remain unprotected; our first-responders remained largely untrained and unprepared. And yet the so-called liberal media worries about whether the Democrats can be taken seriously on National Security.

The piece linked above, from yesterday's New York Times Magazine, is not a bad article actually, but its fundamental premises are so skewed on behalf of the nonsensical conventional wisdom on what the word “defense” means that is succeeds in perpetrating a stereotype it should be deconstructing.  Why does that stereotype persist? It’s complicated obviously, but an enormous part of the explanation has been the willingness of journalists to parrot clichés about “strength” and “security” that can not withstand a moment’s scrutiny.

Howard Dean et al are saying nothing that wasn’t endorsed by General Zinni, who, if the media (and especially The Washington Post) are to be believed, is just some silly wimpy peacenik who knows less about how to defend the country than all the chickenhawks in charge. Has there ever been a group of so allegedly smart people taken in so easily by so obvious a scheme as this catastrophic war? Antonio Gramsci, call your office.

Meanwhile, Mickey this morning refers to “Dean's ridiculous Saddam's-capture-doesn't-make-us-safer statement."  Atrios notes, however, that sixty percent of Americans belive the same thing; which doesn’t make it right, of course, but it’s no less “ridiculous” than the fact that they believed that it wasn’t any of Newt Gingrich’s business where Bill Clinton put his cigars. Rediculousness, heal thyself.

And speaking of Gramsci, Hitchens is recycling his two-year old essay on Victor Serge in The Atlantic Monthly.

Can you say “Hate Speech?”  Ralph Peters says Dean is Gobbels.  No wait. He’s also Lenin.  I guess that’s an improvement on Ann Coulter calling adorable Katie Couric Goebbels (and Eva Braun.). Where’s the American Jewish Congress when you need them? In the meantime, how long until Peters gets his own show?

Quote of the Day: Tony Kushner: “If Ralph Nader runs -- if the Green Party makes the terrible mistake of running a presidential candidate -- don't give him your vote.  Listen, here's the thing about politics: It's not an expression of your moral purity and your ethics and your probity and your fond dreams of some utopian future. Progressive people constantly fail to get this….” More here.

Here is some interesting stuff that’s popped up in the past few days:

Laura Kipnis thinks it’s OK for professors and students to “hook up.”  Do you?

More on sex: personal ads as the new poetry.  

It’s unfeminist to be cool.  Did you know that?

Nice essay by Katha Pollitt on Carolyn Heilbrun’s suicide here.

Terry Eagleton profiled here.

Jay Rosen’s almost too-thoughtful blog on horserace coverage ought to be, um required reading, for the national presscorps. It is here, anyway.

More on the Times shameful performance on the Tiger Force story.  Paging Dan Okrent.

Correspondents’ Corner:
Name: Michael Garin
Hometown: New York
Dear Eric,
I very much enjoy your work. As an unapologetic Liberal, I viewed with great interest, the 60 second ad competition sponsored by Moveon.com. I was stunned by the bad work. After viewing about 20 of them, I was almost (but not really) ready to vote for W. They were smarmy, self-satisfied and completely off-putting. Preaching to the converted is not what is needed right now. Realizing and respecting what has put people off about Liberalism is.

Name: Darwin Overson
Hometown: SLC, UT
All the flap about Dean not being electable made me wonder what the polling looked like during this same phase during the 2000 election cycle.  CNN still has the polling up from January 2000 when Bush was ahead 56% to Gore's 39%.  That seems pretty comparable to Dean's or any of the other Democratic candidates when matched up against Bush.
Just food for thought.  It seems all the panic by Democrats is unnecessary.  Wouldn't the better approach be to move through these next few months with an air of confidence rather than build Bush up more than is necessary by acting scared?

Jan. 2, 2004 | 11:55 AM ET

Paging Comrade Gramsci: The New York Times headlines this piece, “The Very Rich, It Now Appears, Give Their Share and Even More.”  This ought to warm the cockles of the selfish rich. Note the definition of one’s “fair share.”  According to this story, it is whatever amount is tax-deductible; the idea being, if you have say, $10 billion and there’s a starving group of orphans next to you, both of whose parents have been killed in a war in which the president lied to the nation to gain its support, your responsibility is zilch, unless you’re getting a write-off.  I beg to differ.

I don’t see why anybody on earth needs more than say $10 or $20 million. Anything above that should be given away, and not to some fancy private school where you are just paying for a monument to yourself. Anyone who can’t live on $10 or $20 million, well, I have to stop now, in case the boss reads this, but the study on which the Times story is based is here. (And if you’re unfamiliar with the life of Antonio Gramsci, who, excluding Honore de Balzac and perhaps John Dewey, is the most important  media critic of all time, begin here --though like Dewey, and obviously unlike Balzac, he is pretty much unreadable.

