Thanks again, Ralph

I see the Ralph Nader documentary is being broadcast on PBS tonight. To be honest, I've never actually seen the thing. When it was screened at Sundance two years ago, it was about four hours long and when I got there, I did not think I could stand it, so I went back to my hotel room for two hours and came in for only the presidential races part. I used to admire what Ralph Nader had done for the country during his career as a consumer advocate, but I no longer do. One of the great mistakes liberals made in the 1970s was to try to win in the courts what they could not win at the ballot box -- thereby allowing their democratic muscles and instincts atrophy and helping to inspire a right-wing backlash against which they were defenseless -- and which now controls those same courts -- and Nader was the leader in this misbegotten movement.

As a presidential candidate, he's been an undeniable catastrophe. What I want to say about the film -- at least the parts that I've seen -- is that I made a big mistake when I allowed its makers to come to my apartment to interview me. They never told me they were Naderites and I -- stupidly -- did not realize that they had an ulterior motive in making the film. In my view, the movie is dishonest in two respects. In the first, when they interviewed me, they kept repeating the same silly points over and over again after I had already answered them. This had the effect of pissing me off, purposely, I'm guessing -- and getting me to look all angry and intemperate -- and gave them the footage they wanted (which is why they use it in the trailer). But that's my problem. The problem with the film -- and why I'm convinced it is largely a propaganda exercise for unrepentant Naderites who prefer a Bush presidency to a Gore one -- is that it only gives the illusion of listening to Nader's critics. Todd Gitlin and myself are given a sentence or two to make each of the many cases against Nader, and then some pro-Nader “expert” is offered an unlimited amount of time to brush us off. This happens over and over and is, as the saying goes, no accident. The point is not screen time, as the filmmakers dishonestly pretended when responding to me on HuffPo. It is intellectual honesty, and that is something that is sadly lacking in this film. Then again, how could it be otherwise with any Nader defender after we've seen seven years' fruit of their Leninist agenda?*

*After the film came out, Nader confused me by buying 1,200 copies of What Liberal Media? and distributing them to every student and faculty member of the Medill School of Journalism. He sent me a mimeographed note saying something like “What do you think of that, Eric?” I think the same thing I thought of the Iraq war, the destruction of the environment, legalized torture, domestic spying, the attack on the Constitution, on choice, on sex education, on science, etc. ... “Thanks, Ralph.”

Shorter Today's Papers:

The United States government is helping Turkey attack the Kurds in Iraq; one more fruit of this terrific war.

Al Qaeda guy we tortured is likely “largely a loudmouthed and mentally troubled hotelier.” (Thanks, again, you know who...)

Shorter Mickey Kaus: More New York Times investigations into how often Bill and Hillary do it, please.

This just in: Princeton Right-Wing Di**hit Fakes Attack on Self; Robert George Embarrasses Self Again, here.

George on Terri Schiavo:

They want to provide the therapy that many medical people who have observed Terri, whether at the bedside or by videotape, believe can help her. No one expects a full recovery, but it may be possible for her to make genuine progress.

George on right-wing Princeton di**hit:

“Those of us who saw him at the emergency room find it difficult to believe he could have done this himself. The physical manifestations were too evident, too severe,” Mr. George said.

It's all here.

64 journalists have died in the line of duty in the past year. Most depressingly, 31 of the 64 deaths took place in Iraq as the result of direct, planned attacks on the journalists. It's all here.

Michael Kazin on being the son of Alfred Kazin, here.

Alternative Universe Quote of the Day: What if Marty Peretz had been born a Muslim?

Marty Peretz, 11/21/06:

What [Bush] did not grasp -- and what, for that matter, Baker and those for whom he speaks also do not grasp--is the sheer and relentless butchery of which Jews are capable.

Posted by M. Duss

From Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch:

I first met Rebecca Solnit online. She sent an essay in to TomDispatch in 2003, not long after the invasion of Iraq began, just as so many who had demonstrated against the onrushing war were packing their bags and heading home in despair. It was called “Acts of Hope,” and, soon enough, it would expand into a little gem of a book -- one that changed the way I looked at the world -- Hope in the Dark, Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities.

