April 29, 2005 | 7:00 PM ET | Permalink

(Editor's Note: Mysterious technical difficulties delayed the publication of Eric's column. Our apologies.)

My Think Again column is week is an attempt to provide some historical background on the 40-year conservative attack on honest media that underlies my Nation story on the Bush administration’s concerted attack on the press’s ability to fulfill its constitutional function. The column is here. The Nation story, nicely mocked in “The Note” yesterday, is here. 

C-Span’s LAT Book festival airing schedule.(Were on 10pm ET/7:00 pm ET (re-air 3am Sun ET/Midnight PT). Steve Anderson on the history of audio technology here.
 
Correspondent’s Corner:

Name Jonathan D. Salant
Vice president, National Press Club, Washington DC.
Eric:
You spoiled what otherwise was an excellent column on Bush decerifying the press by repeating the canard that Jeff Gannon/Jim Guckert was an “honored” guest of the National Press Club on a panel on journalistic credibility. Anyone familiar with the press club’s 90-plus year history knows that we invite all sorts of people to appear on panels to be grilled by our moderators and people in the audience. We want people at the center of controversy to appear on our panels, and certainly Gannon qualified.
Gannon was not feted nor served softball questions. Rather, we did exactly what you criticized the press for not doing—kept the issue alive and focused on how someone working for a political party-run web site was able to get White House credentials that I, when I worked for the nation’s third largest newspaper chain, could not.

Eric replies:
Dear Jonathan,
I thought about that reference carefully. If Gannon had been invited to be questioned about his various journalistic sins, or even to explain them, that would be one thing. But he was invited to participate on a panel that had nothing to do with his story, but as an appointed expert on blogging and the like, thereby conveying legitimacy upon him and what he represented. Just how did the invitation to Gannon on the panel distinguish itself from those invited to be either journalists or bloggers? And if it didn’t what are people to conclude?
Thanks
ERA

And Salant replies:
Sorry it's taken me this long to respond. The panel focused on ``Who is a journalist?'' and it had a lot to do with Gannon's story; we decided to do the panel after Gannon was able to get regular access to the White House press room. We wound up changing the title and description of the panel before it occurred because several people said it appeared as if we were inviting Gannon as a blogger or journalist, when we were inviting him because he was Exhibit 1 of how anyone today could claim to be a journalist, and in his case, his claim landed him White House press credentials.
And yes, we did invite him not as an appointed expert on blogging and the like, but so he could be questioned about his legitimacy, a task I thought our president, Rick Dunham, handled very well. In retrospect, seeing the brouhaha his appearance caused, we could have been more careful and precise initially with our description of the panel and the reason we invited each guest.

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it’s Stupid to return to 1997:

”It’s a temporary setback, but we’re not going to give up...There will be a day of reckoning, if this country goes into recession, several issues will come surging out: failure to control big government, trade issues and failure to pass the balanced budget amendment.”

The words are from then-Senator Connie Mack of Florida upon the defeat of a balanced budget amendment by one vote (66-34). Other Republicans railed at the President for not putting an end to reckless deficit spending. They were correct—just four years too early.  Back then the GOP was obsessed with the balanced budget amendment.  It was Item #1 on the Contract With America.
Today they never mention it. Never. Imagine how different things would be if the BBA had passed and been ratified. The BBA is like a filibuster on steroids—it forces real compromise in budget negotiations. Had Democrats foreseen how entrenched the 1994 GOP takeover of Congress would become, maybe they’d have stepped back.
Better late than never. I think the Democrats should re-introduce it. Voters still don’t credit Dems with fiscal responsibility. Comparing Dubya’s deficits to Clinton’s surpluses doesn’t work  Republicans hide behind 9/11 and make their regressive tax cuts sound righteous. And just imagine the political jujitsu. Sean Hannity saying “you hypocrites—you were always against the balanced budget amendment.”
Response: “You’ve convinced us! You told us for years that a reckless government could destroy our children’s future. We didn’t believe it—we never did it, Reagan never did it, George
HW never did it.  Now that you’ve done it, you’ve left us no choice. But fine, don’t believe us—you wanted this for years, go for it!”  If it passes, the Dems get credit.  If it doesn’t, the Republicans look hypocritical.
And it really is a necessity. Dubya promised a chimera of a $250 billion reduction in the deficit over five years, the current Congressional budget agreement—adds— $125 billion to the deficit in the same time.  Without the Constitution nothing stands in the way except a half-dozen allegedly moderate GOP senators. Come back Newt, a little is forgiven!   

Name: Doug Wilson
Hometown:Washington, DC
We launched the Campaign for American Leadership in the Middle East (CALME) - an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, nationwide Internet campaign to get public support for sustained American leadership to achieve a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – last Thursday, and citizens in all 50 states have joined more than 100 political, business, military, academic, philanthropic and religious leaders in lending their support to this effort. Our website features an open letter to the President, backing his commitment to such a resolution.
“Very significant things (are) going on in the Middle East right now,” former House International Relations Committee Chair Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN), who was Vice-Chairman of the 9-11 Commission, told press and supporters at the launch. “We want to say, ‘Mr. President, we’re behind you in this effort all the way.’” 
The former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Ralston, who emceed the event, explained: “We are here today not to publicly negotiate the elements of a resolution, but to encourage American citizens to add their voices of support for the President and the administration to stay the course in helping to resolve this conflict.”
Arab American Institute Chairman George Salem, a Palestinian-American said to the gathering:  “It is completely in the U.S. national interest to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are one billion Arabs or Muslims who see the U.S. entirely through the prism of this conflict.”
Former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen, a member of the international observer delegation to the January 9 Palestinian presidential elections, added: “I have heard more interest about this issue than any other since I left office. I believe that’s because people here understand—whether they’re from Nashua, New Hampshire or Cedar Rapids, Iowa — that what happens between the Palestinians and Israelis will affect us.  In this post September 11 world, we have come to understand that violence and terrorism in one part of the world can lead to violence and terrorism here at home.”
And Joel Tauber, a Jewish community leader and leader in the Aspen Institute Middle East Study Group declared:  “The voices we tend to hear are the extreme, or the naysayers. Now is the time for the majority to speak out.”

Name: Don Kulp
Hometown: Salunga  PA 
Comments:
Eric:
Thanks for the brief review of John Kenneth Galbraith, a name I grew up with but the weight of which I never fully understood.  Having grown up in an evangelical protestant church in the Anabaptist tradition (Mennonite, where I remain a member) I would have discovered someone who understood the world in a similar way, even though that is not a reference to theology.  I may need to go back and read some of his early work.
Dr. Rauchway’s contribution may not have been “typical blog fare”, but it was exceptional and appreciated.  Keep up the good work!

Name: Mark McKee
Hometown: Albuquerque, NM
Comments:
Dr. E:
I just wanted to thank you for arranging the Galbraith review. I’m neither proud or ashamed of the fact that I am a lay person with only a high school diploma. I am proud of the fact that I’m continually willing to learn. Things like that review are wonderful ways that a person like me can expand their horizons while eating lunch. It makes a big difference in my life, which, if I’m not mistaken, is basically your intention. It occurred to me that you might want to know that for some of us, it is truly a wonderful gift. Thanks for helping to enrich the lives of regular Joes like me. It’s good for me. And it’s damn good for America.

Name: Rory Downward
Hometown: Oakland, CA
Comments:
An added note to the recomendation of the new Enwistle anthology, which is named “So Who’s the Bass Player?” You may want to seek out the double “Left for Live” set by the John Entwistle Band. The single dic released is OK, but doesn’t do them justice. I was lucky enough to see the JEB 3 times. The last time, at Slim’s in SF. My wife and I were able to get right in front of Entwistle. To see the man play that close was amazing. He truly earned the nickname “Thunderfingers.”
There were times his fingers were just a blur he played so fast. His guitarist, Godfrey Townsend (no relation to Pete,) plays like Pete & sounds like Roger, which made it all very tidy. It was probably the loudest concert I’ve ever been to and I saw the Ramones 8 times! Not only did my ears ring for days, but my balance was screwed up as well. No exactly a smart thing to have done, but it was worth it to see him that close.
After his death, his drummer & good friend Steve Loungo, helped found the John Entwistle Foundation. The JEF was set up to help underpriviled children in the pursuit of becoming musicians. There is also a good John Entwistle website here.
Check out his solo work. He was much more than just the guy who wrote Boris the Spider.
Thanks!!!

Name: Bob
Hometown: NJ
Comments:
I case you didnt know. There are over 2,700 Dead shows available for streaming or download in several different formats at this address.
This is a site called archives.org. Most of the files are direct soundboard files with some
fan recorded stuff mixed in.  From 1965 to the bitter end. Only concerts that have been commercially released are missing. There are studio outtakes, and rehersals. The very first studio stuff they did in 65 is there too. Quality varies, but most is excellent.
As one of those people who stopped going to see the Dead after 78, it is a joy to listen to concerts that I was at.  In my own humble opinion 1974 was their peak. But my personal fave was June 10, 1973, at RFK Stadium. Listening to the band change over time is very interesting.

Barry L. Ritholtz
The Big Picture

Hey Doc,
At the Big Picture, we have been discussing Oil and its impact on the economy since late 2003. Lately, its been on everyone”s mind. But so many laypeople misunderstand the role that energy plays in our economy—oil especially—that I decided to gather some good data and resources on the subject, and I posted quite a few articles, charts and resources recently.  It was timely, given the President’s energy speech yesterday.

