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Eric Alterman | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

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

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.

Alter-reviews:

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

www.burnwoodtonite.blogspot.com

CHARLES PIERCE NEWTON, MA.

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.

http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/201004140003

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.

http://mediamatters.org/blog/201004150001

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.

Million Dollar Duet

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.

I saw "Million Dollar Quartet" on Broadway last week. It was nice, fun, harmless entertainment appropriate both for children and for Japanese tourists. It does not hew terribly close to the historical record of the now famous meeting between Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, but it strikes me as pretty true to each one's personality and all the actors pull off their parts with humor and charm. I kept thinking it would be hell on the people who really knew these people since what you are seeing is surface impressions of them that are transposed to private behavior, where obviously we are all quite different. One person to whom I would not recommend it, for instance, would be the daughter of one of the principles, despite the respectful portrayal of said father. I happened to send a note to someone who happened to be such a daughter that night, thinking myself ahead of the curve for being so, and guess what I got back? A quick email saying "Bruce sang 'Sea of Heartbreak' with me in Durham. Thought you'd want to know..." Boy, who won that one, huh? (Scroll down to April 16). Still I'm recommending the show, so long as you're going in with managed expectations. Tonight I'm taking the kid to "American Idiot" on Broadway and I'll try to have something to say about it tomorrow.

One thing I won't be seeing, darn that dream, is this weekend's first ever Rascals reunion. I got this in the mail a few minutes ago: "RASCALS TO REUNITE AT KRISTEN ANN CARR FUND BENEFIT.

"Hall Of Fame members The Rascals will perform with all four original members for the first time in forty years at the Kristen Ann Carr benefit this Saturday April 24th at Robert DeNiro's restaurant Tribeca Grill in downtown Manhattan. For Stevie Van Zandt, who along with his wife Maureen is being honored at the annual fundraiser, it's a lifelong dream come true and the culmination of thirty years of discussions."

I love the Rascals and this is surely a good cause, but with things being what they are around The Nation, I don't have the spare $2500. Maybe you do. There's info here http://sarcoma.com/ (The Kristen Ann Carr Fund was founded in 1993 by Bruce Springsteen's co-manager Barbara Carr and her husband, Dave Marsh, after Sarcoma claimed the life of their daughter, 21-year-old Kristen Ann Carr. Honoring the life of this extraordinary young woman, The Fund has established a comprehensive sarcoma laboratory at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and provides sarcoma fellowships in both surgery and oncology at MSKCC and supports programs designed to help teenagers and young adults with cancer and other serious illnesses).

While I'm plugging good guy/old fart causes, I see that for their current tour, Carole King and James Taylor are selling seats onstage for their shows to benefit charities like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Alliance for the Wild Rockies. The tickets come with a bunch of extras and you can read all about it here www.ticketsforcharity.com. (I see Legacyrecordings.com has just released a two CD Essential Carole King compilation. The first side is her solo work, eighteen songs, (only four from Tapestry) and it includes something I got from Napster years ago, and had never seen before, which is a duet with JT on "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", "Some Kind of Wonderful", "Up on the Roof" and a second CD of the hits King wrote, mostly with her first husband, Gerry Goffin, for other people including the Drifters, the Everlys, the Righteous Brothers, the Monkees, Dustly Springfield, the Byrds and Billy Joel. I'd pretty much have to insist on it being a must have if all you have now is Tapestry. (If you don't have Tapestry, well, you'll have to get that too.)

Have you noticed that almost everyone is incompetent in their job lately? I feel like I spend 2/3 of my time doing stuff I shouldn't have to do if people did their job in the first place. Today's entry, in the "how hard is your job in the first place" sweepstakes is the email below from ABC World News with Diane Sawyer under the hed "Breaking News." Just what the hell is so important? Well as you can see from below, which includes the entire body of the email, absolutely nothing. Sheesh. And these neocon morons thought we could run Iraq...

"ABC World News with Diane Sawyer Breaking News from ABCNEWS.com:

Like ABCNews.com? Like Facebook? Check out our new integration here.

For more on this and other breaking news go to ABCNews.com:

World News with Diane Sawyer: watch weeknights on ABC. Connect with Diane:

On the go? Go to ABC News Mobile:

This week on Moyers:

The Internet has transformed business, politics, and culture - but will a corporate agenda kill freedom of the Web? With radio and television dominated by mega-corporations, more and more Americans have turned to the Internet for news - but a recent court ruling gives Big Telecom more control over broadband. Bill Moyers talks with FCC commissioner Michael Copps to discuss the future of 'net neutrality', the fight for more democratic media and the future of journalism in the digital age. And, as President Obama makes the case for strong financial reform, Bill Moyers sits down with veteran regulator William K. Black, who says Wall Street has already been breaking current rules.

The mail.

Name: Don Hynes

Hometown: Portland, OR

Hi Eric,

Your comments on CNN are spot on. What plagues me in this supposed "balanced" network and with the right side of the aisle in general is how little they really seem to care about anything.

There's a supersize helping of demagoguery with every Glenn Beck happy meal and many tearful rejoinders about "our country" in Congress as our governators happily endorse war and unlimited military spending while fighting to the teeth against helping their fellows get a break at the hospital when they need it most.

I'm not intending to stereotype here, because I do think Naomi Wolf has it right when she points to the Tea Party as evidence of a portion of the population waking up and not to be so easily mocked. But in listening to portentous conservatives like Bennett, Kristol, Palin et al, I really don't hear they give a rat's ass about anyone once you boil away the froth and that's an extremely troublesome message to our electorate.

I could go on but I put some thoughts together here under "Empire and Energy" that you might enjoy.

Name: Michael Green

Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

Has anyone noticed that the louder a news organization claims to be absolutely fair and balanced, the less fair and balanced it usually is? I don't think that Larry King having Bill Maher on a couple of times a year makes up for the conservatives and right-wingers constantly interviewed on CNN every day.

Name: T. O'Dell

Hometown: Port Angeles, WA

Hey now, I am Grateful for your continuing Dedication to the boys. I agree that the band as a whole was at their peak in the mid to late '70s (I went to the Springfield, MA show in spring '77 so I'll have to check out To Terapin thanks for the tip) but I can't help but think that Garcia's soloing reached new heights near the end. When I listen to "Victim" or "Crime" on Without a Net it makes me think: this is what Coltrane would do if he were a guitarist. All the more impressive for someone that taught himself how to play guitar again after a severe coma... He's Gone but will Not Fade Away.

The "C" is for "Craven"

Ive got a new "Think Again" column called "CNN Sells Itself Again (and Again)" here. You can guess what it's about.

This week on Moyers (and we note with considerable regret that this feature has only two weeks to go...) How did Big Finance grow so powerful that its hijinks nearly brought down the global economy - and what hope is there for real reform with Washington politicians on Wall Street's payroll? Bill Moyers talks with authors Simon Johnson and James Kwak, two of the nation's most respected economic experts and authors of the new book 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown. Also on the program, Bill Moyers talks with FCC commissioner Michael Copps about recent court decisions on net neutrality and media ownership rules.

