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Slacker Friday

Slacker Friday

July 14, 2006 | 10:59 AM ET |

I’ve got a new Nation column, “The Times Is Us,” , and yesterday’s “Think Again” column on media coverage of Bush’s North Korea policy is .

One of the reasons Americans may have trouble putting the current Middle East chaos in context is because news outlets like CNN routinely vital information.  Yesterday's coverage of the violence in Lebanon was just the latest example.

Much attention has been focused on a single, horrific rape and murder case in Iraq for which six American soldiers are now charged (one for not reporting the crime).  But behind that single incident may lie a larger and more shocking story of what's happened to women generally in Iraq since they and their country were "liberated" by the Bush administration in the spring of 2003.  explores this distinctly difficult subject and concludes:

In the early 1970s, American feminists redefined rape and argued that it was an act driven not by sexual lust, but by a desire to exercise power over another person.  Rape, they argued, was an act of terrorism that kept all women from claiming their right to public space.  That is precisely what has happened to Iraqi women since the American invasion of Iraq.  Sexual terrorism coupled with religious zealotry has stolen their right to claim their place in public life.  This, then, is a hidden part of the unnecessary suffering loosed by the reckless invasion of Iraq.  Amid the daily explosions and gunfire that make the papers is a wave of sexual terrorism, whose exact dimensions we have no way of knowing, and that no one here notices, unleashed by the Bush administration in the name of exporting "democracy" and fighting "the war on terror."

Slacker Friday:

(Stupid’s on vacation.)

Name: Charles Mitchell
Hometown: Reston Virginia
The news about increased revenues from corporate tax payments seems to be good news, but I think that people should consider the possibility that the increased revenue comes from oil companies that are realizing enormous profits from the high price of petroleum based products is responsible for this unexpected increase in revenue.  This is an indirect tax on us all.  Also remember that with our tax system, what the corporations pay today can be recovered in subsequent years through net operating loss carrybacks or tax credits that mysteriouly appear in legislation.  It is more of a loan than a payment.

Name: John
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Dr. A,
Just one more thing worth noting about Republican hypocrisy (as if we needed more evidence).  Michael Schiavo (the widower of Terri) has been using some of his notoriety to try and fight members of government who feel they have a right to jump into the middle of family decisions based on their own personal religious beliefs by lending his support to opposing candidates in Colorado, Florida etc.  He's done a few interviews including a great one on Countdown With Keith Olbermann about a month ago, and he seems very sincere a bout aiding a cause that is obviously close to his heart.  And has been to smear him (of course) and call his actions "shameless."  The glaring hypocrisy as I see it, is that it seems every time anyone complains about Republican policies, their response is usually a sneering "well if you don't like it then try winning an election" (sort of a truncated version of "bring it on.")  But when someone like Michael Schiavo decides to use his "power" to do just that, they cry foul.  Of course if Schiavo was pro-life, pro-gun, or a large corporation who wanted to give the Republicans some $, it would be considered an issue of "free speech." Anyways, just thought I'd share that with you because the guy seems like a genuine chap who just wants to try and keep government out of our private affairs, which to me is about as American an ideal as it gets.

Name: Steven C. Day
Hometown: Wichita, Kansas
On George McGovern, you might be interested in just how true your original point was.  He flew 35 missions, a large number; overall .  Maybe one day this will be the sort of country where people trying to denigrate the patriotism of someone like McGovern will be met with the contempt they deserve.  Or so we can dream.

Name: Petr Swedock
Hometown: Leominster, MA
The Niskanen study does illuminate patterns of spending and taxation that deserve much scrutiny.  His conclusion that voters are the deciding factors on spending and taxation issues is, to put it mildly, naive.  It's clear to the boots on the ground that tax cuts to the rich are often accompanied by increased spending for the rich: that is to say pork.  It's hard to imagine that the same intellect that puts stock in the laffer curve, when dealing with taxation, suddenly gets all responsible and correct when dealing with spending.  The long and the short of the deal is just this: deference to the rich on the part of Republicans doesn't stop at taxation, but is often expressed just as grotesquely in spending.  This is what is seen in the study quoted.  The added benefit of pork in the district is that congress members are able to bribe their voters with increased local spending.

Name: Michael Rapoport
Repeat after me: . There's no such thing as a jinx. There's no such thing as a ...

July 13, 2006 | 11:10 AM ET |

Spinning the numbers
Here we go again

I have a new Think Again column, "."

The figures released by the administration show revenue some $100 billion greater than the $2.2 trillion forecast in February, with the deficit at least that much smaller than the $390-billion forecast.  Naturally yesterday’s Wall Street Journal editorial page thought this was just peachy news.  In a piece called “Soaking the Rich” they tried to argue that

“even Washington can't avoid the obvious forever: to wit, the gusher of revenues flowing into the Treasury in the wake of the 2003 tax cuts....The real news, and where the policy credit belongs, is with the 2003 tax cuts.  They've succeeded even beyond Art Laffer's dreams, if that's possible.  In the nine quarters preceding that cut on dividend and capital gains rates and in marginal income-tax rates, economic growth averaged an annual 1.1%.  In the 12 quarters — three full years — since the tax cut passed, growth has averaged a remarkable 4%.  Monetary policy has also fueled this expansion, but the tax cuts were perfectly targeted to improve the incentives to take risks among businesses shell-shocked by the dot-com collapse, 9/11 and Sarbanes-Oxley.  This growth in turn has produced a record flood of tax revenues, just as the most ebullient supply-siders predicted.

