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Slacker Friday | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

Well-chosen words on music, movies and politics, with the occasional special guest.

Slacker Friday

First things first, we have a new Think Again column here called "Spying on Journalists? Why the Silence?" and a new Nation column called "The Defamation League," here, which addresses, among other things, smears against Bill Moyers. (Also, I worked harder than I like to on yesterday's Altercation in case you missed it.)See this? (Thanks Petey) Hear this? (Thanks Brian)

This Week on Moyers:

On the heels of the American drone attacks on suspected terroristcompounds in Pakistan, Bill Moyers Journal takes a closer look atAmerica's history of and current policy on bombing, explores the ethicsbehind these assaults when civilians become the victims and asks: doesbombing work?  Bill Moyers sits down with historian Marilyn Young,author of the forthcoming Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-Century Historyand former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey, who developed military planesand helped found the military reform movement.  And, with state budgetsstrapped, President Obama's proposed economic stimulus plan directsfunds to educational institutions. Bill Moyers talks with CarnegieCorporation President Vartan Gregorian on the future of public highereducation and its role in our democracy.

From ANP:

Paulson's $140 Billion Surprise: It's a little-known story about the financial crisis. During the frenzied events of the fall, Henry Paulson rewrote a piece of the tax code to expedite mergers. The quiet alteration amounts to an estimated $140 billion windfall for big banks. Some critics say Paulson's move was too autocratic, others argue that it was much more than that--it was downright illegal. Will Tim Geithner and the Democrats attempt to correct the wrong?

Campaign Financing: New Twist On Old Problem: Political fundraising has often been viewed as a corrupting influence in politics. Now it's increasingly being seen by politicians as a roadblock to doing their jobs well. Republican Senator George Voinovich has had enough. Will stories like his breathe new life into the reform movement?

Alter-reviews:

Graham Nash: Reflections box set

Following a matching set from David Crosby, Rhino's given us a similarly handsomely packaged and extensive collection from Graham Nash.  It traces his career from The Hollies with his childhood friend Allan Clarke way back when through all the CSN and CSNY and solo years. Reflections is  a three-CD boxed set that encompasses roughly forty years of music with 64 songs; half of which are unreleased mixes, alternate versions and unissued tracks.  What's more, there's a lovely 150-page booklet with excellent notes and tons of photos. (Nash is a well-known collector of photography, by the way.)  Tracing that voice from 1967's "On A Carousel," "Carrie Anne" and "King Midas In Reverse," through "Marrakesh Express," "Our House" and "Teach Your Children," and tons of stuff you've probably never heard before,  much of this set is great, but much of it is not. Nash is one of those people who does not know exactly where his talent is located. I love "Wasted On The Way" "Chicago" and "Military Madness," in fact, Songs for Beginners, which was re-released last year, is pretty much great throughout. But as with Crosby, there's going to be a lot of fast-forwarding; something I predict will not be the case when they get around to the more talented, and much more difficult Mr. Stills. Anyway, like the Crosby box, it's beautifully done and a nice, albeit not cheap shortcut to the part of the Crosby/Nash, Nash, CSN and CSNY catalogue up with which you may not have been keeping…

Rod Stewart - The Definitive Rod Stewart

Rod is perhaps the only artist on earth to give The Who a run for their money in the repackaging sweepstakes. Whether to recommend this package depends on just how deeply you've dipped in the past. This one is available in two versions: a standard two-CD edition and a deluxe edition that includes a bonus DVD of music videos. It's arranged chronologically, but to tell you the truth, the guy's early stuff is so great you should get those albums by themselves. It is after about 1978, which is actually quite a run, when this package comes in handier.  The second disc concentrates on music Stewart made during the '80s and '90s, including "Infatuation," "Some Guys Have All The Luck," "Love Touch," "Forever Young" and "Motown Song" from the top ten album Vagabond Heart (1991). Among the other highlights is a rare studio version of Tom Waits' "Tom Traubert's Blues," as well as a cover of Waits' "Downtown Train" that Stewart took to #1, and "Have I Told You Lately" and "Reason To Believe." Good stuff, all. I can live without the schmaltz that follows, though.  Perhaps you can't, or needn't, or need the rest. Anyway, here it is, also from Rhino, but without all the lovely trappings that Mr. Nash enjoyed.

In case you missed it: (http://www.backstreets.com/news.html) Gimme a shout-out if you need to fill a decent seat in my hood.

Springsteen and the E Street Band's official Working on a Dream Tour itinerary from the beginning of April to the beginning of August, consisting of a two-month North American leg and a two-month European leg.

The first arena leg begins on the West Coast of the US on April Fool's Day and hits a few markets bypassed by the Magic tour--howdy, Colorado!--as well as regular strongholds (two in Boston, two in Philly) before wrapping up with two shows at the Meadowlands. No Garden dates, alas, but a third NYC-area show is at Nassau Coliseum. A small stadium sneaks in there, too, with a return to Hershey, PA. The vast majority of these go on sale the morning after the Super Bowl, February 2.

