Well-chosen words on music, movies and politics, with the occasional special guest.
Wrapup: I did two columns about the Skip Gates affair this week, God help me. The first one is my "Think Again column." It's called "Why Does BarackObama Hate America? (Hint: Blame ACORN)" and it'shere.
Then there's my Nation column, which is called, "Class, not 'Race,' withwhich I imagine most Nation readers will strongly disagree and that'shere.That's all for now. Here's Pierce, et al:
"My door knob keeps on turnin', must be spooks around my bed/Ihave a warm, old feelin', and the hair risin' on my head.
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Standin' In Your Stuff" (ZigaboMudslide)--You know, I was born in Worcester, Massachusetts--and I can proveit!--but it's New Orleans that I love.
Part The First: Let's all not get too giddy with this. The only reasons some of the clowns are distancing themselves from some of the other clowns in the little red car is that this stuff isn't working. Yet. I guarantee you, if this nonsense ever starts showing a little traction, and I think it's no longer a shot than 60-40 that it will, these people will be furrowing their brows as best they can--Coulter seems to be having her Botox applied by the Borglum family these days--and "cover the controversy." And, if it doesn't, it will be a regular talking-point about how these Very Serious People are so Very Different from the mouthbreathing wing of their party. Call me Kreskin.
Part The Second: With Parson Meacham in charge, you can apparentlysell Newsweek anything. I look forward to my next trip to NYC so I can see how the aluminum siding onthe building looks.
Part The Third: I think we need a few more earnest, serious paneldiscussions among elite journalists about what a force this clown is in our national politics. Also; "merciless rivers"?
Part The Fourth: The cats 'n kittens at Ye Olde House Of Mulch ForBrains started off the week strongly, didn't they? Hey, dudes. The birther nonsense is exactly no different in its essential crackpottery from a lot of what those around the GOP leadership like to call "position papers." Also, sorry. You've been cheated. You can't buy the Brooklynbridge. Someone sold it to Meacham last week. Just ask him.
Part The Last: Hey. CNN? Why is this race-baiting homunculus even on contract?
After the political and moral catastrophe that was the Schiavocircus -- which you can read about in at least one book I know of, BTW -- I thought the one thing that conservatives and/or Republicans would decline ever to do was screw around with end-of-life issues again.Turns out Iwas wrong. Now, we are hearing that the evil Obama health-care sonderkommando is going to be prowling the landscape, seeking out Grandmas to kill. As someone with too intimate a knowledge of Alzheimer's Disease -- wherein these issues come to something of a fine point -- can I just say that thesefolks have combined the political wisdom of a tackhammer with the moral sensitivity of a Gaboon viper. I honestly hope at least one of them has the indescribably horrible experience of finding out just what a viciously inhumane ethical cipher you have to be to try and score points with thisargument. Some people just suck.
Name: Steve Milligan
Hometown: Colorado Springs CO
I think your analysis is spot on in that class would be a much more empowering lens to view many of these types of events than race. As you have said before, even affirmative action would be more palatable if it were class based rather than race based, and it would end up helping the same people. The problem is that the right wing, assisted by the MSM, have turned any attempt at a class analysis into a toxic venture. Joan Walsh mentioned it the other night on TV, and Chris Matthews referred to it as a "Marxist" analysis. The only time class can be mentioned on the MSM is in the context of asking the upper one percent of income earners to pay a bit more in taxes. Then it's "class" warfare. The invective hurled in race based discussions turns them into futile endeavors. Martin Luther King had similar ideas at the end of his life. That was before his pacifism and social justice orientation were extirpated and he was put on the window of McDonalds and honored in Armed Forces breakfasts.
Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
Dr. A., I am a Nation reader who doesn't disagree with your take, though I would like to add to it.
Consider the criticisms of President Obama. Would any of those critics say of a white president that he dislikes black people? I don't even recall African American critics saying that Ronald Reagan, whose civil rights policies were designed to turn the clock back to sometime before the Civil War, actually hated blacks.
So, what if it had been a black officer and a white homeowner? Or some other configuration of races? Would we have a different debate?
Also, I share your admiration for Professor Gates. But when his response is that he will do a documentary on this subject, he unfortunately ends up looking like someone out for publicity, or even with a chip on his shoulder. Truthfully, if the right-wing and mainstream media (and the twain too often meets) weren't so eager to make Obama look bad, they would have spent more time focusing on Gates.
Name: Merrill R. Frank
Hometown: Gates, law enforcement and the rights reaction
Will someone have the sense to please call out the same folks (Rush etc.) who spent a better part of the 1990's weaving an anti- government narrative and chanting the mantra Ruby Ridge, Waco, Elian Gonzalez with visions of "ATF Jack Booted thugs", UN blue helmets on US soil and black helicopters in their heads. Now all of a sudden they are law enforcement's best buds when it comes to a stupid misunderstanding at an esteemed college professor's home. Obviously the bashing of college professors (See-Horowitz, David) especially the Ivy League variety and so-called elites was always a part of their narrative as well.
Re: Paul. No comment, except I love him forever. There's good rockin' at 67.
Re: Doo Wah Diddy Diddy. I'm glad this works for rock-loving people. I hated it the minute I heard it, and I was there the first time around.
Rock can be many things; fun, profound, exciting. It can cause epiphanies and change in the world. Or it can be stupid, as in above song. I once nearly came to blows with a grocery clerk who wanted to credit Van Morrison with that song as it played over the MUZAK. My favorite thing about rock has always been the sense of freedom and exhiliration it brings me. But I promise I never wish to claim Doo Wah Diddy Diddy as a memorable such two minutes. I think it's worse than Obla Di, Obla Da, and there are not many fans of that particular Beatles' song. Yuck.
Nobody's perfect, Eric, but you nearly are.
Name: Becky Martz
Hometown: Cambridge, MA
I miss the Altercation book club, so I would like to recommend a book I'm reading. The book is The Great War for Civilization, by Robert Fisk. The subtitle is The Conquest of the Middle East.
Robert Fisk is a British journalist who's based in Beirut and has been covering wars in the Middle East for several decades. He is one of the few western journalists to interview Osama bin Laden.
I haven't finished the book yet (I'm only 400 pages in and the book is over 1,000 pages long) but I feel that an alternative subtitle could be "Everything you really wanted to know about the Middle East since 1979 but you were afraid (very afraid) to ask."
Fisk pulls no punches. He is willing to hold everyone accountable for their deeds (Russians, Afghans, Americans, Brits, Iraqis, Iranians, Israelis, Palestinians etc)
He opens with his initial meeting of bin Laden (long before the man was considered a terrorist) and then moves on to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the Iranian revolution and the Iran Iraq war.
He attended press conferences of the powers-that-be and can tell you exactly how Ayatollah Khomeini or Saddam Hussein looked at a particular moment--his gift for description of characters is Dickensian. But the book is not confined to press conferences held by politicians. He also quotes the men and women in the bazaars and the militant parties involved in conflicts be they Palestinians, Russian soldiers, Afghans, Iranians or Israelis.
The result is that it's clear that all parties have blood on their hands but yet all parties are humanized. And it's also clear that while there is blood on the hands of all parties some parties have their fingers on the scales when "peace" is discussed.
He also has some great, heart-in-mouth stories to tell (some of them even turn out well--one of them is even funny) combined with a history of western involvement in the Middle East stretching back to World War I.
I strongly recommend this book for Altercators. I would be curious what Bob Bateman's assessment of the book is, given his position as military historian and as a man who has actually served in the Middle East.
Wrapup: I did two columns about the Skip Gates affair this week, God help me. The first one is my "Think Again column." It's called "Why Does BarackObama Hate America? (Hint: Blame ACORN)" and it'shere.
Then there's my Nation column, which is called, "Class, not 'Race,' withwhich I imagine most Nation readers will strongly disagree and that'shere.That's all for now.
This week on Moyers:With almost twenty years inside the health insurance industry, WendellPotter saw for-profit insurers hijack our healthcare system and putprofits before patients. Now, he speaks with Bill Moyers about how thosecompanies are standing in the way of health care reform. Potter spokeout against the industry for the first time last month, testifyingbefore the Senate Commerce Committee he said, "Recently it becameabundantly clear to me that the industry's charm offensive, which is themost visible part of a duplicitous and well-financed PR and lobbyingcampaign, may well shape reform in a way that benefits Wall Street farmore than average Americans." Wendell Potter is a senior fellow onhealth care for the nonpartisan watchdog group Center for Media andDemocracy, for which he writes a blog on health care reform.
David Bowie, Storytellers by Sal:
The premise of VH-1's Storytellers was to get an artist to spill thebeans about the genesis of his most popular songs, and maybe give apointer or two about the songwriting process. Who better than DavidBowie then, an artist I have been a huge fan of since Ziggy Stardustfound its way into my bedroom and scared the crap out of my mother in1972, and whose lyrics consistently make little to no sense...to me. Onthis CD/DVD release, you get the episode as it aired, as well as 4 bonustracks that didn't. Inexplicably, those 4 tracks are only tagged ontothe DVD. (Super annoying.)
Musically, it's fine, with Bowie and his band performing almost acousticversions of songs, that really were just part of his current tour's setlist, as opposed to songs that may have benefited from the backgroundthe show was there to offer. Bowie's storytelling is a bit camp, anddoesn't really address the songs and their content so much as it justillustrates what may have gone on around the time of the writing. So thecrazy lyrics of "Drive In Saturday" get little explanation, but Bowiedoes inform us that it was written for Mott The Hoople as a follow-up to"All The Young Dudes." Mott turned it down, and Bowie overreacted byshaving off his eyebrows. I guess that's a cool enough story.
Sal Nunziato, BURNING WOOD
Name: Walter Crockett
Hometown: Worcester, Mass.
I think this glorification of Walter Cronkite has gone a bit overboard. It's very much like glorifying Dwight D. Eisenhower because he wasn't as utterly stupid, ignorant and craven as the major Republicans who came after him.
Sure, Eisenhower deserves some credit for having a brain and some principles, but he was no great president and Cronkite was no great newsman. He was a middle-of-the-road TV journalist who for much of his career had no compunctions about reflexively siding with government and entrenched power. He was not a muckraker. He did not risk his career for the truth, though he was willing at times -- particularly after he retired -- to point out inconvenient truths.
That Cronkite and Eisenhower have come to be seen as profiles in courage and role models is a sign of how far to the right our country has drifted in 40 years.
Today, any stand on principle from a Republican politician or any sign of scruples from a TV journalist is cause for celebration. I'll celebrate too, that there's still a sliver of hope left in this world, but we really ought to demand more.
Name: Ed Tracey
Hometown: Lebanon, New Hampshire
Professor, only one item that I could add to your comprehensive "Health-Care Wimps" essay, about why Democrats shouldn't be living in fear of 1994.
