And you gave me no reply. ...


What's up with the ADL?

Look, I published Tony Judt's email about the ADL's apparent intent to stifle his freedom of speech here. When Abe Foxman's office called to complain, I invited them to respond and published their letter without comment. Then I wrote a column in The Nation about the ADL's apparent intent to smear When Foxman wrote a letter in reply, the magazine printed that, along with my response. Fair so far?

Now check out how the ADL handles an analogous situation. They publish Foxman's response to my column here entirely without context, with links to neither my column nor my response. Here is the contact form if you want to ask them about what the hell kind of organization goes around behaving this way.

Anyway, you can find the original column here, and this was my response to Foxman:


New York City

What Abraham Foxman omits from his letter is that, as I reported, his organization made no effort to speak to anyone at before publicizing the silly anonymous postings on the MoveOn message boards. Perhaps it did send an e-mail. So what? I rarely read the e-mails that come to me from unfamiliar sources and neither, I imagine, do most busy people. A simple phone call to Eli Pariser's office as a follow-up would have solved the situation before it turned into a misleading media maelstrom, as the postings were taken down as soon as the MoveOn folks learned about them from the media. But the ADL preferred to publicize the meaningless meanderings of some still-unidentified people instead. That's hardly responsible -- or even serious behavior, when it comes to identifying significant incidents of "defamation."

Foxman's note that the New York Post did not receive the story from the ADL is true. That's why I stated in the column that the item was fed to the Post by the Lieberman campaign, which in this case appears to have acted as a cut-out for the ADL. If Foxman can say for certain that no one at the ADL was involved in alerting the campaign -- which he does not say in his letter -- then Foxman has my apology on this extremely minor point. Overall, however, the story stands.


See Studio 60 this week? My man Brad picks up on exactly this point! (I don't think he mentions the Abe Foxman part...) I've also made the point about who cares about box office grosses when judging artistic success ... The nasty "Bill Chatzky" character was another shout-out to Aaron Sorkin's fellow high school boys made bad.

And speaking of the ADL, this Times profile of Marshall Wittman does not mention the above, which is OK, but I do think some context about Pat Robertson's anti-Semitism and loony anti-Jewish conspiracy theories might be in order. And let's give Spencer a shout-out here since it turns out, the boy was named after an only so-so drummer.

Speaking of necons, Newsweek is on Elliott Abrams: The Perfect Neocon, here. Dishonesty (Indicted for lying to Congress, and disbarred as a lawyer) fighting for primacy with incompetence (just look at the fate of "democracy" in the Middle East, oh, and your boy Ortega is back in power), plus he got most of his jobs through family connections. ... maybe his mother-in-law will write a book about him too, or his father in law, or his brother-in-law -- you know, the one who called 60-something Hillary Clinton "unsexy."

I'm sure the president of the Rummy Fan Club is very proud of her son for that.

To be a big honcho on the editorial page of The Washington Post, you have to be pretty silly, it seems, but only silly in such a way as to enable the Bush administration to continue to destroy everything of value in this country. Read Brad DeLong here. Speaking of all the bipartisanship that Sebastian Mallaby imagines to be coming out of the administration, look at what Rick points out, here.

Or just note this part:

Nor is the renomination of Bolton the only personnel-related sign that Bush's commitment to comity may have already peaked. On November 14th, the President renominated Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, a former editor-in-chief of Reader's Digest and a close friend of Karl Rove, to be chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which supervises the Voice of America and other government radio and television operations aimed at overseas audiences. Never mind that last summer the State Department's inspector general found that, among other antics, Tomlinson used his office to support a "horse racing operation" (he owns thoroughbreds), or that a year ago he had to resign from the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting after that agency's inspector general caught him violating rules meant to protect public broadcasting from political meddling. On November 15th, the President renominated four of his hardest-right candidates for the federal courts of appeals: a Defense Department lawyer who has been denounced by a score of retired generals and admirals for his role as an architect of the Administration's infamous interrogation regime; a former Interior Department attorney and mining and ranching lobbyist who sees the Clean Water Act as "regulatory excess"; a district-court judge whose decisions have been reversed or vacated more than a hundred and fifty times, an astounding record that includes two reversals from the Supreme Court-one of them in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas-in voting-rights cases; and a former aide to Senator Trent Lott who is the first federal-appeals-court nominee in a quarter of a century to be unanimously rated "not qualified" by the American Bar Association.

