Well-chosen words on music, movies and politics, with the occasional special guest.
Our new "Think Again" column is called "Sex and the Single Justice" andit can be found here.
(It also contains an update on George Will's environmental reporting...)
1959: It was a very good year.
I came this close this year to writing a book about 1959, which is funnybecause Fred Kaplan actually did, even though we never talked about ituntil my publisher decided that I wouldn't be. I planned a chapter onBuddy Holly, one on Goodbye Columbus; one on "The Tragedy of AmericanDiplomacy," one on Twilight Zone; one on Kind of Blue and one on "Shape of Jazz to Come." I forget what else, though I remember the politics(Cuba, Vietnam, the Commies in Disneyland, etc).
Anyway, it turns out itwas an even better year than I knew, jazz-wise, and Columbia Legacy istaking advantage of that coincidence by following up its massive Kindof Blue with Legacy Editions of Dave Brubeck's Time Out, Miles Davis'Sketches Of Spain and Charles Mingus' Mingus Ah Um. They'll be out in a couple of weeks and feature two CDs and a DVD for the Brubeck, includinga new 30-minute documentary on the making of Time Out, and an entiresecond disc of previously unreleased live recordings from the NewportJazz Festival from 1961-'64. Sketches Of Spain was recorded in '59but not released until 1960, has a second CD of alternate takes whichyou have already if you have Miles Davis & Gil Evans: The CompleteColumbia Studio Recordings, but not, if you don't. There's also the onlyever live performance by Davis with Evans, "Concierto De Aranjuez"performed at Carnegie Hall on May 19, 1961. And the Mingus releasegives you two seminal albums on the same not just Mingus Ah Um but alsoits Mingus Dynasty, and four bonus tracks/alternate takes.
Booker T. Jones-Potato Hole
It's been a long time since we've heard a Booker T. record; fifteenyears since the last MGs record and over 30 since his last solo release.But 2009 sees the Memphis legend back in action with Potato Hole.Jones, along with southern country grungers, the Drive-By Truckers and aguitarist from up north, Mr. Neil Young, has taken his signature organsound and the grooves that he no doubt invented, and created a brilliantcollection of real Memphis grease. (Booker T. & MGs toured with Neil inthe early 90s, so this collaboration is not that weird.)
From the opening Stones-inspired power chords of "Pound It Out," Jonessets the table for a twelve-course meal that is all meat and no filler.There are some choice covers alongside Jones' originals including theslinky strut of Tom Waits' "Get Behind The Mule," and a fun take onOutkast's "Hey Ya!". But the centerpiece of "Potato Hole" is the titletrack, a funk workout with a pocket so deep, you'll need help climbingout. Buy this record now and throw a party! It's THAT good!
A Slightly Gushing Sal
Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
"Now Christ had twelve apostles/and three he laid away./ He said 'Watchfor me one hour, while I go yonder and pray.'/ And tell me who's thatwritin'?/John the Revelator."
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "How Blue Can You Get?" (Jeff HealeyBand)--Once again this week, I failed to hack into the Interpoldatabase and send out a worldwide alert on the subject of how much Ilove New Orleans.
Part The First: To break the tie, I am inclined toward the Landlord'sposition. This is the loosest and most engaging work by The Master inyears. (I even forgive him the alliance with Robert Hunter, and theimplied connection with the most overrated--non-Jim-Morrison-employing--band in the history of the known universe.) One of the tremendouslyoverlooked facets of The Master's genius is how damn funny he is. Thatis what puts "Went To See The Gypsy" from New Morning--Tell it, Sal!--on all my top ten lists of his individual songs. ("He did it in LasVegas and he can do it here!" cracks me up every time.) And, on the newone, "My Wife's Home Town" checks in as his best little picaresque inabout four albums. He's doing it in Milawaukee and he can do it here.
Part The Second: The only rational explanation for this is that everything is a talk show now. All that matters is phony outrage, the more the merrier,and the more people complain about giving a contract to thisbloodthirsty apparatchik, the more firmly convinced will be the peoplewho hired him that they have succeeded.
Part The Third: Yes, the new one is more fun than playing stickball with a Regulan bloodworm. Be advised,though. Apparently, there's going to be a helluva lot going on in Iowacome the 24th Century. We're going to have to determine whether Vulcanscan vote in the caucuses, I think.
Part The Fourth: The Further Adventures Of Waldo The Drunk SecurityGuard, Part XXIX: The management team at Salon scoured the offices,looking for the hiding places in which Waldo secreted his nightly supplyof Sterno, but Waldo was too smart for them. He hung it outside thewindow by a rope, like Ray Milland did in The Lost Weekend. After theyall went home, he hauled it up and, sitting down on a sofa, he hadd ahigh old time. Alas, he passed out and crazy people from the alleyslipped in through the heating ducts again. Why, it was just last March when the crazy woman from the alley was sticking up for a giant of thetalk-radio genre against the attacks of the president and his fellowfrat-boys. Now, though, she's shocked, shocked that the genre itself is a festival for fruitcakes. Butnot so deeply that she couldn't dig real deep and come up with a shinynugget-like nutball. "The degree to which Obama is or is not a stealth socialist remains to be seen." Yes, and the degree to which I am or am not the answer to Maggie Gyllenhaal's prayers remains to be seen.
Part The Fifth: Gaze in awe at the single dumbest thing ever said by a sitting United States Senator. (Please recall this clown's lofty rhetoric duringthe Great Fellatio Hunt of '98 and be prepared to bust a gut.) WhySenator Huckleberry seems to be pleading the case, not only of DickCheney, but also of the Spanish Inquisition, is something best left forDan Brown to ponder, but I wouldn't be surprised if he had some curiousbranding somewhere on his torso, not that I'm eager to find out.
And this is the kind of person to whom President Obama regularlydefers because Huckleberry is alleged to be one of the "sensible ones."Good Screaming Christ In A Camaro, what has the Republican party donesince January that would make any thinking human being accord it thetiniest smidgen of a modicum of respect? Laugh at them and then do whatyou want to do. I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that the Presidentof the United States is something of a political coward. The flip-flopon the Rumsfeld Porn Collection is just the most recent example. He'swalked back much of what he said during the campaign on rendition and onthe Military Commissions Act. Gitmo is still open. His Department ofJustice is pleading state secrecy. He has lifted not an obvious fingerto put pressure on anyone to get qualified people like Dawn Johnsenconfirmed. (LBJ would have had Harry Reid hanging by his entrails in theMural Room by now.) Even when his administration does somethingcorrectly, it turtles in the face of hissy-fits tossed by adiscredited political movement adhered to by less than 30 percent of thepublic.
I think the source of the president's timorousness lies in thefact that, for all his new-politics bombast, he's pretty much decidedthat he's a critter of the respectable Beltway center. We should haveseen that coming when he supported Weepin' Joe Lieberman over Ned Lamontor, at least, when he took that ungainly dive on FISA and the issue oftelecom immunity. His financial team is straight out of the Retired WallStreet Hiring Hall, and his complete disinclination to call crimes whatthey are bespeaks an unseemly lust for a middle ground that liesomewhere between Oz and the Big Rock Candy Mountain.
Politicalcowardice has many sources, and its effects are not always uniform orpredictable. Lyndon Johnson was brave enough to stuff the Voting RightsAct down the gullet of American white-supremacy, but he lost his nervewhen confronted by a bunch of Harvard intellectuals with a jones forSoutheast Asia. It took a great deal of courage for Barack Obama to getto the White House last January, and a great deal of courage to want thejob at all during this period of history. It's too bad he seems to haveleft that courage back in Iowa some place.
Name: Jordan Weltman
Hometown: Seattle, WA
Eric, Did you see here from Nate? Chart didn't copy, but it'sfascinating.
Richard Posner has a fascinating read:
My theme is the intellectual decline of conservatism, and it isnotable that the policies of the new conservatism are powered largelyby emotion and religion and have for the most part weak intellectualgroundings. That the policies are weak in conception, have largelyfailed in execution, and are political flops is thereforeunsurprising. The major blows to conservatism, culminating in theelection and programs of Obama, have been fourfold: the failure ofmilitary force to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives; the inanityof trying to substitute will for intellect, as in the denial of global warming, the use of religious criteria in the selection of public officials, the neglect of management and expertise in government; a continued preoccupation with abortion; and fiscal incontinence in the form of massive budget deficits, the Medicare drug plan, excessive foreign borrowing, and asset-price inflation.
By the fall of 2008, the face of the Republican Party had become Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber. Conservative intellectuals had no party.
Now, take a look at this chart; this is the share of the vote of those with post-graduate educations won by Democrats:
The 1980 figure is extrapolated based on Jimmy Carter'sperformance among all college graduates. Carter won only 35percent of college graduates in 1980, but Democrats have generallyperformed better among those with postgraduate educations thanthose with "just" a college degree; we estimate Carter's share ofthe postgraduate vote was 40 percent. Other figures are taken fromNew York Times exit polling.
Obviously, this data is far from perfect: Having attended theUniversity of Chicago, where there are plenty of booksmart peoplethat you wouldn't consider particularly bright, I can tell you thatthe correlation between intelligence and educational attainment isconsiderably less than one-to-one. Still, Republicans have graduallybeen losing the egghead vote. I wonder how that translates into theirability to recruit strategists and "thought-leaders" who can work onthe campaign, policy and media sides and help to lead them out oftheir current slump.
Name: Steve Gregoropoulos
Hometown: Montecito Heights, CA
Re: "the repetitive accordion riff of 'If You Ever Go To Houston'makes the 5:49 song about two minutes too annoying"--just which"Bob Dylan" has Sal been listening to for the past 40 or 50 years?That's the most classic part of the album (from the guy who, as Irecall, did stuff like "Desolation Row" and "Sad Eyed Lady of theLowlands," right?)
Name: Debra Beller
Hometown: Chapel Hill
I misread this line from your May 7th 'Altercation': "...thetelepathic abilities of conservatives to discern Obama's realintentions to destroy America with his pick." I added an 'r' to thatlast word--and then realized that I was actually spot on--that'sexactly what conservatives are most afraid of. Morons.
Name: Arthur Swalley
Hometown: Santa Barbara
Eric, at the end of your fine (yet tedious because it seems no matterhow many times or how nicely it's explained the punditocracy stillwon't get it) Supreme Court column, Reagan said "Facts are stubbornthings..." The correct quote actually fits your column better.
As an aside, my Republican friends won't even try to talk politicsanymore. Couldn't shut 'em up till the financial meltdown. They aresmart enough to realize that account balances are factual.
Name: T. O'Dell
Hometown Port Angeles, WA
Just when you thought they couldn't dig any deeper into the cesspoolof disgraced former political operatives, last night Fox brought outCol. Oliver North to froth at the mouth about the closure ofGuantánamo. Hannity showed a Republican scare ad in its entirety withno comment (well, maybe he said "if that didn't scare you, maybe thiswill, bringing on the Colonel"). Then North raved about how some detainees are going to be released (to attack us again?), how they were all al Qaeda trained suicide bombers and other nonsense. It would be hilarious if they weren't so serious. Not to mention the irony of a guy like North criticizing anyone for anything.
Funny spam department:
My house from Bucharest was robbed again by the romanian GYPSIES, socalled "ROMA" or "ROMANI population" and one of my beloved watch doghas been murdered : first beaten to death, and second poisoned withsome local salami called PARIZER! I do hope the State Department willnever lift US VISA for ...THE ROMANIAN GYPSIES!!!
We've got a new "Think Again" column hereIt's called "Codeword: 'Empathy' " and it's about the telepathic abilitiesof conservatives to discern Obama's real intentions to destroy Americawith his pick.
My new Nation column is about the punditocracy and torture. It'scalled "David Broder: Eyes Wide Shut" and it's here.
And this month's Moment column, about the Chas Freeman flap--rememberthat--is up here it's called "The 'Pro-Israel' Smear Campaign."
Sal and I have a significant disagreement on the new Dylan. I like itbetter than all the alleged genius records of the past decade becauseit's actually a pleasure to hear. His voice is mixed lower and themelodies are there in a way they've not been for quite a while. I alsothink the lyrics work well as lyrics, if not as prophecies of doom, etc.,but he did the work so he gets the last word:
Bob Dylan, Together Though Life, by Sal;
Not every song has to pack a "Hattie Carroll" wallop, but if Bob Dylanwants to make a light-hearted record full of swampy blues and upbeatrockers, who's gonna stop him? No one! But, maybe someone should stopJack Frost, because Bob Dylan's producing alter ego is what makesTogether Through Life, less than it could have been. There aresome winners on this new record. "Forgetful Heart" moves at a dramaticpace and is the closest thing to a Dylan classic and "Jolene," not theDolly Parton tune, is a nice shuffle with a tasty guitar lick that isincredibly infectious. But it's hard to get past the opening track andfirst single, "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" and its resemblance to "BlackMagic Woman." And the repetitive accordion riff of "If You Ever Go ToHouston" makes the 5:49 song about two minutes too annoying.
But back to the production. The material suffers from the "factorysetting" sounds of the instruments. There is way too much space, nothingdistinct at all, and the record as a whole sounds like there is dust onthe needle. Joe Henry, T-Bone Burnette, and even Daniel Lanois couldhave given some simple material some balls. Instead, Together ThroughLife sounds rushed. I expect the record will grow on me. It is BobDylan. But after the uneven, but still amazing 1-2-3 punch of TimeOut Of Mind, Love & Theft, and Modern Times, not tomention the almost perfect Tell Tale Signs, Together ThroughLife seems a bit of a throwaway.
And recently, four more Dylan titles got a much needed audio upgrade.The The Basement Tapes, Before the Flood, Dylan & TheDead, (which sounds a lot better than I remembered it sounding,) andone of my very favorites, New Morning. Each is packaged in alimited edition digipak and benefits greatly from the upgrade.
Eric adds: The Dylan/Dead album is famously considered awfulalmost everywhere. I never got this. I always thought it sounded prettyok, and was well worth having. If you want to hear the Dead soundingtruly awful, get a bootleg of the time they backed up John Fogerty atthe Bill Graham tribute in Golden Gate Park in 1991. Compared to that,well, as I said, I always thought this was a solid B and now it's abetter sounding solid B.
RTF-Live in Montreaux
I have a soft spot for Chick Corea's fusion "supergroup" Return toForever because it provided a window from rock to jazz in my teens, andhelped me to "get" Miles, Coltrane, etc, decades earlier than might havebeen the case. And who wants to live a life without Miles and Coltrane? The band grew out of Corea's participation in Miles's fusionexperiments, (on In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew) which also spawned Tony Williams' Lifetime, Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, JohnMcLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter'sWeather Report and Chick Corea's legendary Return to Forever. They had anumber of permutations but disappeared for 25 years before returninglast year for a tour with the classic lineup--Corea on keyboards, Al DiMeola on guitar, Stanley Clarke on bass and Lenny White on drums.Virtuosos all, they do genuinely come together on the new DVD/Blu-rayrelease of their Montreux show (with some extra tracks from one inFlorida), in a way that makes one a great deal less queasy about likingthem in the first place. Like many of Carlos Santana's, Wayne Shorter's, andHerbie Hancock's musical experiments, Corea is genuinely hit or miss.But this more than justifies itself, perhaps more than it did when itwas being invented, and requires no apologies even to jazz purists.After all there never has been anything pure about jazz, a musical form,that after all, was born in a whorehouse.
