Well-chosen words on music, movies and politics, with the occasional special guest.
Wrap-up: We have a new "Think Again" column called "Conflicts bythe Rich, for the Rich," here. I also did a Daily Beast post on Palin's defenders on Sunday,which is here.
And I do recommend that if you have a few minutes free, you give themover to the Samminator, here. Those werethe days, huh? On to Mr. Pierce. I also recommend if you have a fewminutes, try to pick up a copy of Rolling Stone and read thewonderful account of the life of Mr. Gregory Allman, it is a wonderfulpiece of writing. It's not online and I never heard of the writer, buttrust me...
This Week on Moyers:
With almost twenty years inside the health insurance industry, WendellPotter saw for-profit insurers hijack our healthcaresystem and put profits before patients. Now, he speaks with BillMoyers about how those companies are standing in the way of healthcarereform. Potter spokeout against the industry for the first time last month, testifyingbefore the Senate Commerce Committee he said, "Recently it becameabundantly clear to me that the industry's charm offensive, which is themost visible part of a duplicitous and well-financed PR and lobbyingcampaign, may well shape reform in a way that benefits Wall Street farmore than average Americans." Wendell Potter is a senior fellow onhealthcare for the nonpartisan watchdog group Center for Media andDemocracy, for which he writes a blog on healthcare reform.
"He was sitting in the lounge of the Empire Hotel/He was drinking fordiversion. He was thinking for himself."
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "When Hollywood Goes Black And Tan"(CleoBrown)--You know, I asked the most important people (Myfamily!!!!!!) about how much I loved New Orleans. I got two yes's andone Hell, Yeah (!!!!!!).
Part The First: The Continuing Adventures Of Waldo The DrunkSecurityGuard (Chapter XVI): Waldo was doing his rounds late at night in thehandsomely appointed Bay Area offices of Salon, a prominent magazine oftheIntertoobz. As he walked, he sipped from his silver flask that had beenhanded down to him by his grandfather, who used to get drunk while ondutyas a guard at the Washington Post. (Family legend had it thatGeorge Willgot his column one night when Waldo's grandfather was sockless on duty.)Every sip he took was longer and deeper until, finally, Waldo stumbledandfell, passing out with his head on a pile of old newspapers.Unfortunately,just as he drifted off, crazy people again rose from their berths in the mailroom andsat down at computer terminals. "It's why she remains hugely popularwith the Republicangrassroots base--as I know from listening to talk-radio. Callers comingfresh from her rallies are always heady with infectious enthusiasm." Asare, one supposes, all of the many voices in their heads.
However, the really hot stuff is there if you click through to thefourth page. Hubba-hubba.
Part The Second: I will grant you that the prospective 2012 GOPpresidential field has experienced certain, ah, modifications over thepastmonth, what with the governor of Alaska abdicating in order the swimupstream against salmon and syntax simultaneously, and what with theSouthCarolina governor's mansion still being graced against all odds andcommonsense by the presence of Ivor the EngineDriver. But that's still no excuse for starting to listen to this guy again. I mean, have somepride, people.
Part The Third: Wednesday was a banner day at Ye Olde House ofMulchFor Brains. The Democrats are inknots over the stimulus, when they're not in knots over Michael Jackson!GOP on the move in New Hampshire and Virginia! But the realmasterpieces--the stuff thatyou read and think, "Mother of god, where do these people buy theirmushrooms?"--comes in the various pieces regarding the present andfutureof the Tsarina Mooseburger. In only one day's work, we have her as theRenegade Queen of the North,as well as her value as an ATM for the 28 percent crowd.But the true classic is this bubbling cauldron ofabject Fail. (Note to the author: When Bob Dole quit his Senate seat?That was a stunt and a fake and he had a nice place in Bal Harbour inwhich to hang out. Pass it on.) At the risk of sounding sexist--and, myLord, enough with this, if you don't mind--if you're going totry and treat this sideshow rodeo clown as a serious national politicalplayer, you ought to at least take into account that, on the day yourattempt appears, she is revealed to believe that the president hassomething called "The Department Of Law" to take care of pesky ethicscomplaints and ill-tempered bloggers. TheDepartment of Law? Jack McCoy wept.
Part The Fourth: Can it please be explained to this clodhopper thathe... doesn't... count? Never been happier that we in the Udall campaignkicked his pappy's ass all over New Hampshire in '76.
Part The Fifth: No.If this was a trial balloon, the silly bastard who floated it needs tobe whacked upsidethe head with something hard. If it's policy, the whacking should goconsiderably further up the food chain.
Part The Last: Tell me again why the Civil War was worth all thatbother. And at another table hereat the 2009 World Series of Morons, we have this chap. This, remember, is the Republican party that makes so many people inthe WhiteHouse nervous.
