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Eric Alterman | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

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

Slacker Thursday

I've got a new "Think Again" column called "This Fish Rots from the Head Down" and it's about what a crappy, dishonest columnist George Will is, and it's here.

(Funnily, I am staying at the Doubletree in Ontario, CA, where I am debating young Ross Douthat at Pomona College tonight, and its computers will not allow me to access that piece or any piece on the CAP website. The warning reads: "The access to the address above is restricted. Accordingly to our harmful content database SiteCoach does not allow you to visit this page!" Sheesh.

My Nation column this week is an examination of the issues raised by a young right-wing journalist's awful book about the elite media's alleged persecution of Sarah Palin and it's called "Sarah, Smile!" (I know, I know, keep my day job...)

While Pedro was letting all the honest, hardworking people of the world down last night, I was typing away at this meshugena hotel computer so that the world might enjoy my election wrap-up from the Daily Beast, and that's here.

Did I mention that my ThinkPad died in between Dallas and Ontario? It's the fourth time that thing has had to be repaired, and of course I am stuck out here with a long flight home no laptop. It's enough to make one consider switching to a Mac, finally. Anway, fortunately Pierce is early, so we have an excuse to post this. Oh, ok, one more thing. Did you happen to notice how Bruce ended his night of the RRHOF (at 1:30am) with an amazing "Higher and Higher" featuring everybody who wanted to perform: Sam More, John Fogerty, Billy Joel, Jackson Browne, Tom Morello, etc, while Bono/U2 felt a need to kick everybody off the stage (Mick, Bruce, Patti, etc) so they could close the show alone? Just saying... See you this weekend. Wild and Innocent, Saturday. The River, Sundy. First time ever for both. Here's Pierce. 

CHARLES PIERCE

NEWTON, MA.

Hey Doc --

"Well, I hitched a ride from the borderland/when the home guard went insane/No use trying to work with people/who can't tell fire from rain."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Nevada" (Gil Evans) -- It's never too close to call how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: Parson Meacham, that pious fraud, can continue to BITE ME. And, of course, in conjunction with Sister Sally Punchboard, he also presented a reading from the Book Of THUGS.

Part The Second: The redoubtable Howler remains invaluable. THIS is why. How you settle on a know-nothing pink balloon like Marsha Blackburn as a credible spokesperson for "the other side" on this issue--other that the very real possibility that she might've been the only one the reporter could get on the phone--is too deep for my small mind to ponder.

Part The Third: Very weird COLUMN. Note to Jon--the reason that ETL New Republic hasn't won a National Magazine Award recently is assuredly not because it once won one for Betsy McCaughey's bullshit. The reason Marisa Tomei has not won an Oscar recently is not  because she won one once for My Cousin Vinny. (And Betsy's was the worst  article in the history of a magazine that once employed Stephen Glass, and that continues to publish the fudge-brained ramblings of The Singer MIDGET?  Look a bit deeper, my lad. And the NMA's aren't until next spring, for pity's sake. Someone needs a hug.

Part The Fourth: I care less about David Brooks's dating advice than I do about a goat's taste in opera.

Part The Fifth: My favorite POST yet from my favorite new honky-tonk here along the docks of Blogistan.

Part The Penultimate: Thanks to Marcy for blogging up this TRANSCRIPT. I was particularly struck by this analysis from Rep. Lamar Smith, one of the true brainiacs in the Texas delegation: "All Al Qaeda needs to do now is open a bookstore." I guess they're right. We are going to have to tighten up our Borders. Hey-yo! No, thank you. Really. I'll be here all week.

Part The Ultimate: Of all the shoddy reactions to last Tuesday's orgy of marginal significance, this may be the most  IMPORTANT. If you're keeping score at home, the national Republican party just sent a message to the nutters that, any time they can muster up a candidate from the Island Of Misfit TOYS, the party will take a pass on the race. Now, if you think Cornyn's a little smarter than I think he is --and I think he's pretty much a blockhead--you could argue that he's giving The Base just enough rope to hang itself.  (The establishment candidates who get crisped as collateral damage--Hi there, Charlie Crist!--are just SOL, I guess.) However, if you are burdened with common sense, it's plain that the national GOP is scared right down to the tassels on its loafers by what's going on in the hinterlands, its trembling exacerbated this week when Congresswoman Batshit J. Crazee called for direct ACTION. They may learn to channel all this by 2012; the redoubtable Digby OPINES that the whole business is just the same old plutocratic weasels sub-contracting the job of rebuilding their movement. That may be, but, for now, and for whatever reason, one of the country's two major political parties has surrendered itself utterly to the monkeyhouse. While undoubtedly entertaining, this is in no way a good thing.

Name: Stan Druben

Hometown: Ashland, OR

You ask: "The Dow's up, but why are Main Street Americans still reeling from last year's economic collapse"

One answer is that, today, rising (even rapidly rising) GDP is a poor indicator of recovery, even if it encourages a rise in the DOW.

"What gets measured, gets attention." And the fact is, GDP ignores or distorts too much of what needs attention-like who gets the increase (all equitably or mostly a few) and what impact the rise has on natural capital (e.g, the atmospheric commons).

"If the GDP is Up, Why is America Down?"

is the title of a 1995 Atlantic Monthly article. The current "jobless recovery" and the recent study requested by President Sarkozy, "Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, are but two of the many reasons to (re-)read that Atlantic article now.

Name: Tom Joyce

Hometown: Buffalo, NY

Dear Eric

I see the Yankees won the World Series. That has to be bad for Obama, but don't expect our liberal media to say so.

And with a six game sweep, the Public Option is dead.

All events bode badly for Obama. I expect Richard Cohen, who IS a liberal (really) (no! really really!) to eventually make this connection.

Tom Joyce

Name: Joe Raskin

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Dr. Alterman--

While I share Charles Pierce's love of "Rocky and His Friends", the greatest cartoon show ever started with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck singing "On With The Show". Nothing else can ever top anything that Chuck Jones was involved with.

Name: Steve Pasek

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Mr. Alterman,

Already sent an email to Charles Pierce, but also wanted to thank you for the plug for Chainsaw Dupont's "C'mon Cat", which I produced (I'm also his lyrical collaborator on other songs). It was actually the result of an "exquisite corpse" exercise which we used to provide an instrumental track for that CD, it's a weird tune but apparently hits some people in the right spot.

If you might be interested in hearing some of our music, let me know the address to send it to and I'll mail some CDs out to you. This song was from the "Street Trilogy" project, a trio of CDs dedicated to the 3 great cities of the blues- Chicago, New Orleans, and Memphis.

Slacker Friday

I've got a new Think Again column called "Obama's Commie Past Exposed Yet Again," and it's here.

Here's what I did last night. How were things in your city?

Crosby, Stills and Nash:
"Woodstock"
"Marrakech Express"
"Almost Cut My Hair"

Bonnie Raitt with David Crosby and Graham Nash:
"Love Has No Pride"

Bonnie Raitt and Crosby, Stills and Nash:
"Midnight Rider"

Jackson Browne with Crosby, Stills and Nash:"The Pretender"

James Taylor with David Crosby and Graham Nash:"Mexico"

Crosby, Stills and Nash with James Taylor:
"Love the One You're With"

Crosby, Stills and Nash:
"Rock and Roll Woman"

Crosby, Stills and Nash with Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and James Taylor:
"Teach Your Children"

Paul Simon:
"Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes"
"Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard"
"You Can Call Me Al"

Dion DiMucci with Paul Simon:
"The Wanderer"

Paul Simon with David Crosby and Graham Nash:
"Here Comes the Sun"

Paul Simon:
"Late in the Evening"

Little Anthony and the Imperials:
"Two People in the World"

Simon and Garfunkel:"The Sounds of Silence"
"Mrs. Robinson""Not Fade Away"
"The Boxer""Bridge Over Troubled Water"
"Cecilia"

Stevie Wonder:"Blowin' in the Wind"
"Uptight (Everything's Alright)"
"I Was Made To Love You""For Once in My Life""Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours""Boogie On Reggae Woman"

Smokey Robinson with Stevie Wonder:
"The Tracks of My Tears"

John Legend with Stevie Wonder:"Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology)"

Stevie Wonder with John Legend:"The Way You Make Me Feel"

B.B. King with Stevie Wonder:"The Thrill Is Gone"

Stevie Wonder:"Living for the City"

Stevie Wonder and Sting:
"Higher Ground"/"Roxanne"

Stevie Wonder with Jeff Beck:
"Superstition"

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band:
"10th Avenue Freeze-Out"

Sam Moore with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band:
"Hold On I'm Comin'"
"Soul Man"

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band with Tom Morello:
"The Ghost of Tom Joad"

John Fogerty and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band:
"Fortunate Son"
"Proud Mary"
"Oh. Pretty Woman"

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band:
"Jungleland"

Darlene Love with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band:"A Fine, Fine Boy"
"Da Doo Ron Ron"

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band with Tom Morello:
"London Calling""Badlands"

Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band:
"You May Be Right"
"Only the Good Die Young"
"New York State of Mind"
"Born To Run"

Darlene Love, John Fogerty, Tom Morello, Billy Joel, Jackson Browne, Peter Wolf and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band:
"(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher"

CHARLES PIERCE

NEWTON, MA.

Hey Doc:

"Here by the sea and sand/Nothing ever goes as planned."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "C'mon Cat" (Chainsaw DuPont) -- Not even 
the fact that Mary Landrieu is a bought-and-paid-for What-Grayson-Said of
 the insurance industry can keep me from loving New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: Don't make Ms. Jane angry. You wouldn't like her when 
she's ANGRY. Somebody smart is going to have to explain to me why "Go ahead and 
filibuster, you jackasses" is politically unfeasible in a country where 
two-thirds of the people want what's being delayed.

Part The Second: I like a lot of what he says, too, but, if Alan Grayson is going to work talk radio's locked-ward, he should probably stick with Art Bell's program. That said, this woman
 used to work for Enron, for pity's sake. Seems to be we're just haggling
 about the price.

Part The Third: As Interim Altercation Papist Correspondent, I'd like 
to point out to this rightist quota-hire that, if HE wants to be 
Peter The HERMIT, he's going to have to grow a better BEARD. Also, concerns about environmental destruction and the crippling effects
 of the poverty associated with Third World debt are "only tenuously 
connected to the Gospels," but atavistic theocratic loogie-hawking is just 
what, oh, St. MATTHEW had
 in mind? Doesn't. Know. Dick. Of course, he lacked support because His 
Eminence, Cardinal Nutsy Fagen was busy ELSEWHERE.

