Nothing about mass murders or "nappy-heads" ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

(Well, actually, a little about the latter, but nothing about mass murders ...)

Quotes of the Day:

"Ain't gonna be so beautiful when the bitch got a bald head and one titty." -- Imus sidekick Sid Rosenberg on breast cancer survivor Sheryl Crow.

"Over the years, Imus made fun of blacks, Jews, gays, politicians. He called them lying weasels. This was part of his charm." -- CNN and The Washington Post's Howie Kurtz on Imus.

"When you deal with stupidity, you begin to understand the concept of infinity." -- Gustave Flaubert on, well, I report, you decide ...

Writing in the current New York magazine, Kurt Andersen explains: "Not to put too fine a point on it, but this looks to be the ultimate test of our national character: Do we fat, spoiled 21st-century Americans have the requisite gumption and discipline to be born again, and then do what's necessary to try to keep the planet from going off the rails?"

Last summer, in a opening paragraph of a column that I actually liked, despite the fact that it attacked yours truly for waiting a full four days before making up my mind about what I thought about the Israeli invasion of Lebanon -- for the record, I condemned it and debated Mort Zuckerman on Larry King on the topic -- Andersen wrote this: "Al Gore's movie about global warming has a brilliant title: It flatters us -- those of us who believe the scientific consensus about climate change -- that we are clear-eyed and honest and brave enough to admit this 'inconvenient truth' that the Bush administration and its reckless, craven, venal corporate allies refuse to admit. Yet the truth about greenhouse gases, although plenty scary, is really not so inconvenient: The blame for inaction is easy to lay on others, a solution seems possible, and that solution doesn't look that onerous."

I thought it was insupportable at the time, and now, apparently, so does this fella named Kurt Andersen, who is considered to be the smartest, savviest guy in the world here in the New York media world, which functions in the New York media world as the functional equivalent of the world. For all I know, he may be. And I'm not in a particularly snarky mode this morning, though Andersen's not exactly a fan of mine. Still, read both paragraphs written in the same 12-month period and tell me what's changed, and what, if anything, that means.

For backup, I cannot help but notice the serendipity of Tom Friedman's manifesto on the cover of the Times Magazine this week, here, which notes, "The dirty little secret is that we're fooling ourselves. We in America talk like we're already 'the greenest generation,' as the business writer Dan Pink once called it. But here's the really inconvenient truth: We have not even begun to be serious about the costs, the effort and the scale of change that will be required to shift our country, and eventually the world, to a largely emissions-free energy infrastructure over the next 50 years."

(Guy's a lot righter about that than he ever was about the war ...)

Dear Dan Morain of the Los Angeles Times: Aren't you (and perhaps your family) a bit ashamed of writing stories like "Two $400 stylings may cost John Edwards' campaign in shear mockery"? Here. (I could not bring myself to click on the link, but did you notice this, bub?)

The thing I find interesting about Tommy Thompson's professed admiration for the moneymaking abilities of my people, here and here, is the fact that it's possible to be a Republican governor of Wisconsin and secretary of HHS in a Republican administration and still have no idea whatever how to talk to The Tribe. This is why, no matter how much those right-wing Christians say they love Israel (in preparation for us to be wiped out, of course), there will never be any significant participation of Jews in the Republican Party. Thompson is not an anti-Semite. Just a clueless goy. This would be unimaginable on the part of so successful a Democrat.

Tomorrow's Pulitzer News Today: Congratulations to me for having the good sense to try to make a big deal out of the terrific and important reporting of Charlie Savage in The Boston Globe, who won a deserved Pulitzer for his reporting on a hitherto ignored aspect of the Bush administration's never-ending effort to undermine the U.S. Constitution. (That was here. And I see from Garance that the guy is only 31. Oy.) Also, congrats to me again for having the prescience to devote a Nation column to The Race Beat, another deserving winner, insofar as I am aware, and listen, for two non-historians to be given this award -- assuming they were actually the judges' choice -- is as the The Velvettes once said, 'really saying something.'