I noted with interest that Karl Rove apparently put his hand on aBible this week asregards his role in the US attorneys mess and in sending Don Siegelmanupthe river. The deposition apparently ran for nearly eight hours. It alsowas taken privately. My question is why. What is it that makes Karl Roveworthy of special treatment in the summer of 2009? What influence doeshestill have? What power does he still wield? On what basis can he makedemands other than the color of his jumpsuit and the sparkle on hisshackles? Why was his deposition not immediately available for publicscrutiny? Oh, I see. It is the position of this administration that theinstitution of the presidency can be permanently harmed if it isrevealedthat a presidential aide concocted a phony political prosecution throughwhich a sitting governor wound up in prison. This administration belongsina cage before it does any more real damage.
Eric, As Richard Lindsey valiantly corrects Pierce, I realize that asa liberal tree-hugger in Cheyenne, I am that corrected definition,"the voice of one crying out in the wilderness. Also, the voice ofone crying that she lives in the wilderness. But don't print this.Being Wyoming-centric is part of the horrors of this so-calledculture. Not having taken my Obama sticker off, I get heavy-revvingblack trucks on my ass as I make that late-night grocery trip. Ifanyone every romanticizes this place to you, tell them to get fucked.
Name: Tip Tipton
Hometown: Troy, OH
It having been clearly established that Sarah Palin has a certainclass of devotees (see: Joe the Plumber), it is no great surprise tome that she chooses to leave her wilderness digs for the morepopulated lower forty-eight. The question is: where will Sarah go?
Not that the decision is pressing. As John McCain demonstrated,establishing residency in a vacated district is a snap, so by 2016she should have plenty of opportunities.
I'm thinking that for now, at least, she will settle somewhere in thedeep South. There she can idle away her time reading the classics ofTennessee Williams and Ernest Hemingway, and make appearances at suchvenues as the KY Derby and the Daytona 500. She could homestead in the Keys, claiming a Hemmingway connection while at the same timecoining her cmapaign slogan: "I can see Cuba from my porch!"
We have a new "Think Again" column called "Conflicts by theRich, for the Rich," here.
I also did a Daily Beast post on Palin's defenders on Sunday, whichis here. (Otherwise, I've been at the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake which I'll write about a bit next week.)Meanwhile:
Eric's obituary for Robert McNamara, (lifted from When Presidents Lie):
A Harvard Business School graduate and the former president of FordMotor Company, McNamara was a figure, even in this impressive company,of unsurpassed self-possession and confidence. The ultimate "can-do"executive, he could reduce any problem presented to him to numericalinputs and outputs. McNamara displayed little patience for doubt, secondguesses, or gray areas. There were problems and there were solutions, period. It was only a matter of putting all the information into the right places andensuring that the answers flew freely to the men who required them.Like Lyndon Johnson, McNamara was also a compulsive liar. He told oneset of stories to one group of people and then turned around andexplained behind closed doors that the opposite was true. On occasion he may have forgotten which version actually represented the truth, and so he found himself defending propositions that, however illogical, enabled him to appear tohave been right all along.
Robert McNamara ran the Department of Defense as if it were thebiggest private company on earth--which in fact it would have been, hadit been private--and thereby ignored much about what was unique to itscharacter and mission. Moreover, McNamara treated the American people withthe same contempt a successful CEO enjoys demonstrating to peskystockholders. They had, in his mind, the right to the information he chose to give them and nothing more. Unfortunately, he ignored the elementary rulethat governs all informational systems: "Garbage in, garbage out." When itcame time to evaluate the progress of the war he was planning andimplementing, McNamara forgot that he had been fabricating, dissembling, and at times outright lying about the conflict almost from day one. He also neglected to factor in that the intense pressure he placed on the military to providepalpable signposts of progress led many of those who reported to him up and downthe line to fabricate the information they were providing as well. Asearly as March 1962, for instance, British officials were shocked to hear USambassador to Vietnam Frederick Nolting tell them of the pressure he felt todemonstrate results. But human nature being what it is, McNamara came tobelieve his own lies as well as those he inspired others to tell him. Inhis 1999 investigation of the war, Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy, McNamara seems to imply that if he had known the truth about what took place in the Gulf of Tonkin, the United States might neverhave gone to war. But the Secretary of Defense could easily have discoveredthe truth within days of the crisis had he committed himself to doing sobefore advising Lyndon Johnson to embark on a series of rash military andpolitical responses. In fact, the great mathematical mind of the Vietnam War built an entire system on an edifice of information that would not survive eventhe most cursory of audits. The literally incalculable cost of this faultyapplication of systems analysis--and Johnson's unwitting reliance on it--would soon become evident for all to see.
To Lyndon Johnson, however, Robert McNamara was a kind of guru: the "smartest man" he had ever known, in whose presence you could "almost hear the computers clicking." Senator Russell spoke of McNamara's "hypnotic" influence over the president, and Johnson's aide Harry McPherson would remark, "Johnson promoted McNamara everywhere... No doubt he was trying to win over [the Kennedy people] as his personal friends and supporters." Johnson even considered creating a prime-minister-like position for McNamara, so that his influence might be felt on all aspects of policy, foreign and domestic. When Senator Mansfield, concerned about the direction the war was taking, advised Johnson to ask "those who have pressured you in the past to embark on this course and continue to pressure you to stay on it" for an accounting, not only for "what immediate advantages it has in a narrow military sense, but [also] where does it lead in the end?" Johnson treated the majority leader's suggestion as near treason. "I consider Bob McNamara to be the best Secretary of Defense in the history of this country," was all he would say in reply...