1994 represented the forty-year mark of Democratic control of at least one of the two houses of Congress (and often both). And so the burgeoning talk-radio ensemble could legitimately raise the time-for-a-change banner. It's easy to blame Bill Clinton for having it happen on his watch, but the seeds of 1994 had been planted much earlier.
But today? What the Democrats paid for after forty years, the GOP blew in only twelve years (and I believe would have happened sooner but for 9-11). The general public has a dim view of the GOP, something the Blue Dogs cannot - or will not - recognize.
Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC
I do think Health Care legislation in some form will pass but let's for a second think about what if it does not. The media and the right will go crazy, blaming it on Obama and saying it is a massive failure to the president. And maybe they are right.
But it is 2009. Almost anyone with any sense will admit that the health care system needs to be fixed. Democrats control the presidency, and have large majorities in both the House and the Senate - so if Health Care legislation cannot pass, what does it say about the current state of American politics?
Think back to the Bush Administration, when they had political capital and were intent on spending it. What major legislation did they pass? They cut some taxes, passed a bankruptcy bill to help the credit card companies, but otherwise, they accomplished little in terms of a domestic agenda.
The question that needs to be addressed is why is so little being done, despite both parties having opportunities in recent years to push through an agenda where the opposing party can do and say little to stop it. What are these politicians doing?
Obama campaigned on change, and came in with a monumental to-do list. The thought was because of the favorable numbers in Congress, much of Obama's plans would pass quickly. As a liberal, I was excited, because I was certain these ideas would ultimately improve our country, and possibly cause many to realize that the standard GOP attacks against liberals were nothing more than words.
But here we are -- the president wants to pass health care, Ted Kennedy and many other prominent democrats want to pass health care, and it needs to get done. And yet Congress drags its feet. Is it all because of special interest groups having too much power and enough clout to stop anything that would mean real change? We are seeing it with health care and as well with financial oversight.
Is it a lack of political courage on the part of many politicians on both sides of the aisle -- afraid to put their names to something that would alter the status quo. Sure it might work, but what if it doesn't?
Regardless of political affiliation, I find most people I know simply frustrated with politics because more so than at any time I can remember, so little seems to get done. It is particularly glaring right now when we all know so much needs to be accomplished (and I am not talking about the Senate holding hearings on the merits of the BCS).
Hopefully I am proven wrong, and a meaningful health care bill gets passed in the Fall. If not, it will be a blow to the President, but more so, it will be another black mark on all who serve in Congress, calling into question their loyalties -- is it to the country or simply to political gain/coverage.
Name: Robert Carrick
Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO
Your recent "Think Again" article on "Why Not The Best" merely highlights an issue you took up once before: the right wing "noise machine." Recently retired, I do a fair amount of channel surfing and viewing various blogs and the message that anyone, dems or otherwise, are trying to get out about the facts behind the need for health care reform are being drowned out by this noise machine. As his sliding popularity shows Obama is losing the war of words. He has not been able to effectively counter the lies coming from the republicans and their media coharts. Have we surrendered to the likes of Beck, O'Reilly and Limbaugh? Where is the push back? Where are the facts that you highlighted? Where is the outrage? A recent visit to the ER by my daughter (dehydrated to a dangerous level by intestinal flu plus nursing a new born) saw her receive two liters of fluids and some anti- nausea medicine. The bill was $7,900 or about 15% her total salary! She had insurance and paid only $100 but it highlighted the plight of those not insured. One illness like that and you are bankrupt. Sorry, to take your time or that of your staff but it is sickening to see what is happening...I'm sick of seeing non stop Republicans spewing on various TV/cable shows with no effective counter point! Sooner or later that lie oft repeated is going to be embraced by those listening as the truth and that is happening right now!
Name: Mike Nolan
Hometown: Frankfort, KY
Lt. Col. Batemen has usually been a marvelous source of good information on all matters military, but in September 2008 he accused Glenn Greenwald of "twisting history" in regard to the permanent stationing of an Army brigade in the U.S. to help deal with civil unrest. Now that the Cheney plan to subvert both federal laws and the Constitution by using Army troops to arrest U.S. citizens has come to light, perhaps Col. Batemen will revise his criticism of Mr. Greenwald. Even an apology would not be out of order.
Name: Meryl Wheeler
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Regarding perfection in pop singles, I think "Gloria" qualifies too. So, apparently, did a bunch of Austin musicians who played it for 24 hours straight when the Liberty Lunch closed. Van Morrison even called in. http://www.texasmonthly.com/2009-08-01/webextra7.php.
Name: Beth Harrison
Hometown: Arlington, VA
Eric, please pass on my compliments to Mr. Charles Pierce. His appearance on Countdown on Thursday, July 23 was absolutely fabulous, smacking the birthers back under the rocks where they belong.
Paul McCartney is playing Fedex Field in August, but hubbie and I won't be going -- we are loathe to put any money in Daniel Snyder's (Redskins owner) pocket. Washington DC has its share of lousy team owners (save Ted Leonsis), but Snyder has got to be one of the worst owners in the NFL.
Name: Jim Hassinger
Hometown: Glendale, CA
Hey, I just wanted to give a big yessirree bob to Mr. Pierce for his excellent appearance on Countdown of Thursday night. The host kept trying to get you to jump on the birthers for being nuts, and the G.O.P. for trying to spread it, and you brought up the uncomfortable truth -- that number one for transmitting bad memes is none other than the "mainstream" media. Yay! The truth.
Name: Victor Winograd
Hometown: New York City
Dr A- Substitute "You Can't Sit Down" by the immortal Dovells for the bubble-gummy banality "Double Shot of My Baby's Love" on your list of two minute r&r miracles and I'll follow you anywhere!
Name: Timothy Barrett
Hometown: Louisville, Ky
President Obama took to the pressroom to defend healthcare reform by alleging that it will not add to the ten-year deficit forecast, but reduce it by up to 30%. The press focused all its questions, but one, on healthcare. The chattering MSM later focused all their attention on the one non-healthcare question Obama answered. What did he think about the alleged racial profiling case at Cambridge?
Dr. Henry Louis Gates, a notable black scholar, was arrested after a neighbor called police when he saw a two men go into Gates' house after some difficulty with the door. Dr. Gates was likely miffed at being questioned in his own house. He might have been rude, too. The office allegedly ignored him and proceeded to the door. Dr. Gates followed him. The officer arrested him for public disturbance, a rather flimsy claim to make in Dr. Gates' own home.
Obama answered the question from his heart. Oops. He was a little miffed at the idea of a brother getting arrested in his own home for complaining about racial profiling. He called the officer's actions "stupid". Oh, my.
Obama is right. Regardless of the propriety of Dr. Gates' profiling assertion, the officer should have apologized for the inconvenience and offered Dr. Gates his superior's name as well. That's the least he could do. Dr. Gates would likely have dropped it or only made a single call to the superior. Arresting Dr. Gates was a sure fire way to make a mess of everything and it was stupid. But it is possible the officer was a little miffed at being questioned about his motives by a black man. Or maybe he was just having a bad day and took it out on this angry black man following him to the door. I'm pretty sure, whatever the officer was thinking, it would have been different if Dr. Gates were white.
But Dr. Gates and President Obama, two respected figures in America, are both black. They have, I am convinced, been treated disrespectfully at times because they are black. If you have every had to endure such attention from someone because they have leverage over you, you fear they may be violent, or you feel outnumbered, you know what it is like to later feel that sickening mix of shame, anger and deep sadness, while you ponder all the ways you wish that things had been different.
What if you had somehow gotten an upper hand, avoided the situation altogether, or wielded any number of fantasy powers you might imagine to combat that winking recognition that your opponent knows he's hurt you. Now, imagine that these occurrences, which you and I can count on one hand in our experience, but have never forgotten, happen once every year to us, once every month, or even once a week. They don't have to be big, like being arrested in your own home, they can be small, like a clerk ignoring you for too long, following just you in a store filled with customers, or simply not being as happy to see you. Might that experience affect you?
Obama shed his cool over this one. Many talking heads called him on it. Limbaugh-types revisited the "angry black man" meme, others accuse him of not respecting law enforcement, and still more of stereotyping white officers. I think that some of these people feel no empathy or have little respect for President Obama. They either feel, or want to make voters feel, that he is not one of us; that his experience is not valid and his response in this case is itself racist.
I think all of us assume things about a person based on our experience with people who look or act like him, sometimes wrongly and sometimes rightly. This is not racism, it's adaptation and it has aided our survival through evolution. However, in modern society it can hurt the person we stereotype. Perhaps this is what the officer and Dr. Gates were both experiencing. Racism is assuming a person has derogatory attributes, is undeserving of respect, or shouldn't have equal rights and opportunity, based solely on skin color or ethnicity. It's a socialized belief system that some races are inferior. The edges of these learned behaviors are blurry. Both are regretful, but only racism can be eradicated through awareness and education. But you have to recognize it first.
Wrapup: I've got a new "Think Again" column on healthcare reportingcalled "Why Not the Best?" here.
On the Beast, I did this post on the Democrats and their fear of 1994,here.
Alter-reviews: Paul McCartney at Citi Field:
I was among the fortunate many to see Paul McCartney open up Citi Fieldfor concerts last Friday. It was largely pleasurable, though notintensely so. Here's the thing about Paul. His live shows add nothingto the studio recordings; they are note-for note recreations of thestudio versions of both his Beatle songs and his solo work. He evensings the nonsense at the end of "Hey Jude" exactly the same way he didthirty years ago on the record. It's fun to hear Beatles songs inconcert but it's almost as much fun to hear them at home. And Paul'slater work, well, forgive me, but I don't get it. I am a (rare) fan ofthe early solo work, at least McCartney, Band on the Run and Venus and Mars, with bits and pieces of some of the rest. For me the nicest surprise of the show were the five songs from Band on the Run. (Aside: It's amazing how good the Beatles all were solo, in the very beginning.They broke up quite near their respective peaks.) But one has to endureso much schlock to see McCartney. I've never met the man, but he playssuch a doofus on stage, that I can only bear it once every ten or soyears. As I said, I was glad I did it. Are there any better songs than"Drive My Car"--the opener, or "Day Tripper," etc.? Is there a bettersingalong song than "Sergeant Pepper?" And Billy Joel came out for "ISaw Her Standing There" which (together with "Do Wah Diddy Diddy," "DoYa Love Me," and "Double Shot of My Baby's Love,") gets my vote for themost perfect two minutes of rock 'n' roll ever recorded. So it was worththe time and effort; but just once a decade.
