Keep that juice to yourself


Thanks to my terrific substitute Altercators, Eric, Eric and Lt. Col. Bob. (If you like them better than me, they'll be back in March when I'm going to Israel for eight days.)

I've got a New "Think Again" here, called "Conservatives Blame America First, Again," and a new Nation column, "Kristolizing the (Neoconservative) Moment," here, and I did this short little thing for the Guardian. Finally. I have a few misgivings about recommending this done at Sundance (the "State of the Union Dinner" video in the "Featured" box), but as my people know, I have nothing to hide, even this.

My one and only Oscar comment (I think):

I like this year's nominees. I couldn't make it through Dreamgirls, and almost everyone I wanted to win got nominated. Here's who I'd pick:

BEST PICTURE: The Departed.

BEST ACTOR: Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson (just edging out sentimental favorite Peter O'Toole for Venus).

BEST ACTRESS: Penelope Cruz, Volver. By a million miles ...

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Mark Wahlberg, The Departed, just edging out Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine.

BEST DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese, The Departed. Hooray for Martin: The Departed is a perfect movie-going experience, as wonderful as Gangs of New York was awful.

BEST DOCUMENTARY: An Inconvenient Truth. (You had to ask?)

P.S. I saw the Dakota Fanning movie at Sundance. The thing I hate most about contemporary movies is their reification of violence. The thing I hate most about their reification of violence is how much of it occurs against women. What's more, I have an 8-year-old daughter and would happily murder anyone at the thought ... well, you get my drift. That said, the rape scene in Hounddog is nothing about which to get excited. I didn't really like the movie, to be honest. But this Fanning kid is a wondrous actor. And there is nothing exploitative about it at all. And damn, it happens, so let's deal with it. So particularly all you people who've not seen the film, shut up.

Lemme ask you a question: Do you think this story is really news to the people at CNBC? And if not -- and I promise you, the answer is not -- might the execs there have a problem too? And isn't it nice that the journalists are nice enough to use the word "friends"? I could have used more "friends" like that at particularly pathetic times in my life, I'll admit ...

This guy, Responding to this guy, writes: "Alterman has adopted a 'lefter than thou' attitude toward teacher unions for many years. He is particularly appalled by the fact that teacher unions here in New York do not adopt a narrowly partisan and ideological stance in elections, and that we endorse incumbents from across the political spectrum -- including Republicans and pro-corporate Democrats -- when they take supportive stands on the educational, labor and human rights issues which are important to us as an institution. Alterman is of the view that teacher unions should always endorse the most liberal and left of the candidates, even when that candidate has no reasonable prospect of success and their opponent has been supportive on key issues for teacher unions."

I have to be honest when I say I have no idea what the hell this guy is talking about at all. Virtually everything he says about me is belied by the amount of flack I take from Naderites, Chomkyites, and even the occasional Cockburn-ite for being exactly none of the above. It may be that I criticized the teachers union for endorsing George Pataki, if in fact it did this, but it has nothing to do with a) any of the above or b) why I don't like the teachers union. Regarding George Pataki -- who explicitly refused to disburse the moneys for the New York City public school system he was ordered to by the courts -- if the teachers endorsed him, then they really ought to check themselves into an asylum for a long rest. As governor, he was the enemy of the city's public schools, and widely recognized as such, which is one reason Eliot Spitzer made city school funding a key issue of his campaign for New York governor and was elected so handily. But as anyone who bothered to look at the context of my discussion with Mickey Kaus would know, my displeasure with the teachers union has nothing whatever to do with political policies. Rather, it is as the parent of a New York City public school child who finds the union's frequent inflexibility and resistance toward what looks to my admittedly non-expert eyes to be common-sense reforms self-defeating in the extreme, as well as a significant barrier to badly needed improvements. This explains why the author is so confused about the citation of my views by the DLC fellow. I do agree more with the DLC than with the union. (And don't forget, as a permanent member of the CUNY faculty, I am a member of a New York City teachers union and both appreciate and enjoy the generous benefits they have so successfully negotiated on my behalf.) I have the greatest admiration and affection for public schoolteachers. Lord knows, their job is a lot harder and lot less remunerative than are mine. And my kid has been blessed so far with some wonderful ones. But the teachers are, in my view, badly served by their union leadership, and I say this as someone whose support for both public schools and the labor movement is all but unqualified.

