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Feb. 27, 2004 | 11:40 AM ET

Todd Gitlin points out that Mimi Swartz's "In Search of the President's Missing Years," here, is a  breakthrough for the somnolent NYT, but there's a factual error in it.  Toward the bottom of the second column she writes:  "even [Walter Robinson's May 23, 2000] story was soon eclipsed by others in the heat of the campaign, most notably the revelation, late in the game, that Mr. Bush had been arrested in 1976 for driving under the influence."  But some five plus months elapsed between Robinson's piece and the drunk driving story.  I think the record will show that Ms. Swartz's  explanation won't wash.  Whatever the press was doing on Bush in those five months, it wasn't muckraking and the kitchen wasn't so hot.

Who is Hastert’s master? And what is he/they trying to hide about the causes of our government’s failure to protect us on September 11?

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Speaking of which, Rick Shenkman of History News Network wrote my “Think Again” column this week.  It’s called “Whatever Happened to Homeland Security?"  Home page is here and you can sign up for the daily Progress Report here.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a Nation column on Bob Novak and conservative standards of patriotism and journalism, such as they are.

“How small and thin-skinned was that?  Gore’s body language and facial gestures suggested he loathes Bush.”  Actually, it was Kerry and Edwards, but I agree with Mickey, “body language and facial gestures” are exactly why the public requires the services of pundits to determine the relative worth of candidates for president of the United States.  Next up.  Was Kerry really the model for Satan in “The Exorcist?”

Impeach Scalia.

Hey Boehlert, how about a Clear Channel book, awwready?

Mrs. Howard Kurtz, Republican political consultant, Sheri Anis, wants to go on a date with John Edwards.

Let’s cheer (again) for Howard Dean who makes Nader look like the destructive megalomaniac he is.  Bonus question:  Has Howie been reading anyone's book?  And is he looking for a job?

And speaking of infantile leftist disorders, National Journal's new 2003 congressional vote rankings rates John Kerry the most liberal senator.  That’s bad news for his electability, but it is rather amazing that it’s not good enough for Nader (and, one hopes, a statistically insignificant bunch of my “Deaniacs” who again, one hopes, are profoundly over-represented in my correspondence).

(And speaking of TBOB, Mark and I are taping a Charlie Rose on Monday evening, though I can’t be sure when they’ll show it, and I will be the guest on CSPAN at 7:45 am on Tuesday morning, before appearing at Politics and Prose on Connecticut Ave. that evening.)

Um, did you say “Tweak?”  If that means getting a host who’s not a smug, self-important ignoramus, well, sure, not a bad idea.  (Actually, I keep forgetting this is cable, sorry.)

The Next New Thing: Nellie McCay.  I’m voting yes, but just tentatively. 

In the meantime, Sony Legacy has just cleaned-up and re-released one of the greatest unsung albums of all-time: the Tom Waits/Chrystal Gayle soundtrack to the doomed, flawed, mess/masterpiece of a movie, "One from the Heart."  The record is a masterpiece, pure and simple, and the new mix is miles ahead of the original.  If you trust me at all, trust me on this.  You’ll owe me.

Here’s Pierce and the recently-much-maligned Stupid:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Eric --
I mean, Jesus -- you should pardon the expression -- St. Mel Of The Corn Syrup couldn't even get crucifixion right.

People who've studied the matter long ago concluded that, when the Romans crucified someone, they would not drive the nails through the palms, because the deadweight of the body would simply cause the nails to tear through the flesh.  Instead, the nails were driven through the bones in the wrists, creating a natural "locking" mechanism that could hold the body upright and prolong one of the most horrible deaths we ever devised.  In fact, back before C14 dating rendered the discussion rather moot, one of the main arguments advanced for the Shroud of Turin's bona fides was that, in the image on the Shroud, the nail-wounds are clearly in the wrists, thereby confounding several centuries of sacred art.  And, if Larry King doesn't do a show with Jim Caviezel and Linda Blair on the topic of "Holy Horror Movies," I'll be very disappointed in the old boy.

At least it will keep him away from the debates.  What in the name of Martin Agronsky was THAT all about?  Larry kept interjecting, and bopping his head, and generally behaving like Buffalo Bob Smith on crystal meth while the four candidates tried as best they could to keep him from taking calls from up and down the Imperial Valley. 

Meanwhile, the sucker play goes on and on.  People are actually reporting seriously that the White House wants the 9/11 commission extended, but that they are powerless against the authoritarian might of Denny Hastert.

Does this even SOUND true?  C-Plus Augustus and Dick will agree only to whisper into Tom Kean's shell-pink ear, and Condi Rice declines to appear in public, but they'd come clean, really they would, if it weren't for Denny Hastert and his Jedi mind-tricks.  How do you report this with a straight face?  How much Evian goes up your nose before you finally get through it?

Outrage: The road whites of the Montreal Canadiens once were the most beautiful uniforms in all of sports. Last night, they came to Boston sporting some sort of hideous new creation with a wide blue racing stripe across the middle.  Zut alors! Are there no standards left?

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago

Hey Eric, it's Stupid to be flattered that one of my detractors called me "Nick Kristof" (that's supposed to be an insult?!).

Susan McNerney makes a good point and in retrospect I should have said I want to amend the Constitution only to exclude children born here of --illegal-- immigrants.  But I don't think that addresses her concern that changing the citizenship rules would empower an "arbitrary weapon against minorities" by the "dominant racial group."  I think that threat is exaggerated, but more
importantly it doesn't address my racial fairness argument: Why do Latin American parents deserve such --comparative-- ease in securing citizenship for their children than, say, a family that has lived through the Congo Civil War or Myanmar?  The more illegal immigration you permit, the less opportunity there is for legal immigration. 

Also, I'd argue that the rich segment of that dominant racial group is doing OK with the status quo.  The current losers are African-Americans, whose unemployment rates are higher than average and are hurt by an unlimited supply of minimum wage (or less) workers. 

Ms. McNerney makes a fair request for "a study."  In 1994, California's General Accounting Office estimated that illegal immigration cost the state $2.35 billion in services.  Tax revenue was harder to measure, but they noted that estimates ranged from $500 million to $1.4 billion.  And as I had said, the revenue is a neutral factor: had those jobs gone to a mix of legal immigrants and unemployed U.S. citizens, the revenue wouldn't disappear, it'd still be there. Also, less money would have been sent out of the country and stayed in the U.S. economy.   

My response to Tim is just because uninhibited immigration was good for the U.S. in the past doesn't mean it's good now.  And we closed the door on most of those countries. Still, he has me wrong -- I'm not trying to "stem the tides of immigration."  Increase legal immigration if you want, just end the wanton scamming of the Constitution and allow that the interests of our poor are sometimes at odds with the interests of the world's poor.    