The European stadium leg begins with Holland's Pinkpop festival on May 30, wrapping up with five Spanish shows in five different cities.

Apr 1 - San Jose, CA - HP Pavilion at San Jose (Feb 2)
Apr 3 - Glendale, AZ - Jobing.com Center (Feb 2)
Apr 5 - Austin, TX - Frank Erwin Center (Feb 7)
Apr 7 - Tulsa, OK - BOK Center (Feb 7)
Apr 8 - Houston, TX - Toyota Center (Feb 7)
Apr 10 - Denver, CO - Pepsi Arena (Feb 2)
Apr 15 - Los Angeles, CA - LA Memorial Sports Arena (Feb 2)
Apr 21 - Boston, MA - TD Banknorth Garden (Feb 2)
Apr 22 - Boston, MA - TD Banknorth Garden (Feb 2)
Apr 24 - Hartford, CT - XL Center (Feb 2)
Apr 26 - Atlanta, GA - Philips Arena (Feb 2)
Apr 28 - Philadelphia, PA - Wachovia Spectrum (Feb 2)
Apr 29 - Philadelphia, PA - Wachovia Spectrum (Feb 2)
May 2 - Greensboro, NC - Greensboro Coliseum (Feb 6)
May 4 - Hempstead, NY - Nassau Veterans Mem. Col. (Feb 2)
May 5 - Charlottesville, VA - John Paul Jones Arena (Feb 2)
May 7 - Toronto, ONT - Air Canada Centre (Feb 6)
May 8 - University Park, PA - Bryce Jordan Center (Feb 2)
May 11 - St. Paul, MN - Xcel Energy Center (Feb 2)
May 12 - Chicago, IL - United Center (Feb 2)
May 14 - Albany, NY - Times Union Center (Feb 2)
May 15 - Hershey, PA - Hersheypark Stadium (Feb 2)
May 18 - Washington, DC - Verizon Center (Feb 2)
May 19 - Pittsburgh, PA - Mellon Arena (Feb 2)
May 21 - E. Rutherford, NJ - Izod Center (Feb 2)
May 23 - E. Rutherford, NJ - Izod Center (Feb 2)

May 30 - Landgraaf, Holland - Pink Pop Festival (March 7)
June 2 - Tampere, Finland - Ratinan Stadion (ON SALE)
June 4 - Stockholm, Sweden - Stockholm Stadium (SOLD OUT)
June 5 - Stockholm, Sweden - Stockholm Stadium (SOLD OUT)
June 7 - Stockholm, Sweden - Stockholm Stadium (SOLD OUT)
June 9 - Bergen, Norway - Koengen (SOLD OUT)
June 10 - Bergen, Norway - Koengen (SOLD OUT)
July 2 - Munich, Germany - Olympiastadion (ON SALE NOW)
July 3 - Frankfurt, Germany - Commerzbank Arena (ON SALE NOW)
July 5 - Vienna, Austria - Ernst Happel Stadion (ON SALE NOW)
July 8 - Herning, Denmark - Herning MCH (ON SALE NOW)
July 11 - Dublin, Ireland - RDS (Jan 30)
July 16 - Carhaix, France - Festival des Vielles Charrues (Jan 30)
July 19 - Rome, Italy - Stadio Olimpico (ON SALE SOON)
July 21 - Turino, Italy - Olimpico di Torino (ON SALE SOON)
July 23 - Udine, Italy - Stadio Friuli (ON SALE SOON)
July 26 - Bilbao, Spain - San Mames Stadium (ON SALE SOON)
July 28 - Benidorm, Spain - Estadio Municipal de Foietes (ON SALE SOON)
July 30 - Sevilla, Spain - La Cartuja Olympic Stadium (ON SALE SOON)
Aug 1 - Valladolid, Spain - Estadio Jose Zorrilla (ON SALE SOON)
Aug 2 - Santiago, Spain - Monte Del Gozo (ON SALE SOON)

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA.

Hey Doc:

"I remember when I met you/You said your name was Mary Jane/But whenI saw you in a lineup/You were using another name."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Incident On South Street" (The LoungeLizards)--If I must, I will go this alone, but I'm done trying to line up bipartisan support for the great wall I'm building from Boston to Biloxi on which will be written all the various reasons that I love New Orleans. 

Short Takes: 

Part The First: Anybody who watched Hardball on Wednesday night sawJoan Walsh take apart the sneering human spittoon that is Dick Armey. It isimportant to remember that, prior to becoming a member of Congress in 1984,Armey was an economics professor at North Texas State (Go Mean Green!),which is a public institution. That means that, until he retired, andbecame the lay about head of a PAC, the modern political equivalent of ano-show job your uncle got you with the county road crew,  this functionalunemployable didn't take a dime from the almighty "private sector" thatwasn't a bribe...er...a campaign contribution. And, anyway, he was such ahead of Dick on the air that even Matthews tumbled to it, and usually Chriswon't notice unless you show up in the green room wearing bearskin pantsand carrying a club.