Alter-reviews: Sal on Jeff Beck, Eric on new/old Dead:

As part of the British holy trinity of guitar players, a Jeff Beck, unlike Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, has never really tried hard to stay in the limelight. Content with fixing up his car collection, the occasional guest appearance, and brief touring when he needs money for some new hemis, Jeff Beck has released only 10 albums of new material since his most successful release, "Blow By Blow," 35 years ago. So a new record is an event, especially when it's as good as "Emotion & Commotion."

If you are a fan of Jeff Beck then his first record in seven years should not disappoint you. What had initially started as a classical record with an orchestra, has expanded to include a little of all that Jeff Beck has offered in the past, from blues to fusion to funk. What's most important is his playing, which seems to get more sublime with each passing year. "Emotion & Commotion" is musical, I will say that. It may not be what you want out of Jeff Beck, if you're still waiting for another "Beck-Ola," but it is never boring. The only Beck originals on the record, "Hammerhead" and "Serene, most resemble the material on the mid-seventies records "Blow By Blow" and "Wired." And songs you may think you don't need to hear again, like "I Put A Spell On You" and "Over The Rainbow," are so perfectly executed by Beck, they actually sound fresh. Guest vocalists Joss Stone and Imelda May are used sparingly and with great affect, as is the orchestra, particularly on the emotional one-two punch of "Lilac Wine" and "Nessun Dorma."

--Sal Nunziato

I'm writing this as I'm watching the DVD of the Dead's July 7, 1989 performance at JFK stadium, now like two members of the then band, now deceased. It's called "Crimson, White & Indigo" and it's a generous package, three CDs and an 176 minute dvd of the boys in tank tops and shorts, sweating it out in a zillion degrees. It's true that the band was in a renaissance period in '89 that lasted for a few years until Jerry's heroin addiction became unmanageable, though the liner notes oversell this. (The notes also spend a lot of time on other shows from this tour featuring songs that do not appear in this package, which is kind of annoying. (My favorite period is definitely the mid late seventies, which, I know, happens to coincide with my adolescence, but listen to the recent release of "To Terrapin" from Harford, 1977 if you think I am blowing proverbial pot smoke out of my posterior. In any case, this set is fine. I really love the "Lovelight/Knocking on Heaven's Door" combination that ends the show. But again, what can one say? Depends on what you have and what you need. They were a great band. All that bands that are almost as good as they were are missing that greatness thing that cannot be defined nor reproduced. They're in pretty fine form here despite the weather and Jerry, Bob and Mickey all have pony tails. You can see the set list here.

The Mail:

Name: George Farago

Hometown: Wayne, NJ

Your "Think Again" column, "Global Warming: You Don't Need a Weatherman" hits the nail right on the head. Recently even The Weather Channel presented Larry King-style "debates" between TV weathermen (not their own, oddly enough) with their weatherperson as moderator. So now even TWC has to be neutral on this "controversy" it seems. A couple of years ago TWC on-air personalities referred to warming in an "of course" manner. I wonder what has changed? Now The Discovery Channel shows things like the crop circle "controversy"...The Learning Channel features bride shows...& now, sadly, even The Weather Channel has to balance science with pseudoscience. The dumbing-down of America is accelerating.

Name: Tahira Ahma

Hometown: Detroit

The govenor of Virginia has made the mistake of being part of the lynch party mentality of the republican party.

Unfortunately we haven't seen nothing yet. What I like about your call for an economic and cultural boycott of Virginia is that it uses social "condemenation" to show Virginians the consequences of this disasterous act.

I disagree that the president should not appear in the state, though. He has to be the president of all the people, even the people of Virginia who do not like him or black people. The president has to still be above the republican agenda and for the sake of the people who do not agree with their govenor.

Slacker Friday

My new "Think Again" column is called, "Global Warming: You Don't Need a Weatherman" and it's here .

My new Nation column is called "Don't Cry for David Frum," and it's here.

I interviewed Garry Wills, one of my heroes, for the Brennan Center's new book site, "Just Books" about his new book, Bomb Power, here.

And I did a post Sunday night for Daily Beast about the future of the Supreme Court, here.

Here's Charles

CHARLES PIERCE NEWTON, MA.

Hey Doc:

"Just then, Luke The Rat from down below/called to Gunboat Bill/He said, 'Listen to them madmen wail."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Chocolate Cake" (Honey Island Swamp Band) -- OK, in an act of charity, and because I did so love "The Wire", I'm willing to admit that, with "Treme," David Simon loves New Orleans as much as I do.

Short Takes:

Part The First:

This is what journalists are supposed to take seriously because it appeals to the assembled dumbasses in our land, and we don't want to appear "elitist." Someone should write a book, I swear.

Part The Second:

What's the over/under on how soon this cluck appears on the Fox News Channel. A week? Two? These are the kind of people who may be running the Congress next November.

Part The Third:

OK here's the deal. It's time for African American athletes to stop playing for public universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It's time for the parents of African American high-school athletes to tell recruiters that their children will not be playing for public universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It's time for African American students generally to pass on the public universities of the Commonwealth of Virginia. And that's just the start. It's a time for a general, no-bullshit, vintage anti-apartheid boycott of the Commonwealth of Virginia until such time as the state's officials rescind this ahistorical celebration of treason, white supremacy, and anti-American bloodshed. This act was done solely, a) to appeal to the undying racist energy of the state's conservative voters, and b) to piss off the people whom the black-hearted reactionary governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia believes it is politically advantageous to piss off. It's also time for the incumbent president of the United States to decline to appear in the Commonwealth Of Virginia until further notice. It's time to make the Virginia's economy scream.

Part The Fourth:

No. Thank you for playing and we have some lovely parting gifts. It is the institution of the papacy--born of a misinterpretation of Scripture and some ancient political maneuvering and reinforced by that prince of idiots, Pius IX ramming the noxious doctrine of infallibility through Vatican I with half the world's bishops collapsing of heat exhaustion--that has to change, radically and permanently, preferably with an elected council of bishops hung upon the Chair of Peter the way Madison hung the Congress on the presidency. Either that, or the papacy has to fall. It is an untenable office, theologically and every other way.

Part The Penultimate:

Not to overreact, but the person who wrote this should have been fired on the spot. The editor who approved it for publication should have been next out the door--or the window, whichever one was closest. I don't know how often we have to hit these people over the head with this particular two-by-four, but it's worth pointing out again to these smug little twerps that: politics do not exist for your personal entertainment. It is not the job of politicians to bring a little sunshine into your drab little existences, or the sparkles into your pants, Rich Lowry notwithstanding. Yeesh.

Part The Ultimate:

There seems to be something of a scooby-dooby-doo building because the president of the United States essentially called the former half-term governor a blockhead on the subject of nuclear weapons policy, which is one of several thousand subjects on which the former half-term governor of Alaska is a demonstrable blockhead. This is roughly the equivalent of the president's pointing out that his dog is unqualified to fly the space shuttle. However, the various blockheads claiming this woman to be their queen are furious--and, yes, we're hearing again about how close Alaska is to Russia, even though this is now the "A guy walks into a bar with a duck on his head of political humor--and various nervous Democrats are worried that, by pointing out that the woman's an obvious blockhead, the president may be elevating her to his equal as a national leader.