Petroleum Day Wrap Up

Its been sometime since our last Oil overview (All about Oil, October 2004). Lets wrap up Oil Wednesday (Alternate title: We’ve Gone Oil Crazy!) with an overview of today’s info:

All about Oil (XOI chart)
Curious as to how oil companies have done over the past 2 years?
Answer:  Spectacular.
China’s Syndrome? (commodity demand)
Much of the rise in Oil, as well as other commodities, traces back to China. The people blaming terror premiums and speculators know not what they say.
Oil Demand versus Capacity
As Demand has grown, Capacity (Supply) has remained the same. Thats the textbook formula for higher prices.
Oil’s Lesser Role? Its all Relative
Its not the 1970s. But Oil is still a huge part of our economy.
Wal-Mart versus Oil Prices  
As Oil reached multi-year highs, Wal-Mart’s stock has tumbled to multi-year lows. That’s no coincidence.
China’s Thirst for Oil (and Cancer treatments)
An enormous thirst for cheap oil (especially dirty diesel) in what is rapidly becoming the world’s most polluted nation will create a Bull market for cancer treatments.
Capital Spectator & Christian Science Monitor
A very good blog dedicated to economics of oil;  Also, several Christian Science Monitor articles that are quite insightful.
The Strategic Petroleum Reserve
Its gonna get topped off this Summer (but so what?).
Oil Research Resources
If you want to do further research, here’s a good starting point.

April 28, 2005 | 12:50 PM ET | Permalink
 
I asked Dr. Rauchway if he would be good enough to review Richard Parker’s new biography of John Kenneth Galbraith for Altercation can he has come through with the following, extremely thoughtful and generous review. I hope you find it as illuminating as I did.
It is not typical blog fare, to be sure, but I hope that, like Sean Wilentz’s Dylan review that helped get Altercation off the ground, it is what makes Altercation both unique and worthwhile. We look forward to Eric’s upcoming review of Kai Bird and Marty Sherwin’s biography of Robert Oppenheimer, to come soon.
Richard Parker, John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. x+820pp. Illustrations, notes and index. Cloth, US $35, here by Eric Rauchway.

Always heard and never heeded, John Kenneth Galbraith haunts this account of his own life, giving way for much of Richard Parker’s text to the powerful men and forces Galbraith sought to guide and failed to steer. Galbraith advised John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, served as ambassador to India and bete noire to Richard Nixon, wrote 40-some books of which at least three earned enduring popularity despite their distinctive prose and complex ideas, taught decades of Harvard undergraduates, yet left little imprint on the public policy or economic theory of our time and what mark he made is fading fast.
The pity is not only his but ours, for in Parker’s analysis Galbraith was right even though he was often ignored.
This situation presents a biographical puzzle: given that Galbraith sacrificed a good deal of professional respectability and job security to make sure the great and good would hear his opinions, why did he have so little impact on the fields he cared most about, U.S. policy and the profession of economics? The answer has to do at least partly with the character of the Democratic Party and of American academia: for although electron-irradiated wretches of the blogosphere like to depict these institutions as riddled with liberals they are, and for decades have been, actively hostile to the New Deal liberalism for which Galbraith has consistently stood.

1. Galbraith was right....
Here is a top-10, a partial list of Galbraith’s controversial positions that turned out to be more correct than otherwise.
1) The rapid liberalization of the Russian economy in the early 1990s would lead to a massive inflation that hurt the ordinary saver and benefited a few oligopolists.
2) The mantra of “maximizing shareholder value” is empty. Because shares in American corporations are generally very widely held, managers’ views trump shareholders’, and corporations act accordingly.
3) The cry for “smaller government” and its associated policies of tax cuts and deregulation would lead to an increase in government size and activism.
4) The 1987 stock market was grossly overvalued on a scale commensurate with 1929, and without some intelligent maneuvering it was going to crash on a scale commensurate with 1929 -- though with some deft policy-work the crash would not produce a commensurate depression.
5) The use of quantity of money as a target would not be a success so  far as economic policy goes.
6) Inflation and unemployment don’t move on a handy, sliding Phillips Curve, allowing you to target a growth rate and set economic policy apolitically.
7) Vietnam lay outside the sphere of vital American interests and the war would cost more than it was worth.
8) Regarding the Kennedy-Johnson tax cut: “’The tax rate is the clumsiest and least reliable instrument that can be used’ to stimulate growth. ‘It would be more sensible to depend on variations in direct government demand for goods and services than to manipulate private 
disposable income to achieve the same result.’” (p. 430)
9) Adlai Stevenson could have been a lot better as a Presidential candidate if he had only ... (long list ensues)
10) From his time at the Strategic Bombing Survey in 1946: bombing campaigns don’t win wars, infantry do.

Repeatedly, as Parker says, “Time proved Galbraith right,” (p. 603) and “just as he predicted,” (p. 622) disaster ensued from not following his recommendations. Which raises two questions: what does Galbraith know that other clever people don’t, and why won’t they listen?

2. What Galbraith knows
Simply put, Galbraith knows there can be no economics without politics. The chimera of scientific economics—of purely technical economics, predictable and systematic as physics—appeals to almost everyone. Economists love it because it lets them wear the mantle of 
science, and if they can make a prediction pay, it means big money. 
Policymakers love it because it lets them off the hook: if the equations say, “do this,” you do this, because you know—you have proof! -- that on balance it’s the best thing to do. Journalists love  it because it makes simplicity where once there was complexity: curves you can draw on napkins tell a story lean enough to fit in your slim column-inches.
Except: it doesn’t work. Ever. Or, if you want a rote bow to  uncertainty, it hasn’t ever worked yet. The Phillips Curve of the New Economics, which was supposed to show an iron trade-off between inflation and unemployment, broke down—and both Milton Friedman and  Galbraith knew it would. The Laffer Curve of the voodoo economists, which was supposed to show a sweet spot for tax rates (lower, obviously, than they were) not only broke down, it never worked—and Galbraith (and probably every other economist, even if they weren’ttelling) knew it wouldn’t.
And, hang uncertainty, let’s go out on a limb and say there will never  ever be such a curve that pans out. Because people aren’t atoms. Draw  up a law that explains the collision of particles and they will still  (vulgar superstitions about quantum physics notwithstanding) collide  that way. People are reflexive, creative, and greedy. Draw up a law  that explains how people make money, and they will read it and try to  profit from it and soon enough, they will no longer make money the way  you predicted.
So there can be no economics without politics. No equations, no  curves, no models, will ever do the hard work for you. You have to  choose: do you want GDP growth? Do you want more-equal income and  wealth distribution? Do you want longer lives? Do you want civil  rights, victory over communism, and lower taxes all at once? Sure you  do. Now make some choices how to have as much of them as you can get  at one time, and recognize that more of some means less of another.
What Galbraith also knows, what he showed in his three great books on  the American economy—American Capitalism (1952), The Affluent  Society (1958), and The New Industrial State (1967) -- is that by  pretending we do not have to choose—by trying to take politics out  of economics—we have made a choice, willy nilly. And that choice is  to let government and private wealth get in bed together and run the  United States, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse—more  often the latter.

3. Why won’t they listen?
Galbraith is himself an acute student of why people don’t listen to him. In The Affluent Society Galbraith sketched a cruel but apt cartoon of the American-as-consumer, who submits himself to the world of advertising and allows it to likewise create and sate his needs, lending him the illusion of choice and the reality of credit-card debt. Government by the free consent of the governed has given way to government by the implicit acquiescence of the adequately distracted. 
We don’t want to know that the world is complicated and asks our attention. We want to watch The Apprentice.
Another piece of the puzzle is the Democratic Party, which has never—as FDR himself recognized—made itself particularly at home with  New Dealism as a philosophy. White Southerners were only the most  obvious and important constituency chafing at the creative instincts of Rooseveltian reformers. Plenty of others thought the New Deal  socialist, too friendly to minorities, or simply too complicated to  sell at the polls. The Democrats never again stood for the same spirit  of reform that characterized FDR’s first term.

Perhaps the most important obstacle in Galbraith’s way, though, has been academia, and not only blue-blooded Harvard, whose Corporation always fretted over the pink politics of its alumnus Roosevelt and his allies, but the whole profession. As Parker notes, Galbraith never 
wanted to play the academic game, never wanted to reproduce himself in a hundred acolyte doctoral students, never wanted to keep up with new techniques and publish in journals. And that—not liberalism—is what professional academia demands. Galbraith wanted instead to speak over the heads of his peers to a wider audience. On the second page of Parker’s introduction, the word CELEBRITY appears in all-capital letters. Galbraith in truth would much rather have spent an evening with Jackie Kennedy than with a stack of fresh off-prints from the university presses. What really galled the envious was that he could, and did. So they for their part did what they could to spite him and to tarnish his reputation. Parker indicates sufficiently, without delving into dull details, the sheer drag that petty professors can 
exert by incremental minor horrors on their colleagues.

4. What makes a Galbraith?
Let’s stipulate that on balance, a Galbraith is a good thing to have around. What makes one, and why aren’t there more? This question, of how the man came to be who he is, ought to be the principal inquiry a biography answers. But truly they rarely do. In Parker’s account we  
can see Galbraith in the making, from his rural Ontario origins through his early career as an agricultural economist and a significant if minor player in the New Deal. But he is not the Galbraith we know until, suddenly in about 1949, he is. He got tenure at Harvard, and his young son died in a sad and touching story of family misfortune. And then Galbraith began speaking, and writing, in those round, droll, fearless periods, riding his language to prominence, and he has not stopped. Parker cannot really tell us why or how.
Nor can Galbraith. He is certain now, at the close of his career, that writing does not change minds enough to matter. “In the past ... 
writers, on taking pen, have assumed from the power of their talented prose must proceed remedial action. No one would be more delighted than I were there similar hope from the present offering. Alas, however, there is not.” (p. 627) Nor is there. Yet he is still writing.
 
