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Under the Covers... | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

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

Under the Covers...

Wrapup: I've got a new "Think Again" column on healthcare reporting called "Why Not the Best?" here.

On the Beast, I did this post on the Democrats and their fear of 1994, here.

National Security Archive Update, July 17, 2009




And I didn't do anything about it, but I'm concerned about this:



Pentagon classification authorities are treating classified historical documents as if they contain today's
 secrets, rather than decades-old information that has not been secret for y
ears. Today the National Security Archive posted multiple versions of the
 same documents--on issues ranging from the 1973 October War to a
nti-ballistic missiles, strategic arms control, and U.S. policy toward C
hina--that are already declassified and in the public domain. What
 earlier declassification reviewers released in full, sometimes years ago,
 Pentagon reviewers have more recently excised, sometimes massively. The
 overclassification highlighted by these examples poses a major problem t
hat should be addressed by the ongoing review of national security 
information policy that President Obama ordered on May 27, 2009. New
 presumptions against classification that may be added to an executive 
order on national security information will not, in isolation, end
 overclassification. Rigorous oversight, accompanied by improved training a
nd consequences for improper classification are essential."

Alter-reviews: Sal on the new Ian Hunter and volume two of Matthew Sweet and Susannah Hoff's "Under the Covers."


Ian Hunter: Man Overboard
I was 10 years old in 1974 and on one miserable and unpleasant afternoon, I was followed home from school by three 7th graders who wanted to beat the crap out of me because they saw me purchase The Hoople, Mott The Hoople's then current album, in Golden Disc, the record store on Bleecker Street, right across from my grammar school. For the entire walk, they threw cans, rocks, and sticks, but mostly kept chanting "Homo!" Wasn't easy being a 10 year old Ian Hunter fan in 1974 Greenwich Village. I thankfully didn't get beat up, but more importantly, the record made it home unscathed. I didn't care about my skull. Just don't touch the record. While that doesn't say much about Man Overboard, the brand new release from Ian Hunter, it does illustrate how long I've been a fan, and just what I would endure to hear something new from Hunter and the boys.



Onto the new record. Few artists have kept my interest so solidly for so long as Ian Hunter. One reason is that he doesn't have any truly bad records. Another, is his graceful transition from glam artist, to 80s pop star, to 90s recluse, to respected singer-songwriter. Man Overboard is the third release in 8 years from Ian and a core group of NY musicians known as the Rant Band and it could be the strongest yet.



"Arms & Legs" is a beautiful, upbeat love song with a killer chorus, and the opener, "The Great Escape" would not sound out of place on "Big Pink." But where Hunter really shines, as he always has, is on the ballads. "Girl From The Office" sounds like a lost Keith track from "Between The Buttons. "The title track is a heartbreaker reminiscent of Hunter's autobiographical powerhouses such as "Hymn For The Dudes" and "Saturday Gigs." There really isn't a bad cut on the record. Not bad for a rocker who is 70 years young.




Under the Covers, 2
Like Charlie & Ira Louvin, Phil & Don Everly and most recently the unrelated Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs' voices blend together so well, it's hard to tell where one voice begins and the other ends. Someone, if not Sweet & Hoffs themselves, must have realized this at some point, making their collaborating inevitable.



Under the Sid N Susie moniker, power pop darlings Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs started recording their favorite songs of the 60s and the end result was the 2006 release, Under The Covers Vol.1, a fun collection of songs by artists such as The Byrds, The Mamas & The Papas, The Beach Boys, The Zombies and more. It wasn't amazing. There were no radical reworkings. No reggae-influenced arrangements of "The Warmth Of The Sun." It was straightforward and it worked. 



Now, the kids are back with Under The Covers Volume 2, and for me, this hits the ball out of the park. Again, Sid N Susie are not trying to impress the listener with new and exciting ways to screw up all of our favorite songs by changing words, melodies or arrangements. What they DO do is perfectly translate their love of this music with heartfelt renditions that plain and simply sound good. This time, the set list plays like your favorite radio station, circa 1975. Songs by Yes, Bread, Raspberries, Derek & The Dominoes, TWO by Todd Rundgren, as well as the Grateful Dead and George Harrison, all sound exactly as you remember them, with Steve Howe even providing the guitar solo on "I've Seen All Good People." You can see a full track list here, as well as hear audio of the Yes track. 



