IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Altercation archive: November 24-30, 2003

Nov. 26, 2003 |

Too bad

the victims of 9/11 were not lying, wealthy Iraqi exiles seeking to fool Americans into invading their country. Congress would have given them

all the money

they could handle. What a shameful legislative season; the worst I think, in about a 130 years.

Iraq: The Exit Strategy

Was our nation led into war by liars and crooks, or just liars? Ask Dr. Boehlert, here.

Harold Meyerson : “So it’s come to this: When European employers look to the United States, they see roughly the same thing that U.S. employers see when they look to China: millions of low-wage workers who have all but lost the right to organize and a government intent on keeping things just the way they are.

The erosion of worker power and the growth of employer supremacy here have transformed the bottom half of the U.S. workforce into a vast exploitable mass worthy of a colonial backwater.”

A majority of Israelies and Palestinians support the Geneva peace agreement. Both sides are thwarted by leadership that prefers to flatter its ideologically-driven illusions rather than do the hard work of historic compromise. The Palestinian leadership is more debased than that of the Israelis, but of course, they are the ones living in hopeless, oppressive misery. It’s a little bit crazy to hold the victim and the victimizer to the same standard in a case like this, although that is exactly what virtually every pundit in the United States insists on doing. The revanchist Israeli right can depend on William Safire to make its case brilliantly no matter how offensive to common sense. But who stands up for the peaceful majority?, often over the top but frequently useful, run the risk of destroying their credibility beyond repair with their obsession with Prescott Bush’s Nazi connections. Even if the worst case were true, it would be a case for historians, not newspapers; at least not for more than a day. Are they truly arguing that Bush’s grandfather’s business connections have some bearing on his presidency? Grow up, and quickly. The left does not have the luxury of engaging this kind of juvenile game of gotcha.

Either Naomi Klein is an alarmist or this is genuinely alarming. It’s too early to tell which, and both may be true, but still. Let’s worry.

I had a nice chat with NBC News President Neal Shapiro last night at the CPJ dinner. I reiterated my offer to do a show a lot cheaper than whatever Joe Scarborough is getting paid so long as MSNBC throws in for the food and the booze I would have to serve to get my friends to come on. (My model would be the brief, much-lamented “Studs and Bud” show that Messrs. Terkel and Trillin once did.) I have to say, he did not appear terribly excited by the idea but the offer remains, and what the hell, let’s start a rumor. Maybe it will up my speaking fees. I see Pat Buchanan and Bill Press have been cancelled, which is a little problematic for me because I am supposed to do the show today and if the car is not coming, I already promised the kid a ride and a trip to the Green Room.

Speaking of CPJ, it is one of the great organizations in the world. Congrats to Ann Cooper and its hard workers and its prescient founders, like Michael Massing and Comrade Navasky. Read the bios of the incredibly brave 2003 award winners and give them some money! I promise you, the tyrants of the world -and the men and women in our own government who too frequently support and empower them- will be unhappy you did.

And while we’re all at it, AIDS not terrorism, is the most dangerous threat facing humankind right now. George W. Bush, per usual, is AWOL. So are most of the media. And so, too frequently, am I. It’s Thanksgiving. How about giving some money here.

Alter-reviews: In the DVD Player during School Hours: Here’s Sal on “Lennon Legend”: Not to be outdone by the untimely death of George, Yoko Ono needs to remind us yet again that John Lennon was also a legend by releasing “Lennon Legend,” a (not-so-bad, actually) DVD compilation of videos, most of which have never been seen. It’s a fine release. We just can’t get over the fact that she broke up the Beatles 33 years ago. “J’ACCUSE!” Ringo has nothing new on the horizon, but we hear that a director’s cut DVD of “Caveman” with Shelley Long’s audio commentary is due for early 2004 release.”

Eric adds: He’s kidding people. And I really like this DVD, especially the live performance I don’t recognize. But two things about Yoko. I just moved from living two blocks from the Dakota and there was a guy parked out there every day with a bumper-sticker reading “Still pissed at Yoko.” And I had a birthday dinner a couple of years ago at a fancy Japanese restaurant where my party was getting really lousy service and Jann Wenner and Yoko, right next to us, were getting great service. When they got their third course before we got our second, I lost patience and called out to the model/sometimes waitress, “What do you have to do to get served around here? Break up the Beatles!?” Really happened.

In the DVD Player while the kid’s home during the long-weekend: Looney Tunes Golden Collection, four discs. Lotsa complaining in this CNN story, but the visual and sound quality are terrific. I’m not taking a position on the selection yet. I have enough to argue about.