Let me add my voice to those who mourn the passing of Pat Buckley. I did not know her very well, but she was always incredibly gracious to me when we did speak and she certainly raised a fine young man. We will miss this last generation of socially minded socialites, whatever their politics. And lest lefties get on my case about her anti-feminist statements, remember that Esther Stone said much the same things about her devotion to Izzy and his work and I never saw a happier couple.

And finally, Pierce asks:

"Hey Doc -- Is it gauche of me to point out that, actually, the worst 'mass shooting in the history of the United States' took place at Wounded Knee?"

Eric replies: "Excuse me, Charles, but why do you hate America?"

Alter-reviews:

Rosanne Cash and Elvis Costello at The Rubin Museum, by Sal, NYCD

(Eric notes: If I tried to tell how great this little show was, I'd sound like a real jerk, even to myself and you wouldn't believe me. After all, I love Rosanne, she gave me front-row seats, and I've been going to see Elvis regularly since I worked as a market researcher at the Bronx Zoo. (He topped a bill at Palladium with Nick Lowe and Rockpile and Mink Deville, as I sort of recall.) But hey, Sal doesn't even know Rosanne, and he paid for his tickets, and they were in the last row. So believe him.)

Rosanne Cash has performed acoustically seven times at The Rubin Museum Of Art. Each program had a theme based around paintings and readings. I was one of the lucky 92 people who attended "Acoustic Cash #7: Magic Numbers" this past Friday. Miss Cash's special guest this evening was Elvis Costello, and their program was a "bit loose," songs with numbers in the titles.

Sounds good to me.

For 75 minutes Cash, Costello, and Mr. Rosanne Cash, John Leventhal, treated this blessed crowd of a 150 or so people to some absolutely mind-blowing material, which was all put together through many e-mails. With just guitars and music stands, (OK, and some chairs) the trio did wonders to Nilsson's "One," Dylan's "One Too Many Mornings," The Bee Gees' "N.Y. Mining Disaster 1941," Cash originals such as "Seven Year Ache" and "44 Stories," Costello originals "Less Than Zero" and the rarely played "Unwanted Number," which was written for the film "Grace Of My Heart," and my two personal highs, The Lovin' Spoonful's "Six O'Clock" and a most inspired version of "76 Trombones" from The Music Man. I am NOT making any of this up. Promise.

At one point early on, Rosanne turned to her husband and said, "They are all here to see him," referring to Costello, of course. But from my point of view, if it wasn't for Miss Cash's unpretentious and natural demeanor on stage, Costello may have just clunked through this material. Rosanne Cash is one of those rare artists whose presence and banter is just as welcome on stage as her music. When she sings, it's just cherries on the cake. And without her warmth and inspiration, I may not have been so eager to see just another Elvis Costello acoustic show.

This was one of the greatest nights of music in a long time. How I got in on a Friday the 13th, I'll never know.

Eric cannot resist but to add: Elvis' "76 Trombones" really had to be heard to be believed. Seriously. Long before I knew her, I once saw Rosanne do a show with her dad in a tiny auditorium. A year or so later, I saw her dad do his "VH1 Storytellers" show with Willie Nelson, thanks to Petey and his ex-brother-in-law. The VH1 people thought I was really good-looking so they put me in the front row for that one too. I hope RC doesn't get angry if I say those were the only shows I would dare compare with this one. Rosanne lost her dad's Nashville house, which burned down last week, and her friend Kurt Vonnegut in the days before the show. It's amazing how great music is great whether it's making you happy or sad.

Maybe this is a good time to ask people to give money to Music for Youth so that poor kids get to play too.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Scott
Hometown: Maryland

Hello Eric,

I'm sure others will point this out, but Greg Sargent at Horse's Mouth received an answer from Fred Hiatt, here, to the question Mark Vershbow asked about the nonidentification of Liz Cheney's family relationship to Vice President Cheney. Sargent followed up here and here.