More Passionism:

Name: John Faulkinberry
Hometown: Houston, TX

I am sure you already know this, but I will go ahead and say it anyway, you are a complete ass.  I don't know why I am compelled to read your column occasionally.  I guess I keep hoping there is hope for you.  First and foremost, you are correct, every Jew hates this movie, but what a Jew has to say about the Passion movie is irrelevant.  This translation came directly from the Bible not from a Jewish revisionist.  Anti-Semitism is not the reason this movie was put together.  It has absolutely nothing to do with the Jews of today.  When Jewish leaders criticize a direct translation of something Christians hold as Holy, that is where Anti-Semitism is bred. 

The Bible states that the Jews called for Jesus' head.  Pilate gave them the opportunity to save him from Crucifixtion, but they did not, they saved a criminal instead.  Jews of today cannot accept that their ancestors put an innocent man to death, much more the Son of God.

My advice is if Jews want to stave off anti-Semitism, they should accept that we believe the Jews of Jesus' day had him killed, much as we have accepted that Jews were slaves for 5000 years under the Romans and millions of Jews were killed by Hitler. 

In addition, Gay marriage, you have got to be kidding.  How can you say the Constitution provides for gays to marry when you have to know that the people who wrote the Constitution never considered this as a possibility?

Name: Dennis Bernstein
Hometown: Boston

Hold on tight at #22 on that NY Times list -- you're about to be passed by an 18th century nun.  Anne Catherine Emmerich's "The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ," which is Mel Gibson's main source for his new film, has climbed from previous obscurity, to 131 before the film opened, to 31 today on the rankings.  Although Gibson and his Icon Productions flack have both denied in mainstream interviews that Emmerich is a source, they have made no secret of it to the believers who form his target demographic.  It gets a prominent mention in the "Making of The Passion" feature showing on PAX, among other things.

Anyway, the film was scripted pretty much straight from Emmerich, including all the many things not found in the Gospels: Jesus dumped off a bridge, the extensive scourging scene, the devil wandering around, and on and on.  And, the blood-thirsty Jews overwhelming a reticent Pilate.  Except that her version is much, much more explicitly anti-Semitic.  And thanks to Mad Mel, soon more people will be reading that than reading your book. Sorry to bring the news.

Feb. 26, 2004 | 2:09 PM ET

“We’ll cut your Social Security to pay for tax cuts for the rich.”  Thanks Alan.   If the Democrats can’t win on that, they need a new country to run in.

Who cares what happened on 9/11?  It’s not like anything like that could ever happen again now that we’ve invaded a country that had nothing to do with it.

On this week’s Times best-seller list:  We’re Number 22, down two from last week and not exactly sucking.  But come on people, is that really the best we can do?  Hannity’s gonna be number one.  Is that the kind of country you want to live in?  And look at these crappy Amazon and B&N numbers.  Somebody’s not doing their job. 

Remember, we’re at B&N at 82nd and Broadway Friday evening and Politics and Prose in D.C. on Tuesday night.

More base-tending-to:  "The White House is opposing addition of gun show and assault weapons restrictions to a bill shielding firearms makers and dealers from lawsuits, prompting angry complaints from Democrats that President Bush is reneging on earlier support for the two proposals."

Never heard of Katharine Gun until this morning?  And then only on p.A13?  Read the letters below.  More here.  Hey, look here it’s getting worse.

Let the mudslinging begin.  We can take it.  Kerry’s defense record, set straight by Fred Kaplan.

Oh, and last Friday, Billmon's Whiskey Bar covered the South African BOSS squads in Iraq. Excerpts from the Forward article are included here.

The Passion section:
Quote of the Day:  “Jews killed the Lord Jesus.” Thanks, Mel.

Excuse of the Day:  "Critics who have a problem with me don't really have a problem with me and this film …they have a problem with the four Gospels."
-Mel Gibson

Works for me…

A Few Jews for (Mel’s) Jesus:  Leon Wielseltier continues:

Gibson's Jewish defenders have been especially disgraceful. "Jewish organizations must not attempt to take responsibility for deciding what Christians can and cannot believe," wrote Michael Medved in The Christian Science Monitor, as if the Jewish criticism of Gibson's film is anything other than the behavior of American citizens freely expressing an opinion.  "If we are empowered to edit their doctrine," David Klinghoffer asked ominously in the Forward, "then why are they not empowered to edit ours?" reminding his readers that once upon a time the Christians censored the Talmud.  Is Gibson now doctrine?  Is criticism now censorship?  And where is the Sanhedrin on the Upper West Side that is poring over Christian texts with a black marker? Then there was the argument for timidity. "Jewish denunciations of the movie only increase the likelihood that those who hate us will seize on the movie as an excuse for more hatred," Medved declared. I wonder if he feels the same way about Jewish denunciations of Islamic anti-Semitism. In a journal of the American Enterprise Institute, he warned that "sadly, the battle over the The Passion may indeed provoke more hatred of the Jews."

The rest is here.

The mail is too good not to print; makes my job almost unnecessary. Thanks.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Eric --
Because every day, even the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, is Slacker Friday, Part The XXX.
Apologies to brother Volpe. I did conflate Watt with Butz -- Cue general hilarity -- in their respective public bigotries.

Actually, dude, I sort of feel for Andy Sullivan. I watched him on CNN, after Aaron Brown had spent 15 minutes sucking up to the unspeakable James Dobson, and there seems to be some genuine anguish there.  However, it would not be Altercation if I didn't point out to him the following:

  1. This idiocy would not be the first time that discrimination was enshrined in the Constitution. There wouldn't even have BEEN a Constitution had black people not been counted as only 3/5ths human for the purposes of calculating Congresspersons and presidential electors. (See Garry Wills's brilliant The Negro President" for details on how that worked out.)
  2. Why shouldn't C-Plus Augustus look upon the Constitution as little more than a Post-It note for his campaign?  It's not like We, The People respect it that much any more.  We -- and our representatives -- handed the Bill of Rights over to John Ashcroft for use as a bathmat, after allowing its provisions to be recast as "loopholes" in our jurisprudence and our popular culture for nearly 30 years.  The fact that Congress has willingly deeded over its war powers to the executive -- apparently in perpetuity -- is treated as the natural order of things, and not as the towering consitutional heresy that it is.  Let's not even get into the fact that any country that truly respected the Constitution would have taken Tony Scalia out for a walk years ago.

Anyway, Andy. Welcome to the real world. Enjoy your stay.

On Katharine Gun:

Name: Peter Costantini
Hometown: Seattle
As you signed your book for me at Town Hall Seattle, I asked you if you had heard of the Katharine Gun affair because it has received very little coverage in the U.S. press, perhaps overshadowed by the Hutton report, but it seems to me dramatic and emblematic of the Blair-Bush collusion in marginalizing the United Nations in the runup to the Iraq War.