Rhino has been releasing a bunch of digital only CDs. If you don't havethe room of your shelves, and you like this sort of thing, you can nowget the Grateful Dead -- The Golden Road (1965-1973) (2001compilation album), Rhino's boxed set of the complete Warner Bros.output (plus unreleased material). Also available is an album thatliterally everybody ought to own--and in a 1/2000 coincidence, just cameon my iPod as I was typing this-- Kate & Anna McGarrigle -- TheMcGarrigle Hour (1998 album).The singing sisters' final Hannibal album includes family and friendslike Rufus and Loudon Wainwright, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt.It's available digitally on 5/12 and it is a joy from start to finish.Folk music's most dysfunctional family makes you think it might be funto be that weird....
This week on Moyers:
As the banking stress test results come in, the Journal takes a closerlook at money's stranglehold on politics. Bill Moyers speaks withSenator Dick Durbin (D-IL)--who declared last week that banks "arestill the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own theplace"--on campaign finance reform, big lobbying, and making Washingtonwork for the people rather than special interests. And, Bill Moyersspeaks with Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, author of The Third Chapter:Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50, on a culturalshift on aging in America.
Name: Don Hynes
Hometown: Portland, OR
Pierce is spot on concerning Iran Contra and other neglectedhousekeeping since 1963 or thereabouts. One of the reasons the dirtylaundry isn't being washed now is because the same bad actors thatcaused death and mayhem around the world, particularly in CentralAmerica, are still in the picture and calling shots at State, namelyJohn Negroponte who ran the "Salvadorean solution" i.e. deathsquads,as well as Robert Gates at Defense who had a big part to play in IranContra and foiling its exposure.
The Salvadorean solution was applied to Iraq by Donald Rumsfeld withNegroponte's direct assistance and direction, which led to thewholesale ethnic cleansing of first the Sunni population and then theShia population around Bagdad and throughout Iraq.
This same ugly story has tentacles back through US foreign policy allthe way to the Dulles family and the quaint idea that to lick 'em youhad to join 'em. Cheney didn't invent that idea.
We neglect our collective cleansing at our own peril, and mostunfortunately, to the disservice of those who fall under the shadowof our failure to promote justice within the only country we reallycontrol, our own.
Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
Pierce's link to National Review Online got me to thinking. Love himor hate him, William F. Buckley, Jr., loved to play with the Englishlanguage. What would he think of referring to Arlen Specter as"Crapweasel" in a headline in his publication? Even the supposedintellects in the conservative movement have turned into hacks.
Pierce also inspired me to say, I wouldn't call Arlen Specter a "pal"of Harry Reid. As Reid said in his book, Specter is always with usuntil we need him. I'm sure there will be more of the same there. Butto invoke LBJ, I'd rather have him inside the tent whizzing out thanon the outside whizzing in.
Name: Timothy Barrett
Hometown: Louisville, Ky
This has been a momentous year for race relations in the US. Thereare good reasons for people of color to feel that movement towardequal opportunity and access is picking up. Much has been writtenframing the issues in race relations from different perspectives.Even President Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder famously calledAmericans cowards for our reticence to face the issues of racerelations.
Recently, Media Matters turned up with Bryon York's blog, "The black-white divide in Obama's popularity", in which he parses a recent pollto say that "if a new survey by the New York Times is accurate, thepresident and some of his policies are significantly less popularwith white Americans than with black Americans, and his sky-highratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear abit more popular overall than they actually are."
Several writers derided York for apparently presuming that only theopinions of white people matter. I feel that was not his point, butrather that black people love Obama simply because he's black.Because people of color are often marginalized, York may be thinkingthat any dark skinned president will do for them. The comments sentin to York's blog echo these sentiments, with rather alarmingobtuseness (paraphrased):
Joan of Argghh!: The monolith of the black voter must becorralledand controlled at any cost. Racism is over except in the imaginationsof the Media and the Politicians. The rest of us could care lessabout the color of someone's skin. Too bad that makes for an equitableworld-view that is un-serviceable for political gain.
Omar: Keep in mind that Obama receives his most adulatorycoveragethrough outlets targeted to Blacks. There's a concerted effort, amongthese, to turn BO into another MLK. And there's also a lot of pressureamong Blacks to tow the line politically, which tends to breed a tribalperspective on politics. Lastly Blacks do tend to be racist, not justtowards whites, but pretty much any other group. They may see theirbigotry as an appeal to racial solidarity, butit's racism nonetheless.
Smith: This is more than just racial chauvinism. Disadvantage hasledsome to genuinely embrace Obama's welfare socialism as the solutionto their condition. Many whites don't appreciate the privilege ofbeing seen as individuals. Success or failure is your own. Formanifold reasons, the same is not true of blacks.
David Kohen: American blacks are overwhelmingly bigots. The factthat blacks voted 96 percent for Obama over indistinguishable liberalHillary Clinton in the Democrat primaries (a statistical impossibility,but for racism) is similar evidence of the racism that pervades blackculture.
Chris Jones: The only conclusion one can reach is that blacksdon'thave a grasp of any of the issues. They think whatever Obama says ordoes is great because he shares the same skin color.
Beachmom: But there is no way that this is racist because it isblacks who are doing the approving. Blacks approve of Obama overallbecause he is black and it has nothing to do with any issues.
The comments by these people didn't surprise me. But I can't explainhow one can acknowledge ethnic differences in appearance, culture andattitude and openly embrace them without sounding patronizing,insincere or clueless. Words like tolerance, inclusiveness anddiversity all carry the baggage of interpretations that there existssomething inferior about that person. I care that people sufferdiscrimination, humiliation and low self-esteem. I want to alleviatethese things without inadvertently sending the message that any of itis even a little deserved.
Why do I feel natural when I point out a child's radiant red hair yetfear I'll be thought insincere when I compliment another'sdisarmingly attractive brown face? I may feel relief when the parentflashes a smile and looks approvingly at his or her child. And whydoes my mind flash, "I really mean this, it's not just because I waslooking for something nice to say to this black person." When willthose kinds of thoughts stop?
Name: Martyn Luberti
Hometown: Madison, WI
I wish to thank you for encouraging attendance at the current LeonardCohen tour. I went last night in Minneapolis and despite havingmisgivings that the concert might not live up to all the raves placedon it, I couldn't conceive of it being any better.
His voice sounded better than any recording I have heard, the bandwas excellent, the singers were sublime, and the women were lovely! Imeet his band leader and one of the Webb sisters pre-show, and theywere a lesson in graciousness.
I find Leonard Cohen not only to be a one of a kind entertainer,but his manner and way of being have a way of encouraging me toelevate my own behavior and way of being in this world. May I be soalive at 75!
Anyone with a love of words and music, I implore you: find a ticketto this tour. The likes of Lenny may never pass this way again.
Eric replies: Did everybody read this?
We've got a new Think Again column here called "Conservatives Know the Real Origin of Swine Flu."
"Mama's in the kitchen, messin' around/Sister's in the parlor, tryin'on a gown/Daddy's on the housetop, won't come down."
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "The Long Black Line" (Spencer Bohren) --I am thinking very seriously of having a 747 fly low over Brian Williams'sapartment, trailed by two F-16's, each pulling a banner listing 35 of the8 million ways I love New Orleans. And it's Jazz Fest, kids. Can't youjust feel the bon temps roulez-ing out to all points of the compass?
Part The First: I'm as big a fan of limitless schadenfreude asanyone, and Arlen Specter's defection has prompted some entertainingaerodynamic displays from the various flying monkeys. But the man needs a primary very badly, if only to force him to define himself as a Democrat beyond being Harry Reid's pal, and the fact that no prominent Democrats seem to realize this makes me despair of the party even further. (Would President Obamaseriously come to Philadelphia to campaign for Arlen Freaking Specteragainst, say, Joe Sestak? I foresee a sudden and unexpected periodontalappointment coming into play there.) Personally, I'd ask Arlen to takeback the magic bullet theory, but that's just me.
Part The Second: That was an interesting column from MoDo lastweekend, whoappears to think that the biggest problem with newspapers dying is that itgives her one less venue to pretend to be Rosalind Russell. Me? I think shemight have mentioned a relevant story in the news, but that's just me.
Part The Third: Minnesota Politics Update: I believe thatCongressloon Bachmann is going to be the source of some dissension within the Gopher delegation when Norm Coleman finally gives up the ghost, and she discovers that Hoot Smalley was Stuart's beloved late uncle.
Part The Fourth: Who--or what--is the tent-pole holding up theGreat Tent Of Freedom? We are entertaining nominations, which ought to be entertaining enough.
Part The Last: As Altercation Interim Papist Correspondent, I wouldlike to caution everyone, but especially the lads and lasses in the press,not to make too much of a big deal about this. I would especially caution Notre Dame not to chicken out. Look, Glendon and people like her make a lot of noise, but within the vast body of American Catholicism, they are seen asmouthpieces for the red-beanie crowd in Rome. The general respect for thatcrowd of unemployables has not recovered in the least from the discoverythat it functioned as an international conspiracy to obstruct justice. In short, Glendon and the Crisis Magazine crowd have no constituency that anyone needs to fear. They are an influential elitist circle-jerk at this point and nothing else. Is the Vatican going to crack down on Notre Dame for inviting the president of the United States to give a speech? Not even the Vatican is that dumb. If Notre Dame turtles on this one, it's going to be the most embarrassingsurrender since that Syracuse game a couple of years back.
I am no longer amazed by the capacity of Parson Meacham to miss the point deliberately so as to guarantee himself a Beltway social life for the foreseeable future. But this passage truly is remarkable for its ability to miss the point not only in 2009, but in 1987 and in 1973 as well. How'd he do this without a time-machine, since it represents three decades of point-missing crammed into two sentences? And this, from a guy who won a Pulitzer Prize for awork of history last month.
"The answer depends, at least in part, on how we turn back the page.Is a Watergate- or Iran-contra-style congressional probe the way to go? No,for public hearings encourage--demand, really--dramatic plays for attentionfrom lawmakers. Such a stage would lead to the expression of extreme views."
Does Meacham really remember the Watergate and Iran-Contra hearingsthat way? Both the Ervin and Rodino hearings into Watergate wereextraordinarly dignified affairs -- The latter, of course, was highlightedby the late Barbara Jordan's passionate defense of the Constitution.
Extreme views?--in which serious crimes were exposed so that a passel of incredibly guilty bastards could get sent off to prison. Theinvestigation of those crimes was short-circuited, not by the kind ofhearings that give the Parson the vapors, but by Gerald Ford's pardon ofthe guiltiest bastard of them all, which is exactly the kind offundamentally infantilizing "conciliatory" gesture that the Parson and hisvarious dinner guests applaud.
And the Iran-Contra investigations were not a carnival of partisanfulmination. (I can't even remember a single decent speech that came out ofeither side.) They were, however, a towering botch. Even within the media,the possibility of investigating Ronald Reagan's involvement was off theboards almost immediately. (Mark Hertsgaard's On Bended Knee is excellent on why this happened.) The Tower Commission was one of the Parson's belovedgatherings-of-wise-men that was rigged from the start to speak only in thepassive voice -- "Mistakes were made" and all that. And the jointcongressional committee bungled its own mandate so badly that a half-madcrook like Ollie North became a star, and the piddling little convictionsthat were won got tossed because the Congress immunized people whoshouldn't have been. (I believe this was the first time Lee Hamilton essayedhis ongoing role as our national anesthetic.) Meanwhile, poor LawrenceWalsh found his probe utterly hamstrung, and nearly got to the truth0anyway, only to have Poppy Bush pardon everyone except Shoeless Joe Jacksonon his way out of town in 1992.
Iran-Contra was a series of crimes stemming from a reckless anddangerous theory of executive power, one that came back to Washington witha vengeance in 2000. And why shouldn't it have come back? People like DickCheney and Elliott Abrams all got hired into government again, largelybecause Cheney wasn't discredited the way Charles Sandman was back in 1974,and Abrams had his Iran-Contra conviction overturned, so he was free topretend to be rehabilitated. Say what you will about Haldeman andEhrlichman, but nobody was scrambling to put them back into an importantgovernment job when they got out of the sneezer.
Therefore, not only is Meacham's point spectacularly ahistorical, itis utterly foolish as public policy. There are only two proper venues toexamine the crimes of the previous administration. Either the Department ofJustice can do so as a formal criminal investigation, or the relevantcommittees of the Congress can open up their own investigations, in fulland open hearings. I am sorry that some of the people the Parson sees onthe weekend might then have to spend some time on a government cot, butthat's not sufficient reason to truncate the responsibilities aself-governing people has to investigate the crimes committed in its name.
Las Vegas, NV
Brother Pierce has pricked this historian in just the right placeswith two of his comments.
First, as to Justice Breyer and the Clueless Court, anyone who has read"The Brethren" will appreciate that. One of the stories shared with Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong was when then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist brought in a National Lampoon cartoon of the justices engaged in various sexual activities. Chief Justice Warren Burgerwas predictably offended, and Justice Thurgood Marshall sent out aclerk to buy copies for his kids. Harry Blackmun was depicted engagedin extracurricular activity with a kangaroo and told his clerks thecartoon was funny, but he couldn't figure out what he was supposedto be doing. But the great one was William J. Brennan, the great liberal,who was shown standing in front of some children, holding his robe open.He said other justices were having sex, but he was protecting children from the sight. His clerks then explained to him what "flashing" was. So, Breyer and company aren't the first.
As to Tom Ricks's modest proposal, during the Civil War, Senator BenjaminWade of Ohio tried to get West Point abolished. A Radical Republican,he chaired the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War and felt that the West Point generals were too aristocratic, pro-southern, and interestedin maneuver as opposed to fighting. That can be argued, but for what it's worth,that perfectly described George McClellan. But Ulysses Grant was a West Pointer--it's just that he wasn't fond of the military theory taught there.
Now we have Condi Rice telling us that the former president would only order people to torture prisoners because the OLC says it was legal.
We have our media, and our current president, excusing torturers because higher-ups told them that torture was legal.
It seems to me that it has now been accepted by the public at large that an average American is not capable of knowing the laws of his country, and therefore it is not reasonable for others to expect him to know the laws. Only the lawyers know what the law is, so how can we be wrong listening to their advice?
Somewhere in California
Comparing the President's message to learning Everything You Needed to Know in Kindergarten? No thanks. Everything I needed to know I learned in the Infantry:
You can always improve your posiiton. Thus, we have stores like Home Depot, Lowes, etc.
Never volunteer. Wait until you are sentenced to public service for something you did on payday night in the barracks.
Keep your weapon clean at all times. (Ask the survivors of a certain Maintenance Company about this one.)
Don't bunch up, but stay spread out and tactical. Where do you think "personal space" comes from, huh?
Never leave a man behind. Unless he's covering the bar tab.
There's the right way, the wrong way and the Army way. If the Army way didn't work most of the time, there'd be somebody else's flag out there on the pole.
I'll agree that the famous 5/8/77 Cornell show is probably overrated, but it's still an incredible performance. Before the soundboard version was in wide circulation, I had muddy audience recording of it, and the intensity still came through--and this was before I knew enough to know that I was supposed to like that show.
