Eric Alterman | The Nation

Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

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

Slacker Friday

I got a new Think Again column. It’s called “Perception, Reality, and Responsibility in the Gulf Oil Spill” and it’s got a lot of stuff in it that I’m betting you don’t already know, here.

Here's Pierce:

Part The First:
I'm in Chicago for the Printer's Row book festival this weekend. (My panel's Saturdat at 1:30. Stop by.) This morning, I saw the top rim of thr Stanley Cup go by and tonight, at the Chicago Blues Festival, I will help celebrate the centennial of the birth of
Howlin' Wolf. Much smokestack lightning is predicted.

Part The Second:
On Thursday night, Chris Matthews brought on Harold (Fail) Ford to discuss inconvenient DFH bloggers and their effect on hacks like Harold and Blanche Lincoln. There was much deploring.

Part The Third:
Just when you think Joe Lieberman couldn't possibly be more of a weasel, he grows a longer tail. This is a guy who never shuts his yap when it comes to the corrosive affect of modern American popular culture. It bothers him, always, more than do spurious wars in which 4000 Americans, many of whom listen to that rappity-hop music that Joe so deplores, get killed. He also really hates the idea of people taking drugs on which his campaign contributors do not burn a buck.  Now, though, faced with a candidacy bankrolled almost exclusively by money made in an enterainment enterprise built on mock violence, raging sexism, half-nekkid people, and anabolic steroids, Weepin' Joe suspends judgment. You could keep the man's conscience in a thimble and  have room for another pair of shoes.

Part The Fourth:
You're telling me that 94,000-odd allegedly sentient human primates thought Mickey Kaus should be in the United States Senate? I would have been willing to bet you couldn't find 94 people who thought he should be serving them their appetizers at Olive Garden.

Part The Penultimate:
I think the Democrats may well find that campaigning is easy when the other guys write the damn ads for you.

Part The Ultimate:
Our fundamental indecency as a self-governin people is going to be on rather vivid display over the next few years, I fear. There simply is not one branch of government now that is not totally comfortable with the current state of corporate oligarchy, and the media is so thoroughly a part of it that most major outlets are now indistinguishable from BP or Goldman Sachs. Meanwhile, real unemployment is pushing 20 percent, and the talk out of this administration is about austerity and about giving that old fool, Pete Peterson. his twilight dream of destroying the pitiful shreds of what used to be a barely adequate safety net. This all started when Bill Clinton lost his nerve and committed the Democratic party to deficit reduction. (The nostalgia for the days of the Pericles of the Ozarks, particularly among the members of the current administration, is both baffling and destructive.) Now, remarkably, the Obama folks are giving us back a government-as-bond-trader with a massive recession, and not a techno-fueled boom, in their immediate future. It is very hard not to give up these days.

Editor's Note: To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.

Feeling Groovy...

All I got today is this Think Again. It’s called “Perception, Reality, and Responsibility in the Gulf Oil Spill” and it’s got a lot of stuff in it that I’m betting you don’t already know, here.


I went to this Summerstage show in Central Park the other night, in which Michael Dorf of City Winery corralled a whole bunch of performers to do Simon and Garfunkel songs, almost exclusively as duets. (Both Paul and Artie were present but did not play.)  I had a better time than the Times’ Ben Ratliff did.  First off, Ollabelle is a great little band. Second, the songs are almost all uniformly great. Third, some of the versions were too.  My favorites were “Baby Driver” by Jorma and Larry Clark; “The Only Living Boy in New York” by Aimee Mann and John Roderick, Loudon Wainright and Lucy Wainright Roche singing “Bleecker Street" and Livingston Taylor and Jill Sobule who were "Feeling Groovy".  Actually, I have more favorites than that. Look at the setlist here and be jealous. The money went to City Parks Foundation. (And hey, look, Paul Simon has my exact hat; but I don’t wear it to hide any bald spots; not yet at least.)

Also, I’m reading this really fun book.  Here’s a quote  you could use on the paperback if it weren’t already published. “Sitting shiva was never so much fun, or so dirty (insofar as I am aware…)” Here is how the publicity material describes it:  “The death of Judd Foxman's father marks the first time that the entire Foxman clan has congregated in years.  There is, however, one conspicuous absence: Judd's wife, Jen, whose affair with his radio-shock-jock boss has recently become public.  Simultaneously mourning the demise of his father and his marriage, Judd joins his family as they reluctantly sit shiva-and spend seven days and seven nights under the same roof.  This is Where I Leave You is the story of a dysfunctional family who learn that while death does bring us together, it doesn't always bring us closer.” 