Katharine Gun is a 29-year-old Briton who worked at the UK's GCHQ electronic intelligence center. Last March, she leaked a memo from the U.S. National Security Agency revealing details of a request by the NSA to the GCHQ to join in an operation to eavesdrop on the UN delegations of Security Council members seeking to broker a compromise on Iraq and avert an invasion.  She was charged under the Official Secrets Act and is scheduled to go on trial later this month, facing two years imprisonment.

Last week, former diplomats from Mexico and Chile, two of the "Middle Six" Security Council members, went public with information on the spying that corroborated the document Gun leaked.

Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, then Mexican ambassador to the UN, told the Observer (London) that he believed the U.S. had spied on a confidential meeting of the Middle Six working on a compromise.  It then used the intelligence obtained to intervene directly to kill negotiations to give the U.N. weapons inspectors more time to complete their work in Iraq.  He urged his government to initiate a complaint against the U.S. for violating its host-country agreement with the U.N.  The AP reported last week that the Mexican government had sent letters to the U.S. and Britain expressing concern about the alleged espionage.

According to the Spanish daily El País, the then Chilean ambassador, Juan Gabriel Valdes, said that he had found hard evidence that his New York UN mission had been bugged last March.  The Chilean government confirmed to the AP that its phones had been tapped as the UN was debating Iraq.

Gun told the AP she had leaked the document because it "exposed serious illegality and wrongdoing on the part of the U.S. government."  Aguilar praised Gun: "She is serving a noble cause by denouncing what could be illegal acts."  Although spying on UN delegations is a violation of the Vienna conventions, the U.S. is widely suspected of practicing it.  But the Observer portrayed the revelations as something more serious: a potential smoking gun of Washington/London hypocrisy and deception in their rush to war.  In the official version, it said, Bush granted Blair more time to get a second UN resolution, but the Middle Six failed to come up with an acceptable one and then Chirac killed the negotiations with his categorical refusal to support the war.

"What the new revelations suggest," the Observer said, "is that despite the US agreeing to more time to find a resolution, it secretly used intelligence from spying on those negotiations to kill the last hope of a UN resolution."

I searched the N.Y. Times Web site for the past year for references to "Katharine Gun" and found only one column by Bob Herbert and two letters in response to it.  On the Washington Post site I found nothing.

Despite well-honed cynicism about the U.S. media (I worked with FAIR and local media-watch groups in the 80s and as a journalist in the 90s), I'm still a bit surprised by the lack of coverage.  The story seems pretty juicy from a human interest as well as a political standpoint, with overtones of the Pentagon Papers and Erin Brockovich.  It's not hard to imagine Gwyneth Paltrow or Kate Winslet starring in the docu-drama.

In case you're interested in reading more about it:

The Observer. "British spy op wrecked peace move." London, Feb. 15, 2004.

The Observer. "Spying games on the road to war." London, Feb. 15, 2004.

Associated Press. "Chile Says Its UN Mission was Spied On." Feb. 10, 2004

Associated Press. "Mexico Asks Britain, United States for Answer to Spying Accusations."  Feb. 12, 2004

Regards and thanks for a lively evening at Town Hall,

On Passion:

Name: Susan Williams
Hometown: Delta, CO
Ok, Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" is one man's narrow minded bloody vision that, because he is a famous, rich actor, he gets to put on the big screen.  But it's only a movie.  What gets under my craw is when NBC Dateline puts out their version and calls it "historical" and balanced.  The only sources quoted were the Gospels and the Bible in general.  Since when are they historical texts?  Not in my Unitarian-Universalist book. In my mind they both require suspension of disbelief and are therefore, fiction.  I take more umbrage at NBC than Gibson on that account.

Name: Ira Hozinsky
Hometown: New York NY

Regarding THE PASSION OF CHRIST: real Jews are not Republicans, so the fact that Medved and Horowitz give Gibson a pass means nothing.  It is more amusing to see him defended by the likes of Donohue and Noonan, who are always ready to scream "bigotry" when non-Catholics portray the Church less than glowingly; but who have no problem standing with a guy whose contempt for the contemporary Church is passionate and well-known.

Name: The Baptist Death Ray
Hometown: Troy, NY
I doubt you're interested in opening, re-opening, and/or regurgitating this can of worms, but I have to disagree with Jami Bernard about The Passion of the Christ.  I saw the film Wednesday evening and while Pilate's wife was all kinds of strange, there is no anti-Semitism that I can find in the film.  At the very beginning of the film it's very clear that Jesus' trial is a frame job -- there are members of the Sanhedrin who protest that the witnesses are saying nothing but hearsay and that there isn't even a full body of Priests there to officiate the trial. The protesting priests are shown the door, and the true villians in the movie are the Roman soldiers who torture Jesus.  ROMAN soldiers, not temple guards as Bernard's review maintains.  It is the torture by the ROMAN guards that Pilate reacts in horror to.  The Romans are truly nasty because they don't care who Jesus is, they just enjoy their work.

As to the portrayal of Pilate, it's true he doesn't particularly want to crucify Jesus.  It's also true he doesn't like his job and has no regard for Jerusalem or anyone in it.  He has a monologue where he tells his wife the problem is that if he doesn't kill Jesus, the Sanhedrin will start a rebellion, and if he does, Jesus' followers probably will.  And either way he's screwed, because Caesar told him next time blood is shed it'll be Pilate's head.  Not exactly the conniving malevolent figure some people want, but not exactly Jesus' bestest pal in the whole world either.

It's understandable that people will be touchy about potential anti-Semitism in the movie, and the sad truth is that anti-Semites will probably find something to latch on to as justification of their beliefs. Then again, they also do that by picking up the Bible.  I once read a Usenet post written by an Aryan Nation chap where he claimed that David, King of Israel, was not actually Jewish, and because Jesus was descended from the House of David He was therefore white. These are not people who require that something actually be there in order for them to claim it is.

At any rate, this has nothing to do with your column, but I felt it necessary to defend the movie from Jami Bernard's accusations, which are a mix of innacurate and very unfair. Of course, I am biased... my bias is shown in my handle.

Name: Greg Wall
Hometown: Los Angeles CA
Mr. Alterman,
I have a screening idea for those depressed by this week's hype for what certainly sounds like "The Texas Chainsaw Jesus."

Rent or even buy the beautiful Criterion DVD of Carl Dryer's silent classic "The Passion Of Joan Of Arc."  This film tells a somewhat similair story with an off kilter grace that chills and inspires. For once, the DVD extras are as facinating as the movie itself; and the story of how a fine print of this movie survived against all odds is sort of a modern miricle in itself.

Take a look at it yourself and see...

On Gay Marriage: What Would Osama Do?

Name: rooser04
Hometown: Bay Area, CA

Dig your column.  I thought your Livonian correspondent asked a great question:  Who would the "Wahabbi Islamists" vote for?

The answer's obvious: Bush.  Islamists and the Bush Administration stand for the same things:

  • discrimination based on religion, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation
  • rejection of science that disagrees with their politics/religion
  • coercion of others to their religious views
  • restriction of personal liberties
  • and hostility to social progress...

