Dai-Dai-Aynu (The Altercation Theater Club)

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I've got a new "Think Again" column called "So Who's "The Decider?" here.

I saw Bill Clinton give one of the most impressive off-the-cuff speeches I've ever heard in my life last night. I won't even try to do justice to it. Here:

"The conventional wisdom was ... people think that Washington isn't quite working for them," Clinton told the 20th anniversary gathering of Harvard's Joan Shorenstein Center for Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Four Seasons restaurant. "The most important thing to me was the American people were thinking again."

After the speech, which blew away all the fancy journalists to whom I spoke, the reactions I heard were typically conflicted:

"Dammit, why wasn't he a better president?"

"God, can you believe this guy was president and now we're stuck with this fucking moron?"

"This can't be good for Hillary ..."

I hate to report this, but the person who would have most enjoyed the speech was one Mickey Kaus. Well, not the speech per se, but the introduction. David Elwood, now dean of the Kennedy School, who resigned from the administration in protest of Clinton's signing of the welfare reform bill, announced ... oy ... that Clinton had been right and he was wrong.

Meanwhile, the Smart Boyz report:

In the forthcoming New York Times Magazine, Matt Bai writes his opinionated opinions that two formerly top-tier candidates -- George Allen and Bill Frist -- "now seem irreparably damaged. The party's presumed frontrunner, John McCain, also faces a more troublesome environment, given his strong support for a war that many of his moderate supporters clearly oppose. On the Democratic side, the election dealt a blow to John Kerry & while perhaps opening the door further for Al Gore, whose defiant, antiwar fervor would seem well suited to the moment." Bai adds that the elections' results "may also boost the prospects for some younger candidate who can "credibly claim distance from the establishment of both parties -- a candidate much like Barack Obama."

Excuse me while I reach around and pat myself on the back, but didn't someone say all that in like, four short paragraphs here?

Horowitz gets an Abie (This award, which I just made up, goes to a pundit who quotes himself quoting himself. It is named in honor of Abe Rosenthal.)

I was on The Daily Show once upon a time, and someone recently put it up here. Thanks, bub. You know, I had never seen the show, ever, before going on it. I thought this Jon Stewart fellow to be quite funny. Later I told Mo Rocca this story, and he likened discovering The Daily Show in the spring of 2003 to discovering The Dead when they were on the cover of Newsweek for "Goes to Heaven." Yeah, I know, I'm supposed to be a media reporter and all, but it's a big universe out there.

The Altercation Theater Club:

(I was all set to go with Pierce's new magnum opus until I caught a performance the other night of this amazing one-woman show at The Culture Project on Bleecker Street by Iris Bahr, who played the orthodox Jewish daughter with the boob job and who jumps off the ski lift in Curb Your Enthusiasm last season, and has done a lot of other stuff too, like writing a book called Dork Whore, studying neuropsychology and conducting fMRI research at Stanford University and Cancer Research at the Psychobiology Center at Tel Aviv University, more here. I was so impressed, I hung around afterward to ask her to send me some of the script, and so here we are, inaugurating the Altercation Theater Club. The show is called Dai (enough), and if you're in the city and care even slightly about Israel, you just gotta go. It's an argument for the primacy of art -- or, at least, necessity of art -- as a means of communication of truths that goes beyond journalism or even history. Pierce will be here next week.)

Excerpts for Dai (enough) by Iris Bahr

TEL AVIV CAFÉ, PRESENT DAY

JESSICA MENDOZA, a self-righteous, less-well-read-than-she-thinks L.A. actress in a blue velour sweatshirt, paces through the café; she's on her Bluetooth with her friend Karen back home.

First class from LAX, can you believe it?!? Well, Karen, that's what a good production does, you know. They let you do the research. No, obviously, what was I gonna tell him -- Hi, Mr. Oscar-winning director, I'm half Puerto Rican, half Dominican! I mean the role is Israeli -- I told them I was Israeli! That's what you have to do, Karen. Of course, he was like, "What's up with your last name?" And I was like, it's not really Mendoza, my father changed it from Mendel to Mendoza when he left Jerusalem for Brooklyn. Yeah, totally bought it.

I know, I didn't think I was gonna do it either. I said I'd only do the movie if I agreed with the message. I can't very well support the double standard America exercises on a daily basis, the way we look down on Arab countries, think we're better than they are, sub-civilizations that we can imperialize and colonize at will, right? Totally!

Well, it's true. [looks around the café] I mean, you should see this place, it's booming. And then you drive an hour south or something and there are refugee camps with no running water and it breeds desperation. I know it does. So I'm thinking, how can a Jewish director really treat this issue properly? Unless he's a self-hating one. Which this one seems to be! There are no Arab directors, Karen. CAA doesn't rep any, William Morris doesn't either. They're so oppressed, they're not even free to seek out solid agency representation.[looks around] God. I could never live here. The women are gorgeous. Who wants to worry about that kind of shit all the time?

