F***ing brilliant ...


How do you get a good review for your book in The New York Sun? Hey, here's an idea: Be a part-owner of The New York Sun. It worked for the convicted criminal Conrad Black.

Paging Geoff Nunberg:

I watched this wonderful lecture by Steven Pinker on C-SPAN this morning, and fortunately, because I am lazy and a blogger named Cathy who is a Ph.D student in Dublin is not, I was able to find the part of the lecture that struck me, which was the "Clean Airwaves Act" introduced in Congress to deal with the national security threat of Bono saying "fucking brilliant" on the Golden Globes a few years ago. Here's the bill:


To amend section 1464 of title 18, United States Code, to provide for the punishment of certain profane broadcasts, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That section 1464 of title 18, United States Code, is amended--

(1) by inserting '(a)' before 'Whoever'; and

(2) by adding at the end the following:

(b) As used in this section, the term `profane', used with respect to language, includes the words 'shit', 'piss', `fuck', 'cunt', 'asshole', and the phrases 'cock sucker', 'mother fucker', and 'ass hole', compound use (including hyphenated compounds) of such words and phrases with each other or with other words or phrases, and other grammatical forms of such words and phrases (including verb, adjective, gerund, participle, and infinitive forms).

Cathy notes, "Pinker pointed out that, unfortunately for the House, Bono's 'fucking' is in fact an adverb, and as such, not covered by the amendment. Maybe they should employ linguists when they draft the amendment to the amendment."

Can you believe this country? It's all here.

I know you are, but what am I?

Speaking of me, I often have trouble deciding which attacks on me in the blogosphere demand responses and which I am elevating to an importance they do not deserve by doing so (in addition to wasting my time). But I see that in the past few days, I've been attacked as an anti-Japanese racist by a right-wing blogger, attacked as an anti-black racist by a left-wing blogger, quoted favorably by right-wing anti-Semites, attacked by Naderites, and attacked in Commentary by "Jamie Kirchick," who I continue to maintain does not really exist but was invented as a sock puppet/imaginary friend, Lee Siegel-style, by the friendless Marty Peretz. The usual criteria I employ in these cases is to try to ignore the attacks if they appear in a place in which I would never have heard of the blogger or would have no reason to believe them if I had. (I learned the latter lesson the hard way with Gawker.) I see no point in responding to a figment of Marty Peretz's imagination or a hard-core Naderite or the anti-Semites, among others. And as for the right-wing blogger, I never heard of him either, but he's gotten some pickup among right-wingers, and I now I see that my friends at History News Network have now both run it and linked to it. I wonder if they know who he is or why he should be taken seriously, as I sure don't.

But since they are definitely a place I think people should be able to trust, have, and put the racism charge in the headline, now twice, I feel compelled to respond to the racism point, at least (as I simultaneously express my disappointment in HNN's judgment on this score). Regarding my alleged anti-Japanese racism, this Kamm fellow writes, "The most charitable explanation I can give is that Alterman is (unlike the late General [Paul] Tibbets) sufficiently ethnocentric not to take into account the deaths of Japanese civilians that would have resulted from a conventional invasion and blockade of the home islands..."

This charge is both so silly and ironic as to be funny -- at least it would be were HNN not giving it undeserved credence. Remember, General Tibbets is the guy whose Times obit quoted him as saying, "I wanted to kill the bastards." Later in the obit, he is quoted saying, "I viewed my mission as one to save lives." So clearly, Mr. Tibbets wanted to save some lives, and obliterate others. I think it's a pretty fair assumption that the lives he wished to save were American, and the lives he wished to obliterate were Japanese. I do not condemn him for this, I merely point it out. What is so silly as to be funny is the fact that this Kamm fellow seems to think that Tibbets is the great anti-enthocentric humanitarian in this story who is so much more sensitive to the value of the lives of Japanese civilians that he should be giving yours truly sensitivity lessons. (Just about everyone killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were civilians, by the way. The U.S. military wanted it this way for "demonstration" purposes. And President Truman explicitly lied to the nation when he referred to Hiroshima as "a military base," in his radio speech of August 9, 1945, here.)