Sounds like a fundamentalist paradise.  I hope we have the stamina to stop them.

Name: Bob Dodds
Hometown: Bethesda, MD

"I'm voting for the guy they (Whabi Islamisists) are scared of" - I see far more evidence that these people are using Bush than there is that they are afraid of him.  We can start with that planeload of Wahabi Islamisists that Bush allowed to fly around and out of the country on 9/12 when all AMERICANS were grounded.

Annoy the Islamic gay marriage.

On Everything Else:

Name: Paul A. Stark Jr.
Hometown: Canton

Francis Volpe is right that Earl Butz was no stranger to tasteless, racially-based humor, but Pierce has a point that Watt was no piker, either.  I remember watching his pronouncement about how his department had adhered to fair employment standards, and he knew that because he had hired, "a black, a woman, two Jews, and a cripple." 

Name: Jane Owen Murphy
Hometown: Los Angeles
I have a two month old, so my reaction to everything is delayed, but I want to comment on your statement that the "failure" of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Jerry Brown to institutionalize their support cost the progressive movement dearly.

I say their actions have helped keep us in the game.  Rev. Jackson's voter registration efforts? Three cheers.  And as one of Jerry's Kids from '92, let me defend now-Mayor Brown.  No one needs a slap down less than the perennial victim of the SCLM (after all, Mike Royko -- facing a world of cellular phones and DirectTV -- apologized for coining "Governor Moonbeam" years earlier in response to Jerry's early enthusiasm for satellite technology).  If many of Jerry's supporters are still out there fighting (heck, at least *voting*!) does it matter that we don't have a clubhouse or car flags?  Brown advocated change from within -- as the son of a governor, brother of a why-couldn't-she-have-been governor, he's a company man.  He could have been the Nader of '92, which might have resulted in a veritable STRING of Bush Administrations.  EGB, Jr. took his ideas all the way to the convention, then stepped aside for a Clinton presidency.  It was the right move at the time.

I remember working advance for a Brown rally in Washington Square Park (immortalized in the first season of the "Real World"). Thousands cheered as Jerry demanded an affordable college education as a right of citizenry.  Many in the crowd were Stuyvesant High School geniuses playing hooky -- if only the voting age were 15.  There's Jerry's luck for you.

Name: Greg Mitchell
Hometown: New York, N.Y.
I like the new Flatlander CD too, but can't agree about the obvious greatness of their first record (from back when there were records).  I've owned it for about a hundred years and to refresh my memory went back and played it last week and found that it does not hold up well at all.  True, there are four or five great songs, but the rest...a little quaint, though I love the saw doctor.  To quote Butch Hancock,  It's just the wave, it's not the water.

Name: Clay Landon
Hometown: Los Angeles
I hate the Yankees, too, but Red Sox fans such as Mike and Pierce should be concerned and here's some reasons why:

  1. Statistically, the Red Sox had something like eight players having the best years of their careers last season with Ortiz leading the bunch.  If this is an accurate indicator of their true ability, great. If not, the Red Sox will score fewer runs.
  2. It's not just A-Rod that makes the Yankees better offensively, it's A-Rod added to Sheffield.  When you add a player who gets on base 40% of the time, your team will score more runs.  When you add two players like that, your going score a lot more runs. The Yanks might score a thousand runs in 2004.
  3. The Yanks replaced Clemens and Pettite with Brown and Vazquez.  You may not believe this now, Sox fans, but a quick visit to a stats book will show that Brown and Vazquez were both more effective than either Clemens or Pettite and would've had better won/lost records if they had better offenses behind them.  Now that they have the best offense in baseball behind them, well...
  4. The Yankees biggest weakness last season, middle relief, is now perhaps their greatest strength with the additions of Quantrill and Gordon.
  5. Off topic but Eric is exactly right. A-Rod is great but not in the same zip code as Bonds. Nobody is.  When A-Rod has a .500 on-base percentage and slugs .800, then he can be as good Barry.  And let's not forget that Barry plays in one of the toughest hitters parks in all of baseball, particularly for left-handed hitters.  Rodriguez played in a great hitters park.

And Eric, I don't think a salary cap argument starts this season but wait 'till next year when the Yanks add center fielder Carlos Beltran and third baseban Mike Lowell.  Jeter moves to second, the Yanks have an all-star at every position, and other baseball owners, especially in the smaller markets, will call for the implementation of a salary cap or they will refuse to play the Yankees.

Then we can all get our wish and tell the Yankees to go play with themselves.

Hope the book tour is going well and I look forward to seeing you in Los Angeles

Name: Jason
Hometown: New York

You are a complete make me laugh...I have a question..are you born leftwing liberal radical, or is it inherent to your enviorment?

And as an added bonus, this one, which I borrowed:

February 20, 2004
Dr. Gregory Mankiw
Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers
Executive Office of the President
Washington, DC 20502

Dear Dr. Mankiw:

I noticed in the recently released Economic Report of the President that there was some consternation in the defining of manufacturing. It could be inferred from your report that the administration is willing to recognize drink mixing, hamburger garnishing, French/freedom fry cooking, and milk shake mixing to be vital components of our manufacturing sector.

I am sure the 163,000 factory workers who have lost their jobs in Michigan will find it heartening to know that a world of opportunity awaits them in high growth manufacturing careers like spatula operator, napkin restocking, and lunch tray removal. I do have some questions of this new policy and I hope you will help me provide answers for my constituents:

Will federal student loans and Trade Adjustment Assistance grants be applied to tuition costs at Burger College?

Will the administration commit to allowing the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) to fund cutting edge burger research such as new nugget ingredients or keeping the hot and cold sides of burgers separate until consumption?

Will special sauce now be counted as a durable good?

Do you want fries with that?

Finally, at a speech he gave in Michigan this past September, Secretary Evans announced the creation of a new Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing. While I understand that it takes a while to find the right candidate to fill these positions, I am concerned that five months after the announcement no Assistant Secretary has yet been named. I do, however, know of a public official who would be perfect for the job. He has over thirty years of administrative and media experience, has a remarkable record of working with diverse constituencies, and is extraordinarily well qualified to understand this emerging manufacturing sector: the Hon. Mayor McCheese.

With every good wish,
U.S. Rep. John Dingell

Feb. 25, 2004 | 12:03 PM ET

It would take a better man than I am not to enjoy the tsuris over at Little Roy Cohn Central over this Constitutional amendment stuff.  “Schadenfreude” is not our favorite word in the English language for nothing.  But why is it that it takes a direct attack on Andy’s own identity for him to realize that this administration has no concern for anyone but the wealthy business elite, conservative Christians and neocon strategists who make up its political base?  Funny how this arch-defender of the Bush/Ashcroft assault on our civil liberties has become so attached to the U.S. Constitution all of a sudden now that they’re coming after people like him.