I never heard of the guy buy my new friend the  much admired chick (dog) novelist Alison Pace says she knew he was great. Anyway as you know, you can trust me, totally. 

Slacker Friday

My new Think Again column is called "Springtime for Hitler" and it's here.

My new Nation column," Israel Agonistes" is here.


Hey Doc:

"I can tell, the wind is risin'/the leaves tremblin' on the tree." Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "The Storm's Passing Over" (The Campbell Brothers) -- I am conducting a seance in which the ghosts of 10,000 brown pelicans rise from the dead, sit on Tony Hayward's front lawn, and caw in unison how much I love New Orleans.

Part The First:

This woman is considered to be important by a very large chunk of our political and journalistic elite. Remember this before you ever say anything snotty again about Louis XVI.

Part The Second:

Nobody notices New Hampshire between presidential elections, but the state has gone purple-towards-blue in the past over the past decade. Former state attorney general Kelly Ayotte was supposed to reverse that trend in the Senate race. Except that all hell has broken loose in a scandal that really is very hard to follow. However, stories about it do contain the phrase, "missing e-mails," which is never a good thing.

Part The Third:

Thanks to Thers at Whiskey Fire for bringing me the best of all possible news. And if Gleeson doesn't himself play the Pooka MacPhellimey, I'm going to be very sad. All together now -- "In times of trouble and lousey strife/you still have a darlint plan/you still can turn to a brighter life/ A PINT OF PLAIN IS YOUR ONLY MAN!"

Part The Fourth:

I probably don't agree with this guy on any possible issue but, my friends, gaze in awe at the greatest name in American politics. (He immediately goes into the historic Hall Of Fame with Elihu Root and Thurlow Weed.) And he's a winner, too!

Part The Penultimate:

I know the president can't stop the oil spill, and I don't want him to be as angry just so Maureen Dowd can get moist, either, but, dammit, he can step in and tell BP to knock this shit off.

Part The Ultimate:

I don't know if anyone else missed it, but the previous president of the United States admitted to complicity in a war crime the other day In fact, he bragged about his complicity in a war crime the other day. (He also announced that his greatest disappointment was that he didn't get to wreck Social Security the way he helped wreck the rest of the economy and the constitutional order. The man remains an almost limitless vista of ignorance. He's also a sadistic pig.) This, of course, is in no way a scandal on the order of The Sestak Affair or anything. This, of course, is what you get when all you want to do is Look Forward, Not Back. (And also what you get when you -- shh! -- pretty clearly want to keep your own options open.) I was thinking just the other day what towering lies we tell ourselves everytime a major, genuine scandal comes to a conclusion about the lessons we all have learned from the events in question. Bullshit. We learn nothing. Ever. Watergate is almost 40 years ago now, and a guy named Andrew Breitbart hires a smarmy little arachnid and turns Donald Segretti's ratfucking into a career. He even draws an overly laudatory profile in Time magazine. Do we even have to count the number of ways Iran-Contra taught us next to nothing? Hell, the only people who learned anything were the criminals themselves, and all they learned was how not to get caught the next time, which can fairly be defined as The Bush Administration. We didn't even really learn anything from the useless pursuit of Bill Clinton's libido. We still fall for the same kind of grifters and poltroons who were the grist for The Arkansas Project. (Watch what happens if the Republicans regain the majority in the House.) We are progressively less mature as a self-governing political commonwealth almost by the hour. And now, a guy we elected twice can get paid big money to brag about his complicity in crimes for which we hung Japanese generals, and nobody bats an eye, let alone calls a cop. Donald Segretti, alas, died too soon.

Springtime for Hitler (and Conservatives)

My new Think Again column is called "Springtime for Hitler" and it's here.

My new Nation column," Israel Agonistes" is here.

Also read Kai's Bird's new book.

I left a few examples out of the Think Again column because I'm not sure the folks matter so much, but for those who remain interested, here are a couple of outtakes:

Meanwhile, I never heard of Ben Shapiro, but if I may be so bold as to hazard a guess based on his name and general hystericism, I should imagine that he is a Jewish right-wing columnist. Whatever he is, he is no historian. In his "Open Letter to American Jews," he insists that President Obama is "openly anti-Semitic" and who consistently sides with Palestinian and Iranian mass murder-supporters and goes on to compare Rahm Emanuel to a "kapo"--the infamous concentration camp Jews who rounded up other Jews for the Nazis in exchange for special treatment.

And I'm guessing that the American Family Association's (AFA) Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy, Bryan Fischer is probably not Jewish, and again, is pretty much definitely not a historian. Fischer explains apropos of what I cannot tell you, that "Hitler discovered that he could not get straight soldiers to be savage and brutal and vicious enough to carry out his orders, but that homosexual solders basically had no limits and the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict on whomever Hitler sent them after. So he surrounded himself, virtually all of the Storm troopers, the Brownshirts, were male homosexuals."

