Eric Alterman | The Nation

Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

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

Slacker Friday

Wrapup: I've got a new Think Again column called "Ted Kennedy, inSubstance" which deals with the personalistic, rather than substantivecoverage of the senator's life and career, as well as some of those thatdid. That's here.

Also, I've got a new Moment column called "Hiding Truths from theGoyim--and Ourselves," here. I see they start sorta similarly...

Now here's the man:


Hey Doc:

"I found out my downfall, from nineteen and thirty/I'm tellin' allof my friends, I'm not fattenin' no more frogs for snakes."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Boogie Disease" (Doc Ross, TheHarmonica Boss)--Four years on, and it still fights to be what it always was,God bless it, and I still love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: He's tanned! He's rested! He's ready! (OK, he'salso now an ex-con.) One of my favorite politicians is back, beeyotches!

Part The Second: Always nice to hear from this blight again. If I'd found a doctor that gave me the bullshit medical excusethat kept my ass out of Vietnam, I'd like this system, too.

Part The Third: My lord, this reached the Fourth Level Of Suckitude in near record time. And Tucker (Show Killer) Carlson calling Matt Taibbi a "phony"? Tucker Carlson?This Tucker Carlson? The mind, she reels.

Part The Fourth: I think I speak for the entire class when I say,"Don't let us stop you, honeybun."

Part The Fifth: And you thought it was impossible simultaneously tothink with your dick and talk out of your ass.

Part The Penultimate: And there I was, thinking that this was in Kentucky.

Part The Last: Sam's coming home this year. And, listen, boyos. No taking the last 10 minutes off the way you did last year.

To every camel's back, there is a final straw. Sooner or later, we've taken all we can stand and we can't stands no more, and we pass over the Popeye Line. For me, it came sometime last weekend when I heard Richard Cheney, the pre-eminent moral and physical coward of the era, explain once again the Mulligan theory of national defense by which every president gets one free mass casualty attack that doesn't count toward "keeping us safe." (Note to Dick: by this standard, every two-term president kept us safer than you guys did. You were the worst at it. Scoreboard!) And I realized that, by all the standards of objectivity I was taught in journalism school--the most basic of which was that, if you saw a man walking down the street with a bird on his head, you could report it without finding someone else to tell you that, no, what you actually saw was a bird walking down the street with a guy on his ass--there is no longer any reason to take the Republican party seriously. It has become a festival for fruitcakes. The political movement that powered its ascension has become publiclydemented. Sam Tanenhaus can plug his book all he wants, but the fact remains that it was American conservatism that spent three decades throwing open thedoors to the monkeyhouse--starting with the Goldwater campaign in 1964,moving along through the Reagan campaigns of 1976 and 1980, the NCPAC campaignsof that same era, the marriage of convenience with theocratic crackpottery,the Buchanan campaign against the first President Bush, the variousexercises in lunacy aimed at Bill Clinton, the half-mad banality of NewtGingrich, and the cult of personality that sprang up around the secondPresident Bush. It's a little late for delicate conservativeintellectuals to ponder how it was that all that monkey poo ended up on the walls.

The serious people don't lead in that party any more, and the leadersof it -- Hello, Michael Steele -- are not serious people. It is a majorpolitical party run now as an elaborate radio talk-show and completelyin thrall to the maniacs who run actual radio talk-shows. Goddammit, theSpartacists are more intellectually honest and the Hemp Party folks area helluva lot more fun. Why do serious political journalists take thiscareering clown car seriously, ignoring the evidence plainly in front oftheir own eyes? Why does a Democratic president, and an overwhelminglyDemocratic congress, both elected at least in part because the countryhad determined that the Republicans had gone completely mad, care what thesepeople think about anything? Why does a party led by people who thinkthe president is going to hypnotize schoolchildren with his magicKenyan-Socialist spinning eyeballs scare the living protoplasm out ofputative tough guys like Rahm Emanuel?

The perfect should not be the enemy of the good? Maybe not, but thegood has many actual enemies. Evil is the enemy of the good. Greed isthe enemy of the good. Ignorance is the enemy of the good. Cowardice is theenemy of the good. How's about, just once, somebody worries about thoseenemies of the good, all of which are amply in evidence in the campaignto make sure we never reform the criminally negligent and morallyindefensible way we deliver healthcare in this country?

Instead, we get this. One thing we learned this week--Stephanopoulos is Greek for "Stockholm Syndrome". Jesus wept.

P.S. Oh, hell. They've even started selling their alibis already. Watch this unfold. The D's will sign off on some nutless POS and then have to run in 2010 on their support for a massive giveaway to theinsurance companies, a group of institutions whom everyone I know hates.The elite press then will ponder earnestly why the administration couldn'twork with "serious conservative voices" on a "bipartisan" plan, asthough any of the former even exist. The Beckite "Socialism! Fascism! Soup!"crazoids will go zipping down the memory hole. Call me Kreskin.

Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC

Mr. Alterman,

Just finished reading your article, "Official Evidence vs. GutHatred," where at the end you make note of Senator Kennedy's voteagainst the invasion of Iraq.

It reminded of of the article in The Boston Globe on Thursday8/28/09 by their conservative columnist, Jeff Jacoby.

Jacoby actually used Kennedy's no-vote on the Iraq invasion asevidence that Kennedy was "wrong about most of the great issues ofour time." Jacoby wrote that Kennedy was "willing to consignmillions to Saddam Hussein's tyranny," by voting against the "2003liberation of Iraq."

Amazing, isn't it? You write that all these reporters who trumpetedthe war have suffered no harm to their reputation. But one of thereasons is because many, like Jacoby, won't admit they were wrong,and the main stream media is either too afraid to be called liberalor too busy protecting their own to call them on it.

These conservative reporters learned what to do from the Bush administration--never admit to a mistake. Once you admit it, that is the end of the debate, and people can just judge your errors. But be defiant, keepinsisting you were right, keep grasping at straws to defend yourview, keep trying to pound that square peg into the round hole, andthat way you will never have to be known for being wrong. To someonelike Jacoby, who says they were wrong? They certainly won't admit it,so why then would their reputation suffer.

It is of course the height of arrogance to use your colossal erroragainst someone else. But if we have learned nothing since the adventof Fox News, it is that those on the Right are more concerned withprotecting the Right, then in actually being right themselves. Andfor all their talk about loving America, country clearly takes a backseat to party, even though it is their policies that created the messwe now find ourselves in, and it is their tactics that are stoppingthe president now from getting us out.

Name: Don Hynes
Hometown Portland OR

Dear Eric,

Kudos on your Think Again column "Gut Hatred" re: those in power andpress who "wrote history" vs those cowardly pinheads who paidattention to the facts.

Pierce's and your reference to Senator Kennedy's opposition to theIraq invasion bears more than compliment; it demands our attentionNOW. We all know Obama is a far better president in his sleep thanhis predecessor was on his best day, but why are we not challenginghis escalation of the three empires old failed venture in Afghanistanand widening the war (against "terrorists" of course) in Pakistan.

We needed to take on the pathology of he-who-shall-not-be-named butwe cannot be deterred from standing against another misdirected warno matter what we personally feel about its commander.

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

Two thoughts on Brother Pierce's lovely tribute to Ted Kennedy andexcoriation of Robert Bork.

First, when Bork's nomination was defeated, who got the gig instead?Anthony Kennedy. At the time, a conservative friend of mine chuckledthat we had unloaded an overweight smoker for a physical fitness nutwho figured to serve longer. It turned out that while Kennedy isconservative, he isn't so all-out crazy as Bork and the Four Horsemenof Reaction. Think of how little of the Constitution would be leftover from the meat grinder if Bork had gotten on there.

Second, I encourage everyone to go to You Tube, type into thesearch line "Swedish Chef Muppets," and see why Ronald Reagan'sfirst choice to destroy the Constitution didn't make it. There wasno way the Senate could confirm anyone whose name reminds us of theSwedish Chef.

Name: Dave Richie
Hometown: Birmingham, AL

Charles Pierce,

The Good Dr. A was good enough to post your January, '03 articleabout the then Senior Senator from your state.

It was a wonderful recap of the man's forty years to that point inthe so-called "greatest deliberative body.." The memories are notfresh, but not so old so as to be forgotten.

It did reminded me of a time in my liberal youth when stirring wordscalling for truth, justice and the American way seemed to emanatefrom only progressive voices. Yes, I voted for the Happy Warrior,George McGovern and even Jimmuh Cahwtuh...once.

And, yes, the accolades coming from all sides seems a bit overdoneright now. But he is, afterall, just gone. The partisan rancor soeasily dismissed by the Senator will be back in full swing , as yousuggest, by the weekend. The catterwalling by The Nation for Obama tofollow Kennedy's lead is a bad joke that will be laughed away.

But he did leave an enduring, compassionate legacy. All of us willmiss him, warts and all.

Name: Stephen Carver
Hometown: Los Angeles

Really enjoyed both the Think Again ("Official Evidence vs. 'GutHatred'") and The Nation ("Novak Without Tears") pieces.

Both I think, illustrated very well the nature of what modernjournalism seems to have become: getting to be a power broker on theinside. It's not even about getting the story anymore, it seems tohave become about getting to the people who have the story, hangingout with them, oh...and then maybe writing a piece about the subject,usually in which the "reporter" takes some sort of starring (if off-screen) role.

I live in LA and have had my share of run ins with celebrities, forboth good and ill and the people who are drawn strictly to thecelebrity aspect of the film or television industry have such hugeegos. It seems that more and more "reporters" have more screen timeand fewer bylines, so more ego-driven reporters (Novak used to be theexception and became the rule, I think) are in the mainstream.Instead of having journalistic integrity to make a career, all oneneeds nowadays is a strong opinion and a pretty face. No journalisticskills required.

Name: Steven
Hometown: The Swamps of Jersey


When you asked why they're "letting idiots bring guns to places wherethe president is speaking," you answered your own question. Obamaand the Democrats are terrified of the NRA and the gun issue. Iwanted to go into more detail.

Unfortunately, gun control isn't an important issue, even amongliberals. It seems they're more concerned about minimum wage and gayrights. So without any pressure from the base, Democrats haveignored it.

But the main reason why Democrats never challenge the NRA and take onthe gun issue is the same reason why the media caves to theGOP/conservatives: intimidation. The NRA and its members arepugnacious, hostile and enraged. Just mentioning "gun control," andyou'll be shouted down as a Nazi. Even the "liberal lion" himself,Ted Kennedy, who certainly could have made gun control the issue itshould be, was silent.

When Democrats are forced to comment on guns - at a debate forinstance - they immediately put themselves on the defensive bybragging how much they "support Second Amendment rights" and "supporthunters and sportsman," as if they have to apologize for supportinggun control; as if either has anything to do with gun control (Iwonder. When was the last time a "pro-life" Republican showed similarempathy towards a womans right to choose?).

I'd say the Democrats are pathetic on the issue but that's being tookind. They've not only allowed the NRA to hijack, distort andrewrite the Second Amendment, they've actually taken their side.Consider what Democrats have done, just since last fall: 1) Sen.Chuck Schumer, who was behind the assault weapons ban (now expired,and Democrats too afraid to re-introduce it), got New York Gov.Paterson, another Democrat, to select Kirsten Gillibrand, a pro-gun,pro-NRA congresswoman as Hillary Clinton's replacement in theSenate. Obama said he'd clear the primary field for her. 2) When thebanking/credit card legislation went through Congress last spring,it did so with a provision allowing guns in federal parks. Obamadidn't even threaten a veto and signed the bill. 3) To break aSenate filibuster last month, legislation that would allow thosewith "right to carry" permits to bring their guns into any state got58 votes. Fifty-eight votes! (Gillibrand voted against it because of"states rights" issues.)

The "right to carry" legislation and the one allowing guns infederal parks were ostensibly brought up to force Democrats in redand purple states and districts to go on the record. If they votedagainst them, the NRA would have made sure they got a primarychallenge...from the right.

Before the election, Obama said he agreed with the Supreme Courtruling that struck down Washington DC's hand gun ban. Of course hedid. He thought he had to because no one stands up to the NRA. Ever.And after he was elected, the NRA returned the favor by circulatingfears that Obama would "ban guns" and "take your guns away." So gunsales have skyrocketed; so much so that there's now a shortage ofbullets. But not a word about this insanity from the White House orDemocrats; not even from the liberals (next thing you know, they'llsay that Obama's going to send a government bureaucrat to the home ofevery senior citizen and ask them how they want to die).