There is a download only bonus disc that I highly recommend, as well. Here Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs let go a bit further and tackle "Marquee Moon," "Killer Queen" and an absolutely wonderful version of the Allmans' "Melissa."

--Sal "Burning Wood" Nunziato


The mail:

Name: David K. Richie

Hometown:  Birmingham, AL



M

r. Charles Pierce,


Thank you for taking our church to task for the shameless way it has i
nsinuated itself into our bedrooms and the halls of political power.


The reason poverty is not something the church backs up with a
uthority is a direct result of the accountability to which the church knows it must respond for over population. This also refers to
 your comment about the pee-pee principle.


When we began walking upright it made some sense to have babies in mass quantities. I have no doubt that there was a perceived and logical message to go forth and multiply. But for the sake of J.H. Christ, we've done that. We are good at it. I have to believe that a merciful and just Almighty is looking down and screaming, "ENOUGH
 ALREADY!!"

T

he pressure we are putting on each other and our resources demands that the church revisit this Byzantine political policy.
 Think it will happen anytime soon? Any takers? Hello? Hello?

Name: Chuckie Fitzhugh
Hometown: Phoenix



As a fellow non-practicing-yet-still-wanting-to-have-some-faith-in-my-
church Papist, I couldn't agree more with Pierce's comments on the Vatican's positions (or more importantly the conviction of those
 positions) regarding poverty, pre-emptive war, and the Death Penalty.
 I was recently dismissed from Jury Duty on a death-penalty potential
 case because because of my very faith and my Catholic upbringing in a jurisdiction (Maricopa County) where the needing-a-bodyguard-at-all-times elected District Attorney wins alongside a corrupt sheriff every single election, by incredibly large margins. A District A
ttorney who ran in large part on the proclamation that our State
 didn't make enough use of the Death Penalty. I guarantee that our District Attorney enjoyed the majority vote of practicing, faithful
 Catholics (right alongside every other demographic in this wonderful
 town). What's more, when I explained why I was dismissed to fellow
 call-themself-Catholics, these people couldn't believe that our
hared faith would cause me to believe I didn't have the right to v
ote to put someone to death, mostly because this putting-to-death was of a "criminal". Where in His teachings did Jesus say "Do Not K
ill", unless the person killed someone or is a very bad person?? How c
an these same people carry the pro-life banner??


Furthermore, when did one single parish priest deliver a homily about
he evils of pre-emptive war while we were "liberating" Iraq, or t
orturing combatants of that war, or delivering those prisoners to
 foreign nations so they could conduct our torture for us? How about taking the time to even educate the "flock" about the concepts of
 just and un-just war??

Instead, we get lectures about the evils of contraception--and a
 whole bunch of posturing about who is and who isn't going to allow what national politician to receive the Eucharist, based on that politician's political party's stance on decided law. It's a completely ridiculous attempt to get their name in the news--to make
 themself a story. A position of responsibility and leadership within
he Church I grew up in should be about educating and speaking out
 against what is wrong, no matter how unpopular. While I don't disagree with my Church's position on their one primary issue, I u
nderstand there are other people in our great country that have d
iffering views, and that those views receive as much consideration as mine. My suggestion--Do more to explain your position in a c
oherent, consistent, logical point of view --and ensure that you
 yourself are not a hypocrite. Join the Innocence Project and speak
 out just as loudly against the injustices of the Death Penalty; a
bandon the political party that blames the poor for being poor--become a freakin' Indep if the Democratic party is too progressive f
or your taste. I believe that Rome will only change if local Catholic communities change, and that will not happen until people r
ecognize that there is more than one type of injustice in the world.






Name: Ben Miller

Hometown: Washington, DC



Mr. Alterman--

Over the weekend, I was reading all the stories about Walter
 Cronkite. What grabbed my attention in particular was his reputation a
nd how a country believed in a person delivering the news. And I could not help but think is there one person today in the media, whether on TV or in print, that this country truly believes in? Is there anyone who could deliver a report on a war, the way Cronkite
 did on Vietnam, that could play a such an important role in forming o
pinions of people?

The answer is no. And while there are many reasons for that, the one that really grabbed me was it is really the fault of the Republican P
arty. At some point the Republicans decided that instead of answering questions from the press, and instead of dealing with tough
 questions, they would rather just attack those who question them. On a
nything. Why answer a question about there being no evidence of WMDs in Iraq when you can just attack those who dare to question you.