I may need to return later, should the above columns cause any controversy that leads people to say things that require responses, but in the mean time, here's ...

The mail:

Name: Mark Paul
Hometown: Highland Park, Illinois

Thanks to Pierce for providing the link to the article in Foreign Policy about Mikey Weinstein's campaign against evangelical proselytizing at the military academies.

When Weinstein first started his group I traded e-mails with him to ask if he was receiving aid or even encouragement from any of the mainline Jewish organizations. Not a bit of help, he said, not even from Abe Foxman at the ADL.

The evangelical right has been a key ally for the mainline organizations' support for the Israeli right-wing. Who could forget AIPAC inviting the nut case Pastor Hagee -- who fervently prays for the destruction of Israel as a sign post toward the Rapture -- as one of the keynote speakers at its annual DC conference a few years ago?

So, following the thesis Beinart presented in his NY Review piece, add this data point: not only are the mainline American Jewish organizations bad for Israel because they encourage the Israelis to pursue an ultimately destructive policy, these organizations can't even muster the energy to protect Jews from religious harassment within a unit of the federal government.


Name: Tim Hunter
Hometown: South Philly

Here's a corporate governance proposal for companies with the ability to cause catastrophic harm to the environment or fatalities to humans. I'm pretty sure it would have assured sufficient safeguards and redundant fail safes at BP's gulf drilling rigs:

Upon the occurance of such catastrophic harm arising from the company's negligence, all senior officers shall immediatedly tender their resignations and any rights to severance packages of any type. They will also ask the board of directors and the relevant regulators for permission to commit ritual suicide.

Slacker Friday

My Think Again column is called “Chafets and Limbaugh: An Army of 1.1.” It’s about what this horrible new Limbaugh biography says about allowing the refs to work you. I see it as a cautionary tale and it’s here.

Have you noticed that The New York Times obeys its own rules of journalism except when it decides it doesn’t feel like it? Take a look at this story on Elena Kagan which appeared on the front page of Wednesday’s paper. The Times rightly has a rule against allowing people to make negative comments about people anonymously. In the first place there’s no way to prove they actually happened. In the second place it removes any sense of responsibility from the speaker who can get away with making up stuff as well, since there’s no way to verify it. Now look at this of some anonymous individual characterizing Larry Summers’ alleged view of Elena Kagan as Harvard Law Dean: “He wasn’t entirely sure he could trust her to make the right kind of scholarly judgments,” said the person, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.” I have no brief for Kagan, but there’s no way that should have been allowed into the story. Ok, that’s all. It just annoyed me when I saw it. Now here’s Charles. Happy weekend.



Hey Doc --

"Who took on the Standard Oil men and whipped they ass/Just like he promised he would?"

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Last Of The Hobo Kings" (Mary Gauthier) -- I would like to enlist an army of oil-sodden hermit crabs to gather along the shores of the Gulf for the purposes of carving in Tony Heyward's living flesh a testimony to my love for New Orleans.

Part The First: Scratch any Brit and you get a snob. It's truly remarkable. Pay no attention and watch the show.

Part The Second: In the interest of bipartisan amity, we should all sign up and have some fun.

Part The Third: Outside of all of those involving oil and the sea, this was, in its own way, the most terrifying story I read this week. Where are all the people who are so damned concerned about "unit cohesion" as regards to gay soldiers when something like this is going on? Just what we need -- militant unchurched religious fanatics, in uniform, with guns.

Part The Fourth: I appeal to my fellow citizens -- my friend, Dave Neiwert, needs a break. Please can we just knock this off for a couple of weeks?

Part The Fifth: I believe that the only question remaining about "Lost" is: "was it about a bicycle?" (Shout out to Ringsend Cowboys everywhere.)

Part The Penultimate: Oh, for the love of God. Why not just slap a big BP logo on the entire Gulf Coast and be done with it?

Part The Ultimate: There's only so much bullshit I can stands and I can't stands no more. The president's lackluster press conference yesterday is exceeded in its anger-making only by the smugness of his defenders who now deplore as fundamentally unserious anyone who suggests that the president might act a little perturbed on behalf of the rest of us over the ruination of the Gulf Of Mexico. No, his getting angry won't "clean up the oil faster." But here's something he can get angry about. Eleven people are dead. This has somehow gotten lost in all the attention being given to the unfolding environmental calamity. (Of course, the attention is not what it should be because the Coast Guard is being used as bouncers by British Petroleum to keep working journalists from doing their jobs. The president could get that stopped, too.) It is not an exaggeration at all to say that, based on what we already know, BP executives at a number of levels are complicit in 11 counts of negligent homicide. That investigation should begin immediately, and the president could climb down off his high horse and put the full weight of the federal investigative apparatus behind it, and at the disposal of the local authorities in Louisiana. Eleven people are dead because it was cheaper for the company than keeping them safe was. That might get anyone a little peevish.