Part The Second: I know it's futile to ask, but what is wrong withthis idiot? And, more to the point, what is wrong with the idiots who listen to him? Hey,fellow journalists, he's a charlatan and a fool and he is not one of us

Part The Third: The man who thinks "popular culture" is something yougrow in a Petri dish is back again. You may remember him from his earlier career as a rock critic, which will be discussed at somewhat greater length here. I, for one, can hardly wait to see how highly he rates McCabe And Mrs.Miller, a tale of entrepreneurial spirit in the old West.

Part The Fourth: Gingrey? Gingrich? How come Georgia elects so manycongress-critters whose names sound like gum diseases?

Part The Last: Well, this looks interesting. I note for the record that the ex-cop "brandished" a loaded handgun at the arresting officers and was neither tased for his trouble--Hey, Digby!--nor shot dead on the spot. Interesting how flexible the rules of engagementcan be.

   The best moment of the Obama presidency so far came on Thursday, whenhe put together that big goat-roping to celebrate the signing of  the LillyLedbetter Fair Pay Act.

 It wasn't just that the law is a good thing, which it is. It wasn't justthat Ms. Ledbetter herself makes a compelling witness on her own behalf,which she does. It wasn't just that the overall optics were fabulous, whichthey were, or that the president gave a terrific address, which he did. Itwas also because the recently departed C-Plus Augustus has left us with aSupreme Court that approximates the late Dr. Thompson's assessment of anearlier reactionary SCOTUS as "a piss-poor bowling team from Memphis."(That awful hack they all took unanimously--Ruthie Bader G, how couldyou?--at what's left of the Fourth Amendment this week is proof enough ofthat.) However, the Ledbetter decision was the one that gave the game away.It exposed Roberts and Alito as the dependable corporate shills that youknew they were. (And it is time here to thank, once again, Weepin' JoeLieberman for yet another gift that he gave to this great Republic.) Iexpect that President Obama's insistence that Republicans still exist whom we can safely classify as Not Insane will drive me around my personalbend on a fairly regular basis but, by making this the first majorlegislative victory and the first major political event of his presidency,he politely told those same Republicans, and the court with which they'vesaddled us in perpetuity, and the greedy thooleramawns who bankrolled allof the foregoing, to jam it. Good on him.

--Josh Silver

www.freepress.net

Here's your monthly update on what's happening in media policy.

The big news is Obama's choice of Julius Genachowski as the new chair of the Federal Communications Commission. While the appointment is not yet official, Obama's long-time college friend, campaign fundraiser and technology advisor is expected to take the reins at the FCC in the next few months. Chairman Kevin Martin stepped down last week, and Commissioner Michael Copps was named interim chair. The timing of the transition is still up in the air.... While it usually takes several months for the new chair to be confirmed, Congress may expedite the process because of problems with the February 17 digital television transition, the date when over-the-air analog TV broadcasts are supposed to stop.

In short, Genachowski is a very good choice. He anchored the drafting of Obama's excellent media and tech policy agenda, which is now posted at www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/technology/. It includes Net Neutrality, diverse media ownership, ubiquitous broadband...much like our own agenda. The challenge, of course, is turning promises into reality.

On another note, I trust you've been hearing that journalism--particularly the newspaper industry--is in a freefall. More than 12,000 newspaper jobs were lost in 2008. Titans like Tribune Co. filed for bankruptcy, and Hearst and the New York Times are on shaky ground. Radio giant Clear Channel just announced plans to cut 9 percent of its workforce.

We are circling the wagons on this issue by convening big-think meetings in NY and DC in March to identify all viable policy proposals to address the crisis: from tax breaks to ownership rules to purchasing devalued media properties and putting them into nonprofit trusts. One such nonprofit owns the St. Petersburg Times, and continues to invest in excellent reporting. Most recently is www.Politifact.com with their "Obameter": a summary of the 500 or so promises made by the new president, tracked in real time online. Very cool.

Obama's stimulus bill is expected to move through the Senate this week, and the current draft has $9 billion allocated for broadband deployment. While the funding falls short of the $44 billion we proposed, it's still a great start for 2009. The House version includes open Internet conditions (Net Neutrality), and we are hopeful that the Senate will uphold them. We also submitted a stimulus plan for public broadcasting (now called "public media"). That proposal does not appear to have made it into the stimulus, but we are seeing the public media community come together in an encouraging way.

In the "Evil Comcast" category, the FCC is investigating concerns that Comcast is "degrading" voice over Internet service from competitors like Vonage. We raised this issue last fall, and we're pleased that the FCC is remaining vigilant against any potential Internet Service Provider abuse.

Finally, the office of the Defense Department's inspector general said in a report two weeks ago that it had found no wrongdoing in a Pentagon public relations program that made use of retired officers who worked as military analysts for television and radio networks. The report performs legal backflips, like pointing to a lack of clear definitions of what constitutes propaganda. Fortunately, two more investigations are pending; one from the Gov't Accountability Office, and the other from the FCC. We can only expect that they are more reasonable.

That's it in a nutshell. Let me know if you have any questions.

Best,
Josh

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