Finally (or maybe not so finally), on November 16th, Bush appointed one Eric Keroack to be the new chief of "population affairs" at the Department of Health and Human Services. In this post, Dr. Keroack, a gynecologist, will oversee what is called Title X, a Nixon-era program that distributes contraceptives to poor or uninsured women. Until recently, he was the medical director of a Christianist pregnancy-counselling organization that regards the distribution of contraceptives as "demeaning to women." One of his odder theories makes him a sort of family-friendly version of General Jack D. Ripper. In Keroack's case, the precious bodily fluid of concern is the hormone oxytocin, a.k.a. "God's Super Glue." Apparently, oxytocin is released during certain enjoyable activities, including hugging, massage, and, of course, sex. It is also, according to Keroack, the fluid that keeps married couples bound to each other. Therefore, if a young woman squanders her supply on too much fooling around, she can forget about ever becoming a committed wife.

I saw Part I of the new Tom Stoppard magnum opus last night. I can't recommend it highly enough, though perhaps Ben Brantley can, here. Anyway, at the opening party at Tavern on the Green afterward, I saw the author having a quiet, undisturbed dinner with his guest, Vaclav Havel. The greatest living playwright on the planet and one of its most inspirational political figures, and nobody bothered them. Is this the coolest city in the world or what? (The last time I spied Havel out on the town: it was at a Marcus Roberts concert at the Village Vanguard, and his guests were Lou Reed and Henry Kissinger. I swear I'm not making this up.)

Hitchens is having a bad week, here and here.

I watched six Star Wars movies over the past two weekends. I think it was six. And I think I have it mostly figured out. But if anyone knows of chart that encompassess the whole thing, send it in.

From the Benton Foundation:


The Justice Department's inspector general yesterday announced an investigation into the department's connections to the government's controversial warrantless surveillance program, but officials said the probe will not examine whether the National Security Agency is violating the Constitution or federal statutes. In a letter to House lawmakers, Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said his office decided to open the probe after conducting "initial inquiries" into the program. Under the initiative, the NSA monitors phone calls and e-mails between people in the United States and others overseas without court oversight if one of the targets is suspected of ties to terrorism. The "program review" will examine how the Justice Department has used information obtained from the NSA program, as well as whether Justice lawyers complied with the "legal requirements" that govern it, according to Fine's letter. Officials said the review will not examine whether the program itself is legal.


The Who and Willie Nelson, by Sal, NYCD

The first new Who release in over 20 years is much better than what most Who fans have been saying, although not quite as brilliant as what the critics have said. Let's face it, Keith Moon and John Entwistle were not just a rhythm section. Thankfully, Ringo Starr left us more than just The Beatles, Caveman, and Shining Time Station. His son Zak Starkey, a member of The Who since 1995 (or maybe '94), is a drumming monster and makes us forget just for a little while that one of the greatest rock drummers of all time has been long gone. Unfortunately, Zak is nowhere to be found on Endless Wire, the new Who CD, with the exception of a few overdubs on one song. (He was on tour with the bad Beatles, otherwise known as Oasis, and missed the recording sessions.)

That said, Endless Wire doesn't bring back memories of any of your fave Who records. It doesn't have the great psych-pop of my fave, The Who Sell Out, or the classic rock bombast of Who's Next and Quadrophenia. And even with the inclusion of the mini-opera "Wire & Glass," the weakest moment on the CD, Endless Wire fails to recall the magic of Tommy. Fortunately, that mini-opera (more like eight unfinished fragments disguised as something more) is a very small part of what is really a very strong Pete Townshend solo album sung by Roger Daltrey.

Endless Wire has enough moments that are worth your time, most notably, "Fragments" which cleverly samples one of the most recognizable synth parts in rock n roll, "Black Widow's Eyes," and "Real Good Looking Boy." The Who's Endless Wire is by no means a disappointment as long as you're going in with no expectations. More here.

Another day, another Willie Nelson record. I know many feel this way. Personally, I would take two Willie records a day. His voice and style can take even the most ill-advised projects (see Nelson's reggae releases) to a certain level of pleasure. That said, Songbird, his new release, is another step off the beaten path of Willie style.

