Thanks, Hollywood: Cigarette porn for kids

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I took a couple of 9-year-olds to a pornographic film this weekend. It was an accident, of course; I thought we were going to enjoy a father/daughter family-style movie with a bit of romantic comedy and political atmosphere thrown in. Instead, I got a movie that glorified and romanticized cigarette smoking like no modern movie I've ever seen. It was absolutely disgusting. What's more, it equated smoking with having an occasional glass of wine and or having a romantic relationship. Plus, they make it appear as if anyone can quit anytime they wish. It was a two hour cancer commercial. It was morally indefensible and disgusting, since the movie is being marketed to teens and tweens. I wonder if the cigarette companies paid for this kind of loving attention, and I wonder how many people will die of lung cancer to put money in the pockets of the Hollywood moguls who made it. I think everyone associated with the film Definitely, Maybe should be shamed out of the movie business, except that cute Breslin girl. More power and influence, I say, to organizations like this one who are doing the Lord's work. And here is a study of the subject.

Take a look at this terrific column by Susan Dominus about teaching Jewish kids about the Holocaust.

When I wrote my TAP piece about Marty Peretz, I saw a number of comments on my favorite blog, The Spine, attacking Peretz for not having the gumption/courage to reply. Of course, this is not entirely fair. Peretz did not respond under his own name but instead used that of his sock puppet, "Jamie Kirchick," to run an almost obsessive series of attacks on yours truly, which you are free to Google if you care. Owing to the good taste of someone at TNR, these usually ran on the website of Commentary, where they are in perfect sync with the good taste and exquisite sensibility of its new editor John Podhoretz, but I guess that person had left for the day and Peretz/Kirchick snuck it in. In any case, because I accidentally misidentified the organization led by Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Peretz apparently accidentally revealed himself as Kirchick's puppet-master. This hysterical post, which appeared on TNR's website and signed by the imaginary friend of the man whose only accomplishment in life is to use his second wealthy ex-wife's fortune to (almost) destroy liberalism's most important magazine -- we can't help noting again that the imaginary book pictured atop The Spine is the only one he will ever "publish" -- went out originally under Peretz's signature. As the commenter "colablease" noted: "When this post came in over my RSS feed, it had Jamie Kirchick's signature at the botton -- but the header proclaimed the author as 'M. Peretz'!! Which is it? Or does it matter?" And if you put the names into the search engine at Ask.com, you get this back:

Fact-Checking Eric Alterman By M Peretz for The Plank

Anyway, the Peretz/Kirchick post makes it appear as if I am just pulling stuff out of my ass regarding Jews and liberalism, but of course I addressed the issue with data here. And while the American Jewish Committee rushed to denounce me in a letter and press release I can no longer find online, its employee circulated a memo designed to undermine Obama in Jewish policy circles just a little while later, thereby proving my point. That piece is here. (Brian Beutler notices this too, here.)

To return to the genuine issue here, after the post that "Sprezzatura," I mean Kirchick, found so ridiculous, I noticed the following in the Forward -- in addition to the Jennifer Siegel piece linked above -- here:

As the leader of the country's largest synagogue movement, the Union for Reform Judaism's Rabbi Eric Yoffie normally tries to stay out of partisan politics. But in recent months, as presidential contender Barack Obama has been subjected to a wave of public criticism from segments of the Jewish community, Yoffie has found himself increasingly distressed by -- and willing to publicly counter -- remarks made by other Jewish leaders about the Illinois senator.

Reached by the Forward late last week, Yoffie strongly condemned statements made recently by Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. A few days earlier, Hoenlein had voiced disapproval of the tenor of the American presidential campaign, and raised eyebrows both in Washington and Jerusalem with what was perceived as a swipe at Obama.

[...]

"I was a bit stunned, and as I walked through the Knesset and heard people saying that American Jews are attacking Obama, that made me more uncomfortable still," said Yoffie, who, as the URJ's president, is a member of the Conference of Presidents. "Everybody who read those comments took them as an attack on Obama by the American Jewish community, and that's why it's critical we need to avoid these comments."

And yet, all that firepower has not stopped the whispering. In some Jewish circles it's now a constant buzz, here:

Most recently, the attacks have focused almost obsessively on one particular Obama adviser, former White House aide Robert Malley. Raised in Paris by a left-wing Syrian Jewish father and an American Jewish mother, Malley handled Middle East affairs in the Clinton-era National Security Council. Since the failed Camp David talks of 2000, Malley has written several controversial articles arguing that Yasser Arafat did not bear sole responsibility for the talks' failure, but that Washington and Jerusalem each bear part of the blame. For this he has been labeled "a rabid hater of Israel," in the words of The New Republic.