Well, every poll I've ever seen shows that, almost universally, nobody wants this woman to be president. She has a very slim national constituency which does not become more significant simply because it's loud. She is a perfect rodeo clown with which to saddle the opposition. Make Newt (I Are Inteleckshual) Gingrich carry her around, or Pawlenty, or Romney, or any of the more serious jackasses. Make her what the Republican party made out of poor George McGovern all those years. And, for god's sake, don't worry about "elevating her status." Do what you can to make her the most important Republican in the universe. Then pop some corn and have some fun.

The Mail:

Name: Tom Delate

Hometown: Headwall, Colorado

Dr. E:

Thanks for the objective commentary on the Catholic Church's sexual abuse (ongoing) scandal. As a Catholic, my sense of the (ongoing) cover-up is that one of the primary drivers of its perpetration was the dwindling numbers of priests and their replacements. The Church had to retain as many priests as it could. Thus, it did everything in its power to keep them in the priesthood so as to not thin the ranks further. Simple maybe, but the laws of supply and demand work even in the religion business.

Name: Stephen Carver

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

"Crazy Jews, Continued" sounds like the name of a great punk band. Malcolm McLaren would be proud.

Crazy Jews, Continued

My new "Think Again" column is called, "Global Warming: You Don't Need a Weatherman" and it's here.

My new Nation column is called "Don't Cry for Me, David Frum," and it's here.

I interviewed Garry Wills, one of my heroes, for the Brennan Center's new book site, "Just Books" about his new book, Bomb Power, here.

And I did a post Sunday night for Daily Beast about the future of the Supreme Court, here.

Crazy Jews, continued. The craziness of one Martin L. Peretz, part owner and self-appointed editor of The New Republic is of continued interest to this blog alas. Usually we feel compelled to take it somewhat seriously, given the prestige that the magazine continues to enjoy among elites and some liberals, in our view, allows Peretz to legitimate his vile racism directed towards Arabs and his slander directed toward fellow Jews who do not share his prejudices and obsessions. Today, however we are pleased to report that they are just kind of funny, well, unless you work at The New Republic, I assume, because not only did Peretz call David Axlerod a "Jewboy," he did it twice and bragged about it the second time. I swear I am not making this up. Leave aside the craziness of the rest of his kvetches, seriously, what the hell kind of lunatic brags about calling someone a "Jewboy?" Words fail...

Anyway Peretz, that miserable little k**e, calls Axelrod a "Jewboy" here...

then quotes himself here.

For the naches he apparently thinks he deserves. (Eventually, someone of relative sanity at TNR heard about this and replaced the original blog "Jewboy" with "Jew." The cached original should be here. I'm not sure that's any better really. But I'll take back the "miserable little k**e" thing too. In the meantime, as Peretz apparently has no friends in the world to protect him from doing this kind of thing in public, perhaps Abe Foxman might wish to get on the case.)

In the meantime, as to the issue that Obama does not like Jews, here's from deep in Hymietown, is that noted Yid biographer of President Obama--I forget what his dayjob is--on the question:

"Take Obama's supposed indifference to Jews and the State of Israel. Among the many Chicagoans who are apt to find this idea hilarious is the one politician who has beaten him, Bobby Rush. In 2000, Obama, a bored member of the Illinois state senate, challenged Rush, a popular incumbent, for the seat in the state's First Congressional District, on the South Side. Rush, a former leader of the Black Panthers, viewed Obama as the creation of cynical white liberals--particularly Jewish liberals, who constituted, in his term, a "cabal."

As a rising politician with Ivy League connections, Obama had financial backing from all over, including from a class of young black entrepreneurs. But he has had Jewish mentors throughout his career. Philanthropists like Bettylu Saltzman, Penny Pritzker, and Lester Crown were crucial to his campaigns. His friend and neighbor the late Arnold Jacob Wolf was a rabbi. Michelle Obama's cousin Capers C. Funnye, Jr., is the first African-American member of the Chicago Board of Rabbis and the spiritual leader of Beth Shalom, a congregation on the South Side. One of Obama's closest colleagues in Springfield was Ira Silverstein, an Orthodox Jew, with whom he shared an office suite in the Capitol building; Obama acted as Silverstein's shabbos goy, turning on lights and pushing elevator buttons for him on Saturdays.

Obama's Jewish friends and supporters report that they were convinced of his ease among Jews and of his advocacy for a two-state solution, with an emphasis on justice for the Palestinians and on real security for the Israelis. Obama also listened carefully to the arguments of Palestinian friends, such as the historian Rashid Khalidi. And why not? Obama told fund-raising audiences that it was entirely possible to support Israel, even passionately, without endorsing the platform of Likud and the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. One of his mentors in Chicago, Abner Mikva, a former congressman, federal judge, and counsel to Bill Clinton, jokingly told the Chicago Jewish News during the campaign, "I think when this is all over, people are going to say that Barack Obama is the first Jewish president." O.K., not quite, but he did win seventy-eight per cent of the Jewish vote. Only African-Americans voted for him in higher numbers." Read more: here.

Oh and Commentary's blogger thinks Obama might be like Hitler, here and here for the original, just saying...

This week on Moyers.

How did award-winning author Louise Erdrich find her voice? Renowned for her mastery of multiple genres--including thirteen novels, poetry, children's literature, and a memoir of early motherhood--Erdrich discusses how her Native American heritage and unique cultural experience has impacted her life, motherhood, and work. Also on the program, Bill Moyers talks with history and international relations expert and former US Army Colonel Andrew J. Bacevich to discuss America's long war in Afghanistan. Respected across the political spectrum, Bacevich has contributed to The Nation, The American Conservative, Foreign Affairs, among others, and his latest book is The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.

The Mail:

Name: Kent Burnside
Hometown: Franklin, TN

Dear Eric,

Your "What Is Conservatism?" column was right on the mark. And the special call-out of Newt Gingrich was priceless, but you forgot another of his real stretchers: In the 1900s Susan Smith, the South Carolina housewife drowned her two children so as to be with her lover, Gingrich prophesied that the country would see more incidents like that unless a majority of Republicans were elected to Congress (which, sadly, they were in 1994, but that's another story).

Name: Paul-Andre Panon
Hometown: Vancouver, B.C.

Further on Pierce's skewering Douthat's claims Catholic sexual abuse being triggered by the sexual revolution promoted by liberals, it would be interesting to hear Douthat's explanation for how abuse in the Canadian Indian residential school system goes back to the 19th century. Or perhaps he thinks that abuse back then was limited to Canada, just as abuse in the '70s and '80s was limited to North America? Douthat is right about one thing, this scandal has come to light as a result of the liberalization of sexual mores and the secularization of society. Without those two factors enabling past victims to recount their tales with less fears of persecution or ostracization, this skeleton would still be safely in the closet and the list of victims would be continuing to grow.

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

We are seeing something with the Catholic Church right now that we are seeing in American politics, and it is bad for both: a willingness on the establishment's part to make excuses or just plain excuse the fringe. I am a non-Catholic, but I would be willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of priests are good and decent men who would never commit this kind of crime. But too many of them, from Big Ben (sorry to be disrespectful) on down, are too busy trying to protect their image to do what is more important: what is right.