If I had more time, I'd go on and on about what a great guy FrankMcCourt was. He was certainly the greatest storyteller I've ever met andfun and decent, and generous, etc, but everybody else has already saidthat about him and most of them knew him far better than I. I dorecommend downloading Terri Gross's podcast interview with him fromFresh Air. I never met Walter Cronkite, so I've nothing to add beyondthe general lamentation of how far we've fallen from the example hetried to set. Here's Pierce.
"Somebody's out to get your lady/A few of your buddies they surelook shady."
WWOZ "Crescent City Morning" (Swanson And The Wiseowl)--OK, youin the front row. I think I've made it clear how much I love New Orleans.
Part The First: Call me inattentive--"Hey, you're inattentive!"Thank you--but I think that a whole bunch of somebodies in the nationalnews portions of my electric television set should have made a biggerdeal out of the fact that one of our most important states pretty muchdemonstrated this week that it has rendered itself ungovernable. I could argue that these somebodies also should have pointed out that this happened as a perfect demonstration of the governing philosophy driving the conservative movement for forty years, and because everybody thought it would be cute to have a juiced-up clown elected governor, but I expect no miracles.
Part The Second: Imagine the bidding war that must have broken outover the rights to this upcoming classic of intellectual exploration. The full might of the Regnery empire against all the voices in Mary Matalin's head. Strong men wept, I'm sure.
Part The Third: The people who are defending the way we do healthcare in this country--which I decline to call a "system," since it clearly isn't, any more than a soccer riot is--should be aware thatthis is what they're defending. And Lawrence O'Donnell? I know Max Baucus is your old pal from your days on the Finance Committee, but he's bought and paid for in this fight and you know it. And, not for nothing, it hasn't been that hard for a Democrat to get elected in Montana for a while now.
Part The Fourth: Yeah, yeah. Go get him, Chris. And some of us may have forgotten how you fell for every Roswelliantale about the Clintons, and even added your own little embellishment where necessary. Yeah, go, Chris. You fake.
Part The Fifth: Remember that, even though Everybody knows thecountry has some racial problems, we've come so very far, we, whitepeople, and when something happens to remind us that, maybe, we haven't, thatIt's Never About Race.
Back in the day, when I was a full-time professional sportswriter,and I saw a really bad team, I could call them a really bad team. I couldsay that the team had no chance of winning a championship any time soonbecause their players were manifestly incompetent, their manager a half-brightdrunk, and their front-office staff a collection of blockheads thatshouldn't be entrusted with a two-car funeral. Nobody would come up tome later and point out that I was required to present another side to thisquestion, or that I should take the team in question seriously simplybecause it was a major-league team. Which leads me to this question:
Why does the elite political media take the Republican Party, as itis currently constituted, seriously as a national political party?
I mean, honest to god, here's the chairman--allying himself and his party with a know-nothing who's already been dismissed by Meghan McCain (!) as a dumbass. Here's a perfectly ordinaryand banal congresscritter encountering the base in his homestate. Here's the party's idea of sensible talk on the federal budget. Here's the party's congressional leadership on the most pressing domestic issue of the day. You can't hardly find a Republican leader these days who isn't a hypocrite, a crackpot, or deeply in thrall to its bizarre broadcast auxiliary. And down at the grassroots, of course, things get even loonier. Less than 30 percent in most polls even identify with the party any more. The president's numbers may be on the slide, and the congressional majority may be feckless, but nobody'slooking for leadership to a talk-radio freakshow that seems to be composedentirely these days of a series of circulated e-mails. This party is certainly no nuttier than the libertarians are, and far less fun than the Hemp peopleare. If I'd written about, say, the Cleveland (61-101) Indians in Augustof 1987 as though the team were a serious pennant contender, I'd have beenfired before I got back to the hotel. And yet, there they were onCharlie Rose: serious political pundits, talking seriously about what a powerSarah Palin is in the Republican party without any of them pointing out thatthe very fact that she is a power is prima facie evidence that the party isa festival for fruitcakes. Strange. Why the Democratic party is so afraidof these people is even stranger.
Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
I am one of many who grew up watching the only daily television newsI could get, and I got it from Walter Cronkite. Watching him, andtrying to understand Eric Sevareid--I was 12 when Sevareid retired,so while he could be obtuse at times, in my case it was also being achild--made me a news junkie. Thus, I mourn Cronkite's death, but Irealize that what he was doing died a long time ago.
Proof of which is a Time online poll asking who is now the mosttrusted anchor in America. The totals the three network anchorsreceived, combined, matched the winner ... Jon Stewart. And that gotme to thinking.
Stewart is more trustworthy than Williams, Gibson and Couric puttogether. When they deliver the news, what do they tell us about thebackground and the reality? They simply put on Dick Cheney sayingBarack Obama is endangering the country. Stewart puts on clips ofCheney and his allies attacking Democrats for daring to question thepresident in time of war. Yes, Stewart also puts on "fake news." Butit comes out more real than the real news.
It also takes me back to David Halberstam's wonderful account in ThePowers That Be of how Murrey Marder of The Washington Post insistedin his reports on telling the truth about Joe McCarthy's lies, ratherthan just serving as a stenographer. The mainstream media consistentirely too much of stenographers, which helps explain why aMcCarthyistic vice-president gained so much power in the past eightyears (and the occasional email to Mark Sanford), and why theirsimplistic publication of Republican lies does so much damage to thiscountry today.
Eric adds: Powers That Be, Halberstam's last really good book in myopinion, has just been reissued in this nice edition by the University of Illinois Press
Wrapup: I've got a new "Think Again" column on healthcare reporting called "Why Not the Best?" here.
On the Beast, I did this post on the Democrats and their fear of 1994, here.
National Security Archive Update, July 17, 2009
And I didn't do anything about it, but I'm concerned about this:
Pentagon classification authorities are treating classified historical documents as if they contain today's secrets, rather than decades-old information that has not been secret for y ears. Today the National Security Archive posted multiple versions of the same documents--on issues ranging from the 1973 October War to a nti-ballistic missiles, strategic arms control, and U.S. policy toward C hina--that are already declassified and in the public domain. What earlier declassification reviewers released in full, sometimes years ago, Pentagon reviewers have more recently excised, sometimes massively. The overclassification highlighted by these examples poses a major problem t hat should be addressed by the ongoing review of national security information policy that President Obama ordered on May 27, 2009. New presumptions against classification that may be added to an executive order on national security information will not, in isolation, end overclassification. Rigorous oversight, accompanied by improved training a nd consequences for improper classification are essential."
Alter-reviews: Sal on the new Ian Hunter and volume two of Matthew Sweet and Susannah Hoff's "Under the Covers."
Ian Hunter: Man Overboard
I was 10 years old in 1974 and on one miserable and unpleasant afternoon, I was followed home from school by three 7th graders who wanted to beat the crap out of me because they saw me purchase The Hoople, Mott The Hoople's then current album, in Golden Disc, the record store on Bleecker Street, right across from my grammar school. For the entire walk, they threw cans, rocks, and sticks, but mostly kept chanting "Homo!" Wasn't easy being a 10 year old Ian Hunter fan in 1974 Greenwich Village. I thankfully didn't get beat up, but more importantly, the record made it home unscathed. I didn't care about my skull. Just don't touch the record. While that doesn't say much about Man Overboard, the brand new release from Ian Hunter, it does illustrate how long I've been a fan, and just what I would endure to hear something new from Hunter and the boys.
Onto the new record. Few artists have kept my interest so solidly for so long as Ian Hunter. One reason is that he doesn't have any truly bad records. Another, is his graceful transition from glam artist, to 80s pop star, to 90s recluse, to respected singer-songwriter. Man Overboard is the third release in 8 years from Ian and a core group of NY musicians known as the Rant Band and it could be the strongest yet.
"Arms & Legs" is a beautiful, upbeat love song with a killer chorus, and the opener, "The Great Escape" would not sound out of place on "Big Pink." But where Hunter really shines, as he always has, is on the ballads. "Girl From The Office" sounds like a lost Keith track from "Between The Buttons. "The title track is a heartbreaker reminiscent of Hunter's autobiographical powerhouses such as "Hymn For The Dudes" and "Saturday Gigs." There really isn't a bad cut on the record. Not bad for a rocker who is 70 years young.
Under the Covers, 2
Like Charlie & Ira Louvin, Phil & Don Everly and most recently the unrelated Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs' voices blend together so well, it's hard to tell where one voice begins and the other ends. Someone, if not Sweet & Hoffs themselves, must have realized this at some point, making their collaborating inevitable.
Under the Sid N Susie moniker, power pop darlings Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs started recording their favorite songs of the 60s and the end result was the 2006 release, Under The Covers Vol.1, a fun collection of songs by artists such as The Byrds, The Mamas & The Papas, The Beach Boys, The Zombies and more. It wasn't amazing. There were no radical reworkings. No reggae-influenced arrangements of "The Warmth Of The Sun." It was straightforward and it worked.
Now, the kids are back with Under The Covers Volume 2, and for me, this hits the ball out of the park. Again, Sid N Susie are not trying to impress the listener with new and exciting ways to screw up all of our favorite songs by changing words, melodies or arrangements. What they DO do is perfectly translate their love of this music with heartfelt renditions that plain and simply sound good. This time, the set list plays like your favorite radio station, circa 1975. Songs by Yes, Bread, Raspberries, Derek & The Dominoes, TWO by Todd Rundgren, as well as the Grateful Dead and George Harrison, all sound exactly as you remember them, with Steve Howe even providing the guitar solo on "I've Seen All Good People." You can see a full track list here, as well as hear audio of the Yes track.
There is a download only bonus disc that I highly recommend, as well. Here Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs let go a bit further and tackle "Marquee Moon," "Killer Queen" and an absolutely wonderful version of the Allmans' "Melissa."
Name: David K. Richie
Hometown: Birmingham, AL
M r. Charles Pierce,
Thank you for taking our church to task for the shameless way it has i nsinuated itself into our bedrooms and the halls of political power.
The reason poverty is not something the church backs up with a uthority is a direct result of the accountability to which the church knows it must respond for over population. This also refers to your comment about the pee-pee principle.
When we began walking upright it made some sense to have babies in mass quantities. I have no doubt that there was a perceived and logical message to go forth and multiply. But for the sake of J.H. Christ, we've done that. We are good at it. I have to believe that a merciful and just Almighty is looking down and screaming, "ENOUGH ALREADY!!"
T he pressure we are putting on each other and our resources demands that the church revisit this Byzantine political policy. Think it will happen anytime soon? Any takers? Hello? Hello?
