First off, we have a new “Think Again” column entitled “Free Ride to theFinish Line,” about guess who, which is here. Second, I came across thisgenuinely lovely review–ten years after itspublication–of my Springsteen book, so thanks to Scott Parker for this.

Ok, here’s an actual Inauguration post:

So let’s face it. The Inauguration was pretty much a disaster.

The DC cops did not care if anyone actually saw the speech.(I was in the crowd sent into the tunnel to nowhere, where nobody knewnothing. At the gate I ended up in–the wrong one for my ticket–themetal detectors broke and everyone had to be hand-searched. Thousandsof people with tickets, who travelled thousands of miles, spent thespeech crammed together in a tiny area unable to see or hear anything. Ileft, but only after I was literally kicked in the head by a small childon his father’s shoulders.

Obama gave, by my calculations, only his fifth best speech atbest; not as good as: the 2004 convention, the Martin Luther King Dayspeech in Alabama, the race speech, the Denver speech and maybe some Inever heard nor saw.

Most of the events I went to were actually catastrophes. Ienjoyed the HuffPost party but I only got in because I was with VictorNavasky, who had visited his friend Kenny Lerer, and been given apurple wristband, which allowed me to talk my way into two more purplearmbands. Otherwise, I would have been with the freezing hordes who wereeventually turned away, without having been invited. Also the drinklines were ten deep. I do not exaggerate.

Another event I went to–a big one–was so awful, at thelevel of the wrist-band I was originally given that it felt like a punchin the face to the people who had paid thousands of dollars to be there;bad food, no access to the entertainment, and believe it or not, aping-pong table as the only thing to do, besides stare at the lobbyistsand their clients who had been roped in without due diligence. I didn’tpay anything, and eventually, I was able to land a decent wristband, andso I had a good time, but it struck me as symbolic. For a few thousandbucks or so, the contempt was palpable. For twenty grand, you weretreated decently. (I’m not being more specific because I’ve notcommitted to burning this particular bridge yet.)

One band I went to see, paying fifty bucks in cabs,round-trip, did not come on in time for me to stay away long enough tosee them. (Jason Isabel–the guy who left the DBTs when he got divorcedfrom one of its members.) I think it was around midnight.

“The Rising” with a gospel chorus, was a great idea that justdid not work. Did we really need a Black president to have Garth Brookssing an Isley Brothers song?

Where was the jazz? Where was the real country? Where forgoodness sakes, was the great Ralph Stanley, who made the most movingObama endorsement of all?

Plus there was a bunch of screw ups that were my fault. But here’s thething. It was great anyway. Lots and lots of people came to spend ahappy historical moment with their friends and were not going to letanything ruin it. I didn’t either–once I finally got over my shock onthe subway. The crowds were impossible, but as Mike Tomasky put it to meover coffee, “It was an Obama inauguration, not a Rolling Stonesconcert.” Everybody was really nice to everybody else. You couldn’tbelieve how many people asked me if I was ok or if I wanted some Tylenolafter I got kicked in the head. And the fact that these people didn’tget and had tickets and traveled so far, well, it was amazing how goodhumored they were, especially since it was due to the uncaringincompetence of those in whom they had no choice but to place theirfaith. But despite everything, I had a wonderful time. It’s no smallthing to take your country back from the clutches of actual evil….

Oh wait, here’s an actual piece of reporting; I talked to Jamie Fox onSunday night and he told me that he had kept his Obama imitation secretfrom the show’s producers and everyone else. He had worked on it formonths, but sprang it on the Obamas and everybody else. I said that wasa good thing, because in addition to jazz and country and Ralph Stanley,the other glaring lack in the show was humor, and “everybody” knows,Obama and the rest of us, could use a little humor…

Alter-reviews: Cherry Orchard at BAM and the new Kind of Blue.