Part The Fourth: I was informed by E-card this week that, on November 
19, we will all celebrate the 50th anniversary of the greatest cartoon show 
there ever will BE. No doubt 
about it. I gotta get another hat.

Part The Fifth: Today's Seminar: DUMB or DUMBER?. Discuss. Also, young Matthew? If you get into it with Tina Fey, leave 
your dental records with someone first, OK?

Part The Penultimate: Some good words from la belle FRANCE. And, yes, I do expect to be 
referred to hereafter as "La Plume Feroce," especially by the ladies. Hubba
hubba!

Part The Ultimate: I heard this just in passing this week, but 
unemployment in Flint, Michigan has edged over 30 percent, and Detroit 
seems to be coming up hard on the rail. If you drive around this country, 
or if you travel it by rail, a lot of the most poignant places through
 which you will pass are the small- and medium-sized cities of the Midwest, 
with the empty, blank-staring factories. (A closed steel-mill is a ruin
 almost incomprehensibly vast.) Close your eyes, and you can hear the
 machines grinding, and the workers yapping about the Tigers or the Indians, 
or the Bears or the Packers. You can see the plant gates open, and the lunch pails swinging from dangling fingertips, and maybe the kids running 
excitedly up the sidewalk, anxious to carry the steel helmet or put on the 
tool-belt. A middle-class came out of those gates, every day, for 30 years, 
and a stronger country came out of that middle-class, and out of the GI
 Bill. Rolling by those places today is to wander through the lost archaeology of your own country, in real time.

Thirty percent unemployment is not a sustainable society. Deeper in
 those numbers you will find dramatic increases in domestic violence, in 
alcoholism and drug addiction, and an accelerated breeder reactor of 
failure and apathy, feeding on itself, the self-sustaining manufacture of a
 century of despair. People who cannot work cannot eat. People who cannot 
eat will not vote. Why? What is possibly in it for them? What in the name
 of god is their place in the glittering kabuki of what has become of our 
politics? They're not buying tables at the Correspondents Dinner. They're
 not buying anything advertised on the cable shows. They're not sending big 
checks to President Change-I-Am. They don't count, those 30 percent, not 
any more, and the empty mills rust, flake, and blow away in fragments in 
the winds that are turning colder.

We are on the precipice of something very dangerous right now.
 Thirty percent is not the stuff of a sustainable, credible political 
democracy, which I suppose is OK, since we don't have one any more, and
show no signs of being particularly upset about that self-evident fact. We 
saw that this week. The United States of America, which once fed its people 
and armed the world in order that it could save itself, is unequal in its 
self-government to the simple task of keeping its citizens healthy and
 alive. In the task of self-government, the unemployment rate is nearing 100
 percent.

The Mail

Name: NJ Progressive
Postal

Hometown: Newark, NJ

The government shut down occurred in 1995. I had a friend who worked
 at the National Gallery, who had set aside tickets for me and my significant other. But the government shut down was total: my friend was not allowed in his office to get the tickets for me. My husband
 and I stood in the cold (and it was a freakish cold snap for normally moderate Washington) to wait to see those wonderful paintings. Seeing 
The Geographer and the Allegory of Painting in person made me forget 
three hours of waiting in the cold.

Eric replies: Also, Sal would like you to know that I screwed up his review and only one song from "Tenor Madness" is included in the new Coltrane collection, reviewed yesterday.

Oh, Brother...

I've got a new Think Again column called "Obama's Commie Past Exposed Yet Again," and it's here.

I took a seminar at Yale in 1985 when I was getting my master's with Edward Said on the role of the intellectual. Everyone in the class wore black and quoted Derrida (with whom I also took a seminar, in French, of which I understood very little). Anyway, there was a rather imposing African-American fellow at the seminar table on the first day with a vest and tie, etc., and a big afro. He said nothing for the two-hour class and then at the end, was called and ripped into Said with every three-dollar word I had ever heard and many more I had not. It was like a fantasy come true--going back to school to show off how smart you were now; perhaps the coolest moment I've ever seen in a classroom. Then Said said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Dr. Cornel West," who apparently was an assistant professor in the Divinity School, letting the rest of us in on the joke. The amazingest thing about Cornel is what an original he is; there's never been anything like him: "Gramsci and Sly Stone both understood..."

Anyway, I mention all of this because of the publication of Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, an as-told to memoir written with David Ritz, who has apparently cornered the market on cool as-told-tos, having done Paul Schaffer's surprisingly excellent one, and also Lieber and Stoler's not-as-great one. I's published by something called Smiley Books and it's fun.

How amazingly powerful and influential is Jane Mayer? She is so powerful and influential that when GQ picked her as (tied) for the 27th most powerful and influential person in Washington, they put up a photo of some other Jane Mayer... Just saying...

This Week on Moyers:

The Dow's up, but why are Main Street Americans still reeling from last year's economic collapse?  With Americans still facing rising unemployment, foreclosures, and declining property values, renowned economist James K. Galbraith on whether we've averted another crisis and how to get help for the middle class.  James K. Galbraith is the Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations at the LBJ Schoolof Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Galbraith has authored six books, most recently The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too.  And, National Review senior editor Richard Brookhiser talks about his mentor William F. Buckley, Jr. and today's conservative movement.

Alterreviews: The New Rod Stewart and John Coltrane boxes by Sal:

ROD

The Rod Stewart Sessions box that was just released is a real head-shaker. I've made no secret on both these pages in the past and on my own at Burning Wood, about how Rod Stewart gets under my skin.  An artist, whose first 10 records, both solo and with The Faces are some of the greatest in the history of music, and whose last 10 are some of the worst, now gets his career-spanning outtakes anthologized.  Who is this for? Fans of his first 10 won't care too much for Discs 3 & 4, and fans of his last 10 won't care for any of this.  But that doesn't make Rod Stewart Sessions any less interesting, at least for one solid listen.

Unlike The Beatles' anthologies or Bruce Springsteen's "Tracks," there are no real gems here. Instead, we get almost 70 curiosities, some of which work and some that don't. Hearing staples as "Maggie May" and "You Wear It Well" sounding so tentative, with working lyrics and Rod singing what sounds more like a guide vocal, is almost fun. Almost. It's actually a bit uncomfortable. We know these songs too well, and silly lyrics like "I don't mean to tell ya, that I think you look like a fella" make "Maggie May (Early Rough)" unlistenable. There is a version of "This Old Heart Of Mine" that is listed as "with Booker T. & The MGs," except that instead of Booker T's signature organ, he's playing a Fender Rhodes electric piano. (There goes that thrill.) An early take of "Hot Legs" has an identical musical arrangement, with a slightly different vocal approach. An alternate of one of Rod's better later hits, "My Heart Can't Tell You No," has a subtler string arrangement and a lot more space in its production. All great for one listen. This is the nature of this set. You really need to know the material well to appreciate the differences, otherwise you just won't notice.

Disc 4 is mostly covers recorded for and mostly not used for a string of not-so-great 90s records. You get 1 Paul Weller, 1 Chris Rea, 1 Elvis Costello, 2 Bob Dylan's, and a Jellyfish tune, the beautiful "I Wanna Stay Home," and the most offensive thing here, with Rod singing about two keys too high and sounding a little too much like Alfalfa Switzer. Disc 4 itself is not terrible, it's just Rod, who seems to have given up about 15 years too early, phoning in just about every performance.

As a whole, this is really a nice addition to any die-hard Rod fan's collection. But musically, there is nothing here that will keep you coming back. It's like sticking with a so-so book because you think something will eventually happen. And it doesn't.

COLTRANE: Side Steps

"Over the past three years, Prestige Records has released boxed sets of Coltrane's numerous sessions from the mid- to late-'50s, each spotlighting a specific dimension of his tenure with the label. Fearless Leader--released in September 2006, in celebration of Coltrane's 80th birthday--showcases his recordings as a bandleader. Interplay, released in September 2007, contains Coltrane's early collaborative recordings with a variety of stellar musicians from the same era."

The above was taken from the Coltrane press release for the third set in this series, "Side Steps," a 43 track, 5 CD set showcasing John Coltrane as a sideman between 1956 and 58 with some of Prestige's other...uh...prestigious artists.

There is some exceptional music here. This is a period where Coltrane was still mostly swinging and it's hard to find a bad moment. Sessions with Mal Waldron, Elmo Hope, Gene Ammons, and Sonny Rollins  (whose entire "Tenor Madness" album is here, with the great Red Garland on piano) are all included, and Disc Three with Donald Byrd, though not as a leader, has some truly fine moments, especially on the gorgeous "I've Got It Bad" and the epic, slow-burning "Soul Junction." Concord is also continuing its wonderful Rudy Van Gelder/Prestige remaster series with:

THELONIOUS MONK QUINTET: MONK (1953)SONNY ROLLINS WITH THELONIOUS MONK AND KENNY DORHAM: MOVING OUT (1954)RED GARLAND QUINTET WITH JOHN COLTRANE: DIG IT! (1957)

The whole package could make some jazz fan a very happy camper come Hannukah....

--Sal Nunziato

The Mail

Name: Maureen Holland

Hometown: South Venice Beach FL

Stephen Carver asked a question here on October 23.

"Is there enough news in America to actually support a 24 hour 'news' network?"

Yes, Steven. See BBC. And then weep.

Name: William Johnson

Hometown: Middleville

RE: Is there enough news to support a 24 hour news network?

There may not be enough 5 minute stories to support a 24 hour news network, but there are enough significant issues that would do well to have more than the cursory reviews we have now. If we had stories like what populates some of NPR today, or longer then yes I think there is more than enough news to fill a 24 hour cycle. What we don't have is enough intelligence in the television media to fill a 24 hour cycle.

Name: William Johnson

Hometown: Middleville

RE: Is there enough news to support a 24 hour news network?

There may not be enough 5 minute stories to support a 24 hour news network, but there are enough significant issues that would do well to have more than the cursory reviews we have now. If we had stories like what populates some of NPR today, or longer then yes I think there is more than enough news to fill a 24 hour cycle. What we don't have is enough intelligence in the television media to fill a 24 hour cycle.

