I was standing by my window / On a cold and cloudy day ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

It's here: 17,000 words on "The Mystery of Ales" by Kai Bird and Svetlana Chervonnaya. Perhaps the people who've been attacking its conclusions might wish to take the opportunity to read it now and examine the evidence presented...

On Richard Rorty:

My life has been happily marked by the good fortune that, for whatever reason, I've been able to get to know personally the people whose life paths have provided a roadmap for my own. Their deaths tend to leave a void, however, and are a little hard for me to get a handle on because part of the loss is personal and part of it, literally, idealized in a way I can't quite explain. The first time this happened was with the death of Izzy Stone, just as I was beginning my first book, and that still represents both a void in my life but also an inspiration, particularly since I got to know Izzy so well and when I was so young. (What a thrill it was, when I was first getting my start, to be able to talk to a reporter who covered the death of FDR, the first U.N. conference etc., to say nothing of everything else that made Izzy unique). Death is, of course the most natural part of life, and so I try not to get too sad when people die at a ripe old age, as did Arthur Schlesinger a few months ago. Molly Ivins sure died too young for my taste however, and now, so did Richard Rorty.

I first met Dick when I served on a committee of academics organizing a teach-in at Columbia to try to aid the labor movement shortly after John Sweeney took over the AFL-CIO. We had to come up with a single individual to give the keynote address who best represented the ideals we sought to communicate of class solidarity combined with scholarly excellence and personal integrity. We chose Dick -- there were some strong arguments for Garry Wills, but the committee decided we needed someone more closely identified with the academy -- and he gave a rousing address that was primarily political but spoke nevertheless with the authority of a man whose career, while controversial in his field, nevertheless represented its most noble traditions.

We became friends -- I can't say close friends -- but we enjoyed a rapport that meant a great deal to me. I remain fascinated about the disconnect between great thoughts, such as they are, inside the academy and the paucity of imagination in our public conversation. Rorty's hero, Dewey, provided the ideal of bridging these worlds, and late in life, Rorty stepped into this role as well. I caused a lot of trouble for myself by borrowing from his "Achieving Our Country" for my very first Nation column, way back when. (He mocked those academic leftists who somehow managed to convince themselves that "by chanting various Derridean or Foucauldian slogans they are fighting for human freedom," despite the fact that "political uselessness, relative illiteracy, and tiresomely self-congratulatory enthusiasm" resulted only in political impotence. But as history has shown, he was not only right, but prophetic.)

I did try to read his philosophical works and made some progress, but not enough to actually talk about it with him. And in fact, one of the sweeter moments in my life came after our last lunch when he came to my talk at the Stanford bookstore about When Presidents Lie. I was asked a question about Leo Strauss and I got to look humble, for once, saying I didn't think I should say anything about Strauss with Richard Rorty in the room. He stepped up and pinch hit rather more authoritatively than I might have.

Dick took the news of his illness with enviable grace and courage and good humor, at least as far as I could tell from his emails, and from the ones Todd Gitlin got too. Not long ago, he wrote me a letter of recommendation for something. I suppose that by the rules of academic confidentiality, I will never see it, but I will for damn sure always treasure it. The word "mensch" has no better exemplary. Again, I do not wish to claim more intimacy than is warranted, but I will surely miss his genius, geniality, courage and commitment. If you take the time and effort to familiarize yourself with his life and work, I'm guessing you will too.

"The question isn't whether these policies will make a difference, but whether they will make all the difference -- that is, whether Edwards's plan would really eradicate poverty in America, or at least significantly diminish it." Those words really shocked me when I read them this weekend in Matt Bai's profile of John Edwards.

Can he possibly mean them? Do we really want to undertake only "solutions" to problems that promise to end the problem itself? Shouldn't we take steps to make ourselves safer from attack, from environmental catastrophe, from predictable problems that face our society, even if they don't happen to dispose of the entire problem itself? Isn't it a worthy goal merely to improve current conditions? Wasn't the lack of humility in liberalism's alleged solutions to the problems of racism and poverty, etc, exactly the problem the last time our society seriously tried to address it? How is it possible that a New York Times Magazine profile instructs Edwards -- in the age of George W. Bush -- that he is being insufficiently radical about addressing an issue in which the president is pretty much off the charts in the opposite direction? Really, I just don't get it ...