The night before I left for Washington, I traveled to BAM’s HarveyTheater to a really wonderful production of The Cherry Orchard. I’vealways felt that Chekov located the ideal vortex between profundityabout human emotion, good humored affection for his often patheticcharacters and great dialogue, and The Cherry Orchard, which was his finalouting, has all of these characteristics is abundance, plus the addedtalents of Tom Stoppard, our greatest living playwright, and directorSam Mendes, and a cast that featured Simon Russell Beale, Sinead Cusak,Rebecca Hall (of Woody Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona), JoshHamilton, Richard Eastman and Ethan Hawke. It’s the opening salvo inBAM’s new British-American “Bridge Project” launched by Mendes and hiswife, Kate Winslet, and Kevin Spacey–who is directing the Old Vic–andwho somehow managed to land $2.8 million bucks from BOA in about theworld’s worst economic environment for fundraising. It’s a fantasticseason for Chekov, with Seagull just finishing on Broadway and Vanyaopening up off-Broadway, both also with wonderful casts–and I’m sorry,but my city is back to being the Greatest City in the World, though I’lladmit, Washington had better music last week. Winter’s Tale, alsodirected by Mendes, will begin in February and play together withOrchard through March, and there are lectures and workshops and stuffif you want to go to that. All the info is here.

Kind of Blue: Legacy Edition

What is there left to say about Kind of Blue? It’s bigger than atwo-ton gorilla in the world of Jazz. I read somewhere, and I tend tobelieve, that it remains the best-selling album in jazz, even today.That means every year, not just all-together. It’s great, but is itreally that great? (I was tempted to say, but “So What?” but that feltlame.) I personally have owned at least five different versions. Thisone comes with complete studio sessions on 2 CDs, including falsestarts, alternate takes and a 17-minute 1960 live version of “So What,”and a nice essay by Francin Davis, and a well-done booklet. If you don’thave it, now is obviously the time. If you do, well, it’s not soexpensive for the new stuff and the cool packaging. The amazon page ishere but there’s not muchthere yet.

This week on Moyers:

America saw an historic moment with the inauguration of President Obama,but was it a progressive landmark? Bill Moyers sits down with Columbialaw professor and Nation columnist Patricia Williams and Princetonpolitics and African American studies professor Melissa Harris-Lacewellabout the significance of this milestone and what it means for thefuture. Then, political columnist and blogger David Sirota and WallStreet Journal columnist Thomas Frank talk with Bill Moyers about theexpectations of this administration and what must be accomplished forObama to be considered a progressive President.

From ANP:

Bank CEO (and Bailout Recipient) Says Bailout Failing Community Banks: As another $350 billion flies out the door, ANP looks at one small bailed-out bank. Eagle Bank, a community bank headquartered inMaryland, received many millions of dollars of TARP money, but is having trouble making loans. You’d think it’s CEO, Ron Paul (no, not that Ron Paul),would be thrilled, but he’s not. Paul says the government has not takenfleeing depositors into account and, as a result, small banks and theirsurrounding communities will suffer.

Kingston and the Coal Lobby’s Grip on the EPA: In March of 2000, during the last days of the Clinton administration,the EPA decided coal ash was a hazardous waste. Then, two months later, it flipped. If the EPA had stuck to its guns, the Kingston Coal Ash disaster in Tennessee might have been averted. Now, momentum is building tofederally regulate coal ash. Will the EPA make the same mistake twice?

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:

“After all that I’ve been through/It opened up my eyes/And nowI’m/one toke over the line, sweet Jesus.”

One Time, One-Time-Only Daily WWOZ Pick To Click: “Sweet And Hot”(Jack Teagarden) — Once again. I failed this week to get the defensiveline of the Arizona Cardinals to adorn themselves in pearls and feathersand sing about how much I love New Orleans.

Some short takes while I instruct The Landlord in what the word”embargo” means.

(If I were Drudge– “MUST CREDIT! MUST CREDIT! WHOOP! WHOOP! FUNNYHAT! FUNNY HAT!” — , he’d be a dead man. Of course, were I Drudge, I’dalready be dead from a combination of poisonous self-loathing and acuriousPolynesian malady I’d picked up from the staff of The Politico, but Idigress.)

Part The First: Oh, for the love of god, just shut up. At least they were kind enough to embed a video to demonstrate exactly how big a festival of fools they are.

