March 25, 2005 | 11:17 AM ET | Permalink

New Nation column:  In Re Rather: The Target Is Journalism, here.

And a new “Think Again” column on Kevin Martin, “Meet the New Boss,” here.

Want to read the world's bitchiest article about Susan Sontag?  I can’t stop you.

Want to read my old friend John Gibson calling for Bush to turn out Nazi-style storm troopers, here?

The Daily Show video here.

In the meantime, we note Peggy, who last week insisted "just about no one" was on Michael Schiavo's side, now lunges for the Auschwitz analogy.  Peggy delivers more here.

Best line: "Those who are half in love with death [A majority of the American people who believe the federal government should not be interfering here!] will only become more red-fanged and ravenous."

Runner up: "Once you "know" that--that human life is not so special after all--then everything is possible, and none of it is good. When a society comes to believe that human life is not inherently worth living, it is a slippery slope to the gas chamber. You wind up on a low road that twists past Columbine and leads toward Auschwitz. Today that road runs through Pinellas Park, Fla."

Third place: "On Tuesday James Carville's face was swept with a sneer so convulsive you could see his gums as he damned the Republicans trying to help Mrs. Schiavo. It would have seemed demonic if he weren't a buffoon."

(Come back Charles, she’s your beat.)

Israelis and Jews in general are rightly quick to condemn Palestinians when they tolerate anti-Semitic hate speech.  But now, when Abu Mazen is being credited by the Israeli government with seriously cracking down on hate rhetoric, the Knesset is voting to establish a day to celebrate the legacy of an Israeli general who advocated the ethnic cleansing (dubbed "transfer") of all Palestinians and routinely referred to them as "lice."  MJ Rosenberg explains in today's IPF Friday.

On to Slacker Friday

Name: Stupid   
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid for Charles Krauthammer to be an Iraq War pessimist.  Check it out:

This cannot go on.  Baghdad, minibus runs into a line of people, 29 dead.  105 people waiting to apply for government jobs in Hilla, killed by an exploding car.  Massacre at Aziyah, four women and three children dead. Hundreds more injured.  Daily gunfire, drive by shootings, mortar attacks.  

This cannot go on.  No country can sustain what Iraq is sustaining: one massacre of Columbine proportions after another. 

The diplomats prattle about how there is no military solution to this conflict. Tell that to the Baathists and followers of Al  Zaqawi. They began this war two years ago after rejecting the Alliance's offer of full participation in a democratic Iraq, with Baghdad as a shared capital.  Why?  Because with this terror campaign they intend to bring a bleeding, demoralized Iraq to its knees, ready to surrender.
...
President Bush is flailing about for a strategy.  First he did nothing, hoping that world sympathy would bring outside pressure on the terrorists to stop.
...
And finally, he has ordered the deliberate targeting of those directing the terror campaign. But counterterrorism cannot stop the war. The war comes from the top.

Powerful stuff, except this isn't Krauthammer on Iraq 2005, it's Krauthammer on Israel 2001.  I substituted terror incidents from the last couple of months and changed some names.  Back in 2001 Krauthammer was supporting Ariel Sharon's hardline military tactics against the Palestinians.  Today neocons seem satisfied with an Iraq that would "live with" terrorism at levels above Israel/civil-war-Lebanon/etc.  There was good news this week that Sunni leaders are opening up to participation in the government, but understandably want a confederacy.  Back then Krauthammer wrote: "[U]ntil (the enemy combatant) wants peace, a lightning campaign to disarm the enemy and enforce separation is the only way."  Well, we lost the "lightning campaign" opportunity two years ago, but confederacy is still an option.  A short-term exit strategy ignores this and saves favor with Sistani, a long-term stability strategy embraces it.

Where is Chuckles when we need him?

Name: Tom
Hometown: Providence Rhode Island

Eric,
As a member of the elite,  all white,   cosmopolitan drinking,  nanny-child-rearing,  smug and superior elite that runs the media of this country,  I want to congradulate your side on the most recent blue state  victory.

Terry, it looks,  is going to die.

Not since Elian Gonzalez has the white liberals from Georgetown to Seattle had something to cheer about.  For while they claimed back then that they were all about a father's rights,  we all know that it was fondness for Castro (Witnessed in Hollywood's continuing suck-up to Fidel...)  that really spurred you guys on.   You dig Castro, just as you got aroused by the prospects of Daniel Ortega.    The most recent fetish for the white liberals of the upper middle class is Hugo Chavez. 

Tina Brown's dress matters much more than whether Terry Schiavo is suffering as she is starved to death.   Who was seen with Uma Thurman is much more important than where your nannies go to when they hop on the subway at the end of the day while raising your white children.   Gentrification has not reached far enough into the nabes where they live for you to visit.  Besides, the wife has yoga classes to attend.

Question:  What do you think of the following poll question and what kind of results might it bring were it posed by ABC?

Poll Q:   If there were any doubt that Terry Schiavo might be suffering great pain from starvation and dehydration,  would you still support that course of action?

The fact is,  nobody,  not even  rich white liberals who are the most wonderful, compassionate and important people to ever walk the earth,  know what is going on inside of Terry's consciousness.  

We are told by those who wish her death that there is no one there.   That she is essentially dead already.   But they then rush to inform us that while she is starving to death,  she will be feeling euphoric.  

Who exactly is going to be feeling euphoric?    Terry is.  But she's gone...

Around it goes.  So while we cannot know for sure,  we sure effing cannot know for sure.   So common sense,  (and compassion)  deems us to err on the side that she might be feeling SOMETHING. 

But not white upper class liberals.   It is AWAYS all about them.   Not only must they have this bitter victory after losing the election badly,  they must also CONGRADULATE THEMSELVES for thier superior point of view.  

The fundamental rule, the first commandment if you will  about upper class white liberals is that they need to be congradulated constantly.   The wonders of them is above and beyond all else.

So raise a merlot to the death of Terry Schiavo.  A blue state victory at last.  Polls from ABC -bastion of white rich liberals-  show that everyone supports her death.  

(I defy them to poll my question above.) 