You'll probably appreciate this: last year the missus and I saw Maude Maggart in a retirement community's tiny theater in suburban Virginia, next to a strip mall just outside D.C. She was on her way to the Oak Room to premier her new show (called "Good Girls, Bad Girls," I think) and decided to practice it along the way.
We sat in the front for around $10/ticket. Like you say, there's no place like New York City, but this time it worked to our benefit here in D.C.
We've got a new Think Again column here called "Conservatives Know the Real Origin of Swine Flu."
And I did a short 100 Days post for the Daily Beast.
What I've been seeing:
Desire Under the Elms, at the St. James Theater. Ben Brantley'sTimes review of Eugene O'Neil's smoldering, sex-obsessed mini-opera does a pretty good job of communicating the intensity of the performances and the impressive power of the sets and staging. CarlaGugino, who plays the incredibly sexy agent on Entourage, is thesmoldering sex interest who drives everyone nuts, including herself,and with the help of Dylan, treats this as grand opera-meets GreekTragedy. Isherwood notes that the play dates from what might be calledO'Neill's High Freudian phase, which would also include the trilogyMourning Becomes Electra (a modern-day retelling of Aeschylus'Oresteia) and Strange Interlude, a long evening's journey into thetortured heart of a neurotic named Nina and is drawn from Euripides'Hippolytus.
He adds that "Rarely has sexual passion been depicted withsuch tense, animalistic ferocity on a Broadway stage." I guess we'llhave to defer to him on that. People do by and large keep their clotheson, however. The only (other) problem with it is that it's totallyunbelievable. But that's not really the point.
I saw the Dead on Tuesday night. Nate Chinen's Times review appears here.
I think it's pretty fair. Some people can't stand thethought of the Dead without Jerry. That's a mistake. I do find it oddthat people want to see the Jerry Garcia Band without Jerry but the Deadwere, of course, something else entirely. With Allman Brother Warren Haynes and Ratdog's Jeff Chimenti, and the night I saw them, Branford Marsalis. I got there latebecause the Port Authority got rid of their bus to the Meadowlands andnobody told me--or would tell me, so I missed what I heard was some goodstuff in the beginning. The good stuff I did see and hear included aterrific "Turn On Your Love Light" that ended the first set, and areally terrific "Franklin's Tower" which served as the second encore. Ifound their version of "Milestones" pretty interesting too. And WarrenHaynes sounded surprisingly moving on "High Times." "Dark Star" waspainful though. And Phil convinced me to be an organ donor by pointingout he'd be dead if someone hadn't been one. So I feel good about that.
I believe I've already recommended the recently released Hartford 77show that just came out from Rhino. I think it's one of the best showsI've ever heard. I know people rave and rave about Cornell, from thesame tour. I think I prefer this one, though that's in part because ofthe terrific sound quality, something I don't hear in any of the Cornelll tapes. It's called "To Terrapin" and there's a press release for ithere.
I also caught one of the great loves of my life, Maude Maggart, at theAlgonquin's Oak Room last night. I recommend that you do too. I'll writesomething longer about her when I have a chance as I want to sit downwith her and ask her stuff. In the meantime, you can read about herhere.
Name: Timothy Barrett
Hometown: Louisville, Ky
I was very impressed by President Obama's press conference Wednesdaynight. I liked most of the questions and thought he gave goodanswers, although he dodged some and on some I would have liked morecandor. But that's the way it works. I'll let the spinners andpolitical analysts dissect the issues.
What I have done is distill Obama's message of proper behavior, sortof like a Miss Manners of the White House. Here is the list Obamapresented at the presser (some paraphrased - some translated):
Work as a team Don't disagree just to disagree Make your bestarguments Listen hard to what other people have to say Coax folks inthe right direction Don't quit playing just because you have tocompromise Help all people, especially the most vulnerable Don'tmistreat people, it reflects badly on you Consider the other person'sperspective Wash your hands Cover your mouth when you cough If youare sick, stay home If your child is sick, keep them out of school
Gee, it's like "Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten."Robert Fulghum says, "Everything you need to know is in theresomewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology andpolitics and equality and sane living. Take any one of those itemsand extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it toyour family life or your work or government or your world and itholds true and clear and firm."
I think what really impressed me is how a man of such sophisticationas President Obama scattered so many basic simple codes of goodbehavior into remarks about the most difficult political,philosophical and administrative issues we face today. It all reallyis quite simple if we are willing to actually solve America'sproblems rather than exploit them for our own satisfaction or self-promotion. This optimism can be contagious. Senator Arlen Specterseems to have caught at least a mild case. I rather doubt the swineflu will be the pandemic it is being hyped as, but wouldn't it begreat if optimism could be so contagious?
Name: Walter Crockett
Hometown: Worcester, Mass.
Marvelous Pierce smackdown of the snotty Kos.
I'm no fan of today's newspapers, including Pierce's Boston Globe,but the idea that a bunch of unpaid or barely paid bloggers -- nomatter how intelligent or resourceful they are -- can replace paidnewspapers staffs is the kind of magical thinking that got us intothe current economic crises. Somebody has to have the time to do thegrunt reporting, and the way you get time is to have money. So unlesswe want to leave journalism up to a handful of trustfund babies, weneed full-time, paid reporters. Why is that so hard for Kos tounderstand?
Name: Shelly Lowenstein
Hometown: Chatsworth, CA
Dear Mr. Pierce,
I just want to thank you for allowing Eric Alterman to write on yourblog every Friday or so. While I agree that he is not the caliber ofwriter that you are, it's still nice to see you give him some airtime, so to speak. The kid has potential. Keep up the great work. Ilook forward to all the hard work you put into the blog every weekand also appreciate the occasional tidbit from Eric.
I've got a new "Think Again" column called "TheDHS Report: Torturing theTruth" here and I'vegot a new Nation column about the New York Times Company, theBostonGlobe and the craziness of the current situation in the newspaperbusiness called "The NewspaperBiz: More Poison Please?" here
Also, here on the Daily Beast, I criticize a Timesstory that pretendsto be about Obama selling out but in fact is about the fact that theTimes chose to put a story on its front page that has a theme butabsolutely no substance. And in this piece I refute yet another round ofsloppyand misleading charges thatIzzy Stone was a spy.And today I did this column about William Kristol and the art of failingupward in conservative American for the Guardian, and it's here.Oh, and the finalists for theMirror awards for covering the media wereannounced this week and my work appeared in two categories: Best SingleArticle--Traditional for "Out of Print" (The New Yorker), andBest Commentary--Digital for a series of columns on the legacy of the Bushwar against the press for the Center for American Progress, which are here. All of the nominees can be found here.One of the many fun aspects of an extremely fun job--that of New YorkTimes op-ed page pundit--is the ability to just say stuff that mayor may not be true but which you are under no obligation to demonstrate assuch. Given the temptation, almost all pundits yield to this,and--surprise, surprise--not only does much of what they claim turn outto be false, but it also, by coincidence, matches almost exactly their ownstated political prejudices. Is David Brooks the worst offender? Icouldn't say. But I would say that you can't get away with this soeasily in the blogosphere. Brooks would have to link to his sources,which I'm guessing, are either misread or imaginary. For instance thismorning, he writes:
"There is little philosophical backing for a government as activist asthe one Obama is proposing. Middle-class voters are not willing to handover higher taxes in exchange for more federal services. The public issignificantly to Obama's right on economic matters and needs constantevidence that he is not trespassing on personal freedom and individualresponsibility."
Well, according to my research, this is exactly wrong. I researched thequestion rather carefully for Why We're Liberals, and based on the data available then, I discovered exactlythe opposite of what Brooks claims, without evidence, to be true. Here's a bit from that:
We now have a situation in which not just majorities butmassive supermajorities of the public tell pollsters that they hold views wellto the left of what their political system produces: the very samepositionsironically espoused by some of America's most famous and allegedlyout-of-touch liberals... To offer just a few examples of thisliberal-in-all-but-name attitude regarding economic and welfare policy,according to the 2006 survey, released in March 2007, roughly70 percentof respondents believe that the government has a responsibility "to takecare of people who can't take care of themselves"--up from 61 percentin 2002. The number saying that the government should guarantee "everycitizen enough to eat and a place to sleep" has increased by a similarmargin over the past five years (from 63 percent to 69 percent).Two-thirdsof the public (66 percent)--including a majority of those who saythey would prefer a smaller government (57 percent)--favorgovernment-fundedhealth insurance for all citizens. Most people also believe that thenation's corporations are too powerful and fail to strike a fair balancebetweenprofits and the public interest. In addition, nearly two-thirds(65 percent) say corporate profits are too high, about the same numberwho say that "labor unions are necessary to protect the working person"(68 percent). When it comes to the environment, a large majority(83 percent) supports stricter laws and regulations to protect theenvironment,while 69 percent agree that "we should put more emphasis onfuel conservation than on developing new oil supplies," and fully60 percent of people questioned say they would "be willing to pay higherprices in order to protect the environment." Regarding so-called socialissues, only 28 percent of respondents agree that school boards shouldhave the right to fire teachers who are known to be homosexual, while66 percent disagree. A 56 percent majority opposes making it moredifficultfor a woman to get an abortion, while 35 percent favor thisposition. These findings reinforce previous polls like that in 2004 byNPR,the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University, which asked voterswhether "the federal government should fund sex education programsthat have 'abstaining from sexual activity' as their only purpose"or if "the money should be used to fund more comprehensive sex educationprograms that include information on how to obtain and use condomsand other contraceptives." The condom/contraceptive optionwon the day by a margin of 67 to 30 percent. Unsurprisingly, a similarnumber (65 percent) said they worried that refusing to provide teenswith good information about contraception might lead to unsafe sex,while only 28 percent were more concerned that such information mightencourage teens to have sex.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, Americanseven tend to side withliberals rather than conservatives in their attitudes toward religion.Accordingto a 2006study sponsored by the Faith and Progressive PolicyInitiative of the Center for American Progress and conducted by thefirmFinancial Dynamism, 67 percent of voters believe that religious freedomis a "critical" part of their image of America, compared to less thanthreein ten who believe the Judeo-Christian faith specifically is criticalto thisimage. Only 20 percent of American voters approve of leaders using thepolitical system to turn religious beliefs into action. In terms of therolethat religious and moral teachings should play in public debate aboutkeyissues, American voters do not focus on the issues of abortion, gaymarriage, and the kind of topics that so exercise conservative Christianleaders, but would prefer to see their churches lead on issues such asalleviating"poverty and hunger" (75 percent), "homelessness" (61 percent),"government corruption" (58 percent), "terrorism" (56 percent), "theenvironment"(54 percent), and "health care" (52 percent). Americans specificallyreject the conservative Christian desire to suppress science intheservice of religious dogma. Eighty percent of those questioned agreethat"faith and science can and should coexist. We can respect our belief inGod and our commitment to the dignity of every human life by using ourscientific knowledge to help those who are sick or vulnerable." The sameoverwhelming number endorses the view that "stem cell research can bea force for moral good rather than a moral failing."
Remember those are pre-Crash figures. If anything they are even morecompelling now then before. Or at least that's how I read thisexhaustive study by my colleagues at CAP. Read all about it here.
"First, I cut him with my Barlow/Then I kicked him in the side/Istood o'er him laughin' while he wallowed up and died./Judge, judge, goodkind judge, send me to the 'Lectric chair."
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "The Return Of The Prodigal Son" (RayBryant) -- Dick Cheney doesn't love vicarious sadism as much as I love NewOrleans. True fact.
Part The First: Thanks to Digby for this amazing clip. And a big hoddy-toddy--Ole Miss joke--to Shep Smith who, I swear, one finemorning, is going to take an ax to his workplace.
Part The Second: Does Stephen Breyer have a daughter? ( A wife? A mother? Is he acquainted with anyone possessing breasts? If there is a just god, Breyer eventually will lock himself outside his house, naked, at high noon on Easter morning. How Dahlia keeps from hurling Jujubes at these people at moments like this remains a mystery to me.
Part The Third: This is an intriguing premise by Tom Ricks. I will leave the military implications of the notion to my former running-mate. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that, if Ricks's proposal is enacted, Notre Dame is unlikely ever to win another football game.
Part The Last: Ah, The Future fires back.
Scroll down, as the kids say, for his response to this thing.
Attentive readers will note that, right there at the top, I expressed myadmiration for what The Future has done. I was critical of his unseemly--and fundamentally gutless--tendency to gloat as thousands of people losetheir jobs, all the while denying that he's doing it, but that's hardly"Shooting The Messenger." (Note--I said the HuffPo contributors don't getpaid, which they don't. If you tell me the reporters get paid, I'll believeyou, but I'd love to know if it's enough to keep a rat, as my grandmotherwould have said.) There's the usual pouter-pigeoning about the new age; "I'm not the reason people are deciding to take more direct ownership oftheir media production and consumption." Wowser. Aux armes, citoyens! Jesus,nobody said you were. Who are you when you're at home, as my grandmotheralso used to say.
All I did was ask the perfectly legitimate question of whether or not--in the new media age that The Future has helped bring upon us--anybodywill be able to actually make a living at a craft to which I've devotednearly 35 years of my life. In response, I get this remakable admission: "For Charlie Pierce and many of his journalism friends, this debate is abouthow they continue to get paid. For me, I don't give a shit who gets paid orhow much, but whether people get the news they need to make informeddecisions in a democracy. If people get paid in the process, great! If theydon't, but people still get good information, then great!"
I would argue that there are a great number of people in a greatnumber of professions having a great number of conversations about how theywill continue to get paid. Auto workers come immediately to mind. I give ashit about all of them, including the people in my profession. I wouldargue that giving a shit about whether or not people should get paid adecent wage for an honest day's work is what progressive populism used tobe about. I don't recall any legitimate progressive determining on his ownwhich work is worthy of having a shit given about it. I would argue that myfriend in Chicago, who was a decent and honorable sportswriter with twoyoung kids and a mortgage, and who was laid off this week because theChicago Tribune is owned by a vicious vandal named Sam Zell who needs tohave his balls in the mouth of a shark right about now, is worthy of havinga shit given about him. I would argue that the cafeteria workers, securityguards, printers, drivers--and the newsroom staffs--at the newspapersin Seattle and Denver that went under are worthy of having a shit givenabout them. Here, from the invaluable Ms. Jane's place, is a story aboutwhich The Future, by his own admission, probably doesn't give a shit.
Of course, I do not understand the new world of progressive activism, wheresome professions are unworthy of having a shit given about them. I weep atmy ignorance, of course.
You will note, for the record, that there is nothing in that previouspassage that can be reasonably interpreted as having "attacked themessenger." The message, yes, but not the messenger. Were I to go on andpoint out that, for someone who doesn't give a shit whether people get paidfor gathering and disseminating the news we need to make informed decisionsin a democracy, The Future seems to be making a pretty tidy living his ownself, and were I to go on to point out that making yourself comfortable whileconvincing the suckers to work for the honor of it is a business plan thatwould make Sam Zell green with envy, and were I to point out further thatthe great Australian phrase, "I got mine, Jack" seems now apropos to thediscussion, that would be "attacking the messenger." I hope this clears upany confusion on the matter.