The Mail

Name: Rich Gallagher

Hometown: Fishkill, N.Y.

Dear Eric,

It's mostly been ignored by the media outside of Nashville, but the recent flooding there seriously damaged and/or destroyed millions of dollars worth of guitars, including many which are considered by music fans to be priceless. The damage is still being assessed and it remains to be seen how many of the waterlogged instruments can be repaired.

To send a letter to Eric Alterman, click here.

Slacker Friday

I've got a new "Think Again" column about the election called "The 'Tea' Swallows the Party" here.

My Nation column is called "Ain't That America…" and it's here.

And I did a Daily Beast post last night on the passage of the Senate’s FinReg bill here.

I went to the Apollo last night for the annual “A Great Night in Harlem” gala of the Jazz Foundation of America. To be perfectly honest, I can’t really review the evening’s performance because they were just getting started when I had to leave to do that Beast FinReg piece above. It was already about ten and Roberta Flack (introduced by David Johansen) was just coming on. Jesseye Norman sang a tiny bit, as did a few people I never heard of. I saw the Nighthawks with a few guests, but the rest of what I missed, you’ll have to read about here. The reason I’m bothering to write this though, was that as impatient as I may have been sitting in my seat for so long and just hearing speeches about apparently wonderful people, they really are, um, wonderful people. Read about what they do here and then do us all a favor and give them some money. I love Wynton but he can’t get all the money people give to support Jazz. If I didn’t have to make a living, this is the kind of cause to which I would want to devote all my time. What’s a better cause then sending old jazz people to schools to teach young kids? What’s more heartwarming than seeing it happen? And the health and hsopitalization stuff, and the feeding old peoples’ cats, and taking people to the hospital, it makes you tear up, even at the length we heard about it last night. The donation page is here.

Alter-recommendation: If you love newspapers and novels, then you will have no choice but to love The Imperfectionists. Now look who’s (finally) back. (I hope the technical problems have been worked out…)

Hey Doc:

"When the wagons leave the city/for the forest and further on/Painted wagons of the morning, dusty roads where they have gone."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Crying" (The Versatiles) -- The world would be a lot better if everyone loved New Orleans as much as I do.

Part The First:
Whew. Bad week for Parson Meacham on several "platforms," as the kids say. I am profoundly glad that Jonathan Alter has taken to the parapets in the Parson's defense. It's not fair to leave Sally Quinn to fight such a lonely battle.

Part The Second:
One thing I did not want to see -- I did not want to see see Bill Clinton come tromping on his big elephant feet into this Arkansas Senate run-off, especially not in defense of Blanche Lincoln (D-Wal-Mart). The historical record of the Pericles Of The Ozarks is due for a major revisionist overhaul, and the effect of his several Myrmidons on the current administration has not been a good one. Let Arkansas Democrats hash this one out without your help, sir. They've got enough problems.

Part The Third:
Newsweeklies Gone Mad, Part Deux: Hey, Rick Stengel, that Time 100 was bad enough, but, really now, Newt Gingrich is no more a historian than he is an astronaut. I know he says he is. He's a megalomaniacal crackpot and he always was. Stop it, OK?

Part The Fourth:
Like those of us in the Commonwealth (God save it!) need another reason to believe we're the Center Of The Known Universe, what with the Celtics back on the rampage and all, but there's our own Senator McDreamy, gnawing off his own foot on financial reform in order to escape the trap of belonging to a party full of lunatics. Also, if you want some real fun, try to give a listen to the radio commercials that the Republican Governors Association have aimed at our state treasurer, Tim Cahill, who's running as an independent for governor up here, thereby screwing up official GOP candidate Charlie Baker who, as a candidate himself, so far otherwise has made Martha Coakley look like Huey Long. My favorite is the fake 911 call where the breathless woman tells Dispatch about the "crimes" Cahill has committed by being "just another Beacon Hill politician." Yes, the RGA, home of Bobby (Help!) Jindal, Haley (It's Just A Sheen) Barbour, and Rick (Secesh) Perry. Nice to have you boys on board up here.

Part The Penultimate:
Bastards. That's all, just bastards.