Consider that work the secret 13th companion to Solnit's 12 book choices in her splendid new essay, “The Secret Library of Hope.” In it, she offers readers encouragement not to curl up in despair when faced with a grim world -- and specific books, obscure as well as popular, for support ranging from Aung San Suu Kyi's The Voice of Hope, Charles Wilkinson's Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations, and Alan Weisman's The World Without Us to William Morris' 19th century utopian novel News from Nowhere and the very up-to-date News from Nowhere Collective's We Are Everywhere.

Solnit begins: “Dissent in this country has become largely a culture of diagnosis rather than prescription, of describing what is wrong with them, rather than what is possible for us. But even in English, a robust minority tradition can be found. There are a handful of books that I think of as 'the secret library of hope.' None of them deny the awful things going on, but they approach them as if the future is still open to intervention rather than an inevitability. In describing how the world actually gets changed, they give us the tools to change it again.”

This is an essay that offers us all the chance to dream again, to imagine not just the depredations of climate change, but the possibilities in a climate of change.

Congrats, by the way, to the first-ever graduating class of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, which is having its commencement today, and to Dean Steve Shepard and the entire start-up staff.


Hot Tuna live

After 32 years of trying, I saw the best Hot Tuna show of my life at the Beacon this weekend. It was an extremely unusual show as G.E. Smith joined the band for the entire set and, to be honest, turned them into a different kind of band. Tuna is usually a zone-out experience for me. Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen are both great at what they do, of course, which is why I keep going, but Smith's urban blues/early rock n' roll ethos turned their stoner/psych/country blues bland into something totally scorching. The duets with Jorma were a wonder to behold, as they were actually talking to each other musically, surprising one another as they drew inspiration from the other's creativity. It was like a great jazz band but one that played loud as hell to an audience overpopulated with screaming idiots. Still, a night to remember and coming the same week as Neil Young's incredible performance, made me feel like one lucky guy. (Not a bad city, either, I have to say.) Read all about 'em here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Todd Kehoe
Hometown: Saratoga Springs, NY

Eric, you'll hear Republican strains of “I'll be different from Bush...” the moment one of them emerges from the pack. Then, the media can scrub them into a straight-talking, grown-up, conservative moderate (or some other Orwellian nonsense) who's clearly NOT George W. Bush part deux in time to save the Republic from the evils of far-left crazy liberal Hillary Clinton or -- gasp -- Muslim sleeper cell Barack Obama or -- double gasp -- rich hypocrite welfare queen John Edwards.

Name: brain pearl
Hometown: Studio City, CA

I was pleasantly surprised to hear Major Bateman on NPR this weekend on On The Media from WNYC. The segment can be listened to here.

“Controversies erupted recently, at both the liberal New Republic and conservative National Review Online, involving soldiers-turned-writers whose work contained now-admitted inaccuracies. Military historian Robert Bateman weighs in on the history of war stories as told by warriors.”

Eric replies: Fun facts: Brooke Gladstone is actually my friend, but I have never -- never -- been invited on On the Media since Alex Jones stopped hosting it. Go figure. Glad to see that not all Altercators have been banned, however ...

Name: Jim Jividen
Hometown: West Palm Beach

In response to CNW, Pierce is less wrong than not. I don't read his piece as a full throated 4th Am. defense to drug testing, but instead using it as shorthand to raise the very reasonable notion that even athletes have some private space that deserves, at least, negotiation before yielding to their employers. There is no impediment to drug testing ballplayers; they are tested far more than those employed in positions where “clean livin'” actually matters. What they haven't been subjected to is blood testing, an act which, while legal, is hardly common in private enterprise. It's discouraging that we've reached a point where to even raise the privacy issue as a factor in a debate over drug testing is considered antiquated. That, of course, doesn't speak to the more narrow, sports specific issues on which the current steroid discussion does discredit to reasonable people.

Name: Steve Stein
Hometown: Acton, MA

Well, I guess if I were Canadian, I'd consider Neil Young a national treasure. Since I'm a USAer, I think it would be presumptuous of me.

I'd settle for American treasure, though.

“Cinnamon Gurrrl!”