This has gone so far in the wrong direction, that gun laws are beingdismantled across the country (dismantling the banking laws sureworked for worked out well for Wall St., didn't it?). Arizona, forinstance, recently passed legislation and the governor signed, thatwill allow guns to be brought into bars.

So maybe the reason why they're "letting idiots bring guns to placeswhere the president is speaking," is because if they were arrested -or heaven forbid, had their guns taken from them - it would become"news." And I could see the headlines on Fox "News" now: "Obamaprotester denied his First and Second Amendment rights." And thenyou'd see a long line of NRA hacks turning up on Fox "News," andelsewhere, saying, "You see? Obama is going to take your gun away!"

So let the record show that instead of standing up to the gunnuts, even the Secret Service has been intimidated by the NRA andits members.

The inmates are running the asylum. They got the keys to the gunlocker a long time ago. They're getting closer to the President. Andno one gives a shit.

Slacker Friday

Wrapup: I've now a new "Think Again" column called "Official Evidence vs. 'Gut Hatred'" here.

It's about the derision those people who were right about Bush and Iraq continue to experience from those who were wrong, inspired by Tom Ridge and Marc Ambinder. (And P.S., we recall that Ted Kennedy, we are reminded by our friends at Thinkprogress.org, called his vote against authorizing the invasion "the best vote I've made in my 44 years in the US Senate." We could not agree more.)

My Nation column, here, is called "Novak Without Tears." You can guess what that's about.

Regarding yesterday's A (Very) Short Story About a Photograph , if you missed the one with the actual photo, it's up now, here.

Here's Pierce.

Charles Pierce
Newton, MA

Hey Doc:

"Times right now ain't nothin' like they used to be/Well times rightnow ain't nothin' like they used to be/ You know I'll tell you all thetruth, won't you take my word from me."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Color Me True" (Sly And The Family Stone)--The work goes on, the cause endures, the dream shall never die, and Istill love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: 'FI were king of the forest, I would read Oklahomaout of the Union until the people there elect themselves one senator whoisn't a complete dickhead.

Part The Second: It goes without saying--"So don't say it!" Sorry.--but there are people asking for spare change on the steam grates outsidethe Boston Public Library who have far more essential dignity, and who arefar more worthy of my respect and my financial report, than thissuppurating mound of blubber.

Part The Third:--Oh, look! A Facebook page.

Part The Fourth: Oh, Lord, Joe, Was this ever not a piece for you to write. Even if we declare the whole Anonymous things out of bounds--which nobody ever should, but no matter--you are still theguy that got this fiasco into print, and I say this as one who had a rare old time laughing at it. Why do editors print rubbish? Because famous writers write rubbish.

Part The Fifth: The lads 'n lassies at Da Cornah had a time with thepassing of The Senior Senator. There was Pantloadian flummery--Yeah, Reagan's name hasn't been used for a single political purpose since he died--and Pantloadian keyboard-flexing. Don't make him get tough on you. Ohhhhh, no. And of course, from a woman who'd earlier posted that Edward Kennedy had done things contrary to the Catholic faith, there was this out-and-out lie. Ego te absolvo, you silly hack. And, for pity's sake, Ye Olde House Of Mulch For Brains, try not be be such tools.

I swear, modern conservatism is the only political movement in historymade up entirely of people with little birdies flying out of their ears.

Part The Penultimate: Unless he is talking about a Massachusetts ofwhich I am unaware, Peter Roff pretty much has eaten a bug here.

Part The Last: Anyone who's covered golf at any point is familiarwith the post-round press conference, in which PGA star Billy Ray Amanahattakes us through the round, shot by shot. ("Par-4. Driver. Three-iron. Twoputts.") Those of us lucky enough to be on the e-mail list for the WhiteHouse Pool Report were treated this week to a shot-by-shot description ofPresident Obama's time at the links on the Vineyard. Which brought nothingback more clearly than the response of the great Dan Jenkins to someone whowas boring him with golf talk: "Stud, if I'm going the whole 18 here, I'mgonna need caddy fees." And, not for nothing, but great cheers to RyanMoore, who won at Greensboro last week, and was the first golfer in recentmemory to win a Tour event without carrying a single corporate logoanywhere on his person. This, of course, will not last.

It is almost beside the point now to mention that The Senior Senatorleaves behind a pair of shoes that most of his Senate contemporaries coulduse for swimming pools. (Harry Reid, come on down!) His maiden speech wasabout the poll tax and one of the last issues he took up was that ofgenetic privacy, which pretty much covers the waterfront as regards thesecond half of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st. Startclicking them off--Webster-Clay-Calhoun, bing-bang, all at the same time,and then LaFollette, Lodge, Vandenberg, Taft, Lyndon. Maybe Robert Wagnerand/or Hubert Humphrey. And the Senior Senator. That's the ballgame rightthere, and there's nobody still in the Senate who comes close.

I pretty much emptied the bucket on what I had to say about him sixyears ago.

But, if Martin was right, and the arc of history really does bend towardjustice, the Senior Senator didn't miss many chances to give it a littlepush along the way. For example, if it weren't for the Senior Senator, anauthoritarian extremist named Robert Bork would now be in his 22nd year onthe United States Supreme Court. Conservatives are still weeping aboutthis. Tough. A country with a Robert Bork deciding on the issues of itsliberties would be a smaller, more vicious place. The Senior Senatorstopped that from happening. What'd your senator do today?

P.S. My wife and I waited about three and a half hours at the JFK library last night to pay our respects. The line snaked out through the parking lots for about a mile and a half. There were older women who looked like they'd been mad for Jack back in '46. There were dozens of extraordinarily well-behaved children. There were two guys with guitars. It was an altogether remarkable gathering. I am glad that I did it. There was a lot of low talking, but there also were not a few good old Dorchester wisecracks. Two of the Kennedy daughters came out and worked the line, doing the double-handed handshake thing and thanking people for coming. The TV stands were long gone quiet by the time we made it in through the doors. That long, extended, respectful peace beside the dark harbor is going to be a good bulwark of memory to have when the smugness and the vicious ignorance and the nearly bottomless banality that usually encrusts our politics reasserts itself, probably by Sunday. Amen.

The Mail:

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

One of the ironies of Ted Kennedy's ironic life is the current healthcare debate.

Kennedy once said that the perfect should not be allowed to becomethe enemy of the good. That is worth remembering right now as mybrothers and sisters of the left assault some Democrats for notordering others to vote a certain way.

But then some Republicans--and, to be fair, Democrats--have lamentedthat his presence would have ameliorated the partisan rancor. ThoseRepublicans include John McCain, whose presidential campaign did agreat deal to fan the flames that are now billowing upward from right-wingers at town hall meetings, like the meeting he had the othernight. Can a party in thrall to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, for whomWanda Sykes's words are hardly good enough, actually claim with anyseriousness that Kennedy could have reduced the partisanship?

So, we are left to ponder what Kennedy might have been able toaccomplish on this bill, and to cherish what he did accomplish forhis country. And we are left to ponder what might have been after anevent that Murray Kempton described so aptly--and so much betterthan I will--when he said that Kennedy would always be excoriatedfor doing something that many other men might have done and handledjust as badly.

Name: Daphne Chyprious
Hometown: Springfield, Ill.

Terry from Cheyenne's story reminds me of my own experience. Yearsago, I came upon a pickup truck in a parking lot with a huge printedsign in its back window: " Burn my flag, I'll burn your ass."Scrounging up a sheet of scratch paper from my glove compartment, Iscribbled: "If I burn my own flag, will you burn your own ass?" andstuck it into his dashboard. No word yet on the truck owner'sreaction, but my local paper did oblige me by printing my letterabout the incident.

A (Very) Short Story About a Photograph

I've now a new "Think Again" column called "Official Evidence vs. 'GutHatred'" here.

It's about the derision those people who were right about Bush and Iraqcontinue to experience from those who were wrong, inspired by Tom Ridgeand MarcAmbinder. (And p.s., we recall that Ted Kennedy, we are reminded by ourfriends at Thinkprogress.org, called his vote against authorizing theinvasion "the best vote I've made in my 44 years in the US Senate." Wecould not agree more.)

My Nation column, here, iscalled "Novak Without Tears." You canguess what that's about.

A (very) short story about a photograph: Back in January 2007, I tookmy kid to Washington to enjoy the festivities surrounding theinauguration of the first ever female speaker of the House, togetherwith a (mostly) Dead reunion that night. Before the concert, I stoppedoff at a reception for my good friend and favorite Congressman, JimMcGovern of Massachusetts. As the kid and I were walking in -- she waseight by the way -- we were joined at door by the senior senator fromMassachusetts. We said hello and he did that thing that politicians dosometimes in front of kids, which is act like they are thrilled to meetthe great man who is their dad, which was nice given who he was, andall, but even better, he asked us to turn around and go back to his vanso he could introduce the kid to his dog, who was waiting there. We didand then he asked me if I would please take a photo, since this was suchan exciting moment for him. It's a crappy photograph, as you can see,but one this family will always treasure.

Now, if you have not already, go read this seminal piece by the greatCharles Pierce.

Like everyone else of sanity and decency -- this does not mean you, Mr.Limbaugh -- I'm pleased that Ted Kennedy got to die in bed of somewhatnatural causes. There's a letter below about the issue of peoplebringing guns to healthcare rallies where the president speaks. I'vebeen thinking about this. Remember the Bush folks had people arrestedfor wearing unflattering T-shirts or driving with anti-Bushbumper stickers. I used to live near the Washington Hilton, where thepresident always spoke. One day, I was coming back from the gym to myapartment, and the secret service would not allow me to pass the hotelwhile the president was entering. I thought this was annoying, and so Iasked under what law he was allowed to prevent an American citizen fromwalking down the street, unarmed to his own apartment. He said he couldshoot me if he wanted to and so I decided to sit tight.I investigated it a bit and he was right. The secret service are almostall powerful if they are protecting the president. So why are theyletting idiots bring guns to places where the president is speaking justbecause it is not against the law in that state? My guess is that Obamaet al do not want to rile up the NRA for the next mid-term election. NRAhysteria is, more than anything, what caused the Democratic debacle of1994. Of course, this is pure speculation. If anyone actually knows theanswer to this question, please send it along.

Gene Krzyzynski noticed this on WashingtonPost.com:

Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz is a contributor to CNN andhostof its weekly Reliable Sources program, which is part of Stateof theUnion.

Changed to:

Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz is a paid contributor toCNN andhost of its weekly Reliable Sources program, which is part ofStateof the Union.

Curious, huh?

If there is a sadder fate for a newspaper in this world than to belectured, accurately, by Gawker on journalistic ethics, I'm unaware ofit. Congrats to the editorial page of Rupert Murdoch's Wall StreetJournal for this signal achievement.

This week on Moyers:

Produced by Academy Award winner Alex Gibney (Taxi to the DarkSide,Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) and based on Maggie Mahar'sacclaimed book of the same name, Money-Driven Medicine revealshow aprofit-hungry "medical-industrial complex" has turned healthcare into asystem where millions are squandered on unnecessary tests, unproven andsometimes unwanted procedures and overpriced prescription drugs.

From The HuffPo Investigative Fund:

This weekend, the new Huffington PostInvestigative Fund reported that one of the nation's mostwidely-used herbicides has been found to exceed federal safety limits indrinking water in at least four states, but water customers have notbeen told and the Environmental Protection Agency has not published theresults. Records that tracked the amount of the weed-killer atrazine inabout 150 watersheds from 2003 through 2008 were obtained by theInvestigative Fund under the Freedom of Information Act. An analysisfound that yearly average levels of atrazine in drinking water violatedthe federal standard at least ten times in communities in Illinois,Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas, all states where farmers rely heavily on theherbicide. In addition, more than 40 water systems in those statesshowed spikes in atrazine levels that normally would have triggeredautomatic notification of customers. In none of those cases wereresidents alerted. In none of those cases were residents notified. Infact, the brochures in their water bills - reviewed for thisreport--contained misleading lower numbers.