Part The Ultimate:
By now, it's become fairly clear that Rand Paul is pretty much a nut -- and no, folks, his putative opposition to overseas adventurism does not make him less so. (Jesus, liberals can be stupid.) Watching him try to outmaneuver Rachel Maddow the other night was like watching a hippo try to outrun the rain. Quite simply, if we ever needed a living, breathing, stuttering example that "libertarianism" is a fashion statement and not an ideology, that its basic tenets cannot apply to any society composed of human beings, we saw it that night. For a long time, I was perfectly happy to agree that libertarians were simply rightwing fringe players who liked to smoke a lot of dope. Here, though, we see the ugly truth. Libertarianism is stuck forever in its own incoherence. Paul's knowledge of the history of his own time is so profoundly wrong that it's makes one wonder if the man was raised in a jar. And he believes that government can act vigorously to end discrimination in public institutions, like public housing and the public schools. He does? Really? Without judging them on their merits as public policy, does Rand Paul favor the fundamental constitutionality of, say, busing, or affirmative action in government jobs? Because, if he does, I think he's got some 'splainin' to do to his base.

Jim Crow existed to formalize racism in the thousands of transactions of daily life so that it would be easy to enshrine it in the law. Is Paul's position actually that he believes a country can be segregated by custom and practice and culture and daily life, but not in its law, and that the former can be kept from perverting the latter? Was this man hatched a week ago? Is he, you know, high?

The mail:

Name: Maureen Holland
Hometown: South Venice Beach, Florida

I've been following you all over the damned intertubes lad, which at my age is not getting any easier. So I feel able to ask that you drop a word to the fine folk at The Nation and remind them their readers are probably not young. Or not many of them anyway. Bad enough that they feel nine or ten point is sufficient for the newsmag, but really - there's no paper bill on the website -can we go for a nice big sans serif or at least Times Roman font. Eleven point? How about going all rock and roll and using twelve point! I get here and go right for the CTL+ so I can read.

That being said, however, it's always worth the trip.

Editor's Note: Check back in a few days for a new text size adjustment tool, which will give you a larger, more readable font in one click! Send letters to Eric Alterman here.

Oil Spill? What Oil Spill?

I've got a new "Think Again" column about the election called "The 'Tea' Swallows the Party" here.

My Nation column is called "Ain't That America…" and it's here.

Anybody else see this (thanks to Donald L)?

Stephen F. Hayward wrote in the April 26 Weekly Standard:

The two main reasons oil and other fossil fuels became environmentally incorrect in the 1970s—air pollution and risk of oil spills—are largely obsolete. Improvements in drilling technology have greatly reduced the risk of the kind of offshore spill that occurred off Santa Barbara in 1969. There hasn’t been a major drilling related spill since then, though shipping oil by tanker continues to be risky, as the Exxon Valdez taught us. To fear oil spills from offshore rigs today is analogous to fearing air travel now because of prop plane crashes. Hayward is identified as "the F. K. Weyerhaueser fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the author of the forthcoming Almanac of Environmental Trends," but I think he has a future as the Standard’s editor in chief and a future Fox News analyst.


I did not understand when Criterion Collection released its 50 disc Art House Essentials Collection for only $850. I mean does the world really work this way, with people spending so much money to let other people pick out their entire film libraries? Are these all films that people want to see over and over? To own? I dunno, but I get the business logic of it now, that I see they’ve been releasing the films in sets of six and individually at the same time. Each has that special Criterion touch which I think matters most when you read the notes and get the intelligent, nuanced introduction that can be so hard to find surfing the net. The newest collection, Volume 5, is blessed with two movies that need to be in everyone’s library. Truffaut's "Jules and Jim" and Fellini’s "8 ½," both of which I believe belong on any list of the top ten (Jules and Jim) or twenty (8 ½) movies of all time. Of the others, well, David Lean’s "Brief Encounter" is watchable, though I feel like I’ve seen twenty versions of it elsewhere, and Milos Foreman’s "Loves of a Blonde" gives just a hint of where he’s going but it’s a pleasant couple of hours. You can check out the rest of them here but you might find that you want to go through the earlier ones and pick out the individual films you want. In any case, take my advice vis-à-vis Truffaut and Fellini.


There is no new mail because the new website design moved my letters section.  You can now find it here. It has also screwed up delivery of this blog, and I imagine others, to one’s Google Reader. To read this blog in your Reader, please go here to resubscribe.

In the meantime, if you’re reading this in Afghanistan, give a look out for Major Bob, who, I hear, is coming to save the world…

Hesitation Blues

I’ve got a new “Think Again” column called “Kagan Gets the Kitchen Sink” and that’s here.