Consider, in comparison, American politics. When Democrats are asked about the fringe left--and the fringe left is way out past Brother Alterman or Brother Pierce--we dismiss them. When Republicans are asked about the fringe right, they say nothing or condone it--as in John Boehner FIRST saying Democrats made people angry, then saying the racist, sexist, homophobic and hateful should come volunteer for his party. Then they attack Democrats when some nut job compares Bush with Hitler.

By the way, a theory: Boehner hates Obama because he wanted to be the first non-white president. Orange people deserve representation, too.

Name: Dave Richie
Hometown: Birmingham, AL

Charles Pierce,

Our red beanied leaders have mostly come from a generation even previous to mine. While at seminary from 1959-1961 as a very young and vulnerable seminarian I was exposed to (no pun intended) a group of very devout, holy men. It has been difficult to look back and try to discern any untoward behaviour. What I have concluded is that in those days there was a very good system in place to quash the revelation of such atrocities. We did not hear of it simply because, in those days neither the perpetrator nor the victim wanted or needed that kind of noteriety. God bless those who have come forth with their awful stories. Perhaps a few future victims will be spared.

As for Shithead O'Conner, the less said the better. As usual she spares little detail in describing her victimization at the hands of an awful mother. And, yes she was right to call attention to some very pertinent issues. She also contributed mightily to the general coursening of a dialogue which turned so many away who would have otherwise listened.

Pax vobiscum, dave Richie

Name: Don Hynes
Hometown: Portland, OR

Hey Charles,

The "banjo mass?" Next thing you'll be taking shots at Woodstock and the Holy Grail of Leary.

But all is forgiven. Your link to Sinead's oped in the WaPo takes a tidy wipe to that journal's growing iniquity and puts something back into language all the drivel coming out of the curia omits: love.

"And if there ever is gonna be healing There has to be remembering And then grieving So that there then can be forgiving There has to be knowledge and understanding"

You go girl!

Name: Frankus Brockerman
Hometown: Toms River, N.J.

Hey Eric,

While I fully appreciate all types of music, I have special affinity for jazz, but don't really know what the heck I'm "listening" to. I've read a lot of your reviews and comments through the years and feel as though I'm a bit underwater. Can you recommend some good "starter" songs, groups, bands, etc. to get me in the know? Maybe even a good book?

Thanks!

Eric replies: The New History of Jazz coauthored by Gary Giddins and Scott DeVeux is a great place to start and comes with a cd for close listening. They've also put together a companion box set of music they discuss here.

Slacker Friday

My new Think Again column, " What is Conservatism?" is here.

My Daily Beast piece, on Obama's drilling desires, is here.

Here's Charles:

CHARLES PIERCE
NEWTON, MA.

Hey Doc:

"And Rosemary on the gallows/she didn't even blink/The hangin' judge was sober/He hadn't had a drink."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: Narcotic Prayer (Chris Whitley) : You could lash me to a shiny new oil derrick in the distant Gulf Of Mexico, and I would still know New Orleans was there, and love it.

Part The First:

I would like to congratulate the Georgia state legislature for being not only morons, but also the most graceless public losers since Bob Knight quit coaching basketball. Let's see. So the bill passes. You're pissed. You ask the AG for a lawsuit. He looks at it, decides (rightly) that it's a waste of his time and the taxpayers' money. So your reply is...LET'S IMPEACH THE ATTORNEY GENERAL! And now, stepping up to the mic here on Blockhead Nite at the Chuckle Hut, let's hear it for Lt. Governor Andre (Speed Racer) Bauer of South Carolina. The last time we did this, we threw out the entire system of government and, Andre, you ain't James Madison. Pass. But, in general, geez, all of you go your your happy places. It's nap time.

Part The Second:

No, stop, you guys are killing me. I swear, the RNC is turning into the Second City of political operations. Really, quit it. I can't breathe.

Part The Third:

If Fred Hiatt had a conscience, this would bother it. A profession that can produce Jane Mayer can almost be forgiven for harboring Mark Thiessen.

Part The Fourth:

Hey, Nutsy Fagen. Knock it off, OK? And by the way, as a little dressing atop the endless word salad of Andrew (Time Magazine Thinks I'm Cool) Breitbart, I believe that Garry Trudeau's offer of $10,000 to anyone who saw George W. Bush doing his guard duty in Alabama is still on the table. Which, by your demented logic, would prove...

Part The Penultimate:

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Politically, this is as maladroit a move as I've seen these guys make. (And I wonder how my friends in Shishmaref, the barrier island in the Chukchi Sea that is being eaten away because of climate change, are going to take the notion that we're "studying" some leases in the Chukchi. It's like making a mugging victim pay for the knife.) As energy policy, though, it's not surprising. What we're seeing is a Nixon-In-Reverse. In between subverting the Constitution and regularly taking the rats in his skull out for a walk on audiotape, the Trickster also gave us the EPA. For all the increasingly noxious boilerplate about the "stale arguments of left and right," if you're a Democratic president who's going to try to sell us on "clean coal, " more nuclear plants, and oil platforms off Chesapeake Bay, then you've picked a side. And it's going to be very interesting to watch them try to do this fandango on Social Security one day.

Part The Ultimate:

At this point, it's just getting too easy with this guy, although, I have to admit, blaming the sexual scandal within Mother Church on the permissive culture of the 1970's is a rather new twist. (No ritual denunciation of the free-love 1960's? You know, the decade in which we all stopped humping on Saturday nights long enough to make it to the weekly banjo Mass? Ross, babe, you're slipping.) Look, laddybucks, an overwhelming number of these criminal bastards -- and almost all of the bureaucrats in the red beanies who enabled said crimes -- went to seminary in the 1950's, pre-Vatican II, when there was enough barely suppressed sexuality rumbling in the dormitories at night to light the Vatican every Christmas.

Also, consensual sex, you moron!

Jesus, man, it's The New York Times. Do better than this. Of course, the NYT could replace young Ross, or the WaPo ol' Thumbscrews Thiessen, with this promising rookie pundit. She should now be accepting apologies from the cowards at SNL--and from the morons who shortly thereafter booed her off the stage at Bob Dylan's 30th anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden. She was right. And she was right early, which is more important. And she'll always have my heart for the way she sings "She Came Through The Fair" on the soundtrack to Neil Jordan's Michael Collins. It was one of my grandmother's favorite songs. But I digress... And good for this guy. Sauce for the goose and all. Ball's in your court, il Papa. That's a figure of speech, by the way.

The Mail:

Name: Stephen Carver

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Regarding your Think Again column, I agree wholeheartedly that Republicans no longer have any moral authority to call themselves "conservative" when it comes to personal responsibility.

Nixon's Watergate fiasco started it when Ford pardoned him; it was furthered by Reagan's Iran/Contra scandal (and Abscam, etc.) during the eighties and continued right through the Bush years (both I and II) until it reached the point where W could actually break American law and get away with it.

I respect conservatives (my parents were both fiscal conservatives) and respect the concept of personal responsibility (I try to live it myself everyday). But the hypocrisy of the current crop of "conservatives" regarding personal responsibility is truly astounding.

You nailed it.