This leads them to conclude, crazily: “Because of the tax cuts, the still highly progressive U.S. tax code is soaking the rich.  Since when do liberals object to a windfall for the government?"


It’s all .

Alas, as Joel Haveman writes, , it’s all nonsense:

This will be the third year in a row that the administration put forth relatively gloomy deficit forecasts early on, only to announce months later that things had turned out better than expected."The White House would have signaled that it was serious about the budget if it had decided not to spin the numbers," Stanley Collender, a budget specialist with Qorvis Communications, wrote for National Journal.  "The fact that it is choosing to do so points out directly that, in spite of what appears to be good numbers, nothing much will have changed.""Even with these re-estimated revenues," said Robert Greenstein, the center's executive director, "there's something a little unreal about celebrating deficits of 'only' $300 billion, with the baby boom crunch just around the corner."Contrary to the administration's rhetoric, Greenstein said, tax revenue has grown more slowly during this period of economic expansion than during previous expansions. Adjusted for inflation, he said, government revenue this year will probably fall short of the level it reached six years earlier. And as a share of the U.S. economy, revenue will be about 10% short of its 2000 level.Analysts at the center said revenue in 2006 would remain about $200 billion short of the level the White House and Congressional Budget Office projected in 2001, before the tax cuts.

And hey, look, the entire argument is nonsense, as it turns out:  A recent study by William Niskanen of the conservative/libertarian Cato Institute, found that the conservative "starve the beast" strategy with regard to taxes does actually have the opposite effect in the real world.  Beginning in 1981, Niskanen discovered to his shock and profound surprise that tax cuts tend to produce more spending, while tax hikes tended to produced less.  (He hypothesizes that tax cuts make government cheaper, so voters want more of it.)  There’s a bit more but I don’t seem to be able to find the whole study.

has more and so does .

Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and ?  (parental advisory)

Thoughts on Neocons, read Josh: .

Put simply, do we not detect a pattern in which the foreign policy neoconservatives strike out boldly on some foreign policy adventure, flop right down on their faces and then present the cause of their undoing as a novel insight wrestled from the maw of history when in fact, to everyone else except for them, this 'insight' was completely obvious and predictable from the start?Kaplan says that America can't contain the Iraqi's "sectarian rage" nor "reprogram [the Iraqi's] coarsened and brittle cultures." As Louis Menand put it in The New Yorker, quite relatedly, when reviewing Francis Fukuyama's richly articulated discovery that regime change and preemption might not have been such a royal road to peace and democracy, "No duh!"

Correction: George McGovern was a B-24 bomber pilot, not a fighter pilot during WWII.

Don't forget: Call me; CSPAN, Friday morning at 9:00

(An abbreviated) Altercation Book Club:

From George Soros, The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror (Public Affairs Books)

What makes the war on terror a false metaphor is that it is taken literally. Terror is an abstraction. One cannot wage war on an abstraction. We have the means to destroy any target as long as we can identify it, but terrorists rarely provide an identifiable target. When we declare war, we must find a target; but the target we choose is unlikely to be the right one. We have killed more innocent civilians in Iraq than the terrorists killed on 9/11, In addition to killing, we have humiliated and tortured many Iraqis. By creating innocent victims, we have advanced the terrorist’ cause. They can now depict us as the terrorists and enlist the support of their countrymen just as President Bush has enlisted ours. We find this difficult to understand because we cannot envision ourselves as terrorists. Yet that is exactly how we appear to many Iraqis.

The Bush administration and its imitators—many foreign governments have been eager to follow its lead—insist that a state cannot commit acts of terror. That contention must  be challenged. It’s best to start with terrorist acts committed by other states. On May 13, 2005, the troops of President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan fired on demonstrators in Andijan and they massacred several hundred unarmed civilians. I spoke with two journalists who were there. One of them had a bullet hole in her passport, which had been in the rucksack on her back. That was an act of terrorism designed to cow the population into submission. Or take the destruction of Grozny by the Russian army; then ask what the difference is between Grozny and Chechnya and Falluja in Iraq. One hardly needs to mention the atrocities committed in Iraq at the prison of Abu Ghraib, which have been officially ascribe to a few aberrant soldiers.

In many ways, his influence in Washington defies conventional patterns. Addington doesn’t serve the President directly. He has never run for elected office. Although he has been a government lawyer for his entire career, he has never worked in the Justice Department. He is a hawk on defense issues, but he has never served in the military.

More .

Correspondence Conrer:

Name: Mitch Gilbert
Hometown: Lakewood, Colorado
Just a thought - Could Sen. Lieberman's answer to the query re: opposition to his candidacy possibly due to his religion, "That's too big a question to answer on one foot", possibly been in reference to the famous tale of 1st century Jewish sage Hillel who was asked by a scoffer to teach him the entire Torah while standing on one foot and replied "What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor - all the rest is commentary"?  Might this choice of reply have been a rebuke to the questioner or a referral to the complexity and seeming impossibility of the answer?

Eric replies: Yes, but “no” would have worked too.

Name: Lars
Hometown: Danville, CA
Your comments relative to Novak are "right on target."  He is a traitor, a bully and a pawn of the extreme right.  Good job.
A good Republican

Name: Paul Robinson
Hometown: Culver City, CA
Great review of John Stewart's "California Bloodlines" album.  It truly is one of the great albums of all time in my book.  I have a cassette tape of it that I made off my brother's copy a long time ago that I still play.  I have been a fan of Stewart's a long time, although I did lose track of him for a while.  I had the pleasure very recently (June 17th) of seeing him perform live at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, CA.  A wonderful performance - greeted enthusiastically by a full house that gave him a rousing ovation at the end.  At his age I think we were all wondering in the back of our minds if we would see him again...he stepped back up to the mic after the huge ovation and thanked everyone again and said, "See you again next year," which was actually what we were all hoping to hear.  One of the best concerts I've ever been to.  Oh, yeah...I picked up a CD copy of "Willard & Bloodlines" at the intermission break - not to mention a few other recordings as well.

