(Wish I could fly like) Superman ...


I've got a new Think Again column called "Bible Class," in which I examine last week's Torah portion, Numbers 13/14, in light of the Bush administration's deliberate scare tactics, here, and a new Nation column on the liberals and indecency, violence, disrespect for women, etc., in culture, with a short appreciation of Richard Rorty, called "The Liberal Voice," here .

If you wanted to find the root problem of how and why the Bush administration has screwed up the world, the answer I think lies less in the fact of 9-11 than in the opportunity that 9-11 gave the neocons to implement a strategy they that long sought. This is not even remotely to say the same thing as the fact that they planned or allowed 9-11 to happen. (I once had to leave the Air America studio while co-hosting with Janeane G because she was buying into this argument sans, of course, evidence.) It is merely to note that had it not been 9-11, it would likely have been something else. And you can find its most pristine expression here from the man Matt Y called "America's Worst Pundit," Charles Krauthammer, who announced in February 2001: "America is no mere international citizen. It is the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome. Accordingly, America is in a position to reshape norms, alter expectations and create new realities. How? By unapologetic and implacable demonstrations of will."

Am I the only one who detects more than a whiff of fascism in this naked celebration of the triumph of our "will"?

I'm as regretful as anyone for the various catastrophes visited upon the innocent, including our own soldiers, by the administration's myriad failures to do anything right at all in Iraq, but just imagine what might have been in store had they gotten their "cakewalk." Hubris like that expressed by Krauthammer, and embraced by the ruling elite of this nation, is an engraved invitation to humiliation, whether by "God" or by the natural laws of history and the universe as we know it. How sad, from the point of simple justice, that Krauthammer and his ilk will suffer not even a fraction of the consequences visited on the soldiers, their families, the Iraqis, and all the other people who die, are maimed, or simply see their lives ruined as a result. And what a colossal indictment of our political culture that such talk was ever taken seriously (particularly without the excuse of 9-11 -- which by 2003, to be honest, was not really much of an excuse anymore).

The fact that "Vitriol Proliferates on Jewish Blogs," as the Forward reports here, is a regrettable thing in and of itself, but I have to say, particularly in my life, because it is deeply annoying to be called a Nazi-enabler in the same week that you are accused of being in AIPAC's pocket by people who are, in most cases, idiots, but -- this being the blogosphere -- there is not always a way to tell that right away. Richard Silverstein had a it a lot worse, though. (As did, I suppose, Philip Roth.)

Here's a snippet: "The fake blog, called 'Little Dickie's Diaper Droppings,' wasn't pretty. In addition to the scatological references, the site was riddled with graphic sexual innuendo. Even Silverstein's children were targets: Underneath a photograph of Silverstein and his 4-year-old son baking cookies -- lifted from the blogger's own Web site -- was a caption claiming that the two were making a bomb to put on an Israeli school bus. The site listed the longtime peace activist's favorite book as Mein Kampf."

Campus Progress editor Ben Adler had a piece yesterday (originally in The American Prospect) filleting the new conservative pro-suburban sprawl reactionary movement. He writes: "The pro-sprawl reaction, a sort of Reaganomics of urban planning, betrays many of the peculiar traits of modern conservatism: the impulse to demonize any opposition, no matter how minimal or common-sense, and a proclivity to selectively pull bits of information out of context."

I came rather late to the "Mudcat" Saunders flap, and it doesn't really need my participation, but lest I be accused of being overly egocentric, an enterprising commenter on it has put together a list of my fraternity of people upon whom Joe Klein showers personal insults while lecturing us about manners, and it's too good not to print here:

Eric Alterman: "futile and pathetic", narcissistic, lazy, peripheral, inaccurate, foolish, silly...
Reason: "has been on my case"

Duncan Black: "illiberal leftist", Extremist (demoted to: "extremely smug")
Reason: Atrios has been mostly correct over the last few years (and called Joe Klein a wanker)