This Times business section story had me wondering too. Is it objective reporting to call a guy "smart, confident and very capable" without sourcing it to anyone? Do you have to be the head of Goldman Sachs with a $54.3 million pay package to get that kind of treatment, or is it available to all of us? And look, more wonder: He "dons navy pinstripes and a power tie and, having just returned from a business trip to Turkey, enjoys conversing about the Ottoman Empire," and has "careful grooming ... has eyes more mischievous than intense ... his intellect, knowledge of history and deep understanding of trading set him apart from other titans of Wall Street, even among those with their own formidable skills ..."

Still speaking of the Sunday Times, what are photos of Jennifer Aniston's and Courtney Love's houses that have nothing whatever to do with the story doing here? And in the same story, what's up with this quote:

"Several people have asked to put up money to do five or six at a time," [Sandy Gallin] said of his real estate projects. "But I'm really designing a house for myself that I'd like to live in, and then I improve on it each time." Still, he acknowledges, he always has a potential sale in mind. "Even if I wanted to build a two-bedroom house on an expensive piece of property, I know I would build a four-bedroom house with a maid's quarters," he said. "That's what people want."

It strikes me as either you do or you don't, bub, and apparently, you don't....

Hey, look : John McCain somehow secured an invite to be interviewed on ABC's This Week. How odd. How unusual . I wonder who he knows there ...

Has everyone been reading Jamison Foser's weekly "Media Matters" column? Here's this week's, up to its usual impossible standard.

About last night:

I watched the final episode alone, on a slight time delay because I had to put the kid to bed and she was not perfectly cooperative, and so when the end came on, I had to rewind it twice to make sure it wasn't the DVR giving out at the crucial moment. Anyway, I was miffed, sure, but in retrospect, I thought it was brilliant. The key to the genius of the show is its unflinching realism about life; the proverbial good, bad, and ugly. And the thing about life is that unlike, say, The Godfather, where Michael takes care of "all the family business" in Part II, it does not come wrapped up with intellectually and emotionally satisfying endings. Endings are therefore almost always the most unsatisfying parts of serious works because they usually lack the integrity of what came before it. Chase and company stuck to their, ahem, guns, and I, um, salute them for it, as annoying as it was at first blush. Reb Leon has this to say.

I'm not trying to start a new s-s-sensation ... but it would be nice if people took a moment to think about stuttering in a new way. I went to a charity event for the American Institute for Stuttering, here, yesterday on the Queen Mary 2. It doesn't sound like the most important cause in the world at first, but it was really moving. Carly Simon, among others, talked about how tough it was to be kid and have this affliction without anyone even knowing what it was, and the terror it struck in her young heart. My hostess, Tina Brown, publicity genius that she is, managed to arrange the event on the day she got raves in the Times and the Post (and a day after the Journal) for writing a serious and important book about a topic that did not naturally lend itself to that. I continue to stand in awe ...

From TomDispatch:

As Dilip Hiro, author of Blood of the Earth, makes clear, there are not two nuclear worlds -- that of the nuclear "rogues" and that of the "nuclear club"; there is only one. Our nuclear world and theirs are intimately linked by an ever more volatile version of the old Cold War doctrine of "deterrence." The more we invest in, and maintain, a vast nuclear arsenal, the more we slot those weapons into our strategic and tactical planning, the more such weapons will proliferate elsewhere. The Bush administration came into office ready to crush nuclear proliferators. Instead, when its history is written, it will undoubtedly be seen as a nuclear proliferation machine, threatening to bring its own nightmare scenario -- such weaponry in the hands of a terrorist band for whom "deterrence" would have no meaning whatsoever -- ever closer to reality.

In his most recent piece at Tomdispatch.com, Hiro lays out the roles deterrence and regime survival have played in the proliferation of nuclear weapons from the arrival of the Chinese bomb (1964) and the Israeli bomb (1967) to the North Korean bomb of today. He then turns to the future Iranian bomb, which has been on the front page regularly these last few years.

He points to the annual $75 million the U.S. government openly devotes to cultivating new enemies of the Iranian regime and the way the Bush White House has launched a series of covert operations to undermine it, dispatched aircraft-carrier strike forces through the Straits of Hormuz in classic gunboat-diplomacy fashion, and had its vice president issue a series of warnings to Iran from the deck of the USS John C. Stennis, floating barely 150 miles off the Iranian coast.

He concludes: "The Iranian response, despite public denials, has been to play the single card that history has stamped 'effective' since 1949 -- raising the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran. It is a classic act of self-defense guaranteed to spread nuclear arms to other countries in a MAD world where Catch-22 is the nuclear rule of the day."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Karl W.
Hometown: Bloomfield, CT

The plot to destroy JFK airport was so far from operational it was laughable. But not as laughable as Mayor Tough Guy, who pretty much peed his pants over it.