It seems fairly plain now that the torture story has the kind of legsthat neither this administration, nor, certainly, the previous one, wishthat it had. The question of whether there will be an investigation is nowoff the boards. There will be a number of them, official and unofficial.There are now too many people talking for anything else to happen. The career military and the FBI are pretty pissed and, sooner or later, the CIA lifers are going to push back and pin the whole thing on the political apparatchiks inside the Bush White House.That the apologists now seem to be simply rooting for another attack, afterwhich they plan to gloat themselves back into power, is demonstrationenough that they perceive the moral bankruptcy of their own position, andthat they sense a very strong tide turning against them. The oddest thingis how seriously the rising outrage seems to have wrong-footed the ObamaAdministration. They had to know this was coming, even though torture--and the theories of executive power from which the atrocities sprang -- wasnowhere near the issue during the campaign that it should have been.They'vebeen stumbling around for two weeks looking for some way to spin this intothe message of "Change" without actually doing anything about it. The bestthing they can do is let the investigations -- all of them, official andunofficial -- continue to gather steam and see where the whole thing leads.Events are in the saddle now, and I don't think the president iscomfortable with that, but there isn't anything else he can do about it. Awhile back, in response to some tut-tutting by the insufferable ParsonMeacham, I suggested that, while anger might not take us very far, as hesuggested, we should see how far it would take us anyway. I suspect we'reabout to find out. I didn't believe this for a long time, but I do now.Somebody's going to jail behind this stuff.
Dick Cheney personally authorized the torture of enemy combatants and wants the Obama administration to continue to torture. Here is Cheney, consolidated from two recent interviews, "I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the agency in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do. And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it. It's been a remarkably successful effort, and I think the results speak for themselves. One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is that they put out the legal memos... but they didn't put out the memos that show the success of the effort." When asked if in hindsight he thought the tactics went too far, "I don't."
Cheney must be prosecuted for his role in defying U.S. law and International Treaty because "robust interrogation" really means torture. Walid Bin Attash, who lost a leg in Afghanistan, was subjected to a torture technique once eagerly employed by the Nazis, who referred to it as "pfahlbinden." He was stripped naked, had his wrists handcuffed to a metal bar above his head in a darkened cell, and was forced to remain there for the better part of two weeks. "After some time being held in this position my stump began to hurt so I removed my artificial leg to relieve the pain," Bin Attash told the Red Cross. "Of course my good leg then began to ache and soon started to give way so that I was left hanging with all my weight on my wrists. I shouted for help but at first nobody came. Finally, after about one hour a guard came and my artificial leg was given back to me and I was again placed in the standing position with my hands above my head. After that the interrogators sometimes deliberately removed my artificial leg in order to add extra stress to the position. The cuffs eventually cut into my wrists and made wounds."
Other detainees told the Red Cross they were routinely beaten, waterboarded, forced into coffin-like boxes while naked, bleeding and wounded, given enemas, and exposed to loud music, cold temperatures and frigid water. "I was never threatened with death. In fact, I was told that they would not allow me to die, but that I would be brought to the 'verge of death and back again.' "
And Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and others at Fox think this is funny. Apparently, real "torture" inflicts immediate obvious permanent harm, like pliers to fingernails, scalpels to thumbs, drilling into a healthy tooth (since they like fictional accounts better than real ones). Simply beating someone bloody, throwing them into walls, pouring water over their faces so they can't breath (3 times a day!), freezing them naked for weeks at a time, or boxing them up with scurrying insects is fairly harmless because people heal. It's also ineffective since people will say anything to make it stop. I guess Hannity gets all his expertise from the TV show 24.
The people behind torture and this media frenzy defending it have relinquished their right to call themselves decent and honorable, if they ever were. We refrained from such outrage when the Soviet Union posed an actual existential threat with nuclear missiles. But these people argue that a terror group that must resort to car bombs and crashing planes to kill our people is a mortal threat to America's very existence. I don't buy it. I say they believe our economy is driven by big defense spending and have seen that people will complain less about domestic problems when a scary enemy is presented. The fools on TV are either too stupid to understand this or just don't care whose water they carry as long as they get paid. Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity are the willing puppets of lawless and inhumane opportunists. Dick Cheney is one of these criminals.
-- Jennifer Rauch, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Journalism
Long Island University
I'm a journalism professor at Long Island University's Brooklyn Campus, doing some research on why and how people use alternative media that you might be interested in. I'm including a link to the online survey below, with the hope that you'll participate in the (anonymous) study.
I'm also trying to spread the word to anyone who uses alternative media, including readers or writers of The Nation....
Dear Alternative-Media User,You're invited to share your ideas about mainstream media and why we need alternatives. Go to http://tinyurl.com/altmedia to complete the online questionnaire; it takes about 15 minutes. The first 100 people to complete the survey can enter a drawing for a $50 gift card for Amazon.com. Your identity as a participant will remain confidential. Thanks for helping with this project!Jennifer Rauch, Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus
Regarding great 'Dead' performances, one era I see being sort ofskipped over is the early '90's. Bruce Hornsby really gave the banda new spark, particularly Jerry. You could see him look at Bruce andthere'd be this twinkle in his eye and this little smile on hislips, he was being energized! Listen to Greensboro '91, there's asecond set (of course) full Dark Star that's really beautiful. Itwas the second night in Greensboro after an impressive Eyes of theWorld on the first night that clocked in at almost thirty minutes.Their shows at Madison Square that year were great too. The most funwas had at Boston Garden right after those New York shows thoughwhen they blew everyone's mind with a Help-Slip- Fire one night. Iwas already dancing to Franklin's Tower before I realized theyweren't playing it.
We've got a new "Think Again" column called "The DHS Report: Torturingthe Truth," here and I've got a new Nation column about the New York Times company, the Boston Globe and the craziness of the current situation in the newspaper business called "The Newspaper Biz: More Poison Please?" here.
Also, here on The Daily Beast, I criticize a Times story that pretends to be about Obama selling out, but in fact is about the fact that the Times chose to put a story on its front page that has a theme but absolutely no substance. And in this piece, I refute yet another round of sloppy and misleading charges that Izzy Stone was a spy.
The finalists for the Mirror award for covering the media wereannounced this week and my work appeared in two categories: Best SingleArticle--Traditional for "Out of Print" (The New Yorker), and BestCommentary--Digital for a series of columns on the legacy of the Bushwar against the press for the Center for American Progress, which arehere. All of the nominees can be found here.
Speaking of Izzy, Marty Peretz has a very typically charming Marty-likepost about Izzy here. Don Guttenplan, whose biography of Stone is aboutto be published, informs me regarding it that
In 1964, which is to saylong after, so Peretz now says, Izzy had destroyed his credibility bywriting The Hidden History of the Korean War, and at a point when only'the comrades' supposedly cared what he had to say, his collection The Haunted Fifties, received a rave review in Dissent, both for its 'lucid and crisp' style and for the writer's intellectual integrity. Stone, Dissent's reviewer assured his readers, 'has not permitted his pages to serve as an intellectual pastorate for oppression.' The reviewer was a young Harvard social studies lecturer named Martin Peretz.
I read "The Note" so you don't have to.
If there is a phenomenon on earth more annoying than the cutesy, cloying faux-knowing tone that ABC's "The Note" employs to delineate the daily inanities that animate Washington's insider conventional "wisdom," Ican't recall encountering it. Today's version begins thusly: "Is there anenhanced communications technique out there? Some black site where theObama White House can take the narrative to keep its messaging safe? Isit legal to waterboard a storyline?"
It somehow manages to descend further from there. "If something positive will come out of expending political resources on this sort of peering backward,what exactly might that be? Was this part of anybody's plan?" Underthe category of "something positive" Mr. Klein might wish to consult alegal dictionary under the term "rule of law." Amazing as it is tobelieve, these guys don't want this story. They want the entire"torture" debate to go away, so they can focus on the really fun stufflike whether Obama is "mad enough" about AIG. We cannot help but notethat when these bozos complain about the "backward looking" nature ofinvestigations, they are simultaneously seeking to exculpate themselvesfrom their role in empowering these crimes with the mindlesscheerleading that so frequently characterized their coverage,particularly that of ABC News...
Funny, though I don't think they intended it that way.
Don't forget the broader context (since Karl Rove doesn't): "Mr. Obamaacts as if no past president--except maybe Abraham Lincoln--possesses his wisdom," Rove writes in his Wall Street Journal column. "Asuperstar, not a statesman, today leads our country. That may winshort-term applause from foreign audiences, but do little for whatshould be the chief foreign policy preoccupation of any U.S. president:advancing America's long-term interests."
Recall that Mr. Klein's predecessor, Mark Halperin, acted as a kind ofcut-out for Rove, praising his genius and peddling his political wares.One would think that in a new era where Rove's creation has been left intatters, that is at least one area that Klein would have known betterthan to try to imitate.
Wait, this gift just keeps on giving. Klein writes "Even Secretary ofState Hillary Rodham Clinton could be coaxed into playing politics onthis one." For the life of me, I can't tell if that's faux-stupid orjust plain stupid. Can you?
This week on Moyers:
As the demand grows for a new Pecora commission,the 1930s investigation into the causes and effects of the GreatDepression, Bill Moyers speaks with economist Simon Johnson and Ferdinand Pecora biographer and legal scholar Michael Perino. Simon Johnson is a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a professor at MIT SloanSchool of Management, and Michael Perino is a professor of law at St.John's University and has been an advisor to the Securities and ExchangeCommission. Also on the program, the Journal profiles Steve Meacham, aMassachusetts community organizer fighting to keep working people intheir homes.
"Road to Ruin: Burned by Brokers." Economists, politicians, and punditsrefer to "toxic assets" as if they are some unspeakable stew bubbling ina barrel behind an old warehouse. But "toxic assets" are actuallymortgages and, by extension, houses and the people who live in them.Sandra Berrios is one of millions facing the prospect of ballooning loanpayments forcing her and her family from their home. The bank that lenther the money is getting hundreds of millions in TARP money, but thefederal dollars flowing to the bank show no sign of trickling down toSandra's level.
"Credit Card Industry Defeated For Now." Hidden penalties, sudden interest rate hikes, and deceptive language are just a few of the questionable tactics used by credit card companies to extract money from increasingly stressed consumers. Now, some on Capitol Hill are trying toregulate the more abusive practices. With bills actually moving throughboth houses of Congress, the credit card lobby is finding itself on thedefensive, and turning out in force to oppose the legislation.
"Stress Tests for Wall Street -- What About the Billions in off-the-BooksToxic Assets." At the center of President Obama's overhaul strategy forWall Street are the "stress tests" which will be applied to allfinancial institutions. But how accurate will the test results be? Thatwill depend on whether the treasury takes off-balance-sheet assets intoaccount, experts say.
I've been watching the blu-ray of the first season of Star Trek thisweek. Yesterday I watched both parts of Menagerie. It was terrific ofcourse, and looked and sounded real sharp, as blu-ray does. You can watchit "enhanced" as I have been or "original" where it looks so cheesy youcan't believe anyone ever took it remotely seriously. You can alsoeasily toggle back and forth. (You get every episode of the first season(29 in all) in not one but TWO formats: original version or with updatedspecial effects. The bonus features include special pop-up trivia andpicture-in-picture video commentaries.
The set also includes an interactive tour of the starship Enterprise, Billy Blackburn's rare on-set home movie footage, a featurette on the remastered project, and much more. All of these features were on The hybrid HD-DVD/DVD release in 2007, though if you've got that, it's just a question BR-or no. Ifyou've managed to resist Star Trek until now, well, I don't know what Ican say.
Somewhere in California
It's clear from reading the "Torture: Who Knew" document helpfullylinked by Specialist Cornwell, that the DoD and DHS personnelinvolved with the crimes described by FBI agents had no interestwhatsoever in gathering information. That treatment was inflicted topunish the detainees. Somebody was upset and wanted to punish thosebelieved to be responsible for that upset. No other explanation iscredible. The guards and "interrogators" who committed these actsdeserve the same punishments meted out to their counterparts in 1945.
I'm a long time reader of your columns. But I've never read onethat I agreed with more than the one in the Daily Beast attackingthe New York Times's inane story about Obama caving in on hiscampaign promises.
You sure are correct when you write that "the only things itsreporters find that Obama has caved on are things nobody knew hecared about in the first place," like cutting farm subsidies, gettinginsurance companies to pay more veterans' health costs and setting up a Social Security commission.
The only thing I disagree with you on is the assault weapons ban. Twomonths ago, Attorney General Holder told reporters Obama wanted "tore-institute the ban on the sale of assault weapons" as he "indicatedduring the campaign." But given his very full plate, Obama can letthat one can wait for a more opportune moment.
As for your criticizing the Times reporters quoting an "expert"nobody ever heard of, I'm with you all the way. I've never seen orheard of Leonard Burman. In fact he's one of the few public officialsand think tank wonks I've ever looked up who doesn't even rate hisown entry in Wikipedia.
Let Burman worry that Obama is selling out. No one anyone ever heard of seems to have joined him. After just 90 days in office, I figure, like you do, that the president is doing damn well and that this time, The Times has it all wrong.
By the way, why did that very good column of yours appear in TheDaily Beast instead of in Altercation?
Last week, Goldman Sachs announced it will sell additional stock to repay the TARP money it received last year. Goldman posted $1.8 billion in profits for the first quarter of 2009. That's right, the company that created collateralized debt obligation securities (CDOs), that is the single largest contributor of financial talent to the Fed, and whose name is synonymous with big finance and investment banking says it can soon repay the taxpayers $10 billion. This shouldbe great news for the economy.
However, the money from the U.S. wasn't a loan. It was a stock purchase. The taxpayers bought $10 billion in preferred stock that must pay a 5% annual dividend until it is redeemed. That sounds like a rather sound investment in arguably the most nimble financial player in the market. But the taxpayers don't get a say in when its shares are redeemed. That was left up to Goldman.
Who made that deal? Henry Paulson did when he was Treasury Secretary. Paulson marked the fourth CEO of Goldman to join government service and the second to serve as Treasury Secretary. Paulson was also CEO during the years that Goldman created CDOs. Now he has a book deal with Business Plus to write an insider's account of the U.S. economic crisis. You can't get any further inside than Paulson.
But, back to the Goldman Sachs deal. Paulson, under Bush and Company, didn't come to Goldman's rescue alone, Warren Buffett was the other white knight. Buffett paid $5 billion for preferred stock, too. But his deal yields a 10% dividend. Apparently, Secretary Paulson left some money on the table. Now you might think that Goldman would rather eliminate a 10% dividend shareholder before a 5% dividend shareholder. But you would be wrong. Buffett didn't have any strings attached to his investment limiting executive compensation like the taxpayer deal.
So how might Goldman explain to its large institutional shareholders why it would prefer unfettered executive compensation and pay a 10% dividend to Warren Buffett rather than pay off Buffett and limit salaries to a reasonable level? Talent! Goldman can't keep the "best and the brightest" unless it pays exorbitantly for them. In the long run, Goldman says the shareholders will be better off.