I would welcome him into the fold, but I worry that this may all be a trick.  What if Andy turns out to be another of those dirty “fifth-columnists” located in “decadent coastal enclaves” who, unpatriotically, supported the candidate who supported the rights of gay people in the last election?  Scary, huh?

Anyway it’s hard for me to imagine that this amendment will have a hope in Hell of passing.  What it means is that Bush and Rove believe it’s in their interest to ratchet up the culture wars in this election year, the better to smear their opponents as un-Christian, un-American, and as Mr. Paige demonstrated the other day, “pro-terrorist.”  If they want a fight, well, let’s give them a fight.  What choice do we have?  These people fight dirty and they cannot be allowed to have the field to themselves.  But let’s be smart about it. 

Most Americans appear ready to embrace legal gay unions short of marriage and to leave it up to the states to decide how to implement that decision, which, last I checked, was Dick Cheney’s position too.  (Note again to right-wingers: Why are you only reasonable when it affects you personally?  Does anyone think a Cro-magnon Conservative would embrace this position if his daughter didn’t happen to be gay?)  In any case, moving beyond that will take time, patience, education, and a willingness to consolidate the movement’s many gains before going beyond them; a new president wouldn’t hurt, neither.

“Passion” is No Ordinary Film.  Speaking of hypocrites, we’ve now got something of a critical consensus that Mel Gibson’s “Passion” is a violently anti-Semitic film.  Here, for instance are a few snippets from a review by Jami Bernard in The New York Daily News

"Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ' is the most virulently anti-Semitic movie made since the German propaganda films of World War II.
Jews are vilified, in ways both little and big, pretty much nonstop for two hours, seven minutes.
Gibson cuts from the hook nose of one bad Jewish character to the hook nose of another in the ensuing scene.
He misappropriates an important line from the Jewish celebration of Pesach ("Why is this night different from all other nights?") and slaps it onto a Christian context.
Most unforgivable is that Pontius Pilate (Hristo Naumov Shopov), the Roman governor of Palestine who decreed that Jesus be crucified, is portrayed as a sensitive, kind-hearted soul who is sickened by the tortures the Jewish mobs heap upon his prisoner.
Pilate agrees to the Crucifixion only against his better judgment.
The most offensive line of the script, which was co-written by Gibson with Benedict Fitzgerald, about Jews accepting blame, was not cut from the movie, as initially reported. Only its subtitle was removed.”

Hello, where are the Neocons?  Norman?  Bill?  Bill?  Andy?  Irving?  David Horowitz, true to form, actually endorsed this thing.  Laura Ingraham, employing time-tested anti-Semtic code words, attributed criticism to “Hollywood anti-Christian elties.”  George Soros says something about Israel that’s true and he’s Satan’s plaything.  But apparently Gibson gets a pass on the grounds that he’s proven his bona fides as a right wing nut.  Really, you would think there would be some kind of limit on this thing, but you’d be wrong.  After all, these are the same people who embraced Falwell and Robertson, who explained that 9/11 took place because God doesn’t  like homos.

Our Terrorists, Continued: The Forward is not available online to non-subscribers anymore, which is too bad, because they’ve got a big scoop about the Bush administration hiring a private security company staffed with the former henchmen of  South Africa’s apartheid regime handling security in Iraq.   One’s outrage meter cannot keep up with this bunch.

Goodness gracious, look at all this money.  Will the media do this story justice in the coming election?  Just asking that question hurts my tummy. 

And look at this, “Despite a reelection war chest of $105 million, the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign is sounding the alarm, calling on loyal contributors to dig deep for $12 million more to help get 'President Bush's compassionate conservative message past the Liberal media filter,' it says in a mailing this month."  This story is about an appeal that got sent to Joe Wilson, but the real issue is the manipulation of the false SCLM charge, to raise money from suckers who could have saved themselves a lot of money if only they had clicked here.

Amazon review of the day
If you liked Howard Dean..., February 23, 2004
Reviewer: A reader from San Francisco, CA
If you liked Howard Dean, do not buy this book. You already know that Bush is a "say one thing, do another thing" lier.  As such, the book will simply repeat what you already know.
What you may not know is that Eric Alterman helped is also a "say one thing, do another thing" lier.  While Eric regularly excoriates other journalists for their lazy bias, he engages in the same practices when it suits his purpose.  Indeed, Alterman helped sink Howard Dean by repeating -- over, and over, and over -- right wing attacks on the good Doctor.

There’s a new Flatlanders CD called "Wheels of Fortune."  Mojo called these guys “a country Beatles” which is not a bad metaphor, though of course vastly overstated.  Anyway, it’s a lot better than the second one but nowhere near as good as that first incredible one.  Chip O’Brien says a better comparison would be a a country Traveling Wilburys.  I’ll buy that.  And I’d buy this, as long as I had the first one already. 

I also like this Randal Bramblett fellow, another countrified singer-songwriter who has a small Beatles-thing going too.  His second album is called “Thin Places,” and both CDs are just out from New West records, a great little label you can read about here.  (And check out the DBTs if you haven’t already.)

In addition, I had the good fortune to time my book tour well enough to catch Del McCoury at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.  Are you in a bad mood?  Put on Del and the mispacha.  It’ll make you feel better whether they let you get married or not.

Correspondents’ Corner:
Name: Nate
Hometown: Portland
That link you posted to Pat Buchanan's article got me realizing how many times in the last several years I've found myself agreeing with him.  The first time I agreed with Mr. Buchanan, I thought I was going crazy.  Now I'm so used to it that I usually don't even notice anymore.  That man seems as opposed to Bush foreign policy as any liberal, and his reasons make a lot of sense.  While Bush's claims as a uniter are false in most cirumstances, it's strange to see myself constantly uniting with Pat Buchanan in my disdain for crazy-ass right-wing foreign policy.

Name: Billy Ralph Bierbaum
Hometown: New Braunfels, Texas
In Friday's WSJ, Dorothy Rabinowitz rightly castigates a British documentary that implicates Lyndon Johnson in the assassination of President Kennedy.  In her essay, Ms. Rabinowitz poses the question: "If even this primitive piece of conspiracy-mongering could win a respectful airing on the History Channel -- on the ground, no less, that it's a subject worthy of public debate -- then what dregs of crackpot theory would the network consider beyond the pale?"

I would ask Ms Rabinowitz the same question, seeing as how her late colleague, Mr. Bartley, with the complicity of Ms. Rabinowitz, compiled the slanderous "Whitewater," an open sewer of crackpot theory.  The book, which single-handedly erased the last vestiges of credibility from the WSJ editorial pages, stands as a monument to the 1990s Republican obsession with Clinton, an obsession that often crossed the line into psychosis.

It's a book full of fairy tales and fabrications, smears, shoddy reporting, unfounded rumors and unabashed propaganda, all packaged and peddled by what used to be one of the finest newspapers in America.  So, Ms. Rabinowitz, what, indeed, would you consider beyond the pale?