Name: Chuckie Fitzhugh
As a fellow non-practicing-yet-still-wanting-to-have-some-faith-in-my- church Papist, I couldn't agree more with Pierce's comments on the Vatican's positions (or more importantly the conviction of those positions) regarding poverty, pre-emptive war, and the Death Penalty. I was recently dismissed from Jury Duty on a death-penalty potential case because because of my very faith and my Catholic upbringing in a jurisdiction (Maricopa County) where the needing-a-bodyguard-at-all-times elected District Attorney wins alongside a corrupt sheriff every single election, by incredibly large margins. A District A ttorney who ran in large part on the proclamation that our State didn't make enough use of the Death Penalty. I guarantee that our District Attorney enjoyed the majority vote of practicing, faithful Catholics (right alongside every other demographic in this wonderful town). What's more, when I explained why I was dismissed to fellow call-themself-Catholics, these people couldn't believe that our hared faith would cause me to believe I didn't have the right to v ote to put someone to death, mostly because this putting-to-death was of a "criminal". Where in His teachings did Jesus say "Do Not K ill", unless the person killed someone or is a very bad person?? How c an these same people carry the pro-life banner??
Furthermore, when did one single parish priest deliver a homily about he evils of pre-emptive war while we were "liberating" Iraq, or t orturing combatants of that war, or delivering those prisoners to foreign nations so they could conduct our torture for us? How about taking the time to even educate the "flock" about the concepts of just and un-just war??
Instead, we get lectures about the evils of contraception--and a whole bunch of posturing about who is and who isn't going to allow what national politician to receive the Eucharist, based on that politician's political party's stance on decided law. It's a completely ridiculous attempt to get their name in the news--to make themself a story. A position of responsibility and leadership within he Church I grew up in should be about educating and speaking out against what is wrong, no matter how unpopular. While I don't disagree with my Church's position on their one primary issue, I u nderstand there are other people in our great country that have d iffering views, and that those views receive as much consideration as mine. My suggestion--Do more to explain your position in a c oherent, consistent, logical point of view --and ensure that you yourself are not a hypocrite. Join the Innocence Project and speak out just as loudly against the injustices of the Death Penalty; a bandon the political party that blames the poor for being poor--become a freakin' Indep if the Democratic party is too progressive f or your taste. I believe that Rome will only change if local Catholic communities change, and that will not happen until people r ecognize that there is more than one type of injustice in the world.
Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC
Over the weekend, I was reading all the stories about Walter Cronkite. What grabbed my attention in particular was his reputation a nd how a country believed in a person delivering the news. And I could not help but think is there one person today in the media, whether on TV or in print, that this country truly believes in? Is there anyone who could deliver a report on a war, the way Cronkite did on Vietnam, that could play a such an important role in forming o pinions of people?
The answer is no. And while there are many reasons for that, the one that really grabbed me was it is really the fault of the Republican P arty. At some point the Republicans decided that instead of answering questions from the press, and instead of dealing with tough questions, they would rather just attack those who question them. On a nything. Why answer a question about there being no evidence of WMDs in Iraq when you can just attack those who dare to question you.
Their constant attacks against the press caused many people not to believe what it is they were seeing or reading; and then in knee-jerk r eaction, it caused many in the press to bend over backwards to show hey are being fair to the conservatives. Almost any story you read r see today is framed from the conservative side of the argument, even if the story itself is about the Democrats.
Healthcare? How many stories do I have to read/see asking about is t he plan socialist medicine, when anyone with a brain can see that he GOP attacks are simple soundbites backed up with zero substance. W here are the stories and the questions for Republicans asking them where was their plan for fixing health care when they had the power, when they had political capital they wanted to spend? Where are the se stories just reporting the facts and doing actual reporting on what the different health care proposals mean, instead of just spitting back more tired quotes from another irate Republican.
And that is the problem--not only has the persistent conservative attacks on the press poised the media's reputation among c onservatives, but it has caused liberals like myself to not trust t he media either. With the passing of Walter Cronkite, it is just another reminder of how far the press has fallen, and how the tactics the GOP employ are geared solely for their own benefit without any possible concern for the greater impact on the country as a whole.
Name: Victor Winograd
Hometown: New York City
RE: The demise of WBCN: As one who was an occasional victim of Laquidara's annoying wake-up calls I can only say: Farewell morning Mishigas, Adios Bruce Springsteen, Adieu Cosmic Muffin, and RIP quality commercial rock radio. May WBCN join WMMR and WNEW in Big M attress heaven.
Name: Timothy Barrett
Hometown: Louisville, Ky
In 2008, 20 young boys died playing football: 12 year- old heart related; 13 year-old heart related; 13 year-old enlarged heart; 15 year-old head injury subdural hematoma; 15 year-old collision lacerated liver; 15 year-old congenital heart failure; 15 year-old heat stroke; 16 year-old collision unknown; 16 year-old tackling b rain injury; 16 year-old tackling subdural hematoma; 16 year-old hypertrophic cardiomyopathy; 16 year old heat exhaustion; 16 year old tackling brain injury; 17 year-old hyponatremia; 17 year-old heat related; 17 year-old heart related; 17 year-old tackling subdural h ematoma; 18 year-old heat related; 19 year- old dysrhythmia; 22 year-old heat stroke.
According to the Annual Survey of Football Injury Research, 1318 high school and college players have died from playing football since 1931, about 17 kids a year on average. Another study has shown that minor chest wall impacts (i.e., sports ball impact over heart) have resulted in 70 documented youth deaths since it was first described in 1978 (7 year old T-ball player). The Consumer Products Safety Commission reported that between 1984 and 1998, there have been 69 youth deaths in baseball, 63 in football, 26 in horseback riding, 26 i n basketball and 25 in soccer.
In my community, a high school coach, the principle and the school d istrict have been served in a lawsuit for wrongful death after a 15 year old boy died a few days after suffering heat exhaustion on the f ootball field. The complaint is that the players practiced in 95 degree heat in full gear, weren't afforded the appropriate number of water breaks, were told that they would continue a running drill until someone quit (and was cut from the team), and that all of these actors contributed to the boy's collapse and death from heat stroke. The coach was recently indicted for negligent homicide (manslaughter) related to his conduct in this incident. Needless to say, the c ommunity is split between those who support this popular coach and hose who think this death was avoidable and that the attitude that inning is everything contributed to the coach's alleged negligence.
I haven't fully formed my opinion of what all this means. Obviously, s ports injuries are common and some deaths will occur. Some of these injuries and deaths were likely avoidable with proper training and supervision. Safety has been a top priority in youth sports my entire life. I played many sports as a child and have coached, and continue to coach, my son's teams in T-ball, soccer, basketball, and b aseball. I love working with the kids to build confidence, self-r eliance, coordination and good sportsmanship. I think team sports are essential to a well-rounded person who learns that individual achievement is mostly a product of other peoples' contributions. I explore any "winning is everything" approach; for me, contributing s everything. Win or lose, we all win. Maybe I think some things are just worth the risk; or that a really safe life isn't really worth living.
Wrap-up: I've got a new Think Again column called "The end ofLocal reporting," here.
For the Daily Beast this week, I did a piece on "Cheney's ShadowGovernment" here and "Sonia's Kabuki Confirmation" here.
And my regular Moment column, is called "Should We Settle forSettlements--or Peace?" and that's here.
"Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime/
Once I built a tower, now it's done/Brother, can you spare a dime?"
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Didn't He Ramble?" (Louis Ford) -- I do more than emphasize with New Orleans. I simply love it.
Part The First: I will venture way out on the limb and say that the Washington Post committed an act of consumer fraud here.
She didn't write this and I decline to pretend that she did, even though the lack of a thought process is clearly hers. I hate these things in general, but coming from someone who can't get from a subject to a verb without spraining her ankle, this fakery is unusually egregious.
Part The Second: Your tax-dollars at work. That collection of horse's-ass co-sponsors alone is enough to make you wonder if this legislation is, in fact, locking the barn after the centaur has been stolen.
Part The Third: Another important cable TV barrier fell this week. Luckily, this space has obtained an early copy of this week's edition of Reliable Sources, in which Howie Kurtz and the gang discuss this breakthrough in the national dialogue.
Part The Fourth: One of the great regrets I have about my career writing sports is that I never got to Wimbledon. Now I see that I missed a lot of great sporting events.
Part The Last: I can't tell you what an immense cultural shock this is. A huge part of my misspent youth, now gone. As a tribute, I give you the very first song they played when the format changed 41 years ago.
In my duties as Interim Altercation Papist Correspondent, it's incumbent upon me to pick what's left of the meat off the bones of this peculiar carcass, which has been eviscerated across the Blogistan over the past few days. I think my favorite part of it--other than the implicit "I dare you to bring up the molestation scandal. I double dare you!' subtext of the whole enterprise, that is--is the concluding passage, the "kicker" as we former tabloid columnists used to call it:
"These questions, and many others like them, are the kind that a healthy political system would allow voters and politicians to explore. But for now, at least, you're more likely to find them being raised in Benedict XVI's Vatican than in Barack Obama's Washington."
And people say that conservatives have no sense of humor. The Vatican of the former Josef Ratzinger as a festival of free thought? Leave aside the fact that all of the questions mentioned are cheap strawmen-- "Why can't a liberal be tall and, at the same time, lefthanded? Why not, indeed?"--this is written in praise of the man whom the late pope put in charge of knuckling dissenting theologians, and they both were positively gleeful about it. These two reactionaries ran Charles Curran out of Catholic University all the way to Southern Methodist University, which is a considerable distance, geographically and every other way. They beat up Hans Kung until he looked like Gerry Cooney at the end of the fight with Holmes.
There is a reason why nobody takes the Vatican seriously on the issues of poverty, pre-emptive war and the death penalty. It's because the Vatican never puts any muscle behind its pronouncements on issues like that. The folks in and around the Chair of Peter take out the big hammer on only two general issues -- their own power, and where people put their pee-pees and with whom, and what might issue from same. That's why Catholic bankers can go on merrily charging interest on loans, even though both the Council of Nicaea and the Third Lateran Council -- to say nothing of Popes Clement V and Sixtus X -- condemned the practice as usury, which has been considered a serious sin for a lot longer than has, say, contraception. And, in something of a royal irony, the practice was roundly condemned again in the papal encyclical Vix Pervenit,which was issued in 1745 by...wait for it...Pope Benedict XIV.
If it were otherwise, Michael Novak and the CrisisMagazine crowd would have been run out of the Church for their opinions on war and the social contract as surely as Kung was for taking an axe to the doctrine of papal infallibility, or Curran was for taking on Humanae Vitae. Hell, just on general principles, that loon, Richard John Neuhaus, would have been booted as far as poor Teilhard de Chardin was. For a columnist in the New York Times to propose that the principal architect of so much of this repressive nonsense is now to be looked upon as a champion of revolutionary theological and philosophical inquiry -- or, most laughably, as an example of some vague new political paradigm -- is proof only that some folks really need to get out more.
Name: Guillermo A. Partida
Hometown: Duarte, CA
Desi's last name is spelled Arnaz. Once again you have shamed my people.
