I just called to say I hate you ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

So you probably heard that George W. Bush is as unpopular as ever and will soon set a presidential unpopularity record vis-à-vis his unbroken string of negative assessments by the American public. Perhaps you are aware that most Americans are not as easily fooled as most journalists. Every day we read pro-administration propaganda about the surge under reporters' bylines and during the ABC New Hampshire debate, Charles Gibson even tried to get the Democrats to admit they had been wrong about the surge. Well, despite the barrage, typified by William Kristol's column in The New York Times Monday, public views of the situation in Iraq, which turned more positive in the fall, have again slipped: "Currently, 41% of Americans say the military effort in Iraq is going very well or fairly well, while 54% say that the situation there is not going well." I find this extremely impressive, and there's more here. And here, too: "Just 32 percent of Americans now approve of the way Bush is handling his job, while 66 percent disapprove. Bush's work on the economy has likewise reached a new low. And he shows no gain on Iraq; despite reduced violence there, 64 percent say the war was not worth fighting, 2 points from its high."

The dismal truth about New Hampshire was this: Never has a Granite State primary received so much media attention and been covered by so many journalists. And never has the press so badly botched a New Hampshire vote. So says Boehlert, here.

Then again, bloggers must realize that the MSM, for all its faults, is both invaluable and irreplaceable, because of stories like this one. Oh, and chalk up one more failure, if you can imagine, to the Bush administration's national security policy.

From TomDispatch:

Rebecca Solnit travels into the territory of the Zapatista rebels who emerged from the jungles of the impoverished state of Chiapas, Mexico, on New Year's Day in 1994, burst dramatically into global consciousness, and have been on Solnit's mind (and in her writing) ever since.

As she enters their lands, she takes up one of their revolutionary images, that of the easily overlooked caracol or land snail and suggests ways in which the Zapatistas have changed her vision of revolution -- and ours. "We live," she writes, "in revolutionary times, but the revolution we are living through is a slow turning around from one set of beliefs and practices toward another, a turn so slow that most people fail to observe our society revolving -- or rebelling. The true revolutionary needs to be as patient as a snail."

She spends several days over New Year's 2008 with Zapatista women, listening to their experiences and compares them to "a palm-sized, lavender-pink flower" -- she sees in profusion as she first arrives -- "on tall, airily branching stalks whose breathtaking beauty seemed to come from equal parts vitality, vulnerability, and bravura."

In her moving narrative, Solnit considers the essential feminism of the Zapatista rebels, describes their experiments with a new revolutionary language, close to the earth, to myth, to the indigenous peoples of North America, and yet inventive, playful, metaphorical, and she worries that, soon enough, this movement may be crushed by the Mexican military.

She concludes: "Give the Zapatistas time -- the slow, unfolding time of the spiral and the journey of the snail -- to keep making their world, the one that illuminates what else our lives and societies could be. Our revolution must be as different as our temperate-zone, post-industrial society is to their subtropical agrarianism, but also guided by the slow forces of dignity, imagination, and hope, as well as the playfulness they display in their imagery and language... At midnight [December 31st], amid dancing, the revolution turned 14. May it long continue to spiral inward and outward."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Dan Beeton
Hometown: Center for Economic and Policy Research

Greetings from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. I saw the post earlier this week on the new forecast by Oxford Economics suggesting that the UK will overtake the US in 2008 on living standards.

While we have done much work (see, e.g., here) to get the media, and the public, to appreciate that the U.S. economy is in much worse shape than much of the economic reporting suggests, the UK's per capita GDP is not going to be greater than the U.S.' this year, but will still lag behind the U.S. by almost 19%.

As our new analysis shows, Oxford Economics' conclusion depends on a serious methodological error. As we note in our paper, their calculation would be equivalent to suggesting that a worker is better off taking a $55,000 per year job in New York City rather than a $50,000 per year job in Ottumwa, Iowa. While the "market exchange rate" for New York City dollars to Ottumwa dollars is one to one, prices are of course much different and generally much higher in New York City.

Name: Randy Jewett
Hometown: Gainesville, FL

Eric,

Hillary said that Dr. King's dream finally began to be realized when LBJ "passed" the civil rights bill, that it took a president to do it. What?! A president doesn't "pass" anything. Congress passes laws and presidents sign them or veto them. And Congress can pass them over a veto with a 2/3 majority. Here she is a member of Congress and is using the wrong language to describe that body's role and the role of the office to which she aspires. No wonder so many Americans are ignorant of how their government functions when its members use such language.

Name: Stephen Hirsch
Hometown: Basking Ridge, NJ

I got your questions on last week's Parsha too late to get in today. Suffice it to say that your questions are, as usual, excellent; you have the honor of having asked the same questions as such geniuses as Rashi, the Rambam, etc. Since it would take a book to do those questions justice, I'll pass on trying to answer them here. I'm writing here to plead with you and other left-wing Jews to take your hard questions and doubts, and demand answers from the Torah Authorities of today. It's your right and your heritage.

Torah isn't just for the right wing.

Name: Dan Garfinkel
Hometown: Pittsburgh

Thanks for the d'var Torah. It is the rare blog that can combine such a lovely combination of exegesis, timely issue analysis, elegant writing and snark. Keep up the good work. And Happy Birthday.

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