Name: Bob Rothman

Hometown: Washington, DC

To me, what was so outrageous about the Balloon story wasn't so much the first-day event coverage, but what came after. Yeah, the wall-to-wall coverage was excessive and disproportionate, and of course it was relatively trivial compared to events of more significance, and it showed once again that cable news cares deeply about white people who disappear...but at least it seemed to be a story. A boy seemed to be in danger, floating away, and then when the balloon landed he was missing.

But then when the boy turned up safe and never in danger, it was clear there was no story. Yet the cable folks went on and on about what a great story it was and how dramatic it seemed, and was it a hoax or not, and who was telling the truth and what was the background of the family. Come on, guys, There. Was. No. Story. Nothing to see here. Go home. But no. Sheesh.

Oh, and by the way, I remember seeing 14 Vermeers at the National Gallery of Art in 1998. What was going on in New York then?

Eric replies:

Actually, there were more than that. It was the greatest Vermeer show of all time.I lived in DC then, though it wasn't 1998 either. It was 1994 , and Washingtonian Newt Gingrich shut down the government so the National Gallery had to raise the money privately to show the Vermeers.

Name: Jim Celer Hometown: Omaha

"Origen Without The Effort"! The man's a genius. No, better--a writer.

Slacker Friday

We've got a new "Think Again" column called "It's a Bird. It's a Plane. It's...Cable News," and it's here.

My Nation column, about Obama and Fox News and the rest of the media, is called "Just Don't Call It Journalism," and that's here.

I did another piece on J Street for the IHT. It's called "Voices From the Wilderness" and that's here and then Le Monde Diplomatique asked me to do a podcast and that's here: Living on J Street.

Philly gets everything!

A bit over ten years ago, during the reunion tour, I had tickets to Philly and we had like the biggest snowstorm ever. (That morning, I ran into the amazing sight of one Victor S. Navasky braving these amazing elements to make it to, I kid you not, a Nation editorial meeting.) The show was cancelled, which was good, because an ex-friend, who had been an incredible dick about giving me (and Eli) a ride there, drove back and forth in the storm for nothing, thereby ever–so-slightly increasing my belief in a personal God who takes an interest in justice, however capriciously. But the show was rescheduled, not only for Bruce's 50th birthday, but also for the night I had terrific tickets for Tom Waits, who almost never tours, at the Beacon, which in those days, was literally a half a block from my apartment. And I had already seen about seven of these reunion shows.

What to do?

What would you do?

I went to Philly (got lost, per usual). Got there just in time to hear Bruce play "Fever" my favorite song, and the only one that has remained on my funeral list, throughout the decades. It's the only time I've heard it since maybe 1978, so that story has a happy ending. This year's decision not to go Philly does not have as happy an ending, but it's my own fault (and David Rudd's).

Anyway, this is really great: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DytO5K0rPu8&feature=channel

Not bad either: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5H081gJWI6A&feature=channel

For moms, everywhere: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y08SB-YnQg0&feature=channel.

Now this from my friends at World Hunger Year:

A Once-In-A Lifetime Opportunity to Meet Bruce Springsteen and support charity! You can help support WHY's fight against hunger in the U.S. and meet The Boss on Saturday, November 7th @ Madison Square Garden in NYC. Take your pick of seats in the Pit or First Tier Loge section and enjoy VIP access to the E Street Lounge and best of all, personally meet and spend time one-on-one with Bruce Springsteen. All inquiries should be submitted to lcolacurcio@charityfolks.com. Minimum bids start at $10,000 and will be accepted until 6pm EST on Wednesday, October 28th. Experience is for two people. Donations are tax deductible above the face value of the tickets. Winner must be from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or Pennsylvania.

Alter-correction. The great Joe South wrote "I never Promised You a Rosegarden." But Chip Taylor wrote "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" and "I Can't Let Go," for the Hollies. Also, an anonymous friend informs me: "Chip Taylor is one talented and strange guy. If you haven't heard his 2005 disc with Carrie Rodriguez titled "Red Dog Tracks," I urge you to do so. Bluesy folky country (or some other order of those genres and maybe some others) with some mind-stopping lyrics, great tight spare arrangements, the languid country-honey voice of Ms. Rodriguez, and some duets that grab my heart. Their Hank Wms cover of "I Can't Help It" is one cut I find myself listening to over and over. They pour a lot of emotion into a simple song and harmonize exquisitely. This disc has convinced several reluctant friends that they do likecountry music after all."

I bought it.

Here's the man:

CHARLES PIERCE
NEWTON, MA.

Hey Doc:

"Now it's hail Mary full of gin and sweet boneless Jesus / Our happyhome might never be the same."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Dixie" (Mike West)--I'll go on anynetwork to talk at length about how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: As Interim Altercation Papist Correspondent, I, forone, would like to thank il Papa and the red-beanie Romanita crowd forthis latest bit of theological hooey. What a deal. We get a bunch of homophobic wingnutAnglican clerics, and out goes the rule on celibacy. Which the previouspope, dubbed "John Paul The Great" by Ms. Peggy Noonan (aka Origen WithoutThe Effort), insisted was necessary to maintain the Christ-like nature ofthe priesthood. (Yeah, yeah, I know.) However, when Holy Mother Church getsto strike a political and cultural blow against laymen who do bad thingswith their pee-pees--to say nothing of kicking back against Henry VIIIagain--the importance of "the undivided heart" and that of the "fruitful ministry" go right down the drain. Of course, His Eminence NutsyFagen here might disagree.

Postscript--There no longer can be any question. The WashingtonPost is trying to outflank The Onion as a news source. Of whom does thisloon have cheap-motel-and-a-goat pictures, anyway? If it's Parson Meacham,I don't want to see them, and if it's Sister Sally Of The BlessedSacraments Exposed, I probably already have.

Part The Second: Neither the Edwards, nor the Palin stuff shouldsurprise anyone. But I am intrigued by the rest of the list of historic Gallup plunges. What, for example, did Pope John Paul II do in a single month in 1998 that caused his numbers to tank 17 points? And, a decade ago, did I miss the moment in which Lamar Alexander knocked over an orphanage?

Part The Third: This is just not good. On the other hand, this is immeasurably worse. Get the blood off your hands, Ace, before you start lecturing your betters. (You did your damnedest to enable the"disaster" through the aftermath of which you now say Obama is governingthe nation. Foof.) And, even if this mess hadn't emanated from one of"liberal" America's most inexcusable chickenhawks , this line--"As forjournalists, you can hardly blame them for trying to inject some volatilityinto the Obama storyline."--would be proof enough that he should findanother line of work. I can blame them. It's not their job to "inject"anything into a "storyline." Jesus, this stuff used to be obvious.

Part The Fourth: Little Lord pissant has a lot of goddamn gall going near this at all. And Slightly Larger Lord Pissant here should know that thosecutesy-poo quote marks around the word caregivers are prima facie evidencethat you're pretty much a dick. One day in a chemo chair, Ace, and you'd be weeping and screaming for a spiff the size of a Louisville Slugger.

Part The Penultimate: I'm sorry, but I don't think believing thesepeople are dangerous, gun-toting fantasts "depends on (my) perspective" at all. I mean, get a load of this stuff. Detention camps? Foreign troops on American soil? "I refuse to cooperate with any order from the government that I must cooperate with giant metal lizards from space." And that's before you get to the end, which seems tobe a discreet incitement to mutiny. But, of course, they do have a fan who regularly plays the role of the Avuncular Old Fart Neighbor on Mr. Squinty'sneighborhood, the morning kiddie show on liberal cable network MSNBC. In a related story, alas for Pat, this old bastard is still dead.

Part The Ultimate: I have studiously avoided commenting at length onthe ongoing social, political, and cultural ball of snakes that is theIsraeli-Palestinian situation. This is largely because everything I read makes it seem increasingly intractable--Belfast with sand and several more millenia worth of tribal savagery and archaic religious enmity. Mechanized warfare against suicide bombers. The redoubtable Padraig O'Malley--who did so much good work prying various fingers off various throats in the north of Ireland--has waded into it, and good luck to him. But this latest development is sofrustratingly, damnably stupid that it is enough to make anyone throw up their hands. Demanding to be handed, and to be recognized as, a modern nation-state while simultaneouslyallowing barbaric monotheists to run amuck? How in the name of Odin (toemploy here, for rhetorical purposes, a relatively neutral Deity) does thisadvance any legitimate interest of a people currently living under thecircumstances of occupation? And, yes, I know what the effect ofconservative religion in Israel has been, thanks. What this place needs isfor every damned cleric living there to get on a boat and sail over the farhorizon for about 200 years.

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

Our parable on Balloon Boy is that 32 years ago, on August 16, 1977,the lead story on the CBS Evening News (with Roger Mudd substitutingfor Walter Cronkite) was the Panama Canal treaty. The lead was notthat Elvis Presley had died that day.

I am inclined to think that was not good news judgment, becausePresley was an important part of our cultural history. And that isthe question the CBS News producers should have asked themselves thatday. Instead, they asked themselves what was most important to theAmerican people--not what mattered to them.

Whatever we say of the lunatics and slanderers on Fox News, theiropinion shows do focus on what they actually consider important. Thattheir viewers think what they are saying has even a modicum of truthto it is because the rest of broadcast news--not just Fox--has nosense of history, ethics, or journalism. In fact, I should deletepart of the previous sentence. The rest of broadcast news has nosense. Period.

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

Dr. Apparently the wretched spawn of the Nixon, Atwater and Rove"Southern Strategy" rears its ugly head again.

This brings to mind the 1978 South Carolina Gubernatorial racebetween Carroll Campbell and Max Heller. You summed it up welltwenty years ago.

"But of all the things of which he has been accused, he says, the onethat makes him the maddest concerns the charge of anti-Semitism inthe 1978 Congressional victory by the current Governor of SouthCarolina, Carroll A. Campbell Jr., over Max Heller, the former Mayorof Greenville and a Jewish refugee from Austria who had fled theNazis. Atwater's accusers claim that as an informal adviser toCampbell, he passed secret polling information to Don Sprouse, a third-party candidate, who then used the information to undermine Heller'scampaign. Political analyst Alan Baron has revealed that Campbell'spollster in 1978, Arthur J. Finkelstein, of Irvington, N.Y., told himthat his data showed South Carolina voters would reject ''a foreign-born Jew who did not believe in Jesus Christ as the savior.'' MarvinChernoff, a Democratic consultant in Columbia, claims that Atwaterspecifically told him of passing Finkelstein's secret poll toSprouse. Atwater denies all of it. Finkelstein and all of theCampbell campaign staffers contacted also deny the accusations. ButCampbell's campaign manager has since admitted to a late-nightmeeting with Sprouse representatives in a Greenville parking lotbefore the election, and the Finkelstein poll released by Campbelldid ask voters to compare how they would feel about a race between a"Jewish immigrant" and a "native South Carolinian."