July 12, 2006 | 2:17 PM ET |

Robert Novak, traitor to his country; traitor to his profession

The upshot here appears to be that Novak lied to everyone in order to betray his country on behalf of Rove and company.  First he revealed the name of an active CIA officer, blowing any and all operations with which she has ever been involved, costing the country millions, and possibly endangering lives despite the specific request from the agency that he not do so.  That’s all

Harlow, the former CIA spokesman, said in an interview yesterday that he testified last year before a grand jury about conversations he had with Novak at least three days before the column was published.  He said he warned Novak, in the strongest terms he was permitted to use without revealing classified information, that Wilson's wife had not authorized the mission and that if he did write about it, her name should not be revealed.Harlow said that after Novak's call, he checked Plame's status and confirmed that she was an undercover operative.  He said he called Novak back to repeat that the story Novak had related to him was wrong and that Plame's name should not be used.  But he did not tell Novak directly that she was undercover because that was classified.

Next, he played Joan of Arc by insisting he would never reveal the names of his sources to Mr. Fitzgerald while simultaneously doing just that.  Why in the world is The Washington Post continuing to stand by this scoundrel?  Is it all because he’s a member of the club and insiders protect their own?  It worked for Kim Philby and I’m beginning to think it’s working here too.

On a historical note, Novak’s most consequential story before this one was the one that sunk George McGovern’s 1972 candidacy in which he quoted one of the senator’s Democratic colleagues as insisting that his campaign stood for “the three As: acid, abortion and amnesty.”  The quote wouldn’t have mattered had it come from Nixon, but the fact that it was sourced to a Democratic senator, made the charge stick, as incredibly unfair as it was to bona fide prairie liberal and heroic World War II fighter pilot.  Almost everyone familiar with the incident believed the source was Henry “Scoop” Jackson.  But McGovern told he that he asked Jackson and the man swore it was not so. And if it were Jackson, then Novak’s pledge of confidentiality would have been released when he died.  But Novak still will not reveal his source.  We know he does reveal his sources when it suits his purposes; not only to Mr. Fitzgerald but also in the case of the former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, after Hanssen was arrested for spying.  Why?  Because, Novak wrote, "To be honest to my readers, I must reveal it.

Honest with his readers?  What was the name of that again?  So the fact that he won’t finger this one leads me to a conclusion I’ve always suspected: Novak probably made it up.  The man’s self justification is .

Wall Street Journal on the Wall Street Journal Quotes of the Day: 

  • “They’re wrong all the time.  They lack credibility to the point that the emperor has no clothes,” said one staffer whose reporting has been at odds with an editorial crusade.
  • "To have Paul Gigot as our captain is bul**hit,” one staffer said. “It’s not for real.”


It’s never too late to play the “If you disagree with me, you’re an anti-Semite card,” Quote of the Day:

“Asked specifically if he felt that the wave of opposition to his candidacy had anything to do with his religion or his support for Israel, Mr. Lieberman paused, stepped toward the blue sedan that would speed him to a meeting outside of Hartford and said, “That’s too big a question to answer on one foot.  We should come back to answer that one.”  —Joe Lieberman, shamelessly: .

Call me: I’ll be on CSPAN for an hour, taking calls and the like on Friday morning at 9:00 am.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Dan Gatti
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Eric, isn't it time to make peace with Sullivan?  Yes, the things he said after September 11 were reprehensible.  No, he hasn't apologized or really backed down from those comments.  But he has gone from being the truest of true believers in this Bush administration to a persistent critic, and that takes a certain degree of integrity.  He has taken repeated strong stands against the Bush administration and their yes-men, and he articulates those positions in a language that reflects conservative values.  In a blogosphere in which most people are preaching to the converted, he has probably actually changed a fair number of minds about the Bush administration.  Don't get me wrong: he's a conservative hawk and, like all of the douchebags who agitated for war, he is well deserving of public ridicule.  But it's hard to stay too pissed off about that when he spends most of his time these days attacking Ramesh Ponuru and Jonah Goldberg.  It would be a much better world if guys like Sullivan were our opponents, rather than the NRO crowd.

Eric replies:  Thanks but no thanks: Not only has he not “apologized or backed down,” he has not even admitted he was wrong.  This is from

In language that seemed deliberately evocative of that employed by the late Senator Joseph McCarthy during the red scare of the 1950s, Sullivan implored Americans to distinguish between the kinds of citizens who could be trusted, and those who sought to undermine the country from within.  In the first category he identified, “the middle part of the country--the great red zone that voted for Bush.”  Among Gore voters, however, Sullivan professed to spy a “decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts [that] is not dead--and may well mount a fifth column." [1]  It apparently did not concern Sullivan that not only were Gore voters more plentiful in America than Bush voters but one of those “enclaves on the coast”—the island of Manhattan—had actually suffered the consequences of the terrorists’ attack.  Many of Sullivan’s former colleagues objected to the broad-based McCarthyite overtones of his attack and so Sullivan responded by naming names.  “These people," he wrote, “have already openly said they do not support such a war, and will oppose it.  Read Sontag and Chomsky and Moore and Alterman and on and on, and you'll see that I'm not exaggerating.” [2]

Now remember:  I publicly offered to give $10,000 to the AIDS charity of Andy’s choice if he could prove his assertion that I said I would not support a war against the Al Qaida and the Taliban.  The offer stands.  He is obviously not too busy to do so.  He is therefore too dishonest and/or cowardly to admit his mistake.  Susan Sontag did not oppose the war either, as I understand her position.  All in all, I’d prefer he were still the Bush suck-up he was then; it clarifies things.