Correspondents’ Corner:

A Friend writes:
Hey Doc—
Did you catch Kristol’s piece in the Standard? Bill Kristol, talking about “girly-men”? I love it when smug, overfed Ivy League nepo-cases flex in public.
Or, as is said in The Lumberjack Song: “Oh, Bevis, and I thought you were so rugged!”
Hmmm....The mystery deepens.
There’s a new Entwistle anthology out that’s really solid, including some fine live Who stuff. (My Wife and Boris, as well as Whiskey Man, the most underrated song in their catalog and which shares a title with Howell Raines’s novel, which is also underrated.)

Eric Alterman writes to CJR Daily:
I see you have John Cloud’s interview posted as your “Editor’s Pick,” more than a week after it was published? Do you think it appropriate to allow Mr. Cloud to level his quite personal (and rather ridiculous) charges against me and make no attempt to alert your readers to the fact that these charges have been answered in detail on Altercation? To me it seems irresponsible enough to allow Cloud to rail like this in the first place, without noting that there is no basis whatever for comparing me to Coulter. But even in the event of your believing in giving the man his say, unanswered, what can possibly be the justification in a forum such as this one dedicated to policing the fairness of the media—to pretending that these charges have not been addressed?
Here are some relevant quotes: “Did Alterman do any reporting before he made this assertion? I think a pertinent thing about Alterman is that he has said publicly that he will not engage Ann Coulter in debate. He won’t go on television with her. So his solution to Ann Coulter is to act as though she doesn’t exist ... I don’t agree with that approach to people that we don’t necessarily like. I think you engage those people in open debate, you get those people to talk about their ideas, and then you weigh those ideas. And my story does that. My story is very fair about her.
I think maybe Eric and Ann are in the same bunch. They also, by the way, use the same language. He calls Ann Coulter a name-caller, but he doesn’t do anything in that screed against me except use sort of fancy name-calling. He says [the piece] is a “moral, professional, intellectual abomination” without making an argument about the actual substance of the piece. Instead, he picks up something from David Brock’s Web site [Media Matters] and reprints it on MSNBC’s website. Now David Brock is a very famous hater of Ann Coulter. They used to be friends, they’re not friends anymore. He is also a serial liar. David Brock wrote a whole book saying, ‘Oh, my other books? They were lies.’ So I don’t think David Brock has a lot of credibility on the question of Ann Coulter. And what they are doing is a smear job. That’s his other history—David Brock has a history of smear jobs. And this is a smear job against me personally.”
And
“What I’ll say is that I think Eric Alterman and Ann Coulter engage in the same kind of debate. They don’t often make actual arguments. Instead, they throw names around. This is the point of my article. This is the way politics is engaged in debate now. And I think that his response to my article proves our point that this kind of dialogue, which is the Ann Coulter kind of dialogue, now holds sway.”
I am not going to sue you, but I think saying that I “ engage in the same kind of debate” is indefensible to the point of being libelous.  And I honestly cannot comprehend the idea that in a forum devoted to journalistic responsibility you print them and ignore my response—despite my repeated inquiries through my former assistant, Paul.
Please answer for the record. Since I cannot get CJR Daily to address the issue, I would like to print your response on Altercation, where this issue has been continually raised.
Sincerely,
Eric Alterman

CJR Replies:
Eric, we’ve already had this conversation, through Paul. Our Water Cooler feature isn’t meant to be a debate. It’s an attempt to ask provocative questions of a journalist whose work has attracted attention and to let that person try to defend himself.
The questions themselves pose a challenge to the writer’s work. Why that escapes you I can’t imagine.
Steve Lovelady

Eric responds. I don’t think it “escapes” me Steve, it’s that I find it an uncompelling reason to allow one person to slander another without consequence or response….

Name Doug Wilson
Hometown Washington, DC

Eric,
We launched the Campaign for American Leadership in the Middle East (CALME) - an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, nationwide Internet campaign to get public support for sustained American leadership to achieve a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – last Thursday, and citizens in all 50 states have joined more than 100 political, business, military, academic, philanthropic and religious leaders in lending their support to this effort. Our websitefeatures an open letter to the President, backing his commitment to such a resolution.
“Very significant things (are) going on in the Middle East right now,” former House International Relations Committee Chair Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN), who was Vice-Chairman of the 9-11 Commission, told press and supporters at the launch. “We want to say, ‘Mr. President, we’re behind you in this effort all the way.’” 
The former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Ralston, who emceed the event, explained: “We are here today not to publicly negotiate the elements of a resolution, but to encourage American citizens to add their voices of support for the President and the administration to stay the course in helping to resolve this conflict.”
Arab American Institute Chairman George Salem, a Palestinian-American said to the gathering:  “It is completely in the U.S. national interest to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  There are one billion Arabs or Muslims who see the U.S. entirely through the prism of this conflict.”
Former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen, a member of the international observer delegation to the January 9 Palestinian presidential elections, added: “I have heard more interest about this issue than any other since I left office.  I believe that’s because people here understand—whether they’re from Nashua, New Hampshire or Cedar Rapids, Iowa — that what happens between the Palestinians and Israelis will affect us.  In this post September 11 world, we have come to understand that violence and terrorism in one part of the world can lead to violence and terrorism here at home.”
And Joel Tauber, a Jewish community leader and leader in the Aspen Institute Middle East Study Group declared:  “The voices we tend to hear are the extreme, or the naysayers. Now is the time for the majority to speak out.”

Name: Stephen Hirsch
Hometown: Passaic, NJ
Comments:
Oy, I go offline for P’sach, and look at the Mishegoss coming through. Listen, Torah is not a comic book and while I am sure Mr. Alter’s translation is a great piece of English literature, I can guarantee that it leaves out crucial details. You see, there is a companion guide colloquially called the Oral Torah that explains and elucidates the Written Torah (a.k.a. Chumash, or Moses’s 5 Books). For example, the old “Eye for an Eye” is a complete mistranslation of Ayin taches Ayin. Literally Eye under Eye, it really means that monetary compensation is to be paid for causing a physical injury.
If the Left in this country ever has a prayer of regaining power from the troglodytes (pun intended), it can’t wait for a Europe-like post-Christianity. Put in the hard work of actually understanding what’s there, instead of pretending that it’s going to go away anytime soon.

Name: Jim McGlynn
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Comments:
Mr Alterman,
My family members are charter members of the L.A. Times Festival of Books since it’s inception 10 years ago. I can’t find a better description, as it is truly an “embarrassment of riches”. It is one of the most diverse and stimulating events around,for young or old, even for me, a staff member on the UCLA campus where it is held. Typically for the panel discussions there are schedule conflicts for us every year, and for me this year it was having to choose to see one of my literary heroes Ray Bradbury over your panel. I am no schill for the LA Times, or for you, but I look forward to getting the audio tapes available for the events I missed.

Alternatively I signed up at the BookTV/C-Span booth for an email list which apparently will alert me to what specific authors they are airing each week. Some of the panel discussions from the Festival are filmed for future viewing on that channel and I wonder if your panel was filmed and if we will be able to see this Westwood Woodstock? Another author/book worthwhile to check out - Jared Diamond and his book Collapse- How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. (disclosure:He is a UCLA faculty member and I work in a different dept). I haven’t read the book yet but his talk was very thought provoking, especially for those who care about where the future of this country and this world is going - no matter what your political leanings. Thanks for mentioning this awesome annual event!

Name: Jason Morris
Hometown: Richmond,VA
Comments:
Re:’Magical Misery Tour(Genius Is Pain)’
Dr. A:
For the record, that’s Tony Hendra(best remembered as Ian Faith, Spinal Tap’s manager)doing Lennon.  It’s available on CD, Altercators can read more about ithere:

April 27, 2005 | 11:34 AM ET | Permalink

Alter-reviews

Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack review
By John Patrick Gatta

Like “The Grateful Dead Movie” DVD, its soundtrack takes performances from the band’s five-night run, Oct. 16 through 20, 1974 at the Winterland Arena.  While purists may be unhappy that a full show is not represented, credit goes to producers Jeffrey Norman and David Lemieux for seamlessly putting together a wholly satisfying listening experience over its five CDs.  The astounding first disc makes you understand the snobbery of some Deadheads who talk so fondly of this time in the band’s history and, subsequently, dismiss later years.  Except for two versions of “The Other One” that crackle yet lack the song’s usual knockout punch, the quality does not lapse over such concert staples as “China Cat Sunflower,” “I Know You Rider,” “Eyes of the World,” “China Doll,” “Playin’ in the Band,” “Uncle John’s Band” and more.  There’s a clarity and purpose to the actions taken by messengers Garcia, Weir, Lesh, Kreutzmann, Hart and Godchaux who discover fresh expansive paths of improvisation during the gentle collision of styles; country, folk and bluegrass meet and live in harmony with jazz, blues and rock. Clocking in at six hours with a regular price around $35, you’re getting a great bargain. While that helps, the bigger prize remains, as always, the music.  “The Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack” begs for a road trip, bringing back memories of long drives across America discussing the merits of the previous evening’s Dead show with the giddy anticipation that new musical adventures await down the road at that next tourstop.  More here.

Eric adds:  You know, this set is really terrific. I almost never keep a CD when I also have the DVD but I’m going to want to listen to this one upstairs and down, and so I need both (even though it’s also in the new iPod).  Also, surprisingly lively is the newest release from the Pure Jerry series recorded in September 1989 at Merriweather Post Pavilion.  I say I’m a little surprised because ’89 is already a little late for Jerry to be in such good form and the band, by this time, lost my favorite players, but the song selection is first rate and all four CDs put you in that terrific mood that you when all is briefly right with world.  Sad, though.  More here.