Name: C.L. Patterson

Hometown: Gary, Indiana

Sal Nunziato's post about the TAMI Show did not include a working link on where to buy it. This link would be very much appreciated.

I have been reading your blog since you were at MSNBC and just want to say, please keep up the great work!

Eric replies: You can buy it anywhere. It's in wide release...

Call Me Conservative, But...

My new Think Again column, "What is Conservatism?" is here.

My Daily Beast piece, on Obama's drilling desires, is here.

And if we must play this April Fools, game, my friends at Backstreets get my nomination for both breadth and humorth.

An aside that got cut out of my Daily Beast piece:

On his ABC News blog, Jake Tapper quotes "A White House official" explaining that "the president will also approve a lease sale in Alaska's Cook Inlet, while canceling another lease sale in Alaska's Bristol Bay because of environmental concerns. (Lease sales in Alaska's Chukchi and Beaufort Seas are essentially being suspended pending further scientific review.) The official says that 'To set America on a path to energy independence, the President believes we must leverage our diverse domestic resources by pursuing a comprehensive energy strategy.'" Excuse me but what the hell kind of journalism is that? Why does a reporter allow a source to go on background if all he is going to offer up is propaganda-style pabulum? If the "White House official" said, "Hey, there's an election coming and we need the oil and gas money. Did you see that Supreme Court decision on unlimited corporate spending?" Then maybe allowing him (or her) to speak anonymously might make sense. But this kind of thing ought to be embarrassing.

This Week on Moyers:

In the months before his death, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had expanded his focus on racial justice to include reducing economic inequality. Now, on this week's 42nd anniversary of King's assassination, Bill Moyers sits down with experts Bryan Stevenson and Michelle Alexander to discuss how far we've really come as a country, how poor and working class Americans have been falling behind and what America must do to fulfill Dr. King's vision. Stevenson is longtime advocate for social justice and human rights in the context of criminal justice and is on the faculty of NYU's School of Law. Alexander holds a joint appointment with Ohio State's Moritz College of Law and Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and is author of The New Jim Crow.

Alter-reviews:

The T.A.M.I. Show

There was nothing like it then and there has been nothing like it since. The T.A.M.I. Show, 1964's cavalcade of stars in concert and long sought after concert film, has finally been released in its entirety. I will go on record as saying, it is the greatest rock and roll film ever.

It's not because it contains James Brown's explosive and now legendary performance, or the show closing, but not necessarily show-stealing Rolling Stones. It's because director Steve Binder managed to bring out the fire in every one of the artists involved. You will find yourself cheering on everyone from Billy J. Kramer to Lesley Gore. I was particularly floored by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. They have become so ingrained in my memory, like every Motown artist, as just a singles band, I forgot they ever played live at all. Seeing Smokey in action, singing at times a bit too flat or a bit too sharp, blew my mind. And The Miracles, with their somewhat haphazard choreography, had the energy of The Ramones on this stage. Though JB's performance is the one everyone talks about, and for good reason, it was Smokey & the Miracles that made my jaw drop.

Still there is more. The Supremes, sleek and sexy, and Marvin Gaye, just as sleek and just as sexy, it's impossible not to get caught up in such rock and roll history. You will be applauding in your living room. Keep repeating, "It's only a movie. It's only a movie."

BUY THIS NOW.

British Invasion DVD box

On the surface, Voyage Media's new British Invasion DVD box set seems to be nothing more than a collection of previously available interviews and TV performances featuring what seems like 4 randomly chosen artists from the 60s. But if you dig a little deeper, or like me, just put one on, you will be hooked immediately. Nicely packaged and packed with music and video, this set contains so many great performances, it really doesn't matter if none of it is particularly groundbreaking.

The Small Faces and Dusty Springfield, as well as the fun, but not quite as interesting Gerry & The Pacemakers and Herman Hermits, each get a full DVD devoted to their beginnings and successes. The interviews with band members and people associated with the artists are pulled from all periods of time, and interspersed with the performances. Or, you have an option to just watch the performances. The Small Faces is of particular interest, as it features the very last interview with bassist Ronnie Lane.

If you don't want to shell out $60, the DVDs are available separately, and I would start with the Small Faces. But that's me. This set really surprised me. I expected nothing, really. I had a blast.

Sal Nunziato

The Mail:

Name: Michael Pizzo

Hometown: Norwich, Connecticut

On Blocking Unemployment, When the unemployment extension is finally passed on the return of The Senate from Vacation (OH, what's a vacation?) I wonder how many people will be left in the lurch of having to refile and find themselves disqualified because of some set of state rules where they did not work enough in the last 5 quarters? Or better yet will see the amount of the check that they receive cut in half or worse? This would be the same people who more than likely on top of getting pay cuts of 25 to 40 percent already. Now we are going to make them try to live on 40% less? Those facing the worst case of those scenarios are looking at a Paycheck of $400 a week getting $160 followed by now getting $92 a week! One can hardly wait for the new crime wave to begin.

Name: J.E. Bernecky

Hometown: Westover, PA

Re: the understated elegence of "What Liberal Media?"

Tobin Harshaw, in his latest NYT Opinionator, quotes Bruce Bartlett saying of David Frum: "Since he is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI 'scholars' on the subject of healthcare reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do."

Whatever else that means, it means that Nancy Pelosi, still hiding behind Bart Stupak's pants from both the Catholic Church (who'd give her laurels) and women's rights groups (who'd give her hell), needlessly sacrificed the best of her own, and that she did this not for nothing, now, but, as it turns out, in order to spare Republicans the need to do it.

Name: Michael Green

Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

Uh, Brother Pierce, I love ya, man, but when you insult Harry Reid, remember who got the health care bill through the Senate.

I also would slightly dispute the point about McCain. He never had the slightest bit of principle, and the media enjoyed him so much, they didn't bother delving into it. Consider that this is the guy who joked about how ugly Chelsea Clinton was when she was a kid, and denied it although it was on tape.

Slacker Friday Night

My new CAP column is called Think Again: Health Care Promises, Predictions, and Propaganda and it's here.

My Nation column is called Will ABC Let Amanpour be Amanpour and it's here.

And I did a really short Beast post on the passage of the healthcare bill here.

From the Huffpo Investigations Fund:

Heather Galeotti was hit by a car and rushed to the hospital, where she lay in a coma in the intensive care unit. Her health insurance company, Kaiser Permanente, told her family that she was covered through her father's group plan. But five months later, they received a letter from Kaiser. Her policy had been retroactively terminated and they owed more than $4 million in hospital bills.

It's a hole in the health care reform bill that was never discussed. The new bill bans retroactive decisions by insurers in policies sold to individuals, except in cases of fraud. However, as it stands the ban would not apply to group policies, such as the one held by the Galeotti family, which cover some 150 million Americans. Why? Because most experts think it can't happen. This case, reported for the first time at the Huffington Post Investigative Fund, shows that -- even in the group market -- people might be vulnerable.

This story came to the Huffington Post Investigative Fund through its citizen journalism project, which seeks to shed light on the inner workings of the insurance industry. Former and current employees at Kaiser responded to the Fund's online requests for help from insiders. Their tips led the Investigative Fund to identify the Galeotti family and obtain records of the case, including internal Kaiser e-mails.

Read more.