Noam Chomsky: "America Hater"
Reason: No explanation whatsoever

John Edwards: "Edwards' line of work: ambulance-chaser"
"skeevy ambulance chasers (probably) contributing to his campaign"
Reason: Edwards is a Democrat with money

Al Gore: "a smug, stubborn, and aloof human being", "harsh and stupid", "Gore's populism reeked of resentment and neurosis", "looked like a madman"
Reason: (ad hominem)

John Kerry: effete, awkward, aristocratic, Frenchy jerk
Reason: false claim that Kerry focus-grouped his Abu Ghraib response (a claim which Klein used to plug his book)

Paul Krugman: "fool", "ill-informed dilettante"
Reason: Krugman said that those who argue for an failed escalation in the Iraq war are either cynical or delusional

Media Matters: "thought police"
Reason: Media Matters highlighted Klein's use of a Republican cliché

Michael Moore: "a disgrace"
Reason: Took 9/11 victims to get free healthcare in Cuba

Markos Moulitsas: "dangerous extremist" "Robespierre"
Reason: Kos believes in the efficacy of democratic primary elections

Al Sharpton: "a race-hustling phony" "a dangerous buffoon"
Reason: Sharpton asks too many questions, leads "phony protests"

[Eric notes: I agree with Joe on that one.]

Joe Klein on Democrats in general:

"a party with absolutely no redeeming social value"

"They seem as confused as Democrats normally do"

"make fools of themselves even when they speak the truth"

"the perpetually benighted Donkey party"

"It's a really boring and flat party."

"the Democratic Party has had a love affair with eggheads, and sad to say, high IQ is not a leading indicator of success in the presidency."

"unable to creatively engage or oppose President Bush-or even to start an interesting fight among themselves"

Joe Klein on about everybody on "The Left":

"the take-no-prisoners left"

"illiberal leftists and reactionary progressives"

"rooting for an American failure"

"assume every U.S. military action abroad is criminal"

"a need, born of intellectual myopia and insecurity, to burn heretics"

"The default position of leftists like, say, Michael Moore and many writers at The Nation, is that America is essentially a malignant, imperialistic force in the world and the use of American military power is almost always wrong."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Grace
Hometown: Seattle WA

I too went to NYC for the nuclear disarmament march 25 years ago. I had just graduated from college, drove to the city with a bunch of other "off-campus" friends from college. My world was filled with joy, endless possibilities and hope that the world could be a better place. It was also just so wonderful to gather together with such a big clan for such a peaceful purpose.

Name: Beth Harrison
Hometown: Arlington, VA

What a way to come back from some time off (from work and Altercation), to learn that DAVID BOSSIE has resurfaced from whatever swamp he sunk into. It's bad enough we've got Jeff Gerth rewriting his crappy Whitewater reporting, but with Bossie we'll get rehashing of Clinton's black love child and how Vince Foster was killed in a safehouse owned by Hillary Clinton. ENOUGH! STOP! WE DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT!

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

1. Kudos to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals panel that rebuked Bush's overreaching. But we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves just yet. The decision of the three-judge panel was 2-1, and there's every reason to fear that there are more justices on the Supreme Court who think like the one than like the two.

2. A propos of your exchange with Joe Klein, how did you resist following up your "Hey Joe" with "where you goin' with that gun in your hand?"

Name: Jeff Lichtman
Hometown: El Cerrito, CA

Harley from Ontario got it wrong -- Jim Nabors is not a stutterer. Nabors does have a strong southern accent which disappears entirely when he sings. Perhaps Harley was thinking of Mel Tillis -- the country singer who does stutter.

I once worked with a software engineer who had the most pronounced stutter I've ever heard. The guy was brilliant, and when he spoke everyone would stop and listen no matter how long it took for him to get the words out, because whatever he had to say was always worth listening to. He helped found a number of successful start-ups, and also sings in the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir.

Name: Stephen Hirsch
Hometown: Basking Ridge, NJ

Awesome drasha on the Parsha there. You know, I sent an email to my right wing friends: be careful what you ask for, the secular left wing guys are learning Torah now!

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