Part The Second: KO had a stunning pair of segments this week with Russell Tice, the formeranalyst-turned-whistleblower at the National Security Agency. In short,the illegal surveillance over the past eight years was vast and, as nearlyas I can tell from what Tice said, almost completely limitless. I’m startingto wonder if a critical mass isn’t building that will require even the mosttimorous Democrats to start considering investigations into at leastsome of White House Horrors 2.0.

Part The Third: But that’s a little less likely if this happens. The whole New York Senatemishigoss has been fascinating to those of us across the border to theeast because we are getting ourselves ready for the complete bloodbaththat’s going to ensue when Edward Kennedy is no longer our seniorsenator.The odd part, of course, is why all this personal material (alleged andotherwise) about Caroline Kennedy is coming out after her push for thenomination had cratered for good. It seems from afar like getting toughwith the Kennedys–and, by extension, with Michael Bloomberg — is theopening volley in Paterson’s re-election campaign. But, at this point intime, trading a surprise Democratic House pick-up–and one that’s notlikely to be repeated the next time around–for a Lieberdog senator istranscendentally stupid politics.

Part The Fourth: Fr. Richard John Neuhaus passed away this week. Itis no exaggeration to rank Neuhaus as one of the nuttiest priests sinceBenedict IV, who dug up the corpse of his predecessor and excommunicatedit, thereby ensuring that all the other nutty priests forever would becompeting for second place. Here’s a little something-something from a while back from Andrew, who’skinder than I would have been, or intend to be, even now that the old rascal’sdead. In 1996, you may recall, exercised as always by women and theirreproductive rights–and, for the moment, by the lubricious horrorthat was Bill Clinton -Neuhaus and his First Things magazine published asymposium entitled “The End Of Democracy?” which was as close to anexercise in outright sedition as you’re likely to read in your life.Eternal rest grant unto him, o Lord, and may the Blessed John XXIII kickhis ass all over paradise for eternity.

Part The Fifth: Holy Mother of God. Was this guy always this unhinged? How’d he ever stay unconfined longenough to get elected to anything?

Part The Last: When I’m not reading The Politico to discover justhowlame the Intertubes can be, I generally go visit the folks at this new place. Some day,cyber-archaeologistsare going to dig down through the levels of suckitude that make up therightist blogosphere, and they’re going to think that this place was thehome of all the gods of suckitude. Look, I liked The Dark Knight, too,butwhen did it become a cause celebre for the Flogging Jim Caviezel crowd? Of course, my aesthetic bona fides do not include being on Facebook and Twitter, sowhat do I know?

Anyway, I was stunned that the plucky little rocker from Jerseydidn’t get a nomination, not stunned at all that people still lovey-loveMs. Winslet, happy for Melissa Leo, happier for Josh Brolin, who had agreat year, and overjoyed that the great Martin McDonagh’s script for InBruges got selected because my favorite movie line of the year is,”What’s a 50-year old lollipop man doing knowing karate? Was he fookin’Chinese?”

Anyway, the best movie I saw this year was Man On Wire anyway.

Name: Maureen Holland
Hometown: South Venice Beach FL

Well Eric, Following you guys around the innertubes is no burden, but really–a jump page?–you ask a bit much with this ‘READ MORE’ business. Addles my mind. But I’ll adapt. Just don’t go away. You remain my moral anchor. And yeah, very nice job on Matthews and good on you for appearing on a day when he opted for sanity and clarity. He’s good when he’s not crazy.

Eric replies: Agree on both counts, but they tell me that if you clickon the link for today, it’s ok, but if you click on “Altercation” youget a jump. I don’t really understand the hows and whys…

Name: Daniel Hermsen
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wi

Regarding your Think Again column, “Scarborough Fare,” I was amused by his assessment of Obama’s “dainty” bowling style as a sign that he is not manly enough to be Commander-in-Chief. It reminded me of a ridiculous statement Scarborough made during the 2004 presidential campaign. He likened Americans to people living in a cabin in the woods, who know that a ferocious bear (terrorists) is coming to attack. “Who do you want to be sitting at the front door with a gun to protect you?” he asked. The choice being the strong, tough George W. Bush or the weak, metrosexual, John Kerry. What a laughable question, I figured I’d take the war hero, who had been in battle and killed people, vs the draft evader, who spent the Vietnam war years golfing. But to Scarborough, Bush was the obvious choice. As for bowling being the measure of strength, I would note that my 89 year old father still bowls every week, but is much too frail to consider playing basketball. So maybe basketball is a better barometer. However we don’t really know if McCain is good at bowling or basketball, so we were forced to make an uninformed choice when we went to the polls.