If this kind of character assassination is typical of the teachers union supporters, well, then, the problem is even worse than I thought.

This is from the Forward, and it's important. Here's an excerpt:

Carter Is No More Critical of Israel Than Israelis Themselves


In other words, what Carter says in his book about the Israeli occupation and our treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories -- and perhaps no less important, how he says it -- is entirely harmonious with the kind of criticism that Israelis themselves voice about their own country. There is nothing in the criticism that Carter has for Israel that has not been said by Israelis themselves.

Every Israeli, and every Jew to whom the destiny of Israel is important, is indebted to Carter for breaking the ring of hostility that had choked Israel for more than 30 years. No American president before him had dedicated himself so fully to the cause of Israel's peace and security, and, with the exception of Bill Clinton, no American president has done so since.

But is this what Carter is saying? I have read his book, and I could not help but agree -- however agonizingly so -- with most if its contents. Where I disagreed was mostly with the choice of language, including his choice of the word "apartheid."

But if we are to be fair, and as any reading of the book makes clear, Carter's use of the word "apartheid" is first and foremost metaphorical. Underlying Israel's policy in the West Bank, he argues, is not a racist ideology but rather a nationalist drive for the acquisition of land. The resulting violence, and the segregationist policies that shape life in the West Bank, are the ill-intended consequences of that drive.

From Our Sponsors:

"Pro-Family" equals right-wing extremist, says George Stephanopoulos.

McCain Suck-Up Watch, here and here and here.

Way to go, Mr. Confusing Ethnicity Guy: Obama knocks the crap out of Fox. I hope you "journalists" there are really proud.... (Still, I could live without the hanging preposition ...)

And good for John Kerry, too, in bowing to reality, which has nothing to do with his botched joke, and everything to do with his needlessly blowing the opportunity he was given in 2004 . He's a decent senator, but sorry to say, the guy took my advice two years too late. No, really.

Political balance, Time style:

I opened up my Time magazine last Thursday while waiting in the airport for my flight to be greeted by the following columnists:

  • Richard Brookhiser, conservative National Review editor, war supporter.
  • William Kristol, conservative Weekly Standard editor, war supporter, anti-liberal McCarthyite.
  • Joe Klein, war supporter, war opposer, anti-liberal McCarthyite.
  • Peter Beinart, liberal/neocon New Republic editor, war supporter.

To be fair, when I opened this week's this morning, there were none of these kinds of guys, but Michael Kinsley, Walter Isaacson, and Michael Elliott. But still, not a full-throated liberal among them.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Dave Coomber
Hometown: Wilmington, DE

I beg to differ with Col. Bateman on Liz Cheney's qualification to judge military strategy.

Colonel, she is a born military strategist, that is, she was born precisely 9 months after it was announced that married men would be eligible for the draft unless they had children.

Name: Jeff Lichtman
Hometown: El Cerrito, CA

The defenders of habeas corpus need not make inferences from the preamble or the tenth amendment to assert that the Constitution guarantees it. Section 9 of the Constitution states:

"The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it."

How could the writ of habeas corpus be suspended under these special circumstances unless it existed under normal circumstances?

Name: Bob Rothman
Hometown: Providence, RI

Thanks, Eric Boehlert, for the heads-up about Endless Highway. I've been in a Band phase for about 35 years. They were the first band I saw in concert (along with a skinny kid from Minnesota -- whatever happened to him?) and I've been listening to them steadily ever since. I'm a big fan of The Last Waltz, and I love their performance of "Don't Do It," but I was a little disillusioned about that concert after reading Levon Helm's memoir, This Wheel's on Fire. As Levon describes it, he and Robbie Robertson were barely speaking at that point, and had widely different ideas about how the concert should go. Robbie's version made it into the movie.

By the way, when I saw Levon at a book signing in Los Angeles in 1993, another drummer walked in, rushed to the front of the line, and shook the author's hand. "I hope you all come out when I write my book," the drummer told the crowd. We're still waiting, Ringo.

Name: Steven Portela
Hometown: Fresno, CA

Good call on "Don't Do It." The Black Crowes used it as a show opener several times in 2005, and cranked out a jaw-dropping righteous performance. They've also been known to do "Up on Cripple Creek" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."

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