The Dead Weather, by Sal:
Jack White's new project, The Dead Weather, is about to be releasedafter weeks of hype, TV performances and singles leaking on variouswebsites. Horehound picks up where The White Stripes left off, onlywith twice as many members and White himself talking over the drum kit.Before I go any further, I want to say this about Jack White. I nevergot on the White Stripes bandwagon, but seeing them perform live, mademe realize that Jack White is truly a guitar god. I never got into TheGreenhornes, but hearing them back up Jack White & Brendan Benson as TheRaconteurs made me realize that Jack White can really write some amazingpop tunes and get them delivered with a real rhythm section. And hearingJack White play drums in The Dead Weather made me realize Meg Whiteisn't even the best drummer in The White Stripes.
Horehound features Alison Mosshart, singer of The Kills. She isvocally similar to Jack White and more times than not, I wasn't sure whowas singing what. What stands out right away on these sparse but heavytunes, is the drumming. Without Jack White's unique and almost ham-fistedsmacks on the kit, you'd be left with White Stripes light. That may notsound like a compliment, but Jack White is a fantastic drummer. I amshocked, actually. It is HE who keeps "Horehound" interesting. Theopener, a ripping Gothic blues called "60 Feet Tall," is a killer andboth singles "Hang You From The Heavens" and "Treat You Like Your Mother"are hook-filled. The rest of the record sounds a bit one-note, as Iprefer substance over style. But this is based on one listen, and I amvery excited about going in again, so that should tell you something.
Name: Dave HigginsHometown: http://quantumsense.wordpress.com/
Hi Eric -
It would have been great if Sarah Palin had disappeared from sightlike other losing Republican Vice Presidential candidates, like BillMiller. Miller quickly became so anonymous he did a "Do you know me?"ad for American Express--and most people probably responded "no."
Unfortunately, like an extremely annoying advertising jingle youcan't get out of your head, Sarah Palin just won't fade away.Now that she'll be free from those pesky duties associated withbeing governor of Alaska, I expect we'll be hearing from hereven more often.
So be it. If she's going to stick around, she's going to need some sort of theme song. Bill Clinton had Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow," Hillary's campaign often played Tom Petty's "American Girl," and Palin herself briefly used Heart's "Barracuda" - until members of Heart objected and told her to find another song.
As it happens, there's another song that would be perfect for Palin: the Donnas' "Fall Behind Me." Beyond the fact the opening guitars and drums would get any crowd wound up as she walked on stage, the song seems to be written precisely for her, with lines like:
"I can't believe she bought it She got too close and she caught it Had a point but she forgot it
"When you skip steps on the way up The gaps have a way of catching up And you can't cover that with make-up"
Funny how that last line makes me think of lipstick. While all the lyrics seem to fit, the Donnas really sum things up near the end of the song:
"How long is she gonna be around? How long do we have to watch her dumb it down? 'Cause when it's cheap it fades fast How long does she think it's gonna last?"
How long indeed...
Name: Ben MillerHometown: Washington, DC
Mr. Alterman -
With the resignation of Sarah Palin, many in the media are declaringthis the end of any hopes of her running a successful campaign forthe presidency in 2012. Doesn't this give far too much credit toconservatives and the GOP? Despite her atrocious showing in the 2008campaign, she remained as popular as ever within the party. Despitenot being intelligent, curious, or insightful, she remained at thetop of any 2012 Republican candidate list. And despite not being ableto name a newspaper she read, or remember any case from the SupremeCourt, or even knowing who Hamas is, she has millions of supportersthroughout the country. Are we to believe that her quitting her jobwith seventeen months left will really strike a final blow within the GOPfor this politician who had no business stepping foot in the nationalstage in the first place? I mean, aren't they just going to forgiveher and say it was the elitist liberal media that forced her to quitanyway. If anything, it might make her more popular down the road.
Name: Stephanie Barnhizer
"Mikey and Me" is very funny. I appreciate that you take us into your"up close and personal" encounter while still maintaining arespectful distance. Many of us have been drawn in to "MJ's" worldand created our own fantastical versions of it. What we have beenseeing is of our own making. Many of us do not know how to acceptthat "that's it."
Name: Daphne Chyprious
Hometown: Springfield, Ill.
I've never met MJ. Never even attended one of his performances, on oroff the stage. Were this the greatest regret of my life, I'd beecstatic. However, it doesn't qualify for "regret" of any kind.
Name: Richard Lindsey
Hometown: Hastings-on-Hudson, NY
Pierce, If you're gonna try to to correct other people's Latin (or anyother language), you better get it right yourself. "Vox clamantis indeserto" doesn't mean "a voice crying out of the wilderness." Itmeans "the voice OF ONE crying (out) in the wilderness."