Name: Darrel Plant
Hometown: Portland, Oregon

Much as I hate to disagree with the estimable Mr. Charles Pierce -- particularly when he's disputing the words of the odious Joe Klein -- I believe he may be incorrect when he states categorically that "You can't impeach a president because he's a self-evident f**k-up."

The conventional wisdom on impeachment does, indeed, seem to indicate that the grounds of impeachment derive only from criminal misconduct. But that was not the conclusion of the last sober, reasoned evaluation of what the Constitution had to say about the matter.

In early 1974, when the House Judiciary Committee took up the issue of whether or not President Nixon had performed an impeachable offense, they wrote a report about the history of impeachment in the English and American systems, which The Washington Post helpfully reproduced for the Clinton impeachment.

They address the "maladministration" language and its intent, as well as the assumption that criminal conduct is necessary in section III, "The Criminality Issue":

"Impeachable conduct, on the other hand, may include the serious failure to discharge the affirmative duties imposed on the President by the Constitution. Unlike a criminal case, the cause for the removal of a President may be based on his entire course of conduct in office. In particular situations, it may be a course of conduct more than individual acts that has a tendency to subvert constitutional government. ...

"In sum, to limit impeachable conduct to criminal offenses would be incompatible with the evidence concerning the constitutional meaning of the phrase 'high Crimes and Misdemeanors' and would frustrate the purpose that the framers intended for impeachment. State and federal criminal laws are not written in order to preserve the nation against serious abuse of the presidential office. But this is the purpose of the consitutional provision for the impeachment of a President and that purpose gives meaning to 'high Crimes and Misdemeanors.' "

At least, that's what the people thinking about impeaching Richard Nixon thought.

Name: gyrfalcon
Hometown: Shoreham VT

Dr. Alterman --

Someone posting anonymously in a comments thread on yet another insipid post by Joe Klein (called "On Scapegoats") included the following excerpt apparently from a Salon article about an encounter with Klein some years ago around the time of the Primary Colors unmasking that's so eerily similar to yours, I thought you might find it fascinating. It certainly should put to rest any doubt in anyone's mind about whose version of your recent book party meet-up with him is correct.

Unfortunately, the poster didn't say who wrote it or when, and the link he provided produces one of those Page Not Found messages. But below is the passage.

That night I was at a table with Jacob Weisberg, the political scribbler for New York magazine. We were gossiping about fellow journalists, when Klein passed by. He spotted Weisberg and came to a stop. That week New York had published a piece about how a literary expert had used a computer program to pinpoint tell-tale similarities between Klein's bylined writings and "Primary Colors." Weisberg had written a sidebar noting that there were other reasons to suspect Klein. The author of the book, Weisberg reported, was knowledgeable about New York politics, a onetime Clintonphile who now felt betrayed, and a man obsessed about the subject of race. All these attributes fit Klein.

Klein was enraged. He launched into a blistering attack on Weisberg. Why hadn't New York -- where Klein once had been the political columnist -- called him, he yelled, for a comment? (A comment which, obviously, would have been a lie.) "Thanks, thanks, a lot, Jacob," he said with bitter sarcasm. "That was real nice." Klein's face was red. His eyes steely. He wouldn't let Weisberg talk. "And that bit about being obsessed about race -- I really liked that. Do you think being concerned about an important national issue is the same as being obsessed?" How could the magazine do this to him, he demanded to know, playing the wrongly accused to perfection.

Increasingly wound up, he charged Weisberg with possessing no class and making improper use of off-the-record information. Getting meaner, Klein said Weisberg was gaining a reputation in journalistic circles as an unlikeable fellow not worthy of a dinner-party invitation. (I know of no evidence of this and find Weisberg entirely likable.) When Weisberg tried to squeeze in a word, Klein shot him the look of daggers and hissed: "You don't understand. This is the very last time you and I will ever speak. The last time."