Eric, You should look at the lineup for the Hardy, Strictly Bluegrass Festival early this October in San Francisco. I'm going for my 3rd year, Lord-willing. The Knitters are coming. The Chieftains, Flatlanders, Marty Stuart, Jorma Kaukonen, and Mavis Staples are also on the list. Many, many more excellent choices. Emmylou is always frosting on this cake. So many great bands, so little time. I fell in love with The Knitters when I saw them year before last. Love it.
Also, I shall bastardize Shaw to say, "If the Beethoven oxygen burns up your little lungs, you may seek such stuffiness as suits you." As grandma used to say when we did not prefer something exquisite, "all the more for me." I'm with Ludwig.
Hometown: Los Angeles
I first came across Mark Karan when I was doing the promotion for Delaney Bramlett's award winning CD, "A New Kind Of Blues" in 2008. Delaney told me point blank that Mark Karan had to be from some other planet judging by the way he played..
Mark Karan's new CD is nothing but GOOD. Hearing the duet with Delaney was just like having Delaney with us again.
Name: Dominic Umile
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
While you're sifting through the Yep Roc roster, don't forget to pick up some of the work from sorely missed Philly act The Bigger Lovers. Their 'Honey in the Hive' is an absolute gem -- think sparkling guitar tones and warm vocal harmonies weaved into blasts of early Who-styled pop. TBL's bassist now plays with another fine PA outfit called Missing Palmer West. I'm recommending them as well, and it's not just because my brother's in the band. On an unrelated note, why is Pat Buchanan still given a 23-hour-a-day forum on a supposedly left-leaning cable network? Yuck.
Wrap-up: I've got a new Think Again column called "The end ofLocal reporting," here.
For the Daily Beast this week, I did a piece on "Cheney's ShadowGovernment" here and "Sonia's Kabuki Confirmation" here.
And my regular Moment column, is called "Should We Settle forSettlements--or Peace?" and that's here.
Also, my I.F. Stone column of last month also led to the followingexchange in The Nation, which was available only to subscribers:
I.F. Stone, Secret Agent? Spy? Mole?
Silver Spring, Md.
In an October 3, 2006, piece on The American Prospect's website, EricAlterman denounced as "almost entirely bogus, controversy over "whether[I. F.] Stone ever willingly...cooperated with the KGB in any way. Hedid not."
In May 2009, Alexander Vassiliev's notes from KGB archives becamepublic. They show that from 1936 until the end of 1938, Stone secretlycarried out specific tasks for the KGB. That is the definition of anintelligence agent, although Stone appears not to have been aparticularly important one.
Vassiliev's notes also corroborate that Stone was code-named "BLIN" andthus was the journalist whom the KGB attempted to re-recruit in late1944, as first revealed by Venona intercepts released in 1996. Moreover,former KGB Maj. Gen. Oleg Kalugin, whose 1992 allegations instigated thecontroversy, stated three years ago that Stone began cooperating withSoviet intelligence in 1936. Kalugin has rightly been criticized forchanging his story, but that statement has to count for something,unless one thinks it was a lucky guess.
Rather than retract his ill-advised assertion when faced with newevidence, Alterman has aggressively attacked--obfuscating the facts,denouncing the messengers and lumping together everybody who doesn'tmarch in lockstep with his inner convictions ["The Liberal Media," June22].
Because of the new evidence, I agreed to sift through all theallegations and counterclaims in an essay for the Journal of Cold WarStudies, which appears in the Summer2009 edition. Readers can judge for themselves whether I treatedStone fairly and put his activities in context.
Alterman's behavior is disappointing for a CUNY journalism professor whonever fails to present himself as a disciple of I.F. Stone, one of thepremier investigative journalists of his generation.
New York City
Neither space nor sanity allows me to regurgitate, yet again, all theholes in the arguments for I.F. Stone's alleged espionage career made bythe likes of Max Holland, or those of Ann Coulter and Messrs. Haynes,Klehr, Radosh, Horowitz, Novak, etc. They reveal far more about Stone'saccusers than about the man himself. Holland knows that the notes ofVassiliev--ex-KGB man desperate to sell his wares in the West--havenever been verified and are hardly the kind of source upon which anycareful historian would build a case for espionage. He also knows thatthe myriad self-contradictory musings of Kalugin--another ex-KGB mandesperate to sell his wares in the West--have not only been successfullychallenged but have changed over time, depending on who was buying.(Kalugin denied them to me personally.) He knows, further, that by thestandards of Haynes, Klehr and Vassiliev, Walter Lippmann was a "Sovietspy," as were countless other Western journalists of the period.
But more troubling than what Holland knows and does not admit is what he"knows" that ain't so. I referred to Holland in my column exclusivelybecause of his baseless speculation that the KGB funded publication ofI.F. Stone's Weekly and Stone's Hidden History of the Cold War. He hasproduced no evidence for this slanderous flight of fancy and offers nonehere. Finally (and least consequentially), his crack about myself-presentation is also false. I have never presented myself as a"disciple" of Stone or even as an "investigative journalist." I wasIzzy's friend, period.
This Week on Moyers:
In his new book The Evolution of God, bestselling author RobertWright examines how the idea of God has changed through history. BillMoyers sits down with Wright to discuss why he thinks the notion of God-- real or not -- is imperative to a moral society. "Religion will bethe medium by which people express their values for a long time to come,so it's important to understand what brings out the best and the worstin it," says Wright. Robert Wright is editor in chief of Bloggingheads.tv, a contributingeditor for The New Republic and a contributor to Time andSlate.
Alter-reviews, The Shaw Festival and four great new CDs...
The Shaw Festival at Niagara On the Lake:
Last week I traveled to the idyllic Canadian town of Niagara on theLake--about twenty kilometers from the Falls themselves--to attend itsfamous Shaw festival, which I first heard about from friends I made onan ancient Nation cruise. (I was making my "Perhaps I'm aphilistine, but I prefer Shaw to Shakespeare and Mozart to Beethoven"argument.) This year the festival, which runs from April to October, ispresenting two plays by George Bernard Shaw, and ten mini-plays (withthree presented at each performance) by Noel Coward. Both Shaw plays,The Devil's Disciple, and In Good King Charles' GoldenDays, allow for plenty of musing over principles in politics. Theplays are expertly produced and beautifully acted with some of the bestsets I've ever seen. Naturally, Shaw's wit shines brightly as ever, evenas the characters are pushing you to think about the ways in whichfanatical adherence to ideology is tragically destructive. The Cowardtrios are lighter fare, but share with the Shaw a certain sharpness ofwit that justifies their shenanigans.
In Good King, King Charles cautions his brother James (who willsucceed him as King) against boldly advertising his Catholicism,reminding him that the constituency that keeps them in power is gentry,not the public. Charles efforts to elevate reason above religiousdoctrine (by founding the Royal Society) must be wily and strategic,rather than bold and assertive, as his political power and his financialbase are precarious. For Shaw, what might be taken for Charles'spolitical cynicism is devotion to deeper desire to avoid bloodshed.
In The Devil's Disciple, Shaw's hatred for Puritanism as well asfor the mindless adherence to duty or empty principles is again ondisplay. The heroes of the play find themselves to be moved to act inways they did not expect of themselves -- and in contrast to theprinciples they have espoused. Thus, the amoral cad (aka the devil'sdisciple) finds that he is a man of moral principle, the mild preacherturns out to be revolutionary, the upstanding preacher's wife falls inlove (albeit briefly) with a man who is not her husband, and the Britishgeneral turns out to be a deeply humane pragmatic peacemaker. (It wasfun to see the play in a town that was founded by loyalists, alas.)
Brief Encounters contains the Coward plays "Still Life" "We WereDancing" and "Hands Across the Sea". "Dancing" and "Hands" have theupper crust behaving badly and comically, while "Still Life" is sadder,with two ordinary people deciding not to act on their love for eachother since they are married to other people. Star Chamber pokesfun at the narcissism of actors as they engage in a philanthropiccause. As a member of the Advisory Board of the Creative Coalition, Ican promise you that nothing like that ever happens in real life.
Music reviews: John Doe and the Sadies, Dave Alvin and the GuiltyWomen, Chris Gaffney tribute and Mark Karan
I've been listening to three Americana-ish CDs a great deal of late, allof which happen to be released on the small Yep Roc label, and all threeare gems. They are, in no particular order: John Doe and the Sadies:Country Club, Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women and A ChrisGaffney Tribute: The Man of Somebody's Dreams.
I was never much for John Doe's punk bank, X, but I heard him spend anhour with Terry Gross--who's become my new imaginary best friend oflate--and I thought him terribly intelligent, well-spoken and he did agreat job on these songs. So I got the album, and hey, it's great. Thesongs by Waylon Jennings, Roger Miller, Mel Tillis, Willie Nelson, MerleHaggard, Tammy Wynette, Hank Snow, Hank Williams, Kris Kristofferson,and Johnny Cash, are treated respectfully but reverentially and Sadies,whoever they might be, provide excellent backing.The album also featuresfour originals - three from The Sadies and one by Doe and ExeneCervenka. It's a hard album for anyone to dislike, methinks.
The Blasters are one band I really miss but Dave Alvin, on the of theBlaster brothers, is more than making up for it with his wonderful solowork with The Guilty Men and now The Guilty Women, made up of CindyCashdollar, Nina Gerber, Laurie Lewis, Sarah Brown, Amy Farris, ChristyMcWilson and Lisa Pankrantz, with guest appearances from Marcia Ball andSusie Thompson. It's smart, heartfelt bluegrassy Americana--with a newreworking of "Marie, Marie," and lots of stuff to put a smile on yourface and an occasional gulp in your throat.
Speaking of which, Alvin was close friends with Guilty Men accordionistChris Gaffney, who did nothing but good-to-great stuff, though nothingas great as the great Hacienda Brothers album, What's Wrong withRight?--a band he led together with Dave Gonzalez and wasbrilliantly produced by Dan Penn--before his sad, early cancer death in2008. So Alvin put down what he was doing and put together thisabsolutely terrific collection of Gaffney originals by Los Lobos, JohnDoe, Dave Gonzalez, Joe Ely, Peter Case, Jim Lauderdale, Tom Russell,James McMurtry, Robbie Fulks, Boz Scaggs and Freddy Fender, amongothers.
If your taste is anything like mine, all three of these albums will sendyou deep into the back catalogues of all three artists, particularlyGaffney and Alvin. But after getting the Doe/Sadies record, I ordered anearlier, similar effort by another throwoff country punk band he foundedThe Knitters, and already, I'm having a better summer.