You figure the younger generation in South Carolina politics wouldget over this idiocy but I guess they just get a pass by statingtheir "Unequivocal support for Israel", how funny Seinfeld is and howmuch they donated to Hadassah.

BTW: Limbaugh buying a share in a NFL franchise is akin toFather Coughlin wanting to buy a share of the Brooklyn Dodgersin the 1940's.

Name: Hulka
Hometown: San Francisco, CA

(1) Chip Taylor didn't write "I Never Promised You A Rose Garden";Joe South did.

(2) James Ellroy has historically gone out of his way to describehimself as a conservative authoritarian, but one wonders whetherthe events of the last few years haven't pulled him a bitleftward. The new novel certainly points in that direction.

Name: Ed Tracey
Hometown: Lebanon, New Hampshire

Professor, I cannot locate a photo of this on-line...but theOctober 12 issue of Sports Illustrated recounted how thepreviously-integrated NFL became an all-white league in the 1930'suntil after WWII (with Kenny Washington playing the role as thefirst re-integrator).

The one holdout was the Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall who kept his team all-white until the early 1960s (when the Kennedy administration told him he could not play in a publicly-supported stadium and discriminate).

Author Alexander Wolff included a photo with the caption "AmericanNazi Party members, with no evident sense of irony, demonstrated inDC with placards reading KEEP REDSKINS WHITE".

Name: Bill Miller
Hometown" Mill Valley, Calif.

All right, if there's to be no debate on who did the best Nobelstory, then we'll just say this was a pretty good one, too.

Name: Dave Richie
Hometown: Birmingham, AL

Dr. A,

This is for Pierce if you so choose-a few comments only a popecatholic could love.

Pierce,

re: Penultimate: Very much in agreement. Ever since they gave this"thing" to 3 of the most notorious terrorists of the twentiethcentury my interest has been very low. I believe there was a handshaking ceremony only accomplished because they simply could not takeany more of carter's platitudes.

But the comments posted below the linked post are, alone, worth theprice of admission.

As for Yeats, I am old enough to remember the list. It was not readto us but referred to often by Sister Mary Discipline, lest we strayinto a heathen movie house, followed by an admonishment to pray forthe Irish (catholic kid growing up in Indiana) and that sweet TerryBrennan for next weekend's game.

Ultimate:

In giving up on the death penalty several years back, I remarked tosome of my full moon conservative drinking buddies that it won't belong until the releases of innocent men in Illinois will pale incomparison to the list of executed innocent men and women. I cannotbelieve it has taken this long to prove/find the first. Still, theprosecutors and the the guv insist they were right. I guess you wouldhave to find a way to get to sleep at night. God knows the jurorscannot. The good sisters were right all along. "Boys and girls thedays of an eye for an eye need to end."

Pax Vobiscum,
Dave Richie

Name: JP
Hometown: SC

From the good Mr. Pierce, re: the death penalty.

"It's about killing people to make yourself feel strong, or safe, andabout bravely hiring people to do the killing for you."

Replace the phrase "hiring people" with "sending others" and thissentence very adeptly describes war as well.

Name: Stephen Carver
Hometown: Los Angeles

Loved the Think Again and Nation pieces which brought a question tomind: is there enough news in America to actually support a 24 hour"news" network? So much of what we are given as "news," asevidenced in the Michael Jackson and Balloon Boy stories, is dreck.Then we get several hours of talking heads spouting about politics;no news there.

Even in local news, I find that most of it is either about guns (andthe death they bring), gangs (and the violence they bring), new waysfor women to lose weight and what's gotten to me lately:advertisements for a network's prime time line up thinly disguised as"news stories."

Precious

We've got a new "Think Again" column called "It's a Bird. It's a Plane.It's...Cable News," and it's here

My Nation column, about Obama and Fox News and the rest of the media is called "Just Don't Call It Journalism," and that's here.

I did another piece on J Street for the IHT. It's called "Voices in the Wilderness" and that's here and then Le Monde Diplomatique asked me to do a podcast and that's here: Living on J Street.

Oh, and I really like the Tom Tomorrow cartoon here but I think it's long past time to lose the full beard. (Petey says: "Funny, you feel bad, but you look good...")

This Week on Moyers:

A damning report from the UN Human Rights Council on the violence in Gaza late last year has put Israel on the defensive. Bill Moyers talks with the man at the center of the storm, Justice Richard Goldstone, who despite working with many pro-Israel groups and Israeli institutions in the past has drawn intense criticism from some of Israel's supporters for his report, which said Israel's Defense Forces, as well as Hamas, may have committed war crimes in Gaza earlier this year. Goldstone is a renowned war-crimes investigator who's looked into human rights abuses in his native South Africa, as well as the former Yugoslavia, Argentina, and Rwanda.

Alter-recommendations:

1) If you go to the Met Museum now, you can see six Vermeers atonce, (and then walk down to the Frick and see three more, which makes nine, which is like, a quarter of all of them in the entire world....How are things in your city?) Seriously, the one they borrowed from Amsterdam to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Hudson's voyage has not been in this country since 1939 and it is a wonder. I will not even try to do it justice. While you're there, also terrific, but on a more earthly level is the great exhibition Robert Frank's "The Americans,"which, if viewed in historical context, is an amazing feat. Trust me, don't let these opportunities pass. Take a trip to the city, it's beautiful right now.

2) I really loved that Nick Hornby film, An Education. I also loved 35 Shots of Rum but that is going to be hard for you see.

3) James Ellroy's Blood's a Rover is also amazing. I am listening to it on audio and the reader is really terrific and the book has a power to it that is unique in my experience. It's the third part of a trilogy and I did not read the first two and someday I suppose, I will, but in the meantime, it is a brilliant meditation on recent American history, told from a left-wing paranoid--even for the Nation--point of view.

4) On the other hand, I hated, hated, hated Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice, which could be described similarly. I don't really like Pynchon, but I like a good detective mystery. But God, this book is just gross. And silly. I stopped after about 100 pages.

5) I like this record by Chip Taylor. It's called Yonkers, NY andit's on on Train Wreck Records. Taylor's father was a golf pro who pretended to be an FBI agent. His brother is the right-wing nut actor, Jon Voight and his other brother is a big famous scientist named Barry Voight. Taylor wrote "Wild Thing," "Angel of the Morning" and "I Never Promised You a Rosegarden." Can you believe the same guy wrote those three songs? Anyway, he is nostalgic about many of the same things about which I am nostalgic. And so this is a winner.

6) The Definitive Vince Guaraldi. (Fantasy) You may know the guy as the fellow from "A Charlie Brown's Christmas," which everybody who knows anything knows is great. Well, that whole album is on the second cd of this collection and the rest of it is really pleasant and occasionally interesting and always tasteful. It'll probably put you in a good mood if you put it on.

7) The Conservative Turn: Lionel Trilling, Whittaker Chambers, and the Lessons of Anti-Communism by Michael Kimmage, (Harvard University Press) The redoubtable Michael Kazin says "Michael Kimmage is an old-fashioned intellectual historian, and I mean that as a compliment. What is more, he is a real writer. His extraordinary book is one of the few studies of the making of Cold War liberalism that is as alive to personality and literary quality as to politics. He provides a fuller and fairer analysis of both men's work, with splendid comparative comments, than I have read anywhere else." Me, I just think it's really great. (Not recommended for people who think Alger is innocent, however.)

8) The Frankfurt School in Exile by Thomas Weatland, More solid, albeit a bit more theoretical intellectual history of the period inwhich America grew up and joined the rest of the world. Worth the effort.

9) The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Fifth Season. The thing I just noticed about this show is that aside from Rhoda, who got her own show, everybody stayed. This was one of the best things about the seventies and it's one of the few shows from then that is not depressing when you try and watch it today. It's three discs and I think about seventeen episodes. Now that all the Odd Couples are out, I's day all we have is Mary and Bob N to which we can look forward...

10) Ok, now here's a review of the new movie, Precious by our young Commie movie reviewer (and recent graduate of Brown University), Alison Fairbrother. If you want to complain about the review, complain to alison.fairbrother@gmail.com:

A father forces himself on top of a daughter with the words: "you're better than your mother." A mother throws a glass at the back of a daughter's skull. A daughter is force-fed plates of greasy food meant to keep her obese and make her feel unlovable.

This is the stuff of Precious, the devastating Lee Daniels film based on the novel Push by Sapphire, produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, and scheduled to open November 6.

Set in Harlem in 1987, the film begins with the tinkling of a music box, a child's eye view of the world from the back of a math class. Clareece "Precious" Jones (played brilliantly by newcomer Gabourey Sidibe) is an overweight, illiterate African American sixteen-year-old whose face holds both youthful promise and also flickers of deep despair.

Precious's math class induced daydreams are quickly intercut with her mother's assault at home, physical abuse that triggers vivid recollections of her father's sexual abuse, signified by pop-art-esque crackling of eggs in a frying pan, the murky bubbling of a thick soup, and the ominous grasping of a male hand for a jar of Vaseline. These hyper-real details are mixed with fantasy sequences: pounding R&B diva dance numbers, Precious surrounded by flashing bulbs in a sleek modeling studio, a handsome "light-skinned" man on a motorcycle beckoning to Precious from a sea of twinkling stars.

The fantasies are misleading, as what is remarkable about Precious is not her capacity to escape through make-believe, but her diligent and concrete efforts to construct an alternative reality based on her unwavering belief in herself.

Precious' talents are recognized by a principal who sends her to an "alternative" school, Each One Teach One, where the lovely "Miz Rain," (Paula Patton) instructs a small group of troubled teens in the ABCs. The girls at Each One Teach One provide comic relief, context, and seem genuinely moved by Precious' strength.

Daniels' camera weaves expertly in and out of Precious' consciousness, watching her through the Venetian blinds of her classroomor a rain-streaked window, and as she plods carefully along broad city avenues, navigating the hazards of idle men and rusted barbed wire fences. Other times we see the world through her eyes. In one particularly affecting moment, the camera moves deftly from Precious' mother's livid face down to a plate of oily pigs' feet that Precious is being forced to consume in the amber ill-light of their apartment in the projects. At other moments the city juts out at odd angles, as though Precious were cocking her head, wrought with emotion and fear. Most profoundly, the camera occasionally settles too closely upon Precious' face, judging her with the minute detail with which she must see herself.