How about a little more complication: Business Week has reported thatGoldman's numbers may be a little off. You see, Goldman switched from a fiscal year ending November 30th to a calendar year on January 1, 2009, as required of bank holding companies. So what happened to the $780 million in losses reported for December 2008? Poof. They don't show up for the first quarter of 2009 and didn't show up in the report for the last financial quarter of 2008. Also, since all the banks have been allowed to value the CDOs themselves, their reportedlosses from these investments are suspect anyway.
Just how important is the freedom to pay overly generous executive compensation that banks, and the Fed, would risk further financial disruption to get out from under the government thumb? Ask JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. They each reported huge profits for Q1 2009 ($2.1 and $3 billion respectively) and also intend to soon repay TARP. Maybe the Fed should just call itself Wall Street South.
CFO suicide and "Alice in Financeland" -- can anyone throw a light ofsanity onto it all? I hear an old, almost-forgotten voice calling mefrom Desolation Row.
In times like these, poets are even more indispensable than usual.
Except for a week-long festival in July and an occasional CD release, live music pretty much sucks in my town despite its reputation for recorded music. Very few of us benefitted from the big names at the studios (although I did see Levon Helm play in a local club, way back when). So it wasn't too surprising that I had to go 50 miles east to Decatur to see two local bands, Barrelmouth and Sons of Roswell. These guys rock and while Barrelhouse sounds like what you'd expect from the Shoals, Sons ofRoswell, not so much. It's good to see that the legacy continues and that these guys can really play live!
I am assured by one of those things you play (a Constitutional Lawyer) that impeachment is not illegal for someone's bad acts prior to being appointed to the bench. It happens that one of the penalties is being removed from the office currently occupied, when the bad acts (high crimes and misdemeanors) were performed. The other penalty is that the convict is prohibited from holding office under the U.S. government for ever after. As in now, in Mr. Bybee'scase. Same holds true for the remainder of the Bush administration who took part in this banal (evil) activity. They can be impeached and convicted for the crimes they committed in office, and would lose pensions and other emoluments as well as being prohibited from further holding office.
Ben Cronin takes me to task for describing Lord Pierce as 'snarky.' I plead guilty of ill-considered adjectivation and throw myself on the mercy of the court. The true foolishness is ascribing any adjective at all to Pierce other than 'great.'
That said, it is repetitively and gratuitously redundant to both be ready to engage in verbal fisticuffs at the mere notion that someone, somewhere might be thinking about dropping a hat, and describing oneself as Boston-area Irish Catholic. I lived in the region for 35 years and have seen The Departed three times, and nothing is less surprising than hearing, as a result of one word directed to a third party, the scream 'cauksucka' and knuckles striking cheekbone, so to speak.
So this half-Italian apologizes profusely and leaves the bar with one eye glancing backward. Be warned, though, that I got a .34 gun in my pocket for fun and a razor in my shoe, yet nonetheless hope y'all find that wooden leg you shipped up there for ;-).
Las Vegas, NV
Now that InJustice Clarence Thomas has grafted responsibilities into the Constitution to go with those pesky rights, a story, and perhaps an apropos one in light of the recent death of the beloved Phillies announcer Harry Kalas--and if that looks like it has no connection, think again.
A few years ago, on ESPN, Roy Firestone had an interview show and his guest was Vin Scully, now in his 60th year with the Dodgers and truly the poet laureate of broadcasting. Firestone asked Scully about Deion Sanders saying he played two sports for the money, and if one paid him enough, he would play only one.
Scully shifted in his seat because he prefers to avoid controversy and personalities. Finally he said something like this: "We hear a lot in our society about rights, but not enough about obligations and responsibilities. Sanders had the right to say that, but he had an obligation and responsibility not to."
I thought that was well put. Vin is politically conservative, but at least he acknowledged Sanders's right to say that, which is more than Thomas would do. This means that an 81-year-old baseball broadcaster understands the Constitution better than a Supreme Court justice. But speaking for Dodger fans, I wish to say that you can't have Vin for the Supreme Court. We are keeping him, and we certainly won't tolerate trading him to the court for Clarence Thomas. Saving the country might mean something, but having him broadcast for the Dodgers means more.
Hey, Pierce, no need to hire a brass band. Just get a solo trumpet player to serenade the bastards with El Degueello. "No quarter," as The Duke said in Rio Bravo. (Note: this is not to be confused with this Degueello, although "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide" always cheers me up.)
We've got a new "Think Again" column called " It's Still the BushEconomy" about the proclivity of so many in the media to treat thiseconomic crisis as if it were caused by Obama, rather than Bush, hereand I did posts for the Daily Beast arguing that:
a) The release of the torture memos here and
b) It's OK to love France (and San Francisco) again here and
c) There may be an actual political strategy behind Obama's willingnessto overload the political system with far more legislation than he canpossibly pass here
Now Here's Pierce
Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
"I've seen the world with a five-piece band/lookin' at the backsideof me/Singing my songs, one of his now and then/But I don't think Hankdone 'em this way."
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Expression Of Love" (Honey Island SwampBand)--I'm no organizer, but I'm willing to bet that, even without thehelp of Sean Hannity and his fellow primates, I could get more than100,000 people to gather nationwide to support the proposition of howmuch I love New Orleans.
Part The First: If there's a central core of bad journalism at theheart of that breeder reactor for bad journalism that is Ye Olde HouseOf Mulch for brains, it's got to be Mike Allen. Mike had a bad week. First, Mike decides to talk about real Americans, as though he's ever met any. (Extra points to Mike for making this point to a radio-talker who was sure we'd all be praising President Mitt Romney by now.) Then, he meets in a dark garage with former officials of theAvignon Presidency who, having been granted anonymity, break the startling newsto Mike that they were great and the new guy sucks. Mike will be waiting in vain for the movie deal on this one, I'm thinking.
Part The Second: Said it before. Will say it again. When the Lordhanded out the big brass ones, Rod Blagojevich got in line twice. No judge in his right mind is going to let this happen. As soon as he hits the ground, our boy is going to be off into the jungle, never to return, until they send somebody upriver to kill him in the middle of the crooked real-estate empire he's built among the local tribes. Good thing that this is still in effect.
Part The Third: Is there anyone on earth who knows what in the hellMr. Justice Thomas is talking about here? Every time this guy surfaces, he says something new and bizarre. (His dissent in the Arkansas term-limits case a few years back put him on the wrong side of, among other things, the Battle of Gettysburg.) But this is just sub-weird. It's something you'd hear on a local drivetime radio station, probably by a family-values host who is banging the sales staff two at a time. Worse, it sounds like something Glenn Beck cooked up. Does "originalism" have any real meaning in constitutional law any more, or is it just the right to hock a loogie at people you don't like? Clarence on a car phone, you're next.
Part The Fourth: I'm as devoted to cheap laughs as the next guybut, lawsamercy, some of our cable TV news stars went completely agog overthe whole "tea-bagging" thing this week. (Yes, I'm looking at you, AndersonCooper. How dare you make David Gergen blush. That was like watching theheads on Mt. Rushmore blush.) Let this be a good lesson for the peoplewho organized these inchoate belches of ill-considered outrage. if youconfine your sales pitch to only one of the cable networks, and you make it theoneon which the television personalities are nuttierthan the people at the rallies with the tea-bags on their heads, then that's an open invitation for the other cable operations to rediscover their backbones, at least for one day.
Part The Last: I'm not an expert on constitutional law--and Ionly occasionally play one here on this blog -- but it seems to me that callsto impeach this amoral little weasel are both politically unlikely, and legally dubious. Can you impeach someone for something he did before he took office? To me, it seems asstrange as impeaching someone for something he might do after he isappointed and confirmed. All we can hope for is that, some day, he ishauled before some tribunal or another and made to answer under oath forwhat he's done and that the resulting shame causes him to slink off thebench in shame in the dead of night. Yeah, right.
I have now lived through three major episodes in my life where thepolitical elite have told me quite plainly that neither I nor my fellowcitizens are sufficiently mature to suffer the public prosecution ofmajor crimes committed within my government. The first was when Gerry Fordtold me I wasn't strong enough to handle the sight of Richard Nixon in thedock. (Ed. note--I would have thrown a parade.) Dick Cheney looked at this episode and determined that the only thing Nixon did wrong was getcaught. The second time was when the entire government went into spasm over thecrimes of the Iran-Contra gang and I was told that I wasn't strongenough to see Ronald Reagan impeached or his men packed off to Danbury. DickCheney looked at this and determined that the only thing Reagan and hismen did wrong was get caught and, by then, Cheney had decided that even thatwasn't really so very wrong and everybody should shut up. Now, Barack Obama, who won election by telling thecountry and its people that they were great because of all they'd done for him,has told me that I am not strong enough to handle the prosecution of paleand vicious bureaucrats, many of them acting at the behest of Dick Cheney,who decided that the only thing he was doing wrong was nothing at all, whohave broken the law, disgraced their oaths, and manifestly belong in aone-room suite at the Hague. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I'm sick andgoddamn tired of being told that, as a citizen, I am too fragile to bearthe horrible burden of watching public criminals pay for their crimesand that, as a political entity, my fellow citizens and I are delicateflowers encased in candy-glass who must be kept away from the sight of men infine suits weeping as they are ripped from the arms of their families andsent off to penal institutions manifestly more kind than those in which theyarranged to get their rocks off vicariously while driving other men mad.
Hey, Mr. President. Put these barbarians on trial and watch me.I'll be the guy out in front of the courtroom with a lawn chair, somesandwiches, and a cooler of fine beer. I'll be the guy who hires thebrass band to serenade these criminal bastards on their way off to the bighouse. I'll be the one who shows up at every one of their probation hearingswith a copy of the Constitution, the way crime victims show up at the paroleboard when their attacker comes up for release. I'll declare a nationalholiday -- Victory Over Torture Day -- and lead the parade right upwhatever gated street it is that Cheney lives on these days. Trust me,Mr. President. I can take it.
Name: John O'Connell
Hometown: Lenexa, KS
Eric, I'd love to hear from you and some of your contributors on theTax Day Tea Parties being held across the country today. (They werein the Journal's opinion section this morning:
I'll leave the conspiracy theories to those a bit more suspiciousthan myself but ...
It seems to me these are based on several false assumptions. First,the original tea party was not a protest against taxes or even spending,it was against taxation without representation. Clearly we have representatives in Congress determining (or trying not to determine)tax rates and spending priorities.
Second, that we're overtaxed and that money is spentinefficiently. You've talked about U.S. tax rates and thosemisconceptions in the past, but I'm wondering about theseinefficiencies we keep hearing about.
Perhaps the notion of a bloated federal bureaucracy was more accuratein the Reagan era, but I don't have to look much farther than theMissouri or Kansas DOTs or local school districts to know they'redoing more with less these days. In fact, we're cutting programs anddelaying work just to keep things going.
When are people going to wake up? How can we get them to wake up?
Name: Timothy Barrett
Hometown: Louisville, Ky
In her blog, Faith, Politics, and the Rest of Us, Diana Butler Bassreviews MSNBC's Chris Matthews Show featuring guest host MikeBarnicle and a discussion between self-described atheist ChristopherHitchens and Religious Right activist Ken Blackwell. Bass bemoans theintellectual disparity of the two participants that favored Hitchensto so great a degree that Blackwell, reportedly, failed to properlyrepresent the Christian perspective. I'll leave that to Bass todiscuss, but she asks a question that I'd love answered. "Why doesthe media insist on believing that American religion exists [only]dualistically--consisting of religion bashers and fundamentalists?"
She then opines on President Obama's beliefs, not that I think anyonecan truly know another's beliefs. I have trouble defining my own andmy response will certainly depend on which day you ask. But shethinks "President Obama is shaped by a theology of doubt." Bass alsodefends his recent pronouncement that America is not a "ChristianNation" in that "he was articulating a profound aspect of histheological worldview--a theology with deep roots in both Catholicand Protestant social ethics--a theology shared by millions of hisfellow citizens." Check her out at blog.beliefnet.com for more.
Conservative nutcase (my opinion) Cal Thomas at Tribune.com raises anissue regarding Obama's overtures to Islam and embraced by many ofThomas' admirers: "Such a unilateral declaration may soothe many inthe West, but there is a central question that comes from Obama'sdeclaration of conscientious objection: What if Islamic extremism isat war with America, Europe and Israel and everyone who stands in theway of its attempt at supremacy in religion and politics?"
Do you see the bait and switch? It's in the words "Islamicextremism." While Obama is speaking to Islam as a religion, Thomas iscarving out "extremism." I am not fooled by his careful dodge. Ibelieve that Thomas truly does fear Islam in general, as do themassively xenophobic voters who are drawn to the GOP's embrace ofexploitative stereotyping and rabid nationalism (See Fox News' GlennBeck for instance).
But I am curious about seemingly educated writers who hold suchintellectually shallow viewpoints. Are they purposefully exploitingethnic and religious hatred for political purposes or do they reallynot see the ignorance and illogic of their premise? I think theformer, of course. Either is immeasurably bad but intentional hatebaiting is far more troubling.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, of Art of Living and the InternationalAssociation for Human Values, addresses the need for religious andpolitical reform in India in a recent Times of India article. He is not addressing the US, of course, but his words may strike a chord. "The goal of politics is to bring good governance and increasematerial, emotional and physical comfort of people. The aim ofspirituality is to boost morality and human values. Both politics and spirituality need to go hand in hand."
He sees a great difference between spirituality and religion. He alsoadvocates the need for religious patronage by the state in order forspirituality to thrive. He writes, "Spirituality makes people honestand committed and this is necessary to create a crime-free society.State patronage makes spirituality spread faster to all sections ofsociety.... Politics is mainly about caring for people, providing fortheir welfare. Spirituality gives you a broader vision of life,teaching all to share, care and nurture each other selflessly andwith equanimity."
Mr. Shankar's assertions are high-minded and hopeful. I believe thatPresident Obama is also seeking a high-minded and hopeful discourseon the difference between spirituality and religion. I think we are acountry of spiritual people whose moral fiber is the result of manydifferent spiritual, philosophical and social influences. For most,religious study and practice, of one kind or another, contributes totheir moral development. For some, religion has been rejected, butother spiritual influences develop equally mature moral standards.
So, when people "debate" religion and politics, religion in politics,or politics in religion, their words are essentially meaningless tothe real struggle for improving society. Your God, your place ofassembly, and your doctrines, observances and principles of faith areessentially irrelevant to the purposes of governance. But governmentsupport of its citizens' spirituality is essential to good politicsand administration. I think that is what Obama is preaching about andI'm all for it.
Name: Schmuel Rabinovitz
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Leonard Cohen is in San Francisco this week and I would really liketo see him. Since you try to schnor off of your readers all the timeI'd like to return the favor and ask if you would buy me tickets. Youmay write my email address for wiring instructions.
Thanks. I really appreciate it. I haven't seen Mr. Cohen in closeto 25 years.
Eric replies: funny, nasty, and/or anti-Semitic. You be the judge...