Feeling lazy this morning, but also adding additional authority, I’m simply copying The Note’s recommendation of Paul Krugman, which "takes a must-read look at the 'stop Dean' phenomenon, asking which of the Democratic candidates is playing the Nader/spoiler role in the 2004 contest. Attacks on Dean by Lieberman and Kerry put on full display why they're running behind, Krugman argues -- and those attempts to undermine the frontrunner undermine the larger goal of defeating the incumbent.”

What if we had invaded the oil fields back in 1973?  Would we still have had to invade Iraq thirty years later.  Let’s play “What if?”

I liked Dick Waterman's photographs in the book, “Between Midnight and Day,” so much, I bought the one of Dylan and Joan in Cambridge, 1964. It’s really sad and beautiful. You can see his photographs here.

“He wrote books, then he died.” John Gregory Dunne. Our heart goes out to Joan Didion, for whom our admiration is boundless.

Now check out this beautiful essay on Johnny Cash.

On to Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Eric --
Don't think Stupid and I are unaware of your subtle attempts to divide the independent power base that is forming around Slacker Friday. Your Jedi mind-tricks are useless, pal. We are united. The Man can't bust our music.
One of my favorite anti-Dean legends so far is the "problem" with his having inadvertently said, "Soviet Union" when he meant to say, "Russia." Ahem, do we not all recall my main man Andy Hiller up here in Boston, quizzing C-Plus Augustus on various world leaders, and getting naught but a vacant grin in response? Remember how the Cool Kids were outraged -- I thought Dean Broder was going down with the vapors for sure -- at this horrible moment of "Gotcha" journalism? Remember, later in the campaign, when C-Plus Augustus clearly didn't realize Social Security was a federal program? Remember food on your family? Making the pie higher? Grecians?
Remember when there was journalism?
Meanwhile, how about this latest effort from Richard Perle and David Frum?  Hot wars in four places at once, and cold wars against France and the Saudis. All fought by people whom Perle and Frum otherwise would not allow to park their cars. (Note to Young Voters: The draft will be back by mid-'05. Count on that.) I would like to point out that Canada gave us Neil Young, Jean Beliveau, and four-fifths of The Band.  Frum could balance that scale all on his own.
Mini-Alter-Reviews: See "The Cooler." Read "These United States," in which Alternare Altercator Tomasky has a lovely essay about West Virginia.
And Stupid? Stay strong, my brother.

Name: Nancy Pickard
Hometown: Prairie Village, KS

Stupid, my sweet, I read your last entry and wondered if it was April 1 instead of almost Jan. 1.  You were kidding about all that timid Dean stuff, right?  If you weren't--where have you been?  Did you miss the news that Dean is way leading in D.C.?  The news about all of the endorsements he has collected from black leaders?  Did you miss entirely the fact that if he is about anything at all it is about bringing out the base?  Did you miss his frequent defense of a woman's right to choose, or the incredible record of lowered child abuse in Vermont during his term, speaking of "women's issues"?  Did you miss that he has set fundraising records in the last two quarters and is already a juggernaut, himself?  And the general campaign has not even officially started yet.  You want to be careful not to earn that nickname, dear, no offense intended.

Name: Bill Scher
Hometown: LiberalOasis.com

Here's the NY Times' take on new PlameGate special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald:

"…even Mr. Fitzgerald's former opponents in the courtroom say [he is] dogged, dispassionate and endlessly prepared…

…David N. Kelley, a former colleague of Mr. Fitzgerald…said [he] always seemed to view himself as 'an independent prosecutor' of any case he approached — whatever the politics, whatever the players."

And here's the NYT's take on Ken Starr right after he became the Whitewater special prosecutor:

"Few Democrats or Republicans who have worked with Kenneth W. Starr expressed any doubt today that he would be a fair and thoughtful prosecutor in the Whitewater case…

...Consistently described as judicious, balanced and fair-minded, Mr. Starr won accolades today from those who have worked both with and against him."

More here.

Name: Bruce Schmiechen
hometown: Oakland, CA

I wouldn't put a lot of stock in Sen. Feinstein as a VP candidate, but I don't believe her divorce would play into the negatives. She was divorced many years ago from her first husband. Since then she's had a successful second marriage to a surgeon, was widowed and married Richard Blum nearly twenty years ago. This third  marriage also appears to be a success.  It's hard to imagine anyone perceiving this apparently happily married woman - who was widowed in her previous  marriage -  as a poster girl for divorce.  
I'm not sure she would be a good "balance" for Dean, who's already fighting the (false) ultra-liberal label. Dianne isn't all that liberal, but she's a San Franciscan - which is indistinguishable in most contested states.  Dean also is married to a Jewish doctor - which should give him some kind of credibility among any Jewish voters who aren't already locked-in partisans, either as neo-cons or liberals.  She might, however, be a good VP choice for Clark, since she's a very  savvy Democratic legislative insider with solid administrative experience and Clark is a political newcomer.


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