Things are looking up for you guys.   Howard Dean is going to red states.   Terry Schiavo is gonna die within days.   Who knows,  Mumia may get a retrial.   Fidel will probably live another twenty years and Oliver Stone will do a sequel about him.    The whole Beirut thing might blow over and hopefully Lebanon will return to sectarian violence and Islamist terror.   Nobody noticed Theo Van Gogh's murder in the film industry, thank God in her wisdom and no mention of honor killings by NOW.   The "minutemen" in Iraq have taken a beating in the last few days,  but the white upper class liberals are hoping that they come back soon and kill some more American troops, so that then some upper class white liberal journalist can write a story about how concerned and moved they are by some red state kid's death.   

Raise a merlot to Terry's death.  It is a start of the turn around.   Finally, people are beginning to see the light of the glory of upper class white liberalism,  the most important, wonderful and compassionate people ever to grace the human race.  

Again,  well done.    Terry is going to die.   A moment to savor and perhaps you guys can show video clips of this time at the next DNC.    A glorious victory indeed.

Name: Chas
Hometown: Phx, AZ

I enjoyed West Wing last night, esp the scene with Sheen and Alda in the kitchen eating ice cream and talking religion, kind of a passing-of-the-torch I do believe... though I agree with you that Alda's character would come in 10th out of a 9 candidate-primary in the real world - but that is the beauty of the West Wing: it is an escape from this often-pungent political scene we experience on a daily basis - I mean how much more likely is it that a character like Sheen's - a well-read, introspective, well-rounded, principled, person ever been elected to the highest office in the 1st place?

Name: Ray Lodato
Hometown: Chicago, IL

Eric,
Finally--someone willing to take on Imus.  I have never been able to understand how Imus came to be a go-to stop for every politician and pundit looking for an audience.  You remember as well as I do that Imus got his start by screeching "Are ya naked?" at young women who called in to his program in the early '70s.  (This was before the first detox and exile to Cleveland).  How he transformed himself into a "serious" host is beyond me.

Whenever someone asks me "Did you hear so-and-so on Imus?", I always remind them that I don't listen to uneducated, ranting alcoholics for whom effective discourse is calling someone a weasel.  God help us all.

March 24, 2005 | 1:05 PM ET | Permalink

Do as we say…
The right wants special treatment

That the Republican Party is tearing itself to shreds over its internal contradictions is no secret.  In fact, it’s rather fun to watch those who are at least willing to acknowledge it twist and turn in its foul winds.  Is the party that exploded the deficit the party of fiscal responsibility?  Is the party that overturns doctors' orders and tramples on state constitutions the party of limited government?  (Watching Malkin flail over the Schiavo polls isn't pretty.)  Is the party that cries “racism” for those who vote their honest disapproval of an Hispanic attorney general who defends torture or an African-American Secretary of state who displays an uninterrupted record of clueless incompetence leavened with dishonesty?  Is the party that complains of special treatment for “victims” the same one that demands it for true believers?  The right-wing demand for all forms of affirmative action is one that has received insufficient attention in light of all the above.  Where, to quote the guy who wrote the lyrics to “Love Story,” do I begin?

The Cry for Conservative Affirmative Action I
Did everybody read Todd Gitlin’s piece here?  Did I mention it was about The New York Times and appeared in The American Prospect?  (Yeah, I thought so.)

The Cry for Conservative Affirmative Action II
Last week, the Minneapolis Star Tribune advertised the following position:

In the interest of adding more voices and perspectives to the paper, we are seeking candidates for a new Metro columnist position.  As with all columnists, the emphasis would be on deeply reported columns, story telling off the news, pieces that can best be told with a columnist's leeway.  This columnist would have the added goal of bringing a conservative perspective to the paper in story topics, circles traveled and views explored.  Like the other Metro columnists, this person will write 3 columns a week and special projects from time to time.

The Cry for Conservative Affirmative Action III, Academia, here too.

The Cry for Conservative Affirmative Action IV, at Simon & Schuster

Here’s my question:  Why can’t conservatives succeed on their own merits?  Why do they need ‘special help’?  Why can’t they write books, columns, and newspaper articles good enough to get them jobs without all this whining and special treatment?  Is it because evil liberals control the media and won’t give them a fair hearing?  Well take a look at this comparison. The article notes that S&S is lusting after books like those published by “Regnery Publishing, based in Washington, D.C., [which] has released a wave of best sellers, including the influential "Unfit for Command," which accused Democratic presidential contender John Kerry of lying about his war record,” while it also published “two leading anti-Bush books, Ron Suskind's "The Price of Loyalty" and Richard Clarke's "Against All Enemies.”  Note the comparison.  “Unfit” was fundamentally unsupported and false.  It was celebrated in the media; Bob Novak plugged it without mentioning that his own son was running its PR campaign.  While the Clarke and Suskind book were based on accounts by people who had actually worked for George W. Bush and nothing in either one of them was successfully challenged on the facts.  Looks to me like what right-wingers want is a license to lie, and the MSM is more than happy to give it them.

The results of Conservative Affirmative Action, I
In What Liberal Media , I floated the notion that the liberals at the Boston Globe hired Jeff Jacoby not merely as yet another example of conservative affirmative action, but as a means of undermining the conservative cause.  This combination of laziness and incompetence could not be, as the Marxists used to say, entirely coincidental.  (The hiring of Cathy Young lends credence to this theory, but perhaps we should not go there.)  I don’t read Jacoby much, but this crossed my computer and it’s certainly consistent with the above.

The new Center for American Progress health plan is here and you can bet a great deal more expertise went into it than into Jacoby’s column.  (It reminds me, however, of a snarky Nation profile of the Center upon its opening, which was critical because it did not yet have a plan to offer all Americans health care.  Well, these things take time.  Here it is.)

How many dead Iraqis?  (Why does CJR hate America?)

Please, please, please

Is Imus a crook(in addition to being a racist)? And don’t tell me he’s being prosecuted for turning against Bush or “lay off him, he’s on our side.”  My side is the evidence side, and the evidence insists he’s a racist and possibly a crook.  This is a WSJ link, by the way.