Name: Fendlan Keyland
Hometown: State Center
After having somewhat a refreshing weekend of like minded bloggerssharing stories of the failures of right wing spokespeople in their attempt to get ridiculous accusations to stick on Obama, along comes Monday and everyone is at everyone else's throat. Talk about deja vu. In the first 100 days, no all throughout his presidency, those from the right attacked everything and anything to disgrace Clinton's legitimacy. Now the smell of agenda and self-posturing for political or capital gain has saturated the air, and it reeks. Example, most ofthe left side pane stories on Huffpo are questioning Obama on this that and the next thing. Let alone Adrianna's posts which severely question the Obama Team's competence or his appointment's undertakings. Looking a lot like posturing for some kind of selfish gain from where I sit. Pierce is attacking the Daily Kos. WTF? Can't anyone speaking for the Left of Center get along? With the tidal wave of crap attempting to be piled on Obama on everything he does, I mean everything, those who have the public ear, who want to speak for the majority at the center or to the left need to support this dynamic President, not add to the pile of suspicion and total falsehoods his name has to weather.
Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC
In today's (Monday, 4/13/09) there is a front page article in theWashington Post about Rahm Emanuel. The writer quotes Republican Rep.Peter King as saying that he has been able to work with Emanuel. Thewriter then wants a contrast, and writes, "Not all Republicans are soadmiring of Emanuel's tactics." So for a quote to support this claim,the writer turns to Newt Gingrich. Not exactly a credible or even arelevant source. The article is about Emanuel and how things areworking since he has been Chief of Staff. What would Gingrichpossibly know about that? It is probably very true that there areRepublicans who might not admire Emanuel or how he has handled hisjob thus far. Can the Post not find a living, breathing Republican who is actually holding office?
Name: Ben Cronin
Hometown: Duxbury, MA
Greg Panfile describes our man Pierce as "snarky."
If there's one thing Charlie Pierce is not, it's snarky. He's fromBoston; he's an Irish Catholic; both of those categories fit me aswell, so I hope he takes it as the highest measure of praise when Isay he's an extremely erudite guy who is entirely unafraid to be anasshole to schmucks in the cause of the greater good.
Snark is the debased, self-congratulatory bullshit of the dumber and more self-congratulatory elements of my own generation (see Gawker, The. I hate those pricks.) who mistake adolescent smarminess and vapid nihilism for a species of wit. The hell with them, and the sooner that nonsense dies out in the seriousness of the times, the better. A sin more mortal is the fact that none of those dopes are funny, in the least.
I write this because I bet it pissed Pierce off to be libeled as such, and as a fellow member of the Hiberno-New England tribe, I could not let it stand.
Name: James Cornwell
Hometown: Guantánamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba
Mr. Pierce, and his most excellent host:
Greetings from the Land Obama Has Seemingly Forgot. More on that in a moment.
With apologies, Part the First: I had never heard of you, Mr. Pierce,in spite of your many years of journalistic awesomeness, until youstarted writing on The Landlord's site. This in spite of being anavid newspaper reader before my discovery of blogs and the efficacyof Google News. I Googled you shortly after reading you the firsttime and, either due to my lack of skills or your effectiveness athiding your day job- related work, was unable to figure out what saidday job is, and still don't know, because neither The Landlord noryourself has ever bothered to tell us, as far as I can tell. If I knew, I'd go read it all. And it pains and confuses me that you, tomy knowledge, don't have a blog of your own.
Josh Marshall is a revelation. Want something for the political staffof the NY Times to do, should the Gray Lady turn blue? They can allgo work for him. Or start their own website. The Washington Post'spolitical beat writers, I daresay, would be better off doing thatregardless of their paper's financial status (from a credibilityperspective) so they wouldn't have to share dead tree or websitespace with an editorial page run by your favorite hack and regularlyoccupied by writers who obviously think Nixon's only error was ingetting caught.
Part the Second: My current location. I'm a specialist in the USArmy. Public affairs type. I'm currently working for Joint Task ForceGuantánamo Bay. This letter is in no way reflective of that status orsent in any official capacity.
Now that that's out of the way, yes, the commander in chief that Ivoted for and cried as I watched accept his electoral victory signedan order to close the detention facility here as one of his firstofficial acts. As admirable as some may find that, I see it as nearlya craven P.R. stunt. Mr. President, you Missed the Point. The reasonthis place is such a blight on our country's soul isn't quite becauseof what's going on here now. Now, we are treating our detainees withrespect and in accordance with the laws of our country and thetreaties we've signed. Y'all can contact my chain of command if youhave any questions about that. The POINT, dammit, is that thepresident hasn't taken any concrete steps to address what happened toall the people here between 2002 and about two years ago.
People who still go to work on Capitol Hill every day (and Foggy Bottom, Madame Secretary) helped put us on the same plane as Augusto Pinochet's Chile, and ALL the people who are responsible for it are still walking free. Address that, Mr. President, and I'll no longer look at the flag I wear to work every day on my right shoulder with a bit of anger. And then maybe our secretary of state won't get laughed out of the room when she attempts to address human rights issues.
P.S. Digby, Glenn and others are the only reason I know about allthis torture stuff, guys, and they've never worked for aprofessional news organization a day in their lives. I know youboth decry that as a flaw, but if they wonder why their papersare taking an epic dump, maybe they should start there.
Name: Greg Panfile
Hometown: Tuckahoe NY
Is Charles BACK or WHAT? Any extras for sale on whatever medicationyou're taking? The defense of people having real jobs writing news isas good as could be. Problem is, I think, that management crateredthe whole operation a while back by going too corporate andconglomerate and selling out to ad revenue and political access. Irecall how at some point in the 80s the Boston Globe became 90% ads and at most 10 percent news-related content, a meager dinghy covered with an aircraft carrier's worth of barnacles and requiring ten minutes of separation into a tiny pile of readability and a large mountain of recyclability otherwise suitable for fireplacing. This got followed by miscoverage and uncoverage of the real fault of 9-11, aiding and abetting the Iraq misadventure, ignoring the torture and the executive coups by Bush/Cheney, and filling their pages, not so long ago, with ads for... real estate and mortgage-backed securities and hedge funds. Hmmm... could that be why the dinosaur has thatteetering look, and tiny mammals seem about to take over? Methinks itis, and brave new world and all that.
And CP caught what I forgot to mention last time, that escaped mentalpatient breaking into Salon yet again... in what should be theillustration for the word 'irony' in every dictionary for the rest oftime, the 'article' in question actually contains these literal wordsas copied and pasted from there to here:
'preposterous and repellent'
'there are some real fruitcakes out there, and some of them arewriting for major magazines'
Ya think? And there's that wondrous cartoon 'portrait' that accompanies each pathological sample, looking just like the Father Tim with whom one should never stay after at choir practice...
Name: Michael Bowen
Hometown: Hudson Valley, NY
Thanks to the the ever-eloquent Charles Pierce for calling out MarkosMoulitsas (Kos) for his smug dismissal of the newspaper industry.He's echoing the classic net-head sentiment that journalists shouldwork for free, just like they want musicians to do.
Name: Richard Dee Erlich
Hometown: Port Hueneme, CA (currently; grew up in Chicago)
Good for Lt. Colonel (Lt. Commander?) Bob!
But: (1) Fabian as in Fabius "Cunctator" and the subset of war byattrition by suckering 'em in? Yeah, that could work, against us.
Nostalgia check: We flew in two college friends for Bruce's secondstop on his tour. Marilyn figured out that she and Larry had lastseen him on April 12, 1976, at the Johnstown War Memorial. They tookin two cases of beer -- *those* were the days! -- under blankets andused them as seats near the stage. Cost 10 bucks apiece. The currentshow started with "Badlands" and was almost all hard-rocking tunes,with very few slower ballads. Somehow, we were not disappointed. Theset list: Set list:
"My Lucky Day"
"Out In The Street"
"Working On A Dream"
"The Ghost of Tom Joad"
"Working On The Highway"
"Because The Night"
"Waiting On A Sunny Day"
"The Promised Land"
"Kingdom of Days"
"Born To Run"
"Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out"
"Land Of Hope And Dreams"
"Dancing In The Dark"
Major Bob is back, too.
But first, we've got a new "Think Again" column called " It's Still theBush Economy" about the proclivity of so many in the media to treat thiseconomic crisis as if it were caused by Obama, rather than Bush, here and I did posts for the Daily Beast arguing that:
a) Obama should release the torture memos here and
b) It's OK to love France (and San Francisco) again here and
c) There may be an actual political strategy behind Obama'swillingness to overload the political system with far more legislationthan he can possibly pass here
Now Here's Major Bob:
Name: LTC Bob
Hometown: Capitol Hill, Washington, DC
Hello Altercators, sorry for the radio silence. I've been a bit busy oflate. I do, some may have heard, have a day job. Sometimes thisinterferes.
So, anyway, let us talk about pirates, and piracy and viable options.But first, and most importantly, let us consider the ways to think aboutthe problem. At least, from a military perspective. What follows is abrief primer on military thought (yea, yea, "an oxymoron", I get it,LOL, etc) that may help each of you form your own opinions about thevarious options offered by pundits left, right, center, and everythingin between. My cutting caveat is that the overwhelming (by which I mean,"every single one I've seen") majority of said commentators on "what weshould do" has never actually studied military theory, served aboard aship, or considered the practicalities involved in light of, well,reality.
So, strap on your thinking caps and follow me.
For starters, there are four levels of war. These levels are: Tactical,Operational, Strategic, Political. That's easy, right? Don't worry, itgets more complex in a second.
Now the tactical level is one man vs. one man, or 10,000 vs. 10,000, orthirty ships vs thirty ships, whatever. It is the level of short termengagements. Things that last a pico-second, or an hour, or a week. Wecall events that occur at this level "skirmishes" or "battles." This isthe level of "tactics."
The next level, Operational, is where you plan to string together aseries of battles in pursuit of your strategic objective. This is thelevel where you see whole Fleets, and Corps (in the Army). Events at theOperational level last months. You use the operational level to achieveyour Strategic objectives. (See how this builds?)
At the Strategic level you are making deliberate choices about how you,as a nation, want to fight. There are, really, only a couple of choices.In essence there are really only three (with a potential fourth)military strategies: Annihilation, Attrition, and Exhaustion (the fourthmight be "Fabian," but let's not go there for the moment, ok?) So, well,let's define those, ok? (And remember, you do not need to agree with theuse of force to read this. I'm only giving you the intellectual tools tounderstand and critically analyze the use of force.) Ok, so, the threemajor military strategies might be defined like this:
Strategy of Exhaustion - A strategy which seeks the gradual erosion ofan enemy nation's will or means to resist.
Strategy of Attrition - A strategy which seeks the gradual erosion ofthe combat power of the enemy's armed forces.
Strategy of Annihilation - A strategy which seeks the immediatedestruction of the combat power of the enemy's armed forces.OK, so now you got that. Now let's look at what some people have beensaying.
Essentially, those people who have been writing op-eds about shootingpirates on sight and coastal raiding, are really only writing abouttactical responses. And that's fine. But tactics don't win wars most ofthe time. What I am discerning in the different approaches advocatedhere and in various op-eds all over is not really a disagreement thatsomething must be done, but a tendency to examine the issue fromdifferent levels of war. Those folks who talk about shooting don't linkthat idea, AS IT SHOULD BE LINKED, to an overarching understanding ofconflict at the strategic level.
(Yes, I know, it's not a "war" per se, but you get thegist. Follow me on this. So like I said, shooting individualpirates/pirate boats/villages is Tactical. If one follows their logicthey appear to believe that if we shoot enough of the pirates, theeffect will be strategic. But they don't say that, usually because theydon't know what they're talking about. But essentially what they areadvocating is a strategy of attrition. (Remember, that one is definedas: "A strategy which seeks the gradual erosion of the combat power ofthe enemy's armed forces.") This, by the way, is not necessarily wrong.It's just that most commentators don't link the strategic plan to theiremotional tactical suggestion.
Other solutions, such as a convoy system through the affected areas are more akin to an Operational Level approach, but these are not solutions per se, they are responses to mitigate. They are not strategies for a long term solution, they are ways to transfer the cost that commercial shipping companies (read: Big International Business) are now bearing to the taxpayers of the countries that can afford navies. Yes, I know, it's a wee bit ironic that many of those on thepolitical left are advocating a course of action which has, as it'sprimary beneficiary, large global corporations. But again, these folksusually haven't had any education in theories of war and conflict at thehighest levels, so they don't understand who the beneficiaries reallyare.
Those in the final category, the people who focus on changing the conditions ashore, particularly in Somalia, are looking at the issue from a Strategic level from the git-go, but in their case they're often hazy on the tactics. In most cases the suggestions I've seen would seem to fit under the concept of a strategy of Exhaustion. (Again, remember, that one is defined as: "A strategy which seeks the gradual erosion of an enemy nation's will or means to resist.")Personally, I think it's pure idiocy to advocate a strategy withoutunderstanding the costs, in real military terms, what it will take toimplement that strategy. But more on that in a moment. A friend asked mea really salient question on this issue. He wrote, "In a failed state,such as Somalia, is there not some point where tactical, operational,and strategic levels become one? After all, except for a "government"that reportedly controls a few blocks in the capitol, the folks incharge are warlords and criminal organizations."
So, well, in examining this issue I first focused on theissue of warlords and criminal organizations, and cast about for astateless parallel in history. The closest I could come was thecontinent of North America, from roughly the 1650s-1890, and theperpetual war waged against literally hundreds of different tribes,which lasted roughly 250 years. That is my intellectual baseline here,the worst case scenario which I hope we can avoid. Any de factoconflict/war which lasts 250 years is not a "success" in anyone's book.
The parallels that I see, twixt the two, are these: In both situations you have/had decentralized power on one side, and a central power on the other. In both situations one side focuses upon a raiding style of conflict, darting in and out, while the other largely depends upon a larger more conventional force which has it's own problems finding the small raiding parties. (This seems to apply on land as well as on sea.) Somalia is a "failed state." The continent of North America, as it existed prior to US colonization, was not a state atall in the first place. (This extends down to the tribes, and evenindividual villages, where culture kept most people in-line, but even apowerful sachem could not necessarily control his own young warriors inmost places at most times.) There are other parallels, quite a few infact, but these are sufficient.
What I realize is that it is in the major difference between the two examples that we might see daylight for a positive outcome. In short, Somalia is a lot smaller in a crucial way than is/was North America. There are only so many places along the Somali coast from which one can put to sea, and there are only a few population centers supporting this situation. Somalia is big, but it isvery low density in most places (too low to support piracy), so only afew population centers have become hubs. That makes them vulnerable.
Now, on the original question that my friend posed to me about the fusion of tactical/operational/strategic issues in stateless situations, I think my answer is a definite, "no." That is not to say that events at the tactical level can't have a strategic effect, they certainly can. One need only look as far as the so-called "CNN Effect" to know that what one rifle platoon (or a squad of prison guards) does have strategic impact. But that's not the same thing. It is also not to say that there is not bleed-over between the levels. That is alsoquite obviously true. But it still seems to me that as there are reallyonly three (with a potential fourth) military strategies: Annihlation,Attrition, and Exhaustion (the fourth might be "Fabian"), it still makessense to start there when you are thinking about a problem like this,and work your way down.
Decide first, "What strategy do we prefer to use against opponent X." This should be based, in a rational world, upon his vulnerabilities, not your capabilities. (Basing your strategy on what you have on-hand is a recipe for the old "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail," solution.)