P.S.  At the Phil Lesh fest, someone actually asked Phil why, in 1975 (I think) when the Dead played the benefit for San Francisco schools, the Dead did not come on last, only played forty minutes and used three keyboard players.  More seriously, someone also asked him how they chose which songs to play.  Phil said that in the first set, which they considered a practice set, either Jerry or Bob would just start a song, depending on who had started the previous night.  Everybody in the band would just join in because everybody knew all the songs.  Then the other guy would go, etc.  The second set was more structured, however, and they would plan what song would go into space/drums and what song would come out of it.  They would also plan the closer, every night, with Bob always arguing for a Bob-like rousing rocker and Jerry for a contemplative Jerry-like rumination.  If this stuff interests you, I strongly suggest you order a tape from the Festival.  I did not see C-Span in the room for this one.  (I do believe they taped my sessions.)

Reasons I love my (new) iPod and miss Napster:  The great things about the endless shuffle on a big iPod is hearing weird, quirky things you didn’t know you had.  Years ago I somehow managed to download Bruce’s answering machine message from, I don’t know when—I’m guessing it was during The River recordings—and he sings the answering machine song he wrote with real enthusiasm.  My current favorite novelty song is the National Lampoon Radio Hour’s rendition of a song that they created from actual John Lennon interviews—I didn’t know this until so informed by Beatle fanatic Eli Attie—called “Magical Misery Tour.”  It should really be called “Genius is Pain,” however, since that’s the refrain, and I find it so musically and lyrically brilliant that I kept putting my headphones on other people at the Book Festival so they could admire it as well.

I saw a couple of shows at the Blue Note recently I see I forgot to mention.  The first was a combination of Ron Carter and Karrin Allison.  Carter played quietly and sweetly and was backed by a first rate band.  But it seems to me he has never lived up to the potential so many people felt he had to chart out new directions for jazz following the decline and eventual death of Miles.  (Have I mentioned the greatest Times obit headline of all time?  “Mile Davis, Jazz Trumpeter Dies: Musical Genius; Defined “Cool.”)  Anyway, Carter’s playing lulls you into a kind of bliss, which is not bad, but takes you not much further.  Karrin Allison’s recording of Coltrane’s “Ballads” is one of my favorite records and she seems comfortable on stage.  I think her voice and delivery are going to need more distinctiveness if she is ever to have hope of breaking through the din.

The second show was a combination of a Hank Jones-led band playing Sinatra and Mary Stallings.  Unfortunately, I missed most of Mr. Jones, as I was traveling in from the Island and my correspondent whom I sent early was not seated by the management.  I imagine it was great, because, well, Hank Jones is great and Sinatra is great so what’s not to be great?  Mary Stallings, on the other hand, was terrific.  She really does seem poised for a major break out.  Her voice is deep, strong and sexy and her self-confidence and good humor, infectious.  She also has really classy taste in her material and a fine band.

Though I am not so crazy about the guy at door I am very impressed with the Blue Note’s booking staff and am looking forward to seeing McCoy Tyner there next week and the great Ben E. King a week later.

I think I also forgot to offer a recount of the “ Acoustic Cash” show featuring the Holmes Brothers at the RMA Collection, where Barney’s used to be.  I was talking to RC once about a musician I thought sounded “too white.”  “What about moi?” she responded.  “With you, it’s soul music," was my lightning-fast comeback, all the more excellent for being true.  When she played the other night with the Holmes brothers, Cash (and Levenathal) style soul music merged with the black kind in the music of Hank Williams, and boy was it great.  Having heard Tony Bennett sing Hank at the Rose Theater and Bruce sing Hank in Asbury Park, and Rose and the Holmes Brothers sing it at a museum that used to be a Barney’s, it’s hard to imagine a more brilliantly versatile song-writer.  Have I said enough?  I wouldn’t miss the final one of these if I were you people, with Mojo Mancini, another band that opens your eyes and ears to musical connections that we mere mortals cannot imagine.  See the site for details.  And make sure to tell Rose to put “Ode to Billy Joe” on the new record while you’re there.  I’m not sure it’s a sure thing.

Good news: Coltrane and Monk, newly discovered, here.

Name: Charlton Price
Hometown: Kansas City, MO
Dizzy: The Life and Times of John Birks Gillespie, By Donald  L. Maggin
(Harper-Collins, 2005)

This is the best researched, best written, and most musically informative bio of Birks yet to appear.  Gillespie blended blues, Afro-Cuban, and be-bop to re-invent jazz and move it from its outgrown shell of swing into a new birth of freedom.  Don Maggin's fresh and fine-grained re-telling of the Gillespie story gives new understanding of the music from which Diz grew and which he created -- the power, the beauty and the joy of it all.

I happened to start reading  at the point where it's explained where and how bop began, in  New York in the late 1930s -- before Minton's, contrary to conventional wisdom.  I read quickly to the end, and then started over from the beginning.  There Maggin tells when and how Gillespie got grabbed by music in what passed for grade school, in rural black Carolina of the '20s.  Once one learns how the Diz story turned out, what he achieved, and what "a great gig" his life was, as the last sentence says, and if only then one reads about the Cheraw beginnings, one comes to understand better many things about Dizzy:  why his Bah'ai faith, why his generosity and loyalties, why his cheerful defiance of convention, in both music and life.  The only thing that can't be explained is his explosive and surprisingly polymorphous talent.  Mozartian, one might say.

Disclosure: Don Maggin and I, lifelong friends and Dizzy fans, often made the New York 52nd Street scene in the mid-1940s, when Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Max Roach and just a few others burst forth with the then new music: bop.  For us, Armstrong, Ellington, and Gillespie are the most in jazz.  This book explains why, and will lead you to agree.

Correspondents Corner:

Name: JC
Hometown: Greater Detroit
I confess to relatively modest expectations for Monday night: I'm a big Springsteen fan, but not in your league.  And the last two times I saw solo acoustic tours (Shawn Colvin and Arlo Guthrie), the shows were fine but unspectacular.  The performers just seemed so small up on stage.

Boy was I pleasantly surprised.  Somehow Bruce and his guitar (and occasionally his piano) filled the Fox Theater, which holds a not-insignificant 5,000 people.  The intimacy was priceless, yet at times it felt like the show had just as much energy as an arena concert would
have.  He played two-and-a-half hours and I think everybody would have gladly stayed longer if he had gone on longer.

The new material was terrific: "Devils and Dust" and "Jesus Was an Only Son"  were my two favorites.  "Reno" was very well done, too.  (Before playing it, he told parents with little kids that it might be a good time to check out the lovely t-shirts being sold at the concession stand.)  "Long Time Coming" was one of those songs that, even in the solo format, reverberated through the theater with its hard guitar strums and quick beat.

But there was plenty of old stuff too.  I thought "Youngstown" and "Racing in the Street," the latter on piano, had the most emotional power.  "Promised Land" was a great closing.  Two songs from "The Rising" also stood out:  "Lonesome Day" and "Waiting on a Sunny Day."  Both seemed markedly better than the studio album versions (which I liked, by the way).  I
cared less for the interpretation of "The Rising" itself, just bc the upbeat melody didn't seem to work with the lyrical content.

I wouldn't have minded a little more chatter: he explained the new material (a lot of which is about "mothers and sons") and he had a few choice political comments, but he didn't really talk more than he does for a regular show.  Still, I'm not about to complain.  It was really an
amazing performance.

Name: JoAnn Schwartz
Hometown: Detroit, MI

Dear Eric,
Caught Bruce Springsteen's show at the Fox Theater here in Detroit last night and can't say enough good things about it.  From the eerie, bluesy opener -- "Reason to Believe" with his foot stomping out a percussive beat and harmonica as the only instrumentation -- to the final encore -- "The Promised Land" played with a percussive beat on the guitar body and strings -- it was two and a half hours of fabulous music. 

Throughout the show, Springsteen seemed loose and relaxed, chatting with the audience about the songs and where they came from.  While billed as an acoustic set, he did pull out an electric guitar for "Part Man, Part Monkey" ("Well, hey, it *is* Detroit." he cracked.)  In the intro to the song, noodling about on the guitar, he mused on President Bush and the Religious Right's views on evolution, "We're sure about contributions, retribution, executions.  Evolution?  Very iffy."

Ten of the songs were from the new album; with the possible exception of "Black Cowboys" there wasn't a dud in the bunch.  The rest of the set was an eclectic mix of tunes, often given a completely new feel by being played on the acoustic guitar or, in the case of "For You" and "Racing In the Streets," at the piano.

Eric adds:  If you’re interested in attending the Springsteen symposium at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ, info is here.

Name: Dan
Hometown: Rye Brook, NY
Dr. Alterman,
Since you're running another all music issue, I figured I'd chime in on something that I covered on my tiny lil' blog a few days ago (and may have been covered before by someone else, so if it was, please excuse me), but if you read this link here, you'll see that the RIAA has collected nearly $26 million dollars from lawsuits against file traders, yet not turned over any of this money to the artists it supposedly represents.  It smacks of hypocrisy, and makes it even harder for me to take the arguments about file sharing put forth by the RIAA and the major labels.

P.S. If you care, my extended thoughts on this matter can be found here. Thanks.

Name: Nicholas Pisano
Hometown: Destin, FL
Hello Eric,
Old Navy guy writing in to report on a lighter subject: the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.  There were many outstanding performances during the first weekend but I want to mention that one of the first ladies of jazz and a protégé of Miles Davis, Shirley Horn, gave the most riveting and emotional performance of the festival.  For those of your readers who may not know, Ms. Horn has battled breast cancer and diabetes.  In 2001 she lost most of her right leg, which forced her to abandon the piano bench for a time.  She has undergone chemotherapy for the cancer.  On Saturday, April 23rd, she was brought to the stage in a wheelchair and under the cover of dark sunglasses.  Despite her apparent physical ailments she commanded the piano again accompanied only by bass and drums, and a voice that grew younger with each song.  By the time she interrupted the audience's applause by a segue into her final song, "Here's to Life", there were few dry eyes in the tent or on the stage.  This was truly an unforgettable performance by one of the last great divas of the great jazz generation that revolutionized the music.  She remains one of our living national treasures.