Wait, “not a racist” you say?  How do you describe someone who  calls Gwen Ifill "a cleaning lady," Bill Rhoden "a New York Times quota hire," and whose producer Bernard McGuirk calls Patrick Ewing "the missing link" and Shaquille O'Neal "a carjacker in shorts," whose movie reviewer calls the starting line-up of the Knicks "gorillas" and an Indian tennis doubles team "Gunga Din" and "Sambo?"

Two comments about TV:  West Wing last night was Republican propaganda.  Nobody with Alan Alda’s politics or refusal to pander to Christian conservative base could ever have a hope in Hell of being on the ticket, much less its top spot.  That’s OK, artistically; but next time you hear people saying it’s liberal propaganda, remember that. 

Second, NBC’s version of “ The Office” is reported to be the best new show on TV but considerably inferior to the BBC original.  What does that tell you about the relative level of sophistication of the two nations' mass television audiences?

A Conversation with Bobby Short (June, 2004 interview)  Fresh Air here.

My friend Tammy Faye Starlight who is a kind of Red state’s nightmare of a Blue stater’s idea of a Red stater, and just the kind of thing that makes responsible pundits so angry at us, has a new acoustic show off Broadway called "Born Again, Again" at The Ars Nova Theatre, for 3 Tuesdays, March 29, April 5 and April 12.  It’s only fifteen bucks and even though my favorite Tammy is the lead singer of the Mike Hunt Band, I’m going.  See you there….

Alter-review:  Concord Records has a released a wonderful collection in honor of Marian McPartland’s 85th birthday.  Recorded live, it’s characterized by wonderful taste and quiet, confident showmanship.  The cast could hardly have been better chosen: Phil Woods, Bill Charlap, Dave Douglas, Jon Faddis, Roy Hargrove, Billy Taylor, with vocals by the ubiquitous Ms. Jones, Barbara Carroll, the impossibly sexy Karrin Allison.  They’ve also got a new CD featuring McPartland interviewing Steely Dan on an NPR show she apparently had, and those guys are great, of course and the interviewing’s OK, but you have to be the kind of person who is either willing to program your CD player or listen to the same interview over and over.  I’m neither.  Don’t miss “85 Candles,” though.  More here and here.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Stephen Anderson
Hometown: Los Angeles
Hi Eric,
Here's the story of my sister Kristen.

Sister Kristin

I watched my sister die.

My immediate family and I watched as she breathed her last breath, her heart beat its last beat, and her soul flew confidently toward the universe.

She had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  What a mild phrase that has such impact: "You're going to die, your insides are going to be eaten alive, sorry."

She suffered a further medical insult, and had emergency surgery.  I remember the surgeon saying, "Well, I tried to fix the problem, but she was so full of cancer..."

She actually seemed to improve after surgery, she seemed a little feisty and engaged.  But she took a turn for the worse.

Her consciousness faded, and her breathing needed help, so she was intubated.  Her temperature soared to 110 degrees.  All attempts to ease her suffering seemed futile.

After 2 days, when we accepted that she was dying, we (my other sister and I) discussed and decided that we would end further treatment, with one exception: we would keep the breathing tube in.  It was our feeling that if there was any chance she was still in there, we didn't want her to feel like she was suffocating.

The hospital followed our wishes, and called the Doctor, who ordered treatment stopped.

But minutes later, in a virtual coma, she died.  My brother, other sister, mother, and my wife were all there to kiss her and tell her we loved her as she began the next journey.

So I feel I have some perspective on the Terri Schiavo situation.  And here's my opinion:

No politician who has ever voted for the '99 Texas Advance Directives Act has any right to be involved.

No politician who has violated the ethics of his previous profession has any right to be involved.

And no politician who has:

  • mocked a condemned prisoner,
  • voted for phony Tort Reform legislation which would stop payment of insurance settlements to people like Terri Schiavo,
  • voted against DNA challenges in capital cases,
  • refused to examine death warrants in Texas,
  • talked about Terri Schiavo as being delivered to him for political gain,
  • voted against States Rights in blatant disregard of the Constitution,

has any right to be involved.

If they do, then God damn them.

Name: Jerry Spiegler
Hometown: Nitro, WV

Eric;
I participated in a Washington Post on-line chat with Dr. Jay Wolfson today.  Dr. Wolfson is the court appointed physician-attorney who served as temporary guardian ad litem for Terri Schiavo during one of the Florida court cases regarding her treatment and persistent vegetative state.

Dr. Wolfson stated that he spent nearly a year with Ms. Schiavo and her family.  Based on his experiences, he disagrees with people who insist that she responds to external stimuli consciously; that she can eat, drink, and swallow nutrition on her own; and that she could get better with appropriate treatment.

He responded to my question about a possible eating disorder by saying that Ms. Schiavo weighed 250 lbs. at age 18 and with the loving help of her mother went down to 150 at the time she met her husband.  She continued to drink 15-20 iced teas daily and may have also purged over the next several years get her weight down to 110.  He hypothesized that, tragically, all that iced tea consumption and excretion to lose those last 40 pounds may have led to the profound electrolyte imbalance that resulted in her cardiac arrest and subsequent brain damage that resulted in her hospitalization and persistent vegetative state.

The reason I'm writing today is to remind you and, with your cooperation your readers, that eating disorders and rapid weight loss plans can and do have terrible consequences.  With the end-of-life disputes emanating from this very tragic case, the message about the risks of eating disorders and do-it-yourself weight loss plans got lost.

Name: Brian Gygi
Hometown: Oakland, CA
Re: the Friedman's actual guilt (as opposed to legal guilt).  How can we know?  The father confessed and is now dead, the son served his time (and doesn't seem to be talking), so we will probably never find out.  Of course the documentary doesn't give all the evidence, but what it does provide is pretty damning against their guilt, given the weaknesses of the evidence, the inconsistency of the testimony, the dubious veracity of the star witness, and of course the general hysteria of the times.  Perhaps someday a fuller story will come out, but for now all we say is that it is a dark moment in American legal history (but not even the worst of its kind - see the McMartin case).