But leaving aside both this and the feelings of the late Mr. Tibbets, the point is that I was addressing the issue of American casualties, rather than Japanese casualties, in my column because that's what the issue was. Whenever the discussion of whether an invasion was necessary, Mr. Tibbets' view not merely the typical one, but the only politically palatable one. The focus was always exclusively on the likelihood of U.S. casualties in the case of an invasion. Any politician who expressed any sympathy for those poor Japanese civilians would have been run out of town on a proverbial rail. The point for virtually all Americans at the time of this debate was to "kill the bastards," and hence, there was little debate or discussion over the firebombing of Tokyo, also designed to obliterate civilian lives. Hence, this Mr. Kamm fellow is attacking my column for merely addressing the historical issue in question, which, hello, is what historians do.

And by the way, I've never taken a position on whether the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima was necessary or not. I do think the one on Nagasaki was gratuitous, but in the case of this column, I was merely calling attention to what struck me as the Times' myopia in reporting it, as well as its mistaken inference that the historical record supported Mr. Tibbets' contention, which is clearly does not.

A funny thing about Norman Mailer: When speaking at the memorial service for Arthur Schlesinger Jr. a while back, Mailer made the odd comment that he was really just an acquaintance of Arthur's. This led many in the audience to presume that he had been invited merely for his celebrity. The funny thing is that after finishing Arthur's wonderful diary, you'll find that nobody not named "Kennedy" appears in it more often than Mailer, who was just about Arthur's favorite person. So it makes Mailer appear kinda mean for refusing to call himself Arthur's friend. Thing is, and this is weird too, Mailer did the same thing at George Plimpton's memorial service, saying he really didn't understand why he had been asked to speak. I admired the hell out of the guy but he sure did not contain multitudes. ...

P.S. The other favorite social companion of Arthur, judging by these diaries, was, alas, Henry Kissinger. This saddens me, as it was a lot of fun mocking Kissinger's comically self-serving speech at the memorial service, but it turns out to have had merit. The New York Review of Books has collected a selection of Mailer-related pieces here, and The Nation has Morris Dickstein about him here.

The ongoing, never-ending, continuing scandal that is Time magazine's publication of Joe Klein.

Today's YouTube: Elmo's Real World.

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

I ran out of Matthew Duss' collected racist ravings of Marty Peretz after a while, but I got to thinking, how would respectable society treat someone like Mr. Peretz if that person spoke about Jews the way he routinely speaks about Arabs? (Remember, we are talking about a person with no significant accomplishments to his name whatever, save the near-destruction of America's most important liberal magazine with money garnered from his second ex-wife's fortune.) Anyway, it's an experiment and an imperfect one at that, made possible by the magic of "control-H." I'll recap at the end, but here goes:

Marty Peretz, 11/19/06:

I actually believe that Jews are feigning outrage when they protest what they call Arab "atrocities." They are not shocked at all by what in truth must seem to them not atrocious at all. It is routine in their cultures. That comparison shouldn't comfort us as Americans. We have higher standards of civilization than they do. But the mutilation of bodies and beheadings of people picked up at random in Iraq does not scandalize the people of Iraq unless victims are believers in their own sect or members of their own clan. And the truth is that we are less and less shocked by the mass death-happenings in the world of Judaism. Yes, that's the bitter truth. Frankly, even I--cynic that I am--was shocked in the beginning by the sectarian bloodshed in Israel. But I am no longer surprised. And neither are you.

Duss notes that Peretz, or more likely one of his minders, later pulled the post off of his blog.

Actual Quotes of the Day: Ben Bradlee:

Are you surprised the Washington Post [editorial page] has supported this fucking war for so long?
Oh, we always do. We like wars. How long do you think we supported Vietnam?

And this:

And what did you know Carl Bernstein as?
A fainéant. A guy who does nothing.

But also a bit of a debrouillard [someone who can adapt to any situation].
Yes he was. And he was playing the guitar. Smoking a lot of dope. His talent as a writer was quite obvious. He was a good writer. You couldn't get him out of the office.

He had no other life?
He had no other life. Well, he liked to fuck, I think. But he didn't have much taste at first.

One more:

"Well, I had a wonderful evening. It just wasn't tonight." -- Groucho Marx.