Name: Gabriel Murray
Hometown: Edinburgh, UK

Hey Eric,
I wanted to let you know about something that's going on, which as far as I can tell has only been picked up by the Observer (UK):

The Pentagon Office of Net Assessment commissions a study of global warming, the results of which characterize it as a threat graver than terrorism, and there is at this point no response from the science-resenting White House.  We have seen scientists begin to organize in large numbers in protest at the White House's politicization of science for its own purposes, and hopefully word of this Pentagon document will begin to spread among this community.

Name: Francis Volpe
Hometown: Carlisle
I always enjoy Charles Pierce's postings here, but please let him know that it wasn't James Watt who made the tasteless joke about black people.  That was Earl Butz, former Secretary of Agriculture.  I believe it was about things that were, respectively, loose, tight and warm, only one of which I feel comfortable repeating here ("loose shoes").

Name: Mike
Hometown: Somerville, MA

As a Red Sox fan I do not share the same level of horror that many here do over the A-Rod deal.  Don't get me wrong, the guy's great.  I personally disagree with you about Barry Bonds being a better player.  When A-Rod first came into the league there were consistent debates over who was a better shortstop-Nomar, Jeter, or A-Rod.

You do not hear those debates any longer because everyone knows the answer.  That's a much harder position to be the best at than Bond's, in my opinion.

However, I am not afraid.  How many games did the Yankees win last year? 101?  Does anyone honestly expect them to win 120 or something ridiculous?  How will they compensate for the 58 wins they lost when Clemens, Pettit, and Wells left town?

I will not lower myself to Steinbrenner's level and get pissed about his statement about how the Red Sox owners aren't willing to spend money for their fans.  He's simply wrong.  The fact is, Texas was not prepared to do that deal clean with the Sox-we would have lost Manny, Nomar, and had to kick in at least 3.5 million.  Baseball teams have to think about the future of their clubs and implement some level of protectionism. 

Today Safire explains that, "Pessimistic America is pandered by politicians demanding tax walls and costly entitlements, preaching resentment, envy, anger, class war."  Sounds good to me-I'm twenty and I'm excited when I hear people direct the rancor Safire describes toward those that deserve it.

Screw the Yankees and Bush.

Name: Steve Woodward
Hometown: Livonia, MI

"Yes, comrade Trillin is right."

Ephasize on the comrade title, and that one quote spells out everything anyone needed to know about your views, Mr. Alterman.

As for what the American people should care about as the #1 issue for the election is : who would the people who hate us and would kill all of us if they could (wahabbi islamists) vote for given the choice:  Kerry/Edwards or Bush?

I'm voting for the guy they are scared of - let them live in fear for a while longer.

Name: Paul Goode
Hometown: Redmond, WA

Hey, Eric! Like you, I think of ABB as shorthand for the Allman Brothers Band. Now I find that it stands for Anyone But Bush as well.

What do the Brothers think about this? Do they feel co-opted or honored?  Anyway, there are bound to be some great t-shirt and bumper sticker possibilities:

ABB: Ain't Wastin' Time No More
ABB: Trouble No More
ABB: Pack Up Your Gear

You get the drift.

Eric replies: “ABB: One Way Out….”

Feb. 24, 2004 | 1:46 PM ET

They're back.  “Despite gains made against al-Qaida, FBI Director Robert Mueller believes the organization remains the primary terrorist threat against U.S. interests at home and abroad.”

Good thing we attacked Iraq in that case, huh?  The other primary terrorist threat?  The NEA  Next up for “terrorist” status? Gay married people.

Chalabi says, “Yeah we lied, so sue us.”  Well, his actual words were, “As far as we're concerned we've been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important."  Oh and by the way, keep those checks coming.

Thanks to our buddy Merrill Brown for pointing out the oddity of Dick Meyer, the Editorial Director of publishing a piece entitled “ Run, Ralph, Run.”  Note that its sentiments are almost perfectly echoed in this Wall Street Journal editorial.  (Note: Following Pierce, below, we devote all of the correspondence section to the more civil contributions I received regarding the Nader/Dean question.  And we note for the record that “Deaniacs” like Eric Shmeltzer refer to themselves as “Deaniacs” as in “Deaniacs for Edwards,” so get off our case about that, at least.)

Odds and Ends:

Bill Brandt profile here.

Smile, revealed, sort of here.

Bob Dylan’s "Unshakeable Monotheism, Part III," here.

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Eric --
Because every day, even not-so-Super-Tuesday, is Slacker Friday, Part The XXIX:
All right, in my time I have seen James Watt forced to resign a cabinet post because he made a tawdry joke about black people.  I have seen Joycelyn Elders forced to resign because she talked sense about wanking.  I have seen a number of people kept out of Cabinet-level positions because their nannies and gardeners worked off the books.

Yesterday, Rod Paige was reported to have called the National Education Association a "terrorist organization" at a meeting of the nation's governors, and several governors confirmed that he had.  I have one question:  Why isn't this enough?

Seriously, the congressional Democrats -- right now, today -- should begin a national campaign to force Paige's resignation.  Not only is the guy a theocratic cluck, but he got his job by cooking the books in Houston, and now he's called every public school teacher in the country just about the worst name you can call anybody these days.

Tom? John? Other John?


Why isn't this enough?

On Naderites and Deaniacs:

Name: Valerie Ellis
Hometown: Mobile, AL

Is that clear enough for you or must he run naked through the town square with a megaphone?

[I think she means this -ed.]

Name: Bill Dunlap
Hometown: Lake Oswego, Oregon

Hey, Eric: Can someone explain what Nader was talking about Monday when he suggested his supporters use the Internet to swap votes in states that are likely to go Bush or Dem?  That made some sense in 2000 when he said he was running to help establish the Green Party. On his own, as an independent, he's making a fool out of himself with that line.

And for what it's worth, my old man had a '63 (I think) Corvair Spyder convertible and it was one of the best little cars I ever drove.  I believe it was the first American car with a turbocharger and it handled like a dream.  I was young a foolish, and I remember one time hitting a perfect powershift into second and laying so much rubber with both rear tires (positraction) that I went around the block, got out and paced off the strips. 10 to 12 feet.

Name: Joe Santos
Hometown: Windsor, CT

Can't say I've taken a survey on this or anything, but as a former Dean supporter who's spent time talking to other former Dean supporters, I think the self-destructive possible-Nader-backers are a tiny (and whiny) minority.  Remember, the initial impetus for Dean's candidacy was that it gave so many of us a vehicle for our outrage at Bush.  I can't see too many folks from that camp knowingly sabotaging the chances of the Dem front-runner by backing the ludicrous jackass Nader in his ego-stroking mission.