Who knew the real tough guy was going to be Mayor Bloomberg? Paraphrasing: "I'm from Noo Yawk. I'm not gonna let that crap scare me! I'll save it for something that's dangerous."

Name: Zack
Hometown: Berkeley Heights, NJ

I would like to thank Lt. Col. Bateman for another excellent post. In particular I would like to applaud his inclusion of Secretary Gates' graduation speech.

I was fortunate to have heard it in person at my brother's graduation from the USAFA. I was feeling a little out of place as one of the few left-leaning, anti-war folks among the families and friends of the graduates. I was astounded that this man could have been appointed by Bush because what he was saying was the exact opposite of what the president has said and done for the last 7 years.

Besides his positive message about the press and Congress, he conspicuously added that it is a moral and professional imperative for military officers to speak truth to power, particularly when the news is bad.

You can find the entire speech here.

I wonder how much better off we would be had Rumsfeld been replaced sooner.

Name: Rick Kane
Hometown: Locust Grove, Virginia

Hi Doc:

So much to talk about, but both Paul Krugman and Ezra Klein in TAP comment on the outright lie (or demonstration of complete ignorance) Mitt Romney made in this week's Republican debate about how Saddam's failure to allow IAEA inspectors into Iraq made the war a necessity, when of course they had been let in and they were allowed full access and they did not find any of the non-existent WMDs. And no one in the media called him on this matter! Instead, as Krugman points out, they just did theater criticism and "horse race" speculations. The lack of seriousness about the war in these folks is the most morally dismal fact about the Republicans. The American soldiers and Iraqis dying there are simply expendable.

Name: David Shaffer
Hometown: Harleysville, PA

Dr. A --

June as "learn more about the dangers of the Internet" month? Are these guys f***ing kidding me? This is right up there (or down there, depending on your perspective) with Ted Stevens' "the Internet is a series of tubes" rant. I'm surprised the resolution doesn't include an amendment criticizing Al Gore for inventing the Internet in the first place.

Hey, Senators, while we're at it, why don't we have a "learn more about the dangers of television" month too? Or maybe a "learn more about the dangers of sticking your finger in light socket" month? Maybe even a "learn more about the dangers of Congressional Stupidity" month? (I know, I know, "Congressional Stupidity" is redundant...)

Maybe I'm missing something, but I would think someone would take 15 minutes out of their life to educate theirself about the topic on which they're voting. Apparently I'd be wrong. Helps explain why we're in Iraq, doesn't it?

Here's an idea: Since it's usually hot in July in the United States, how about designating July as "learn more about the dangers of global warming" month?

Name: Ravi Giroti
Hometown: San Francisco

I would like Traven from Seattle to know that his understanding of the myriad immigration laws of the land is woefully inadequate. I don't dispute that the H1B and several other work visas that the US doles out are called non-immigrant. This would sound familiar to anyone who listens to talk radio or watches Lou Dobbs. However, the State Dept. explicitly mentions that these are dual-intent visas which means they could lead to future permanent residence if other conditions are met. I don't expect Traven to understand how difficult it is for someone to build a family and social ties over a long period of time in the US and then one fine day pack up and leave. Also, it is not the case that anyone who's working on a non-immigrant visa is automatically eligible to file for a green card. It is a petition made by one's employer so unless someone's really worth the investment of around $10K no firm would sponsor that person. That's the whole premise behind an employer sponsored immigrant visa program. What someone like Traven needs is an education about the realities of employment based immigration. The waiting periods are going to creep into double-digits in years very soon, and while you wait for your turn you've got to put your whole existence into limbo. I wonder how great it would feel to be stuck in the same job for years on an end with any aspirations of further progress implying starting from scratch all over. The reality of the new global economy is that labor follows capital and vice versa. If most of the talent were to move out of the US which is very likely if xenophobes and jingoists were to prevail, then so would the firms who need those people. What I wrote was not meant to be a sob story -- I don't need anyone's sympathy. All I want to see happening is the introduction of some sanity into this wreck of a system, and some notion of time-bound progress rather than toying around with people's lives.

Name: David
Hometown: Greensboro, NC

"Incarer-cation" Haiku:

"Whoops, wrong room." Doc's nabbed.
Spends even more time in stir
Than Paris Hilton.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.