Today, the Investigative Fund followed up with a story,revealing that many water utilities across the country are ineffectiveat removing the herbicide from drinking water -- and also lack thecapability to filter out other organic material like plasticizers(phathalates), pharmaceutical compounds, PCBs, and alachlor. Utilitiescited the financial crisis, and about 57 are currently planning to suethe makers of atrazine, Syngenta, to recover the costs of removing theweed-killer from their water.

The Investigative Fund has posted the EPA's five years of raw atrazinedata on their website, here. To watchreporter Danielle Ivory discuss atrazine, the EPA, and how all of thiswas perfectly legal on Democracy Now, click here.


Did you know that The Simpsons is the longest running animatedseries intelevision history? I think it's also the longest running comedy showever. And it's still great. Season 12 just came out on DVD. The kid andI are pretty into it this summer. We really liked the episode at the bookfestival, painful as it was for Mr. Updike. And the one where the Whoplay "New Springfield." And those are like in the first three. And wealso love the packaging, which mimics the fine comic book products soldby the overweight, over-opinionated and under-bathed retailer ComicBook Guy. Special features, if that's your thing, include: anintroduction from Matt Groening; audio commentaries on every episodewith Groening and The Simpsons executive producers, writers,actorsand directors; deleted scenes; animation showcases; original sketches;special language feature; featurettes and more.

New Loudon Wainwright and Radiohead re-releases by Sal:

"Charlie Poole didn't write the songs he performed and recorded -- theywere the popular, sacred, and standard tunes of his time. Charlie maynot have written the songs, but he certainly "owned them -- that is tosay, made them his own."

This is how Loudon Wainwright III introduces his new CD on page one ofthe beautiful accompanying booklet to High Wide & Lonesome: TheCharliePoole Project, 2 CDs conceived by Wainwright and producer DickConnetteas a tribute to the hard drinking, hard living charmer of theDepression era, Charlie Poole.

This absolutely wonderful set of music is a real tribute indeed.Wainwright, along with many other Wainwrights, Roches and friends ofboth families, run through thirty tunes, each with its own grippingstory filled with black humor, genuine sadness, lost hope, as well asplenty of booze and women. There are old timey string arrangements,acapella gospel tunes, and simple voice and guitar, all leaving room forLoudon Wainwright's love of the material to shine. I've always lovedLoudon, but I didn't expect to love this set as much as I do.

On Another Note:

One of the most overrated bands in the history of music, Radiohead, seesits self-indulgent, experimental, tuneless and boring post-OKComputerrecords get expanded with even more depressing, droning, twaddle. KidA, Hail To The Thief, and Amnesiac all now feature a seconddiscwith b-sides and live tracks. Now I realize that is a bit unfair, andthe truth is, I don't hate Radiohead. I happen to think The BendsandOK Computer are two of the best records of the 90s. But I dobelievethese three CDs would have made ONE fine CD. Forgive me.

Sal Nunziato

Eric chimes in: Sal is right about Loudo, of course. I'm reallyenjoyingthe record and I'd recommend listening to Terry Gross's interview withthe guy which ran last week and was a lot of fun. My comrade couldhardly be wronger, however about Radiohead, which I maintain is justbelow U2 and at least tied with REM as the greatest band of the 90s. Iactually think OK Computer is their weakest album. These two are allthree totally excellent, particularly Kid A, which is kinda PinkFloydish. They've not only got b-sides and live tracks but also DVDs andthese demonstrate the thought and care that went into these greatalbums. And Pablo Honey is also great, he didn't mention that.Greatband, Radiohead; closest thing to what the Beatles would have been ifthe Beatles had been in the 90s. (I know Bono says that about U2, buthe's wrong. U2 were way different than the Beatles; much better live,I'm guessing, and also much more explicitly socially concerned.) Anyway,if you don't have the remixed versions of these records, I'd stronglyrecommend all of them -- with the possible exception of OK Computerwhich is a little too noisy for my taste.

Name: Tim Burga
Hometown: Dallas, TX

Dr. A,

In your Daily Beast column you said, regarding Obama reaching out tothe GOP on health care, that "the problem with this strategy is thatit rests on the widespread realization that the Republicans are notserious about governance."

Based on the polls it seems the public *does* realize this, whichmakes it all the more confounding that Democrats are not in full-onmessaging mode to reinforce this self-evident state of affairs. Whyare Sen. Grassley's stunningly frank admissions about the bad faithwith which the GOP is operating in the health care debate onlycovered on left-leaning blogs and not in press releases and op-edsfrom the White House?

Despite all the progress and transformation within the DemocraticParty in the last decade, it unfortunately seems the leadership isstill playing checkers at a chess match.

Name: Bill Doyle
Hometown: Valparaiso, IN

Hi Eric,

I love your Daily Beast stuff, and I think (and hope) you may beright about the President's strategy. For the past few weeks, I havebeen boring my friends with my theory that the time to get real is inConference Committee next month.

I have to comment on the frightening article in which the WhiteHouse accepts the fact of assault rifles being brandished atPresidential events. I sent a letter to the Chicago Trubune aboutthat, but they had used up their liberal comment quota for themonth, so no dice there.

This weapons parade is lunacy. The Secret Service should extend theweapons free zone around the President to a full one mile. And thenCongress must make it a federal offense to carry any weapon of anykind to a public event, demonstration or meeting connected to anyappearance by the President, a Member of Congress, or any of theirdesignates.

Congress can do this. There are already thousands of weapons freefederal zones across the country, and it is the federal function, notthe specific building, that gives the feds this preemption. Just trystrapping on a weapon and going into a VA hospital. Better yet, oneof these bozos should try entering a US military post or an FBIoffice. If they are not shot, bail will be very high.

The biggest reason we have to do this, though, is that it is only amatter of time before one of these weapons is discharged, and somecitizen--possibly a child or a Grandma--is killed for the crime ofexercising her First Amendment rights. Why shouldn't we the peoplehave the same right to a weapons free First Amendment zone thatMembers of Congress enjoy in their Capitol office space, or federalemployees have at their workplaces? The NRA and their paid minionshave no right to trample on "...the right of the people peaceably toassemble, and to petition the Government for a redress ofgrievances."

I simply do not understand why the White House does not understandthis basic concept--that free speech is not free if it is inherentlydangerous, and that civilian weapons do not belong in any crowdedplace, especially when children are part of the crowd.

Name: Frank Lynch
Hometown: http://www.samueljohnson.com/blog/

Ah, Tom Ridge... I remember an early 80's lyric from Utopia:

"Here are your leaders, come on take a look They lie and cheat andsteal and sell the rights to the book"

The problem with Tom Ridge's account of the pre-election daydecision is that while the preceding events argue for guilt,the fact that there was a tape from OBL is enough to cast areasonable doubt. If there were conversations before the tape'sarrival about "wouldn't it be nice" and OBL's tape were thecatalyst, that would be one thing, but on this singular event thedecision process so far seems in the grey area. And I am noBush defender, as you know.

(I speculated at the time of the tape that there had been somegamesmanship being played regarding the tape: that OBL really didwant Bush re-elected because he was good for recruiting, and dumpedon Bush's overreactions in the tape in a bit of reverse psychology(Americans would reject his mocking of Bush). Ron Suskind's Cheneybook later revealed that the CIA and State also felt that OBL handedBush the reelection with that tape.)

But aside from the pre-election pressure Ridge felt, the prior eventsthemselves don't make Ridge look good. While he claims to have heldback against capricious color raises in the alert levels, he didn'tdo that often enough. He could have determined that the intelregarding attacks on the financial centers was stale, and he didn'thave to interject praise for Bush as he did so. I, for one, have gottensick and tired of the claim of "he kept America safe," when Suskindpointed out that a major attack on NYC's subways was aborted not becauseof anything Bush had done but because Al Qaida didn't think that thebloody plan was bloody enough.

Tom Ridge gets no partial credit, in my opinion.

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

Brother Pierce hit it out of the park when talking about the latedevelopment of conscience among Bush administration members who mightfind life interesting before a war crimes tribunal. Especially ColinPowell. Indeed, one of the little treasures in the history ofAmerican popular culture was in "Mars Attacks!" Paul Winfield playeda general sent to greet the Martians. En route, he calls his wife tosay he always knew he would be given something important to do if hejust kept his mouth shut. And that was nearly five years beforePowell became secretary of state!

Now, for a TV review. Sunday night's 60 Minutes was one of theworst in that broadcast's mostly distinguished history. The tributeto Don Hewitt was well-intentioned, but by the fifth or so time thathe was shown saying the key is to "tell me a story," I realized theyhad no idea how to tell his story. Instead, they had three separatereports that were largely repetitive and suggest just how much thebroadcast misses Hewitt.

Also, they missed a couple of his innovations. For example, thegraphic "matte" at the bottom of the screen, and the "double-projector system" that enables a correspondent to do a voiceoverwere, I believe, his work when he produced the CBS evening newscast.But it was more fun for 60 Minutes to show, over and over, Hewittyelling in the control room and walking down the hallway. And CBS isclaiming Dan Rather wasn't up to the standards of 60 Minutes? If Imay invoke my hero, Barney Frank, what planet do they live on?

Name: Terry
Hometown: Cheyenne

Dear Eric, While I trying to understand the White House need toappear all stately and bipartisan, (which never works, btw) I wasconfronted with a new bumper sticker on a van at of all places, ourlibrary in "Idiot America," er, Cheyenne today. While I remain of thetree-hugging, liberal, let's-communicate-and -not-hate persuasion, Idid react. The sticker read "Does not play well with liberals." Ihappened to have a post-it note, so I stuck this atop: By all means,celebrate your bigotry and intolerance. It's a free country. True,not the Woody Allen/Annie Hall recommended response of "let's getsome bricks and baseball bats and deal with these neoNazis," butsomewhat satisfying.

Sure was fun to see the latest video of Mr. Pierce expounding in.

Name: Jordan Scott
Hometown: Seattle

Eric, Unfortunately, you're not right. Obama "gave in a little on thestimulus?" Just like he gave in a little on prosecuting torture or,as a Senator, on telecon immunity. I'm no psychologist, but I suspectit has more to do with, like Clinton, being raised by a single motherand always wanting to please than some brilliant political tactic.Start reading some Pierce and buck up, will ya' buddy. Obama invitedyou to dinner--the rest of us need you guys who have access to thepeople in power to follow the instructions of "I agree with you, Iwant to do it, now make me do it," rather than being an enabler ofuseless attempts at bipartisanship. As you point out, the strategy isnot working and the lies are winning. Obama needs to be reminded ofhis own definition of insanity. person that's going around of late.:-)

Name: Steve Gabai
Hometown: Fair Lawn, NJ


I was watching New Jersey's Networks (NJN) news broadcast tonight andthey had a report on Rep. Frank Pallone's town hall meeting. Theanchor introducing the story, as well as the reporter covering it,used the word "controversial" in regard to the public option. What isso controversial about the public option (was George Bush's Iraq war"controversial?")?

This town hall meeting, like the rest we've seen, had it share ofenraged screamers. So by describing the public option as"controversial," they actually gave credibility to this mob, as ifthey actually had something to scream about.

This report was no different from the rest of the coverage we've seenthis month, network or cable. Little attention has been paid to thereasonable and practical side of this "debate." Instead, the mediahas focused, mainly, on the angry side who are enraged at this"controversial" health care legislation. Why?

Ironically, what's made this health care "debate" so controversial,are these town hall mobs. But the way the media has handled it, you'dthink it was the other way around.

Would be asking too much for our illustrious media to treat thepublic option seriously, not as a controversy, and give it roughlythe same amount of air time they do these town hall screamers?

Unfortunately, yes.

Name: Don Appel
Hometown: Riverdale,NY

Where the heck is LTC Bateman??? Will his photo soon be on the sideof milk cartons?

Name: Billy Ralph Bierbaum
Hometown: Waxahachie, Texas

Re: condensed journalism.

If someone could write me a fucking nut graf on all this healthcareshit, I'd really appreciate it. More especially, a nut graf on whyObama and the Democrats collapsed like that cake left out in the rainin MacArthur Park. I apologize for my tone and my language, but fuck,if I'd wanted a bunch of rubbery retread refried defrosted still feckless Clintonoids to run this ball (and I'm looking at you, Rahm),I would have voted for a fucking Clinton.