Name: Paul Seifert, M.D.
Hometown: Petoskey, MI
Dear Mr. Alterman,
I share your well articulated views about Ralph Nader.  I wonder if someone with your connections could persuade John Kerry to allow Nader his time in the limelight (which Gore refused to do) while brokering a backroom deal to get Nader at the 11th hour to swing his support to the only candidate who can realististically stop George Bush?  The future of American may be in your hands!  LOL!

Name: Rick D
Hometown: Taiwan

I became a Dean contributor way back in 2002, and supported him through Wisconsin.  I can't speak for other supporters, but first of all, I hate the term "Deaniac."  I think the people who most deserve that epithet probably had a very large role in his eventual downfall. 

Secondly, I'm ABB all the way--although I admit I don't like Kerry very much these days and have begun financially supporting Edwards--and whoever's left standing by convention time gets every effort I would have made to put Dean in office.  I'd bet that most (upper 80th percentile) of whatever you call Dean supporters feel close to the same way, at least as far as showing up to vote for the Dems in the general; I won't speculate on contributions of any sort.

Lastly, I think Dean himself has been very clear about this:  spoilers=bad news.  He hasn't come out and denounced Nader either this year or 4 years ago, to my knowledge (although he couldn't have appreciated that giant 'Nader' sign hovering over his back during his candidacy announcement from Burlington last year), but the implication seems pretty unmistakable. 

So anyway, a "Deaniac" (if you just insist) here who is 1) ABB, and 2) if there's an acronym for "No Nader, No How" or something to that effect (NNNH doesn't seem, at first blush, all that snappy), then that's me. 

Name: Mara
Hometown: Lansing
Hi Eric,
I've been reading your blog for a while, and have come to really appreciate your view.  That being said, I have to say that I really disagree with (and don't quite understand) your opinion of Dean and his supporters.  I know you got some nasty e-mails from "Deaniacs," but most of us are not like that.  And, most Dean supporters I know will not support Nader; Dean himself has said several times that the Dem nominee should be supported by all of us. 

I volunteered regularly for the Dean campaign out in Michigan (my first time ever being involved in a political campaign), and the vast majority of the supporters out here had the main goal of beating Bush.  They just felt that Dean was our best shot to do it since he had a proven record on fiscal responsibility and healthcare and did not vote for Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, Iraq War, ect.  Don't get me wrong, there' are a lot of bitter and disappointed Dean supporters who feel that Dean was treated unfairly from both sides of the political spectrum and the SCLM and feel that Kerry took Dean's message once he saw it was popular.  But, we'll lick our wounds and be back and fighting in the general election for whomever the Dem candidate is.  I may not like him as much as I like Dean, but he'll be a hell of a lot better than Bush.
Keep up the good work,

Name: Linda Brooks
Hometown: Newport News VA
Hey Eric, you guys don't get it do you?
You make up things about Dean and now about people on a blog?  Must be a slow day for news.

People who write on a blog do not give their identity.  They are nameless.  Some are for Dean and some are "trolls."  So why would you go to a blog and use it as a source?  Are you getting your marching orders from Novak?  I really had more faith in you and respected you, what happened?

As a faithful Dean supporter, I am so because he has a message.  A message that Kerry and Edwards use in all their speeches now because they have none of their own.

Dean has character, morals and as my son in college says, "balls."

The media and you are all over the place wondering where we will put our support.  While I will vote Democratic this year to get that slime ball out of our White House, I will continue to support Howard Dean in whatever direction he pursues, and help him financially if needed.

Our support is not transferable.

Name: Klay
Hometown: Chicago

I was completely disgusted after reading Todd Gitilin's article on the decision of Ralph Nader to enter the race for President.

Shame on anyone, especially the "liberal intelligentsia" (Nader's wonderfully candid words) who discourages *anybody* from rocking the boring, stupid, rich-man's duopolist boat.  The arrogance and hypocrisy of "Democrats" who lament Nader's run for presidency as a "spoiler" is palpable.  Clearly, they do not understand, let alone believe in, the meaning of the word "democracy."

Name: Bill Bieritz
Hometown: Appleton
I'm sorry you feel that way about Nader, but many of us don't.  Without him in the race there is nobady to represent me acuratly and I would stay home on election day.  If you're going to vote for the two headed beast then I don't want to here you complain latter.  I want change so I will vote for it.

Feb. 23, 2004 | 12:21 PM ET

I don’t have to write about Nader because my buddy Todd Gitlin did the honors in Salon.  Our man Boehlert is also on the case, making Salon anti-Nader central.

Ok, I’ll say this: I’ve not made up my mind whether to be upset about this yet.  On the one hand, it vindicates everything I’ve been saying about the man; he’s clearly living in his own egomaniacal dream world, continuing on the path to destroy what remains of his lifetime of accomplishment as well as the reputation those accomplishments created.  This race does not even enjoy that phony patina of party-building he claimed last time, since he has split with the Greens, whoever they may be. 

All of this militates against people making the same mistake they made four years ago, so perhaps I can get excited about something else….  Except for those Deaniacs.  The media are filled with quotes from Dean bloggers saying some variation of, “How wonderful.  A candidate who makes me feel morally superior to everyone else but who will actually accomplish nothing but the destruction of the very things about which to care.”  How many are like this?  That’s what I don’t know. 

I also don’t know if these people would have bothered to vote anyway.  Perhaps it’s up to Dean himself to rescue these folks from their own narcissism and make good on his promise to build a movement that will force the Democrats to remain loyal to their “Democratic” wing.  I dunno about that either.

Speaking of “Sex…”  And they both wind up on the expensive Four Seasons carpet, laughing hysterically.”   Actually, it was the Plaza Athenee, ma’am. 

Yes, “Sex” got a lot better this year, after totally sucking for two years in a row.  But if “It’s not TV, it’s HBO,” did everybody in the show really have to live happily ever after?  I mean, this is New York.  How about a freak accident or something?  And “Big.”  Yeah right, rich, good-looking, stylish, clever men are always seated outside in the town car ready to save the day. 

The funniest thing about the commentary on this show are all the people who go around saying “it’s so real, it’s so real, that’s my life.”  Again, yeah, right.  This fantasy New York is about as real as “Friends.”  These were gay men in women's bodies dressed by sadists.  Still, I like Charlotte, I’m sure her JewishWaspChinese baby will turn out just fine.

Who else besides the great Tom Edsall will focus people’s attention on the most important political dynamic of our day? Money  Never forget this, though most of the media will continue to ignore it: “With $104.4 million and no primary opposition, it is the richest presidential campaign in American history.”

Congrats to Noam Chomsky on this maiden Times op-ed (according to Today’s Papers).  Don’t blow the $150 all in one place.

Yes, comrade Trillin is right.  Bush does manage to make Dan Quayle look good.

Quote of the Day, BOB DOLE:  "He hasn't been in Halliburton for years. . . . I don't think most Americans buy that, despite the liberal media's efforts, like MSNBC, to push it every day," the former Republican senator said (apparently with straight face).