Name: Paul Culligan
Hometown: South Windsor, CT
From those nutty liberals at the Wall Street Journal: Do the tax cuts pay for themselves?  Not if you read the fine print in the new White House midsession review of budget trends.  "While difficult to estimate precisely," Treasury long-run analyses of the effects of President Bush's tax cuts "may ultimately" raise total national output of goods and services by 0.7%. So is that enough to pay for the tax cuts, even after allowing them to work their economic magic over the next 10 years?  The Center for Budget Policies and Priorities, a Washington think tank and advocacy group that is distinctly unfriendly to Bush fiscal policies, says it isn't. "A 0.7 percent increase in the economic output that the Congressional Budget Office has projected for 2016 would represent an additional $146 billion [in gross domestic product]," it says. "If new revenues equaled as much as 20% of the additional output, the increase in revenues resulting from making the tax cuts permanent (assuming Treasury's best-case assumptions) would be $29 billion." That's a lot of money. But how does it compare to the size of the president's tax cuts? The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, using conventional analyses, says making the president's tax cuts permanent would reduce federal revenues in 2016 by $314 billion. That is more than 10 times what the Treasury analysis suggests tax cuts would generate by prompting more hours of work, more savings and investment and more efficient use of resources. —David Wessel []

But will this stop Bush and the republicans from saying otherwise?  Of course not!

Name: Mark Cashman
Hometown: Yonkers, NY
Great version on Dave Alvin's Best of the West of too.  From one of the most woefully under-appreciated albums recorded in the last 40 years. Released in 1969, California Bloodlines has not a bad note on it.  The original release pictured here is out of print. But the album is available in several versions packaged with John's second album, Willard. I don't consider many albums to be perfect, but this is one of them. Thanks to Dave Alvin for dusting off a great song.
[1] Andrew Sullivan, “America at war: America wakes up to a world of fear,” The Sunday Times (London), September 16, 2001

[2] , September 19, 2001.

July 11, 2006 | 11:33 AM ET |

No, really.  Look at this crazy quote of Cheney’s in , that appears to be guiding this administration’s response to events:  "It's not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence. It's about our response."  Another way of saying “madness” in this context is “ideological fanaticism and imperviousness to reality,” but John Judis opts for the former in his piece “” in describing this administration’s modus operandi, and writes:

Isn't it conceivable, for instance, that Vladimir Putin secretly desires the downfall of the United States and that under extremely strained circumstances —perhaps a previously undetected brain tumor— he might resort to weapons of mass destruction to effect it?  It's not likely, but it is conceivable.  And if it is conceivable, shouldn't we do something about it before it's too late?

Oh wait, I forgot.  Bush looked into his soul.  (I guess we should be grateful he didn’t kiss his tummy.)  But the point is, the most powerful nation in the history of humankind is being led by a guy just doesn’t recognize reality.  He (Cheney, his Bible,) is right.  Reality is wrong.  The experts are wrong.  The Constitution is wrong.  It’s like the Soviet politboro all over again.

Want another?  Look at what the guy told those tough questioners at .

People: “Do you think Gore is right on global warming?”Bush: “I think we have a problem on global warming.  I think there is a debate about whether it's caused by mankind or whether it's caused naturally, but it's a worthy debate.  It's a debate, actually, that I'm in the process of solving by advancing new technologies, burning coal cleanly in electric plants, or promoting hydrogen-powered automobiles, or advancing ethanol as an alternative to gasoline.”

In the first place, “he’s in the process of solving the debate?”  More evidence he’s “mad,” I’d say.

Second, “a debate about whether it’s caused by mankind?”  Oh really…. Not that Bush cares a whit about evidence, but here’s Philip M. Boffey writing for Times Select, with references:

The leading scientific organizations with relevant expertise have overwhelmingly adopted the view that human-induced global warming is a serious problem.  The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has mobilized hundreds of scientists to analyze the evidence, has gotten progressively more concerned; it now holds humans responsible for most of the warming observed over the past 50 years.  The science academies of the United States and 10 other industrial nations issued a joint statement last year citing "strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring" and calling for "prompt action" to combat it.  The American Meteorological Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Geophysical Union have all chimed in with similar statements.  Only the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, with deep ties to the fossil fuel industry, has demurred.

Read the whole thing .  Bush won’t care, though.  Nothing’s gong to happen on his watch and anyway, God speaks through him.

The “madness,” dishonesty and incompetence of the president has revealed many of his supporters to be mere courtiers, rather than honest critics and intellectuals.  Little Roy, to be fair, has done better than most.  He writes:

In the last few years, I have gone from lionizing this president's courage and fortitude to being dismayed at his incompetence and now to being resigned to mistrusting every word he speaks.  I have never hated him.  But now I can see, at least, that he is a liar on some of the gravest issues before the country.  He doesn't trust us with the truth.

.  What is missing from Andy’s little history is the reason he’s earned the nickname “Little Roy”; specifically, the role he’s played in demonizing as treasonous the people who figured out the truth about Bush years before he did.  We were “decadent coastal elites” who could not be trusted to support the war on Al Qaida, as I recall.  Turns out we were right and the country has paid a horrific price for listening to the likes of Little Roy…

Boy is funny; sad, but funny.