So, for example, if somebody advocating shooting pirates on the high seas as "the" solution had said first, "We should seek to defeat the pirates through a strategy of attrition," then it would have made perfect sense for his follow-on recommendations of intercepts at sea and killing them one at a time. That may take years, but it should be fairly low cost to both sides.
Somebody else might say, "We should annihilate the pirates." OK, well that calls for a rapid destruction of them by main force, which suggests a couple of USMC "Marine Expeditionary Brigades" (MEBs) in some Expeditionary Strike Groups (we call them...wait for it..."ESG"s) all conducting simultaneous amphibious landings at the six main ports/towns we know the pirates issue from, destroying all things that float, and holding the port for thirty days until all thoselow-endurance pirate vessels at sea have either succumbed to theweather, starved, or come in and surrendered. This, obviously, unlesswe're invited, is also an act of war. Or it would be, if we were doingit to a "state."
Finally, there is the idea advocated by a couple of fuzzy thinkers, mostly on the far-far left, that we might pursue an indirect strategy of exhaustion. That's ok, but in my structured way of thinking of these issues, I do see it as fuzzy. And I am sorry folks, but in my opinion this one has the least likelihood of success. I'd point out that this is not least because we've already seen a failure on this front, as some might recall from fifteen years ago. We can't make the people who are practicing piracy and kidnapping "lose their will" tomake money in this way short of making the entire nation as rich as aWestern European country. In my humble opinion, it just ain't gonnahappen. So the ideas to "exhaust their will or means to resist" bymaking Somalia into a Utopia is just that, utopian. (Caveat: Some whoadvocate the "shooting them at sea" option also suggest that by killingthem individually at sea, in the act of piracy, that that will sap theirwill. I disagree. We have not really seen a good example of athird-world country "losing will" due to attrition in the past. Thatseems to be a phenomena currently confined to defined and richdemocracies.)
So there you have it, the intellectual tools to analyzethe various options presented by yourself. Use them wisely. Lord knowsthat we haven't always done so ourselves in the past.
PS: Those planning to write me, do so before next weekend. I'm sailingfrom Antigua to Newport, RI, the old fashioned way...by sail, afterthat. So a little more radio silence, sorry.
You can write to Bob as always, at: R_Bateman_LTC@Hotmail.com
We've got a new "Think Again column called, ""Will-ful Ignorance, Round26," and it's about George Will's shameful global warming columns andFred Hiatt's defense of them, and it's here.
My new Nation column is here and it's an argument for newspapers to give up on making a profit, stop pretending theireditorial endorsements matter to anyone and embrace a nonprofit modelfor survival.
I also did a post for the Daily Beast about the impressiveshamelessness--I assume it's that rather than foolishness--of Bushex-flacks Michael Gerson, Karl Rove and David Frum, etc. That's here.
I saw the Flatlanders at B.B. King's last night. It's hard not to love aband of old gray-haired guys that was founded in high school and has aterrific time with one another up on stage, playing roots music thatthey, themselves, helped invent. Their material ranges from ok towonderful beyond words. "Dallas" was rockin' with Joe Ely doing most ofthe vocals rather than ethereal as when Jimmy sings it, as Jimmy singseverything ethereally. They've got a bunch of new material which soundsbetter than their reunion album, but the show is really the thing. Gosee them if you need to be reminded that Texas has plenty to offerbesides America's worst president ever.
Rhino has a new Dead show out, drawn from what I've always thought istheir best period, though it also happens to coincide with myadolescence. To Terrapin: May 28, 1977 Hartford, CT. This showConnecticut's Hartford Civic Center on the closing night of their spring'77 tour. The sound is pristine and among other things, it's gots thebest "Sugaree" I ever heard, and clocks in at around twenty minutes.Plus for three cds, it's really cheap. I suppose it depends on a lot ofthings at this point but if you know what you're getting going in, youshan't be disappointed. Getting even more a workout in my cd player thisweek is Leonard Cohen, Live in London, which was recorded on his recenttour and sounds terrific. It's the single best collection of Cohen'scareer you'll find anywhere, and I do think, song for song, he writesthe best lyrics of anyone alive, including Dylan, because he tries somuch harder to get it perfect. His voice is lower, deeper and moremystical than ever. Really, how can anyone live without this thing?
You can live without Simon & Garfunkel, Live 1969. It's not bad. It'sfine, actually. It's just that they're not really a live band--or ifthey were, it was owing to the intimacy of the music, which would beimpossible to recreate here. This was recorded after "Bridge" on theirfinal tour before breaking up and has lots of great songs that youreally ought to have already and it's up to you whether you want/needlive versions of them. Some of it is acoustic and some of it has a band.It was actually recorded before the album came out so the version of"Bridge" for instance, and "The Boxer" are being heard by the audiencefor the first time.
We've got a new "Centennial Edition" of The Odd Couple film. To behonest, the movie, which is based on the play, is nowhere near as greatas the TV show. But almost nothing is. Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon didcreate a classic with Neil Simon's material, it's just that that classicwas superceded by something even classic-er. So if you haven't seen ityet, you'd better. This release, coming 41 years after the movie cameout features a second disc with the following extras:
Sons Charlie Matthau and Chris Lemmon provide the commentary, offeringreminiscences about their fathers, stories about the film, and reactionsas they watch it. We get also get interviews with the director. Saks,Robert Evans, Larry King and the actors. In addition there's"In theBeginning..." discusses the play, "Memories from the Set" and "InsideThe Odd Couple" discusses the movie, and "Matthau & Lemmon" hasrecollections about the actors.
I also see a "Centennial" edition of the great, To Catch a Thief. Letme tell you all you need to know about this movie. It's directed byAlfred Hitchcock in his glory years. It stars Cary Grant and a luminousGrace Kelly. It takes place on the French Riviera. The screenplay is byJohn Michael Hayes, who also wrote Rear Window. It's not the greatesteffort by any of these people but it's still better than almost anythingelse you're likely to rent. And prettier. Here's what you get on disc 2:
"A Night with the Hitchcocks" (23:20)--The daughter and granddaughterof Alfred Hitchcock, Pat Hitchcock and Mary Stone, respectively, areinterviewed by the Hitchcock scholar, Drew Casper; "Unacceptable Underthe Code: Film Censorship in America" (11:47)--A look at the ProductionCode and its enforcement; plus: "Writing and Casting To Catch a Thief"(9:04)--2002 ; "The Making of To Catch a Thief" (16:53); "Behind the Gates: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly" (6:12); "Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch a Thief: An Appreciation" (7:32); "Edith Head: The Paramount Years" (13:43); "If You Love To Catch a Thief, You'll Love This"--An "interactive travelogue; Original Theatrical Trailer (2:11)--In 1.33:1 aspect ratio and lots of stills.
Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
"The man who spurred us on/sits in judgment of all wrong/They decideand the shotgun sings the song."
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Night Of The Purple Moon" (Sun Ra).
You probably didn't notice it on TV, but when Teddy Kennedy threw out the firstpitch at Fenway on Tuesday afternoon, there I was behind him, writing onthe infield grass how much I love New Orleans.
Part The First: Speaking of which, I saw a special showing of thisastonishing film on Tuesday nightat Boston University. It strikes me as odd that President Barack Obamahas not yet made a visit to New Orleans as president. (He went downthere as a candidate in February of 2008) I mean, Istanbul's nice, and things seemed to go well at the G20, but a great American city is still dying at its heart, and it might be worth a look-see.
Part The Second: A further update on the subject of Ye LamentableTragedye Of Waldo The Drunk Security Guard. On duty the other night atSalon HQ, Waldo fired down 19 beers, a shot of Jager, and attached a dripbottle of Sterno to his right arm. As he sailed off into the Land BeyondThought, a crazy person dropped out of a heating duct and typed something that was just inches from English-As-Translated-From-The-Original Urdu. A sample: " Barack the Magic Negro" was a song parody by a longtime contributor to the Rush Limbaugh Show, Paul Shanklin, whom I consider to be one of the mostbrilliant satirists of our time."Next week, why Allan Sherman beats MarkTwain like a red-headed stepchild. I think it's time for Salon to considerinvesting in a couple of pitbulls for backup.
Part The Last: These are not good times at the day job, for a numberof reasons, most of which The Landlord has discussed hereabouts. Therearen't many people who have been as critical as I have of people whom Ibelieve have debased a craft that means a great deal to me. But, I'm sorry,this and this are examples of what John Peter Zenger would've called, "just being a prick."
I admire what Markos has accomplished. But, despite his pale and worthless disclaimer late in that first post--Spare us your pity--if this isn't gloating, I'd hate to see what he thinks gloating would be. A few points:
a) this is minor, but handing along a pivotal anecdote aboutthe behavior of a "star columnist" without naming that columnist is what wein the old media refer to regularly as "chickenshit," and setting thatstory at a place where recently a couple of hundred people lost their jobsis graceless and cruel;
b) regardless of the columnist's behavior, most ofthe comments attached to the bottom of newspaper stories are pretty muchsubstantively worthless and some are simple poo-flinging;
c) Are you reallyseriously offering to trade, say, the national political staff of the NYTfor The Politico(!) Charlie Savage for Roger Simon? Really?
d) I wouldlike an explanation, in detail, of how much the people who work for thevarious "organically sprouting" news operations, both locally andnationally, actually will get paid. I know the HuffPo doesn't pay itscontributors, and I'm willing to bet that nobody at A Better Oakland makesenough to live on, either. Is this the new business model for the newparadigm? Don't pay the reporters and writers?
Geez, Louise, I wonder whynobody ever thought of that before. I have been a working journalist for 30years now, in one way or another. I have made a living and raised threechildren that way. I'm one of the lucky ones. There are thousands of peopleall over the country at newspapers large and small, people who cover sewercommissions and city councils and high school football, and who do sobecause they believe in the importance of newspaper journalism as a life'swork, and even though they realize at some level that they might be workingin the buggy-whip industry. I am not unaware of the problems in myprofession. I frequently rail against them. But it is still a professionand, I believe, an honorable and important one, and one at which peopleshould be trained and paid what they're worth. It deserves to be aprofession at which people can make a living. It deserves more than to bethe Lawn Tennis Association, where amateurs, talented and untalented, getto play for the fucking honor of it. It deserves better than glib contemptand fake piety. If that's the new age, it's going to have to learn to dobetter.
And, Markos, your sports site is a sillyconglomeration of sweaty fanzines. SB's pregame account of Thursday night'sgame at Fenway ended with the phrase, "Go Sox!" That really blows. Askaround.
All of that being said, if there's anyone doing more valuable workthese days than Glenn Greenwald, I don't know who it is. His bulldogging ofthe inexcusable behavior of the Obama administration over the variousExecutive branch atrocities of the previous bunch is beginning to developtraction within the political classes as well. (Hey, Russ Feingold. Callhim back, OK?) It has been said -- most recently by Parson Meacham atNewsweek -- that "anger can only take us so far." OK, if that's the case,then how about we determine exactly how far it can take us? Throughout thecampaign, if there was one thing that the Obama people either missed, ordeliberately chose not to engage, it was the fond desire of a considerableamount of people for someone's head on a stick. And a startling amount ofthat had to do with what the collection of thugs, mountebanks, and shystercastrati in and around the national-security bureaucracy were up to doing.People were mad about that -- not in the carny-barker sense of Glenn Beck,but deeply, profoundly disturbed because their beliefs in what theircountry was supposed to stand for had been thrown into disarray. They arestill angry. Most people are. The Obama administration is going to have torecognize it, and channel it, and placate it with more than vagueassurances of what good people they are and what good people we are. Onthis issue particularly, I wonder if the president and his people aren'tvaguely disappointed that the national Republican party has grown too crazyto surrender to. In any case, the salutary effect of a head stuck on LondonBridge is very much underrated.
Name: Timothy Barrett
Hometown Louisville, Ky
Daniel Trotta, Reuters, reports that Kevin Phillips, economist andauthor, is predicting runaway inflation because of the recentineptitude in handling the financial crisis. Trotta writes that ayear ago, Phillips "warned of a the pending explosion of a 25-year"multibubble" that started in the 1980s, when the financial sectoraccounted for 10 percent to 12 percent of the US economy hadstarted metastasizing into an "arguably crippling" 20 percent to 21 percent by the middle of this decade. Overleveraging and easy creditwas bound to create disaster."
Who does Phillips blame for not avoiding the calamity and formishandling the crisis? Former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson,Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and his predecessor, AlanGreenspan. Trotta writes: ""What you're seeing Bernanke do is he'strying to create a bailout reflationary bubble, which he can'tdescribe as a bubble, just as Greenspan couldn't describe the housingmortgage bubble as a bubble. What we're seeing by Bernanke is acovert attempt to rebubble." Moreover, a commodities cycle probablystarted early in this decade and is only being masked now byrecession, Phillips says, presaging a repeat of 1970's styleinflation."
You'd have to be at least 45 years old to recall 1970's inflation ashigh as 14 percent. President Ford gave his famous "Whip Inflation Now"speech to Congress in October 1974 and laid out his agenda forrecovery. It included familiar themes in favor of a comprehensiveenergy policy, to start drilling in California and Alaska, and todevelop clean coal technologies. He vowed to expand the money supplyand ease credit, start a federal job creation program, and give taxrelief for low-income families while raising taxes on corporateearnings. He also called for increased domestic food production andto monitor commodity pricing.
The parallel doesn't stop there; President Ford inherited the worsteconomy since the Great Depression. The creation of OPEC with it'ssubsequent oil production limits and skyrocketing prices, and theUS dismantling of the Bretton Woods monetary system, bothcontributed to global consumer fear. The subsequent mishandling ofthe financial crisis created stagflation where the wages and consumerprices battled in a lengthy upward spiral for years.
We face another financial crisis brought on not by an artificial oilprice bubble and its resulting scarcity, but by an artificialfinancial bubble and its resulting contraction. Now we hear credibleevidence that the Fed has, at best, been incompetent, and at worse,been overly protective of Wall Street. Obama's administration isstruggling and the answers sound very familiar. The last time it tooksix years until steady economic growth led the way out of thewilderness and into the GOP embrace of trickle-down economic theoryunder Reagan.
It all seems so familiar. A GOP presidency ends in disgrace fromyears of illegal activity, Democrats inherit a terrible financialcrisis, financial geniuses mess up the recovery, and then the GOPsuccessfully courts a recovering nation with a bold vision forAmerica. They seem at a loss for ideas now, but just give them sixyears of tough economic times. They break, we fix, they take credit.I called it here first!
Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
I second your motion in calling for the piling-on Arthur Sulzberger,Jr., to end. First, the article rehashes his childhood to explain himright now, but I don't see where it draws a connection to majorbusiness decisions. Second, his father would tell you he was noreporter, but his son actually did all right--not the next Sy Hersh,but who is? Third, that he made mistakes in the business end is clearenough, but the tone suggests that only he would have made them, andI think it's safe to say that Sulzberger is hardly alone. Fourth,many of the criticisms about him, and sometimes worse, were alsodirected toward his father, who became publisher younger, underdifferent circumstances, and without the same kind of broad training,but now is held up as a guiding genius. Since Talese is mentioned inthe article, perhaps the author should have re-read some of Punch'smore dubious moments--and I don't say that as a criticism of thesenior Sulzberger, who had to deal with a financial crisis at TheTimes in the 1970s and managed to overcome it.
