Slacker Friday


I've got a new "Think Again" column here called "Deal Me In," about the last defenders of Bush and his war, particularly Kristol the Younger, and I did a Guardian post called "Wither John Edwards," which'll be up eventually....

Alter-weekend recommendations:

1) HBO's documentary on the Brooklyn Dodgers, which is on tonight and lots of other times, is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen in my life, period. I don't know who made it, but it should be taught in all documentary classes.

2)AMC's Mad Men is also great; at least the first one was. That's on all the time.

3) ESPN's The Bronx is Burning is a disappointment, though I continue to recommend Jonathan Mahler's book upon which it is based.

4) You probably don't need me for this, but Ratatouille is also terrific, and has a really interesting/useful disquisition on the role of the critic.

5) I finally get Arcade Fire. This one's great. The previous one is great. They are the best new band since Radiohead, which was the best new band since U2 and Nirvana, if you're keeping score at home ...

6) This book The Last Novel by David Markson is the perfect thing to keep around your computer when you need to restart it or you have a few minutes to kill, but not enough to actually finish anything. It's brilliant, and one paragraph is completely disconnected from the other, so there's nothing to remember.

7) I saw the Drive-By Truckers the other night at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett. I'll try to do a full review next week, but see them if you can, and by all means pick up their Southern Rock Opera if you have not already.

Amazing Quote of the Day: "We are buying time at a cost of the lives of our soldiers." -- U.S. ambassador to Iraq Chester Crocker, here.

OK, raise your hand. Who wants to be the last person to die for "bought time?"

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA.

Hey Doc --

"Mary Hill used to love to ride on the merry-go-round/All the guys got eager eyes watching Mary go 'round."

WWOZ Pick To Click -- "Fish For Supper" (Hot Lips Page): Once again, I have forgotten to design an eight-mile circular work of topiary that explains how much I love New Orleans.

It is posts like this one that will one day make me give up and join the Carthusians. Leave aside the labored -- and laughably threadbare -- defense of why John Edwards's haircuts matter, but not before recalling that, when Jack Kennedy first ran for Congress, people chaffed him for living in Palm Beach and having had a butler at Harvard. Both items were true. Neither bit particularly deeply. Why? Because the political press of the time -- many of whom were fresh off a battlefield in the Ardennes or the Solomons -- realized when something was a punch line and something was a real issue, and with returning veterans sweltering with their families in Quonset huts along the Charles, who gave a rat's ass where JFK spent his winters? Anyway, this argument will be with us always, and it's every bit as dumb as it was in 1948.

However, where in hell do we go with that last passage there, about how the haircuts matter because "a healthy chunk of the political press corps" doesn't like Edwards, and how they're staying away from a sauce-for-the-goose position on Mitt Romney's makeovers because of their own private calculations of the relative electability of the two candidates. OK, here's the deal. Every member of that "healthy chunk" of the press corps should be fired. Today. This minute. Without pay or recompense. Let them all walk back inside the Beltway from Cedar Rapids if they have to. I value what I do. I value the work of the people in my business who do it correctly. But, holy mother of god, these people do not do what I do. It's OK to sneer at a candidate if you don't like him? It's OK to create a destructive narrative out of unmitigated piffle because he doesn't kiss your ass with the regularity you think you deserve, or because his press buses don't run on time, or because one of his staffers was late with the Danish in Keene? I watched a roomful of them boo Al Gore seven years ago, behavior that would have gotten them run out of any press box in the major leagues. Do you think one of these jamokes -- or jamokettes -- is thinking, "Maybe we should lay off the haircut thing because of what we all did to Gore in 2000, and look how well that worked out." Please.

Here's what I think -- the majority of people who cover national politics believe that history is whatever happened in the MSNBC Green Room 15 minutes earlier. I believe the campaign is covered by people with a completely unjustified sense of their own superiority, since not many of them understand or ever care about most of the issues, much less the horrendous bills that are going to come due upon whichever of these poor sods winds up with the job. I believe these people care more about their reputation around the bar at the Wayfarer in Manchester than they do about the interests of the people they purportedly serve. And, were I an editor, and someone brought me a story about John Edwards' hair or Mitt Romney's skin, that person would do it once. The second time, the lazy bastard would find himself typing bowling agate on Wednesday night.

Name: Rick Kane
Hometown: Locust Grove, Virginia

Hi Doc,

Atrios references this op-ed by Timothy Garton Ash on his blog today. One part he does not quote is the following: "Osama bin Laden's plan was to get the U.S. to overreact and overreach itself. With the invasion of Iraq, Bush fell slap-bang into that trap." This is the same point Lawrence Wright made in The Looming Tower. It also means if a new president is allowed to replace Bush in January 20, 2009, the problems and choices they will face will profoundly tragic.

Eric replies: "Locust Grove," dude? Are you serious?

Name: Randy Jewett
Hometown: Gainesville FL

Did you see where Rep. Ellison, the Muslim congressman from Minnesota, retracted his remarks about Bush trying to suspend civil liberties in the wake of 9/11 being like Hitler suspending civil liberties in 1933 after the Reichstag fire? He was criticized for making comparisons to the Holocaust, a unique event in history. But he never made comparisons to the Holocaust, only to political actions of Hitler many years before the Holocaust that are indeed similar to those of Bush. One doesn't have to be a self-hating Jew to allow this comparison, does one?