Name: Jazzman
Hometown: Meadville, Pa

Eric (& company),
I actually do think I have a hunka burning something to say (about some music) that those who read these pages, as well as contribute (constructively) may be interested in.

Have you ever heard of Johnny Frigo?  He is an 88 year old jazz violinist from Chicago, and he is, in my opinion, a pretty remarkable fellow, as well as killer musician.  I had the wonderful pleasure of attending a small concert of his this past Sunday in Meadville.  It was a trio, with bass & piano.  The bassist was Nicki Parrott, who apparently plays regularly at the Iridium on Monday nights with Les Paul.  The pianist was Larry Eanet, who is based out of Washington, D.C., and has been there for a long time.  They were brought to Meadville through the Allegheny Jazz Society, which brings some of the Creme de la creme of early and swing jazz musicians into this little town.  Wesla Whitfield, Scott Hamilton, Vince Giordono, Dan Levinson, Gene Bertoncini are a few I can currently think of.  I believe I have seen some of these names mentioned in your blog before, I know they perform at some premiere places in NY City, such as the Algonquin room (as well as the Iridium).

Johnny Frigo has had a long career in jazz, a good portion of it playing bass, which he did with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.  He is quite accomplished, and has a very nice resumé.  You can find a good bit of it on the AMG site.  Apparently, after he began playing violin again (approx. 20 years ago), he appeared on Johnny Carson 2 times.  So maybe you have heard of him.  He kicks ass in many ways, and the trio I heard him with, which was quite fantastic, has been recording an album over the past 2 days at the Manchester Craftsman Guild in Pittsburgh, to be released on the Jump label.  All 3 of these musicians need to be heard more (of course, as do many others in many genre's. There are so many great musicians and artists out there).

This was not just a swing music concert, though.  There were some bop and more modern influences in the mix, to my ear.  Which was fine with me.

Besides being a musician, Mr. Frigo is also a rather clever and talented poet.  He read several of his poems at this show, and I was quite impressed - as well as most of the audience seemed to be.  His poems reminded me of some of the Billy Collins work I have heard/read.  The warmth of this man & the stories he told, as well as the swing and the kick of his music was great, and his personality took it to an even higher level.  I thought I should try and share this info with you and everyone here.  Good, good stuff, and who knows how much longer he'll be around, at 88.  (And he's still got some great chops, besides his musicality and showmanship).

Also of note at this show, a number of local young musicians were invited, along with their families, and he made sure to talk to them and gear a lot of his show towards them, though it was done in a way that all ages could appreciate.

I hope I have not been too verbose/wordy here.  I think many may find this guy to be a multi-talented, down to earth treasure.

And Eric, thank you very much for the amazing, thoughtful, and heartfelt - I think - work you do here and elsewhere.  I find it very inspiring.

Name: Robert Earle
Hometown: Torrance, CA

As long as you ask...

Today, Tuesday, Springsteen's new album comes out.  Last Sunday, Robert Hilburn reviewed it in the L.A. Times.  As we all knew he would, Hilburn gave it four stars (out of four).  I didn't even bother to read the review; what would be the point?  Of course he's going to rave.  Hilburn is simply incapable of giving Springsteen a 'critical' review.

My question is this: when the assignment to review a CD or movie or book is given out, should the task be assigned to 1) a reviewer who loves the artist, 2) to a reviewer who hates the artist, or 3) a reviewer who is agnostic about (or unfamiliar with) the artist?

April 26, 2005 | 11:37 AM ET | Permalink

'Books are Kryptonite to Gangs'

The above is a quote from an L.A. County cop working at the L.A. Times Festival of Books, a couple of years ago, and I’ve always loved it.  In honor of the festival, and the fact that I’ve got to fly from L.A. to Columbus this morning, I’ve got an all–book-discussion edition below.  The Times festival is a wonderful opportunity for authors and readers—and for kids—a veritable embarrassment of riches.  My event was like Woodstock in that people actually overpowered security and broke into the auditorium, so powerful was their desire to hear what Maureen, John and the others had to say.  Aside from that—and from seeing so many friends I often miss, even in New York, my favorite events were Carl Reiner reading the 2000 Year Old Man on the Target Kids stage and Phil Lesh talking about his memoir with an auditorium full of Deadheads a few minutes before.  Lesh told a moving story of his parents selling their house and moving to a different neighborhood so he could attend the high school music program he wanted.  I asked him two questions, to which the answers were:

  1. The first ten years were his favorite period for the band, and
  2. Yes, it’s possible they could have saved Jerry if they had been willing to stop touring and say “no more” to him.  But they weren’t.  Too many livelihoods, they felt, depended on it.  Phil says it is the greatest regret of his life.

Some Books I’ve read lately: 

Byron York’s A Vast Left Wing Conspiracy is not nearly as bad as I expected it to be, particularly given the fact that it’s being published by Crown’s proud new right-wing imprint, Forum, which so proudly hails as the home of Ann Coulter.  It’s a pretty straight-forward extended magazine article on attempts by Democrats and liberal rich folk to cooperate for once instead of working at cross purposes.  The prose gets a little bit overheated; the word “unprecedented” appears when it shouldn’t, but basically, it is undone by its schizophrenia.  After all, it can’t be such a big deal if it couldn’t beat Bush.  And while George Soros is a rich and generous man, there is only one of him.  What’s more, it’s not clear to anyone what the future of this brief attempt to coordinate ACT, Moveon.org, and (quite loosely) everybody else will amount to.  York certainly doesn’t know.  But the book is readable and not terribly obnoxious.  It does not assume that the reader share’s York’s National Review-style politics.  And most of the facts seem correct.  My guess is that the firebreathers who swallow Coulter’s crap will feel cheated.  I’m not sure who the rest of the audience is, but it won’t hurt York’s reputation any.  (I see he got a call from Mr. Stewart’s bookers the other night.)  Its index bites, though.

Jonathan Mahler was a mild neocon once but he married well and it has broadened his mind.  His first book, “Ladies and Gentleman, the Bronx is Burning,” is just wonderful.  It evokes an amazing time in the history of New York City that happens to coincide with my adolescence, and brings it back in all its horror, making sense in small ways of how it all happened and what it all means.  He’s got a terrific cast of characters, including Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin, Bella Abzug, Ed Koch, Mario Cuomo, Rupert Murdoch, Jimmy Breslin, the sportswriters, the political writes, the kibitzers, power-brokers; even the sex entrepreneurs.  It reads better than I remember living it, and Mahler’s slightly jaundiced eye is way too kind to the evil wrought by Murdoch but at least he gets why people like me think it’s evil and he’s pretty respectful of that.  Anyway, I’m not sure it offers any great lessons but it sure is a great read.

One nitpick: Jimmy Carter did not invite Felix Rohatyn to “his” plantation on an island off the coast of Georgia to meet with his cabinet.  Carter did not have a plantation.  He borrowed Smith Bagley’s plantation for his first cabinet meeting.  I saw the pictures when I went to an Arca Foundation/Common Cause sponsored meeting on media reform last Autumn.

Other books I’ve enjoyed lately are Godfrey Hodgson’s More Equal Than Others which casts an extremely tough-minded and critical eye on the way the rich have managed to rig our political system to their own advantage under the radar of a media that has lost interest in such matters.  Jim Atlas’s My Life in the Middle Ages, perhaps because so much of it mirrors the world in which I live.  I understand some people will hate this book and think it whiney but I find it brave in lots of places and often eloquent.  I was disappointed in John Lukacs’, Democracy and Populism, which I found to be a series of unrelated and usually unsupported apercus about his topic.  He is a very learned man and has some useful observations to make, but he doesn’t seem to have had any major ideas or insights to support this book and did not do any real research to discover whether his impressions were on the whole correct or original.  I would like to say a word about Elizabeth Young Bruehl’s second edition of her biography of Hanna Arendt, For the Love of the World.  A majestic work, it will, one hopes, introduce this tremendously brave and original thinker to a new generation of students.  The title strikes me as ironic, as Arendt was at home nowhere, and so much has been written about her personal life of late, that this book that treats the fullness of her life and work in context is all the more welcome.

A footnote: I did some work on Arendt in graduate school and I found an error in the first edition of the book, attributing to her a contribution to Commentary before the magazine existed.  I mentioned this once to Young Bruehl at a conference on Arendt at the New School and she got all huffy.  I made a suggestion about what might have been the source of her confusion—that the American Jewish Committee published a precursor journal to Commentary (but not the Menorah Journal, as so many people mistakenly believe), and she asked me if I had checked to see if that was where it appeared.  I said I didn’t think that it was my job.  I suspected she’d forget it, but she didn’t, and the mistake has been removed from this edition.

I’ve been reading the cult classic called “The Five Books of Moses.”  Actually, I’ve been reading and re-reading it in two editions. The first one is called A Child’s Illustrated Bible (or something) and let me tell you, it’s kinda crazy to read this book with a seven-year-old.  Its author seems to approve of genocide, tribal murder, killing one’s spouse, offering one’s sister up for sexual degradation, and blaming your own faults on other people and killing them for it.  When I think about it, the fact that the world’s greatest religions happen to choose this book as the alleged word of God—and one of our political parties; the one in charge of everything—uses it to try to instruct the rest of us how to behave is truly amazing to me.  (Anyway, the seven-year-old likes the stories, but I find myself having to skip a great deal more than I do of the Babysitter’s Club.)  Anyway, this is all a long way of getting to my admiration for the beauty of Robert Alter’s new translation with commentary of the Old Testament recently published by Norton.  The book is beautifully produced, with strong binding and slipcover, but more important, Alter’s commentary is learned and challenging and his translation deeply poetic.  The excuses for genocide, moreover, are not his fault.  My congratulations to everyone involved with the project.