And I did another Kagan piece for The Daily Best and that’s here.


What a piece of work is this Elizabeth Cook. Take a look at her bio here. As with last week’s Americana discoveries, Cook is this quiet treasure whose talents have eluded massive numbers of people in yet another indication that unfairness is the way of the world. I saw her Monday night at Joe’s Pub where the charm and the talent (to say nothing of those looks) just overflowed from the small stage. I’ve been spending some time with “Welder” is out this week and I’m going back that “Balls” cd too. It’s smart, diverse and equal parts moving and funky—which in country music, is all to the good.

Late last week, I had the extraordinary good luck to see a club show by Jorma Kaukonen and David Bromberg joined by Barry Mitterhoff at City Winery and what a night it was. Two guys I’ve been seeing since high school, but never once together, in an unassuming, comfortable setting (and the great food and drink that makes CW unique in this respect), showing off their stuff to one another, but also speaking to one another with their acoustic guitars in a language that is both unique and uniquely beautiful. The vibe was like a family reunion, if you had a really great family. (For family reunions See under Thorn, Paul: “I Don’t Like Half the Folks I Love.”) We all sang “I like to sleep late in the morning” without any help from David and it was his first song.  And I admired Bromberg’s attitude toward requests, which reminds me a great deal of the role of the Almighty as described by the author of Ecclesiastes. “I take requests, I just don’t play

Anyway, it was all old blues with a country feel and it went on and on for hours, because you knew these guys would be doing this even if they weren’t getting paid. There’s doing some more dates but you’ll have to do your own research, starting here.

No mail today…

Pimps, Preachers, Journalists, and Brownie

My new Think Again column on coverage of the oil spill off Louisiana is called “Heckova Job, MSM” and it’s here
I’ve got a new Nation column called “Party Every Day” here (I could not work “Cat Scratch Fever” into the hed). 
My Moment column is called “Is Israel Committing Suicide?” and that’s here.

Tift Merritt and Paul Thorn

I’ve discovered two new artists in the ever popular—with Altercation readers anyway “Americana” category.  The first is this young woman, Tift Merritt, who used to have hair like this but now has hair like this. I’m not sure which I like better. And I’m not sure like the new album better than Another Country but that’s because I love Another Country which came to me completely unknown. I sat on the floor of a living room style show for Tift on Monday night and she did the most charming, unassuming set one could imagine. The lyrics are heartfelt and intelligent and not at all cloying. And her voice matches those looks, which sexist as it may be to say, is really saying something. Try Another Country and I think you’ll want to dig deeper, I did.  Her Austin City Limits show is a good place to start until the new cd is out in June.

The following night I caught this crazy fellow, Paul Thorn , at City Winery.  I see from his website that Kris Kistofferson calls him “the best kept secret in the music business.” Sounds overstated, but I don’t think I’m going to protest.  There’s a ton of music there of which I was, sadly, unaware. This new album,  is an incredible find. “I Don’t Like Half the Folks I Love” is my new favorite song, though “Tequila is good for the Heart” coulda been a contender.  Most of the rest is pretty excellent as well. At Paul’s show, he was this funny, ornery son a preacher man, (and nephew of a pimp, not to mention ex-boxer who went six rounds with Roberto Duran), and had all this good-humored, homespun, heavily Southern-accented wisdom to offer along with great songs and some decent guitar picking. Since the food at CW is actually great—and not just great for a rock club—it was a nearly perfect show.  You won’t get the food on the website but you might get to see him somewhere else or pick up the cd. Again, I see I need to go into the back catalogue. (And hey, dude’s an artist too. Check out the cover.

The mail:

Name: Joe Coen
Hometown: Houston, Tx.

RE: Scammed by the Right

Give the Time editors some credit, Doc. At least they pegged Beck and Palin as Leaders instead of Thinkers. With those two kickin' it old school plus the Governor of Arizona signing a law obliterating the 4th Amendment and the Governor of Texas obliterating a little ol' harmless coyote with his high powered, laser sighted sidearm, it's evident the two categories are mutually exclusive.


American Idiot Slacker Friday

My new "Think Again" column is called "Mainstream Media to Conservatives: 'Thank You, Sir, May I Have Another?'" It's about right wing narratives being swallowed in re: Acorn, Climate Change, and now the Tea Party. That's here.

And my 'Nation' column is about Bill Moyers' retirement, and that's here.

And numerous Jerusalemites, among them, the admirable Avishai Margalit, and Zeev Sternhell, tell Non-Jerusalemite Elie Wiesel to shut the hell up about his alleged rights to occupy Jerusalem, here. Ron Lauder should also shut the hell up, in my opinion, here.