Neocons vs. Paleocons:  The anti-Empire strikes back, here.  (Thanks to a feller named Pierce.)

There can’t be too much discussion of Reinhold Niebuhr, can there?  The new season of Library of America publications is a rewarding one on many levels. There’s an opportunity for new discoveries, at least for me, of James Weldon Johnson's writings, here, and Washington Irving’s “Three Western Narratives" here.  We’ve got another new translation of Alexis de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America" by Arthur Goldhammer here, and they’ve got it down to the perfect size.

For me, the highlight is the complete James T. Farrell's Studs Lonigan trilogy, here.  It was one of my favorite books back in college, and I’m eager to return to it.  Just one question, again.  Pete Hamill “edited” it.  What did he do and can I (again) have that job?  Ann Douglas, Pete Hamill, Norman Mailer, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Kevin McCarthy will discuss the book at The New York Public Library on Wednesday evening.  Call 212-930-0571 for information.

Mark Green and I will discuss The Book on Bush at the Upper West Side Barnes & Noble, 82 and Broadway, on Friday evening at 7:30.  It’s weird how the book is nowhere on these Internet rankings but #20, according to the Times Best-seller list in real life.  It shows authors really should quit checking their Amazon #s every hour.  They are actually meaningless.
And just so you don’t think I’m so high-minded, what with all my Library of America readings, here’s a book I’ll put in the “Library of Eric’s America” once someone decides to fund one.  It’s called "Tijuana Bibles" and don’t click here if you don’t have a sense of humor.

Stop the presses:  “John Cleese has been telling people there will be a Broadway version of "The Holy Grail."

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Susan McNerney
Hometown: Fremont, CA

Stupid's suggestion to remove the constitutional requirement of citizenship by birth is horrifying.  This, I believe, is one of the most important elements of our democracy -or any democracy, for that matter.  Countries like some in Europe, the Israelis, the Kuwaitis, and others who do not have automatic citizenship by birth within their borders use citizenship as an arbitrary weapon against minorities.  Who is really German?  Who is really Kuwati?  The government gets to decide based on arbitrary factors...which, conveniently, will favor whatever the currently dominant racial group already is.  Just check out the ratio of citizens to residents in Kuwait: 900,000 citizens, 1.5 million non-citizen residents.

Or check this link out.  I n Estonia, a whole stateless class has been created by arbitrary citizenship rules.

The accident of birth is a very convenient and democratic leveller, and we should continue to take full advantage of it.  It is one of America's greatest strengths. 

By the way, I dispute Stupid's genuinely stupid assertion that these second generation immigrants "cost money."  My ass.  Show me a study that takes into consideration sales taxes, income taxes, et al and comes to that conclusion.  Who are these "third generation illegal immigrants?"  Any hispanic person whose grandmother came illegally?  Is he actually arguing that hispanic people in general are more "expensive" than good old-fashioned white people?

People like that make me worry like hell about the future of this country.

Name: Tim
Hometown: Evanston, IL

Dear Eric,
Is it really necessary for you to keep giving "Stupid" a platform for views that have no basis in reality?

Stupid doesn't know his economic history.  Immigration historically has been a great boon to the U.S. economy, by expanding our labor supply (immigrants to the U.S. are overwhelmingly working-age people) and transferring human capital to the U.S. from abroad.

While immigrants are more likely not to have a high school diploma, they are also just as likely to have a bachelor's degree as the native population.

And, yes, the immigrant poverty rate is twice that of natives, and the immigrant unemployment rate is 33% higher than natives, but the reason for this is, of course, that immigrants are heavily concentrated in low-wage jobs with very high turnover rates; many also work off the books.

The answer to these problems is not to stem the tides of immigration, or to deny the rights and duties of citizenship to people born here, but to raise the minimum wage, let workers join unions, and run the economy at full employment.

But I guess the fact that he does English language tutoring makes it all OK.  Does he also purchase the freedom of sex slaves in Southeast Asia?

Is stupid Nick Kristof?

Name: Doc Krinberg, USN retired
Hometown: Quakertown, PA

Don't put the kibosh on this Eric...I am a naval veteran, VFW member and have seen a few vets write to you.  From the very 'right' sergeant who stuck a pin in bleeding hearts to a few guys who like me who were donkeys hidden in a sea of elephants.  I think I ranted about that very neo-con brainwashed knucklehead who spouts the same tired crap I heard my whole naval career...believe me, that guy never entered a voting booth.  The great percentage don't.  But my point, before you so quickly extinguish me and send me an e-mail apologizing, is this: Not every man/woman serving in the military loves Bush.  If so, why didn't a guy like Dole and his hard luck story from WW2 capture the votes of all servicemen and women against a pot puffing dodger with a wild pecker?? 

Kerry has so much more operational demeanor when he is stumping and moving; and if you have never been an 'operator' in your field you are at a a loss.  He walks the walk and Bush, it seems, has always had the gift of talking the talk bigtime.  Kerry has stones and it shows.  He was a riverine naval boat operator and that job is a hairy job.  Flying the friendly skies of Texas is not as hairy as one thinks.  And don't kid yourself that the B.S. sessions on late watches or in the barracks/berthing compartments don't weigh/contrast the two of them together and find Bush wanting.

The servicemen who really work at dangerous jobs and see a poseur and a operator, they know.  And Bush knows deep down his stones are hollow.  It shows now.  It showed on Russert.  Only the chicken hawks buy that line of crap...and guys like DeLay who fought cockroaches and democratic pols.  If you're an operator in your racket, journalism, you know what I mean about the real deal and the B.S.

Name: John D. Powers
Hometown: Alpharetta, GA

Dear Eric,
In 1980 I joined the Georgia Army National Guard.  In 1982 I transferred to the reserves when I joined Army ROTC in college.  While I was in limited contact with my unit (weekends), the 348th Cavalry, Troop E(-), I met many people, all of whom I still hold in high regard.  I can even name some of them.  Sgt. Hightower, formerly of the 1st Cavalry in Vietnam, Sgt. Driver, Sgt. William Slaughter (I kid you not), Pvt. Christian Jones, Spec. Marty Helms, Spec. Everett Thrall (an Atlanta Policeman in his real life), Capt. MacMillan (who swore me in and was known around the unit as "Captain Mac" until he was rotated to an RA unit).

I'm sorry, but if the President of the United States served with other members of the Guard, he'd be able to name one.  Maybe even two.  Even if only by first or last name and even if he missed a letter or was off by a rank or two.  Perhaps you have something lying around by Ann Coulter you could use to wrap this fishy-smelling story.

Name: Ron Bell
Hometown: Austin, Tx
I am disappointed that you would publish an e-mail such as Gina's which came to no real point about George Bush but served only to sling mean & meaningless insults at Rebecca. I don't agree that it was a 'good' e-mail.  Please show a little more responsibility.  Thank you.  ;)

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