Slacker Friday

Wrapup: My new "Think Again" column is here. It's called "That Doggone Librul Media, Caught Again... " Also, I did a Daily Beast post this morning trying (hoping) to explain the strategy behind Obama's apparently unwavering commitment to bipartisanship. I'm OK with it, as long as I'm right.


Hey Doc:

"She said if you're from Texas, son/Where's your boots and where'syour gun?/ I said, I got guns no one can see."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "If You Want me To Stay" (Kermit Ruffins)-- Once again, this week, I failed to properly arm myself before goingdowntown to convince people how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: My Congressman is better than yourCongressman (). Just sayin'.

Part The Second: Oh, goody. Loser U. has a new has-been for the fall term. What on earth could Norm F'n Coleman teach anyone about anything?

Part The Third: Good on the great Mr. Wolcott for publicizing the greatest Boston movie ever, which was made from thegreatest Boston novel ever written. And it has the best opening line of anynovel ever written about Massachusetts, Moby Dick included: "Jackie Brownat twenty-six, with no expression on his face, said that he could get someguns."

Part The Penultimate: Sooner or later, this wholewe-are-all-Americans-reach-out-and-touch-someone's-hand-Have-A-Coke-And-A-Smile pablum that the Obama people have been peddling since the beginning oflast year's campaign is going to reach that stage where it becomessomething that we generally associtate with the thinking of people incults. sooner, I think.

Part The Last: Go ahead. Pick sides in this one. I dare you.

I have grown just a touch nauseated over the past couple of years bythe tendency of former Bush administration officials to take theirvestigial consciences out for a walk now that's far too late to matter atinker's curse to anyone. The most recent example, of course, is good ol'Tom Ridge, who has a book to peddle and who may still seek to stake out thedwindling element of his party fairly characterized as Not Insane. Thisweek, to the surprise of absolutely no sentient entity on the planet, Ridgeadmitted that the adminstration he served had jacked around with thecomical "Terror Alert" system for political purposes. (All together now,"Unpossible!") Of course, in 2004, when the revelation might have helpedswing the election and save us from four more years of incompetence andvandalism, Ridge wasn't half so brave. Before him, we had LawrenceWilkerson--about whom Dr. Maddow and I will have to have a chat some day--who came out and talked about what a cosmic, existential bummer it wasto have to sit there and listen to Colin Powell sling bullshit at the UNfor the purposes of justifying an illegal war of aggression. (And let usnot even get started on General Powell his own self, who could have thrownsand in the gears with a single press conference, but chose instead hislifelong default role as a reliable apparatchik.) Wilkerson said this, ofcourse, as the 2006 midterms were gathering speed and it looked as thoughthe country was going to be rendering a fairly harsh judgment on peoplelike, well, him. Now he is applauded by people who should know better assome kind of whistleblower when in fact he's not risking a goddamn thing.

All of these guys could have quit on principle at the time. None ofthem did. (I guess, early on, Paul O'Neill came as close as anyone did.)Even James Comey, who came out of the whole torture debacle as what passedfor a hero, couldn't quite pull the trigger.

He wrote a letter. Forgive me, but big honking deal. He stayed aboard. Thecriminal nonsense continued. And the ex post facto courage that has beendemonstrated since has been an insulting farce. Nobody who worked in thatadministration ever should be allowed within three city blocks of agovernment job again. Let them all go work at Fox.

Name: Dave Zimny
Hometown: Oakland, CA

Dr. A: Your Daily Beast post on Obama's persistent bipartisanship was a very interesting analysis. You argued that he was simply using the same strategy to govern as he did in campaigning, that voters were tired of hardball politics. I hope you're right about that, but experience tells me that the odds are against you. George W. proved that, while tolerance and compromise may sound good in a campaign, they don't look very good in a president. Bill Clinton said it best: "The American people would rather have a president who's strong and wrong than one who's weak and right." If Obama keeps extending the hand of friendship to the Republicans and seeing it bitten off, he'll begin to look indecisive and wishy-washy, exactly the kind of president that the public doesn't want to see. I hope you're right and I'm wrong, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

I am a great admirer of Dan Rather in a lot of ways, but the story to which you linked mentions CBS wanting him to have the "emeritus" role that Walter Cronkite had. Here's the irony. When Cronkite retired, he expected to be on the air a great deal. But CBS kept him off the air. Why? Rather!

In a way, it made sense. As Cronkite's successor, Rather needed to establish his own identity, and Cronkite appearing constantly on the evening news wouldn't have helped that. Fair enough. But the network never made proper use of Cronkite. Here was a man with incredible contacts and perspective, and he ended up on cable TV and NPR. In terms of CBS News, that's criminal.

Throw in that this comes up as 60 Minutes creator Don Hewitt dies. Hewitt basically invented the evening news (as producer first for Douglas Edwards and then for Cronkite) and the television news magazine as we have known them. But two points about him have been missed in the obituaries:

1. Hewitt did a lot, unintentionally, to destroy broadcastjournalism when he made 60 Minutes so good and, in theend, profitable. It meant the networks wouldn't view theirnews divisions as loss leaders kept around for prestige, butas moneymakers to be sucked dry of any creativity, perspective, and usefulness to the public if profits somehowfell. And, ironically, Hewitt and Rather were there when CBSNews was gutted.

2. Hewitt knew what was going on with his network. In 1985, Charles Collingwood, one of the legendary and brilliant Murrow Boys who covered World War II, died. His funeral was nasty--the then- president of CBS News was urged to stay away, Bill Moyers stalked out as Rather paid tribute to Collingwood's loyalty to CBS. Shortly thereafter, Hewitt made a phone call to a top CBS executive and offered to buy CBS News from the company, in tandem with several of the news superstars. He had realized, as I suspect they had, that just as Clemenceau thought war was too important to be entrusted to the generals, CBS News was too important to be entrusted to CBS. And he was right.

Name: Jim Peale
Hometown: Swanzey, NH


Re your "Think Again" piece, at Fox News and other right wing "news" outlets, everything they do is seen and evaluated through an ideological prism (remember, they're conservatives first and journalists second!). Their almost laughable presumption is that even a soulless corporate media outlet like NBC acts in the same manner. Since they're not true-believer conservatives, they are automatically "liberals."

Marty Peretz (and The New Republic) vs. Starving Children

Wrapup: My new "Think Again" column is here. It's called "That Doggone Librul Media, Caught Again... "Also, I did a Daily Beast post this morning trying (hoping) to explainthe strategy behind Obama's apparently unwavering commitment tobipartisanship. I'm OK with it, as long as I'm right. I clicked on this headline just for fun: "Peretz: Put Oxfam On My Shit List."

Here is the story:

Help the Palestinians: Boycott Israel
August 17, 2009

There's been an Arab boycott of Israel for more than sixty years. And, as you can tell, it has been very effective.

"Progressive" academics, especially in Great Britain and Canada, have also launched boycotts of Israeli scholars, universities and other scholarly institutions. Of course, these campaigns at ostracism have been an utter flop.

Now Oxfam has put Kristin Davis--she of Sex and the City--on its shit list because she did some beauty advertisements for Ahava, an Israeli cosmetics product company that manufactures some of its products in the West Bank. And what does being on the antihunger organization's shit list mean? She can no longer be one of its roving emissaries. Well, if Oxfam has banished Davis' goodwill, it also has banished mine. This campaign against Davis began with Code Pink, a female nut case organization centered in southern California-- Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica--plus San Francisco and New York. Marines are war criminals, Afghanistan is no women's cause, Gaza ... well, you fill in the dots. I have a friend (former friend, actually) who supports Code Pink financially. I won't say anything more.

But the Arab boycott of Israel is a universal boycott. It extends to tennis players, soccer teams and swimmers. Sometimes it doesn't. The Arab world is really out of this world. See this to learn just how out of this world.

Upon reading it, I thought to myself, I know the person--TNR owner andeditor-in-chief is, to put it mildly, delusional, but if hisaccusations against Oxfam turned out to be true, he would have a(disturbing) point, however badly stated. He provided no link, so Idid, literally, ten seconds of research--a Google news search--to learnthat no, it's not true here

A slander against a human rights organization appearsin Rupert Murdoch's New York Post and thirty seconds later it isreprinted, unchecked and unsourced in TNR. Now it will live forever inthe minds of Jews and others foolish enough to trust these sources aswell. Oxfam's funding will suffer in direct proportion to itscredibility. And fewer starving children will be fed thanks to themagazine's lax editorial standards and the unchecked, out-of-controlhatred spewed by the man who, using his wife's inherited fortune, hasmanaged to control it for the past three decades. I sure hope everyoneinvolved is proud of themselves.

I did not see the post up on the blog anymore this morning when Ichecked. I can't say for sure if it's gone, but if so, it joins thisclassic, saved for posterity by the estimable Matt Duss.

Here's Marty:

Regarding the Pain of Others I actually believe that Arabs are feigning outrage when they protest what they call American (or Israeli) "atrocities." They are not shocked at all by what in truth must seem to them not atrocious at all. It is routine in their cultures. That comparison shouldn't comfort us as Americans. We have higher standards of civilization than they do. But the mutilation of bodies and beheadings of people picked up at random in Iraq does not scandalize the people of Iraq unless victims are believers in their own sect or members of their own clan. And the truth is that we are less and less shocked by the mass death- happenings in the world of Islam. Yes, that's the bitter truth. Frankly, even I--cynic that I am--was shocked in the beginning by the sectarian bloodshed in Iraq. But I am no longer surprised. And neither are you.

Alter-reviews: A few words on a couple of books.

If you're in the market for mommy chick lit, read my friend Deb Kogan'sbook that I recommend here.

My friend Patti Cohen was not so crazy about my friend Fred Kaplan'sbook here.

I actually read this book, pretty much in one sitting, and enjoyed itmore than Patti did. I thought it overall, a really good book. It was alittle odd that I thought this because, I had what I thought was acontract to write the same book two years ago and it did not happen. Fred's book is superior to the one I could have written because hisknowledge of jazz--which is crucial here, is so much deeper, and he alsodoes a much better job on the bomb and the microchip than I could have.And I suspect he's a better art critic too. But Patti identified thebook's weakness which is that Fred takes his gimmick too seriously. 1959was a good year which is why it interested me, but it didn't "changeeverything" by a long shot. I had what I think was a stronger thesisthan that, which was that as the fifties ended, America was mostly onthe right, reformist track and when we turned to attempted revolution inthe sixties things fell apart. It would have been an anti-sixties,anti-revolution and a pro-reformist book. (The only exception I make isfor the music, which did pretty well for most, but not all of thedecade...) Anyway, if you ignore the conceit, you can learn a lot andhave a lot of fun with Fred's book.

Sal on the new Joe Henry record:

There is an obvious resemblance, in both songwriting and attack, to TomWaits on Joe Henry's new and wonderful release Blood From Stars. Notthe later, megaphone-kitchen sink-carnival barker-Broderick Crawford TomWaits, but the pre-Rain Dogs-piano based-down on his luck, romantic TomWaits. And dare I say it, there is a mood to Blood From Stars that isnot unlike Frank Sinatra Sings For Only The Lonely. As the Blood FromStars unfolds, you can't help but think of a guy, kicking a can, jacketover his shoulder, and stopping for a smoke under a streetlight.

Henry has made a respectable name for himself over the last few yearswith production work on such great records as the Bettye Lavettecomeback, the Allen Toussaint/Elvis Costello collaboration, the mostrecent Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and the brilliant Toussaint release "TheBright Mississippi." But Joe Henry's songwriting skill seems to still besomething recognized only by the cognescenti. Blood From Stars playslike an anthology of Henry's moods, from the peaceful instrumentalopening of "Light No Lamp When The Sun Goes Down," to the dramatic chaosof "Stars," the most powerful tune on the record. It is a gorgeousrecord, with Marc Ribot's signature guitar sound, jarring you out of thereverie long enough to remind you that Henry still has the blues.



The mail:

Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC

Mr. Alterman,

So now it is looking like if healthcare reform passes, it will bewithout the public option. And we are seeing the Obama administrationtrying to put a happy spin on this, that the public option was reallynot the most important aspect.

My question is why do they feel the need to do this? Take the optionout if it is really the only way something passes, but why not sayyou are disappointed there will be no public option; say we willcontinue to explore ways to improve health care; we compromised to get something done because something is better than nothing, but this bill does not go far enough. Just tell the truth. You fought the fight, and unlike Republicans who have shown they want all or nothing on everything, the Obama administration can show they are willing to compromise to do something to help the average American citizen.

