When I was just a baby, my mother told me, "Son, always be a good boy. Don't ever play with guns ..."

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

You may have already read somewhere that I was briefly arrested last night in the "spin room" at the Democrats' debate in New Hampshire. It's a bizarre story, and only slightly less bizarre was the degree of interest it generated. CNN ran an early, incomplete version of the story on their "ticker" to which Matt Drudge linked, and the next thing I knew, it seemed to be everywhere. I had already been released by the police and was back in my hotel room trying to watch The Sopranos -- I had given up trying to write about the debate -- when I went online and saw the story and spent the next couple of hours trying to keep up with it -- the most important parts being getting the CNN producer on the phone to explain it from my end and then accepting Duncan Black's generous offer to print my version of events on Atrios.

Anyway, I can't really say much more about it now, because I still need to try and work it out with the authorities so that it doesn't mess up my life any more than it already has. The version I sent Duncan, and also Josh Marshall, Instapundit, Jeralyn, Matt Yglesias, and others -- thanks to all -- is also up here at HuffPo.

The only larger point I want to draw right now is that all privileged people, particularly journalists, should be arrested at least once, preferably with handcuffs. It's just amazing to me how powerful police can be and how powerless you can be in the split second it takes an officer to make the decision that you have broken a law. This point does not reflect on how I was treated at the police station, which was with the utmost courtesy and politeness, but the fact that I was there at all is still amazing to me, given the circumstances.

We'll be launching the defense committee tonight on Chris Matthews ...

On Friday, Conn Carroll interviewed me for Bloggingheads.tv, and it's up here.

Bob Thompson has a nice story about BookExpo America and Olsson's Books' trip to it, here. I worked at Olsson's in Georgetown for a few months in 1984. It was my second-to-last job before becoming a professor. The only BEA-ish event I attended was a party for the Strand Bookstore's 80th birthday. The Strand is a terrific New York institution and the kind of place that would improve your life no matter where you lived. Its spacious, expanded digs make it a much more inviting place than the (still-charming) store of my youth. Nancy Bass, who runs the store with her father, married the progressive Oregon senator Ron Wyden, and we had a nice chat at the party. Politically speaking, he's optimistic about 2008. (And they were extremely generous to When Presidents Lie.)

Fareed Zakaria's long essays are always worth reading for a variety of reasons. Here's a new one I've not had the chance but to skim of yet.

From Dissent:

Yesterday, Britain's 120,000-strong University and College Union voted to endorse a motion to boycott Israeli universities, calling on British academics to condemn "the complicity of Israeli academics in the occupation." In the next couple weeks, local branches will make a final decision on the boycott. Unison, Britain's largest union, will also debate a similar motion at its upcoming meeting.

In the forthcoming Summer 2007 issue (out the first week of July), Dissent contributor and U. Chicago professor Martha Nussbaum provides an impassioned argument against academic boycotts: "It is a poor choice of strategies, and some of the justifications offered for it are downright alarming. Economic boycotts are occasionally valuable. Symbolic boycotts, I believe, are rarely valuable." Nussbaum adds: "Scholars who have strong views about the Israeli government would be well advised, I think, to focus on the tactic of organized (nonviolent and non-disruptive) public protest, directed at the government and its key actors."

From TomDispatch:

Finally, almost four years after Ambassador Joseph Wilson wrote an op-ed in the New York Times questioning the infamous "16 words" about Saddam's search for uranium in Africa in the president's 2003 State of the Union address and found himself the subject of an administration smear campaign and his CIA wife, Valerie Plame, outed, legal justice arrives. This Tuesday, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby goes before a judge to be sentenced.

Former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega takes this moment to consider both Libby's immediate fate and what lessons we might draw from the moment. The Vice President's former right-hand man, who could receive up to 37 months in prison, insists, through his lawyers, that his, at best, reckless (and, far more likely, intentional) act in disseminating classified information about the status of CIA Agent Valerie Plame Wilson was not only not illegal, but not even wrong. As de la Vega puts it, "It appears that Libby -- one of the highest White House officials ever convicted of a felony -- has learned precisely nothing from his trial and conviction on charges of false statements, obstruction of justice, and perjury." She suggests that his defense in the sentencing phase of his trial has proved "an exquisite expression of the entitlement and arrogance that spawned the administration's smear campaign against Joseph Wilson in the first place. It could only be more pointedly evocative of utter contempt for the rule of law if it were followed by a sneer emoticon."

She then offers us a little lesson in sentencing -- "Federal Sentencing for Dummies" -- everything a non-legal reader needs to know for Tuesday's sentencing hearing; and proceeds to explain why many -- especially ardent anti-war critics -- are likely to feel let down by the event even if, as she suspects, Libby receives around 30 months in jail. They are, she suggests, looking to the wrong agent of change -- the courts, not Congress. She concludes: "To expect a federal prosecutor to remedy the gravely dysfunctional government that we currently have through one, or even many, criminal prosecutions is like expecting an orthopedic surgeon to cure a patient's multiple organ failure by setting a broken arm."

