Monthly Archives: November 2003


MORE TROUBLE FOR ANN: We’ve got our latest Easterbrook-like debate over whether something someone wrote is or isn’t anti-Semitic- and this time the “someone” is none other than leggy conservative pundit Ann Coulter. In her latest column, in which she lambastes the entire Democratic presidential field for having the temerity both to have suffered deaths in the family and to have Jewish ancestors, Coultergeist fires off the following:

In addition to having a number of family deaths among them, the Democrats’ other big idea — too nuanced for a bumper sticker — is that many of them have Jewish ancestry. There’s Joe Lieberman: Always Jewish. Wesley Clark: Found Out His Father Was Jewish in College. John Kerry: Jewish Since He Began Presidential Fund-Raising. Howard Dean: Married to a Jew. Al Sharpton: Circumcised. Even Hillary Clinton claimed to have unearthed some evidence that she was a Jew — along with the long lost evidence that she was a Yankees fan. And that, boys and girls, is how the Jews survived thousands of years of persecution: by being susceptible to pandering.

I’m not often in the habit of defending Ann Coulter, but in this case I’m willing to let her off on the anti-Semitism charge- her characteristically sarcastic point is that Jews aren’t susceptible to pandering, but the candidates think they are, thus their sudden discoveries of Jewish relatives. Nevermind that the Jewish vote isn’t nearly as important in presidential primary politics is it in New York (hence the Hillary relative); after all, how many Jews are there in New Hampshire and Iowa?
The quote, however, sounds anti-Semitic until you’ve read it a couple of times and that, coupled with the disclosure in David Brock’s book that Ann said she quit her New York law firm years ago “to get away from all those Jews,” sort of makes you wonder. Then again, the larger point of the column- and the rest of her work- is that Ann hates liberals, at roughly the level that the most vile anti-Semites hate Jews.
And my only other question- how does Ann know that Al Sharpton is uncircumcised?



REISTERSTOWN, Md. – A naked man who was shot in the back showed up at the home of retired Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken on Thanksgiving night and pleaded for help, police said.

The baseball superstar, helping out a needy naked guy on Thanksgiving- what could be more American than that?
Better him arriving naked at Ripken’s house than Kevin Costner…


SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT, RE: RACISM AT BRANDEIS: From Harvey Silverglate and Alan Kors’ indispensable book “The Shadow University”:

It was the tenth year of [Sheldon Hackney of UPenn’s] presidency, and he obsessed about race relations throughout. If some halfwit- whether racist or provocateur- scribbled an epithet on a stairwell, the campus would gratify the miscreant by acting as if a fascist night had descended. During freshman orientations, students were taught at “diversity education” seminars to perceive the campus as a hotbed of racism.

Sound familiar, anyone? Just as “Bonfire of the Vanities” is required reading for anyone moving to New York as an adult, “Shadow University” should be issued to every freshman who starts at any top college.
(Found via Amazon’s awesome new “Search Inside the Book” feature)
UPDATE: The student who made the offending flier last week has apologized.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s a great Justice op-ed, deservedly mocking those who walked out on the recent Daniel Pipes speech as “left-wing fascists.”