In the CD Player: Count Basie and His Orchestra: America’s #1 Band. Four CDs of some of the greatest music of all time, featuring Basie in a small group setting, octet, and with the full, never-to-be-equaled Count Basie and His Orchestra: Billie Holiday, Freddie Green, Clark Terry, Jo Jones, Walter Page, Lester Young, “Sweets” Edison, Buck Clayton and Jack Washington, produced of course, by John Hammond. Orrin Keepnews produced the collection, and Loren Shoenberg annotated it, with terrific notes and attention to detail, though nothing terribly fancy in the packaging. Sound, of course, improves as we go along. If you don’t love it, you don’t love jazz.

There’s a review here, and you can find the song list here. Happy 100th to the Count. Is this a great country or what?

Correspondents’ Corner:
Name: Jose Camacho
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Re: Media Notes & Howard Kurtz:

I thought his column was supposed to be an objective analysis of the major news stories from the most influnetial news papers across the US. It turns out that it is more like a gossip columm of bloggers and his own political bias. Perhaps Howard Kurtz and Tom Friedman should get together and write their own daily column of gossip in the New York Post or Fox News web site.

Eric replies: No way, Jose.

Name: Matt
Hometown: NYC
That first right-wing AS watch in yesterday’s entry was awful. He should be fired from that site. The Ann Coulter column was not anti-Semitic - just an attempt at humor. One that I (Jewish) have shared to the amusement of my Jewish wife.

Eric replies: I’ll bet she’s easily amused, Matt. Our kind often are.

Name: Matt Winkle
Hometown: Batavia, IL
Eric, I noticed on MSNBC a couple of weeks ago that even Alan Dershowitz doesn’t claim you as like minded person. Wow!

Eric replies: “Wow!” is right, Mr. Winkle.

Name: Phillip
Hometown: Sausalito
Saying that mention of the Packer piece in the New Yorker is “kind of useless because the article’s not online and you can’t buy it on the newsstand anymore unless you live in Booneyville somewhere,” forgets that libraries often have the magazine. That’s where I read the new ones - with old ones found, naturally, at Doctors’ offices.

Eric replies: Libraries need money too. Give it to them, people.

Name: Clarke Cummings
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio (home of a highway sniper)
Dr. Alterman,

Sounds like the espionage case against the chaplain isn’t going to stick. If he is a dangerous spy why did the army assign him to Ft. Benning? Of course, in my daily check of multiple news sites I’ve never seen anything other then the original charges.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Note: Altercation will be idle for the holiday. Posting will resume on Monday. Happy Thanksgiving.

Nov. 25, 2003 | 1:24 PM ET

I lost my New Yorker for a week and I didn’t finish my friend George Packer’s long article from Iraq until last night. I admit I was worried about George. He was very squishy about the war in a Remnickian sort of way. And when he got back from Iraq, we talked for a long time, outside Giants’ Stadium, and I worried some more. But I was wrong to worry. (Eds: But Eric, it says about you in today’s Times, ) Anyway, this is kind of useless because the article’s not online and you can’t buy it on the newsstand anymore unless you live in Booneyville somewhere, but it really is a brilliantly written and reported piece in which Packer allows the evidence to speak for itself and take him where it needs to go.

Seriously, I really do wish I had been wrong about Iraq and Wolfowitz had been right, but alas, I’ve never been so right about anything in my life. And as Richard Cohen, another wishy-washy war supporter admits today, it may be one of the worst offenses ever committed against this nation by any American president, including the elected ones.

Quote of the day: “I love my country and I love the truth and I always thought the best thing about being an American is that you don’t have to choose.” Richard Cohen, see above.

Update: US soldiers’ bodies were not mutilated. Here.

Tasteless, graceless, and brainless quote of the day: James Taranto in the alleged “Best of the Web.” After discussing an accident in which a man was crushed to death in Alberta, Canada when he dived under a slow-moving semi-trailer to retrieve his baseball cap, the faux-clever Taranto writes: “It’s weirdly reminiscent of the bulldozer accident that killed 23-year-old terror advocate Rachel Corrie in March—though at least Keenan died pursuing something worthwhile.” Now, I’m no fan of Corrie’s politics, but a young girl is dead, for goodness’ sakes, accidentally killed by an Israeli bulldozer, and Taranto thinks it’s a worthy topic for a pathetic stab at humor. We’ll all have a good laugh some day should he meet an untimely demise.

(And while we’re on the topic, Taranto’s headline today, “Dean endorses Rall,” is a lie, pure and simple, which is evident, if you read the rest of the item.) It’s all here.

The problem of Islamic anti-Semitism in Europe done intelligently, for once.