Name: Greg Panfile
Hometown: Tuckahoe NY

Charles, the line in Omaha by Moby Grape is “Now my friends, the storms are behind, no more rain, from where we came…” in order for the rain to stop you need to have it raining first, songwriting 101;-).

One can spend one’s time in many worse ways that with watching not only all of The Prisoner but all of Secret Agent aka Danger Man. It’s incredibly tightly written and acted spy noir that captures things about 1000 times more accurately than anything Bond, but unfortunately lacks any vocals from Shirley Bassey. There’s also this episode about a village…

Takedown on Meacham and Thomas, feckless talentless brainless Villagers both, thank you… also you failed to note that over at Salon it appears a victim of a very unfortunate traumatic brain injury got access to one of their computers and committed what has to be called verborrhea, yet again.

And a pleasure to have LTC Bob carry over. Citizen, soldier, scholar, gentleman, and damn good writer and thinker.

Name: M. George Stevenson
Hometown: Bronx, NY

Dear Dr. A:

Congratulations on your new home, I’m afraid I must tweak you on the footnote to your “Gaza Agonistes” piece, with which I am otherwise in full agreement: Please don’t turn into another Midlantic “taker” of decisions. Americans have always made decisions and, in my recollection as a newspaper editor for the last twnety years, didn’t start reverting to the less confident, weaselier British verb in any great numbers until George Will & Co. began trying to justify Bush v. Gore and, perhaps subconsciously, adopted the usage as a way to suggest there were limited options and that it was the best we could hope for. (Look for my scholarly article on this theory once I’ver crafted the appropriate Nexis search.)

Best wishes for your continuing good works,

Name: John N Cox
Hometown: Charlotte, NC

Dear Dr. Alterman:

As we appear to share a similar opinion on Ralph Nader, I thought you might appreciate following quote: “The Aviation Consumer Action Project, a Ralph Nader group, says that in an attempted water landing, a wide body jet would ‘shatter like a raw egg dropped on pavement, killing most if not all passengers on impact, even in calm seas with well-trained pilots and good landing trajectories.'” Link:

Name: Ken Daniels
Hometown: Florence, KY

Welcome back LTC Bateman. I’m a big fan and an avid reader of your columns, so yours is a welcome return.

I do have one minor quibble though, and I hope I’ve just misread your assertion that “To that end I figured it just made sense to write for the audience least likely to have a whole lot of experience with or personal direct connections to the military in general and the Army in particular”. If I interpret that correctly, I think you’re buying into a false stereotype peddled and perpetuated by the conservative rightwing in this country. We’re not all anti-military liberals who’ve never served our country. I’m about as opposed to the current Iraq fiasco and its neocon champions as a guy could be, and yet I enlisted in the US Army at age 18 during the mid-1980s. Though I despise the very thought of him now, Ronald Reagan was my CiC. I’m a proud veteran of the 101st–joined the Army to “see the world” and got stationed in my home state–go figure.

Again, if I misinterpreted, then my apologies, but I think you might want to avoid careless assumptions in the future.