Like you, Dr. A., I sometimes get mad at The Times. But then I readmy local paper and marvel all the more at what The Times accomplisheson a daily basis. It truly is The Daily Miracle.
Name: Timothy Barrett
Hometown: Louisville, Ky
The Center for American Progress Action Fund has published a reportat AmericanProgressAction.org, entitled Lessons from Medicare forHealthcare Reform wherein Marilyn Moon highlights many instructivepolicy decisions that have made Medicare a shining example of afederal program that exceeds its mandate and provides a criticalsafety net for "some of the sickest and frailest of the USpopulation, along with a substantial number of disabled Americans."
She notes, appropriately, that the low administrative costs foradministering Medicare (less than 2% of total spending) isattributable, in part, to the special relationship the Medicareprogram has with the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSAadministers retirement, disability, survivor and SupplementalSecurity Income programs under the Health and Human ServicesDepartment, whose Secretary holds a cabinet level position. It alsosigns up the eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. According to thelatest OMB report, SSA accomplishes its goals while keeping itsadministrative costs at about 1.5% of total spending. You need tovisit HHS.gov to see just how well your tax money is spent.
Why should we care about this? Because the conservative media wouldhave you believe that a single payer system for American healthcarecoverage is socialism and that the private sector does everythingbetter and with less waste than the federal government. The above-mentioned programs are the direct result of the New Deal legislationmade effective in 1935. The success of such programs in providing forAmericans health, safety and welfare is unparalleled. In a world ofwant, despair and inequity, any so-called First World Country mustprovide services along these lines, and they all do, some withgreater success than ours.
The term "socialism" has been bandied about among ignorant punditstoo often as the 20th century boogieman and it may well be theundoing of real progressive advancement in this century, too. As amember of our self-described "Christian Nation", you have to askyourself whether your comforts are more important than your fellowcitizens health and wellbeing. If so, you are more likely to voteagainst a progressive agenda, like universal healthcare, because youview the costs as prohibitive and even unnecessary. You may need toget out of the country club more.
The progressive agenda has no similarities with socialism. It is infact, a necessary part of capitalism in modern times when the weak,uneducated and disenfranchised among us pose our greatest risks forfailure. The costs of care, disruption, turmoil, and non-productivityare becoming increasingly apparent on a global scale.
We have ample evidence that the 130,000 or so government employees atDHHS and SSA are up to the job of administering a competitiveprivately insured universal healthcare program that currentlyprovides some 43 million people with appropriate and affordable care.Why we aren't simply opening it up to all 305 million of us isludicrous. Recall, that Obama's plan would allow you to opt out offederal coverage if you want to stay in the current failing system.It's all the more ridiculous, when we are being told that the reasonto dismiss universal healthcare is that an adherence to a false senseof capitalism is more important. But don't expect yourrepresentatives, or the media, to educate you, they are the ones mostblinded by their misguided ideology.
Name: Vicki Cheikes
Hometown: Boca Raton, FL
Regarding the issue of taxation and charitable deductions, what istotally overlooked is the potential impact that elimination orsubstantial reduction in estate taxes would have on charitablegiving. Right now, there are only two deductions which can eliminateFederal estate taxes, the marital deduction, for estates going tothe decedent's spouse, and the charitable deduction for estatesgoing to charity.
Were the Federal estate tax to be either eliminated or substantiallyreduced, there is a great likelihood that the very wealthy wouldleave their vast estates to their children or other relatives (otherthan spouses), rather than to charity.
It needs to be repeated (over and over) that the real (actually thesole) beneficiaries of estate tax repeal or material elimination arethe children and grandchildren of the very wealthy. This is why Icall estate tax repeal the Paris Hilton Welfare Act. But, I am just atax attorney, so no one listens to me.
Name: Greg Panfile
Hometown: Tuckahoe NY
The past coupla weeks, with light blogging from Eric and no Pierce orLTC Bob, I started to think, why is this bookmarked, why do I checkin here and follow this guy... he writes nothing and likes*Springsteen* after all. Then I read the bit on Stewart and it waslike oh, I remember, that's why...
Speaking for the hoi polloi we'd love to read more LTC Bob ASAP, OK,as in PDQ. To Charles we send best wishes for a speedy recovery withno attendant attempt at humorousness because writing anything snarkyat a superior scribe violates the Croce principle about Superman'scape and windward urination; it is best not contemplated, and ifthought about, left undone.
Name: Martyn Luberti
Thought you might enjoy this also. Another even rarer Leonard Cohensong, and you will probably understand the lyrics better than Iwould. It's called "Un as Der Rebbe Singt" recorded live in Viennawhen Leonard, you, and I were much younger.
Name: Larry Cowan
Hometown: Temple, TX
We saw Bruce in concert last night and as my cousin said, "He's stillgot it." Despite Austin's laid back demeanor and a heavy audienceshift to "Boomers", the place was rockin' to the rafters. From Bruce's first appearance at the Armadillo World Headquarters in 1974 until now Bruce has been "The Boss" in Austin. The repetoire was a nice mix of old and the not so old. Imagine that, strong music and a message from the heart. The E Street Band was just as powerful as thiry-five years ago. This stop was early on a long tour so the energy met all expectations. President Obama would be well advised to appoint Bruce as a Special Secretary of Energy. Get in soon, you won't bedisappointed.
We've got a new "Think Again Column called "Mice, Playing: The Declineof Skeptical Journalism," and it's here.And I did a post for the Daily Beast on the contretemps over Vanity Fair's profile of Arthur Sulzberger called "Stop Picking on Pinch," here.
I don't think there's been enough talk about how great GershomGorenberg's big piece in the Weekly Standard on why there's never been aPalestinian Gandhi. It's here...
As someone who has immersed himself in the literature of this conflict,it's the best piece I've read in years. I sent it to my friend Kai Bird,who is finishing a memoir of his life growing up in the Middle East andso reading everything about the conflict everywhere and he said the samething. Anyone with even the slightest interest in Israel and Palestinewould not want to miss it.
And the fact that, whatever the circumstances, it is in the Standard isweird beyond words. It's the strangest thing since they published JohnDilulio complaining that Bush stole the election from Gore, though ofcourse it's a far more substantial piece than that.
Things not to buy: I had a gift certificate at Border's and used $40 ofit to buy the audio version of Philip Norman's John Lennon biography.The writing and research were much better than the reviews had led me toexpect. It's quite solid and only a little cheesy. But people, just asnobody told me there'd be days like this, I didn't notice how abridgedthe thing was. Ten cds and still all the important parts are leftout.Who could imagine leaving out when John met Paul and they formed agroup together. Who could imagine leaving out all of The White Album,Abbey Road, Let it Be and the Beatles' break up? Now I have to read the damn book anyway. Lesson is look before thousest leaps, alas.Happy Birthdays Diana Roberta Silver and Eve Rose Alterman!
This week on Moyers:
The financial industry brought the economy to its knees, but how didthey get away with it? With the nation wondering how to hold thebankers accountable, Bill Moyers sits down with Bill Black, the formersenior regulator who cracked down on banks during the savings and loancrisis of the 1980s. Black offers his analysis of what went wrong andhis critique of the bailout.
Hey Doc --
"The man says, "Get out of here. I'll tear you limb from limb"/ Isaid, "You know they refused Jesus, too"/ He said, "You're not Him."Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "You Ain't The Only Oyster In The Stew(Fats Waller)--I was just about to ask Robert Gibbs about why he likesto make little Richie Cheney cry but then Chip Reid got up, the bigshow-off, and I was reduced to telling everybody on JournoList how much I love New Orleans.
Part The First: My apologies to the extended Alter-family. Therewas some surgery, and then a reaction to the prescribed antibiotics thatleft me crawling around my living room floor moaning like a dog. I mean,David Vitter usually has to pay people to get him to make the sounds I wasmaking. So I was gone for a while. Managed to do some reading, though,which leads us inevitably to...
Part The Second: Well, this explains a lot. All the way from the rugged coldwater flats of The District to...David Geffen's breakfast table! What a grand country itis, mother.
Part The Third: They're losing their minds. And there are a number of reasons--none of which I choose to think much about, thanks--why this is a really bad joke for this particular person to be making.
Part The Fourth: Not that I should expect anything more than thisfrom Ye Olde House Of Mulch For Brains, but this is one of the most disingenuous pieces of offal that has been burped up there for a while. Michelle Obama was never at any point a liability to herhusband's election chances. I was in the hall in Milwaukee when she made the"proud of my country" remark, and I can assure you that the roof nearly cameoff the place. Everybody there knew exactly what she meant and, even whenthe crackpot righties got a hold of it, it never had any legs. The other twothings he mentions don't, you know, actually exist. This used to carrysome significance in journalism, but I guess I just don't understand the newparadigm.
Part The Fifth: Speaking of Wisconsin, this Paul Ryan fellow seemslike a comer. Of course, he's the economic equivalent of a flat-earther,but he's young and enthusiastic about his idiocy, so we'll be seeing alot more of him. I think he's just the ticket for the GOP's glory trainback to power. More Bush economics, but with Grandma eating cat-food, too!The Jack Kemp of the new millennium!
Anyway, Call me Kreskin, but I will guaran-damn-tee you that this "Mark Begich Must Resign" thing will gain traction in the mainstream media, if not over theweekend, but certainly by the beginning of next week. The groundwork'salready been laid. It began when the Senate gave an ovation to Ted(Grabitall) Stevens upon his departure from the floor, and it continued tobe fortified last week when people looked at Eric Holder's decision to letStevens off the hook not as the king irony that it was, but rather as anexoneration of a guy who would steal soup if you gave him rubber pockets.
Now, not only has the Alaskan Republican Party called for Begich to stepdown, but Princess Dumbass of the Northwoods herself has gotten herselfinvolved, and where the Princess goes, people who should know better will follow.Begich seems merely amused by this whole thing and, as has been pointed outby John Cole and others, the whole notion is flatly bizarre. Which is whyit will gain the traction that it will gain. Look at this clown college ofa party. Michele Bachmann (R-Butterfly Net) got thirty co-sponsors on a bill addressing a non-existent threat to the sovereignty of American currency,or some such nonsense. The entire Republican congressional delegationproduced two "budgets" that bordered on self-parody. Because it is contraryto the Beltway media ethos to point out that a major American politicalparty self-evidently is losing its mind in public--not "objective,"doncha know?--we will have these notions taken seriously.
If Chris Matthews isn't doing a show on the Alaskan senate "controversy" by themiddle of next week, I'll eat his desk. Someone will have to present bothsides of the "debate," and more poisonous bullshit will be injected intothe national dialogue right at the time we don't need it.
Name: Timothy Barrett
Hometown: Louisville, Ky
In his most recent presser, President Obama answered a ratherpointedly politicized question about the effect of his income taxproposal to limit charitable deductions for taxpayers earning over$250,000 to the 28 percent marginal tax rate rather than the 36 percent rate; a tax increase for wealthy givers. The question included whether he wantedto rethink punishing charities in his budget. Obama denied thatcharities would be hurt, saying that people don't give for taxpurposes in general and that what would help charities most is animproved economy with people getting back to work. Naturally, Iapplaud his answer, but is it accurate?
For the first time charitable giving in 2007 broke through the $300billion mark, with a total of $306.39 billion contributed byindividuals, foundations, and corporations. Individuals continue tocontribute the lion's share of all donor dollars - more than $229billion for 74.8 percent of all donations. Adding to the individual total isanother $23 billion in bequests (gifts by Last Will), bringing thetotal of individual giving in 2007 to $252 billion plus or 82.3 percent ofthe total. Individual giving actually increased by 2.7 percent from 2006 to2007. No figures are available for 2008 yet, of course. (Through theRoof! Trends in Philanthropy for 2008, by Joanne Fritz, About.com)
In a report published by Giving USA Foundation, written andresearched at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University andfound in Giving USA Spotlight, Issue 3, 2008, total giving hasincreased in every year, but one, since recording began. However, thepercentage of income gifted falls during every recession by 2.5 percent to5.3 percent (defining recession according to The National Bureau of EconomicResearch). This was true for two very big recessions in 1970 and 1974where individual giving fell off by 3.9 percent and 5.3 percent respectively. Wecan compare these to the 2001 recession when individual giving alsofell 3.9 percent.
Why is this important? Because in 2001 the highest marginal incometax rate was 39.1 percent for earnings starting at $297,350 and theeffective capital gains tax rate was 18.2percent. In 1970, the highestmarginal tax rate was 70 percent on income starting at $200,000 and theeffective capital gains tax rate was 15percent. But, let's be fair, in1970, you only needed an annual income of $45,750 to equal thespending power of $250,000 today. Okay, the marginal tax rate in 1970on $45,750 was 50 percent. (See TheTaxFoundation.org) This example is fullysupported by Indiana University's research; if you need more proofsee GivingUSA.org to purchase the report.
So, even considering inflation, higher taxes don't affect thepercentage of charitable giving like a recession does. The best thingObama can do for charitable giving is, indeed, to lead us toward animproved economy and get our people back to work. Targeted taxincreases as a component of his recovery plan and in future annualbudgets will help.
Name: Steve Nelson
Why We're Liberals is out in paperback huh. Even in the currentfinancial climate I have no excuse and will now have to pick up a copy and assuage my guilt of free loading on your blogs.
Eric replies: It's here
Name: Richard Paddock
Hometown: Chapel Hill, NC
I recall that, especially as portrayed in Shakespeare, it was commonfor the jester to be immune from retribution for "speaking truth topower" to coin a cliche. Now Stewart and Colbert are funny, so that'swhy they get a pass. Limbaugh is not; the only thing that saves himis that he is the jester to the Right, and the Left apparently doesnot believe in capital punishment (at least for self-styledcomedians.)
Name: Steve Snyder
Hometown: Dallas, TX
Uhh, Victor Archer is wrong, way wrong, on Obama being the second-youngest president.
First, since Jack Kennedy wasn't the youngest, an error made by manyAmericans ignorant of the youthful Teddy Roosevelt. Second, you don'tneed to go back even that far to prove Lynch was wrong. Without a bitof Googling, I knew Clinton was younger when he took office.
And, with a bit of Googling, it turns out Grant was younger too.
And, although not quite as young, four other presidents assumedoffice before turning 50.
So, let's quash that little bit of Obama hagiography.
Name: Don Hynes
Hometown: Portland OR
Just a big shout out for the fine interview on TPM. Not enough beingsaid about this critical issue, not only to the US and Israel and thePalestinian population, but to the western world. Your comments werespot on and I really appreciated your endorsement and support of theyounger journalists coming up.
Name: Jim Peale
Hometown: Swanzey, NH
Was it just the first year of "Paper Chase" that didn't work for you,or the entire series? I was a contemporaneous law student and we usedto watch it in order to laugh at the mistakes and pretensions. Inhindsight, they actually did a pretty good job of passing along whatsomeone once described as the combination of arrogance and depressionendemic among law students.
Please, please, please keep throwing us an occasional Slacker Friday!
Name: Corky Bucik
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Steve McCrady of Philadelphia wrote that if Hillary Clinton werePresident "she would probably be on her third Treasury Secretary!"Well, I think that may be true that she'd be on her third Secretaryby now but only if the Treasury Secretaries were women.