A word about Navaksy’s memoir, A Matter of Opinion.

I have two quite good and many not so bad reasons to stay silent on this topic.  In the first place, Victor has, for about a decade, seen to it that I get paid a regular, though unspectacular salary.  Second, thirteen years ago, Victor reviewed my book, Sound & Fury in The Nation.  It’s the only time in my life any of my books has ever been reviewed in those esteemed pages.  And you know what?  There’s not a single nice thing in there about either my writing or my arguments.  It’s not a negative review, it’s just that he decided somewhere not to throw me a bone; the kind of bone I’d be throwing if I told you what I really think of this book.

Actually there’s a third thing.  Even though I feel blessed to have a column in the very magazine with which I came to political maturity in high school and college and am grateful for the freedom it affords me, working for the Nation, unless you are Victor or Katrina, involves enduring any number of small to medium humiliations occurring on a regular basis.  Let me give just one example.  Navasky writes in these pages that The Nation came up with the idea of sponsoring cruises after they sent me on a National Review cruise to Alaska.  What I recall about that first cruise is the fact that I found out about it from my then best-friend who had been invited to come as a guest while I had not—and indeed knew nothing about it.  He had nothing to do with The Nation.  I was its columnist who had written a 5,000 word piece about going on a National Review cruise that Navasky justly terms “hilarious” if I do say so myself.  (I see I’m not yet invited to go on the next Nation cruise, either, by the way.)  Anyway, give me a few drinks and I could take up an entire evening—on say a cruise ship bar—with stories of my mistreatment at the hands of this author.  And how, finally, here’s my chance, for pay back.

Nahh.  I’m too nice a guy for that.  I’m just going to tell the book is out there, and no mater how hard you look, you won’t find anything nice about me in it.

On the other hand, the old man sure can write. 

I mean, during the past ten years I’ve heard roughly seventy percent of these stories.  I’ve even stolen some of the lines. “Young man, it is not Moby Dick that is on trial here…” And I followed Victor a bit of way down that madness-strewn road called the Hiss case, for which he cites me here not at all.  Even so, I marveled at man’s literary flair, his generosity of spirit—if not of wallet—and his combination of fair-mindedness and clear-headedness, even if it leads him to more than a few wooly-headed conclusions.  He’s also led among the most enviable of lives of anyone I’ve ever known or read about.  (And if you knew Annie, like I know Annie, you’d know this to be truer than Victor will, or I can, say.  Anyway, that’s more than enough for a guy who couldn’t find a single nice word to say about Sound & Fury.  In the meantime,  I had planned on assigning only one book to my seminar on magazine journalism next semester, but now I’m going to have to assign two.

P.S.  I wrote the above before I stayed up late last night reading this book, and then woke up early to finish it, and to tell you the truth, I cannot do it justice.  I shouldn’t even try, given how little I appear in it—particularly relative to Hitchens—and how stingy he was about Sound & Fury.  But I can’t help myself.  I was laughing out loud one minute about his recount of his fund-raising dinner with the Newmans and his class sessions at Harvard Business School and scratching my head another minute at his brilliant--and weirdly lucid, given the topic—disquisition on Habermas.  The Hiss part is well, can you imagine a “Hiss part” being riveting?  It is.  And his portrait of Izzy Stone makes me miss my old friend all over again, but also appreciate it him in new ways.  Yes the man is my friend and my employer and was mean to my first book, and there’s that thing about the first cruise, (and I think the fourth cruise) and a lot of other things that are none of your business, but this book is so good it makes you grateful for your sense of sight … and humor.

I think maybe Annie really wrote it.

One fact check.  It is not true, as Victor writes that as many people write in to say that the reason they read The Nation is for Alex Cockburn as write in to say please show yourself and the magazine some self-respect and fire him.  In the early days when Cockburn was still entertaining this may have been closer to the case.  Now the vast majority of Cockburn-related contacts are those of sane people requesting his termination.  Navasky confirmed this on the plane ride out to L.A.  I hope future editions reflect it.

Anyway, do yourself a favor.  Buy it and read it.  If you don’t agree, I’ll see that Victor gives you your money back….

P.P.S.  Tomorrow will be another all music edition, so if you have a hunka something burning to say...

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Barry L. Ritholtz
Hometown: The Big Picture

Hey Doc,
I couldn't help but notice that the Time Magazine Ann Coulter cover was out almost to the day as the 20th anniversary of Coca-Cola's disastrous introduction of New Coke.  Business school students know New Coke as the world's greatest marketing blunder.  Has Time just made the greatest Media marketing blunder?

Even more ironic:  Time's history of "top-ticking" trends via their covers.  They put Amazon's Jeff Bezos on the cover, and that marked the top for both AMZN stock and the dot com bubble; Once they put Howard Dean on the cover, his polling numbers topped and went straight down.

Has Time just "top ticked" the G.O.P.?

Here are the full details:

New Coke vs Time Magazine - Marketing Blunders

April 23rd 1985:  Coca Cola introduces New Coke, the world's greatest marketing disaster of all time.

April 25, 2005 Vol. 165 No. 17:  Time magazine puts right wing harpy Ann Coulter on the cover of the magazine:

Has Time magazine pulled a 'New Coke' with their 'Ann Coulter' cover?

Ironic Coincidences

I've been wondering about how this blunder by Time magazine (the cover issue) will be looked at in the future.  Might this be the media equivalent of New Coke?  We have already seen quite a few people canceling their subscriptions to Time Magazine (See Altercation of April 22, 2005).  If the boycott of TWX gets up a head of steam, this whole affair could end up as the world's second worst marketing disasters (the Edsel is #3).

The great irony is in the timing: the exact same week of New Coke celebrating (if that's the 
right word) the 20th anniversary of its disastrous introduction, the Time Magazine Coulter cover arrives on Newsstands.  How serendipitous is it that those two examples of corporate think at its worst share the same anniversary -- exactly 2 decades apart?  We know that poor thought processes is in the DNA of TWX; this is the same brain trust afterall who put together AOL and Time Warner in the first place.

It's the comic timing that's truly amazing-- like an cosmic ironic warp which crosses North America every 20 years.  This is not only a major blunder on the part of Time Magazine, but on the exact same week as New Coke's anniversary.  What are the odds of that happening?

What Happens When the Other Guy Blinks?
Time magazine made a mistake very similar to the one that Coke made:  Time can never out-right wing Fox News, The Washington Times, Andrew Sullivan or Drudge.  How likely is it that readers of those sites are going to become Time Magazine subscribers?  Answer: Not very.  Consumers of these 4 sites are viewers/readers who are looking for a very specific flavor, a unique slant.  They want less of a hard news source (i.e., specific facts) and more opinion, philosophy, political cheerleading and energy.

Time magazine, on the other hand, is primarily a weekly news gathering organization.  I believe their bigger problem is not a matter of where they fall on the left-right political spectrum, but a right now versus a week from now quandary.  The Internet causes the dead tree set all kinds of difficult issues; weekly newsmagazines are not exempt.

Instead of focusing on responding to the challenge the Internet presents, Time let a small but vocal group of non-subscribers determine the parameters of debate.  By letting another party frame questions of coverage, you lose before you even start.  (Lawyers call this framing an issue.)

Who Was This Cover's Target Audience?
Magazine covers are by their very nature advertising.  It is the most visible page in a mag, and it is designed to attracts readers.

Time's appeal is to people who want mainstream media news from a centrist perspective.  The right and far right are hardly interested.  Almost by definition, Time picks up both the Center (a given) and the Center Left -- the people who aren't interested in a blunt right perspective.  I do not see Time capturing a significant percentage of Rush Limbaugh listeners and converting them in to regular magazine buyers.

So from a marketing perspective, I gotta ask:  What demographic subscriber subgroup was this cover targeted at?

Was this a ploy at grabbing right wing readers?  To anyone involved in Media, you cannot help but notice the spectacular rise of the Right oriented press.  Not necessarily a vast right wing conspiracy, but rather the surge of a particular type of media outlet appealing (some would say pandering) to a hard right perspective.

Like Coca Cola 20 years ago, Time Magazine blinked.  They fell for the hype, alienated a substantial percentage of their audience, and played right into the hands of their competition.  Pepsi beat Coke in taste tests, because the sweeter Pepsi tested better in small servings.  After a full can, however, the Pepsi Challenge gave a decisive edge to Coke.  (Go figure -- the test was rigged!)

The first rule of business: Know thy customer.  Time clearly has forgotten that rule.  Don't be surprised if the penalty ends up being rather severe.

Another Classic Time Magazine Contrary Indicator?
The cyclical nature of News and Politics oscillates to and fro.  What's hot one year fades and is replaced eventually by the next new thing.  The "quick sip" goes one way, but over the longer time a different flavor may dominate.

That Time's editors do not know that is truly astounding.

We have looked at the magazine cover indicator in the past as a contrary indicator.  It's been a solid tell on politics, technology, currency, even specific stocks (i.e, Apple).  And, this is not the first instance of Time Magazine's displaying exemplary timing.  Recall the Jeff Bezos (Amazon.com's founder and CEO) in December 1999 pretty much top ticked both that stock and the entire dotcom bubble.

Since Reagan was elected, the right side of the political ledger has been in ascendance.  But for Bill Clinton's brief reign (initially elected in a 3 way race that included businessman Ross Perot), that's over 25 years.  It would be both fascinating and ironic if Time Magazine, demonstrating once again their wonderful sense of timing, top ticked another trend.

I'd find it terribly amusing if Time magazine managed to nail the exact moment -- the post-Schiavo/Iraq War/Social Security reform instant -- when the zeitgeist swung away from the G.O.P.