Tonight is the annual dinner for the Committee to Protect Journalists, a worthy cause if ever there were one. Let us also note, from ,

“In two separate letters to the Pentagon, the press claims that U.S. troops are harassing journalists in Iraq and sometimes confiscating equipment, digital camera disks and videotapes. The Associated Press Managing Editors (APME) wrote a letter of protest to Larry Di Rita, acting assistant secretary of defense for public affairs... The harassment has deprived ‘the American public of crucial images from Iraq in newspapers, broadcast stations and online news operations.’... Separately, 30 media organizations, lead by The Associated Press, fired off their own letter to Di Rita, saying they have ‘documented numerous examples of U.S. troops physically harassing journalists,’ according to a report... The letter was signed by representatives from CNN, ABC, The Boston Globe, Newhouse News Service, and many others. ‘It’s back to the bad old days where journalists are being treated as adversaries,’ AP Washington Bureau Chief Sandy Johnson told the Globe.”

Alter-reviews: Sal on “Let it Be… Naked”:

“Straight from the “We Waited 33 Years For This” department comes a remixed version of the Fabs’ star-crossed 1970 swan song. It’s now minus Phil Spector’s heavy-handed string overdubs, which does wonders for “The Long And Winding Road” and “Across The Universe.” It’s also minus the between-song chatter and throwaways like “Maggie May” and “Dig It,” which we never had a problem with. It now has an alternate version of “Don’t Let Me Down,” which was the B-side of the “Get Back” single and never wound up on the original version of “Let It Be,” and a bonus disc with 22 minutes of mind-numbing chat and song fragments. It also sounds about a million times better than the original CD thanks to stellar new remastering. While it doesn’t live up to the expectations of die-hard Beatle fans, it makes for a darn good listen, and like all classic Beatle products, it’s a must for everyone’s collection.”

New REM collection.

Correspondents’ Corner:
Name: Darwin Overson Dr. A:

Just an update on the Diebold voting scam. Representitive Rush Holt has sponsored the Voter Confidence and Increased Assessibility Act of 2003 (HR2239). It is currently stuck in committee but co-sponsors are starting to come on board. This bill requires a paper trail and provides from random automatic recounts of .05% of various areas of the state to ensure the machines are accurately tabulating. Thanks for raising this issue in Altercation.

Name: Chris Sonne Dear Eric,

Question regarding Ann Coulter — it’s probably an exercise in futility, destined only to waste time and precious brain cells trying to puzzle out what the toxic harpy means when she rants, but there you are. Anyway, what the Samuel Langhorne heck does she mean in her anti-Semitic rant when she refers to Al Sharpton as “circumcised,” apparently as some sort of shorthand for “Jewish”? Is Ann a complete imbecile in addition to being a vile hatemonger? News flash: Not all men who are circumcised are Jewish. Many Christians are (including yours truly, a Lutheran), and to the best of my knowledge and belief, there is no trace of Semitism anywhere in my family tree — not that there’s anything wrong with that — though I can’t rule out that my ancestors along the fjords of Norway may have been covert Hasidim.

Granted, this is probably a news flash only to Ann and her pea-brained brethren, but I thought it bore mentioning. I pity the teacher who ever had to teach her the difference between a rhombus and a square: “No, Ann. For the thousandth time, all squares have four equal sides, and all rhombuses have four equal sides, but not all rhombuses are squares. All squares must also have right angles!” [blows own brains out in frustration]

Similarly, not all circumcised persons are necessarily Jewish; in addition to being circumcised, they have to be... well, they have to be Jewish. It’s a tiny point that any right-wing nutcase could easily miss, but...

Sorry to vent on such a relatively trivial matter, but everybody has a point at which they say, “My God, why does anybody listen to nutcases like her?” This was mine. At least for today. She (?!) is bound to come up with another doozie tomorrow.

Perplexed on the Prairie (and apparently I’m now also Jewish, according to Ann. Oy!)


The budget is out of control, we are causing a trade war with Europe, the world is united in hating us, and militants in Afghanistan and Iraq are murdering our soldiers while cheering crowds mutilate their bodies.

Was this all part of a plan or are Bush and Cheney making it up as they go along? And who ever would have thought we would have so soon reached the point that suicide bombers could murder 14 people in Baghdad and two more via a missile launch, and the Washington Post would think it worthy only p. A23?

Meanwhile, didn’t Barbara ever teach that boy any manners?

Howie’s in: While precious few people would defend Howie Kurtz from the charge of being a walking conflict-of-interest, quite a few people have a hard time seeing that he is also a handmaiden to the careers of right-wing journalists, like Rich Lowry, Jonah Goldberg, and Andy Sullivan, among many others. Well, you no longer have to take my word for it. The American Conservative Union has given Howie their official endorsement as well. Take a look at their list of reliable right-wingers:

Pat Buchanan
Bill Buckley
Mona Charen
Matt Drudge
Joseph Farah
Georgie Ann Geyer
Arianna Huffington *This list is a bit dated, apparently.Charles Krauthammer
Howard Kurtz
Larry Klayman
Bob Novak
Wes Pruden
Chris Ruddy
Bill Safire
Phyllis Schlafly
Joseph Sobran
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas

Any more arguments?