Precious comes in a long line of contemporary American cinema that triumphs the value of a good teacher in empowering the disadvantaged. The act of storytelling, for the powerless, becomes a dramatic feat of empowerment that is nurtured by a passionate teacher who recognizes the value of creative expression and autobiography. Here too, Miz Rain--rendered nearly speechless by tears--tells Precious to write her story for the world. Still, the film doesn't follow the ordinary mold: we get the sense that it is not storytelling or teaching that saves Precious, it is her nearly super-human strength, tenderness, and capacity to love herself and her children despite every indication from her family that she is worthless.

Precious's strong sense of self is manifested in an interior monologue that obscures the voices of the other characters as she editorializes her experiences in real time. Her internal discourse can even rearrange the harsh and abusive ministerings of her mother into positive and uplifting messages. Early in the film, Precious's mother says, in heartbreakingly cruel tones, "don't nobody want you, don't nobody need you, you stupid bitch." Later, Precious will say to her own child, "Listen baby. Mother not dumb. Mother love you. Listen." Precious never fights to be heard, and this is perhaps an indication of the social vision of the filmmakers.

There are a few brief moments when wider social implications of Precious's situation sneak to the surface: Precious peers into the mirror hard enough to manufacture a thin white woman with blond ringlets; a social worker (Mariah Carey) attempts to reunite Precious with her mother and begins to cry when the mother says, "You sit there and judge me. You write these notes on your fucking pad about who you think I am." (At that moment this writer closed her notebook and capped her pen).

While it is clear that social work and welfare have failed families like the Jones', the film doesn't link the singularity of Precious's parents' abuse to failed systems and structural injustices. In fact, in the absence of the abusive father, the central evil figure is understood to be Precious' mother. The film does nothing to explain why her mother, played with incredible talent by Mo'Nique, is part of a long heritage of injustices that have left her angry, embittered, and violent.

Although film has no obligation to instruct, generate action, or dismantle ideology, I wondered whether this film might have been uniquely positioned to explain the role of American culture and history in creating abusive families dependent on welfare, and powerless to the point of seeking control through violence and rape. Through systematized racism and sexism we have allowed Precious' mother to heave a television set at her child; we have put the jar of Vaseline in Precious' father's hands. Precious makes it seem as though the familial abuse chronicled is merely the outcome of two malicious personalities who happen to have joined together to make a baby.

Daniels has done a good thing by finding a heroine in are markable African American youth, and I emerged from the film inspired and with a palpable respect for the singular story. Still, the beauty and affectiveness of Precious makes me wonder whether this film might have been able to move beyond the obvious question, "how could a mother abuse her child?" and dare to ask "how has America failed the Jones family?"

Slacker Friday

We've got a new "Think Again" column called, believe it or not, "I'llSee Your Testicles...' (Catfight on the Right)" and it's here.(though perhaps they changed the title later in the day)

Also, I did an op-ed on the move away from AIPAC-style politics forAmerican Jews for the IHT, which is up on the NYT site, here.

Classified section: I'm selling fifty or so Miles Davis cds--everything on Columbia during the key period--mostly in beautiful box sets, etc, and would love to sell the whole thing as a package. Email if genuinely interested. Also,I have two lousy seats for Bruce on 11/8 and one for 11/7 I need to getrid of. Email below....

Ok, here's Pierce

Charles Pierce
Newton, MA.

Hey Doc:

"Daddy ran whiskey in a big black Dodge/Bought it at an auction atthe Masons lodge."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "My Mama Told Me So." (The B-3 OrganSummit): Price Waterhouse couldn't fake the numbers to calibrate exactlyhow much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: Considering that the money behind the saintedAmerican Football League fifty years ago belonged to the Hunt family inDallas, the pre-eminent wingnut sugar daddies of the 1950's and '60's,it's pretty rich that, even in the beginnings of what may be acollective-bargaining armageddon, both the labor and management sides ofthe modern NFL have declined to be associated with the former JeffChristie. The weeping in the wingnuttosphere leaves me strangely unmoved. It does, however, move me to gales of helpless laughter. Dude, I am not. You are not. You are, however, an idiot.

Part The Second: There is no way I am not buying this. "Here comes Santa Claus/Here comes Santa Claus/Right down Highway 61."

Part The Third: My knowledge of Russian libel law is admittedlylimited, but I'm thinking this case is kind of a longshot.

Part The Fourth: Good nominees, I think this is a good list. But, check out the list of judges in the nonfiction category. Apparently,Waldo The Drunk Security Guard at Salon has a brother who works for theNational Book Foundation. We're damned lucky Glenn Beck isn't a finalist, Iguess.

Part The Penultimate: this was the best treatment of the whole Nobel business that I read anywhere. The Pooka McPhellimey and I will brook no debate on this point.

Part The Ultimate: The ongoing scandal in Texas regarding thatstate's eminently successful execution of Cameron Willingham has begunto fascinate me, even at a considerable distance. (For those of you whowant to get up to speed quickly, Josh's joint has done an exemplary job of aggregating the local reporting.) In brief, it appearsthat Texas, over the signature of Governor Rick (Goodhair) Perry--pace,Molly I.--executed a fellow who was most likely innocent and did so onthe basis of cheesy arson science apparently drawn from the extendedresearch of Professor Otto Yerass. It also appears that Perry signed offon the execution despite his being aware of the fact that the evidence wasso full of holes you could use it for a flute. I say these things "appear"to be true because there's an investigation going on down there, but it'sbeing hamstrung because, every time the probe gets too close to his ownpersonal nether regions, Perry fires another couple of the investigators.Perry, it should be recalled, is currently running for re-election in ahot Republican primary against Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Token.)

What's disturbing--if undeniably compelling--about the case is theself-evident fact that Texas is apparently governed at the moment by acomplete fucking barbarian. The evidence suggests quite clearly thatPerry didn't give the hindquarters of a rat as to whether or not he wassigning the death warrant for an innocent prisoner. And the evidence quiteclearly suggests that Perry further will defy any attempt to judge his conductin the matter. What is even more disturbing is that there is almost nochance that the state-sanctioned murder of Cameron Willingham, an innocent man,will be any kind of an issue in that aforementioned primary hooley.(They're kinda/sorta upset about the cover-up ( but not the crime itself.) The Texas GOP is exclusively the province of the party's knuckle-dragging base--Check out the state party platform sometime. It will curl your hair--and that base doesn't care how many mistakes are made in the death chamber as long as it keeps humming.

In that sense, it was the stormy petrel of what came to pass for thenational Republican party once its various deals with various devilscame due. For the conservative "movement," the death-penalty never has hadanything to do with criminal justice. It was always about boosting yourpolitical testosterone count, or denigrating that of your opponents.It's about killing people to make yourself feel strong, or safe, and aboutbravely hiring people to do the killing for you. (Come to think of it.That's pretty much what the "movement" has for a foreign policy, too.)The governor of Texas likely arranged the death of an innocent man, eitherthrough deliberate neglect or through the abject dereliction of hisconstitutional duties. He is now engaged in a public cover-up thatwould have embarrassed H.R. Haldeman. That he still has a chance to stay inoffice is an indictment of our politics far beyond anything else thathappened this week.

Name: Ed Tracey
Hometown: Lebanon, New Hampshire

Professor, it's not on-line as near as I can tell -- but Terry Adamsonce explained why NRBQ hired Lou Albano as a 'manager' of sorts:"Some situations in life are challenging to deal with -- but TheCaptain knows how to handle things".

I, too, will "stick with the Guiding Light".

People Who Died...

We've got a new "Think Again" column called, believe it or not, "'I'll See Your Testicles...' (Catfight on the Right)" and it's here.

Also, I did an op-ed on the move away from AIPAC-style politics for American Jews for the International Herald Tribune, which is up on the New York Times site, here.

I'm getting to the age where the obituary pages are really starting to bum me out.  Wasn't AL MARTINO wonderful in the GF? Wasn't NAN ROBERTSON brave to go after the Times the way she did? Wasn't Stuart Kaminsky a fun read? But here is the one that really got to me. Captain Lou Albano. What a great guy, even better in reality than in the "ring" or on the sidelines as the manager of the great Bruno Sanmartino. But how could Mr. Goldstein omit the greatest tribute to Lou from this otherwise loving obit? It's Psychedelic Pandemonium.

Speaking of obits, did I mention that I was briefly in a reading group with Jim Carroll. Really nice guy. He never heard the Drive-By-Truckers' version of "People Who Died" and so I played it for him on my iPod. So history moves forward...

 

"Gonna Huey, Dewey, and Louie all over the room." Who's for legalizing sex with ducks? Me, David Rudd, and Garfunkel and Oates (but I hope not that juvenile druggist/anal rapist, Roman Polanski.

 

(By the way, did you notice that the above ducks all have rhyming names spelled totally differently?  Awesome, huh?)

This week on Moyers: Barack Obama was elected on a message of change, promising a new era ofdiplomacy and international cooperation - but can the President delivera new vision of America?  Reporting from the world's most troubledhotspots, Mark Danner has seen countless deaths over ethnic andpolitical divides, and witnessed firsthand how U.S. attempts to exploitthose conflicts have resulted in disastrous unforeseen consequences.Danner speaks with Bill Moyers about Obama's challenges in resetting themindset of America from war to peace, and redefining the US as a nation.Danner was a staff writer for many years at The New Yorker, contributesfrequently to the New York Review of Books, the New York Times Magazine,and his latest book is Stripping Bare the Body, which chronicles themoral history of American power over the last quarter century.  Also onthe program, the Journal profiles public health doctor America Bracho,who serves her Santa Ana, CA community - notorious for crime, povertyand disease - with her organization, Latino Health Access.

The Mail

Name: Todd Buck

Hometown: Lancaster, TX

We know who forged the documents. And yes, they were forged, andbadly at that. But that is not the only mistake which was made. Rather allowed his desire for the story to be true to blind him to the fact that he was being sold a bad bill of goods. He had multiple experts try to authenticate the documents. All of them were very skeptical, although one did say there was a slight possibility that they were legit. Rather decided to go with that one, instead of the vast majority. He had all the warning he should have needed. At best, this was very sloppy journalism, worthy of getting him fired. At worst, it is a partisan smear. I think the evidence is too vast to consider the former likely.