Breaking non-news from

Breaking News from  Breaking News Tue., July 11, 2006Date: 7/11/2006 9:43:37 A.M. Eastern Daylight TimeHENRY J. PAULSON IS SWORN IN AS NEW SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY

Um, guys, it’s not exactly “breaking news” in the first place and it happened over 24 hours ago, but hey, thanks.


I saw Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men Sunday night at the in Amagansett.  What a great band.  As Geoffrey Himes has written, “The Blasters were the obvious heirs to Creedence Clearwater Revival.  Both bands were blue-collar Californians who grew up on the 78s and 45s released by Sun Records, Chess Records and Modern Records.  Both bands figured out how to sing about class through stories and a swaggering beat.  Both bands featured a feuding pair of brothers.”

Dave and Phil have gone their separate ways, but this is not entirely a bad thing.  Dave’s band is first rate.  And while he dips into the Blaster’s catalogue a bit, opening with “Border Radio,”—played slow, and offering up “Marie, Marie,” his new CD—“West of the West” provided highlights that were just as strong.  It’s got bluesy readings of Jackson Browne’s “Redneck Friend,” Tom Waits’ “Blind Love” Fogerty’s “Don’t Look Now,” Garcia’s “Loser,” and even Brian Wilson’s “Surfer Girl.”  The conceit is songs written about California by Californians, and it works, even in New York.  Alvin’s music drips integrity but also chops; just like Fogerty’s though they sound nothing alike.  Trust me (but ).

I am also liking The Pilgrim: A Celebration of Kris Kristofferson from American Roots Publishing.  Naturally I think Rosanne Cash’s “Lovin' Him Was Easier" is best, but the rest of it works well too, particularly if you are not a big fan of Kristofferson’s usual growling.  It’s also got: Willie Nelson (“The Legend”), Jessi Colter (“The Captive”), Shooter Jennings (“The Silver Tongued Devil & I”), Marshall Chapman (“Jesus Was A Capricorn”), Emmylou Harris (“The Pilgrim: Chapter 33”), Rodney Crowell (“Come Sundown”), Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis (“Help Me Make It Through The Night”), Todd Snider (“Maybe You Heard”), Shawn Camp (“Why Me”), and Gretchen Wilson (“Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down”).  Read all about it .

And while we’re on a similar topic, Sal is all over ,  Buffalo's answer to Phil Harris and Alice Faye (OK, never mind), and “their wonderful new duets record, All The Roadrunning.  "Recorded over several years, this record truly sounds like a combination of the best of Dire Straits with Emmylou's distinctive vocal style.”

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Dr. Schlomo Ben-Tov
Hometown: Tiburon, CA
If you don't believe that Anti-Semitism is alive and strong in France, consider this - the majority of French Soccer league games are played on Saturday, the day of the Lord to the Jews.  That might seem inconsequential to most people but by staging the games (and many World Cup games) on the Sabbath, not only are the great Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish players excluded from participating, but also from watching on television.  The only reason the Jews do not dominate soccer in France and I dare say the NBA in the United States is precisely because of these Anti-Semitic scheduling rules that penalize my people.  I guess the idea of Jews dominating world sport in addition to the myriad of other world-wide endeavors which we control is just a little too much for most Ant-Semites to handle.  It is truly time to Let My People Go!

Name: Adam Upper West Side
Hometown: New York, New York
Dear Eric,
Is there a rise of anti-Semitism in France? The French know, and they have statistics. According to the French Interior Ministry, anti-Semitic violence increased to about 120 incidents a year between 2000-2002, more than 10 times the yearly average in the 1990s.  The French National Commission for Human Rights (CNCDH) had it worse - 193 anti-Semitic attacks in 2002, well up from 2001.  At the time, France's Ambassador to the United States noted in a Washington Post editorial "[t]he recent upsurge in acts of violence against my Jewish countrymen," which directly contradicted President Jacques Chirac's earlier denial that "there is no upsurge of anti-Semitism in France." (2/27/02).

By 2003, France's Education Minister, Luc Ferry, called anti-Semitism in schools a "true danger" becoming part of everyday life. Jump to 2004, when French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin unequivocally stated "the increase in racist and anti-Semitic acts is a reality in France" (8/27/04), and he noted that anti-Semitism was not limited to Muslims or the far right. By this time, Chirac had come around to reality stating "[d]iscrimination, anti-Semitism, racism, all kinds of racism, are again spreading insidiously." (7/8/04).

The numbers for 2004 bore it out - France recorded a post-WWII record 974 anti-Semitic crimes 2004, including more than 160 violent anti-Semitic acts in the first seven months, compared with 75 in the corresponding period in 2003.  Following a very public anti-Semitism campaign launched by the government in late 2004, the numbers dropped by 47% compared with 2004 (to a still massive 504 cases), with three times fewer violent incidents.  But Prime Minister M. Jean Pierre Raffarin still warned that concerns about anti-Semitism do "not belong only to the past.  The resurgence of this phenomenon cannot be denied." (3/16/05). 

Indeed, this year's high profile murder of a Jewish man and a string of attacks in the weeks that followed have led a French Jewish MP Dominique Strauss-Kahnto to state: "Anti-Semitism is rising in our country. It would be wrong to deny it." As it stands, anti-Semitic violence is still ten times that of the late 1990s. So maybe "France" is not anti-Semitic, but France sure has a problem with anti-Semitism. To the 600,000 Jews who live there, at some point, that becomes a distinction without a difference. Maybe that's why more Jews left France last year for Israel than in any year in more than three decades.