By putting the happy spin on this, it now makes this the Obama plan,warts and all. This isn't what Obama campaigned on, this isn't whathe wanted. He wanted more. Say so.

Name: John Barker
Hometown: Des Moines, IA

This has been argued to death already but I'd like to make a point about it that no one seems to want to discuss. Yes, the Secret Service knew who and where he was. Yes, he was on private property with a permit to carry. Yes, it's highly unlikely that an assassin would make himself so obvious.

That's because the point was not assassination, it was intimidation. This man, the raging Limbaughs and Becks, the screaming protesters at town hall meetings are meant to give the rest of us, the majority, a warning. The country will be run the way they want it to be run or there will be hell to pay. Crossing the man with the gun and the sign alluding to the blood of patriots and tyrants and there will be consequences.

This is not how a civilized society is to be run. This is not America. My America will not be taken over by bullies. I will stand up to them, I will not back down in the face of their abuse. If they wish to misuse the authority of Jefferson to claim legitimacy for threats of violence then for my authority I shall use Edmund Burke. "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"

Name: Greg Hilliard
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona

Doc & Charles

That New Hampshire guy was originally from Arizona, a sign of thingsto come if you saw our rallies in Phoenix on Monday. A dozen patriots.

Name: Steve Thorne
Hometown: Somewhere in California

It would seem that town hall meetings regarding health care reform need to be simultaneously translated into German so those comingdirectly from beer halls can better understand the proceedings. Packin' heat! Now *that's* how to start a trend!

Bring the Crazy...

Wrapup: I've got a new Think Again called "Media Ethics: 'So Last Century'"

Also, two Alter-recommendations: The Ghosts of Flatbush adocumentary about the Brooklyn Dodgers running on HBO but also rentable,is one the greatest documentaries I've ever seen. I also very muchenjoyed Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 which I rented from Netflix.Also, there are two bio-docs out about Bruce Springsteen, in which Iappear. The one that is running on the Biography channel is OK. I amused mostly to talk about Bruce's childhood, rather than the music, onwhich I am apparently an insufficient authority. The second one, whichis available commercially, is 150 minutes long and from what I canremember from the interviews, ought to be pretty erudite. You can readabout that one here. I'll review it when I get it.

Pierce is early this week:


Hey Doc:

"I want to be misunderstood/Just want to be feared in myneighborhood."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Voodoo Woman" (Big Chief MonkBoudreaux) -- Once again this week, I neglected to reprogram the malfunctioningcomputers in Glenn Beck's humanity to make him weep for how much I loveNewOrleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: God, I know that Ricky says he's your friend,but weused to be pretty close, so, if it's OK with You, can You please makethishappen?If You don't, You don't love me enough.

Part The Second: Yes, ma'am, the senator would like to speak withyou. Unfortunately, you appear to be a moron.Here's a nice souvenir pen. Try not to take your eye out with it.

Part The Third: Sorry, Michael, but any piece on this topic that does not contain the words "Harry Dent" is not worth mytime.

Part The Fourth: In case you've been waiting for the perfectblend ofBeltway Brain Candy--"Hey, you got your smug in my stupid!" "No, you gotyour stupid on my smug!" -- well, have at it.Apparently, if enough people think you're not funny, you really are. (Ifa couple dozenpeople pelted him with eggs in the morning, he'd think he was RichardPryor.) Elsewhere at Ye Olde House Of Mulch For Brains, thiswould be a lot more compelling if it hadn't been written by this guy. Scroll downfor the real fun.

Part The Fifth: Waldo got into the Sterno again this week. Crazypeople snuck in. "I realized that Palin's shrewdly timed metaphor spokedirectly to theelectorate's unease with the prospect of shadowy, unelected governmentfigures controlling our lives. A death panel not only has the power oflifeand death but is itself a symptom of a Kafkaesque brave new world whereauthority has become remote, arbitrary and spectral. And as in theSpanishInquisition, dissidence is heresy, persecuted and punished." Yeah,that'sit, Camille. I put the over/under number on words in that passage aboutwhich Princess Dumbass of the Northwoods has not the faintest clue ateight. (I went back and forth on "spectral" before I realized sheprobablythinks it's the senator from Pennsylvania.) Any takers?

Part The Last: Folks at Netroots Nation can see me talk about thebook in the exhibit hall Friday at about 12:50 p.m.

In 45 years of watching presidents--Dad took me to see Lyndon zipby in a motorcade back in '64 -- this is the first time I ever saw anyoneanywhere near a presidential appearance who was packing and didn't havea badge. The general equanimity with which this was handled was flatlybizarre. More people got worked up by the faker in Missouri whosustained a vicious slip-and-fall and then anincomprehensible relapse the next day that put him in a wheelchair. Someone was at a presidential appearancewith a gun. And he was proudly wearing it outside his pants, for all thehonest world to see. (RIP, Townes). Forget the president for a minute.What if this cluck decides that he doesn't much like the folks gatheredthere who are on the other side ofthe issue from him? This is the cult of the NRA gone completely insane.Whynot just let folks bring their Legally Licensed Firearms into thecongressional gallery while we're at it? Or onto airplanes?

You couldn't get within two miles of the last guy if you had aplacard reading, "We Think Your War Ill-Advised, Sir." People gotroustedat rallies for wearing uncomplimentary T-shirts. This happened to credentialed journalists at theRepublican convention a year ago. But this guy gets to stand there,visibly strapped, and wave his signabout the tree of liberty and the blood of patriots, and people justtakeit all as business as usual. He even gets a spot on Hardball, duringwhichhe appears to want a gold star for not capping anyone's ass whilesoundinglike Jim (The Cruise) . Idon't care what New Hampshire law says, this was nuts. And it's agodawfulprecedent.

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

In a more sane media culture and political environment a cablecommentator who calls for thepoisoning death of the Speaker of the House would be suspended or firedby their network as well as have a friendly visit called upon him by theFBI and Secret Service.

Intrepid author/blogger Dave Neiwert correctly refers to Beck and hisrabble as "Eliminationists" basically a lunatic fringeof people who refuse to engage in debate and seek to have the other sideremoved from society or killed.

You figure in a country with a history of political assassinations,both attempted and real this stuff would not go unnoticed especiallywhen the speaker of the house comes from a city where in 1978 themayor and supervisor were assassinated by crazed fellow supervisorDan White, a guy with views not far removed from Mr. Beck. Though intoday's culture if Mr. White were alive he would be an honored gueston Beck's show yucking it up while sharing a Twinkie.

Name: Tim Burga
Hometown: Dallas, TX

Ben Jenkins should be more careful when declaring Gates-gate to be anopen and shut case. The 911 caller did not speak directly to Crowley;she spoke to a call taker, who then relayed the information to aradio dispatcher, who then relayed the info to Crowley. Any one ofthe individuals involved may have inadvertently (or otherwise) addedthe details about the suspect's race. If the dispatch audio tapes--not the 911 tapes--have not been released, proving that Crowleyadded the details about race is impossible.

Name: Ed Dufilho
Hometown: Arlington, TX

As a Louisiana native and a fan of Charles Pierce, I had to laugh outloud at the thought of a healthcare campaign led by Huey Long. Canyou imagine the bloody trail of opponents he would have left in hiswake? I can see him rolling on the floor of his suite in theRoosevelt Hotel in helpless laughter. He'd tear James Inhofe so manynew ones he could blow in his mouth and play him like a flute.

Name: Ed Tracey
Hometown: Lebanon, New Hampshire

While our friends in Argentina's military dictatorship of the 1970's-80's had their hands full rounding up trade unionists, students andleftists: apparently they weren't so busy that they overlookedbanning 200 pop and rock songs of the era, according to recentlydeclassified documents. Pink Floyd, John Lennon, Ian Dury, Queen ....hey, even Donna Summer were deemed unacceptable for the citizenry.


I would have to disqualify myself, however, from sitting in judgmentof the junta on this grave matter. I fear I would be too susceptibleto pleas for leniency, were his attorneys to remind me that GeneralGaltieri also banned Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?"

Name: David Durham
Hometown: Chattanooga, TN

I first became aware of Mott The Hoople via In Concert and TheMidnight Special. Back then it was all about guitars and my buds andI thought the 'H' guitar was really cool. All The Young Dudes was thefirst of their albums I picked up. I wore it out. At this time I wasliving in the south and Southern rock was king, but I was moreintrigued with what was happening in Europe. Bands like Genesis, RoxyMusic and Pink Floyd (Pre-Darkside) were really pushing the limitsand I responded to this radicalism in a big way. Some friends and Idrove the hundred miles to see Mott at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta in1974. Queen opened for them. Now I had been raised in L.A. beforemoving to Chattanooga, TN in '72 and was perhaps a bit more worldlythan my companions so the actual queens in attendance didn't freak meout , but did make my buds a bit uncomfortable. I felt acceptance ofweirdness was a mark of hipness and told them to like 'mellow outman'. To their credit they did. We all loved the show. The followingMonday we were back at our high school talking up the show andsomeone commented, "Ian Hunter's a fag man, didn't you know that?"One of my friends who'd gone with me, and was not someone you'ddescribe as particularly enlightened, said, "Well he may be a fag,but he can rock!" Now I don't know what Mr. Hunter's sexualorientation is and don't care, but to this day, I can't think of abetter compliment one could bestow on him.

Slacker Friday

I've got a new Think Again called "The Mainstream Media Opens the Doorto Hate" here.


Hey Doc:

"Can you hear that singing?/ Sounds like gold./Maybe I can onlyhear it in my head."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "The Day The Old Man Died" (AlbertCastiglia)--I want you all to go out to all the different points ofthe compass, to wherever your congresscritters are meeting with theirconstituents, and I want you to yell at the top of your lungs how much Ilove New Orleans.

Part The First: Before we start on Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu,I would like someone to point out to me one positive contribution of anykind made to the world we live in by this journalistic pustulance. Anyone? Kirchick? Bueller?

Part The Second: As you might be able to guess by reading a certainbook, I am a great fan of this idea. However, I do wonder if our best public relations strategy is to celebrate the bicentennial of a presidency that included the Royal Marines' torching the White House. Just asking.

Part The Third: What are we going to do about this epidemic ofTimes on Times crime?

Part The Fourth: I know I am sometimes hard on the cats 'n kittensat Ye Olde House Of Mulch For Brains, but this, dear children, this issimply whoring for access.

Existential Question No. 92.87: what occurs when you "find your voice"only to discover that you're spouting insane gibberish? My guess? You end upeating your own lips.

Part The Fifth: You weren't funny. You were puerile and embarrassing, and you would have been puerile and embarrassing in 1999 on cable TV, in 1969 on broadcast TV, in 1939 on radio, in 1859 in a newspaper, in 1779 in a pamphlet, or in 2099 B.C. on the walls of a cave. Hell, you would have been puerile andembarrassing if Johann Freaking Gutenberg was standing next to you,taking dictation and personally setting the movable type. "New media" is not anexcuse. You weren't funny. Ask around.

Part The Sixth: My friend Dan Kennedy dug this little nugget out of the bowels of the NYTat the inspiration of Amy Goodman's Democracy Now!. There is simply no doubt that the actions of the informant in this case are criminal, let alone terrifying. No avalanche of move-along platitudes from this White House will change that fact. Constitutional law? Really? Put up or shut up, professor.

Part The Last: The outbreaks of distilled Crazee at the varioushealthcare town halls have summoned up--correctly, to my mind--memories of the mobaction that shut down the Miami-Dade recount in 2000. In doing so,they've brought back a question that puzzled me at the time and that has notbeen cleared up yet to my satisfaction. The Miami mob was made up ofpolitical and congressional aides brought across state lines for the expresspurpose of disrupting an orderly election process. They did so quite publicly.How was this not a Voting Rights Act violation? (I know, I know. The BushDOJ wasn't going to bring it, and the Democrats were too cowardly to do so).

Theoretically, then, and I ask the lawyers in the extended Alter-familyfor guidance here, wasn't this pretty open and shut? Avengers, assemble.It is distressingly common knowledge how unremittingly awful the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries are. In a political sense, it's almost beyond question that they are both huge fish in very small barrels. The dumbest politician who ever lived could run against these guys and win. Huey Long would have eaten them blood-raw, and Lyndon wouldhave sprinkled them on his oatmeal. We are not governed by the dumbestpoliticians who ever lived but, alas, neither are we governed by theKingfish or LBJ. Which is why I am so confounded why the currentadministration is squandering the best chance healthcare reform willever have, in no small part because the administration's political skills onthis issue have been a godawful mix of the timorous and the hamfisted.