Name: Laura FaethHometown: Superior, CO
Amen to Cheap Trick's new release, The Latest. It's a great album,and sonically just tickles my eardrums every time I listen to it.Some songs are haunting, others are ear wormy, but they all sound asyou say, like an album. Rick Nielsen mentioned in one interview thatit's like three trilogies (three groups of three songs) but he didn'tmention which tunes go together since there are thirteen tracks! Eitherway, it's great to hear the Rockford dudes sounding so awesome again.
Wrapup: We have a new "Think Again" column, picking up on the food fight between the Washington Post's Dana Milbank and The Huffington Post's Nico Pitney and the larger issues we think it raises here, and my new Nation column, "How Bold is Barack?" is here.
I did a celebratory column on Al Franken's victory for The Daily Beast here.
Oh and I appear to have started a twitter account, here, but don't get too excited about it yet.
My profile is http://twitter.com/Eric_Alterman -- is that right? We'll see, I guess.
"The dust that Pancho left down south/Ended up in Lefty's mouth."
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "When The Levee Breaks" (Memphis Minnie)--Long ago, I crossed "the ultimate line" in my love for New Orleans.
Part The First: Oh, for the love of god, just shut up already. If you're in a hole, dude, first rule is to...stop...digging. Plus, why do I believe that "crossing the ultimate line" is a good Christian euphemism for the old Southern political maxim--allegedly adhered to by, among other people, both Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich--that "Eatin' ain't cheatin'."?
Part The Second: While I am happy that former hippie love god NormColeman has exited the stage, I am not at all sanguine that Senator Franken will be much more than another slightly left-leaning Clintonian. Sixty votes is nice--it makes John (Box Turtle) Cornyn cry--but there's now about an eight-month window to get anything done with it. Recalling Franken's old radio program, on which threadbare Rolodex Cowboys like Norm Ornstein used to be regulars, doesn't encourage me much, either. Neither does his quote about sixty votes not necessarily being a magic number to get things done. And my wish for LBJ to rise angrily from the dead flares anew.
Part The Third: Matthew Y is a very smart young man, especially nowthat he apparently has given up on the Sisyphean task of explaining why theWashington Wizards ever will be any good. But this, alas, is unicorn-shopping at its most gullible. While I have no doubt that it is remotely possible that the nice lady across the street with the pro-life bumper stickers on her car may very well not give a damn who's buying condoms where, and how old the people are who are buying them, the organized political structure of the pro-life movement has been demonstrably anti-woman and anti-sexuality from the very first mailings itever sent out. It has been financed and organized by religiousorganizations devoted to a truncated and joyless view of human sexuality.It has as its formal legal basis a philosophy for which the true targetnever has been Roe, but Griswold. It does not believe in a constitutionallyguaranteed right to privacy in any sphere, abortion just being the mostobvious and inflammatory one. And, most important, none of this willchange. Ever.
Part The Fourth: The Vanity Fair piece on Sarah Palin is pretty much a cowardly hit job by pathetic (and largely anonymous) people who stillbelieve in the John McCain they constructed in their own heads. TheRepublicans didn't lose because they nominated a public omadhaun for thesecond spot on the ticket. They lost because their standard bearer was athoroughly ridiculous man. And because the nomination of someone thoroughlyridiculous was inevitable, given the current state of the Republican party.There simply was no other alternative than some kind of crackpot oranother. They're all that are left.
Part The Fifth: I always hate to disagree with Sal, but I've always dated Rod's decline precisely from the release of Atlantic Crossing.I've never forgiven him for completely botching Danny Whitten's exquisite"I Don't Want To Talk About It," which should have been a slam dunk.
Part The Last: My invitation to the wedding must have blown off theporch, so I had no idea that Rep. Mary Bono was married to Rep. Connie Mack IV. And thus are Cher and Chief Bender forever distantly linked in history.
I'm sorry, but this column is just silly. Worse, it's silly in a completely conventional and hackneyed way. Good Lord, Tsarina Mooseburger made this same case better at the apogee of her Moment--in that grudge-addled acceptance speech at the RepublicanNational Convention--than the author of his column does here. (And let'sleave aside the fact that the New York Times hired a columnist who soobviously slept through the 1990s.) The reflexive anti-intellectualhalf-gainers that a young and highly educated conservative needs toaccomplish before graduating from the Young Pundit's Academy rarely end inanything more than an ungainly bellyflop. (Remember back in The Day whenAndy Sullivan sounded like he was running for mayor of Omaha? Or the timela Coulter waxed nostalgic for her days in Kansas City? Where do these twopeople choose to live again? Thought so.) This is no exception. Thecitations of Truman and Jackson are laughable. (Where's Palin'santi-corruption committee? Where, in god's name, is her Battle of NewOrleans?) And there were "professionals" who "pressed into service" thisflibbertigibbet? Jesus H. Christ At Talladega, is this guy seriouslyarguing that she didn't grab at this opportunity with both hands and allher bicuspids? Yeesh. But the underlying conceit of the whole business ---that inexpertise should be celebrated on the same level as actual expertisebecause you can sell the former in a political context is nothing more thanlazy intellectual slumming by people who, at some level, feel awfullyguilty about the advantages with which they were raised. It also conformsto certain premises that can be found in certain books that I am far too modest to mention.