The real Malley is a soft-spoken Jewish intellectual who has strong ties to Israel and believes deeply in Israeli-Palestinian peace. He is no "hater" of Israel. And yet, through the magic of the Internet, he has become a global punching bag.

Five former administration foreign policy officials, all Jews, most with strong links to the organized Jewish community, issued a joint statement last week condemning the groundless attacks on Malley. Days earlier, public statements were issued by seven Jewish senators and nine leaders of major Jewish organizations, protesting anti-Obama rumor-mongering.

With even more here.

In addition to which, the great but excitable Spencer Ackerman takes note of yet another slander of the wonderful Samantha Power, which I found via takes-much-too-long-to-load whippersnapper Young Matt. There is a larger issue of concern here of a coordinated attack by Jewish right-wingers against Obama. And there is the question of how other Jews -- the ones who genuinely represent the voice of the Jewish community will respond. But this slander of Obama, Malley, Power, Brzezinski, et al, brings shame upon the heads of everyone who engages in it, whether they have the courage to put it out under their own names or not. Newsweek has a take on it here.

Quote of the Day: "There is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt a unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you're anti-Israel and that can't be the measure of our friendship with Israel." -- Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, speaking of the great magazine that is wrapped up inside the meshuginah called The New Republic, don't miss Mark Lilla on the neocons (of whom he once was one) here, and Tomasky on Jonah G, which is quite a bit longer than Alterman on same, no doubt. But is he funnier? You be the judge.

Alter-reviews:

Allison Moorer by Sal:

Allison Moorer has had a steady and dignified, if somewhat quiet, career. Ten years after her debut release, Alabama Song, Miss Moorer seems to be in the exact same place as when she started. She is a well-respected singer-songwriter and her six releases, not including a live collection, have all been solid, smart affairs. No matter how wonderful -- check out 2002's Miss Fortune and 2004's The Duel -- the releases seem to come and go. No great fanfare and no big-time acclaim, just the constant reminder from critics of who she is married to and who her big sister is.

In a perfect world, Moorer's new release, Mockingbird, should change all that. Produced by the great Buddy Miller, and featuring Mr. Moorer, Steve Earle, Allison tackles some obvious and not so obvious cover versions with extremely satisfying results. My first reaction to Mockingbird" without hearing a note, was the obligatory eyeroll. "Great, ANOTHER covers CD." But unlike big sis Shelby Lynne's new release, a soulless tribute to Dusty Springfield, Mockingbird keeps you on the edge of your seat. The arrangements and performances are full of life, and songs that you thought you never had to hear again in your lifetime, no matter how classic--"Both Sides Now" and "Ring Of Fire"--turn out to be highlights of this near flawless release. Moorer's reading of Joni Mitchell is achingly beautiful and really breathtaking.

Moorer also tackles Patti Smith, Gillian Welch, and Nina Simone with the same grace. Forgive my unnecessary cheap shot at Shelby Lynne earlier. It's just that while Lynne continues to reinvent herself from country rebel to soul chanteuse to folkie and back, all with mixed results, baby sister Allison continues to release brilliant work that remains under the radar. Mockingbird is the winner here. (Eric adds: The beautiful woman's website is here.)

Sal Nunziato
Soon To Be Dancing At The Center Of The Universe

From TomDispatch:

Jen Marlowe, a documentary filmmaker and human rights activist (as well as the author of Darfur Diaries: Stories of Survival), visits one of the more scarred places on the planet, offering a vivid account of her journey into the desperate human tragedy of the besieged Gaza Strip. As she travels the area, visiting mental health professionals and human rights activists, she captures at a very personal level the deepening degradation of Gazans forced to exist in a living hell -- as part of a society cracking under a merciless international siege and fierce internal divisions.

It is an account filled with surprises, starting with the requests of desperate Gazans, when Marlowe asks what they want her to bring in with her: cigarettes and chocolate is the answer. "There was," she writes, "something tragic and yet comic in these requests. Were they a sign that the situation wasn't as desperate as I feared? Or maybe, given the sustained stress Gazans have been enduring, the need for psychological relief took priority even over the staples of survival?"

The situation turns out to be even more desperate than she imagines. When, for instance, she visits a women's fair-trade collective of embroiderers in sealed Gaza, who can no longer exhibit their goods abroad, she buys their last products. "The project had already come to a standstill as the necessary raw materials, chiefly colored thread, were now unavailable. Once these pieces were sold, nothing would be left." They had already joined the approximately 85% of Gazans who were without work.

And from mental health professionals, she hears of levels of internal violence in Gaza that are chilling and unprecedented, of disappearances and Algerian-style executions previously unknown in among Palestinians. Combined with the fierce Israeli-enforced international siege, the pressures on Gazan society and on its family networks are unimaginable.

This is a close-to-the-ground account that, as Marlowe relates, leaves her both paralyzed with anguish and yet with a tiny ray of hope.

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