From CHARLES PIERCE

NEWTON, MA.

Hey Doc:

"You just sing about Jesus and drink wine all day/It's great to be an American."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Deuces Up, Double Down" (Breakestra) -- RIP, Marva Wright, Blues Queen of the city I love more than Eric Cantor loves being the Village idiot.

Abbreviated Slacker Friday post, On The Road With Limited Computer Access Edition -- Back in 1998, I wrote a piece about John McCain for Esquire. Now, 12 years later, I am witness to his final degradation as a serious public person. Granted, this has been a long time in the making, ever since wheneer it was that he decided he wanted to be president more than he wanted to be, well, sane. The 2008 campaign was an extended tour of the swamp wherein reside his various grudges, pretensions, and poisonous ill-will toward anyone who didn't recognize his Green Room-endowed right to run the country. He sold himself to all the people who'd immolated his well-loved 2000 campaign. He violated the campaign law that bore his name. He said that, in retrospect, he wouldn't have voted for the half-sensible immigration-reform law he'd proposed. Then, in his biggest bow to the Nervous Hospital that the base of his party had become, he picked an ambitious, half-bright goober from Alaska to run with him, made her a star to people who should not be trusted to cut their own meat, and then, when her innate clownishness had made her (and him) such a laughing stock that the Republican ticket lost in places like Indiana to a black man whose middle name was "Hussein," he sent his remaining loyalists out to emphasize (anonymously) that his running mate was even dumber than the rest of us imagined.

He then walked back to the Senate and engaged in a prolonged temper tantrum that culminated in his announcement last week that he was so insulted by health-care reform that he would hereafter decline to do his job any more -- a refutation of his old "Country First" slogan that was so obviously hilarious that even Harry Reid noticed. Meanwhile, back home, he was being primaried to within an inch of his life anyway by J.D. Hayworth, a former sportscaster who went on to a brief, Abramoff-enriched career as the dimmest bulb in the congressional chandelier. So, here I sit, today, in Arizona, and not eight miles from this computer. John McCain has flown in Sarah Palin to be the featured speaker at a rally that he hopes will push him to victory over a guy whom even all the other congressional dumbasses thought was a box of rocks. She's endorsing him but, at the rally, HE'S introducing her, and all I can think of is a paraphrase of the late, great Dr. Thompson's memorable vale to the cursed 1972 campaign;

"Jesus, how low do you have to stoop in this country if you want to almost be president?"

Name: Stephen Carver

Hometown: Los Angeles

Regarding your CAP article, the Republicans want nothing less than America to fail. Rush said it first and said it loudest, but that seems to be their strategy. They seem to believe that if we fail as a nation, then they can be seen as the knight in shining armor (which is how they still view Reagan) coming in to save the day and the country. HOW they would do this, what policies they will use, they never seem to have an answer for (except fewer taxes for rich people), but they WILL do it, by golly!

As for Wallace Shawn, the man is a brilliant playwright and humanitarian. He understands modern day motivations for some of the horrible things we do to each other and can portray them in sympathetic and incredibly funny ways. I've been a fan of his for many years now.

Predictions, Predictions

My new CAP column is called Think Again: Health Care Promises, Predictions, and Propaganda and it's here.

My Nation column is called "Will ABC Let Amanpour be Amanpour" and it's here.

And I did a really short Beast post on the passage of the health care bill here.

So today is the 99th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Unions are awfully weak these days, though not nearly weak enough for conservatives like Mickey Kaus and the Wall Street Journal editors, and most of the punditocracy. Among the promises that lay fallow on the floor of the White House Oval Office and the House and Senate Democratic caucuses are most of those made to the unions--card check being the most prominent of these--it's a good time to remember why we need unions and what kind of world we'd be living in without them.

Alter-reviews:

It was beautiful weather here last weekend here in the city, and I was walked back and forth to see movies at the Rendezvous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, now over alas, and listened to Wallace Shawn read his book of essays on my iPod on the way. You can read about it here. I kind of love Shawn as a playwright and an essayist, though I fundamentally disagree with his Noam Chomskyesque view of the world. Shawn has a human side that is lacking in most radical critics of US foreign policy and he makes the case against American power--in any form--in simple human terms that are refutable, though not easily. He is the perfect reader of his own work, though and if you either agree with Chomsky, or don't mind being lectured a bit in Chomskyite terms, this collection is a delight. I particularly loved his thoughts on friendship and on the "value" of theater.

I'm also happy to see that my friends at Concord are unveiling another new/old 24-bit remastering series of jazz classics following on the Rudy Van Gelder Remasters Series of classic Prestige recordings. What they're calling the "Original Jazz Classics Remasters" begins with:

Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz at Oberlin

Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section

Sonny Rollins: Way Out West

Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane

Joe Pass: Virtuoso

They all have plenty to recommend them (with new liner notes to help you appreciate why). If you bought the complete Monk/Coltrane sessions last time around, you don't need this one, as that was already remastered. The others are brand-new versions as far as I can tell. Sonny Rollin's Way Out West is the most essential of the bunch; a kind of breakthrough imagining of what a jazz album could be in its time. And the live Dave Brubeck album, recorded at Oberlin is interesting because it's pre Take Five and because it was one of the first jazz shows done on a college campus, though Oberlin was an obvious choice. Joe Pass' album Virtuouso is certainly well named, though an entire album of solo guitar demands more concentration that I can usually muster. Aside from that, however, you'd have to be mighty strange not to enjoy any one of these, and hey, they're awfully cheap. Read all about them here.

The Mail:

Name: Robert Carrick
Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO

As a recently retired high school principal and retired Marine LtCol I have to ask, "What parents?" Today that term rarely applies. I dealt with grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters and even foster parents. If I dealt with the actual biological parent it was more often than not a single mother working her butt off to keep what was left of the "family" afloat. In many cases the "parents" were as disfunctional as the kid if not more so. One student actually left his own home/family at 14 to seek refuge from the drugs and violence with friends. I was always amazed at the resiliency of the kids. They would get up, get dressed and come to school and do their best when, if I was in their shoes, I'd be running wild as a March hare. People have not a clue what schools deal with since most of it takes place behind closed doors protected by privacy acts. In almost all cases your heart would ache for not only the kid but, in many cases, for their parent(s) who loved them and were trying to do their very best against overwhelming social and economic odds. Finally, here's to all those loving and caring teachers who are there every day for those kids. God Bless them!

Name: Mike Dickenson
Hometown: Bluff City, TN

It would be nice if a national news program would compare our health plan against other ones.

I'm in my mid 50s and would like to retire one day. I played by their rules. I saved in my 401k even though I didn't know what I was doing on Wall Street. I couldn't tell which funds were good so I mainly stayed with index funds. My 401K is roughly the same size it was 10 years ago.

Even though I may have enough funds to retire modestly, I can't because I need health insurance. The only way to get that is keep working. My insurance has gotten more expensive over the years. I see people saying they love their insurance. If they lose their jobs, they don't see that insurance is virtually unaffordable for joe citizen. That's why it is so important to make private insurance affordable to anyone.