From TomDispatch:

Independent reporter and now author of Beyond the Green Zone, Dahr Jamail turns today to how the Pentagon has seized the tactical high ground in the information wars in Iraq. For this, he takes the most common military reports that the Pentagon offers to the media (and the media then repeats) -- accounts of operations in which the enemy are said to have been killed -- and makes some striking sense of them.

He starts this way: "From the beginning of the American occupation in Iraq, air strikes and attacks by the U.S. military have only killed 'militants,' 'criminals,' 'suspected insurgents,' 'IED [Improvised Explosive Device] emplacers,' 'anti-American fighters,' 'terrorists,' 'military age males,' 'armed men,' 'extremists,' or 'al-Qaeda.' "

He then explores, from 2003 to today, exactly what happens when challenging reports come in from Iraqis on the ground indicating that the dead "militants" or "insurgents" or "criminals" were local farmers, or civilian city dwellers, or women, or children. He follows the full process by which the Pentagon, when pressed on the subject of Iraqi casualties, reacts by going beyond its initial reports. He vividly describes the way in which Pentagon planning, media habit, and finally the dehumanization of Iraqis have led to the Iraq news we have grown used to.

He concludes this striking piece this way: "Whether it was 'incidents' involving helicopter strikes in which those on the ground who died were assumed to be enemy and evil, or the wholesale destruction of the city of Fallujah in 2004, or the massacre at Haditha, or a slaughtered wedding party in the western desert of Iraq that was also caught on video tape (Marine Major General James Mattis: 'How many people go to the middle of the desert.... to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization? These were more than two dozen military-age males. Let's not be naive.'), or killings at U.S. checkpoints; or even the initial invasion of Iraq itself, we find the same propaganda techniques deployed: Demonize an 'enemy'; report only 'fighters' being killed; stick to the story despite evidence to the contrary; if under pressure, launch an investigation; if still under pressure, bring only low-level troops up on charges; convict a few of them; sentence them lightly; repeat drill."


The complete I Love Lucy and Twin Peaks by Eric:

Did you know that Lucy was a Commie? Perhaps somewhere in the recesses of our collective mind, "Red Lucy" rests somewhere, but it took the new 34-disc complete I Love Lucy set (with all 194 episodes beginning with the rare 1951 pilot, plus gazillions of extras, digitally remastered and restored), to jar it free in my case. The box set is not only guaranteed to put you in a good mood. It can also get you thinking. ...

What was it about Lucy that made her the most beloved woman in America during the '50s -- and that allowed her to survive the potentially devastating revelation that she had registered to vote as a Communist in 1936? Writing in Cinema Journal in back in 2003, Susan M. Carini explains:

The story unfolded in the fall of 1953 when newspaper and radio columnist Walter Winchell accused Ball of being a Communist Party member. Ball was actually tuned into Winchell's radio broadcast at the time. As she read over the script for her next show, Ball heard: "The top television comedienne has been confronted with her membership in the Communist Party." The Los Angeles Herald-Express reported the story with a banner headline in red ink, and soon press interest became frenzied. One week later, the couple drove in the back gates at the Motion Picture Center to begin filming I Love Lucy episodes for the year. The front offices were jammed with reporters; hundreds of calls had been logged at Desilu productions.

It turns out that that Lucy had registered as a CP member to please her grandfather, Fred Hunt. When the news broke, her husband, co-star, and tyrannical boss at Desilu Productions, Desi Arnaz, talked to CBS President Frank Stanton, as well as to advertisers and decided to spend $30,000 of their own money to buy the I Love Lucy time slot, at a cost of $30,000, so he could take his case to the American people, which turned out to be a pretty easy sell. Desi saw it as an advertising opportunity. He explained to the studio at the time:

"Lucy and I will go on the air and tell the story about Grandpa and all the goddamn things Lucy had to go through. We have got to let the American people know what this is all about. She is not going to be crucified by malicious insinuations, distorted facts, and/or false accusations. Besides, Lucy and I telling all the stories about Grandpa could be our funniest show."