Eric on "American Idiot:"

So me and the kid saw "American Idiot" last night. It was quite an experience. First off, it is just weird to see so many teenagers at a Broadway show. The median age of the audience was a good fifty years lower than what I'm used to seeing on the proverbial Great White Way. Second, I really like "American Idiot" and pretty much like "21st Century Breakdown" which is pretty similar. (I like "Dookie too, but that's all I know.) But I sure didn't like them for their story line. And I'm pretty far removed from the "life sucks so who gives a shit" attitude of so much suburban teenage angst, (including my own). So I didn't really expect to go for the plot.

As it was, the plot wasn't much. The songs held their own, though sometimes exhibited a bit too much similarity to one another. The choreography, staging and sets, however were terrific. And when it slowed for a bit, it soon picked up. It was maybe not such a great idea to take a 12 year old to see people pretending to shoot up and have sex but this is New York and there's the Internet, and this is a losing battle... So I'm pretty sure if you're the right age for American Idiot, whatever that is, you'll have a pretty great time at this show.

But here's the thing. You won't have as great a time as me and kid did. Sorry to say, because the second encores after you see the show won't be Green Day coming out to perform "American Idiot" and "Basket Case," so powerfully that if you were up close, and the kid was in the front row by this time, it was almost as great as seeing the Clash. Sheesh, what a great band; power, melodies and brains. What more can you ask? Anyway, 12 year old Eve Rose Alterman took the photo here but for a while, the Times tried to steal the credit from the kid. Dad cleared that one up, youbetcha.

Sal on the new Peter Wolf:

It's only April, but I'm calling it. Peter Wolf's "Midnight Souvenirs" is my favorite album of the year. I decided that after the first song, the absolutely perfect first single, "Tragedy," sung with Shelby Lynne. Needless to say, the rest of the record turned out okay, too. I love this record.

What strikes me most about this new album is a quality that seems to be missing from so many records these days--songs. And "Midnight Souvenirs" isn't necessarily better than Wolf's last release, the now 7 year old and still amazing "Sleepless." It's just so much better than everything else, it's hard not to root for it. "Midnight Souvenirs" is filled with songs...with words and music and arrangements, you know, like it used to be.

If you get stuck repeatedly listening to the soulful and completely infectious opener, you will find songs dabbling in country & western, folk, funk, and some good old Stones-y rock and roll. There are two other duets on the record, one with Neko Case and the other with Merle Haggard. Good songs, but my least favorite on a record, that back in the day, may have spawned 5 hit singles.

I love this record. Did I say that?

Sal Nunziato



Hey Doc -- "Let us not bow our heads/for we won't be complaining/Life has been good to us all/even when that sky has been raining." -- Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "74 Miles Away" (Cannonball Adderley)

Hey, Arizona. You can't see my papers, but I'll sign anything you want testifying how much I love New Orleans.

Part The First: I would like to thank my fellow citizens, especially the conservative ones, for doing all they can in support of the marketing plan for the paperback edition, appearing--with special added idiocy!--in two weeks. But, dammit, the paperback's already out of date. To wit:

Part The Second: As soon as we're done laughing at the crazy chicken-lady in Nevada, let's all remember that, until that moment, she was better than even money to beat the incumbent majority leader of the United States Senate, and that--unless this turns out to be a macaca moment--she still may do it. Ho, ho, ho.

(By the way, if Ms. Lowden has her way, I'm really screwed. I don't have a barterable skill. What do I do? Tell the doctor if he takes the skin cancer off my face, I'll write him 3000 words on Dustin Pedroia?)

Part The Third: And then, there's Arizona, home of the Lost Dutchman Crazee Mine. First, there was the fact that the electorate is so unimpressed by John McCain's talent for throwing temper tantrums while simultaneously groveling for votes that it's made him even money to lose in a primary to a bag of dingy laundry like J. D. Hayworth. Now, the legislature has gone and passed the Conrad Veidt "Your-Papers-Are--In-Order-Yes?" Memorial Act of 2010, and there's a bill about birth certificates coming through the same pipeline as we speak. It's not the heat, it's the stupidity.

Part The Fourth: Meanwhile, down in Georgia, they took testimony in support of a law to keep the government from implanting microchips in the nether regions of its citizens. Then, perhaps to keep the phrase "vaginal-rectal area" from ever appearing in the legislative record again, the committee voted in favor of the ban. Anyway, thanks to you all again for promoting the book.

Part The Penultimate: Hey Lloyd, dude, I assure you that the hurt that the SEC's action will put on "America" is nothing compared to what most of underemployed, underinsured, undercapitalized "America" would like to do to you. Think anthills, the hot sun, and honey smeared in inconvenient places.