And I am beginning to wonder whether or not Rahm Emanuel is really thetwo-fisted political savant he's made himself out to be. (And the memoryof the way he worked through his media acolytes to hijack credit for the'06 midterms away from Howard Dean only deepens my concern.) In fact, theonly anecdotes I've heard about what a bare-knuckled, ruff-tuff guy ol' Rahmis concern public tantrums, his getting in the grills of variousprogressive Democrats, elected and otherwise, and batting around the other poorbastards in the Clinton White House. It certainly explains hissweet tooth for the likes of Heath Shuler--now a congresscritter, still chuckingthem to the wrong team--and, through that, the Obama White House's moronicinsistence on cooperating with crazy-asses. I think Rahm has broughtsome weird kind of 1990's Stockholm Syndrome into the new century, infectedthe White House political apparatus with it, and now it's having real-worldconsequences on people's lives. You're in charge, foof. Earn your check. (h/t to Bob Cesca for that last link)

p.s.--Sticky Mickey Kaus links to this piece from the Sarlacc-ish money-pit out of which Rupert Murdoch recently pried himself. The Gooey One calls this a "pretty thorough debunking" of the charges that the various assemblages from the firm of Batshit And Crazee LLP are about as spontaneous as the Rose Parade. Look, the guy accused of astroturfing denies it. Unpossible! Sweetheart, get me rewrite.

p.p.s.--More news from the May Procession through fantasyland. I'd really like to know where this woman buys her mushrooms.

Name: Mike Buettner
Hometown: Miami

You're absolutely correct--this whole thing with Gates, Crowley andnow Obama, is not, and was never, about race. Objectively, the onlything to come out of it is the realization that, as with most thingsafter the fact, there's enough bad behavior on all sides to goaround. Gates picked a fight (for whatever reason), Crowley took thebait and went one better with the arrest and then Obama, playing therole usually reserved for the Vice President, spoke out withinaccurate, or at a minimum, incomplete, information. The result?More background noise to drown out any attempt to have meaningfuldialogue about one of this country's most divisive and confoundingissues. Racism is real and it's out there--but this was an example ofgrown ups acting like children--petulant and spoiled and stompingtheir feet when things didn't go their way.

Name: Michael S. Haugen
Hometown: New Richmond, WI

Your piece in the Nation was disappointing because you diregardedthe complexity of "Gatesgate" which includes both race AND class anddeconstructed it into a simple post-racial class thing. One of thereasons I read your stuff faithfully is that I know that I will getthe full range of the complexity of the issue even if I don't likeit or the analysis disagrees with my preconceived "wannabes". Haveyou had any second thoughts about equating your experience as anangry white guy with the cops with that of a Black man challenged inhis own home?

Name: Ben Jenkins
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Yup, definitely disagree with you to the strongest degree about Gates& Crowley.

And this is a pretty simple matter.

Crowley falsified evidence in his arrest report; stating that the 911caller Ms. Whelan had specified that the men were black. She had doneno such thing, Crowley added this detail, and then staunchly defendedit, and it was a fabrication. That alone shows you the race angle.

What people see when they say the whole incident was about race isthe obvious connection that some white guy dressed in casual clothingand carrying a cane trying to 'break into' his house would neverelicit a phone call to 911. It would elicit offers of help from theneighbors and onlookers, most likely.

This really doesn't have anything to do with what you experienced inyour arrest at all. No need to force the comparison.

The question "is Crowley a racist?" is not so easy to answer. But didthis incident on the whole, have to do with race? Of course.

Name: Don Cybelle
Hometown: Rochester, NY

Hi, Eric,

Does anyone have any idea why The New Yorker's Kelefa Sanneh chose topromote Michael Savage, of all people, with a trivializing puff piece(in the August 3 issue)? Apparently, in Sanneh's view, Savage isquite charming and eccentric, and all those "immoderate" (Sanneh'sword) quotes from Savage compiled by sites like (your former abode)mediamatters are simply "misleading." The article can't be readunless you want to fork up money for a New Yorker subscription, buthere's Eric Boehlert on the subject this week: http://mediamatters.org/columns/200908030038

As Boehlert points out, there's not a significant opposing voice inthe entire piece, and while Sanneh tosses in a token Savagecontroversy or two, he ignores a slew of majorly damning evidence toplay up Savage as pretty much a lively, lovable, garrulous kook.Maybe Sanneh is much wiser than the rest of us, but speaking as a gayman (and practically every minority has a long list of ugly Savagerhetoric to draw from), I must have missed the simply "immoderate"tone when Savage opines things like: "The gay and lesbian mafia wantsour children. If it can win their souls and their minds, it knowstheir bodies will follow. Of course, it wants to homosexualise thewhole country, not just the children. This is all part of the warthat is going on. Maybe you don't want to face up to it, but it's avery real war." (quoted from Savage's book, Savage Nation). Maybe Ijust didn't parse that statement correctly when I saw it as one ofthe vilest pieces of bigoted garbage to pollute a New York Timesbestseller in, well, ever? I guess I just need to relax like Sannehand enjoy Savage's folksy, rambling charm?

What in the holy heck has happened to the New Yorker? What editor read Kelifa Sanneh's article and didn't think it needed, at the very least, some major context and counterpoint? All I can say is a magazine that's going out of it's way to downplay and even cover up some of the worst racism, religious bigotry, and homophobia on the air in order to attempt some sort of weird, fond character sketch of the purveyor of that bigotry is definitely not the New Yorker I onceloved to read.

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

As offended as I am by Lou Dobbs and his ilk--and if I had anyassociation with CNN, I would end it out of embarrassment and thehope of salvaging some degree of my integrity before Dana Milbankmakes fun of me--I sometimes am almost as offended by organizationsto which I belong and/or have contributed sending me emails saying,"Sign Our Petition Telling CNN to Make Lou Dobbs Stop," or words tothat effect. These guys do have a First Amendment right to be stupidand dishonest. But free speech is not without consequences. If I walkup to someone on the street and exercise my right to tell him that Ithink he is a moron, and he tells me that I am a moron, I cannot denyhis free speech right.

But what so many miss is what actually matters to CNN, Fox News, andother purveyors of hate. Money. It's this simple. Record Dobbs, orO'Reilly, or Beck, or anyone else you dislike. Fast-forward throughand make a list of the advertisers. Email each advertiser to say thatyou will no longer use that company's products until it stopsadvertising on this program. Get every one of your friends who agreewith you to do the same. And get them to do the same with theirfriends. In other words, organize an advertising boycott. It's legal.You don't HAVE to buy anything that is advertised on there. And then,when they are losing money, they will pull their advertising to avoidoffending anyone. And CNN and Fox will respond. Fast.

Anyone remember CBS getting rid of Don Imus? Did CBS act in responseto complaints? No. CBS responded when advertisers began pulling out.

Name: Brian Donohue
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

I continue to be astonished at Maureen Dowd's psychic powers. More onthat here, but thechief irony of it all is that the art of "cold reading" should findsits Master in such a warm, flame-tressed Mystic. Wonder if she canchannel the dead...

Name: Fred Leonhardt
Hometown: Portland, OR

Terry from Cheyenne disses Doo Wah Diddy Diddy. Ditto for DiddyWah Diddy.

Name: Stanley Goldstein
Hometown: Chicago, Il


The person who wrote that you were almost perfect is obviously quiteeasily impressed.

Name: K. Witter
Hometown Bloomfield, CT


As a born-n-bred New Englander, I can't help point out that theresemblance between the Brooks Brothers Brigades and this Norman Rockwell poster is uncanny.

Spy vs. Spy

I've got a new Think Again called "The Mainstream Media Opens the DoortoHate" here.

For those of you who've been following the Izzy Stone imbroglio, youwill have noted that Messrs Klehr and Haynes, along with Ronald Radoshand Max Holland, have, at various points in recent months, takenconsiderable offense at the criticisms I have published of their work asit relates to what I consider to be a rash of unproven accusationsagainst I. F. Stone. I therefore think it would be worthwhile for thelist to take note of the lengthy review essay of Spies, among otherworks, by Nicholas Lemann, Dean of the Columbia University School ofJournalism, recently published in The New Yorker. It is not availableonline, but personally, I found it to be an extremely valuablecontribution to the historical debate, particularly with regard to Stone, as they, to my mind, nearly perfectly echo many of the points raised about the book by myself, Don Guttenplan, Kai Bird, Myra McPherson, and many others.

Nicholas Lemann, Books, "Spy Wars," The New Yorker, July 27, 2009, p.70-75

Page 73

"Since the release of the Verona material, the controversy in Stone'scase, as in Hiss's, has been mainly about whom a K.G.B. alias--in thiscase "Blin" (Russian for "pancake")--refers to. Here Spies presents asmoking gun: a 1936 reference identifying Blin as the Post journalistIsadore Feinstein, which was Stone's name before he changed it, thefollowing year.

The problem is that the book sets the bar for being a "spy" or an "agent" awfully low. It doesn't establish that Stone was paid or had more than occasional contact with the K.G.B. In some of its examples, Stone is using K.G.B. personnel as sources for his own work; in another, Stone is passing on what must have been widely known journalistic gossip about a Hearst correspondent's dissatisfaction with his boss with his boss; in the most damning, Stone is conveying messages to and from another of the K.G.B.'s American contacts. By this standard, Chapman Pincher, given all those conversations with Anatoli Strelnikov, might have qualified as a Soviet agent. So might Walter Lippmann, the arch-establishment Washington columnist, who, Spies tells us, had regular, chatty, information-sharing meetings with Vladimir Pravdin, a K.G.B. agent thinly disguised as a correspondent for the Sovient news agency TASS. But Spies assures us that "there was no chance that the K.G.B. could recruit Walter Lippmann as a source" (though it did recruit Lippmann's secretary). Haynes, Klehr, and Vassiliev seem to have letStone's softness toward the Soviet Union--and the ardor of his defenders--enter the courtroom...."

Page 75

"The enduring fascination with what is, rationally, a small part of thehistory of Soviet-American relations can't be explained by whatevermaterial the spies produced. The fascination is with the spiesthemselves. The fierce arguments about Soviet espionage are barelydisguised arguments about the Red Scare of the fifties--whether it wasirrational and hysterical or justified and protective. Even with theCold War long over, the debate has bite. A book like Spies supports aconservative view: America inhabits a world full of dangerous enemies,and liberals are incapable of understanding this. President Bush's"global war on terror" implicitly tapped into a wellspring of suchconservative conviction. When Bush, in his second term as President,appointed Allen Weinstein archivist of the United States, it sent amessage. Bush isn't President anymore, but these issues have hardlybeen put to rest. Although Barack Obama has steered away from thehot-blooded rhetoric about America's enemies, he knows that ourpolitical culture is, quick to charge liberals with a perilous naiveteabout bad guys from abroad.

As for the extent of Soviet spying, Weinstein, Haynes, Klehr, and othersare right to say that their case has been supported by most the evidencethat has emerged since the Soviet Union collapsed. But the record isstill hugely incomplete. Much of what we do have is material fromsources who were unreliable in the first place, filtered throughbureaucracies with their own interests, and brought to us courtesy ofpresent-day sources, like Alexander Vassiliev, who are themselvescomplicated characters. Espionage never ceases to be compelling,because it has the indeterminacy of life itself."