Name: Andrew Goodman
Hometown: Upper West Side
Eric -
Do any Altercators know if there is a petition I could sign (or even start) to have Frist's medical license revoked?  For a heart surgeon to suggest, after viewing an hour of videotape, that he knows more about a patient's neurologic state than neurologists who have actually examined the patient for years is not just the height of arrogance:  It's professionally irresponsible.  Imagine the malpractice premium for a private physician who practiced medicine that recklessly.

Name: Dave Elley
Hometown: Seattle
Eric,
The deceit and incompetence that was clear in Condi's tenure as NSA has arrived, as predicted, at the State Department.

Result: North Korea withdraws from the six-country talks and builds more nukes.

Name: Skippy the Bush kangaroo
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Eric:

re:  SCTV alumn not being funny afterwards...

You obviously missed Rick Moranis in his dramatic debut in "Streets of Fire."

This Walter Hill travesty with Michael Pare and Diane Lane was supposed to be a gritty, hard look at the underworld crime-ridden dystopia of the near future.

Instead it's one of the unintentionally funniest flicks of all time.  It's great to watch tough guy Michael Pare punch out a lady transit cop because she won't stop a subway train.  And people break into rock and roll songs for no reason at all.

Hi-larious!

Name: Mrs. Tarquin Biscuitbarrel
Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Dr. A:
A spot-on assessment of The Eagles, sir; I thank you.  Since I grew up in Los Angeles and am just a few years older than you are, like it or not, The Eagles were a big part of our adolescent soundtrack, especially for someone like me who didn't have the money for records, let alone a record player.  I bought the Rhino box set on eBay and came to the same conclusion as you did.

It's ironic that Don Henley is the Ol' Blue Eyes of our generation: That exquisite voice!  That hooker-tormenting personality!  However, I paid top dollar for eighth-row seats when Don came to Constitution Hall shortly after 9/11.  He was fighting a sore throat, and his comments were amazingly cogent, showing a love of our country and a distaste for Our Only President, which were well-received by the audience.

One thing about Don Henley that resonates with me is the siren song of California, drawing non-natives (like Don, born in Texas) to come to California to transform themselves.  My fellow native Californian Joan Didion once commented that things had better work out in California, because that's where we run out of continent.  The agony of the seekers for whom things don't work out has inspired a whole body of art, possibly starting with Nathanael West, all of whom say it better than I do.

I'm so jealous that you got to see Bobby Short!  I told my closest relative, who's spent a lifetime in California, that Bobby Short had died, and he cried, "Oh no!  I thought there'd always be time for us to get to The Carlyle!"

March 23, 2005 | 11:42 AM ET | Permalink

Why did Bush let bin Laden go?
And what did Tommy Franks know and when did he know it?

Name: Mark Hoffman
Hometown: Bainbridge Island, WA

Eric,
General Tommy Franks may have lied when he said, "We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001." Lede from AP story:

A terror suspect held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was a commander for Osama bin Laden during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s and helped the al-Qaida leader escape his mountain hideout at Tora Bora in 2001, according to a U.S. government document.

Further down it says:

The newly revealed statement is contained in a document the Pentagon calls a "summary of evidence" against one of 558 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. It was provided to the AP this week.

The evidence was summarized last December 14 for a Guantanamo Bay hearing to determine whether the prisoner was correctly held as an "enemy combatant."

The assertion about his efforts and bin Laden's escape is made as a statement of fact; it does not indicate how the information was obtained.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Daryl Borgquist, a spokesman for the Combatant Status Review Board for which the document was prepared, said Tuesday he could not elaborate on the Tora Bora statement, or its sources, because the statement was derived from classified information.

I wonder if the AP has a date on that "summary of evidence." If it's before Oct. 19, then Tommy Franks "misspoke," and so Dick Cheney and G. W. Bush. Gee, what a surprise!

If I had the time go into this, it’d be a good column. This Terri Schiavo thing is a perfect paradigm for our politics.  Republicans are fundamentally contravening their own alleged principles by trying to put the federal government in the face of an intimate family decision-making process—“In interviews, some conservatives either dismissed the argument that the vote was a federal intrusion on states' rights or argued that their opposition to euthanasia as part of their support of the right-to-life movement trumped any aversion they might have to a dominant federal government."-- and ignoring the structural problems (more here) they helped create vis-à-vis the nation’s health care coverage that are actually quite germane to the larger issues it raises.  The Democrats, meanwhile, are taking a sensible position but are lack the confidence to defend it in public.  And the media is covering the story as if it’s the Democrats who are risking the wrath of voters despite that fact that voters tell pollsters that 70 percent of the public supports their position. 

For the record, ABC News releases poll results that show 70% of  Americans--included 54% percent of "conservative Republicans"--thought it was inappropriate for Congress to get involved in the Terri Schiavo case.  But on that night's "World News Tonight with Peter Jennings," ABC makes no mention of the poll results.  What are reporters afraid of?  Meanwhile, The Note links to crap like this: "At National Review Online, lawyer Andrew McCarthy suggests prosecuting Michael Schiavo for torture." -but Salon, The Nation, The American Prospect, The Progress Report, etc are off limits.  What, um, liberal media?

How does life actually end?   Here.

The Problem with politicians generally:  I got a call this morning from a Clintonian friend who demanded that I address the Barry Bonds steroid issue because, he or she touchingly recalled, I began Altercation back in May 2002 with a spirited  defense of said superstar. The problem here is the “fur or agin' us” mentality that politics naturally breeds.  I defended Bonds on the basis of his stats I said he was not receiving his due given his historic achievements and I wondered why this was the case.  I never took a position on whether he took steroids or gave his girlfriend $80K to hide from the IRS.  But my friend thinks I was “pro-Barry” and so now I owe the world an explanation.  Sorry bubbela, I was pro-evidence.  Still am.  Let’s wait for the truth to come out, shall we?  In the meantime, he’s still the fourth or so greatest slugger in baseball history, at least according to the calculations recently published in Michael J. Schell’s Baseball’s All-Time Best Sluggers; Adjusted Batting Performances from Strikeouts to Home Runs, (Princeton, 2205).