Eric replies:

Dear Adam:
Thank you for the statistics and references, though they do not contradict my view that the violence is coming almost exclusively from young Arabs, and that traditional French anti-Semitism, like most traditional European anti-Semitisms, may be falling.  The idea that European society is becoming more anti-Semitic remains in my view, a myth.  The opposite is true.  That does not mean the above statistics are not a problem; just that most people are talking about the wrong one.

Name: David Dennie
Hometown: Norfolk, Virginia
Hey Dr. A:
I often feel that you're right even when public opinion is overwhelmingly against you - I respect your willingness to go against the grain.  But, yeeesh, are you EVER wrong on this Jason Zengerle "death threat" thing!  Surely you, of all people, know that a statement does not have to be scrupulously literal, down to the last jot and tittle, to clearly convey meaning.  Yes, of course, a statement like "I-am-going-to-take-a-gun-and-shoot-you-dead" is threatening, but so are statements that are not necessarily written as declarative sentences.  Yeeeesh, I say again - why are you going out of your way to make me feel sorry for a "New Republic" writer?

Eric replies:  True in the abstract, bub, but not in the specific…

Name: Brian Donohue
Hometown: I post regularly at D-Kos, and have found (via comments to my diary there) that the discussions are always animated, but rarely malevolent.  In fact, my overall impression is that DK is overwhelmed with caring, thoughtful, and, well...liberal people.  I also, by the way, still feel that the American military contains a preponderance of caring professionals who always try to recall their place amid humanity while doing a sometimes impossibly difficult job.  But the problem with violence is that it's like a red dye: only a few drops can taint a large body of water.  Or truth.

Name: Brad Johnson
Hometown: Boston, Mass.
Is one of the "reasons I cannot fully explain" that you are on the Townhouse list at the center of all of this?  Were you one of Zengerle's sources for verifying the accuracy of the Townhouse e-mails?  I certainly hope you would disclose such information if you're commenting on and engaging in this story.

Eric replies:

Dear Brad:
I didn’t even know what “Townhouse” is, nor why I would be on its “list” until my editor explained what it was to me as I filed this morning's post.  I’ve never communicated in my life with Zengerle before Friday afternoon, and so dude, I got no idea what you’re talking about.

Name: Dan Henry
Hometown: Idaho Falls, Idaho
Dr. Alterman,
You didn't fully describe your reaction to the defense given by Globe Washington bureau chief Peter Canellos regarding the Globe's coverage of the Zengerle/Kos fiasco: "He described it as merely an attempt to show that the rough and tumble of real politics had now spread to the liberal blogosphere and here we had a kind of political coming-of-age story."  If the MSM had ever covered the vile and hate-filled rhetoric that has dominated the wingnut blogosphere for years, then his point would be somewhat valid.  But they didn't.  Instead, Powerline gets named 'blog of the year,' and the worst of the wingnut lot appear regularly as talking heads on formerly-respectable news shows.  You did ask him to point out where the Globe covered how the rough and tumble of real politics had now spread to the conservative blogosphere (circa 2004), didn't you?

Name: Steve
Hometown: Fresno, CA
The great thing about the ABB final Fillmore disc is that it helps lay to rest the idea that Dickey was second fiddle to Duane.  Betts absolutely smokes that show.  Now, if only someone would dig up a tape of the legendary previous night, where they are supposed to have played til dawn in an epic performance that Butch still remembers as the best they ever played.

Name: examiner
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
I don't know if you know about Wolfgang's Vault.  It is a website that streams sound recordings that Bill Graham recorded at the Fillmore, Fillmore East and other venues from 1966-1986.  There are a lot of groups that you would probably enjoy.  (e.g. many Allman Brothers concerts and a couple good Bruce Springsteen shows)  Some of the recordings are better than others.  The drawback is you have to listen in a radio/steam format, I don't think you get to pick and choose which song you want to listen to.  There is also a lot of posters and other crap for the serious fanatics if they want to buy it.

| 12:47 PM ET |

Of death threats and 'death threats'

I don’t know about you, but when I see the words “death threat” in my daily newspaper, I expect to read about an actual threat of death to someone somewhere.  [Wikipedia agrees: “death threat is a threat (often made anonymously) against a person to kill him or her.”  .]  I got a threat once from an angry reader on the phone and I called the police and that was not even regarding my impending “death”; just a broken leg or two.

For reasons I cannot fully explain, I became briefly obsessed on Friday afternoon with the Boston Globe’s report of “death threats” against The New Republic’s Jason Zengerle by members of the Kos community who did not like his reporting on Jerome Armstrong and Moulitsas Zúniga.  The article, which was written by Globe intern, Michael M. Grynbaum, , struck me as playing to all the clichés the mainstream media offers about the liberal blogosphere, but nowhere more than in the reporting of alleged “death threats” against Zengerle, which when I read it, I knew simply could not be true.  (Why the article made no mention of what struck me as a central fact of the drama—Zengerle’s employment of an accusatory e-mail that turned out to be a forgery—also piqued my curiosity/annoyance, but remains another story.)