DVDs: "Dollhouse" Season I and "Thirtysomething" Season I:

This was Joss Whedon's latest attempt at actual network TV. I listened toTerry Gross interview the guy and the show sounded interesting andinnovative enough to justify further investigation. Whether it actuallyworks, well, I have mixed feelings, but it is increasingly unlikely thatthis kind of show is going to be funded in the future. It's about Echo,an operative in an underground organization that provides hired personasfor various missions, on three discs. Extras include:

**Episode Commentary by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen
**Original Unaired Pilot - "Echo"
**Commentary w/ Cast & Crew
**Deleted Scenes
**Making Dollhouse
**Coming Back Home
**Finding Echo
**Designing the Perfect Dollhouse
**A Private Engagement

The first season of "Thirtysomething" is on DVD after they had to fight for along time to clear the rights to the music. It's a show that peopleeither love or hate, and I was one who loved it, though I was alsoashamed to admit it. At least back then, but I was so much olderthen. . . . It can be excruciating and it probably had a bad effect onentertainment in general, but it was damn involving. And they did areally nice job on the transfer. Extras include interviews andcommentaries by cast members Ken Olin (Michael), Mel Harris (Hope),Timothy Busfield (Elliot), Patricia Wettig (Nancy), Melanie Mayron(Melissa), Peter Horton (Gary), and Polly Draper (Ellyn). Edward Zwickand Marshall Herskovitz did a voice-over commentary for the pilotepisode and new interviews. Subsequent seasons will be released to DVDat roughly 6-month intervals (4 seasons total).

Music: Four By DBTs and others, some new classic jazz re-releases andthe Jayhawks.

The Drive By Truckers. So we've spent some time here trying to letpeople know about the Drive by Truckers which is what Skynyrd would havebeen if it had had a brain, ambition, and non-reactionary non-redneckpolitics. Since I think Skynyrd was pretty great, I think the DBTs arereally great, and there's lots of new stuff from them for those of youwho are as yet enenlightened. In no particular order, we have:

1) Live from Austin Texas (CD/DVD COMBO) [LIVE]
Recorded during their Brighter Than Creation's Dark tour, the bandline-up featured is Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, Shonna Tucker, JohnNeff, Brad Morgan and Jay Gonzalez. It features Brighter Than Creation'sDark with "Let There Be Rock" and "18 Wheels Of Love" (off their second album Gangstabilly) and "Marry Me" (from Decoration Day). It also features one of the final live performances of the song "The Living Bubba".

2) The Fine Print (A Collection Of Oddities And Rarities2003-2008)
Seven of the twelve songs come from The Dirty South era...plus four covers including "Rebels" by Tom Petty, which the band recorded originally for the TV show King Of The Hill, and "Like A Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan, which provided Shonna Tucker with her first ever lead vocal. It's pretty great.

3) Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs)
This is the second solo album from by DBT leader Patterson Hood and long-time producer David Barbe (Sugar). Most of his DBTs join him on the album as well as Don Chambers, Will Johnson and Scott Danbom from Centro-matic/South SanGabriel. This is also the first time Hood's father David Hood, famed Muscle Shoals bass player, joins him on a record. The album was recordedat Chase Park Transduction Studios in Athens, GA.

4) Jason Isabel and the 400 Unit:
Jason had to leave the DBTs owing to divorce and put out this pretty good solo album, which you might really like, or only sorta like, at least.

Jazz re-releases: Lester Young and Miles and Sonny on Concord

Lester Young: Centennial Celebration. This is a ten-track compilation ofsome of Prez's iconic performances draws primarily from recordings madein December 1956, during Young's week-long run at Olivia Davis' PatioLounge in Washington, DC. He is accompanied in these first seven tracksby the Bill Potts Trio, the house band at the Patio Lounge: pianist BillPotts, bassist Norman Williams and drummer Jim Lucht. All three were intheir mid-twenties at the time, and thrilled to be accompanying the 47-.year-old master in residence (Potts called the gig "our six-night laborof love.")

The final three tracks in the collection -- "Undecided," "I Cover theWaterfront" and "Lester Leaps In" -- are taken from the Jazz at thePhilharmonic tours of the early '50s, produced by Norman Granz. AshleyKahn writes in the liner notes, "A time when his powers of eloquence andsubtlety remained undiminished, while his tone had developed a mature --one could say darker -- edge."

Miles Davis & Sonny Rollins: The Classic Prestige Sessions, 1951-1956

These were really early sessions recorded together for Prestige between1951 and 1956. 25 tracks on two CDs, recorded by Rudy Van Gelder inJersey, which also features performances by Art Blakey, Tommy Flanagan,Roy Haynes, Charlie Parker, Horace Silver. The compilation also includesextensive liner notes by veteran jazz historian and journalist IraGitler, a staffer at Prestige at the time. That's really all anybodyshould need to know. . .

The Jayhawks collection by Sal:

The Jayhawks have always been two bands for me. With the departure ofMark Olson in 1997, the poppier songwriting style of Gary Louis seemedto take over and gave the band a little more room to grow. Some feelthey abandoned their country roots and others, myself included, heard aband with a lot more ambition. The new collection, Music From The NorthCountry is about as solid as an anthology could get. Covering all theessentials, with and without Olson, this 20 track compilation is perfectfor casual fans. The deluxe edition, which includes a second disc ofrarities and a DVD with videos and more, is not necessarily asessential, in that most die-hards have all this material, and the newfans won't need to really hear some live tracks and B-sides. Stick withthe single disc and you can't go wrong.

-- Sal: www.burnwoodtonite.blogspot.com

Slacker Friday

Wrapup: I did two columns about the Skip Gates affair this week, God help me. The first one is my "Think Again column." It's called "Why Does BarackObama Hate America? (Hint: Blame ACORN)" and it'shere.

Then there's my Nation column, which is called, "Class, not 'Race,' withwhich I imagine most Nation readers will strongly disagree and that'shere.That's all for now. Here's Pierce, et al:

Charles Pierce
Newton, MA.

Hey Doc:
"My door knob keeps on turnin', must be spooks around my bed/Ihave a warm, old feelin', and the hair risin' on my head.

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Standin' In Your Stuff" (ZigaboMudslide)--You know, I was born in Worcester, Massachusetts--and I can proveit!--but it's New Orleans that I love.

Short Takes:

Part The First: Let's all not get too giddy with this. The only reasons some of the clowns are distancing themselves from some of the other clowns in the little red car is that this stuff isn't working. Yet. I guarantee you, if this nonsense ever starts showing a little traction, and I think it's no longer a shot than 60-40 that it will, these people will be furrowing their brows as best they can--Coulter seems to be having her Botox applied by the Borglum family these days--and "cover the controversy." And, if it doesn't, it will be a regular talking-point about how these Very Serious People are so Very Different from the mouthbreathing wing of their party. Call me Kreskin.

Part The Second: With Parson Meacham in charge, you can apparentlysell Newsweek anything. I look forward to my next trip to NYC so I can see how the aluminum siding onthe building looks.

Part The Third: I think we need a few more earnest, serious paneldiscussions among elite journalists about what a force this clown is in our national politics. Also; "merciless rivers"?

Part The Fourth: The cats 'n kittens at Ye Olde House Of Mulch ForBrains started off the week strongly, didn't they? Hey, dudes. The birther nonsense is exactly no different in its essential crackpottery from a lot of what those around the GOP leadership like to call "position papers." Also, sorry. You've been cheated. You can't buy the Brooklynbridge. Someone sold it to Meacham last week. Just ask him.

Part The Last: Hey. CNN? Why is this race-baiting homunculus even on contract?

After the political and moral catastrophe that was the Schiavocircus -- which you can read about in at least one book I know of, BTW -- I thought the one thing that conservatives and/or Republicans would decline ever to do was screw around with end-of-life issues again.Turns out Iwas wrong. Now, we are hearing that the evil Obama health-care sonderkommando is going to be prowling the landscape, seeking out Grandmas to kill. As someone with too intimate a knowledge of Alzheimer's Disease -- wherein these issues come to something of a fine point -- can I just say that thesefolks have combined the political wisdom of a tackhammer with the moral sensitivity of a Gaboon viper. I honestly hope at least one of them has the indescribably horrible experience of finding out just what a viciously inhumane ethical cipher you have to be to try and score points with thisargument. Some people just suck.

The mail:

Name: Steve Milligan
Hometown: Colorado Springs CO

Dr. Alterman,

I think your analysis is spot on in that class would be a much more empowering lens to view many of these types of events than race. As you have said before, even affirmative action would be more palatable if it were class based rather than race based, and it would end up helping the same people. The problem is that the right wing, assisted by the MSM, have turned any attempt at a class analysis into a toxic venture. Joan Walsh mentioned it the other night on TV, and Chris Matthews referred to it as a "Marxist" analysis. The only time class can be mentioned on the MSM is in the context of asking the upper one percent of income earners to pay a bit more in taxes. Then it's "class" warfare. The invective hurled in race based discussions turns them into futile endeavors. Martin Luther King had similar ideas at the end of his life. That was before his pacifism and social justice orientation were extirpated and he was put on the window of McDonalds and honored in Armed Forces breakfasts.

Carry on.

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

Dr. A., I am a Nation reader who doesn't disagree with your take, though I would like to add to it.

Consider the criticisms of President Obama. Would any of those critics say of a white president that he dislikes black people? I don't even recall African American critics saying that Ronald Reagan, whose civil rights policies were designed to turn the clock back to sometime before the Civil War, actually hated blacks.

So, what if it had been a black officer and a white homeowner? Or some other configuration of races? Would we have a different debate?

Also, I share your admiration for Professor Gates. But when his response is that he will do a documentary on this subject, he unfortunately ends up looking like someone out for publicity, or even with a chip on his shoulder. Truthfully, if the right-wing and mainstream media (and the twain too often meets) weren't so eager to make Obama look bad, they would have spent more time focusing on Gates.

Name: Merrill R. Frank
Hometown: Gates, law enforcement and the rights reaction

Will someone have the sense to please call out the same folks (Rush etc.) who spent a better part of the 1990's weaving an anti- government narrative and chanting the mantra Ruby Ridge, Waco, Elian Gonzalez with visions of "ATF Jack Booted thugs", UN blue helmets on US soil and black helicopters in their heads. Now all of a sudden they are law enforcement's best buds when it comes to a stupid misunderstanding at an esteemed college professor's home. Obviously the bashing of college professors (See-Horowitz, David) especially the Ivy League variety and so-called elites was always a part of their narrative as well.

Name: Terry
Hometown: Cheyenne

Re: Paul. No comment, except I love him forever. There's good rockin' at 67.

Re: Doo Wah Diddy Diddy. I'm glad this works for rock-loving people. I hated it the minute I heard it, and I was there the first time around.

Rock can be many things; fun, profound, exciting. It can cause epiphanies and change in the world. Or it can be stupid, as in above song. I once nearly came to blows with a grocery clerk who wanted to credit Van Morrison with that song as it played over the MUZAK. My favorite thing about rock has always been the sense of freedom and exhiliration it brings me. But I promise I never wish to claim Doo Wah Diddy Diddy as a memorable such two minutes. I think it's worse than Obla Di, Obla Da, and there are not many fans of that particular Beatles' song. Yuck.

Nobody's perfect, Eric, but you nearly are.

Name: Becky Martz
Hometown: Cambridge, MA

I miss the Altercation book club, so I would like to recommend a book I'm reading. The book is The Great War for Civilization, by Robert Fisk. The subtitle is The Conquest of the Middle East.

Robert Fisk is a British journalist who's based in Beirut and has been covering wars in the Middle East for several decades. He is one of the few western journalists to interview Osama bin Laden.

I haven't finished the book yet (I'm only 400 pages in and the book is over 1,000 pages long) but I feel that an alternative subtitle could be "Everything you really wanted to know about the Middle East since 1979 but you were afraid (very afraid) to ask."

Fisk pulls no punches. He is willing to hold everyone accountable for their deeds (Russians, Afghans, Americans, Brits, Iraqis, Iranians, Israelis, Palestinians etc)

He opens with his initial meeting of bin Laden (long before the man was considered a terrorist) and then moves on to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the Iranian revolution and the Iran Iraq war.

He attended press conferences of the powers-that-be and can tell you exactly how Ayatollah Khomeini or Saddam Hussein looked at a particular moment--his gift for description of characters is Dickensian. But the book is not confined to press conferences held by politicians. He also quotes the men and women in the bazaars and the militant parties involved in conflicts be they Palestinians, Russian soldiers, Afghans, Iranians or Israelis.

The result is that it's clear that all parties have blood on their hands but yet all parties are humanized. And it's also clear that while there is blood on the hands of all parties some parties have their fingers on the scales when "peace" is discussed.

He also has some great, heart-in-mouth stories to tell (some of them even turn out well--one of them is even funny) combined with a history of western involvement in the Middle East stretching back to World War I.

I strongly recommend this book for Altercators. I would be curious what Bob Bateman's assessment of the book is, given his position as military historian and as a man who has actually served in the Middle East.