Name: Dave Ward

Hometown: Austin

I never hear about the Dan Rather-CBS dustup without remembering that never once did the Bush White House deny the substance of the 60 Minutes II report. They went straight to non-denial denials like "The President is proud of his National Guard service" and to declaring that the documents were forged. Most of the veterans I know would, if faced with an accusations like that, immediately call the accuser something along the lines of a lying sack of shit. Come to think of it, I never heard that from the Bush White House about any of the crimes they were accused of. Hmmm...

Name: Ben Miller

Hometown: Washington, DC

Mr. Alterman,

As I sit and watch/read so many Americans react angrily that their President won the Nobel Peace Price, just one week after I sat and watched/read so many Americans get satisfaction from the U.S. not getting the Olympics because the President wanted it, what is beginning to strike me the most isn't what I see/hear coming from those on the Right. We knew what these people were like for the most part, and knew that the people that loved George Bush and Dick Cheney and Karl Rove for 8 years were not going to suddenly change their ways. No, what is starting to strike me the most is how much hate for Obama and how much satisfaction from any of his perceived or real failures, I see and hear from people that I have known for many, many years. These are people that I would call my friends, and people that for years, I never knew they cared about politics, never heard them say one word on any issue either way. But now, suddenly, they do not miss one opportunity to complain about or bash the President.

Now, maybe this is a product of the economy, and when the economy tanked, it made people who never cared about politics care because they want to keep their jobs, or find a job, or afford their bills and pay their mortgages. I guess that may make some sense.

But I cannot help but think I am ignoring the elephant in the room--these people are just not comfortable with a black President. They may not be outwardly racist, and may never say something outwardly racist, because maybe they know better or maybe they themselves can't admit it. So, they will never say I want him to fail because he is black. But it is clear to me that for many of them, because he is black, they want him to fail.

Am I reading too much into all of this? Maybe, but I do not think so. Even in today's era of instant media, presidents are normally judged by bigger pictures, and when issues have not been about politics, we have all rooted for the President. They want to judge Obama like he was a batter, on every at-bat, and no matter what he does, they will say, "He hasn't done anything." Most of the leftiest liberals I know took some level of satisfaction when President Bush threw a strike in Yankee Stadium - yet now, there are large groups of people angry when their President won a prize acknowledging peace?

Name: Maureen Holland

Hometown: South Venice Beach FL

I admire Amy for her tenacity.

My recommendation? Amy, post your message each day to more ABC blogs. And NBC blogs. And CBS blogs. And many, many more (if you have time). And keep it the same message each day.

The Note has been pretty immune to the Democratic message for a long time (and Mark Halprin is now on ABC TV of course!). Keep it up Amy.  Broaden your audience. Messages do filter up.

And if The Note is your particular target, let us hope that the message comes to them sideways if it doesn't make it through their own front door.

Name: John Evans

Hometown: St. Paul

Re: The Note -- The internet has a special property not really found in other media; every single time you click over there, you increase their hit count, and measureably increase their economic value.

You know it's futile anyway, so don't do it. If reasonable people stop clicking over there, the Note will not be able to pose as anything other than what it is.

 Name:  Michael Green

Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

If you want to know what is wrong with the mainstream media, go toYouTube for this link.

 

It is the final commentary that Eric Sevareid did for the CBS Evening News before retiring. It was a bit longer than usual for that reason. But it is about three minutes... of a man talking...  intelligently... telling the people how smart they are. And now we have Katie Couric interviewing Glenn Beck on the CBS Evening News.  Is it any wonder that more Americans trust Jon Stewart than the three anchors combined?

 

Name: Alan Urkowitz

Hometown:  Mount Laurel, NJ

Eric, this is in response to Charlie P's most recent Friday contribution, specifically the Part about Afghanistan.

Part the First. I have been shouting since 2001 that everyone should read James Michener's novel Caravans. It is based on his foreign service tour there in the early 50's. A great book, it describes the country as a land of shifting alliances, usually tribal but with all kinds of overlays. I know almost nothing else about Afghan history than what I read there and two things have been true: Nothing that has happened there has surprised me; and I have not been able to predict anything that has happened there (except the continuing powerof opium).

Part the Last. Everybody, political, military, ordinary citizen, is in the same boat I am, though they may not even know they are in that boat. Read Caravans, read Flashman, by George MacDonald Fraser, and get some knowledge about the boat. We still won't know what direction to sail.

Name: Steve Nelson

Hometown: Kent, WA

I have been offline for a while however I want to encourage dear Amy. I too tilt at windmills. I figure if there are enough of us then maybe truth will win out. Take heart that there are more of us out there.

Slacker Friday

We've got a new Think Again column called "CBS and Dan Rather--Doing theRight's Dirty Work," and it's here.

My Nation column, "Where have you gone, William Safire?" is here.

Sal's got an interview with Hall & Oates and Pierce follows below, whichis followed by more mail. Now here's Sal:

Alter-reviews: New H & O Box Set.

Do What You Want, Be What You Are, is the new 4 CD boxed set from thebiggest selling duo of all time, the oft misunderstood Daryl Hall & JohnOates. For almost 40 years, Hall & Oates have been recording together,topping the charts with hit after hit, while getting hit for theirstring of unfortunate MTV videos during the eighties. As a longtime,pre-MTV fan of the band, I've made a second career out of trying toconvince the non-believers, that Daryl & John are so much more than"Maneater" & "No Can Do." This wonderful boxed set covers it all, fromthe pre-H&O material of Daryl & John's first bands, The Temptones andThe Masters, to the early folk material found on their first two albums,to the middle 70s where they were finding themselves as rock 'n' soulartists, through their most successful period in the 80s, right on up totheir most current achievements.

I had the pleasure of talking to both Daryl Hall and John Oates,(separately) and here's what they had to say.

ME:
So let's talk about the box. How difficult was it for you guys to decideon the final track list for this set?

DARYL:
Well, I did most of it, which is not unusual, and I had to listen. Thatwas the only way to do it...to sit down, take every song, analyze it andlisten to it in a big giant gulp. I'm not a nostalgic person, I don't goback and listen to my stuff. I don't think most artists do. But I had toand it was a real eye-opening experience, like getting a perspective onyour whole life.

JOHN:
It was difficult. There were a lot of choices. How do you do it? How doyou distill 450 songs into 74, or whatever it is? Obviously the hits hadto be included, and they are. But we wanted to create a package for thehardcore fan who really knows us, give them some surprises...createsomething that maybe they never had, which we did with the unreleasedselections. But for the casual fan who may only know us because of thehits, we wanted to show the depth of the material, the songwriting, andthe production, the uniqueness of some of the things that we did thatwere above and beyond those songs that were so famous.

ME:
As I look at every Daryl Hall & John Oates record, each subsequentrelease seems so diverse from the one prior. It seems so natural foryou, like you guys never experimented and failed. But as the biggestselling duo of all time, do you feel that your hits truly represent whatyou and Daryl originally set out to do?

JOHN:
No, not really. I mean, they represent a part of what we are. We came upas pop songwriters. Pop music to us was really the singles that we grewup with as kids. We were never really into the long, involved rockoperas, the instrumental excursions and things like that. We were prettysuccinct, pretty direct. But at the same time, we created a lot ofadventurous things, in our...not only our songwriting but in ourproduction and our record-making. And I think that they are the thingsthat this box set gets to showcase.

ME:
Live From Daryl's House could be the best hour of television not ontelevision. The last episode featured Todd Rundgren as a guest. You guysgo way back, with Todd producing 1974's War Babies, a record that hesays he "took the blame for," because the public perception was that hetook you and John away from your soul roots. It's a record that soundsnothing like the record before it, 1973's Abandoned Luncheonette orits follow-up, the self-titled Silver Album from 1975, which includedat that point, the biggest hit of your career, "Sara Smile." With threealbums so radically different from each other, what was your mindsetheading into the studio to record your next record, Bigger Than Both OfUs?

DARYL:
Well, I like to bust out. I've always tried to break the barriers. Ihave no creative fears, you know? Most people pay at least some kind ofservice to what they've been doing, and try to be a little more careful.They try to repeat their successes. We never really thought that way.Neither John or I, though he's a little more like that than I am. Whenwe went in after the The Silver Album we were just looking ahead, man.We called the album Bigger Than Both Of Us, because we saw what wewere doing and in some ways it WAS bigger than the both of us. We wentinto it with the idea that we were making some noise and people wereresponding to us.

JOHN:
I think we were trying to find ourselves. And you really have to includethe first record as well, which is Whole Oates. It's a real,singer-songwriter, organic kind of record. I think if you take all fourof those records...well actually it's the first three, Whole Oates,Abandoned Luncheonette, and War Babies...you take those threerecords and combine those various style elements, the singer-songwriterfolky thing, the kind of R&B thing we got into, and the moreexperimental rock thing we got into with Todd, you take those elements,and then you listen to The Silver Album with "Sara Smile" on it, Ithink you'll hear all three of those on that record. And I think TheSilver Album was the first time our sound started to coalesce intosomething. The Silver Album really brought it together."

ME:
The Silver Album got the most representation on this boxed set with 6songs. Was that a conscious decision, or did that just happen?

DARYL:
(surprised) No, it wasn't a conscious decision. You're the first personto point that out. Really? Six songs from that album?

JOHN:
No it wasn't conscious. It was exactly the reasons I just mentioned.The Silver Album is really where, in the seventies, we really foundourselves. The three albums that followed, Bigger Than Both Of Us andunfortunately Beauty On A Back Street...if you look very carefully, there's not one song from Beauty On A Back Street on this box set. Ihated that album. And for the rest of the seventies, for ratherextenuating circumstances, the reasons being we were recording in L.A.,we weren't comfortable, we were recording with Chris Bond and ourrelationship with him was deteriorating...that all came to its nadir atBeauty On A Back Street. It's probably the album I like...well, it'sthe album I hate. But then, from that point on, you look at "Red Ledge"and "X-Static," we started to rebuild and to lead ourselves to producingourselves, which is where we had our most commercial success, so...itkind of went up and went down and went up again.

ME:
Now that the boxed set is finished, is there anything that was removedlast minute that you wish could have made the final cut?