I had rarely seen such a display of unrelenting anger. Weisberg turned white. Finally, Klein huffed, "By the way, this is off-the- record. You do know what off-the-record is, Jake, don't you?" Then he stormed off. (Since I do not believe public outbursts can be placed off-the-record ex post facto, I do not feel bound by Klein's parting comment.)

Name: Sathya
Hometown: Fremont, CA

I do not get it; people are comparing Don Imus with Gangster Rappers. The rappers are entertainers and they do what they do. It is the responsibility of parents to protect our kids from them. But Don Imus was a "news person" with a radio and TV show. He has many important politicians on his show. He is not the same as the rappers. Can you image an African American reporter or columnist using those words? It is almost like a female news person taking her shirt off during a newscast and saying that adult film stars do it all the time. Even Janet Jackson could have used that defense. Or they may be right; most of "news reporters" nowadays are just entertainers.

Name: Bob W
Hometown: Chicago, IL

Dick Cheney gave a speech yesterday (Friday the 13th) here in Chicago on how the current "extremely liberal" Congress is handing victory to our enemies in Iraq (Never mind that he nor anyone else in the Administration has yet explained what victory in Iraq will look like nor what set of enemies he was referencing). He compares this to the victory that was "handed" the Communists in the 70's because of the inaction of a similarly "liberal" Congress' during North Vietnam's final invasion of the South in 1975.

This is yet another conservative canard, but is indicative of their mindset, along with how we could have stopped the Cold War by fighting the Russians immediately after Nazi Germany was defeated in World War II, but Roosevelt did away with that alternative at Yalta. They are popular, "red meat" things to say, based upon complete faith in military solutions, but have no basis in reality. After 15 years in Vietnam, how much longer were we supposed to stand in the way of the inevitable? Did we really want to make the same mistake as Hitler and attack someone who was an ally at that time, when we were also engaged in a war with Japan? Would there have been any support for either of these actions at that time here at home? Highly unlikely.

They criticize any alternatives to their own Iraq strategy, not based on the actual strategy proposed, but by simply dismissing it out of hand, claiming they are short sighted and would hand victory to the enemy (again, whoever that is at this point). In the meantime, they continue to pursue an almost exclusively military solution to the mess in Iraq (one created by their own lack of planning and short-sightedness), contrary to the opinion of nearly every other counter-insugency expert and its own current commander in Iraq.

At some point, our military will have to be withdrawn from this situation as it becomes more untenable - at which time, another conservative canard will be born, one where the US was on the verge of victory in Iraq...

Name: Dennis Jameson
Hometown:

Eric --

Your comment about "... having a lot of trouble liking new singers and bands, try as I might, but lately, there've been a bunch of chick singers that, happily, are breaking through." Reminded me of a question posed maybe a year ago, back when you were still on MSNBC, to the effect of "Where are the Guitar Goddesses?" Well I have a name that might answer that question and predispose you to some new stuff -- Sue Foley. She's Canadian, paid her dues in Austin TX, started out acoustic folk and made the transition to electric blues/rock band with a vengeance. Her last album, New Used Car, is the best. She not only plays her own leads, she sings, writes her own lyrics and arranges her music. I started out liking her guitar playing, then it was her singing, but now I'm into her lyrics -- she's a complete package. Her guitar playing is devastating. It must be those long cold northern winters she sometimes writes and sings about, where you have nothing to do but perfect your craft, which she's done in spades. Her CD is one of those kind where you don't want to play it too much, after devouring it for a month or two, because you don't want to get too burned out listening to it, but when it comes up in the rotation you get all warm and fuzzy because you know what's coming.

Eric adds: I also got a new CD from a young woman named Kendel Carson, who is also funny and smart and tough. It's on Train Wreck Records.

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