Eric replies: Richard Rorty was attacked in The New York Times for giving voice to just this fear shortly after 9/11. But it's exactly what's happened, albeit not on the same scale. Still, everybody understands now that when you bring up Hitler, nobody listens to the rest of what you say. A Muslim congressman ought to understand that better than anyone. (An aside: I'm dipping into that new Mao biography. Its authors give the figure for his murders at 70 million, which is Hitler and Stalin put together, and absolutely incomprehensible to me. Also incomprehensible is the fact that he was so revered by the '60s left as Stalin was by much of the '30s left. But that's a topic for another day.)

Name: Brian Geving
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

Dr. Eric,

I really hope that you respond to that Jewish Week article, since it is clear that they haven't read everything you've written on the subject. It is clear to me that your point is that the only acceptable criticism of Israel is if it is from the right, but Jewish Week obviously doesn't understand that when they quote Krauthammer, Halevi and Peretz...all criticizing Israel from the right, and not listing one critic from the left.

I also loved the following line from the article:

"Alterman finally damns Peretz for his 'obsessive and unapologetic hatred of Arabs, the evidence of which is visible nearly every day.' The evidence? Peretz has called Palestinians or Arabs in general, 'violent... unreliable... cruel, belligerent, intolerant.' Imagine that. In other words, Peretz calls the Palestinians what Fatah has called Hamas and what Hamas has called Fatah."

In other words, it's OK to call black people the N-word because they call themselves the same word? My mama taught me that lesson when I was in grade-school, but it looks like JW never learned that it is never acceptable to call people names because of their race, even if they call themselves the same names.

Sometimes I feel sorry for you, Eric, when you have to put up with this crap from your own people, but I also know that you also have a lot of supporters here and in Israel.


Eric replies: I dunno, dude. My rule about replying to attacks on me is usually, "Would I see this and believe it if I saw it? Would anyone I know and respect?" I waste a lot of time on idiotic gossip reporters who write about me because I have a sense that even the people who read them have no idea how minimal their journalistic standards are, and so I correct the record when necessary, without getting into a back-and-forth if I can help it. But Jewish Week? I never read it. Nobody I know reads it. And I have a book deadline next week that is killing me (and we'll have some substitutes as a result). So I think I need to let it go. Anyone who reads the TAP article on Peretz in a fair-minded fashion will, I think, find it compelling, which is why no one on Marty's payroll, past or present, has seen fit to take it on.

Name: Michael Rapoport


The best comment about Bill Kristol has to be Jon Stewart's, who told Kristol in a Daily Show one-on-one, "I have to give you credit. ... You were wrong about Iraq WAY before anyone else."

Name: Jim Reuss
Hometown: Cheyenne, Wyoming

If a citizen has no standing in federal court when challenging violations of constitutional protections by the government (the illegal wiretap program), and if federal court is not an appropriate venue to hear cases about governmental violations of constitutional provisions (the Plame case dismissed), it brings one close to despair. How in the world is a citizen supposed to be able to petition the government for the redress of grievances when the justices in the high courts cannot see that upholding the laws and maintaining the rights of citizens take precedence over the desire to support a Medieval interpretation of executive and governmental authority?

Name: Jim Carlile
Hometown: Burbank California

Hi Eric,

Do you really think it's bad manners to challenge an inane question on-air? Maybe you're right, but I wish somebody would these days. I think it's bad manners for these people to be stupid, and that's worse.

Name: Mark Whipple
Hometown: Austin TX

I read your blog regularly, mostly for the media analysis. I find it useful, at times. I notice you often say backhanded things about Noam Chomsky. Since I find him to be among the most important intellectuals in the US (for both his linguistic and foreign policy analysis), I am intrigued by your seeming dismissal of him. I respect your work, so I would love to see you write 2-3 paragraphs in your blog critically engaging Noam on his terms. If you've written such a piece, and it is accessible, any chance you could tell me where to find it? Thanks!

Eric replies: Mark, I've done this once or twice, but I really couldn't find it if I tried ... Sorry, it's a really busy time for me right now.

Name: Frank Lynch
Hometown: Really Not Worth Archiving

Sorry no one left notes of sufficient quality on Wednesday. I hate when that happens...

Not that you wrote about the exlpoding steam pipe near Grand Central, but what struck me most about the incident was the frequent messages in the media that it was not terrorist-related. In a city as old as NYC or other urban areas across the Hudson, like Jersey City, mains break. The infrastructure is old and under-maintained. The surprising thing, as Johnson might have said, is that they don't happen more often.

When the populace quickly lapses into fears of terrorism, or be reassured that it's not, I think we have a fair barometer of how effective Bush has been of making New Yorkers feel safer, in reality or perceptions. On the heels of this week's NIE, and those who rally round some flag talking about the lack of an attack on American soil since 9/11, Atrios has rightly pointed to the Anthrax mailings as a counterpoint. And it goes further than that: Ron Suskind pointed out, in his last book, that al Qaeda called off an attack on the NYC subways which could well have worked, not because it would have been have stopped, but because it wasn't bloody enough. As a result of the seriousness of that called-off threat, the NYPD has been doing random screenings of backpacks and luggage throughout the NYC subway system for the last couple years. But these didn't start until after the attack was called off.

In other matters, add this musical moment to your "Reasons To Live" list: John Gilmore's sax solo on the Sun Ra recording of "But Not For Me."

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