DARYL:
Yeah. Off hand I couldn't tell you what, because there are so manysongs. We realized we had a 4 CD set to deal with and I came upwith...at least...10, 12, maybe even more songs that could have easilygone on there and we had to whittle it down for time. But sure, there'sa lot that I could have, or would have put on. But I am really happywith what I DID put on. Put it this way, nothing significant was leftoff. I fought and fought for anything that I thought was important. AndSony was really great. They really were on the same page.

JOHN:
Yeah, there are some things that could have gone on there, but thenthere are a few hundred things that could have gone on there. Where doyou draw the line? What's gonna be really cool, what I think could bethe highlight of this particular box set is the 7 or 8...I can'tremember if it's 7 or 8 tracks from our first English appearance at theVictoria Theatre. (Ed. note: It's 5 tracks.) I can't remember if it was'74 or '75. I had that stuff on an old videotape which I transferred toa DVD and I started looking at it and I was really blown away by it. The band was young...and...when I think back as to the history of ouramazing musicians and bands who have played with us over the years, thatband, that particular ensemble never really stuck out in my mind as everreally being one of our better bands. But when I heard it now, as timehas gone on, that band was unbelievable. The way they played and the waywe played together...I was just actually amazed. I had completelyforgotten about it. When you hear that, I think the hardcore fans arereally gonna freak out.

ME:
"Storm Warning." Tell me about that.

DARYL:
That was an outtake from Change Of Seasons. "Storm Warning was a songby The Volcanoes, a band that was on Arctic Records, which was my firstlabel. And one of the guys in The Volcanoes ended up being in TheTrammps, you know, "Disco Inferno," and he also played on The Temptonesrecords. John and I always loved that song. And we were fooling aroundin the studio during Change Of Seasons and we just cut that song.

JOHN:
That track was recorded live in the studio. We just about got it.

ME:
It's a killer! So what's next? Boxed set out, hopefully that's not theswansong.

DARYL:
Right now, I'm doing a Daryl solo record. I just signed with VerveRecords. And of course, Daryl's House. As far as me and John, we don'thave any immediate plans. John and I work together all the time, sowe're never that far apart.

JOHN:
My next record is going to be a traditional, finger-picking folk album.No drums, just guitars and mandolins. I'm gonna do some Mississippi JohnHurt, Doc Watson, all the stuff I loved when I was a kid. I'm gonna dothat this winter and see where that takes me.

John Oates and I talked a bit about his recent solo release, the verymoving and very folksy "1000 Miles Of Life," a record that takes youright back to the very beginning, with personal songs not unlike whatcan be found on the first two Daryl Hall & John Oates records. I askedDaryl Hall if there were any plans on releasing audio from "Live FromDaryl's House." His reply, "Well, yeah. But you can only imagine theloopholes with all the labels involved."

I highly recommend "Do What You Want, Be What You Are," for both thecasual and hardcore Daryl Hall & John Oates fans. Just skip "Maneater,"if you really can't deal. There are 73 others to choose from.

Sal Nunziato
BURNING WOOD
www.burnwoodtonite.blogspot.com

Now here's Charles:

CHARLES PIERCE
NEWTON MA.

Hey Doc: "And if they don't give us what we like/Men, that's when you gotta go on strike."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Surrey With The Fringe On Top" (MarleneDietrich)--I met Bill Ayers at a ginmill in National Airport and hetold me to tell you that I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: Andrew, pardon me, old son, but this is all my balls.

Part The Second: The Pythons debuted on British TV 40 years agothis week, thereby guaranteeing that I would never be able to listen to anyBBC news reader with a straight face. ("Lemon curry?") Who knew, though,that one of their sketches would so presciently anticipate the current debatein this country over healthcare? We're all the John Cleese character, by the way.

Part The Third: All McCaughey's aside, when is it going to fall tothe editor of ETL New Republic to apologize for the fact that theguiding light of his magazine is a complete f**king lunatic? Mary Robinson--a "frigid anti-Semite"? Get the net, somebody.

Part The Fourth: OK, we all had our fun with this bag of piousoffal. However, spelunking a bit deeper we find this: "First Example - Liberal Falsehood: The earliest, most authentic manuscripts lack this verse set forth at Luke 23:34:[7] Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know whatthey are doing.' Is this a liberal corruption of the original? This does notappear in any other Gospel, and the simple fact is that some of thepersecutors of Jesus did know what they were doing. This quotation is afavorite of liberals but should not appear in a conservative Bible."

"Some of the persecutors of Jesus did know what they were doing."? Idon't think I need the Enigma Machine here. Next stop--Oberamaggau.

Part The Fifth: Just die already, ok? Better publications are going out of business and this worthless pile of drivel doesn't even have a cold? Yoicks.

Part The Penultimate: James, bubba, if you're going to rip ameathead like Glenn Beck about the fact that he knows about as much about sportsas he does about political theory--i.e. not enough to throw to a cat--youreally shouldn't be talking about "hockey courts."

Part The Ultimate: I feel safe in predicting that this is an experiment that will result in chaos, disorder, and some really, really bad writing that thinking people will hate with the heat of a thousand white-hot suns. And that it would have done all this even in 1958, when theidea was fresh.

I am admittedly not an expert on the culture and politics of whatwe all used to call the Near East. I am particularly not expert on thepolitics and culture of Afghanistan--which, come to think of it, putsme in roughly the same boat as Alexander The Great, several Caesars, ahandful of British PM's, and Leonid Brezhnev, all of whom down through thecenturies paid far more dearly for their ignorance than I ever will. ButI do know that there is in this country a seriously building sense thatthe war there has spiraled beyond any rational attempt to control it.Correct me if I'm wrong but what I see now is a vicious and expanding tribalconflict the roots of which go back beyond the invention of movabletype, and one that's now energized by a thoroughly modern war between severalthoroughly modern drug cartels, all of which is taking place right ontop of the least stable member of the Nuclear Bomb Club. And we're thereferees. How this is possibly a coherent foreign policy moving forwardis, I confess, beyond me, but it's going to be what finally blows up theObama Administration politically. Of that, I am certain.

Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC

Mr. Alterman,

I am reading today on Washingtonpost.com an article about theVirginia Governor race and that the latest poll is troubling forDemocratic candidate Creigh Deeds (Poll May Point to DemocraticWorries Beyond the Old Dominion). It then talks about how the numbersin Virginia may point to larger problems for democrats in otherstates and nationally.

The article ends with this curious sentence in the final paragraph,"But all Democrats have a stake in trying to show that theelectorate that put Obama in the White House was more than a one-time phenomenon built around his personality." His personality? Isthat just a poor word choice on the part of the Post or do theyreally think that is the only reason Obama got elected? It hadnothing to do with his brain, his ideas, it was his winning smile.It wasn't the utter failure by any possible measuring stick of theoutgoing Republican administration, it was Obama's ability to telljokes that won him the election.

Name: Derek Lessing
Hometown: Philly

Responding to Amy Billings from Portland: Do other Note commentersrespond to your posts? If so, then I'd say keep on posting: you'regetting under the skin of other regular readers, and, especially ifyour comments kick off long, contentious threads, then I'd guess thisattracts the attention of the original authors and maybe even aneditor or two. Will anything change? Heck, who knows. More power toya, though, for doing this.

Name: Timothy Barrett
Hometown: Louisville Ky

Amy Billings asked whether she can ever expect the mainstream mediato get better at journalism. The line between reporting andeditorializing has been forever blurred. We haven't really expectedmuch from television news for some time. Even the interviews areeither cloyingly absurd exercises in softball tossing or gotcha typehostile catfights with every speaker frantically yelling above thedin. The print media, what is left of it, are ideological periodicals(you get what you pay for here) or skeletal remains of once proudernewspapers. Most have thinned the herd or reporters to so few thatmost of the paper is syndicated reports from the AP or one of thenational conglomerates.

So most of us who want actual analysis, based on at least the factsas they are known at the time, rely on the internet. However, theglossiest sites are owned by the same media moguls who have watereddown or ruined once great outlets. We must find what we can among themillions of blog sites. Build your favorites and make sure to includewriters you disagree with but who practice the fine art ofjournalism. Only then will you build a world view that you can trust.Reading only what resonates with you will narrow your perspective andtrap your mind.

So what is my answer about will they improve. Yes, they will, becausethe cream always rises. They are selling the product ourideologically partisan consumers want today. But we are recognizingthe falsity of their wares. As they slowly ride toward the fringe,the mainstream will begin to attract the talent that will demandethical standards and valid logical analysis. These things take time.

Name: Stephen Carver
Hometown: La La Land

As a Cronkite kid who saw Vietnam every night, and watched as DanRather went from boy wonder journalist to head of the news divisionat the Tiffany network, watching what CBS did to him has been trulysad for me. I am also a Texan, and watching Cronkite and Rather "tellit like it is" was what made me, at one point, consider a career injournalism.

I admire Rather's fortitude in moving forward with his lawsuit, evenif it proves to be fruitless, and hope someday to find out who forgedthose National Guard documents (if they were indeed forged), becauseTHAT is the crime here.

Unfortunately, I think Mr. Rather's television fall is what hasallowed things like Faux News to rear it's ugly head. Televisionanchors report to their corporate bosses much like serfs used toreport the their overlords; telling them exactly what they want tohear, the truth be damned.

If there is a sadder state of affairs in this nation right nowthan the decline and fall of journalism, I don't know what it is.When no one is there to point to the fox in the hen house, thenthe fox can do anything it wants, and that's just the wayCorporate America wants it.

Bread and circuses. Where's the bread?

Name: David Ellis
Hometown: Whitefish, Mt.

Thanks, Mr. Alterman. I worked for a long time in the TV business andsaw how corrupt, arrogant and twisted it is. I also spent 6 yearsfighting a lawsuit (which I miraculously won) defending rights forwhistleblowers. We need more truth tellers, like yourself. I'm notgonna tell you or myself any lies as to what we're up against. Buthere's a sincere THANK YOU for telling the truth.

Name: Seymour FriendlyHometown: Seattle,WA

Re: Nader "wasting the world's time".

Dear Sir:

Mr. Nader, regardless of his flaws, has done more to benefit the USin one year of his life than you personally will be able to point toon your death bed, reflecting back over your career. In case youhaven't noticed, your primary contribution appears to be musicreviews at this point, and "Altercation".

Placing that aside, in case you haven't noticed, the Democratsare busily proving that, even with complete control oflegislative and executive branches of the government, they arecomplete unable, or unwilling, to function as a body and providebasic progressive reform.