Ronald Steel on George Kennan

Question:  I watched “Capturing the Friedmans” yesterday on HBO.  Anybody know if they’re actually guilty? It’s kind of driving me nuts…

Alter-reviews

Alter-review Redux: November 17, 2004

After years of trying, I finally got to go see Bobby Short and his terrific nonet last night at the Café Carlyle, and unlike most things to which one looks forward for years, it wasn’t disappointing at all.  It was even better than I imagined.  Bobby is eighty and his gait is not what it once was—perhaps he’s lost a few notes in his voice, I dunno—but as an entertainer, he was all there.  I saw him in anteroom before the show, looking a little depressed, and not all that friendly.  But when he stepped on stage, a light went on inside the guy and he was all of a sudden ageless, timeless, inhabiting the music and making it sing.  I expected a series of standards with a lot of Cole Porter.  What I got was an education on forgotten gems from the twenties and thirties by composers of whom I had only the slightest inkling, accompanied by lovely little lectures on their provenance and context.  (This is one of my obsessions; I hate it when musicians refuse to explain their music, even when they know nobody knows anything about it.  I particularly hate it when jazz musicians won’t even tell you a song title.)  Anyway, Bobby had said he was going to retire this year and, thankfully, decided he couldn’t do it. So I got to see him on the first night of the sixth week of a sixteen week stand of a thirty-six year run. And still it was the special-est of special occasions.  (Now here’s the bad news: $95 cover; two shows a night.)

The Eagles box on Rhino

I am of three or four minds about The Eagles. They made a great deal of really wonderful music but they sure do make it difficult to like them.  All that self-mythologizing is really off-putting in any musician, but in these guys, it particularly grates.  They whine all the time about how hard it is to take a lot of coke and screw tons of groupies.  They charge their fans the most outrageous ticket prices in rock music.  And they had a really crappy effect on just about everything about the seventies, which, since it was the decade of my adolescence, I take quite personally.  Even so, the music is so good, it fully justifies this pricey box.  Don Henley has just about the most beautiful voice in pop music.  The musicianship is terrific and they can, surprise, surprise, actually rock.  “Already Gone” is a perfect song, as is, in its way, “Take it Easy.”  And “Hotel California,” well, I prefer the acoustic version, but those opening notes, after all this, time, still manage to thrill.  And they have surprising relevance to today’s headlines: You can, after all, check out any time you want, can you ever leave?

Alter-heartbreak: Saw the Allmans Monday night, fourth row center.  Left before "Layla."

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Jeff
Hometown: San Diego, CA

Eric,
Interesting link to the Billmon post regarding the similarities between the Chinese cultural revolutionaries and today's modern conservatives' distain for academia. 

I think the main point to be taken from this is that the old adage about "those who fail to remember the past are doomed to repeat it" is false, or at least partially so.  Instead, history repeats itself when there is a concerted effort by ideologues to discredit, destroy or even kill (yes, one of the current quotes mentioned death threats against a professor) those who have studied and are intimately familiar with history.  The reason, of course, is that these are the people who would most likely be the voice of reason and, indeed, dissent, when and if a new, radical cultural ideology was being thrust upon a populace.

A friend of mine (I believe he said he immigrated from Nigeria) told me many years ago that when his country went through a violent revolution, the first people attacked/killed were the academics, and other learned professionals.  Obviously, the same was true in China, as I am sure it was in Nazi Germany and possibly many other countries experiencing cultural/ideological revolutions.

I believe that this subject is ripe for further exploration.  Perhaps a new book, Dr. Alterman?  I am just a tax attorney, so I will leave it to you, the historian, to decide.

Name: Eric Rauchway
Hometown: Davis, CA

When my wife and I were getting ready to move out of New York City, I decided that though we were poor, darnit, we were going to do ONE of those things listed in the small type at the front of The New Yorker.  So I phoned up the Carlyle and booked spots for Bobby Short.  We dressed up and trouped across the Park to the East Side, where in the small, crowded cafe Short held court.  It was around the time of Ira Gershwin's 100th birthday, so Short gave over most of his set to songs with Ira Gershwin lyrics, interspersed with learned patter about Ira, George, and the music of early twentieth-century America.  Short made the whole performance seem like it cost him nothing, like it was what he would have been doing even without paying customers there to see.  It was a fine thing, one of those fine things that makes me think that, like Short, "I happen to like New York."  Rest in peace.

Name: Rich Gallagher
Hometown: Fishkill, NY

Dear Eric,
I don't know if you've mentioned this before, but you can catch Bobby Short at the Carlyle on DVD.

As for "Dr." Bill Frist, I wouldn't let him go near my cats, much less a family member.

Name: John Curtin
Hometown: Boston, MA

Doc,
RE: "In fact, almost no one associated with SCTV was ever as funny again."

Eugene Levy: Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and the American Pie Movies

John Candy: Lot's of clunkers in his film career, but Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Uncle Buck are classics.  Hell, I even like The Great Outdoors.

Harold Ramis: The guy wrote, co-wrote, co-starred, and directed some of the best movie comedies EVER.

Catherine O'Hara: See Eugene Levy, minus the American Pie stuff.

I'm sure others can come up with examples.

Eric replies:  I was going to argue with you until you came up with “Groundhog Day.”  You win. I’m sorry.

Name:  J.Landes
Hometown: London

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) is the outreach arm of the National Archives and Records Administration.  Since 1934, it has been awarding grants to research projects and publishing not just these histories, but guides to archivists.  Well, that is, it *awarded* these grants.

Odd about that huge budget cut, especially following administration promises for more support made last July, as well as the recent appointment of 2 members to the commission.

NHPRC projects have included the preservation and publication of the papers of John Adams and John Quincy's Adams, Ben Franklin, Jefferson Davis, W.E.B. DuBois, Jane Addams, Aaron Burr, Elizabeth Drinker, Frederick Douglass... and so many more from whom we have learned and are still learning.

Doesn't this administration want their own papers preserved, especially with the NHPRC working hard to tackle the issues of electronic records and new formats?  Hmm.

History groups are recommending that NHPRC supporters contact their Congresspeople, but to make it clear that NHPRC support should not come from the support to the National Archives.