Anyway, on Friday afternoon, I made a few calls and reached both Globe Washington bureau chief Peter Canellos and Jason Zengerle.  (I could not reach the article’s author, Grynbaum, who was not in the office, and does not have voicemail on the system.)  I spoke to Zengerle first and asked him to describe the threat.  He read to me the contents of an e-mail that, in rather graphic, sick and disgusting terms—relating to concentration camps—explained to him that the writer wished he would one day die a similar death.  It was clearly the product of a sick mind and no doubt disturbing to receive, but nothing in it could conceivably be labeled a “threat” of any kind.  When I told Zengerle that while I found the letter to be “both insane and obscene,” I couldn’t find anything threatening in its contents, he found my conclusions disturbing.  First he sent me an e-mail in which he said, “If you write about this, I expect you will print the attached e-mail in its entirety (with edits for the two instances of profanity in the last paragraph, if necessary) so that you can then explain to your readers how this note —which I received because Moulitsas put my personal e-mail address on his website at the end of a long screed attacking me and the magazine I work for— is not, in your definition of the term, a death threat.”

When I told him that I would characterize the note as best as I could but that for reasons of taste and space I could not imagine that my editors at would want to print it, he sent me a second e-mail in which he insisted, “The fact that we're even discussing whether it constitutes a "death threat" is insane and obscene.”  He then went on to explain the fact that he had received hundreds of e-mails as a result of the fact that “Moulitsas printed my personal e-mail address on his website, and “a handful wishing me death and/or some sort of bodily harm.  I deleted virtually all of them, but I did hang on to the one I forwarded to you, because I found it particularly unsettling.  I assumed you would feel the same way.  Look, if a note from an anonymous e-mailer wishing for me, a Jew, to be put in a concentration camp and then tortured by Nazi guards until I choke on human feces is not, in your mind, a death threat, well, that's your opinion.  But that's not an opinion I share.  It's not as if this e-mailer was hoping that people defecate in my mouth as part of a fraternity prank.  He was hoping for this to happen to me in Auschwitz!  Do you think the Nazi guards, in the e-mailer's scenario, ultimately perform the Heimlich on the choking Kapo and save his life?  I don't.  If you want to have a debate about all this--in which you basically soft-pedal or in some sense defend this e-mail--then we can have it.  But I'd really rather not.  Therefore, I'd really rather you not write about this on your blog.  To try to turn this difference of opinion into a "gotcha" item strikes me as unfair and unworthy of you.”

Now I’ve never spoken to Zengerle before and know nothing about him.  And I’ve not waded too deeply into the waters of TNR’s fight with Kos and company.  So I’m staying clear of those issues.  But this is not a matter of “gotcha” journalism, nor for God’s sake an attempt by me to “soft-pedal or in some sense defend this e-mail” which after all, I characterized to Zengerle as “both insane and obscene.”  It’s a matter of the meaning of words.  I once heard Susan Sontag and Nadine Gordimer describe the purpose of intellectuals is to defend the language.  I agree.  There was no “death threat” here; just the kind of e-mails that are the price of putting strong opinions on the Internet—something that happens with unhappy frequency here at Altercation, and the main reason I pay somebody to screen them for me.

The real question here is not why Zengerle allowed his judgment to be clouded by his reaction to the upsetting e-mails, but why the Boston Globe employed his mistaken characterization; one that, by coincidence, happens to play into the current cliché about what dangerous lunatics liberal bloggers are; wanting to defeat poor ol’ Joe Lieberman one day, threatening death to TNR writers the next.  Yes, the article was written by an intern, but it is edited by real editors.  When I spoke to Peter Canellos, he was quite friendly and forthcoming, but took issue with the above reading of the article.  He described it as merely an attempt to show that the rough and tumble of real politics had now spread to the liberal blogosphere and here we had a kind of political coming-of-age story.  Perhaps many people read it that way.  I didn’t.  I still don’t.  Zengerle’s e-mailer may have been crazy but he was not threatening.  And if words are to have any meaning at all, somebody needs to point that out.  Whether that’s “unworthy” of me, I’ll let others be the judge.

Here we go again.  Once again we read in the Times : “In the view of many French Jews, anti-Semitism is again on the rise here.”

Is there a single piece of evidence —or even a man in the street— to support this assertion anywhere in the article?  Not a one.  In fact, the only quote in the piece that pretends to support its thesis actually contradicts it: “Mr. Lévy then offered a more disturbing reason for opposing a move. 'I fear it could awaken anti-Semitism.'"  Well if it needs to be awakened, then it’s not a very big deal is it, bub?

A lot of Jewish organizations get their funding —and a lot of Jews their personal identities— from hyping anti-Semitism in Europe in general and France in particular.  Some crazy people, like Andrew Sullivan, have even insisted that the period today is as bad as it was just before the Holocaust.  This is nonsense on stilts, even by Little Roy’s considerable standards.  As far as I can tell, any increase in anti-Semitism in Western Europe is attributable to the influx of young Arabs and they have reasons —whether you or I like or not— to hate Jews that have nothing whatever to do with traditional European anti-Semitism.  In my last two trips to Europe in May and June, I found anti-Semitism to be at historic lows among non-Arabs.  That doesn’t make it true, of course, but just for once I’d like to see some evidence in this never-ending hurricane of hysteria.  And while we’re on the topic, I’d like to see some attention paid to the exploitation of right-wing American anti-Semitism that underlies the Bush campaign against The New York Times and the rest of what Republican Rep. Peter King called its “arrogant, elitist, left-wing agenda."  As Jon Carrol observed, “The New York Times contains the word ‘New York.’  Many members of the president's base consider 'New York' to be a nifty code word for ‘Jewish.’”  This anti-Times campaign reminds me of the conservative campaign to slander George Soros, which was also a sometimes explicit, usually implicit exploitation of traditional Jewish stereotypes.  Remember Tony Blankley calling Soros a "robber baron" and "pirate capitalist,” and “a man who, when he was plundering the world's currencies, in England in '92, he caused the Southeast Asian financial crisis in '97.  He said that he has no moral responsibility for the consequences of his financial actions.... He is a self-admitted atheist; he was a Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust."  (Blankley later wrote me that his comments were “both incomplete and pregnant with a malicious implication I did not intend." It’s all .)  Anyway, there it is.