Certainly Nader is at this point long past due for retirement.However, his slings and barbs at the Democrats seem awfully accurate.

Name: Alice de Tocqueville
Hometown: Martinez, CA

A nation that wouldn't have Ralph Nader in its government is notworth saving. It has no human pride, or values, no belief in decency,no belief in itself. Just like the US. That doesn't mean I've readhis novel.

Eric replies: "Go ask Alice... She's ten feet tall

Sea of Heartbreak

We've got a new Think Again column called "CBS and Dan Rather--Doing theRight's Dirty Work," and it's here.

My Nation column, "Where have you gone, William Safire?" is here.

The worst day of the Obama campaign for me was the day I got an emailsaying "Vote Charlie Rangel for Change." My congressman is quite properly a symbol of everything people hate about the Democratic Establishment and they are cowards for trying to sweep this away. If anyone can imagine a bettersymbol of corruption that a guy who can't be bothered to pay taxes onthe resort he owns in foreign country--who gives the excuse that theywere speaking Spanish to him when half his district is Spanishspeaking--writing the goddam tax laws that the rest of us losers have tofollow, I'd be mighty impressed... I wrote this columnin December 2008, things have only gotten worse.

Alter-consumer advocacy:

With Ralph Nader wasting the world's time with counter-productivepresidential runs and unreadable 700 plus page novels, I thought I wouldpick up some of the slack by warning people against scams I've noticed.

1) T-Mobile rebates and S-Wireless: I upgraded my Blackberry at aplace called "S-Wireless" on Broadway and 108th. The upgrade wassupposed to cost only $50 with a new contract after rebates. Of course,after I paid them the $200, I learned I was ineligible for the rebates,and this store had no business promising them to me. Once they had mycontract, however, it wasn't their problem. I don't know if I found onedishonest broker or if this is endemic but in any case, read the fineprint and stay away from "S Wireless." (T-Mobile "communications"eventually got me my $ once I told them I planned to write about ithere...)

2) Third-party Amazon purchase and ImportCDs: I bought the 2008Japanese import re-release of Santana's "Lotus" from "Importcds" viaAmazon. But ImportCDs was lying. It was the original 1991 domesticversion. When I told them, they asked me to send it back at my ownexpense. I did that. They claimed never to have received it. So I'm outthe original price plus shipping and handling twice. It's easy to returnstuff to Amazon but not if you're buying from third-party sellers, likethe liars at ImportCD, whom I see, are looking for another sucker, here.

3) Medico. I get my Lipitor from Medico. The other day, I got sixtypills I didn't request and of course was billed for them. When I called,which is a pain in the neck, they said my doctor had signed theprescription. Thing is, they sent him the request, not me. I didn't wantor need them. The first person to whom I spoke told me to blame mydoctor. Then I got that person's supervisor on the phone and they wereall apologies, and told me to keep the bills, though I'm guessing theymade plenty of $ from my insurance company on the deal.

Now here's Sal on Rosanne Cash's The List.

At first glance, Rosanne Cash's The List may appear to be just anothercovers CD. But it IS Rosanne Cash, so we should all know better. Chosenfrom a list of 100 essential songs given to her by her father, JohnnyCash, the twelve songs selected for The List have been given a smart,fresh, and glorious reading. Thanks to Miss Cash's personal attachmentto the material, producer John Leventhal's brilliant (yes, brilliant)arrangements, and the subtle but very effective use of some big timespecial guests, The List is one of those records that will stay inyour heavy rotation for some time.

As for those special guests, Jeff Tweedy lends his harmony to amore-upbeat-than-usual version of "Long Black Veil," while theomnipresent Elvis Costello does his thing on "Heartaches By TheNumbers." But two standout tracks for me are Merle Haggard's "SilverWings," featuring a gorgeous backing vocal performance by RufusWainwright, that is almost a separate song on its own, and the DonGibson hit, "Sea Of Heartbreak," the duet with Bruce Springsteen and thealbum's first single. This is just perfect, as if the song was writtenfor the two of them. There is a wonderful chord change on the chorusthat I know wasn't on the original. I credited Bruce, since it sounds soperfectly constructed around his voice and something I've heard him doon a number of his songs. I stood corrected by Miss Cash, (via ERA) thatit was indeed the genius (my word) of Miss Cash's husband, JohnLeventhal. (Nice one, John.)

That genius is most apparent on the best moment of The List, anabsolutely stunning version of "Take These Chains (From My Heart)."Leventhal's arrangement, which features his guitar break preceding JennyScheinman's short but effective fiddle solo over just one chord hummingon a Wurlitzer, is absolutely dream-like. All of these songs hit you asif hearing them for the first time, and for that I credit Rosanne Cash,whose soulful readings rarely disappoint, and often break hearts.

Sal Nunziato
Burning Wood

The mail:

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

Brother Pierce has given us too much to laugh at and attack! I couldspend most of this response pointing out that if I said and wrote inmy class and syllabus the stuff that Peggy Noonan did, I would becarted off to the Nevada State Home for the Bewildered. How and whywould HARVARD tolerate this bilge?

But, more important, in the spirit of my new hero, Rep. Grayson, Iapologize on behalf of Charles Pierce, Altercation, thenation.com,and all media critics everywhere for insulting Sabrett's by lettingPierce suggest that one of its vendors would be so stupid as toapprove Dana Perino's "commentary" (there is no word for it) on thatsorry excuse for a political news website. Sabrett's has higherstandards than that, and I am very disappointed that Pierce does notappreciate that. Even if I do prefer Nathan's.

Name: Steve Davis
Hometown: Harrison, AR

Belated thanks to the Honorable Pierce. (Is this the right channel?)

It takes considerable talent to make it a pleasure to sit in thechoir and listen to the sermon all the way through. It takesbrilliance in the occasional turn of phrase to make the bass sectionlaugh out loud.

As for the Big Dawg, I have some proximity, which is surely not thesame as understanding. I matriculated at Waterman Hall (I was an oldguy) halfway through Bill's first term on his way to being theyoungest ex-Governor in history.

Bill has made a life out of recovering from disappointing. We learnfrom Luke 15 that worker bees like you and me always resent thereturn of the prodigal son. It doesn't help.

Keep it zipped? Who else has a big enough persona to raise a weaknessfor volunteer lubriciousness to the level of a Greek tragedy? Youunderstand, of course, that the Big Dawg has likely declined morevolunteer nooky (the old saying around here was that they would triphim and try to beat him to the ground) than you and I togetherimagined back when Playboy still airbrushed and inked thecenterfolds.

One thing for sure about our damnable, disorganized party, going backin personal experience to Harry Truman, we produce by at least twoorders of magnitude the best ex-Presidents. If he lives long enough,the Big Dawg may yet grow up.

Wait for him.

Name: Amy Billings
Hometown: Portland, Me

I must be some kind of masochist. I've been posting in the commentsection of ABC's The Note almost every day now for months, because Ifeel its important to speak up for Democrats and President Obama inthe MSM, if only to counter the endless stream of lies,misinformation, and slander the right spews across the nation, daily.But just today, after reading yet another Limbaugh quoting Note, andanother promoting a rightwing book, I thought, "I can't take itanymore." My question for you: should I keep trying to counter theNote's rightwing bias by challenging them in the comments section,or, is it better just to boycott them entirely? Furthermore, is MSMjournalism ever going to get better, and if so, is there anything Ican personally do to spead it up, or should I just disengage from allmedia-consumption, stat? What advice to you have for me?

Eric replies: "Well, people?"

Slacker Friday

We've got a new "Think Again" column called called "Kevin Jennings, theMainstream Media, and Right-Wing Target Practice." Read it here.Now here's Pierce:

CHARLES PIERCE
NEWTON, MA.

Hey Doc:

"People around every corner/They seem to smile and say/We don't carewhat your name is, boy/we'll never turn you away."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "All I Need" (Magic Sam) -- I have no option,public or otherwise, to admitting that I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: The Lt. Steven Hauk of punditry rides again. Still not funny.

Part The Second: Oh, my stars, over in Cambridge, Loser U hashired a new schoolmarm to teach the Defense Against The Dark Arts class. Luckily, one of the students filmed the first lecture session. And all of her students are the creme de la Chardonnay. A guest speaker already has been lined up for later in the semester.

Part The Third: Every time The Big Dawg goes off like this, all I can think to say is, "Yes, they were gunning for you, and you knew they were gunning for you, and you still couldn't keep it zipped, foof." That, and the quote in this month's Esquire about how, to broaden their base, the Republicans need "their own Democratic Leadership Council"--A Republican equivalent of, say, Al From would last about 11 seconds and you wouldn't be able to ID the remains with dental records--make me wonder if they guy understands at all what happened to him and why. And, thanks to Dave Sirota, for this truly egregious get. Go away now, OK?

Part The Fourth: I feel terrible that, in these tough economictimes, Ye Olde House O' Mulch For Brains so obviously has had to lay off everysingle solitary editor they had. Who greenlighted this piece? The guy at the Sabrett's stand outside the building?

Part The Penultimate: Not to belabor the painfully obvious, but there's no f**king way on God's green and pleasant land that she wrote this at all, much less in four months. It would take her that long to find a verb.

Part The Ultimate: Too easy. Much too easy. By now, most everyone in the ginmills along the docks of Blogistan has seen the clip of Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Reality) jiving around with the clown show that is The Situation Room on CNN. Let us leave aside the disgraceful pearl-clutching from theputative journalists on the set, and the always useless cornpone chawin'of James Carville. The fifth clown in the center ring, brought together tolecture Grayson on civil political discourse, is a career goon named Alex Castellanos. In his previous life, he was responsible for the famous "white hands" ad that helped torpedo Harvey Gantt on behalf of lifelong bigot Jesse Helms. That alone should be enough to shatter forever his credibility on the topic of what is permissable political discourse. (Hell, it shouldbe enough that decent people would refuse to treat his wounds.) Thatthis wretched excuse for a public person has a regular gig on CNN should make actual journalists vomit. Instead we have Joe Towns and Gloria Borger and Wolf Blitzer tut-tutting Grayson while their CNN colleague, a race-baiting thug, joins in. Therefore, since apologies seem to be all the rage, let me apologize to Congressman Alan Grayson on behalf of all decent journalists everywhere. I apologize that elite political journalism on television has become so obviously an unbridled whorehouse as to employ Towns, Borger, and Blitzer as eunuchs, and Castellanos as the featured attraction.

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