Time (not the magazine) will tell...

Name: Rich Gallagher
Hometown: Fishkill, NY
Dear Eric,
The Ann Coulter documentary "Is It True What They Say About Ann?" was released on DVD in February.  The DVD's cover contains two blurbs which would certainly lead one to believe that the film has been reviewed by The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post.  However, those who are familiar with Coulter's style of sourcing will not be surprised to learn that the Sun blurb is a false attribution, and the Post blurb is not from a review but from a news story about a right-wing film festival.

The Sun story appeared in 2004 and can be found here.  The blurb which appears on the cover of the DVD (that the Coulter film is "gonna blow people's minds") was uttered by Jed Dietz, the organizer of the Maryland Film Festival.  So the producers of the DVD took a quote by a third party which was published in The Baltimore Sun and then attributed the quote to the Sun.  Sound familiar?

The "snappy" blurb from the Post is taken from an article about the right-wing Liberty Film Festival written by staff reporter William Booth last fall.  The article was a report on the festival, not a review.

Name: Larry Wilson
Hometown: Dallas, TX

I think you might find this of interest.  A link to a Congressional summary of what gifts are illegal, and a summary of DeLay's stated contributions to his defense fund.

Search the first document for 'legal defense', then search the 2nd document for 'lobbyists'.

I'm thinking, "Hmm..."

Name: Steve Trattner
Hometown:  L.A.
Just a comment on a statement you made today in L.A. that lying is sometimes OK.  I remember studying Talmud many years ago and that very issue was brought up.  The situation was that you were at a wedding where the bride was very ugly and the question was what you should say to her.  The possibility of telling her that her wedding gown was beautiful was dismissed, since she would interpret it as your trying to avoid the real issue.  A similar situation occurs if you complement her hair.  The rabbis said you MUST lie and tell her that she looks beautiful, since a wedding is a very special day in one's life and you should try to make her feel good.  Makes sense.

Another relevant discussion from the Talmud relates to the situation where you are negotiating the sale of an item you own which has a defect that is hard for someone to detect.  The first case is when the buyer asks a question in which the response would require you to point out the defect, what should you do?  The answer is, of course, you must point it out.  Then a more difficult question is asked.  What if the potential buyer never asks the question.  What is your obligation then?  The answer is that it still is the duty for each party to divulge all he knows regarding the transaction to the other so they will both be on equal footing in negotiations.  Makes sense.  Think how different Jewish ethics is from what Bush is doing to the American people in many cases such as the need for the War in Iraq.

Keep up the good work.

Name: Brian Wilson
Hometown: Chicago, IL
(Chicago voted overwhelmingly against Bush and yet we have two
conservative-run papers--pretty sad)

Dear Mr. Alterman,
Greetings, and thanks again for the book What Liberal Media?.

You may want to check out a column by Mary Elson, a "managing editor of Tribune Media Services," in the Sunday, April 24th Chicago Tribune's Perspective Section (page 3).  I tried finding the article on the paper's website (so I could e-mail it to you) to no avail.

Anyway, it's all about how Elson found herself, a self-proclaimed Democrat, feeling wooed by Bush during a speech.  I felt really sad for Ms. Elson who, while admitting Bush's performance at a recent American Society of Newspaper Editors convention wasn't perfect, overwhelmingly applauded his non-answers and, to be blunt, lies.  This reminded me of the passages of your book where you describe Bush's seduction of the press.  Could this be the reason the press hasn't been as hard on him?

My friend's nephew met Bush recently and said that the man is indeed charming.  He has a way of working the crowd.

But the press should start doing its job.  And if Ms. Elson found herself troubled by the BS Bush was spitting out then she as a journalist should have raised her hand and started asking him tough questions.  Instead she sat there and basked in Bush's "incandescent" (her word) glow.

Pretty pathetic.

Thanks for all your good work.

April 25, 2005 | 12:48 PM ET | Permalink

Name: Maj. Bob Bateman
Dateline:  Baghdad, Iraq

Riding with Wingnut and Stinky

“Whaddya see?!  Whaddya SEE?!” shouted the driver of the HMMWV.

We were traveling at ‘best speed,’ which in this particular vehicle meant about 55 miles per hour.  Not exactly a screaming top-end, but still about 5-10 mph faster than the majority of the cars around us.  Ahead we could see traffic was at a standstill.  On the highways of Iraq, for Americans, coming to a stop on the road can become permanent.

“Hey! Stinky! What do you SEE?!”

‘Stinky’ responds, “Looks like…looks like, yea, it’s a convoy or something. They’re stopping traffic.”  The reply was barely audible.  Shouted down through the gunner’s hatch in the roof of our gun-truck, it competed with the road noise of a fully-loaded HMMWV.  Stinky’s head is a full nine feet above the roadway.  He can see obstacles beyond what the driver can pick up from his seat at road level.  Already we were slowing. 

Speaking into the radio my driver checks behind us, “Wingnut, what do you see?” “Wingnut” is the gunner in the second gun-truck.  He is in the Air Force.

“Nothing back here,” comes the reply over the hand-held.

Decision time.

Not just one decision, but a host of them, had to be made.  In sequence.  Fast.

Drive onto the median or push towards the center lane?  Nudge that red car out of our way?  Right or left?  Force the car that has now reversed track and is heading towards us to the right or the left?  Can he make it on the left?  If we shove this next white car, will he be pinned against that truck beside him, or will he give way and create a hole for us to slip through?  Doesn’t that guy hear us?  Warning shot from the gunner’s M-4 or throw a rock?  (The horns on HMMWVs are lame so sometimes drivers do not hear us coming up from behind.  Stinky has a bag with small rocks up there on the roof for this purpose.  We prefer not to shoot into the sky.  What goes up, must come down after all.)  Shit, that one was a wedding.  Give them room.  Give them that much.  On and on.  Another wedding caravan.  Another rock thrown to get a black mini-van blocking us to move aside.  Are they doing it on purpose?  Are they running a ‘post’ on us for somebody else?  Look left.  Right.  Rear.  One thing overrides all.  We must keep moving.

Our lead driver is aggressive.  A few times I think about telling him to slow, to give these Iraqis all around us the chance to get out of our way, to stop if need be and let them make room.  I think better of it. 

The day before, a few miles from here, a friend of mine found himself in a similar situation.  My friend is one of the best combat leaders I know, a soldier and a scholar.  He is also one of the most intelligent, most humane and caring men that I know.  He stopped his convoy.  Seconds later the gunner of the HMMWV ahead of his was blown out of the hatch and into the roadway, bleeding to death from an IED planted to take advantage of exactly that situation.  His Sergeant Major was wounded too.

I think of them and I keep my mouth, mostly, shut.  This platoon I am riding with, a platoon nobody ever imagined might exist, is working just fine without the Major opening his big mouth.  It is a platoon with a Marine Master Sergeant, and enlisted men from the Air Force and the Navy, as well as the Army.  I am an Army officer, the senior officer on the patrol.  Ultimately, if something goes wrong, the responsibility is mine.  But this conglomerate platoon, created of necessity and welded by reality, works well as a team.  We move.  We do what we can to not to cause harm, but we move.  I bite my tongue.

Sometimes, to be a good officer, all you need to know is when to shut up.

BAGHDAD WITHIN EARSHOT:

This past weekend the temperature was the end of what I think of as “human hot.”  After this it becomes “animal hot.”  Around about July we’ll hit “Satanic.”  It was 105 degrees in the shade, and about 120 in the sun today.

A single mortar came in nearby as I went in to work the other day.  Car bombs are obviously still climbing, but I read about most of them the same way that you do.  I would personally very much appreciate it if the Iraqis would form a government.  I am willing to be patient, however, since I realize how long it took our own first government to get its act together.  Given that that process was measured in years, though it was done by men we consider today to be our nigh-unto-godlike “Founding Fathers,” I would be ungenerous to complain about the pace here.

My father is sailing from Newport, RI, to Antigua with a friend of mine on an open ocean passage next month.  A passage on which I was supposed to crew.  Cold beer, the sea, and a steady breeze for two weeks.  This war is damned inconvenient to my sailing schedule.

Eric adds: Write to Major Bob at bateman_maj@hotmail.com

Random Observations:

This John Cloud fellow is a real a piece of work, isn’t he?  Last time I looked he was on a high horse over the fact that there’s a quote somewhere in What Liberal Media? for which I did not request a videotape even though the source of the quote herself was quoted accurately in The Washington Post.  (She has since changed her mind about what she said, surprise, surprise.)  The idea that Time Magazine would ever undertake this level of fact-checking is patently absurd—the evidence being Cloud’s piece himself.  (For which, I might add, he did not even do his own research and reporting.  When I was called by a Time staffer, he didn’t even tell me who was writing the piece—not that Cloud’s name would have rung any bells.)  In any case, given that the whole multi-million dollar operation could come up with nothing more than a casual Google search for a cover story, it would appear to call into question some of the arguments for why we even need a mainstream media, even though I am not among those who make this argument.  (Nor, by the way, have I argued for a boycott of Time.  I just print the letters.)