Wrapup: We have a new "Think Again" column, picking up on the food fight between the Washington Post's Dana Milbank and The Huffington Post's Nico Pitney and the larger issues we think it raises here and my new Nation column, "How Bold is Barack?" is here.
I did a celebratory column on Al Franken's victory for The Daily Beast here.
Oh and I appear to have started a twitter account, here, but don't get too excited about it yet.
My profile is http://twitter.com/Eric_Alterman is that right? We'll see, I guess.
Me and MJ: Well I guess this is the week to tell your "When I Met Michael" stories. I got closer to Michael than almost anyone, to tell you the truth, or at least closer than most people of the age of consent. In fact, it would be impossible to have been closer to Michael with clothes on than I was, especially since the guy had such a phobia of people and their germs.Well, Michael got my germs. Here's how. The night before the Clinton inauguration, I was invited backstage at the big concert at the Capitol Center, where Jackson and a bunch of other big stars performed. When it was over, and everyone was standing around, Clinton came by to say hello to the talent. (He was particularly taken by Kenny G at the time, as I recall.) Anyway, MJ, as he is now called, was wearing that insane Sergeant Pepper outfit of his and when Clinton and the secret service came down the narrow corridor where everyone was standing around, I was (rather rudely) pushed directly into Michael and held there by the Secret Service guy until the president got done saying "hello" to everyone, which in Clinton's case takes a really long time.
I can't say I enjoyed it. Michael's skin was gray; a color I had never seen on a person before. His nose looked like it belong on a baby piglet. And he was clearly not in the mood for an extended body slam from yours truly, as I was already past thirty at the time. I don't remember if we actually exchanged any words afterward. Despite Michael's undoubted horror, he was pleasant about the whole thing. My guess is that it made no impression on him at all. That's it.
Hard working Sal on the new Levon Helm, the Woodstock re-releases, the Rod Stewart re-releases and the new Cheap Trick.
Levon Helm-Electric Dirt
2007's Dirt Farmer was Levon Helm's first proper solo release in 25 years, and a fine return it was. Helm's voice barely showed signs of his battle with throat cancer, and the acoustic, rootsy repertoire was a perfect place to pick up in the studio. The same cast members, including many of the musicians from Helm's live Midnight Rambles at his barn in Woodstock are back, this time kicking it up a notch with Electric Dirt. I know this may be hallowed ground, but I haven't enjoyed a record by one or all members of The Band, since The Band, as much as I have been enjoying this one. Robertson's solo releases were ambitious, but years later sound dated. Danko's were spotty. And even Band classics like Stage Fright & Cahoots aren't as much fun.
Helm's voice is even better and stronger. The arrangements range from a New Orleans' brass romp, like the opener "Tennessee Jed" to the funky shuffle of "When I Go Away." Helm is an underappreciated drummer, and NO one does a funky shuffle like he does. Electric Dirt is a joy from head to tail.
The Woodstock Experience
Nothing says "celebration" like repackaged goods. Forty years after the event, SONY/BMG knocks out 5 complete live Woodstock performances, each coupled with a classic album from the time. You get the Airplane's Volunteers, Johnny Winter's Sony debut, Santana's debut, Sly & The Family Stone's Stand and Janis' Kozmic Blues. Not a bad idea, I guess.
It's great to have complete performances, especially the Sly & Santana sets, which really cook. Packaging is better than average. But I can't help but think at a $19.98 list price, that a simple single CD of just the complete live performance for $9.99, may have been the way to go. But what do I know? I went out of business in 2005.
Rod Stewart Deluxe
One of my favorite pastimes is ripping Rod Stewart. The Faces are one of my favorite bands of all time and Stewart's run of solo records for Mercury in the early seventies is as good as rock and roll gets. But man alive, did he lose his way or what? From the successful disco dreck to the successful and unbearably unlistenable string of standards collections, Rod has become lazier than Homer Simpson. Not his work ethic, per se, but his lack of interest in creating something original.
Before that decline, there were two very fine releases, Atlantic Crossing and A Night On The Town, Rod's first two LPs for his new label Warner Brothers. Rhino Records has once again impressed the reissue world with 2 CD deluxe editions of both. Disc One on each feature remastered versions of the albums proper, as well as a bonus track or two. And Disc Two on each features an alternate version of the album. The alternate versions are worth one listen or two, as they don't really offer much. If anything, they offer less. But the sets themselves are beautifully packaged and offer plenty of information for the curious, especially Atlantic Crossing, which includes Rod's only work with The MGs.