Another album I'm spending some time with this summer is Mark Karan's Walk Through The Fire, which is out on a label called Dig.Karan's played as a sideman with everyone from Dave Mason to DelaneyBramlett and where I heard him--Radog and the Dead/Other Ones. Thisalbum is a friendly survey of rootsy Americana-ish rock with some greatguitar. Though I'm told the title track was written as he beganchemotherapy (and profits from the track go to the Oral CancerFoundation). We get nice, clean versions of great song after gratsong: Robert Johnson's "Love in Vain" (with Delaney Bramlett) theDead's "Easy Wind" and Randy Newman's "Think It's Gonna Rain Today" Ialso love this song, "Memphis Radio" by Susan Sheller, but there allpretty damn good and the musicianship, as you'd expect, is first ratethroughout.
Name: Guillermo A. Partida
Hometown: Duarte, CA
Please don't use the term "splainin" any more. The correct English wordis "explaining". By using "splainin" you are ridiculing every one of myLatino brothers and sisters who took the time and effort to learn tospeak English properly. You owe an apology for offending millions ofpeople south of the border.
Eric replies: I don' thin so... I thin I am paying tribute to thegreat Desi Arnez, ....
Name: Timothy Barrett
Hometown: Louisville, Ky
I regret having missed several weeks of Altercation during my move to anew house. I have also had some trouble getting the Nationwebsite to behave. It goes out of whack occasionally and mistreats me,sometimes being jumbled and other times dismissing me out of hand.
I'm here to report that the sham called the financial bailout hasblossomed, borne fruit and now withers on the vine, all for GoldmanSachs and its executives, past and present. The average worker has beenleft holding the bag, and its empty. All along, Paulson and his cronieshave deluded the hopeful and painfully ignorant Congress and twoseparate Executives that what's good for banks is good for the nation.Goldman now posts record profits, pays enormous bonuses, and looks to acheery jobless recovery for all; for all bank stocks, that is.
Obama said in March that a forecast of national double digitunemployment was a little pessimistic but now admits that it will likelystill get worse before it gets better. He says it was always a two yearrecovery plan and not a four month recovery plan. Still, just two monthsago he was the equity cheerleader-in-chief.
I still love Obama. He is still smarter than all the past presidentssince Nixon. He is also not afraid to lose his high approval ratingregardless of how closely each falling point is scrutinized by thechattering class. But he is failing economics 101: he let the fox guardthe henhouse.
Now while the 24 hours news cycle shifts temporarily from flogging theJackson family to slandering as racist perhaps the most honest jurist toseek appointment to the high court since Thurgood Marshall (yes, I wasfirst to make the comparison and I don't take Mr. Marshall lightly-let'stalk in 20 years) no one is watching the real scandal.
Roger Daltrey said we won't be fooled again. But he was wrong. We willbe fooled continuously. It's not conspiracy on the level of Mulder'sFBI's pact with a conquering virus, it's more like Gordon Gekko'spersonal goal to be "fifty, a hundred million, liquid, a player", inother words it's greed, dummy. We all have it, but we're limited in ourappreciation of scale. Ponzi duped hundreds into about7 million in losses, but for Madoff it was 65 billion in losses. For allof Obama's commitment to turn this economy around, he's still the dupewho came to a gun fight with a knife.
Wrap-up: We have a new "Think Again" column called "Conflicts bythe Rich, for the Rich," here. I also did a Daily Beast post on Palin's defenders on Sunday,which is here.
And I do recommend that if you have a few minutes free, you give themover to the Samminator, here. Those werethe days, huh? On to Mr. Pierce. I also recommend if you have a fewminutes, try to pick up a copy of Rolling Stone and read thewonderful account of the life of Mr. Gregory Allman, it is a wonderfulpiece of writing. It's not online and I never heard of the writer, buttrust me...
This Week on Moyers:
With almost twenty years inside the health insurance industry, WendellPotter saw for-profit insurers hijack our healthcaresystem and put profits before patients. Now, he speaks with BillMoyers about how those companies are standing in the way of healthcarereform. Potter spokeout against the industry for the first time last month, testifyingbefore the Senate Commerce Committee he said, "Recently it becameabundantly clear to me that the industry's charm offensive, which is themost visible part of a duplicitous and well-financed PR and lobbyingcampaign, may well shape reform in a way that benefits Wall Street farmore than average Americans." Wendell Potter is a senior fellow onhealthcare for the nonpartisan watchdog group Center for Media andDemocracy, for which he writes a blog on healthcare reform.
"He was sitting in the lounge of the Empire Hotel/He was drinking fordiversion. He was thinking for himself."
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "When Hollywood Goes Black And Tan"(CleoBrown)--You know, I asked the most important people (Myfamily!!!!!!) about how much I loved New Orleans. I got two yes's andone Hell, Yeah (!!!!!!).
Part The First: The Continuing Adventures Of Waldo The DrunkSecurityGuard (Chapter XVI): Waldo was doing his rounds late at night in thehandsomely appointed Bay Area offices of Salon, a prominent magazine oftheIntertoobz. As he walked, he sipped from his silver flask that had beenhanded down to him by his grandfather, who used to get drunk while ondutyas a guard at the Washington Post. (Family legend had it thatGeorge Willgot his column one night when Waldo's grandfather was sockless on duty.)Every sip he took was longer and deeper until, finally, Waldo stumbledandfell, passing out with his head on a pile of old newspapers.Unfortunately,just as he drifted off, crazy people again rose from their berths in the mailroom andsat down at computer terminals. "It's why she remains hugely popularwith the Republicangrassroots base--as I know from listening to talk-radio. Callers comingfresh from her rallies are always heady with infectious enthusiasm." Asare, one supposes, all of the many voices in their heads.
However, the really hot stuff is there if you click through to thefourth page. Hubba-hubba.
Part The Second: I will grant you that the prospective 2012 GOPpresidential field has experienced certain, ah, modifications over thepastmonth, what with the governor of Alaska abdicating in order the swimupstream against salmon and syntax simultaneously, and what with theSouthCarolina governor's mansion still being graced against all odds andcommonsense by the presence of Ivor the EngineDriver. But that's still no excuse for starting to listen to this guy again. I mean, have somepride, people.
Part The Third: Wednesday was a banner day at Ye Olde House ofMulchFor Brains. The Democrats are inknots over the stimulus, when they're not in knots over Michael Jackson!GOP on the move in New Hampshire and Virginia! But the realmasterpieces--the stuff thatyou read and think, "Mother of god, where do these people buy theirmushrooms?"--comes in the various pieces regarding the present andfutureof the Tsarina Mooseburger. In only one day's work, we have her as theRenegade Queen of the North,as well as her value as an ATM for the 28 percent crowd.But the true classic is this bubbling cauldron ofabject Fail. (Note to the author: When Bob Dole quit his Senate seat?That was a stunt and a fake and he had a nice place in Bal Harbour inwhich to hang out. Pass it on.) At the risk of sounding sexist--and, myLord, enough with this, if you don't mind--if you're going totry and treat this sideshow rodeo clown as a serious national politicalplayer, you ought to at least take into account that, on the day yourattempt appears, she is revealed to believe that the president hassomething called "The Department Of Law" to take care of pesky ethicscomplaints and ill-tempered bloggers. TheDepartment of Law? Jack McCoy wept.
Part The Fourth: Can it please be explained to this clodhopper thathe... doesn't... count? Never been happier that we in the Udall campaignkicked his pappy's ass all over New Hampshire in '76.
Part The Fifth: No.If this was a trial balloon, the silly bastard who floated it needs tobe whacked upsidethe head with something hard. If it's policy, the whacking should goconsiderably further up the food chain.
Part The Last: Tell me again why the Civil War was worth all thatbother. And at another table hereat the 2009 World Series of Morons, we have this chap. This, remember, is the Republican party that makes so many people inthe WhiteHouse nervous.
I noted with interest that Karl Rove apparently put his hand on aBible this week asregards his role in the US attorneys mess and in sending Don Siegelmanupthe river. The deposition apparently ran for nearly eight hours. It alsowas taken privately. My question is why. What is it that makes Karl Roveworthy of special treatment in the summer of 2009? What influence doeshestill have? What power does he still wield? On what basis can he makedemands other than the color of his jumpsuit and the sparkle on hisshackles? Why was his deposition not immediately available for publicscrutiny? Oh, I see. It is the position of this administration that theinstitution of the presidency can be permanently harmed if it isrevealedthat a presidential aide concocted a phony political prosecution throughwhich a sitting governor wound up in prison. This administration belongsina cage before it does any more real damage.
Eric, As Richard Lindsey valiantly corrects Pierce, I realize that asa liberal tree-hugger in Cheyenne, I am that corrected definition,"the voice of one crying out in the wilderness. Also, the voice ofone crying that she lives in the wilderness. But don't print this.Being Wyoming-centric is part of the horrors of this so-calledculture. Not having taken my Obama sticker off, I get heavy-revvingblack trucks on my ass as I make that late-night grocery trip. Ifanyone every romanticizes this place to you, tell them to get fucked.
Name: Tip Tipton
Hometown: Troy, OH
It having been clearly established that Sarah Palin has a certainclass of devotees (see: Joe the Plumber), it is no great surprise tome that she chooses to leave her wilderness digs for the morepopulated lower forty-eight. The question is: where will Sarah go?
Not that the decision is pressing. As John McCain demonstrated,establishing residency in a vacated district is a snap, so by 2016she should have plenty of opportunities.
I'm thinking that for now, at least, she will settle somewhere in thedeep South. There she can idle away her time reading the classics ofTennessee Williams and Ernest Hemingway, and make appearances at suchvenues as the KY Derby and the Daytona 500. She could homestead in the Keys, claiming a Hemmingway connection while at the same timecoining her cmapaign slogan: "I can see Cuba from my porch!"
We have a new "Think Again" column called "Conflicts by theRich, for the Rich," here.
I also did a Daily Beast post on Palin's defenders on Sunday, whichis here. (Otherwise, I've been at the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake which I'll write about a bit next week.)Meanwhile:
Eric's obituary for Robert McNamara, (lifted from When Presidents Lie):
A Harvard Business School graduate and the former president of FordMotor Company, McNamara was a figure, even in this impressive company,of unsurpassed self-possession and confidence. The ultimate "can-do"executive, he could reduce any problem presented to him to numericalinputs and outputs. McNamara displayed little patience for doubt, secondguesses, or gray areas. There were problems and there were solutions, period. It was only a matter of putting all the information into the right places andensuring that the answers flew freely to the men who required them.Like Lyndon Johnson, McNamara was also a compulsive liar. He told oneset of stories to one group of people and then turned around andexplained behind closed doors that the opposite was true. On occasion he may have forgotten which version actually represented the truth, and so he found himself defending propositions that, however illogical, enabled him to appear tohave been right all along.