March 22, 2005 | 12:16 PM ET | Permalink

Attacking Abbas

Nita Lowey’s office thought the item I ran last week about the Congresswoman’s role in restricting aid to the Palestinian authority untrue and unfair.  They would probably prefer you read this account in the Forward in which the heavy is clearly Tom Delay.  ("DeLay became more Jewish than the chief rabbi — if you can twist the phrase that way — and he was not going to let it through," said Rep. Gary Ackerman, a Democrat from New York who supported direct aid.”)  Fair enough, but take a look at Lowey’s quote in the piece:

"I think it is especially important that we hold the Palestinians accountable," said Lowey, who, as ranking minority member of the appropriations subcommittee on foreign affairs, participated in drafting the language on aid to the Palestinians. "We just can't take any risk that funds would end up in the wrong hands."

Ok, so let me ask Ms. Lowey a question. Granted, there is corruption in Palestinian Authority, a lot of it, and it was particularly horrific under Arafat: Is this really a way to support the peace process?  Do William Kristol and Richard Perle demand an auditing of the money given to Chalabi or Halliburton or is that done by people who oppose the war?  Do supporters of Israel demand an accounting of U.S. funds that may have been illegally siphoned off to support Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza—a number that likely dwarfs the entire sum of funds ever received by the Palestinians in their history?  Holding the PA “accountable” which can only find Arafat-era corruption, means, in the current atmosphere, “screwing Abbas” and therefore destroying the best partner for peace Israel has ever had.  I grew up in Lowey’s district and my parents still live there, but really, what is the point of having liberal Democrats if they are going to place themselves to the right, vis-à-vis peace, of Ariel Sharon, George W. Bush, and the (right-leaning) official Jewish community?

Oh and hey, the Times reports that “Israel on Monday publicly confirmed plans to build 3,500 new housing units in the largest Jewish settlement in the West Bank, Maale Adumim.”

From “The Note” yesterday:  “Despite some public opposition to Congress's action (see below) the Republican leadership seems to have succeeded in framing the discourse around a moral question.  Here’s what these guys define as “some public opposition.”  An ABC poll today found 70% opposed Congress' action re: Schiavo.”  More here and here.

Quote of the Day:  "It Is Wisest to Always Err on the Side of Life" (After Signing Schiavo Law) here
--PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, who oversaw the execution of 152 individuals while governor of Texas, more than any other governor in the history of the United States. (Thanks Barry)

Peter Beinart misses the obvious, essential point about the “Moynihan/Bolton” nonsense being handed out by Administration toadies, here.  Pat Moynihan was deeply devoted to upholding international law.  Bolton heaps contempt upon it.  They are philosophically, fundamentally at odds.  Also, remember, TNR is a “liberal” magazine that frequently praised and published Jeane Kirkpatrick.

I bought a copy of Susan Sontag reading “The Volcano Lover” from Dove Audio.  Upon receiving it I see that it contains “unabridged excerpts.”  What the f**k?  What next, you enemies of the English language?  Apple Oranges?  Venusian Martians?  Liberal Media?

The revolution starts... now.   Here too.

Todd Gitlin on affirmative action for conservatives.   Note the lack of embarrassment these people feel here.  Shamelessness is one of their greatest talents.

It is with profound ambivalence that I link to Hitchens but I had dinner with a lovely young freshman from Kenyon not long ago and she told me that the voting lines in her college town were over ten hours long.  Add up enough of these and you’ve won your state, regardless of whether a majority of intended voters preferred you.

Bobby Short, RIP

Scene on a Manhattan street, about twenty years ago, waiting for a “walk” signal:

Me (fishing): “Hey Mr. Short, I’ve always wanted to see you at the Carlyle but I can’t afford the prices.”

Bobby Short, (smiling): “Well buddy, you could always marry a rich girl.”

Alter-Review:  Hey look, The Shout Factory is already up to Volume III of the SCTV collection.  The table of contents says it all:  “The Shmenge Brothers,” "Battle Of The PBS Stars,” “Rome, Italian Style,” “The People’s Global Golden Choice Awards,” “Pre-Teen World Telethon,” with guest stars Tony Bennett, Bill Murray, and Carl Perkins.  John Candy and Martin Short were never so funny again.  In fact, almost no one associated with SCTV was ever as funny again.  You can watch a few video clips on the site, too, but it was in seasons two and three where the NBC version of the show really hit its stride.

“Rendez-Vous with French Cinema.” Another reason for everyone except perhaps Parisians to be jealous of New Yorkers is the annual French Film festival we get at the terrific Walter Read theater at Lincoln Center every year.  Since I don’t have any book deadlines arriving, I managed to catch six or seven of the films—which was lucky, because they were almost all sold out—and I was struck once again by the cultural gulf that separates mass entertainment in Europe, particularly France, and the U.S.  As Edward Jay Epstein’s trenchant new book, The Big Picture, demonstrates, Hollywood has precious little room for anything that is not considered an investment in 14-year-old boys and foreign audiences who don‘t appreciate subtitles or dubbed dialogue.  Over and over in this festival, I saw challenging, intelligent and subtle films (without American distributors) that are considered “art-house” films at best here, but the art houses are disappearing.  My favorites were 36 Quai Des Orfèvres, a terrific old fashioned noir made a cop-turned director, and a killer performance by Daniel Auteil (supported by Gerrard Depardieu, which I think will get a release here, because of all the awards it won, plus the fact that the big guy can at least open an art house; Clara Et Moi, with a luminous Julie Gayet; the smart, funny celebrity spoof, Le Rôle De Sa Vie; Les Soeurs Fâchées, with a terrific looking Isabelle Hubert, and another smart, haunting film from Claude Chabrol, La Demoiselle D'Honneur which featured an absolutely enchanting Laura Smet, daughter of Nathalie Baye and Johnny Hallyday.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Dave Richie
Hometown: Birmingham, Al.

Dr. A,
By now everyone knows the great Bobby Short has passed.  I read he was at the Carlylse for the better part of each year, several nights per week for the last 35 years.  35.  Count 'em.
Another testament to the greatness of your town was the ability to see this genuine musical giant softly and gently ply his trade.  A class act. 

Years ago he said music should be beautiful.  He certainly did his part.

Thanks for the timely review, only a few weeks before his passing.