Name: K. Castro
Hometown: The Left Coast

Pierce's column on 3/18, specifically, musing on whether the "insurance companies would simply devise another plan by which they would deny coverage to those same people"...well, out here on the Left Coast in earthquake country, I can tell ya that's exactly what the property insurance drones did in the aftermath of the '94 Northridge Earthquake. We had full coverage on our house, which was virtually destroyed in that 6.7 magnitude rock 'n roller, and Allstate, bless their pointy little heads, just kept writing us checks for damages. However, in the aftermath, after talking up what at the time was the costliest natural disaster in our nations history (since eclipsed by Katrina, and the nightly explosion of Glenn Beck's head), to the tune of over $17 billion, the masters of the insurance universe took stock of their eroding situation, and decided that they had woefully underestimated just how much an earthquake might cost them should one occur in a hugely populated urban center with hundreds of freeway over-passes and tens of thousands of suburban homes.

First they cut deals with CA State Insurance Commissioner Chuch Quakenbush (yes folks, that was his name...), allowing them to avoid paying millions in fines for denying coverage. Old Quakenbush paid for this faux pas with his job, but somehow avoided prosecution: the idiot is now a deputy sheriff in Florida. Then, forbidden from simply dropping customers (by a quirk in state law that I can't quite recall), they turned around and made their product virtually unusable, by creating a labyrinthine checklist of deductibles. So instead of the $5K blanket deductible we had prior to the quake, which at the time paid for "full coverage," the insurance gods in their wisdom created thirty or so different deductible categories, outling damage to plumbing, electrical, windows, carpet, foundation, ed naseum, each carrying with them a hefty deductible, thus creating a scenario wherein the total amount of the deductible payments would therefore exceed the value of the house! How positively creative of them. Instead of admitting they didn't have a clue about how to provide adequate insurance coverage, they circled their wagons and stuck it to their policy holders, and many, like me, had to just drop the earthquake coverage, because it wasn't economically feasible to keep or use it. Tens of thousands like me did just the same. It will not surprise me in the least if health insurance companies do the same, because they are indeed, as Pierce cites, among "the greediest and most soulless bastards on the planet..."

Name: Maureen Holland
Hometown: South Venice Beach, FL

I know you wouldn't want the day to pass without one of us noting the wonderful news that today is the seventh birthday of Shock and Awe.

They grow up so fast.

Name: Steven Gabai
Hometown: Fair Lawn, NJ

Eric,

I always read the emails you get because your readers are an intelligent bunch. I only wish policy discussions in Washington were as thoughtful, enlightened and practical. But Thursday's emails made me laugh, out loud.

Charles Pierce got me going by calling Rep. King a "twit." I laughed again when I read what King called for and thought "yea, it's stuff like this that makes me proud to be an American." Mr. Pierce then described the POS health care bill as a POS, but noting that he'd vote for it anyway (I agree with him btw).

That said, after spending more then a year bumping into each other on one side, and angry chants of "death panels" coming from the other, to come away with a POS bill and then being forced to push that POS bill over the goal line--legislation that probably won't do much other then force insurance companies to find the smallest of loopholes in the finest of fine print--it struck me as the epitome of our illustrious government: "politicians always do the wrong thing for the wrong reasons."

And then I got down to Robert Moskowitz's email. I chuckled when he said, "In any battle of wits, the Right would basically be unarmed." Then he got me going when he said, "liberalism and leftist talk radio fails because...No one in the audience has much in the way of facts, information, and evidence to contribute. And almost no one in the audience gives a shit about any of that stuff, anyway..."

And then he almost had me on the floor when he said that right wing talk radio "has nothing whatever to do with facts, information, and evidence. The hosts don't care about that stuff, and neither does the audience. All those righties just...gas about whatever weird ideas get through their aluminum foil hats and rattle around in their heads. And the other righties love hearing about enemies, and victimization, and the coming apocalypses while waiting for their next turn to gas about their own crazy ideas."

I don't think Mr. Pierce or Mr. Moskowitz meant to be funny at all. They were serious. Cynical but serious. But for those of us smart enough to know what's going on in the country, it goes to show that our cynicism is all we have. And with the bar set so darn low, and pulled lower every day by the GOP, the tea baggers, the "aluminum foil hatters," the media and neanderthals like Sarah Palin, it can only make you laugh. And more cynical.

But without bold, honest, intelligent, progressive leadership, and what that void is doing to the country, it should make us on the left angry. Very angry.

Name: T. O'Dell
Hometown: Port Angeles, WA

With all due respect to Pierce, it takes 67 votes in the Senate to over-ride a veto. This smart guy over at Think Progress points out that if they won every single Democratic-held seat that's up in 2010, and held on to Ohio, New Hampshire, and Missouri the Republicans would be up to 59 Senators...

P.S. anyone who is as outraged as I by the miserably petty efforts of the Stupak block might want to contribute to his ouster by supporting his primary opponant. Just sayin.'

Name: Matt Shirley
Hometown: Ewa Beach, HI

On Ralph Nader and his "Obama is Uncle Tom" remark, I said this in 2008 and I will say it again, Ralph Nader...Undercover Brother. Who knew?

On illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank: this is one crazy idea for a Palestinian response. Please discuss if you think it's feasible. The two viable state solution is dead. AIPAC et al have fended us off long enough that the Israeli settler movement has managed to eat the cake that was supposed to be negotiated. Sadly, all that has happened seems to vindicate Christopher Hitchens' remarks on the problems with a State founded on one particular Religion's principles. My proposal will no doubt be painful to those still holding out hopes for the ideals of Zionism, but if the alternative is Jewish apartheid...

So maybe the Palestinians should try the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" (and vote the racist bastards out of office) strategy. Many have observed that a two state solution is essential to Israel retaining its character as a Jewish majority State. So the reasoning goes that current demographic trends will result in more Arab/Palestinians living in Israel and the Occupied Territories than Israeli Jews within 20 or so years. Perfect. The Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories should immediately drop any and all armed struggle plans, renounce any intent to form a separate Palestinian State, and demand their full civil rights as Israeli citizens. The Palestinian refugees living outside of the Israel and the Occupied Territories should similarly demand the right to return and become Israeli citizens. Then, everybody goes to the polls and elects so many Israeli-Arab members of the Knesset that no government could possibly be formed without including at least some of the Israeli- Arab Parties.

Because I'm a fair-minded, liberal idealist, I would also recommend that the new Israeli-Arab Parties run on the platform of abolishing government policies that favor one particular religion (i.e. Judaism), and turning Israel into another secular democracy with a separation of Church and State. That would certainly get them all the support the South African anti-apartheid movement was able to get, and make the moral issue on this REAL CLEAR if the current Israeli government tried to marginalize Israeli-Arab political power. I'd expect we could get some of our wealthy Arab allies to help pay for what will no doubt be a very expensive program of resettling returning Palestinians into decent communities.

Fundamentally, I think the appeal of this approach should be clear. After 60+ years of bloodshed that has left both parties poorer, brutalized and bitter, stop trying to out-fight the Israelis; out- breed them, out-vote them, and legislate out of existence Israel's most odious policies. You can even change the official name of the country to Palestine-Israel if you want.

OK, now you can tell me why I'm mishigas.

Eric replies: You payin' me?