Was nobody home at the New York Times yesterday?  First, I didn't get a paper delivered on Saturday or Sunday despite four —count 'em, four— calls.  Then there's whose premise makes no sense.  Dude, the Supreme Court is an explicitly anti-Democratic institution.  It rules on the constitutionality of issues, not their popularity.  Every single adult in New York State could believe that gays ought to be allowed to marry but it would still not change a court’s ruling.  For that you’d need a new constitution —or at least a few different laws.  What’s more, it was a state ruling, not a city ruling.  Nobody’s arguing that the state is so famously liberal, just the city.  And even that refers only to Manhattan and the hipper parts of Brooklyn.  And dude, Manhattan voted over ninety percent for Kerry, even though nobody really liked him.  We’re as liberal as we ever were, and proud of it, dammit.

Let’s hear it for Oliver Willis, Like Kryptonite to stupid.

Paul Nelson, .


I think I’ve bought “Eat a Peach” six times.  I bought the double record when I was a kid.  I bought the CD.  Then I bought the deluxe re-release of the Allmans Live at the Fillmore which had like, half of “Eat a Peach” on it.  Then I bought the 24 bit half-speed master CD version, whatever that means.  Then I bought the SACD version that came out last year.  But now, the record company has issued a deluxe version that doesn’t sound as good as the SACD on an SACD player, but sounds better on a regular CD than that version does, and what’s more, includes the Allmans’ final performance on the last night of the Fillmore, 6/27/71 for the historians among us.  How can you avoid buying that, no matter which ones you already own?  I do think that’s finally it, but listen, if you don’t think this is one of the top ten albums of all time, then we don’t agree on much, I’m afraid.  The packaging is nice too.  Read about it .

Universal has also released a deluxe version of the Delaney & Bonnie-esque “Eric Clapton” album, which is pretty decent, but does not have any unearthed live concerts—just a different mix of the record and a few assorted tracks.  I’ve only bought that one three times.  It’s good but it’s not as if it’s “Layla” or anything.  It’s .  While we're looking through new universal releases, I’d take a look at the DVDs of both Muddy Waters, which is pretty decently recorded —unusually so— and generous in the number of performances it includes and Marvin Gaye, whose “Real Thing: In Performance 1964-1981,” , is reviewed in today’s Times.  BEN RATLIFF writes,

Lip-synced television appearances of Marvin Gaye on the DVD "The Real Thing" (Hip-O/Motown) aren't that interesting beyond this great soul singer's shyness about stagecraft and his refusal to move his body much while singing.  Much better, obviously, are the concert clips.  Here is a 1972 performance of "What's Going On," from the film "Save the Children," with a small, brilliant band that includes the bassist James Jamerson.  The tune has a long breakdown in the middle with Mr. Gaye singing whatever comes to mind and playing piano over only congas.  His vocals were always full of little micro-improvisations — the phrasing and timing of words like "sugar," "please," "baby" — but here is a macro-improvisation, and a good one.

That’s .

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Jeff Glover
Hometown: New Haven, CT
Finally someone says something about the shabby treatment of intellectuals on the Times obit page.  Even Ken Lay was treated with more sympathy than Jacques Derrida.  You should write the book about journalists and academics.  The academy is one of the last places in our culture where the Enlightment values of reason and dispassion still hold any sway, and I fear it won't be much longer before it too goes the way of the media and gets annexed to corporate and partisan political interests.

Name: Marc Chambers
Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina
Thanks for the excellent and disturbing summary of Bush's alternating mishandling and exacerbating of North Korea's efforts to develop nuclear (or should I say "nuke-you-lar") weapons.  Reading this now illuminates more fully one of Bush's reactions in one of the debates versus Kerry.  When each candidate was asked what was the most important problem facing the world today, Kerry immediately and decisively answered "Nuclear proliferation."  Bush looked totally flummoxed (as usual), like someone had just whacked him on the nose with a fly-swatter.  It was pretty obvious that his personal views and pre-debate coaching had not very carefully considered this topic.  He was probably fully prepared to answer "Stem-cell research" or "gay marriage" and was thrown when Kerry brought up a real issue and a real danger.  As with Iraq and other issues, Bush's ignorance, willful denial, and stubbornness will continue to come back and bite us all on this issue as well.

Name: David Sass
Hometown: Pearland, TX
Mark Richard of Columbus points out that "the only reason" Warren Buffett endorses higher taxes on the affluent is because he must believe "money is better used under government rather than private control."  Private control in this case must refer to charity (Gates Foundation) and the implication is that Warren is not putting his money where his mouth is. The error in this logic is equating voluntary charity donations with mandatory tax payments. The affluent are not choosing between one and the other and there is no dollar for dollar relationship between the two.  The reality is charities ask the affluent to do their share whereas higher government taxes on the affluent demand it.  Therefore, it is not only possible, but most probable that Buffett believes 1) charity is a better instrument than government (that is where he put his money, after all) and 2) the affluent are not choosing to pay their fair share (to charities) and so ought to be forced (taxed) to pay their fair share.  Mark can disagree with the conclusion, but to deny it as a logical possibility is dishonest reasoning.