Cheap Trick-The Latest
Cheap Trick The Latest is the latest from Cheap Trick, and is arguably their best in twenty-five years. Released on a "need to have" basis--pre-orders were taken for the initial pressing--The Latest does not stray far from what made this legendary group from Rockford so appealing. Almost every track is a quick blast of pop perfection. But what does stand out about this record that seemed to be missing from so many of their recent releases is the quality of the material. The songs sound less like parodies of what the boys have been doing for years and more like actual songs. The record sounds like an "album," not just a bunch of songs recorded over time and slapped on a CD, just to get a CD out.
I admit not being not being too impressed upon first listen. The opener, a barely two minute lullaby, "Sleep Forever," is nothing more than interesting. It's short, but...so what. BAD way to start. It's followed by a not bad Slade cover, and two more songs that sound too much like the parodies I just mentioned. THEN, the record takes off. From "These Days," a big ballad that wouldn't seem out of place on Bruce's The River, right until the last track, another ballad, "Smile," that puts such over-produced nonsense as "The Flame" to shame, "The Latest" is Cheap Trick, stronger than ever. Sandwiched in between? Killer riffs and killer choruses, sung by one of the greatest voices in rock and roll, Robin Zander.
Long time Cheap Trick fans will not be disappointed. And those who only know the hits, THIS is better.
This week, Bill Moyers Journal gets insight from three leading publicthinkers who taught a unique course--"Christianity and the U.S. Crisis"--at Union Theological Seminary, the oldest nondenominational seminaryin the country. Renowned scholars Cornel West, Serene Jones, and GaryDorrien offer a fresh take what our religious traditions and our coreethics and values as a nation say about America's politics, policy, andthe challenges of balancing capitalism and democracy. "This is asociety that has stoked and celebrated greed virtually to the point ofself-destruction. We can't just go on saying, 'Well if we can justpatch this thing up and get back to where we were, things will be allright.' And none of us believe that, so we also have to talk about whatwas wrong with the system to begin with that had outcomes that you can'treally justify morally," says Dorrien.
My friend and personal hero Charlie Savage dug this one of a document dump. Now it's self-evident from the document itself that the Supreme Court will be presided over for the next 30-odd years by a guy who was born a boring 50-year old senior associate with a stick the size of El Capitan up his ass. (Thanks, Democrats, for giving us Chief Justice Howard Sprague.) The real delight here is that, in his attempt to prove himself the most insufferably pedantic sycophant in the history of representative government, he...gets...the...Latin...WRONG. "Vox clamans in terris"? A voice crying out in the earth? That would be the wailing of thousands of dead Jesuits pointing out that the quote is "vox clamantis in deserto" -- a voice crying out of the wilderness. (Among other things, it's the motto of Dartmouth College, despite the generally held suspicion that the school's motto is actually "Sockless Drunk In The Wilderness."). I'm serious, Scalia must be rolling on the floor over this.
Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
Beyond the message in the jackassery featuring Dana Milbank and ChrisCilizza, has anyone noticed that the latter continues to be afrequent guest on MSNBC while Milbank had been there and moved to CNN--which he claimed had been in the works, although, interestingly, itfollowed a column in which he turned around a comment by Barack Obamato make it unfavorable, to the disgust and consternation of KeithOlbermann and anyone else who believes in accurate...uh, accurate...oh, yeah, JOURNALISM.
But their lack of awareness is the key issue. They appear insomething for the internet, the subject of their displeasure. Theyshow up regularly in Washington Post blogs. They regularly appear oncable television, which, like the internet, has contributed to thedecline of the kind of journalism they claim to practice by producingthe 24/7 news cycle that President Obama rightly deprecates.
It is reminiscent of, of all things, an episode of Murphy Brown.Murphy was shadowed by an actress who was going to play a journalist,then offered a part in the show, and embarrassed herself. Then ConnieChung came on to remind Murphy that we are journalists and shouldn'tdo this sort of thing. The only person in America who didn't get thejoke, it turned out, was Connie Chung. Now we can add Mountebank andFizzy to the list.
Name: Seàn Rowlette
Hometown: Brighton, MI
How is it that in the ongoing argument regards America embracingUniversal Healthcare (ala Western Europe and some of the moreadvanced nations across the globe) that no one has noted the SilverLining in all of this?
I'm referencing America's big three auto companies.
Embracing Universal Healthcare would allow America's automakers tobe free of that financial burden.
The employees (few as they are these days) would still have healthbenefits, Ford, GM and Chrysler would enjoy greater profits,finding themselves on a more favorable footing going forward in thisglobal economy.
Sadly, Obama has yet to come to the realization that what mostAmerican's need, above everything else, is a good paying job.Manufacturing jobs that can't or won't be moved overseas, employmentopportunities as engineers, technicians and managers.
We sent jobs to Japan, and Japan prospered. We sent jobs to SouthAmerica and South America prospered. We sent computer engineeringjobs to backwards countries all over the globe, and they prospered.
The average American never had a chance.
Perhaps its time for America to put Americans' first. If notnow, when?