A FAIR AND BALANCED REVIEW OF THE FRANKEN BOOK: Looking for a book to read for the four-hour train ride back from Boston last weekend, I stopped into the book store at Boston’s South Station and settled on “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them,” the somewhat controversial new political humor book by Al Franken. After finishing the first half in one sitting and the rest a few days later, I can say that while I’ve got quite a few objections, I’m glad I read it.
I’ve got a bit of a mixed relationship to Franken and his work. He’s from where I’m from (St. Louis Park, MN), I once met him at a Twins game and found him to be quite a friendly guy, I’ve enjoyed a great deal of the stuff he wrote and performed on “Saturday Night Live,” and absolutely loved his 1996 book “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.”
But on the other hand, my politics have moved rightward as his have lurched leftward, and it’s hard to dispute that Franken’s humor these days has a mere fraction of the bite his ’70s SNL stuff did- much of which certainly has to do with his split with longtime writing partner Tom Davis. And I also find his tactic of rebutting the “shrill and mean-spirited” tactics of conservatives by being shrill and mean-spirited himself a tad hypocritical. But at any rate, I was sympathetic to Franken during Bill O’Reilly’s hysterical lawsuit against him (writing about it here), and so I figured I’d give his book a shot.
The book starts out with all the easy, deserving targets (O’Reilly, Coulter, Bernard Goldberg, Fox News), winning most of the battles decisively and gleefully tearing their arguments to shreds. On the more difficult stuff, however, Franken punts- he devotes short, unconvincing chapters to the Iraq war and the 2000 election, and has just about nothing to say about either the Democratic presidential field or the current crisis in the Democratic party over the role of liberalism in the War on Terror. Franken’s “issue” chapters, as a rule, dont ring nearly as true as his shots at various celebrity pundits.
In addition, his chapter on the infamous Paul Wellstone memorial service, while honorable in exposing some of the excesses of the right-wing reaction, leaves out a few major details as well, including Iowa Senator Tom Harkin leading the crowd in a chant of “We Will Win!”
Franken also borrows a trick from his enemies on the right by misdefining everything- mistakes in speech, flip-flops, jokes, or deniability-maintaining spin- as “lies.” It’s dishonest, and only serves to make Franken look hypocritical. Especially since he stretches the truth quite a bit himself, in using every one of those tactics.
In addition, the author includes a laugh-free sequel to the Limbaugh book’s most tedious chapter, “Operation Chickenhawk,” as well as a generally unfunny cartoon about “Supply Side Jesus.” For every joke that kills about 6 or 7 fall flat; Franken also borrows from Peter Vecsey the awful-writer tic of writing long paragraphs that start out factual-sounding but end with lame joke punchlines. Which is the book’s biggest weakness- Franken shifts between joking and complete seriousness more or less at will.
There are some highlights, however, such as a faux visit by Franken and his “son” to Bob Jones University, the author’s challenge of masculinity-espousing conservative pundit Rich Lowry to a fight, and the entire chapter devoted to exposing the fraud that is “Hannity & Colmes.” The author even puts Colmes’ name in a smaller typeface, and jokes that his autobiography should’ve been called “Back to You Sean: The Alan Colmes Story.”
If you can get past the absurdity of a book-length polemic arguing that liberalism is always right, Franken’s book is all right. “Lies and the Lying Liars” is hardly for hardcore lefties only, which is what separates it, say, from the latest Michael Moore screed. If you’re looking for an easy read with a few laughs about the last few years of American politics, it’s for you, providing you’re willing to take everything with a grain of salt. If what you want is serious, academic analysis of why “Bush is a moron, na na na na na!”; I direct you instead to Paul Krugman.
A FOOTNOTE: I discovered at the end of the book that among Franken’s team of researchers was Steve Rabin, a classmate of mine at Brandeis and one of my roommates senior year (us, and Donald Fehr’s son). Steve, now at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, wrote his senior thesis as a refutation of the “liberal media bias” theory, thus beating both Franken and Eric Alterman to the topic by almost four years.


SHELLING OUT FOR SCHILLING: The surprising news broke yesterday that the Boston Red Sox are just one waived no-trade-clause away from acquiring Curt Schilling from the Arizona Diamondbacks, in order to add a second likely future Hall-of-Famer to their starting rotation. And while the hated Yankees were prepared to part with budding superstar second baseman Alfonso Soriano for Schilling, all the Sox have to give up is middling pitcher Casey Fossum and a trio of prospects who I’ve never heard of.
Then again, last time the Sox had Schilling he was one such prospect- traded along with Brady Anderson to Baltimore for pitcher Mike Boddicker in 1988, in what was only the second-worst trade the Red Sox made in the ’80s (after the Jeff Bagwell deal). Being able to undo that mistake, in addition to the depth, makes it worth it for Boston to give Schilling the additional two years that he wants; in the deal, Fossum and the minor leaguers would go to the sorry, no-account Milwaukee Brewers, who would then surrender their lone good player, Richie Sexson, to the D-Backs. The trade is also presumably contingent on the Sox naming Terry Francona their new manager, but that was likely to happen anyway.
Tony Kornheiser said on PTI last night that after the Red Sox came within inches of beating the Yankees in the ALCS, by virtue of the retirement of Roger Clemens and now the Schilling signing, the Red Sox are at this point ahead of them. I tend to agree.
For the latest on the Schilling situation, keep checking back with the noted baseball expert Friendster Peter Gammons.


AND SPEAKING OF HALL OF FAME PITCHERS: Milwaukee Braves legend Warren Spahn, baseball’s all-time winningest left-handed pitcher, died yesterday at the age of 84. I saw Spahn at the Hall of Fame inductions in 2001 and he didn’t look to be in the best of health; but I give him credit for hanging on for another two and a half years.
And also passing away in the last week was Eloise Pohlad, wife of Twins owner Carl, who died at the age of 86. While I’ve never had many nice things to say about her husband, Eloise was by all accounts a wonderful matriarch for the franchise. And I’ll never forget the sight of her and her husband embracing, in their living room, as they watched the Twins clinch the 1987 AL West championship.