Robert McNamara ran the Department of Defense as if it were thebiggest private company on earth--which in fact it would have been, hadit been private--and thereby ignored much about what was unique to itscharacter and mission. Moreover, McNamara treated the American people withthe same contempt a successful CEO enjoys demonstrating to peskystockholders. They had, in his mind, the right to the information he chose to give them and nothing more. Unfortunately, he ignored the elementary rulethat governs all informational systems: "Garbage in, garbage out." When itcame time to evaluate the progress of the war he was planning andimplementing, McNamara forgot that he had been fabricating, dissembling, and at times outright lying about the conflict almost from day one. He also neglected to factor in that the intense pressure he placed on the military to providepalpable signposts of progress led many of those who reported to him up and downthe line to fabricate the information they were providing as well. Asearly as March 1962, for instance, British officials were shocked to hear USambassador to Vietnam Frederick Nolting tell them of the pressure he felt todemonstrate results. But human nature being what it is, McNamara came tobelieve his own lies as well as those he inspired others to tell him. Inhis 1999 investigation of the war, Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy, McNamara seems to imply that if he had known the truth about what took place in the Gulf of Tonkin, the United States might neverhave gone to war. But the Secretary of Defense could easily have discoveredthe truth within days of the crisis had he committed himself to doing sobefore advising Lyndon Johnson to embark on a series of rash military andpolitical responses. In fact, the great mathematical mind of the Vietnam War built an entire system on an edifice of information that would not survive eventhe most cursory of audits. The literally incalculable cost of this faultyapplication of systems analysis--and Johnson's unwitting reliance on it--would soon become evident for all to see.
To Lyndon Johnson, however, Robert McNamara was a kind of guru: the "smartest man" he had ever known, in whose presence you could "almost hear the computers clicking." Senator Russell spoke of McNamara's "hypnotic" influence over the president, and Johnson's aide Harry McPherson would remark, "Johnson promoted McNamara everywhere... No doubt he was trying to win over [the Kennedy people] as his personal friends and supporters." Johnson even considered creating a prime-minister-like position for McNamara, so that his influence might be felt on all aspects of policy, foreign and domestic. When Senator Mansfield, concerned about the direction the war was taking, advised Johnson to ask "those who have pressured you in the past to embark on this course and continue to pressure you to stay on it" for an accounting, not only for "what immediate advantages it has in a narrow military sense, but [also] where does it lead in the end?" Johnson treated the majority leader's suggestion as near treason. "I consider Bob McNamara to be the best Secretary of Defense in the history of this country," was all he would say in reply...
The Dead Weather, by Sal:
Jack White's new project, The Dead Weather, is about to be releasedafter weeks of hype, TV performances and singles leaking on variouswebsites. Horehound picks up where The White Stripes left off, onlywith twice as many members and White himself talking over the drum kit.Before I go any further, I want to say this about Jack White. I nevergot on the White Stripes bandwagon, but seeing them perform live, mademe realize that Jack White is truly a guitar god. I never got into TheGreenhornes, but hearing them back up Jack White & Brendan Benson as TheRaconteurs made me realize that Jack White can really write some amazingpop tunes and get them delivered with a real rhythm section. And hearingJack White play drums in The Dead Weather made me realize Meg Whiteisn't even the best drummer in The White Stripes.
Horehound features Alison Mosshart, singer of The Kills. She isvocally similar to Jack White and more times than not, I wasn't sure whowas singing what. What stands out right away on these sparse but heavytunes, is the drumming. Without Jack White's unique and almost ham-fistedsmacks on the kit, you'd be left with White Stripes light. That may notsound like a compliment, but Jack White is a fantastic drummer. I amshocked, actually. It is HE who keeps "Horehound" interesting. Theopener, a ripping Gothic blues called "60 Feet Tall," is a killer andboth singles "Hang You From The Heavens" and "Treat You Like Your Mother"are hook-filled. The rest of the record sounds a bit one-note, as Iprefer substance over style. But this is based on one listen, and I amvery excited about going in again, so that should tell you something.
Name: Dave HigginsHometown: http://quantumsense.wordpress.com/
Hi Eric -
It would have been great if Sarah Palin had disappeared from sightlike other losing Republican Vice Presidential candidates, like BillMiller. Miller quickly became so anonymous he did a "Do you know me?"ad for American Express--and most people probably responded "no."
Unfortunately, like an extremely annoying advertising jingle youcan't get out of your head, Sarah Palin just won't fade away.Now that she'll be free from those pesky duties associated withbeing governor of Alaska, I expect we'll be hearing from hereven more often.
So be it. If she's going to stick around, she's going to need some sort of theme song. Bill Clinton had Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow," Hillary's campaign often played Tom Petty's "American Girl," and Palin herself briefly used Heart's "Barracuda" - until members of Heart objected and told her to find another song.
As it happens, there's another song that would be perfect for Palin: the Donnas' "Fall Behind Me." Beyond the fact the opening guitars and drums would get any crowd wound up as she walked on stage, the song seems to be written precisely for her, with lines like:
"I can't believe she bought it She got too close and she caught it Had a point but she forgot it
"When you skip steps on the way up The gaps have a way of catching up And you can't cover that with make-up"
Funny how that last line makes me think of lipstick. While all the lyrics seem to fit, the Donnas really sum things up near the end of the song:
"How long is she gonna be around? How long do we have to watch her dumb it down? 'Cause when it's cheap it fades fast How long does she think it's gonna last?"
How long indeed...
Name: Ben MillerHometown: Washington, DC
Mr. Alterman -
With the resignation of Sarah Palin, many in the media are declaringthis the end of any hopes of her running a successful campaign forthe presidency in 2012. Doesn't this give far too much credit toconservatives and the GOP? Despite her atrocious showing in the 2008campaign, she remained as popular as ever within the party. Despitenot being intelligent, curious, or insightful, she remained at thetop of any 2012 Republican candidate list. And despite not being ableto name a newspaper she read, or remember any case from the SupremeCourt, or even knowing who Hamas is, she has millions of supportersthroughout the country. Are we to believe that her quitting her jobwith seventeen months left will really strike a final blow within the GOPfor this politician who had no business stepping foot in the nationalstage in the first place? I mean, aren't they just going to forgiveher and say it was the elitist liberal media that forced her to quitanyway. If anything, it might make her more popular down the road.
Name: Stephanie Barnhizer
"Mikey and Me" is very funny. I appreciate that you take us into your"up close and personal" encounter while still maintaining arespectful distance. Many of us have been drawn in to "MJ's" worldand created our own fantastical versions of it. What we have beenseeing is of our own making. Many of us do not know how to acceptthat "that's it."
Name: Daphne Chyprious
Hometown: Springfield, Ill.
I've never met MJ. Never even attended one of his performances, on oroff the stage. Were this the greatest regret of my life, I'd beecstatic. However, it doesn't qualify for "regret" of any kind.
Name: Richard Lindsey
Hometown: Hastings-on-Hudson, NY
Pierce, If you're gonna try to to correct other people's Latin (or anyother language), you better get it right yourself. "Vox clamantis indeserto" doesn't mean "a voice crying out of the wilderness." Itmeans "the voice OF ONE crying (out) in the wilderness."
Name: Laura FaethHometown: Superior, CO
Amen to Cheap Trick's new release, The Latest. It's a great album,and sonically just tickles my eardrums every time I listen to it.Some songs are haunting, others are ear wormy, but they all sound asyou say, like an album. Rick Nielsen mentioned in one interview thatit's like three trilogies (three groups of three songs) but he didn'tmention which tunes go together since there are thirteen tracks! Eitherway, it's great to hear the Rockford dudes sounding so awesome again.
Wrapup: We have a new "Think Again" column, picking up on the food fight between the Washington Post's Dana Milbank and The Huffington Post's Nico Pitney and the larger issues we think it raises here, and my new Nation column, "How Bold is Barack?" is here.
I did a celebratory column on Al Franken's victory for The Daily Beast here.
Oh and I appear to have started a twitter account, here, but don't get too excited about it yet.
My profile is http://twitter.com/Eric_Alterman -- is that right? We'll see, I guess.
"The dust that Pancho left down south/Ended up in Lefty's mouth."
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "When The Levee Breaks" (Memphis Minnie)--Long ago, I crossed "the ultimate line" in my love for New Orleans.
Part The First: Oh, for the love of god, just shut up already. If you're in a hole, dude, first rule is to...stop...digging. Plus, why do I believe that "crossing the ultimate line" is a good Christian euphemism for the old Southern political maxim--allegedly adhered to by, among other people, both Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich--that "Eatin' ain't cheatin'."?
Part The Second: While I am happy that former hippie love god NormColeman has exited the stage, I am not at all sanguine that Senator Franken will be much more than another slightly left-leaning Clintonian. Sixty votes is nice--it makes John (Box Turtle) Cornyn cry--but there's now about an eight-month window to get anything done with it. Recalling Franken's old radio program, on which threadbare Rolodex Cowboys like Norm Ornstein used to be regulars, doesn't encourage me much, either. Neither does his quote about sixty votes not necessarily being a magic number to get things done. And my wish for LBJ to rise angrily from the dead flares anew.
Part The Third: Matthew Y is a very smart young man, especially nowthat he apparently has given up on the Sisyphean task of explaining why theWashington Wizards ever will be any good. But this, alas, is unicorn-shopping at its most gullible. While I have no doubt that it is remotely possible that the nice lady across the street with the pro-life bumper stickers on her car may very well not give a damn who's buying condoms where, and how old the people are who are buying them, the organized political structure of the pro-life movement has been demonstrably anti-woman and anti-sexuality from the very first mailings itever sent out. It has been financed and organized by religiousorganizations devoted to a truncated and joyless view of human sexuality.It has as its formal legal basis a philosophy for which the true targetnever has been Roe, but Griswold. It does not believe in a constitutionallyguaranteed right to privacy in any sphere, abortion just being the mostobvious and inflammatory one. And, most important, none of this willchange. Ever.
Part The Fourth: The Vanity Fair piece on Sarah Palin is pretty much a cowardly hit job by pathetic (and largely anonymous) people who stillbelieve in the John McCain they constructed in their own heads. TheRepublicans didn't lose because they nominated a public omadhaun for thesecond spot on the ticket. They lost because their standard bearer was athoroughly ridiculous man. And because the nomination of someone thoroughlyridiculous was inevitable, given the current state of the Republican party.There simply was no other alternative than some kind of crackpot oranother. They're all that are left.
Part The Fifth: I always hate to disagree with Sal, but I've always dated Rod's decline precisely from the release of Atlantic Crossing.I've never forgiven him for completely botching Danny Whitten's exquisite"I Don't Want To Talk About It," which should have been a slam dunk.
Part The Last: My invitation to the wedding must have blown off theporch, so I had no idea that Rep. Mary Bono was married to Rep. Connie Mack IV. And thus are Cher and Chief Bender forever distantly linked in history.