Right-wing anti-Semitism Watch, I: GOPUSA, via Josh Marshall:

“A conservative website called (though, let’s be clear, *not* affiliated w/ the Republican party) is running a column with these pleasant things to say about George Soros: ‘No other single person represents the symbol and the substance of Globalism more than this Hungarian-born descendant of Shylock. He is the embodiment of the Merchant from Venice. His public reputation as an astute currency speculator is generous, while his skills as a manipulator and procurer of pain and suffering is shrouded in the footnotes of the financial journals...”

Josh notes that in addition to this column, James Hall, the site’s other regular columnists include Austin Bay, Linda Chavez, David Horowitz, Alan Keyes, and Star Parker. Numerous “Republican members of Congress, as Atrios notes, spoke at their conference just a couple weeks ago.”

Right-wing anti-Semitism Watch, II: Ann Coulter:

“In addition to having a number of family deaths among them, the Democrats’ other big idea - too nuanced for a bumper sticker - is that many of them have Jewish ancestry. There’s Joe Lieberman: Always Jewish. Wesley Clark: Found Out His Father Was Jewish in College. John Kerry: Jewish Since He Began Presidential Fund-Raising. Howard Dean: Married to a Jew. Al Sharpton: Circumcised. Even Hillary Clinton claimed to have unearthed some evidence that she was a Jew - along with the long lost evidence that she was a Yankees fan. And that, boys and girls, is how the Jews survived thousands of years of persecution: by being susceptible to pandering.”

(And speaking of blonde, scantily-clad anti-Semites, did our good friend Laura Ingraham ever explain just who she had in mind when bashing “anti-Christian Hollywood elites” who object to Jews being portrayed as Christ-killers? Just wondering…)

Eurowimpiness, often mistaken for anti-Semitism, sometimes purposely-Watch: The European Union’s racism watchdog has shelved a report on anti-Semitism because the study concluded Muslims and pro-Palestinian groups were behind many of the incidents it examined.

More (mostly) Eurowimpiness: On the stupidity and counterproductivity of the boycott of Israeli scholars. For more on this idiotic campaign, go here and to SIVA’s blog.

Speaking of bad news for Jews: Red Cross Evacuates West Bank, Warns of ‘Worst Ever Humanitarian Crisis’

“The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is ending its emergency food programme in the West Bank, saying the economic collapse there is the direct result of Israeli military closures and that Israel must live up to its responsibility as the occupying power for the economic needs of the Palestinians. The move comes as the Israeli media reported that Francois Bellon, the Red Cross representative, told senior Israeli generals that the Palestinian Authority was on the verge of an ‘explosion’ that could lead to ‘the worst ever humanitarian crisis’ in the occupied territories. Israel is concerned that other international organisations may follow the Red Cross, which would leave Israel to face the cost of providing the services they currently provide - a cost that some estimates put as high as $1.1bn a year.”

Too much Bruce.

Wonder why Pakistan’s a mess? Ask my buddy, Hussain Haqqani.

Alter-reviews: It’s Beatles Week here at Altercation. Here’s Sal on the two CD/DVD:

“Concert for George” is an incredible listen from beginning to end. Recorded at the Royal Albert Hall a year to the day after the passing of the Quiet Beatle, this is a celebration of George’s music by his friends and family, who include Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Gary Brooker of Procol Harum, Albert Lee, Jim Capaldi of Traffic, George’s son Dhani Harrison, Ravi Shankar and his other, not so famous but just as talented daughter, Anoushka, and Paul and Ringo, better known as The Living Beatles. Covering such Beatle classics as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “I Want To Tell You,” as well as later hits like “Beware Of Darkness” and the Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle With Care,” this isn’t a throwaway tribute concert. These are musicians who loved George and wanted to do the right thing. The DVD features the entire concert in the order in which it was played, and watching the musicians during McCartney’s emotional performance of “All Things Must Pass” and “Something” is something that needs to be seen and not just heard. This is essential.”

Name: David Witt Is everybody seeing the ‘Do You Support Rush?’ banner ad above this column? Here’s a link. I had to go check it out, and it’s a poll asking about your views on Rush—I encourage you all to go there your conscience! ;>

Name: Steven C. Day Dr. Alterman,

Sometimes I think we don’t give William Safire enough credit. I mean, how many people could write a column based upon articles that have not only already been talked to death, but have also largely been proven to be utter nonsense, and still get it published in The Times.

That kind of successful incompetence deserves a medal, a trophy, a pie in the face or something.