March 21, 2005 | 11:54 AM ET | Permalink

Unhappy Anniversary (We told you so.)

Borrowed from Think Progress:

The Invasion Two Years Later

200: Lowest estimated number in billions of U.S. taxpayers' dollars that have been spent on the war in Iraq

152,000: Estimated number of troops currently deployed in Iraq

1,511: U.S. troops killed in Iraq since the invasion

11,285: Americans wounded since the invasion was launched two years ago

21,100-39,300: Estimated number of Iraqi civilians killed since the invasion by violence from war and crime

176: Non-U.S. coalition troops killed in Iraq since the invasion

339: Coalition troops killed by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs)

70: Daily average number of insurgent attacks on coalition forces in February 2005

14: Daily average number of insurgent attacks on coalition forces in February 2004

18,000: Estimated number of insurgents in Iraq today

5,000: Estimated number of insurgents in Iraq in June 2003

27/14: Countries remaining in the "coalition of the willing" versus number of former coalition members that have withdrawn all their forces or announced their intention to do so

25,000: Non-U.S. coalition troops still in Iraq

4,500: Troops that Italy and the Netherlands have pledged to withdraw before the end of the year

142,472: Iraqi security troops the Pentagon says it has trained and equipped

40,000: Iraqi troops that General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said are adequately trained and equipped to handle most threats

0: Number of active Army combat units deployed to Iraq that have received the required year-long break from active duty required by Pentagon rules

30: Percent by which the U.S. National Guard missed its recruitment targets in November and `December 2004

27: Percent by which the U.S. Army missed its recruitment goals in the past month

15: Percent of military personnel, according to GAO, who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who could develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

2: Estimated output of Iraqi oil industry in millions of barrels per day

2.8: Estimated output of Iraqi oil industry in millions of barrels per day before the U.S. invasion

8: Average number of hours that Iraqis have electricity per day

28-40: Estimated Iraqi unemployment rate

108: Millions of dollars in Halliburton overcharges hidden from international auditors by the Pentagon

9: Billions of dollars the Coalition Provisional Authority cannot account for of all funds dispensed for Iraq reconstruction

Part of the problem with this war is that like Johnson and McNamara, these people cannot be believed about anything and their lying endangers all of us.  (And what is the MSM response? “Thank you sir, may I have another.")

From: Major Bob Bateman
Dateline: Baghdad, Iraq

First, an observation:
I make semi-regular trips to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior here in Baghdad.  The MoI is not in the Green Zone, the nominally safe walled compound in the middle of the city.  Instead, the MOI is a short ride across the Tigris and a few blocks down Haifa Street, but those few kilometers do not have the best reputation. In fact, they suck.

On the other hand, when I go to MOI I have it relatively easy.  I am armed, and trained, and the rest of the convoys I move within consist of professionally trained Americans.  Iraqis who work there have no such luxury.  When they drive to work, every day, they have to wonder.

Remember 12 September 2001?  Remember how proud we were as Americans, particularly those of us in NYC and Washington, D.C., that nearly everyone took a deep breath that morning and decided to come in to work?  Making the commute in on that day we all felt good about ourselves.  Remember?  It occurred to me recently that we have nothing on these people.

Since the insurgents decided to start taking out their personal impotencies upon their own people, the Iraqis have suffered an estimated 5,000 dead from terror attacks.  The total population of Iraq stands at around 25 million, give or take a million.  In the U.S. we have 295 million people, and we suffered about 3,000 dead in the attack on our homeland.  Proportionally, therefore, their dead from terrorism is roughly akin to the United States losing 60,000 people to terror, not 3,000.  Roll that around in your head for a moment, and then think about what it means to be a “federal employee” here in Baghdad.  These people are heroes, each of them, just as much as we felt ourselves to be on 12 September.  Some places, however, are worse than others.

Over here the military has several gradations by which it describes the explosive threat most commonly used by the insurgent terrorists.  Generically they are called “Improvised Explosive Devices,” or “IEDs” for short, but these range from the small, ordinary roadside version, to cars packed with a ton or more and detonated by suicide bombers.  The latter are known as “Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices,” or VBIEDs.  At least that is what the officers call them in briefings.  Among the troops I’ve heard them called “BFIEDs.”  I’ll leave the deciphering of that acronym to your imagination.  In either event they are nasty tools of terror.

The front gate of the MoI is one of the most bombed locations in all of Iraq.  Almost all the attacks there nowadays are from VBIEDs.

So it was that when I arrived, knowing this background, I was already impressed.  True, the site itself is not up to what one might consider “Western standards.”  And the housekeeping leaves something to be desired.  But at the bottom of it I knew something about these Iraqis who work in the MoI before I even talked to one of them.

They know of sacrifice, they know fear, and they do not let either stop them from coming to work.  Day in and day out, suicide attack after suicide attack, these people keep coming to work.

The best definition of the word courage is not “the absence of fear.”  Somebody who feels no fear is probably a sociopath.  No, courage means doing what needs to be done, even in the presence of justifiable fear.  It means being scared out of your wits, with good reason…and then stepping forward and doing the job anyway.  That is courage.  In my opinion, these Iraqis meet that definition.

This too, probably matters.

BAGHDAD WITHIN EARSHOT SECTION:  Fewer mortars and generally less gunfire this week.  In fact, it seems quiet.  Two of my former West Point students (now Captains themselves) and one of my better friends just rotated back to the States, so that’s a relief.  My daughter Morgan did well in her Virginia Science Bowl competition, she also has a new Iraqi pen-pal (the daughter of one of our translators).

  • UPI’s story was a howler, though I am disappointed that they did not mention in their mea culpa that the “Marine” was not a Marine at all, and the whole story was a fraud.  Eric, is it time for a new acronym?  We have “MSM,” and you created “SCLM,” how about something for stupid reporting/editing at the national level?