[Whispering] Look, I'm not saying Israel doesn't have the right to exist. I mean, who determines that right, really, but why put your country here? I mean, we as a nation, we Americans pride ourselves on taking people in and letting them be themselves. I just want to tell these people "Why cram yourself in a tiny space near the Mediterranean surrounded by people that hate you? Come to Phoenix!" Yeah Phoenix is funny. So's Pittsburgh. My agent always told me if I want to make a joke with a city in it I should always use Phoenix or Pittsburgh.

What? Oh, the script, right. Well, they were keeping it confidential, Karen; even I didn't know what it was about!! It's amazing, this movie's gonna be huge, totally take me to the next level.

Well, it's a love story between a Palestinian boy -- you know, down in the dumps, no job, on the verge of being recruited to be a suicide bomber, hates Israel with a passion, hates Israelis with a passion. Well, he's turned them into one amorphous enemy, and he's on the brink. He's ready to join the ranks of the revered suicide bombers. Totally revered -- yeah, they have posters of them all over the streets, in the classrooms, in the kindergartens -- they're like Elvis, these guys. Anyway, this guy, Youssef, he's ready for his own poster, you know what I mean ...

SVETLANA, A RUSSIAN PROSTITUTE, Bleached blonde short hair, micro-mini, fuck-me heels. She meanders among the tables, eyeing possible clientele. She approaches one.

You want to meet me in Hilton hotel? 200 shekel an hour. Come on, you look lonely. Of course you wear condom -- you think because you're big shot in army you not have diseases? Ahh? Invincible? What about my diseases? You know who was inside me already?

Igor, Yuri, Amir, Boris, Shimi, Yevgeni, Shulak, Igor, Igor -- these are different Igors -- Joseph, Ilya, Vitush, Daniel [she continues to rattle off 40 more names], and that was only last weekend. Now you wear condom? Smart man.

[Christiane approaches.]

Can't you see I'm busy?

[she laughs] Political opinion? Ha. I don't give a shit. If things get too crazy, I go back to Russia, finish my Ph.D. in Fisica.

[She turns around, the guy is gone. She snaps at Christiane.] Ach. Now you scare away client! It is so quiet now. When there was war in Lebanon, they come running to me for release, but now it's dead quiet.

Well, I come here because the men don't smell like vodka and the coffee is fantastic. It makes you shit in the morning without having to have cigarette. Israeli men? Horrible lovers, but they fuck great, with fire, passion, anger.

I hear under the macho bullshit they are very tender, but I don't buy it. I don't need tender, issokay, I get enough chupi-muchi from my husband Maksim.

You kidding? He loves that my vagina is a highway. Who do you think bought him his Mercedes taxi? It was his idea to come here. Yes, it's easier than Europe. The Israelis are so happy Jews want to live in this crazy country, does not matter what you want to do. You want to be Jewish crack dealer, they say to you, "Please, come sell crack in the holy land, the Arabs are outnumbering us. Boo hoo hoo boo hoo!!" They give us health care, tax break, stipendia, They practically set me up with client list.

Me? Oh no. I'm Christian.[shows off her cross necklace] We pay a guy in St. Peterburg to make document that says we are Jewish. Is funny. We pay a guy to make document that says we are Jewish -- when in history this is happening? Never. Never.

Is so easy for us to fuck Israeli system, is irony because Israelis are masters of fucking the system. They are such combination of naïve and suspicious. The men here, they haggle with me over fucking price, but they don't haggle before we fuck, the haggle when they are coming inside me, as if I will be so distracted "Oh, shmulike you are sooo good, here take 50 shekel discount, please!..."

They are like wounded animals, these people, don't know right from wrong. "The world treated us like shit, now we can treat these Palestinians like shit! Look who is boss now, hahahah!" Maybe that's what happens when you are hated your whole life. A kid is hated one year in school, he is traumatized for life. These people have been hated since the beginning of time. Before there was anybody on the planet, the dinosaurs hated the Jews.

From the Benton Foundation:

REPUBLICANS PROPOSE LAST-MINUTE SPY BILL [SOURCE: CNet|News.com, AUTHOR: Anne Broache]

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) has made a last-minute attempt at giving the Bush administration what he calls the necessary "resources" for carrying out its phone call and Internet surveillance within the law, but critics remain unconvinced. The new bill drew near-immediate skepticism from the American Civil Liberties Union and from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who co-sponsored what civil liberties groups viewed as a more stringent bill with Specter earlier this year. That bill narrowly cleared a committee vote in July but has since stalled. Titled the "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Oversight and Resource Enhancement Act of 2006," the latest Specter bill does not appear to grant as much latitude for warrantless spying as the approved House bill. Specter's proposal, for instance, would require the U.S. Supreme Court to review all appeals of cases challenging the legality of the specific spy program acknowledged by the president last December, whereas the version approved by the House would effectively quash all such challenges. The bill also proposes a number of changes to existing law that some find troubling.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Michael Rapoport
Hometown:

Eric:

You might have missed this, since it was the second item in the column. Time enlists Tom DeLay to help figure out its Person of the Year??

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