We've got a new "Think Again" column called "Who's JailingJournalists?"here inwhich we wonder, aloud, why the United States has joined the alleged Axis of Evil in jailing journalists without charge.
And I did a piece for the Daily Beast on "The Death of the Neocons" here.
"Couldn't stop movin' when it first took hold/It was a warm springnight at the old town hall/There was a group called The Jokers, they waslayin' it down/Doncha know I'm never gonna lose that funky sound."
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click--"If You Want Me To Stay" (Big ChiefAlfred Doucette)--OK, sorry. I was gone for a couple of days--off toSaskatchewan for some surfing, if you must know--and I failed to leaveword with my staff to tell y'all how much I love New Orleans.
Part The First: As the father of daughter who's in high school, Ifind this a blessed relief. As a lover of Amendments IV and V, and an observer of the current Supreme Court, I find it damned near miraculous. As a longtime observer of Clarence Thomas, I continue to find him pretty godawfullyrevolting.
Part The Second: For all its gifts at wonkery, Josh's place also has shown a remarkable facility at good old political gossip. I'm going to go way out on a limb here and say that we still don't know thewhole story about the strange journeys of Mark Sanford, the Luis Firpo of former 2012 GOP presidential contenders.
Part The Third: If it weren't for Kevin Drum, I'd have missed thisbit of guerrilla theater over at The Corner. First, Andy McCarthy puts abird on his head. Then, Rich Lowry, who has ambitions in this world beyond being the hallmonitor at a home for public lunatics, gently suggests to Andy that he iswearing a bird for a hat. Undaunted, Andy replies that he is too wearing a hat and a lovely hat itis, even though what it is doing down the back of his neck is unpleasant and making people edge away from him. Your conservative intelligentsia, ladies and gentlemen!
Part The Fourth: Jesus H. Christ On The South Beach Diet, what arethese idiots thinking? I don'tentirely mean the two idiots on-camera, although someone is going to haveto gently remind them that, just because Chris Matthews thinks you'refunny, it doesn't mean that you are. (Hey, Dana. You couldn't get that guy from The Huffington Post drunk enough to do something this stupid. Pass it on.) I also mean the upper-echelon idiots at the WaPo who think this piece of sub-middle-school-theatrical was worth putting out there in public. I have given thirty years of my life to a craft that deserves better than this shabby piece of burlesque and, if my industry does go down, can't at least it go down with some dignity?
Part The Fifth: I don't know how I missed this glorious book lastyear, but I guarantee it will start more arguments in your head than any book of the past decade. Bring it to your local and prepare for flying crockery.
Part The Last: Another dispatch from hell from History's yard waste. Iswear, every time they start getting the old Legacy Machine cranked upagain, there are more tapes released and it's like Christmas in June!
I have lived through a number of political events in my life thatwere Bad Ideas. The pardon of the above-mentioned Trickster was a bad idea,so was the virtual non-prosecution of the Iran-Contra hoodlums. The circussurrounding the death of Terri Schiavo was a very Bad Idea, indeed. Youknow what else was a really Bad Idea? The Pursuit And Impeachment Of BillClinton, that's what. And not just because it paralyzed the government,made clowns out of the elite media, and pretty much dinged up the legacy ofa brilliant politician who nonetheless wasn't smart enough to keep itzipped for the paltry eight years during which he held the job he'd wantedfrom birth. It surely was a Bad Idea for all those reasons, but those areall reasons it was bad for the country. It has proven to be even worse forthe Republican party. This was obvious from the 1998 midterms, when thecountry pretty much told the Republican majority that it had enough, andthose worthies went ahead with the kabuki anyway, fully in the knowledgethat they had no chance in hell of ever convicting Clinton in the Senateand, thereby, removing him from office. Even they're aware now that it wasa bad idea. Know how I know that?
Remember all the high-flown rhetoric that got tossed around on their side of the aisle about standing up for the law--all those quotes from A Man For All Seasons and I'll bet the estate of Robert Bolt never saw a dime--and for future generations? All those speeches about doing what was right and not what was popular? We were told that the Great Fellatio Hunt was nothing less than a watershed moment in the country's history. And yet, at the three Republican National Conventions since Clinton left office, there has been nary a mention ofthis selfless and noble moment in the party's history. (By comparison, Iseem to recall several references to Watergate at the 1976 DemocraticConvention.) Where are the videos of Henry Hyde and Young HuckleberryGraham, generic hero music swelling behind them, fighting the good fightagainst illicit nookie on our behalf? I may be wrong, but I don't know anyRepublican politician who is still promoting with pride his role in thisepic struggle. And, of course, nowadays, all the GFH has done is freeze anentire generation of young Republican hopefuls into the uncomfortableposition of being unable to have a good old American midlife crisis oftheir own. Governor Gaucho down there in South Carolina is only the mostrecent--and the most comically complex--one, but there will be more.Turns out that the Great Fellatio Hunt has led the party all the way up theol' Appalachian Trail from whose bourne no traveler returns but that heruns into the local media. And with e-mails, no less!