I'm sorry, but this column is just silly. Worse, it's silly in a completely conventional and hackneyed way. Good Lord, Tsarina Mooseburger made this same case better at the apogee of her Moment--in that grudge-addled acceptance speech at the RepublicanNational Convention--than the author of his column does here. (And let'sleave aside the fact that the New York Times hired a columnist who soobviously slept through the 1990s.) The reflexive anti-intellectualhalf-gainers that a young and highly educated conservative needs toaccomplish before graduating from the Young Pundit's Academy rarely end inanything more than an ungainly bellyflop. (Remember back in The Day whenAndy Sullivan sounded like he was running for mayor of Omaha? Or the timela Coulter waxed nostalgic for her days in Kansas City? Where do these twopeople choose to live again? Thought so.) This is no exception. Thecitations of Truman and Jackson are laughable. (Where's Palin'santi-corruption committee? Where, in god's name, is her Battle of NewOrleans?) And there were "professionals" who "pressed into service" thisflibbertigibbet? Jesus H. Christ At Talladega, is this guy seriouslyarguing that she didn't grab at this opportunity with both hands and allher bicuspids? Yeesh. But the underlying conceit of the whole business ---that inexpertise should be celebrated on the same level as actual expertisebecause you can sell the former in a political context is nothing more thanlazy intellectual slumming by people who, at some level, feel awfullyguilty about the advantages with which they were raised. It also conformsto certain premises that can be found in certain books that I am far too modest to mention.
Wrapup: We have a new "Think Again" column, picking up on the food fight between the Washington Post's Dana Milbank and The Huffington Post's Nico Pitney and the larger issues we think it raises here and my new Nation column, "How Bold is Barack?" is here.
I did a celebratory column on Al Franken's victory for The Daily Beast here.
Oh and I appear to have started a twitter account, here, but don't get too excited about it yet.
My profile is http://twitter.com/Eric_Alterman is that right? We'll see, I guess.
Me and MJ: Well I guess this is the week to tell your "When I Met Michael" stories. I got closer to Michael than almost anyone, to tell you the truth, or at least closer than most people of the age of consent. In fact, it would be impossible to have been closer to Michael with clothes on than I was, especially since the guy had such a phobia of people and their germs.Well, Michael got my germs. Here's how. The night before the Clinton inauguration, I was invited backstage at the big concert at the Capitol Center, where Jackson and a bunch of other big stars performed. When it was over, and everyone was standing around, Clinton came by to say hello to the talent. (He was particularly taken by Kenny G at the time, as I recall.) Anyway, MJ, as he is now called, was wearing that insane Sergeant Pepper outfit of his and when Clinton and the secret service came down the narrow corridor where everyone was standing around, I was (rather rudely) pushed directly into Michael and held there by the Secret Service guy until the president got done saying "hello" to everyone, which in Clinton's case takes a really long time.
I can't say I enjoyed it. Michael's skin was gray; a color I had never seen on a person before. His nose looked like it belong on a baby piglet. And he was clearly not in the mood for an extended body slam from yours truly, as I was already past thirty at the time. I don't remember if we actually exchanged any words afterward. Despite Michael's undoubted horror, he was pleasant about the whole thing. My guess is that it made no impression on him at all. That's it.
Hard working Sal on the new Levon Helm, the Woodstock re-releases, the Rod Stewart re-releases and the new Cheap Trick.
Levon Helm-Electric Dirt
2007's Dirt Farmer was Levon Helm's first proper solo release in 25 years, and a fine return it was. Helm's voice barely showed signs of his battle with throat cancer, and the acoustic, rootsy repertoire was a perfect place to pick up in the studio. The same cast members, including many of the musicians from Helm's live Midnight Rambles at his barn in Woodstock are back, this time kicking it up a notch with Electric Dirt. I know this may be hallowed ground, but I haven't enjoyed a record by one or all members of The Band, since The Band, as much as I have been enjoying this one. Robertson's solo releases were ambitious, but years later sound dated. Danko's were spotty. And even Band classics like Stage Fright & Cahoots aren't as much fun.
Helm's voice is even better and stronger. The arrangements range from a New Orleans' brass romp, like the opener "Tennessee Jed" to the funky shuffle of "When I Go Away." Helm is an underappreciated drummer, and NO one does a funky shuffle like he does. Electric Dirt is a joy from head to tail.
The Woodstock Experience
Nothing says "celebration" like repackaged goods. Forty years after the event, SONY/BMG knocks out 5 complete live Woodstock performances, each coupled with a classic album from the time. You get the Airplane's Volunteers, Johnny Winter's Sony debut, Santana's debut, Sly & The Family Stone's Stand and Janis' Kozmic Blues. Not a bad idea, I guess.
It's great to have complete performances, especially the Sly & Santana sets, which really cook. Packaging is better than average. But I can't help but think at a $19.98 list price, that a simple single CD of just the complete live performance for $9.99, may have been the way to go. But what do I know? I went out of business in 2005.
Rod Stewart Deluxe
One of my favorite pastimes is ripping Rod Stewart. The Faces are one of my favorite bands of all time and Stewart's run of solo records for Mercury in the early seventies is as good as rock and roll gets. But man alive, did he lose his way or what? From the successful disco dreck to the successful and unbearably unlistenable string of standards collections, Rod has become lazier than Homer Simpson. Not his work ethic, per se, but his lack of interest in creating something original.
Before that decline, there were two very fine releases, Atlantic Crossing and A Night On The Town, Rod's first two LPs for his new label Warner Brothers. Rhino Records has once again impressed the reissue world with 2 CD deluxe editions of both. Disc One on each feature remastered versions of the albums proper, as well as a bonus track or two. And Disc Two on each features an alternate version of the album. The alternate versions are worth one listen or two, as they don't really offer much. If anything, they offer less. But the sets themselves are beautifully packaged and offer plenty of information for the curious, especially Atlantic Crossing, which includes Rod's only work with The MGs.
Cheap Trick-The Latest
Cheap Trick The Latest is the latest from Cheap Trick, and is arguably their best in twenty-five years. Released on a "need to have" basis--pre-orders were taken for the initial pressing--The Latest does not stray far from what made this legendary group from Rockford so appealing. Almost every track is a quick blast of pop perfection. But what does stand out about this record that seemed to be missing from so many of their recent releases is the quality of the material. The songs sound less like parodies of what the boys have been doing for years and more like actual songs. The record sounds like an "album," not just a bunch of songs recorded over time and slapped on a CD, just to get a CD out.
I admit not being not being too impressed upon first listen. The opener, a barely two minute lullaby, "Sleep Forever," is nothing more than interesting. It's short, but...so what. BAD way to start. It's followed by a not bad Slade cover, and two more songs that sound too much like the parodies I just mentioned. THEN, the record takes off. From "These Days," a big ballad that wouldn't seem out of place on Bruce's The River, right until the last track, another ballad, "Smile," that puts such over-produced nonsense as "The Flame" to shame, "The Latest" is Cheap Trick, stronger than ever. Sandwiched in between? Killer riffs and killer choruses, sung by one of the greatest voices in rock and roll, Robin Zander.
Long time Cheap Trick fans will not be disappointed. And those who only know the hits, THIS is better.
This week, Bill Moyers Journal gets insight from three leading publicthinkers who taught a unique course--"Christianity and the U.S. Crisis"--at Union Theological Seminary, the oldest nondenominational seminaryin the country. Renowned scholars Cornel West, Serene Jones, and GaryDorrien offer a fresh take what our religious traditions and our coreethics and values as a nation say about America's politics, policy, andthe challenges of balancing capitalism and democracy. "This is asociety that has stoked and celebrated greed virtually to the point ofself-destruction. We can't just go on saying, 'Well if we can justpatch this thing up and get back to where we were, things will be allright.' And none of us believe that, so we also have to talk about whatwas wrong with the system to begin with that had outcomes that you can'treally justify morally," says Dorrien.
My friend and personal hero Charlie Savage dug this one of a document dump. Now it's self-evident from the document itself that the Supreme Court will be presided over for the next 30-odd years by a guy who was born a boring 50-year old senior associate with a stick the size of El Capitan up his ass. (Thanks, Democrats, for giving us Chief Justice Howard Sprague.) The real delight here is that, in his attempt to prove himself the most insufferably pedantic sycophant in the history of representative government, he...gets...the...Latin...WRONG. "Vox clamans in terris"? A voice crying out in the earth? That would be the wailing of thousands of dead Jesuits pointing out that the quote is "vox clamantis in deserto" -- a voice crying out of the wilderness. (Among other things, it's the motto of Dartmouth College, despite the generally held suspicion that the school's motto is actually "Sockless Drunk In The Wilderness."). I'm serious, Scalia must be rolling on the floor over this.
Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
Beyond the message in the jackassery featuring Dana Milbank and ChrisCilizza, has anyone noticed that the latter continues to be afrequent guest on MSNBC while Milbank had been there and moved to CNN--which he claimed had been in the works, although, interestingly, itfollowed a column in which he turned around a comment by Barack Obamato make it unfavorable, to the disgust and consternation of KeithOlbermann and anyone else who believes in accurate...uh, accurate...oh, yeah, JOURNALISM.
But their lack of awareness is the key issue. They appear insomething for the internet, the subject of their displeasure. Theyshow up regularly in Washington Post blogs. They regularly appear oncable television, which, like the internet, has contributed to thedecline of the kind of journalism they claim to practice by producingthe 24/7 news cycle that President Obama rightly deprecates.
It is reminiscent of, of all things, an episode of Murphy Brown.Murphy was shadowed by an actress who was going to play a journalist,then offered a part in the show, and embarrassed herself. Then ConnieChung came on to remind Murphy that we are journalists and shouldn'tdo this sort of thing. The only person in America who didn't get thejoke, it turned out, was Connie Chung. Now we can add Mountebank andFizzy to the list.
Name: Seàn Rowlette
Hometown: Brighton, MI
How is it that in the ongoing argument regards America embracingUniversal Healthcare (ala Western Europe and some of the moreadvanced nations across the globe) that no one has noted the SilverLining in all of this?
I'm referencing America's big three auto companies.
Embracing Universal Healthcare would allow America's automakers tobe free of that financial burden.
The employees (few as they are these days) would still have healthbenefits, Ford, GM and Chrysler would enjoy greater profits,finding themselves on a more favorable footing going forward in thisglobal economy.
Sadly, Obama has yet to come to the realization that what mostAmerican's need, above everything else, is a good paying job.Manufacturing jobs that can't or won't be moved overseas, employmentopportunities as engineers, technicians and managers.
We sent jobs to Japan, and Japan prospered. We sent jobs to SouthAmerica and South America prospered. We sent computer engineeringjobs to backwards countries all over the globe, and they prospered.
The average American never had a chance.
Perhaps its time for America to put Americans' first. If notnow, when?