Thanks for the otherwise splendid work, KD

Name: Mark Woldin
Hometown: Elizondo, Navarra, Spain

Hi, Eric. I was amused to see Pierce’s remarks on the concert. I thought them loose and unthoughtful, but correct in many ways. It wasdismaying how vulgar and mindless the concert was. There is a pomposity in presenting the inauguration as a global event, which it is not in any real sense. In fact is quite specifically our national event. To that end only American artists should perform. We should show the world who we are, what we do. Does anyone need to hear U2 — surely the most presumptuous and self- aggrandizing band ever — yet again. (Not to mention that Bono offended by bringing up himself, the campaign, and Middle East politics.) Why not chuck the whole crew and start again, as a parlor game: The history of American music: Stephen Foster, J.P. Sousa, Civil War songs, Dixieland, Ragtime, Big Band, Bee Bop, Porter, Berlin, Gershwin, Folk, Country (I don’t much like it but half the country does) — Willie Nelson, Roseanne Cash or clemency for Hank Williams, Jr.? Zydeco, Mariachi, show music, Bernstein, Copeland, Carter, Glass, etc. Instead we get a run down, irritating compendium of record-smashers and honeys in leather pants, the usual thing for a worldwide benefit, instead of the august moment of the transfer of power from the worst to the best.

Name: John Athridge
Hometown: Washington, DC

Hey Doc, I’m guessing you probably know this already, but just in caseyou didn’t hear: the woman who fell on to the subway tracks before theinaugural was saved by a police officer. He dove down and rolled themboth underneath the platform and away from the train. She had adisclocated shoulder, but that’s it. Saw it on the local news when Igot home. Was very surprised that bit of heroism got so littleattention.

Eric replies: Thanks, this is truly amazing. When I left the station, Iwas sure, whoever it was, was dead and from the hands I saw, I hadassumed it was a little girl.

Name: Brian Dixon
Hometown: Alexandria, VA


Witnessing the woman fall onto the subway tracks must have been horrible. Just hearing the news on the radio that morning was quite painful. You’ll be pleased to know that the woman who fell onto the Subway track on Inauguration Day wasn’t run over by the train and wasn’t seriously injured. An out of town transit police officer pushed her under the platform where there is space to avoid the wheels. Even many DCers don’t know that safety trick. Kudos to that officer who I think was from Houston. Sending on guy back to Crawford in exchange for this one from Houston was a big trade up, I’d say

Name: Kathleen Berger
Hometown: Madrid, Spain

Uh – did Pierce really refer to Renee Fleming as “that woman?” For heaven’s sake, she’s America’s sweetheart opera star. She’s been on major network talk shows, won a Grammy, been the face of Rolex, been in an Annie Leibovitz book and had a dessert named after her by Daniel Boulud. How ’bout we pay a bit better attention, what say?.

Name: Paul Kingman
Hometown: New Bern, NC

I don’t know Mr. Pierce, I read your words today and then watched the show on DVR. On your inference, I fast forwarded through the speeches and listened just to the music. Yeah, I rolled through the ones you suggested except I thought the duo of Will.I.Am, Sheryl Crow were good and the trio with Herbie Hancock stunning (Jon Bon Jovi did fine, despite your warning), Stevie Wonder smoking. I would argue Dr. John more than the Neville Brothers though, because you are right: New Orleans was sorely missing. I did listen to Obama, then Pete Seeger, (explaining to my 17-year-old son that Pete Seeger wrote “Abiyoyo,” his favorite book every night for 3 years when cute). I found it to be a great celebration, a celebration of a President (yes I capitalize it,) a President; the first one to share my cultural values, my music, my dreams, my generation. I told my son, that I hope there is another President in his day who excites him and his son as much as this one does the two of us. So Mr. Pierce, I don’t know, based on your editing suggestions, it worked for me as an exceptional piece of Americana, that I hope (but I doubt) we’ll see again in our lifetime.

Name: Jim Wiseman
Hometown: Downingtown, PA

Hi Eric, I’m repeating a couple of questions I posed in one of your emails “lost in cyberspace” in your first week at The Nation. Why have you changed your wonderful list of links? You dropped Paul Krugman, Digby, effectively Matt Yglesias(click on the link and you’ll see what I mean), and others. Much as I enjoy reading Altercation, being able to noodle through all the best blogs on the net was one of its attractions. I hope you’ll restore them in time.

Eric replies: I don’t know, actually. I made the last list. I did notmake this one for my own use, actually, and figured it would proveuseful for others. I don’t know who made this one, but we are gettingit back. Thanks for caring.