Their constant attacks against the press caused many people not to
 believe what it is they were seeing or reading; and then in knee-jerk r
eaction, it caused many in the press to bend over backwards to show
hey are being fair to the conservatives. Almost any story you read
r see today is framed from the conservative side of the argument,
 even if the story itself is about the Democrats.



Healthcare? How many stories do I have to read/see asking about is t
he plan socialist medicine, when anyone with a brain can see that
he GOP attacks are simple soundbites backed up with zero substance. W
here are the stories and the questions for Republicans asking them where was their plan for fixing health care when they had the power, when they had political capital they wanted to spend? Where are the
se stories just reporting the facts and doing actual reporting on what the different health care proposals mean, instead of just spitting
 back more tired quotes from another irate Republican.


And that is the problem--not only has the persistent conservative attacks on the press poised the media's reputation among c
onservatives, but it has caused liberals like myself to not trust t
he media either.
 With the passing of Walter Cronkite, it is just another reminder of how far the press has fallen, and how the tactics the GOP employ are geared solely for their own benefit without any possible concern for the greater impact on the country as a whole.

Name: Victor Winograd
Hometown: New York City



RE: The demise of WBCN: As one who was an occasional victim of
 Laquidara's annoying wake-up calls I can only say: Farewell morning
 Mishigas, Adios Bruce Springsteen, Adieu Cosmic Muffin, and RIP quality commercial rock radio. May WBCN join WMMR and WNEW in Big M
attress heaven.

Name: Timothy Barrett
Hometown: Louisville, Ky




In 2008, 20 young boys died playing football: 12 year- old heart related; 13 year-old heart related; 13 year-old enlarged heart; 15 year-old head injury subdural hematoma; 15 year-old collision
 lacerated liver; 15 year-old congenital heart failure; 15 year-old heat stroke; 16 year-old collision unknown; 16 year-old tackling b
rain injury; 16 year-old tackling subdural hematoma; 16 year-old
 hypertrophic cardiomyopathy; 16 year old heat exhaustion; 16 year old
 tackling brain injury; 17 year-old hyponatremia; 17 year-old heat related; 17 year-old heart related; 17 year-old tackling subdural h
ematoma; 18 year-old heat related; 19 year- old dysrhythmia; 22 year-old heat stroke.

According to the Annual Survey of Football Injury Research, 1318 high school and college players have died from playing football since
 1931, about 17 kids a year on average. Another study has shown that
 minor chest wall impacts (i.e., sports ball impact over heart) have
 resulted in 70 documented youth deaths since it was first described in 1978 (7 year old T-ball player). The Consumer Products Safety Commission reported that between 1984 and 1998, there have been 69 youth deaths in baseball, 63 in football, 26 in horseback riding, 26 i
n basketball and 25 in soccer.



In my community, a high school coach, the principle and the school d
istrict have been served in a lawsuit for wrongful death after a 15
 year old boy died a few days after suffering heat exhaustion on the f
ootball field. The complaint is that the players practiced in 95 degree heat in full gear, weren't afforded the appropriate number of
 water breaks, were told that they would continue a running drill
 until someone quit (and was cut from the team), and that all of these
actors contributed to the boy's collapse and death from heat stroke. The coach was recently indicted for negligent homicide (manslaughter)
 related to his conduct in this incident. Needless to say, the c
ommunity is split between those who support this popular coach and
hose who think this death was avoidable and that the attitude that
inning is everything contributed to the coach's alleged negligence.

I haven't fully formed my opinion of what all this means. Obviously, s
ports injuries are common and some deaths will occur. Some of these injuries and deaths were likely avoidable with proper training and supervision. Safety has been a top priority in youth sports my entire life. I played many sports as a child and have coached, and
 continue to coach, my son's teams in T-ball, soccer, basketball, and b
aseball. I love working with the kids to build confidence, self-r
eliance, coordination and good sportsmanship. I think team sports are essential to a well-rounded person who learns that individual achievement is mostly a product of other peoples' contributions. I 
explore any "winning is everything" approach; for me, contributing
s everything. Win or lose, we all win. Maybe I think some things are just worth the risk; or that a really safe life isn't really
 worth living.

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