Produced by and featuring darling bad boy Ryan Adams and his band The Cardinals, Songbird is yet another Nelson release that doesn't sound like a Nelson record, only this time it works wonders. Willie does Wilco? Willie does The Dead? Willie does Neil? At times, Songbird sounds like any or all of these artists. Stellar versions of The Grateful Dead's "Stella Blue," Gram Parsons' "$1000 Wedding," and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" all feel right in place in Nelson's repertoire. A standout is the title track, a completely reworked version of Christine McVie's gorgeous ballad that Ryan Adams bumps up a notch with a jolt of alt-country electricity. This record is Nelson's best since the Daniel Lanois-produced Teatro, and one of may faves of 2006. More here.

I wish my life were a non-stop Hollywood movie show...

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Bill Strachan
Hometown: Enfield, CT


The recent NYT article on the self-sufficiency of the Iraqi "insurgency" does not take into account the billions of $'s we initially brought into Iraq, in CASH, that was not accounted for. I believe the figure was between $9 billion and $11 billion in US currency that the Provisional Authority had flown in to spur the Iraqi economy. Various Inspector Generals from different agencies have found this total lack of any controls on any monies or funds paid for contracts in Iraq since this debacle began. The various "black" budgets and Pentagon contracting giveaways have made this entire enterprise rife with corruption and a virtual funnel of funds to who knows who.

It is no wonder that the various factions are now financially self-sufficient to pay for weapons and other resources to continue fighting. It may be largely our taxpayer dollars, invested in Wall Street through laundered monies, that are being funneled back into Iraq to kill Iraqis and Americans.

The old Deep Throat adage of "follow the money" should be applicable here.

At least they aren't using it to pay exorbitant executive pay. But, learning from us, they are bribing politicians, local police, and border guards to let things pass unobstructed.

Of course, we did leave the weapons depots unguarded after the invasion, lots of assets were looted to end up for sale in other Middle East Markets, and who knows how much contraband and/or black market commerce is fueling this whole enterprise to keep the chaos going.

This makes the phrase "dumb & dumber" look like a gross understatement.

Name: jason
Hometown: Fairfax County, VA

Prof. Alterman,

By way of adding to your critique of Bill Kristol's view of Iraq: He recently said that while we don't need a draft right now, he's not opposed to one in principle. How would his stepped-up war, which would entail the endless, now-meaningless slaughter of American troops and Iraqis (meaningless because in a knowably losing cause) look if it were effectuated by means of a draft? (I can't recall the source of Kristol's comment, but I believe his views in this matter are well-known.) Talk about echoes of Vietnam ... (And if, as you'd expect of a McCain booster, Kristol supports increasing the size of the military *and* pursuing the Iraq venture even more aggressively for years, how does he expect to obtain his larger military *without* conscription?)

Name: Michael Rapoport


A Bush presidential library. A Bush think tank. The jokes practically write themselves, don't they?

Name: Jeffrey Seglin
Hometown: Boston

I found your recent column on presidential lies in The Nation very interesting. I asked readers of the weekly syndicated ethics column I write what they made of President Bush's comment that you reference in your column. Some readers have begun posting responses on the column's blog, and others have e-mailed me directly.

Name: Josh Silver

Hi Eric Alterman:

Quick update... we have killed the current Telecommunications Act by making the lack of "Net Neutrality" a poison pill. But the phone companies are still pushing full steam to offer high-speed broadband that will deliver digital TV, radio, phone and Internet service. They understand that their future depends on it. They also understand that the Democratic majority in Congress will not give it to them without public interest protections like Net Neutrality, so they are moving their strategy from DC to the states. Today's LA Times story sums it up well, and mentions our state-based strategy that takes the fight to Lansing, Michigan, today at noon.

Keep in mind, this seemingly arcane debate ultimately will determine the future of virtually all communications in America. If the phone companies get their way and are given permission by state legislatures to offer statewide TV service, we will lose the bargaining chip we need to reinstate Net Neutrality nationally. If we permanently lose net neutrality, the Internet will become more like cable TV, with phone and cable companies (who together control 98% of broadband access) controlling what you see, how fast it downloads and how much it costs. If we win, in a few years faster broadband speeds will allow any website to become a TV or radio network, breaking open the bottleneck on access and distribution.

The market dominance of phone and cable highlights the importance of breaking the duopoly through "Community Internet": getting municipalities, schools, libraries, nonprofits, and private entrepreneurs into the broadband business. Info on that here.

On other fronts, FCC Chairman Martin is still moving forward with his bid to lift media ownership limits despite warnings from Democratic members of Congress and nearly unanimous opposition from the public. The "reply comment" period is set to end December 21, but it's guesswork when there may be a final vote. Possibly March, but we just don't know.

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