Special 'Let’s Have a Beer' Edition

Wrapup: I did two columns about the Skip Gates affair this week, God help me. The first one is my "Think Again column." It's called "Why Does BarackObama Hate America? (Hint: Blame ACORN)" and it'shere.

Then there's my Nation column, which is called, "Class, not 'Race,' withwhich I imagine most Nation readers will strongly disagree and that'shere.That's all for now.

This week on Moyers:With almost twenty years inside the health insurance industry, WendellPotter saw for-profit insurers hijack our healthcare system and putprofits before patients. Now, he speaks with Bill Moyers about how thosecompanies are standing in the way of health care reform.  Potter spokeout against the industry for the first time last month, testifyingbefore the Senate Commerce Committee he said, "Recently it becameabundantly clear to me that the industry's charm offensive, which is themost visible part of a duplicitous and well-financed PR and lobbyingcampaign, may well shape reform in a way that benefits Wall Street farmore than average Americans."  Wendell Potter is a senior fellow onhealth care for the nonpartisan watchdog group Center for Media andDemocracy, for which he writes a blog on health care reform.


David Bowie, Storytellers by Sal:

The premise of VH-1's Storytellers was to get an artist to spill thebeans about the genesis of his most popular songs, and maybe give apointer or two about the songwriting process. Who better than DavidBowie then, an artist I have been a huge fan of since Ziggy Stardustfound its way into my bedroom and scared the crap out of my mother in1972, and whose lyrics consistently make little to no sense...to me. Onthis CD/DVD release, you get the episode as it aired, as well as 4 bonustracks that didn't. Inexplicably, those 4 tracks are only tagged ontothe DVD. (Super annoying.)

Musically, it's fine, with Bowie and his band performing almost acousticversions of songs, that really were just part of his current tour's setlist, as opposed to songs that may have benefited from the backgroundthe show was there to offer. Bowie's storytelling is a bit camp, anddoesn't really address the songs and their content so much as it justillustrates what may have gone on around the time of the writing. So thecrazy lyrics of "Drive In Saturday" get little explanation, but Bowiedoes inform us that it was written for Mott The Hoople as a follow-up to"All The Young Dudes." Mott turned it down, and Bowie overreacted byshaving off his eyebrows. I guess that's a cool enough story.

Sal Nunziato, BURNING WOOD

The mail:

Name: Walter Crockett
Hometown: Worcester, Mass.

I think this glorification of Walter Cronkite has gone a bit overboard. It's very much like glorifying Dwight D. Eisenhower because he wasn't as utterly stupid, ignorant and craven as the major Republicans who came after him.

Sure, Eisenhower deserves some credit for having a brain and some principles, but he was no great president and Cronkite was no great newsman. He was a middle-of-the-road TV journalist who for much of his career had no compunctions about reflexively siding with government and entrenched power. He was not a muckraker. He did not risk his career for the truth, though he was willing at times -- particularly after he retired -- to point out inconvenient truths.

That Cronkite and Eisenhower have come to be seen as profiles in courage and role models is a sign of how far to the right our country has drifted in 40 years.

Today, any stand on principle from a Republican politician or any sign of scruples from a TV journalist is cause for celebration. I'll celebrate too, that there's still a sliver of hope left in this world, but we really ought to demand more.

Name: Ed Tracey
Hometown: Lebanon, New Hampshire

Professor, only one item that I could add to your comprehensive "Health-Care Wimps" essay, about why Democrats shouldn't be living in fear of 1994.

1994 represented the forty-year mark of Democratic control of at least one of the two houses of Congress (and often both). And so the burgeoning talk-radio ensemble could legitimately raise the time-for-a-change banner. It's easy to blame Bill Clinton for having it happen on his watch, but the seeds of 1994 had been planted much earlier.

But today? What the Democrats paid for after forty years, the GOP blew in only twelve years (and I believe would have happened sooner but for 9-11). The general public has a dim view of the GOP, something the Blue Dogs cannot - or will not - recognize.

Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC

Mr. Alterman:

I do think Health Care legislation in some form will pass but let's for a second think about what if it does not. The media and the right will go crazy, blaming it on Obama and saying it is a massive failure to the president. And maybe they are right.

But it is 2009. Almost anyone with any sense will admit that the health care system needs to be fixed. Democrats control the presidency, and have large majorities in both the House and the Senate - so if Health Care legislation cannot pass, what does it say about the current state of American politics?

Think back to the Bush Administration, when they had political capital and were intent on spending it. What major legislation did they pass? They cut some taxes, passed a bankruptcy bill to help the credit card companies, but otherwise, they accomplished little in terms of a domestic agenda.

The question that needs to be addressed is why is so little being done, despite both parties having opportunities in recent years to push through an agenda where the opposing party can do and say little to stop it. What are these politicians doing?

Obama campaigned on change, and came in with a monumental to-do list. The thought was because of the favorable numbers in Congress, much of Obama's plans would pass quickly. As a liberal, I was excited, because I was certain these ideas would ultimately improve our country, and possibly cause many to realize that the standard GOP attacks against liberals were nothing more than words.

But here we are -- the president wants to pass health care, Ted Kennedy and many other prominent democrats want to pass health care, and it needs to get done. And yet Congress drags its feet. Is it all because of special interest groups having too much power and enough clout to stop anything that would mean real change? We are seeing it with health care and as well with financial oversight.

Is it a lack of political courage on the part of many politicians on both sides of the aisle -- afraid to put their names to something that would alter the status quo. Sure it might work, but what if it doesn't?

Regardless of political affiliation, I find most people I know simply frustrated with politics because more so than at any time I can remember, so little seems to get done. It is particularly glaring right now when we all know so much needs to be accomplished (and I am not talking about the Senate holding hearings on the merits of the BCS).

Hopefully I am proven wrong, and a meaningful health care bill gets passed in the Fall. If not, it will be a blow to the President, but more so, it will be another black mark on all who serve in Congress, calling into question their loyalties -- is it to the country or simply to political gain/coverage.

Name: Robert Carrick
Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO

Your recent "Think Again" article on "Why Not The Best" merely highlights an issue you took up once before: the right wing "noise machine." Recently retired, I do a fair amount of channel surfing and viewing various blogs and the message that anyone, dems or otherwise, are trying to get out about the facts behind the need for health care reform are being drowned out by this noise machine. As his sliding popularity shows Obama is losing the war of words. He has not been able to effectively counter the lies coming from the republicans and their media coharts. Have we surrendered to the likes of Beck, O'Reilly and Limbaugh? Where is the push back? Where are the facts that you highlighted? Where is the outrage? A recent visit to the ER by my daughter (dehydrated to a dangerous level by intestinal flu plus nursing a new born) saw her receive two liters of fluids and some anti- nausea medicine. The bill was $7,900 or about 15% her total salary! She had insurance and paid only $100 but it highlighted the plight of those not insured. One illness like that and you are bankrupt. Sorry, to take your time or that of your staff but it is sickening to see what is happening...I'm sick of seeing non stop Republicans spewing on various TV/cable shows with no effective counter point! Sooner or later that lie oft repeated is going to be embraced by those listening as the truth and that is happening right now!

Name: Mike Nolan
Hometown: Frankfort, KY

Lt. Col. Batemen has usually been a marvelous source of good information on all matters military, but in September 2008 he accused Glenn Greenwald of "twisting history" in regard to the permanent stationing of an Army brigade in the U.S. to help deal with civil unrest. Now that the Cheney plan to subvert both federal laws and the Constitution by using Army troops to arrest U.S. citizens has come to light, perhaps Col. Batemen will revise his criticism of Mr. Greenwald. Even an apology would not be out of order.

Name: Meryl Wheeler
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Regarding perfection in pop singles, I think "Gloria" qualifies too. So, apparently, did a bunch of Austin musicians who played it for 24 hours straight when the Liberty Lunch closed. Van Morrison even called in. http://www.texasmonthly.com/2009-08-01/webextra7.php.

Name: Beth Harrison
Hometown: Arlington, VA

Eric, please pass on my compliments to Mr. Charles Pierce. His appearance on Countdown on Thursday, July 23 was absolutely fabulous, smacking the birthers back under the rocks where they belong.

Paul McCartney is playing Fedex Field in August, but hubbie and I won't be going -- we are loathe to put any money in Daniel Snyder's (Redskins owner) pocket. Washington DC has its share of lousy team owners (save Ted Leonsis), but Snyder has got to be one of the worst owners in the NFL.

Name: Jim Hassinger
Hometown: Glendale, CA

Hey, I just wanted to give a big yessirree bob to Mr. Pierce for his excellent appearance on Countdown of Thursday night. The host kept trying to get you to jump on the birthers for being nuts, and the G.O.P. for trying to spread it, and you brought up the uncomfortable truth -- that number one for transmitting bad memes is none other than the "mainstream" media. Yay! The truth.

Name: Victor Winograd
Hometown: New York City

Dr A- Substitute "You Can't Sit Down" by the immortal Dovells for the bubble-gummy banality "Double Shot of My Baby's Love" on your list of two minute r&r miracles and I'll follow you anywhere!

Name: Timothy Barrett
Hometown: Louisville, Ky

President Obama took to the pressroom to defend healthcare reform by alleging that it will not add to the ten-year deficit forecast, but reduce it by up to 30%. The press focused all its questions, but one, on healthcare. The chattering MSM later focused all their attention on the one non-healthcare question Obama answered. What did he think about the alleged racial profiling case at Cambridge?

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, a notable black scholar, was arrested after a neighbor called police when he saw a two men go into Gates' house after some difficulty with the door. Dr. Gates was likely miffed at being questioned in his own house. He might have been rude, too. The office allegedly ignored him and proceeded to the door. Dr. Gates followed him. The officer arrested him for public disturbance, a rather flimsy claim to make in Dr. Gates' own home.

Obama answered the question from his heart. Oops. He was a little miffed at the idea of a brother getting arrested in his own home for complaining about racial profiling. He called the officer's actions "stupid". Oh, my.

Obama is right. Regardless of the propriety of Dr. Gates' profiling assertion, the officer should have apologized for the inconvenience and offered Dr. Gates his superior's name as well. That's the least he could do. Dr. Gates would likely have dropped it or only made a single call to the superior. Arresting Dr. Gates was a sure fire way to make a mess of everything and it was stupid. But it is possible the officer was a little miffed at being questioned about his motives by a black man. Or maybe he was just having a bad day and took it out on this angry black man following him to the door. I'm pretty sure, whatever the officer was thinking, it would have been different if Dr. Gates were white.

But Dr. Gates and President Obama, two respected figures in America, are both black. They have, I am convinced, been treated disrespectfully at times because they are black. If you have every had to endure such attention from someone because they have leverage over you, you fear they may be violent, or you feel outnumbered, you know what it is like to later feel that sickening mix of shame, anger and deep sadness, while you ponder all the ways you wish that things had been different.

What if you had somehow gotten an upper hand, avoided the situation altogether, or wielded any number of fantasy powers you might imagine to combat that winking recognition that your opponent knows he's hurt you. Now, imagine that these occurrences, which you and I can count on one hand in our experience, but have never forgotten, happen once every year to us, once every month, or even once a week. They don't have to be big, like being arrested in your own home, they can be small, like a clerk ignoring you for too long, following just you in a store filled with customers, or simply not being as happy to see you. Might that experience affect you?

Obama shed his cool over this one. Many talking heads called him on it. Limbaugh-types revisited the "angry black man" meme, others accuse him of not respecting law enforcement, and still more of stereotyping white officers. I think that some of these people feel no empathy or have little respect for President Obama. They either feel, or want to make voters feel, that he is not one of us; that his experience is not valid and his response in this case is itself racist.

I think all of us assume things about a person based on our experience with people who look or act like him, sometimes wrongly and sometimes rightly. This is not racism, it's adaptation and it has aided our survival through evolution. However, in modern society it can hurt the person we stereotype. Perhaps this is what the officer and Dr. Gates were both experiencing. Racism is assuming a person has derogatory attributes, is undeserving of respect, or shouldn't have equal rights and opportunity, based solely on skin color or ethnicity. It's a socialized belief system that some races are inferior. The edges of these learned behaviors are blurry. Both are regretful, but only racism can be eradicated through awareness and education. But you have to recognize it first.

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