No less revealing, when challenged, Mr. Cloud throws out a lot of wild and unsupportable allegations in McCarthyite fashion against myself and David Brock—comparing us to the object of his admiring affection, Ann Coulter.  When I take the trouble to point out the idiocy of this comparison—the comparison he made—by pointing to the evidence, he complains that I am bragging about my resume, sounding very much like junior high class clown.  Nowhere however, in his hysterical letters to MSNBC nor in his inflammatory interview with CJR Daily—not only going after Brock and myself but also bringing in Hitler and Stalin-- was he able to defend the overall crappiness of his research and writing; rather he took refuge in the amazing claim that a Time cover story bears no journalistic responsibility for “fact-checking.”  Then, he seems to think that because Coulter is justifiably annoyed with the way Time made her look like a kind of cartoon character on the cover, that somehow proves the magazine was fair, since both the left and right are angry.  The stupidity of this argument indicts itself.  I think if I hated Time magazine, and was trying to find a way to both destroy its reputation and make its writers appear ridiculous, I could hardly have chosen better representative of journalistic cluelessness mixed with arrogance than last week’s performance by Mr. Cloud.  Cloud followed up on Friday to MSNBC with a snotty e-mail thanking me for the attention I drew to the piece, taking refuge in the old showbiz adage that all publicity is good publicity.  (He might want to check with Michael Jackson bout that.)  Well if that’s the kind of attention you genuinely desire, Mr. Cloud, I suggest you offer yourself as a talk-show host on Fox TV.  Even with all of its flaws, I don’t think the hardworking writers and editors at Time Magazine who take their professional charge seriously really appreciate the shame and mockery you have brought on their name…. But I digress (and there’s more below in the letters section.)

Anyway, dart to the Columbia Journalism Review Daily for allowing Mr. Cloud his indefensible allegations and making no attempt whatever to let its readers know that these allegations were answered on this side, on Media Matters and elsewhere.  (It’s not as if were not made aware of the fact of the response.

Efraim Karsh writing an attack on Juan Cole, here, has written one of the dumbest sentences by a smart person I’ve ever seen.  He writes, “Yet it is the inculcation of this misguided dogma in generations of students that prevented the anticipation of the September 11 attacks and has subsequently held back a correct prognosis of their root causes.”  Oh really?  It had nothing to do with say, a screwed up intelligence system, asleep-at-the-switch members of the National Security Council reading reports entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside U.S.,” or presidents who preferred to go fishing on the day of their briefings on said reports, or the inability and unwillingness of the FBI and CIA to communicate with one another, or law enforcement’s failure to arrest known terrorists living in San Diego under their own names, or the Saudi Government’s quisling relationship with the Bin Laden operation and the Washington establishment (and Bush family)’s relationship with them, or anything like that.  Rather it was the fact that Karsh doesn’t like the political orientation of most Middle Eastern studies departments.  Really, reels the mind….  The rest of the column is wrong-headed and largely unfair in the familiar New Republic/Hate-the-Arabs sort of way, but let’s be fair, it would be hard for anyone to sustain that level of inspiration for an entire piece.

Emergency contraception could reduce unwanted pregnancies -- and abortions -- by half.  But conservatives won't distribute it more widely, in good part because they fear that it will increase promiscuous behavior, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  In fact, they're so opposed to it they have even fought efforts to educate rape victims about its availability.  And liberals are supposed to be the extremists?  More here.

More on CPB, here.  If you missed my piece on the guy, it’s here.

Anti-intellectualism watch:  Matt Bai-  "The Democratic alternative, relying as it does on the moral judgments of Ph.D.'s and Oscar winners, subscribes to no such pretension.  It simply smacks of boundless elitism.”  In the liberal New York Times, here.

Part I of Elizabeth Kolbert’s New Yorker piece on Global warming is here.

Alert: Tuesday night at 8, VH1 Classic will broadcast the entire (!) Storyteller’s show; not the truncated one-hour version.

RIP Ezer Weitzman, a man who truly learned from history and showed great courage in doing so.

Correspondence Corner:

April 23, 2005

John Cloud
Time
New York, NY

Dear Mr. Cloud:
In your recent cover story on the fact-challenged and truth-bending contrastive writer Ann Coulter, you called attention to a film about her.

"A recent documentary, Is It True What They Say About Ann?—co-directed by a friend of Coulter’s, journalist Elinor Burkett—has played at film festivals and won some favorable notices," you wrote. ( Source.)

Since I never heard of the film and fancy myself a movie-lover, I used Google to fact-check your claims about this documentary on Coulter.

First of all, the makers of the film have a web site to promote and sell it, www.AnnCoulterDoc.com.  The site links to what appears to be all of the film festivals, three total, that screened the work in 2004.  I couldn't find any evidence that the film has been shown this year.

Regarding two of the three festivals, the Liberty and the Renaissance film festivals, are put on by contrastive organizations, proud of their right-wing political bent.  The third one was the Maryland Film Festival.  Not exactly Cannes or Telluride, or mainstream film venues for the latest documentaries focusing on American politics and pundits.  (Sources: 1, 2, 3.)

Second, where are the supposed favorable notices you claim exist for the documentary?  The links to news clippings about the film aren't reviews, but articles about the filmmakers, their controversial subject or the conservative film festivals showing the film. ( Sources.)

Does this excerpt from an essay by Bryan Curtis for Slate qualify as a rave in your opinion?

"Stranger still was Is It True What They Say About Ann?, a short film about the conservative provocateur Ann Coulter, who said of Muslim terrorists after 9/11 that we should 'invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity.'  The director, Patrick Wright, never attempts to answer the title question, preferring to let the camera gaze lovingly at Ann as she hawks her books and invades university campuses.

"After a protester disrupts one of her speeches, she quips, 'You really develop your analytical skills here at Johns Hopkins.  At Harvard, they had questions.'  When an olive-skinned girl asks her to sign a book later, Coulter asks, 'Are you a Sikh?' No, I'm Hindu, the woman replies. 'Oh, I've got a lot of Sikh friends for some reason,' Coulter says. 'You're my first Hindu.'

"And that's the way the festival unfolded.  The films were pleasantly amateurish and the sermons were, too." ( Source.)

If that's a favorable notice, what were the unfavorable ones like?

The closest thumbs-up review I could find, none too surprisingly, appeared in Human Events in December 2004.  As you know, Coulter is the legal correspondent for this publication, but nevertheless, you can read her colleague's review of the movie at [ here].

The only other review of the film, again using Google, to come up was an outright slam, written by a film buff living in Maryland.

This is about the kindest thing he had to say. "Unfortunately, the film has no real ambition other than to rehash old clips, interview segments, and dull-as-dishwater book tours in order to present a side of Ann that actually harms her image, despite the fact that this is alleged to be a puff piece.  Having been screened during at least one conservative film festival this past year, Is It True What They Say About Ann? is the Right's answer to Al Franken and Michael Moore, only without the entertainment value, humor, or insight.  And my loathing of Coulter is beside the point: this is simply poor filmmaking, as it randomly cuts and pans without direction or purpose." ( Source.)

Since you omitted any adjectives when describing the film festivals, readers may have been left with the false impression the venues were politically neutral or of high cinematic caliber.

Then again, there are much larger issues overall in your profile on Coulter for Time, and you've been taken to task for what many media critics see as sloppy reporting.  To your credit, you answered some of the criticism leveled against you in an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review's daily blog.

As you admitted to the review, your "job in this story was not to be a fact-checker." ( Source.)

Truer words could not have been spoken by you.

Sincerely,
Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA

April 23, 2005

John Cloud
Time
New York, NY

Dear Mr. Cloud:
In my earlier letter to you I erred when I said there was no evidence the documentary on Ann Coulter, which you alleged has "won some favorable notices," had not been screened publicly this year.

The direct-to-video film was shown earlier this month in Massachusetts by the College Republicans at Brandeis University as part of a political conference, according the release that follows.

( Here.)

The conference was not a film festival.

Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA

Name: J. Dougherty
Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI
Add me to the list of those who have cancelled Time subscriptions because of the Coulter issue.  I think a boycott of Time-Warner properties over Time's decision to stop pretending at journalism is overbroad, though.  On the other hand, such a boycott does not burden me--Time was the only part of the empire getting any of my money.

Name: Mike
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

Hey Eric, not to jump on the bandwagon but my subscription to Time is done for.  A complete boycott is most likely unachievable and probably unnecessary, but if everyone who reads here just makes sure that they and everyone they know cancels their Time subscription it could make a noticeable dent.  I mean seriously....that was one of the shi**iest articles I have ever read .

Name: Jane Leffler
Hometown: Sanborn, NY

As a long-time reader of but first-time poster to your column I just wanted to add my voice to the cancel-Time-subscription choir.

I have read Time magazine since I was a kid reading my parents' subscription (more years ago than I care to say), but the Coulter issue really was the straw that broke the camel's back. The magazine arrived in Tuesday's mail and our subscription was cancelled that afternoon.

My only regret is that having cancelled, I may not have the opportunity to read any of the flood of letters the magazine must be receiving as a result of this issue.  I would also be interested to see some statistics regarding the number of subscriptions cancelled.  Think Time will run an article about that?

Name: Don Paule
Hometown: York, Pennsylvania

Dear Eric:
Here is a letter I sent to Time Magazine.  I hope it helps the effort a little bit.

Sirs:

I have been a subscriber to Time Magazine since 1971, uninterrupted for some thirty-four years.  Countless times I have eagerly anticipated the next issue of Time, to read its coverage of current events, with its unique prose and perspective.

It is therefore with great sadness that I ask that you cancel my subscription to Time.  Your recent issue, with Ann Coulter on the cover, was so far afield from what I have come to expect from your magazine that I can no longer in good conscience support its publication, and worse, believe its reporting any longer.

Miss Coulter is a hate monger.  She traffics in meanness, arrogance and deceit.  Her sweeping pronouncements are unsupported by fact, history or common sense.  Why Time Magazine, TIME MAGAZINE, would give legitimacy to this minor provocateur with a cover story is incomprehensible to me.

The conservative movement has many decent, capable and thoughtful representatives to articulate and advance its positions.  To suggest that Miss Coulter is one of its leading spokespersons is both bizarre and untrue.

Genuine public discourse demands some level of accountability.  Ann Coulter long ago abandoned any responsibility to be accurate or reasoned or fair.  Last week, Time Magazine did so as well.

Don Paule
York, Pennsylvania

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