  • For Ms. Goodman, was she in a similar rush for an analysis of any other aircraft crashes in the past decade?  Given the difficulty of doing what takes the NTSB months to do, and do it in a combat zone no less, I’d ask her to apply similar standards.  As I recall the news reported that the crash was ruled an accident fairly long ago.  (Can somebody Lexis-Nexis check that?)  What remains to be determined by the investigation was the final determination of causation: Weather, Mechanical, Pilot Error or all three?  It was a sandstorm after all.  On the Italian investigation patience may also prove useful.  This, obviously, has an international component beyond my ability to comment upon.  But I’d ask that you believe in our fundamental honesty.  I don’t know how long the military investigation might last, sometimes it takes a while, but that’s because we try to do things right.  Conspiracy theories about the time elapsed serve few.  At an absolute minimum (and demonstrating the check-sum of a free press and society), when those citizen-soldier National Guardsmen from New York who were manning that check-point (and whom you seem inclined to distrust) return home and demobilize, I am sure that any remaining questions you might have will be resolved.

Eric replies: Thanks bud.  Don’t mean to put you on the spot but it seems this catastrophe of a war is having an analogous (and therefore disastrous) impact on the military to that of Vietnam, here.  Needless to say, this something both war opponents and war supporters can agree is a topic of considerable concern.  Differences?  Similarities?  (And please, no recycling of the now fully disproven “spitting” meme.  Yes returning soldiers were treated unconscionably by all sides.  But many on the anti-war side tried to honor their sacrifices and nobody spit on them.)  All best, your friends at Altercation.

Quote of the Day: “It's like a slap in the face," she said of Negroponte's selection to the intelligence post.  "He knew what was going on, but he still refuses to speak the truth." 
--Zenaida Velasquez, a human rights activist whose brother was kidnapped, has pushed Negroponte to acknowledge the existence of death squads in Honduras.  Here.

It’s nice that Bush wasted his time flying back to Washington to sign a bill providing a “Schiavo Review in U.S. Court” for absolutely meaningless, entirely political reasons, when he could have stayed home in Texas and signed it just as effectively.  Too bad, on August 6, 2001, upon receiving a briefing book, entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside the United  States,” he preferred, according to The New York Times, to break "off from work early and spent most of the day fishing.”

I didn’t know any of this*:

By now most people who read liberal blogs are aware that George W. Bush signed a law in Texas that expressly gave hospitals the right to remove life support if the patient could not pay and there was no hope of revival, regardless of the patient's family's wishes.  It is called the Texas Futile Care Law.  Under this law, a baby was removed from life support against his mother's wishes in Texas just this week.  A 68 year old man was given a temporary reprieve by the Texas courts just yesterday.

Those of us who read liberal blogs are also aware that Republicans have voted en masse to pull the plug (no pun intended) on Medicaid funding that pays for the kind of care that someone like Terry Schiavo and many others who are not so severely brain damaged need all across this country.

Those of us who read liberal blogs also understand that that the tort reform that is being contemplated by the Republican congress would preclude malpractice claims like that which has paid for Terry Schiavo's care thus far.

Those of us who read liberal blogs are aware that the bankruptcy bill will make it even more difficult for families who suffer a catastrophic illness like Terry Schiavos because they will not be able to declare chapter 7 bankruptcy and get a fresh start when the gargantuan medical bills become overwhelming.

And those of us who read liberal blogs also know that this grandstanding by the congress is a purely political move designed to appease the religious right and that the legal maneuverings being employed would be anathema to any true small government conservative.

Those who don't read liberal blogs, on the other hand, are seeing a spectacle on television in which the news anchors repeatedly say that the congress is "stepping in to save Terry Schiavo" mimicking the unctuous words of Tom Delay as they grovel and leer at the family and nod sympathetically at the sanctimonious phonies who are using this issue for their political gain.

*Then again, when I woke up on Friday, I didn’t know who Terri Schiavo was.  I thought it was one of those ScottPetersonMichaelJAcksonAmericanIdolthings that make it possible for me to ignore so much of the news and still do my job.

We [Heart] torture.

“Bad for the Country, Good for The Nation”?

Who’s counting but...   Circulation, weekly opinion magazines:

The Nation, 184,000

The Weekly Standard, 73,710

The New Republic, 60,000

A kiss is not just a kiss: Trouble at Politics and Prose.  (WSJ)

I have long marveled at my friend, um, Tad Friend’s ability to get people in Hollywood to talk to him, but never more than when I belatedly read his profile of David Wirtschafter, president of William Morris Agency, yesterday on the train on my way to a wedding.  What could the guy have been thinking, I thought, and how did Tad get him to think it?  I have no idea, but this is the result.

Bruce inducts U2 here.  (Alter-brag:  Remember they played my “Fresher’s Ball” at the LSE gym in 1980; they were the warm-up band for about half a dozen concerts I saw that semester.)

There’s a Kennan archive here.

This just in:

Pigs Fly
A Times reporter gets a shellacking in the NYTBR

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Matt Shirley
Hometown: Gurnee, IL

Mr. Alterman,
I would like to respond to Ms. Goodman's note last Friday.  I am an active duty Naval officer.  She is wondering what is taking so long to complete the investigation and have results ready for release to the public.  I am wondering whether the investigators have had enough time to gather all the relevant facts, let alone assemble them into a coherent explanation of what happened, let alone have them prepared for public release (vetted for security, to protect the privacy of the individuals involved, etc. etc.)

Need I remind everyone, there is an ongoing insurgency, and the personnel in country have other things to do.  Also, because of security issues, they can't run things down as quickly as a trip around the corner to the 7-11.

At my command, we have a saying that the first report is always wrong.  I am not at all alarmed CENTCOM has declined to go public with, at best, the first report.  Let them get it right, get it ready for public release, and quit jostling their elbows.

Name: withheld
Hometown: Seattle, WA
The comments from the telecom lawyer are dead-on right.  Add to that the Bell Companies' and Cable Co.s' moves to prevent any city and local government from providing broadband service.  There is a move afoot to march through every state legislature to deny the right of any city, town, or publicly-owned electric company to provide broadband services.  The Bells and Cablecos want to permanently and forever limit a key piece of infrastructure (paid for mostly by rate-payers) to a paltry 6mbs, when by all accounts people will need and want nearly 100mbs.  It is scandalous, and this FCC and the Administration have emboldened our monopolists to put the last nail in, by prohibiting any public participation in providing a key and vital service.

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