Alter-reviews:

Sal on the Beach Boys and the Genesis box

First, we'd like to thank the great Al Kooper for hipping us to the fact that the most recent Beach Boys' compilation is NOT just another throwaway. The Warmth of the Sun is a superb collection, handpicked by the Boys (whoever is left) themselves and features not your run-of-the-mill tunestack, but 28 summer themed gems, as well as 7 NEW STEREO MIXES! Sound quality is KILLER!

Dropping a C-note on a box full of Genesis CDs is a pretty hard sell these days. Hell, it was a hard sell in 1982 when the band was at their commercial peak. But, I'm here to tell you, I LOVE GENESIS! That's right. My name is Sal, and through 1982, Genesis was one of my favorite bands. ("Hiiiiiii Saaaaaaal.")

The first in a series of three box sets from Rhino Records is Genesis: 1976-1982, and it features the cream of the post-Peter Gabriel material from this legendary band. The band is often lumped in with other over-blown, pretentious Prog nonsense, but it's unfair. Genesis could write pop tunes. Sure they were 11 minutes long, but the melodies were there, and not all the lyrics were about King Arthur, bolas, and haggis. (most of them were, but not all.)

Included in the box are the following titles: A Trick Of The Tail, Wind & Wuthering, And Then There Were Three, Duke, and Abacab. All feature brand-new stereo mixes, as well as DVDs that feature stunning 5.1 surround mixes, newly mastered footage of some classic live concert films that Genesis collectors' had bought in lousy quality on videotape back in the day, as well as new interviews, videos and more. Rhino did not skimp on the extras. For $100, you certainly get your money's worth, it's just convincing you non-believers that the music is worthy.

The first of the lot is A Trick Of The Tail. Here the band made a conscious effort to sound like the Peter Gabriel fronted band, only without Gabriel. The songs are lengthy and adventurous, and highlight Phil Collins' brilliant drumming and underrated, pre-Tarzan vocals. Classics like "Squonk," the Zep-inspired rocker, and "Los Endos," the Weather Report-influenced jazz piece that closes the record, remained a part of their live repertoire for years. In between we get some gorgeous folky ballads, with Beatle-esque harmonies and stellar playing from the rest of the band. The strongest of the set.

Duke and Abacab actually have radio hits. "Turn It On Again," "No Reply At All," and the title track of the latter. Both of these records are better than I remembered. Could be the incredible surround mixes. I still prefer the earlier material, although both Wind & Wuthering and And Then There Were Three, while still much stronger than anything the band released post-1982, hinted at their quest for commercial success by featuring shorter songs and fewer Moog solos.

As a bonus, there is a sixth CD, featuring all the single-only and non-LP tracks, including another hit "Paperlate," and a few b-sides that rival some their strongest material, specifically "You Might Recall" which is lyrically and melodically, as beautiful as anything of its time.

There are worse ways to spend $100 (see Doors box). I look forward to the Gabriel set, but not Volume 3, which will no doubt include outtakes from the Michelob commercials and a director's cut of Buster.

-- Sal, NYCD

Correspondence Corner:

Name: D. Barker
Hometown: NYC

Nice piece on Fred Thompson.

I'm worried about this guy being elected. Why do the commentators and so-called analysts fawn over this guy? I had this same sinking feeling when Reagan was running. It's baffling, like a Tim Wakefield knuckleball.

And why the continued hostility toward Al Gore? I don't get this either. Is it simply because he's smarter than, say, David Brooks?

Keep up the good work, Mr. Alterman, and see you at Shea for the World Series. Game 7: El Duque vs. the future senator from Massachusetts, Curt Schilling.

Name: Matthew Saroff
Hometown: http://fourtyyears.blogspot.com

While June 1 was Slacker Friday, you should have made at least made some reference to the 40th anniversary of the release of the Beatle's Sargent Pepper album.

Truth be told, the US release date was June 2, 1967, but you don't blog weekends.

Name: Mark Shotzberger
Hometown: Dover, DE

When I was a young pup in the US Army back in 1979 or so, I spent a period of time patrolling the Border between West Germany, East Germany and Czechoslovakia. (4 countries that don't even exist today! I feel so old!) I could not help but notice the East Germans were very good at building walls and fences.

Maybe we can hire a few of their unemployed "experts" (the ones not in prison that is) to serve as "consultants" to build our "Fortress America" fence. We can also get the old leftover land mines and trip wire-triggered shot guns on surplus!

Several of my Canadian friends are willing to donate money to build the fence on the US-Canadian Border to keep us "Yankee-Doodles" out.

Name: Traven
Hometown: Seattle

Eric,

I'm afraid I have no sympathy for Ravi Giroti and his sob story about how as a poor H1-B visa holder the American dream has become a nightmare, apparently because he can't get a green card. An H1-B visa is, by definition, a non-immigrant visa, allowing the holder to work here for seven years, after which he is expected to go home. (In fact, many successfully adjust to employment-based immigrants.) A deal's a deal -- you knowingly sign up for a non-immigrant work visa that requires you to go home in some time, you can't complain when the rules are actually enforced.

My last word on "fences don't work." Tell it to the Israelis. Since they put up a wall, suicide bombings are way, way down.

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