Here's how it sounded on the air:

"Welcome to the first I Love Lucy show of the season. We are glad to have you back and glad to be back ourselves. But before I go on, I want to talk to you about something serious. You all know what it is. The papers have been full of it all day. Lucille is no Communist! Lucy has never been a Communist, not now and never will be. [Note: This was a lie.] I was kicked out of Cuba because of Communism. [Note: This was also a lie.] We both despise the Communists and everything they stand for. [Cue: tears] Lucille is 100 percent American. She is as American as Barney Baruch and Ike Eisenhower. Last November, we both voted for Ike. Tomorrow morning the complete transcript of Lucille's testimony will be released to the papers and you can read it for yourself. Then you will know this is all a pack of lies. Please, ladies and gentlemen, don't believe every piece of bunk you've read in today's papers! [Cue: applause] And now, I want you to meet my favorite wife -- my favorite redhead -- in fact, that's the only thing red about her, and even that's not legitimate -- Lucille Ball."

Funnily enough, Carini notes, Lucy's FBI file "appears to have been assembled by a Lucy worshiper, replete as it is with positive press clippings that dilute the sting of her association with communism."

The collection also includes plenty of fan stuff, footage of many of the characters accepting Emmy Awards from the earliest existing Emmy telecast, flubs, and lost scenes, though, my God, with all those episodes, I dunno how anyone would have the time to get to it. The Amazon page for the set is here.

There's a new Twin Peaks box set too. It contains 29 episodes plus both the original and European versions of the pilot, and it's called the "Definitive Gold Box Edition." (I think it's only sold behind red velvet ropes.) It's 10 discs and features, naturally, a plethora of special features, including hours of newly minted bonus content, featuring exclusive cast and crew interviews and rare footage, four -- count 'em, four -- documentaries. I can't decide whether this makes any sense or not. The show was a kind of breakthrough, as was Lynch's Blue Velvet. That holds up pretty well today, but I'll be interested to see how far I make it with Twin Peaks. It was a wonder when it ran, but the world moves so fast today, it's almost as long ago as Lucy. Anyway, I looked for some profound essay upon which to riff like the above on Lucy, but I got nothin'. Maybe you do. ... You can find more info here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Siva Vaidhyanathan
Hometown: Charlottesville, VA

Hey, Eric. Your favorite Time columnist, alleged "liberal" Joe Klein, has done it again. In his constant effort to the counter conventional wisdom (what most of us call "wisdom") of the liberal elite (what most of us call "people who read things about things"), Klein has published what is perhaps the most absurd and stupid column of his long and embarrassing career.

Seriously. Check out his column on the illegal domestic wiretapping scandal.

Over at the Wired Blog Network, Ryan Singel writes:

The whole debate is about how the NSA wiretaps INSIDE the United States, but Klein can't grasp that simple concept. That makes it impossible for him to also understand that there are good reasons to be wary of giving intelligence agencies free access to the nation's communication infrastructure.

I have no idea how Klein managed to keep a mainstream media job after lying about his anonymous authorship of Primary Colors (after my Shakespeare professor Donald Foster outed him using textual analysis software).

But Time ought to stop Klein from writing about any substantive topic, especially FISA.

Read the whole response. It's pretty amazing how completely wrong Klein can be about something that has been pretty clearly and comprehensively explained in major newspapers for more than two years.

Name: Paul Harry
Hometown: Jersey City

If a government official lies to the public should he be given his own column in Newsweek? There's no doubt that Rove lied to McClellan. So doesn't Newsweek owe its readers an explanation?

Name: D.C. Defender

Alright Dr. Alterman, you've bashed D.C. long enough. D.C. has everything New York has, except in smaller quantities. We have live theater. We have excellent restaurants of every kind. We have major league sports teams. We have world-class museums and shopping. We have excellent universities. Our violent gangs can whip your violent gangs. Not long ago I saw Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young in the same week. So there.

Okay, New York has more grime and more crowded public spaces and many many more shoeboxes which double as unaffordable apartments and more stress all around, but hey, you're number one for a reason.

As for resident evil, that's a toss-up. We've got the politicians, you've got the financiers. I suppose that makes both cities the envy of the Underworld.

Name: Todd Brereton
Hometown: a little town in Iowa

Sorry, bub.

Your premature Bush-hatred is too late, welcome though it is. Those of us who lived in Texas when Dubya ran against Ann Richards of beloved memory have been hating the Shrub since 1994.

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