Slacker Friday

My new Think Again column called "Mission Accomplished? Really?" and it's here. I also did a post about the "delusional left" and the health care bill for the Beast, here.

A few statistics:

(From Juan Cole)

Of all the income growth of the entire country of the United States in the Bush years, the richest 1 percent of the working population, about 1.3 million persons, grabbed up over two-thirds of it.

From 1999 to 2009 health insurance premiums increased 132 percent for the companies paying most of the costs of coverage to their employees.

Average private health insurance premiums for a family of four in 1999 were US$5,485 per annum or 7.2 percent of household disposable income. 2008 premiums were estimated at US$12,973 per annum or 14.8 percent of average household disposable income.

By Bush's last year in office, food insecurity among American families was at a 14-year high. About 49 million Americans, one in six of us, worried about having enough food to eat at some points in that year, and resorted to soup lines, food stamps, or dietary shortcuts. Some 16 million, according to the NYT, suffered from '"very low food security," meaning lack of money forced members to skip meals, cut portions or otherwise forgo food at some point in the year.'

(From Eric Eckholm in the New York Times)

In the recession, the nation's poverty rate climbed to 13.2 percent last year, up from 12.5 percent in 2007, according to an annual report released Thursday by the Census Bureau. The report also documented a decline in employer-provided health insurance and in coverage for adults.

The bureau said 39.8 million residents last year lived below the poverty line, defined as an income of $22,025 for a family of four. In another sign of both the recession and the long-term stagnation of middle-class wages, median family incomes in 2008 fell to $50,300, compared with $52,200 the year before. This wiped out the income gains of the previous three years, the report said. Adjusted for inflation, in fact, median family incomes were lower in 2008 than a decade earlier

Continuing an eight-year trend, the number of people with private or employer-sponsored insurance declined, while the number of people relying on government insurance programs including Medicare, Medicaid, the children's insurance program and military insurance rose.

Now read this story:

But many of the nearly 1,200 workers who process some 1.4 billion gallons of New York City sewage every day say they can handle those indignities. What disgusts them, what has tested sobriety, credit ratings and marriages more than any stubborn stench, is the fact that their salaries have not budged, in some cases for as long as 15 years... Sewage-treatment workers earn an average of about $42,000 a year, a figure unchanged since 2001. Los Angeles pays a starting salary of $71,000 for similar work.

This is a pretty easy thing to joke about, but it's really not funny. We live in a society whose distributive priorities are just plain impossible to defend. And a big part of the reason for the crazy noise you hear coming out of Fox and talk radio is to avoid addressing that fact.

The mail:

Name: Frankus Brockerman

Hometown: Toms River, N.J.

Re: Pat Healy's comment about parents being the biggest problem in K- 12 education.

I totally agree. However, how do we go about fixing that? The biggest issue is: who teaches parents how to be parents? No one. They copy what their parents did, who copied what their parents did who copied....and the sins of the father are begotten upon the son.

We hear all the time about how poorly parents are raising their children, yet we do nothing about it. Then again, I can only imagine the howl of protest if it were suggested we teach parenting in school, yet that's exactly what we should do.

School should not just be about Cassiodorus' liberal arts anymore. An updated and expanded concept of what education is is needed. Memorizing facts and figures and trying to cram as much of that into their heads belongs in the Middle Ages. As a college instructor, I see first hand, young adults who cannot put a sentence together and have no concept of rational, critical thought and analysis, or what making $35,000 a year actually means.

What does it mean to be "educated" in 2010? Can we have places of learning that teach how to balance a checkbook, have a full-time job, raise a family, and see all the similarities between the U.S. and the Roman Empire, all at the same time?

Name: J.E. Bernecky

Hometown: Westover, PA

Re: Charles Pierce's 3-18-10 "Part the Third," concerning the promise of Goodwin Liu.

What would Pierce do if Liu, as a member of the Supreme Court, were more liberal (more appreciative of claims of injustices made by those imprisoned at Guantanamo) than Pierce, or Matthew Duss ("Attack of the Cheneys"), or even President Obama himself had imagined?

What if it's the case that those imprisoned in Guantanamo (or others like them, who experienced extreme rendition) were kidnapped? What if the fact that they were kidnapped--kidnapping being a crime punishable by death--is the only reason that none of those individuals (all of them being spoils of war, their internment providing justification for jobs-training programs, etc.) is the only reason they were never brought into the US to begin with?

Name: Paul-Andre Panon

Hometown: Vancouver, B.C.

Sorry Eric but it looks like the link I provided in my comment got broken on its way to the printers yesterday. Perhaps some auto-formatting gone awry.

The below is a letter that was published in The New York Times Book Review

March 14, 2010

LETTERS

Illegitimate Politics To the Editor: In his review of Ken Gormley's "Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr" (Feb. 21), Richard Berke slips a major historical distortion into an other wise fair-minded piece. Berke writes: "In retrospect, it is tempting to see the Clinton impeachment as having ushered in the feral reality of politics today. . . . In reality, the case belongs on the continuum that began with the toppling of Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court, continued through the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill fracas and was followed by the contested 2000 election."

In other words, the Democrats are to blame for the ugliness of recent years -- the Clinton impeachment; the thuggish mob atmosphere during the attempted Florida recount; the poisonous, violent rhetoric of some of the recent Tea Party protests -- all of them Republican or conservative phenomena.

Here Berke is lazily accepting what is little more than a Republican political talking point devoid of any real historical substance. Of the 151 nominations between this nation's founding and the present, 28 nominations, nearly 20 percent, have been rejected, withdrawn or postponed in the face of opposition. The Senate's responsibility for exercising "advice and consent" on Supreme Court nominees is a constitutionally mandated responsibility and one it has always exercised. Some nomination fights (like Bork's) have hinged on ideological conflicts, as was the case when Republicans in the Senate mounted a filibuster to prevent the liberal Abe Fortas from becoming chief justice. Other fights (like Thomas's) have centered on the lack of judicial qualifications, as was the case with Clement Hayns worth, whom Nixon named to replace Fortas on the court. To suggest, as Berke does, that the Bork nomination was an unprecedented event that led naturally to the Clinton impeachment is a plain historical falsehood.

The Clinton impeachment was a tear in the national social contract, something closer to a coup d'etat, an attempt to unseat an elected president and, as Berke correctly points out, an event that almost certainly cost Al Gore the 2000 election. It represented something entirely different and troubling: the denial, on the part of one-half of the country, of the essential legitimacy of the other half to hold power, even if it does so with a clear majority. Despite the very real doubts about the justice and accuracy of the 2000 presidential election, Democrats, starting with a statesmanlike Al Gore, never questioned George W. Bush's right to govern, and while deploring many of his policies never challenged his right to pursue his legislative agenda. The current wave of right-wing populism -- the "birthers," the modern-day secessionists, the Tea Partiers who espouse "nullification" (the right to disregard and oppose, even with violence, laws they consider unconstitutional), the conspiracy theorists who insist that President Obama is plotting to destroy the American system (a belief Republicans have done much to foment and little to discourage) -- are based on that same fundamental denial of the legitimacy of elected leaders with whom they disagree.

ALEXANDER STILLE

New York

The writer is the San Paolo professor of international journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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