Part The Ultimate: Oh, Lord. The Parson Meacham's tenure at Newsweek continues to veer woozily between What Would Jesus Print? and barely disguised appeals for the lunatic Right not to show up on his lawn. This week, he sends Evan Thomas, the only living collector of John McCloy memorabilia, in search of the transcendent political power that is Governor Rick Perry of Texas. Read the piece closely and you will see in it everything that makes elite political journalism in this country unworthy of the implicit trust placed in it by First Amendment. It has become plain in recent months that Perry is a politician beloved of people who should not be trusted to cut their own meat, count their own money, or go out in public without keepers. There should be no serious dispute about this, not with Thomas writing this:

"President Obama, (Perry) says, "is hellbent on taking America towards a socialist country." That kind of catchy talk plays well with a certain--and growing--segment of the American population. According to a new Rasmussen Reports poll, 24 percent of U.S. voters now say they consider themselves to be part of the tea-party movement (up from 16 percent a month ago). According to a Harris Interactive poll, two thirds of Republicans believe Obama is a socialist, while 57 percent believe he is a Muslim, and almost one in four suspect he's the Antichrist."

That is a clinical description of politics that has utterly lost its mind. It is precisely the same as a political movement that states as its goal the elimination of the role played in American politics by arachnid aliens from the planet Zontar. This is the case whether or not the insanity is popular or not. This is the case whether or not it is politically successful. And a politician like Perry who chooses to align himself with it is worthy of nothing but scorn and ridicule. He certainly doesn't need some Beltway bigfoot massaging his ego with talk about how "crafty" he is, or how he has such "good timing." (John Kerry was a flip-flopper, remember? Rick Perry has "good timing." OK, whatever.) The whole piece is one of those phony anthropological studies of the Real America. ( I mean, honestly, "Shuck Donnell, general manager of Coyote Lake Feedyard in Muleshoe, Texas"? How'd they decide to quote him? On the basis of his first name? His company's name? Or the name of his hometown? It sure as hell wasn't on the merits of what he said.) If Rick Perry's ideas triumph in this country, it is because this country's politics have gone moronic, perhaps beyond all recall. Of course, if you say that, people will get mad and show up on the Parson's lawn, and we can't have that.

The Mail:

Name: Stephen Carver
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

I, too, will miss Bill Moyers. His journalistic integrity is intact, which is more than one can say about many journalists nearing the end of their careers. I can only hope that Moyers' production company releases more in-depth and complicated investigations and illustrations of Americana. He has had his hand on America's pulse for so long now, I hope he continues to doctor us.

As for "American Idiot," I hope you and the kid enjoy it. I think the album is brilliant and I recognized its inherent theatricality the instant I heard it. As a theatre director, I wish I had a hand in turning it into a piece of theatre, but I am just glad to know someone did. It will be interesting to see how Broadway audience react to it (I think they'll love it) and if it wins a Tony for Best Musical as it won a Grammy for Best Album.

Name: Merrill R. Frank
Hometown: Jackson Heights, NYC

When the Fox and Friends morning show team ponders the meaning of the Nuclear Security Initiative logo and sit around wondering if the is some sort of secret message encoded to the Muslim world you figure the cable news world or just Fox must of lost it's collective mind.


I know we can't expect much in the way of reasonable dialogue and analysis from a morning "news" team consisting of an ignorant Anita Bryant wannabe, a failed morning show host/weatherman and a sports guy who had his behind handed to him by Jannine Garofolo a few years back.

The Nuclear Security Initiative logo as well as the new Missile Defense agency logo which happened to be designed at the end of the Bush administration seem quite similar to the design of the late-90's to 2004 Oldsmobile logo.

Maybe the tinfoil hat brigade will see some sort of conspiracy there as well. GM bailout, Ike Turner Rocket 88, Werner Von Braun etc.

At least that "fake news guy" John Stewart had the sense to call out this idiocacy.


Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

Now, I come from that odd part of the populace that thinks Bruce is fine, Rosanne is better, her father was better still, but even ol' Johnny dallied too much with rock and roll. Which is why I would like to say a nice word for the singer of the original hit version of "Sea of Heartbreak," Don Gibson, who also was one of the best songwriters ever to wander down the pike. He wrote "Oh, Lonesome Me" and "I Can't Stop Loving You," both major hits in numerous fields of music, on the same day.

Friends sometimes wonder how a lefty can be a country music fan. As the Pulitzer Prize committee noticed in connection with Hank Williams, it's honest when it's done right (and not by so many around today claiming to be country singers), and so is liberalism. We never seem to notice that connection.

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