I'm crazy about Madeleine Peyroux. So glad you saw her. Whatever herhybrid mix, and I do love her songwriting, amidst the places shegoes, she always puts me in mind of Billie. Great artist. Par for thecourse, over the years, re mutual musical sensibilities. Hey, Eric.
Name: Greg Panfile
Postal: Tuckahoe NY
Thanks to Sal for the words on the George collection... my twoessays on him (obit and songwriting style analysis/appreciation) arehopefully accessible through the page linked to my name on thisposting. Missing 'Bangla Desh' is bad, missing the live version fromthe Concert therefor is worse. We assume the live versions of'Something' and 'While My Guitar' are poor efforts at rounding outthe collection with songs whose recorded masters couldn't be useddue to their Beatle origin, and getting some real time Clapton onthere, right?
It does appear, speaking to Sal's point about the mastering of thecurrent CDs, that the Last Revelation will occur this fall when themono mixes finally come out. This issue has long been a big one inBeatleland, of Swiftian proportions about which end of the egg tocrack first. Given the impossibility of producing good stereopictures when working from four-track masters with intermediate(reduction) mixes, and the participation of the band their ownselves in the mono mixing but NOT the stereo mixing, there's atheoretical argument, and a strong one, in favor of the mono mixes.I for one spent years tracking them all down, after I had all thegood bootlegs.
But really, all you need is ears. A/B, for example, stereo versusmono for such rocking openers as Magical Mystery Tour and Taxman. Nocontest, the mono rocks, the stereo is hollow. Also, there are actualsubtle, detailed differences, as they are different mixes done bydifferent people on different days. Hopefully this will get someattention when the remasters finally appear, and 'settle' thequestion forever. The Beatles emanate from the mono tradition of single-speaker transistor radios and the production values of noted monoistsBrian Wilson and Phil Spector. When you see pictures of them at aconsole, they are doing a mono mix. Period. Exclamation point!
We've got a new "Think Again" column called "Who's JailingJournalists?"here inwhich we wonder, aloud, why the United States has joined the alleged Axis of Evil in jailing journalists without charge.
And I did a piece for the Daily Beast on "The Death of the Neocons" here.
Alter-reviews: Eric on Madeleine Peyroux; Sal on George Harrison.
Eric: I saw Madeleine Peyroux with Bruce Cockburn at Town Hall lastweek. She is an odd, but beautiful bird. A bohemian style chanteuse whowas born with a voice that somehow combines Billie Holiday with PatsyCline, she has now become an interesting songwriter as well. Her new CD, Bare Bones (Rounder), attempts to move her into the territoryoccupied by Norah Jones with songs co-written by the likes of LarryKlein and Walter Becker, and wonderful lyrics like "I remember what mydaddy taught me 'bout how warm whiskey is in a cold ditch/And one morething about good and evil: you can't tell which is which" She had afine acoustic band with her which sounded like no other band I know andsings in French too, which is always a plus. You can find all kinds ofstuff, including some pretty fun video of her here. Bruce Cockburn warmed her up, solo. He was his mystical, rather than rocket-launcherself. A matter of choice, I suppose, but it wouldn't be mine.
Sal: Writing about the new George Harrison collection, Let It Roll:Songs By George Harrison, is akin, for pathetic critics like myself, toshooting fish in a barrel. Give a Beatle fanatic an opportunity to rant,in an age when he is still watching a Betamax version of Let It Be andlistening to the classic catalogue on CDs mastered when Nina Blackwoodwas the face of music television, is not a good idea.
"Give me love, give me peace on Earth." HA!! Give me something otherthan some hastily slapped together collection of tunes, that everyBeatles fan has heard a thousand times and more and we got ourselves aballgame...except...this collection really works.
Let It Roll, by practical measures should have included the killer,stray single "Bangla-Desh," and explained somewhere in the otherwisebrilliant and moving liner notes by Warren Zanes, the inclusion ofinferior live versions of "Something" and "While My Guitar GentlyWeeps." Those complaints aside, Let It Roll is a joyous occasion. Itplays like the mix-tape that YOU would have made...except for theexclusion of "Bangla-Desh" and the inclusion of...well...see above.
The Eighth Beatle
This week on Moyers:
On the heels of winning this year's Pulitzer prize for poetry, W.S.Merwin joins Bill Moyers for a wide-ranging conversation about language,his writing process, the natural world, and the insights gleaned from amuch-lauded career that's spanned more than 50 years. W.S. Merwin isthe author of 21 volumes of poetry and won his second Pulitzer Prize forhis most recent collection, The Shadow of Sirius.
Name: Bob O'Reilly
Hometown: Cambridge MA
In 1972 when I was a senior in high school I read Tragedy of AmericanDiplomacy in an advanced history seminar. It ranks among the mostimportant books I have read in that it provided me with a method oflooking at the actions of the US and many other nations are despite the rhetoric purely national self interest. That economics --expanding foreign trade for us -- drives many of decisions. I recallmuch discussion in the book and in class about the Open Door policyregarding China and the feeling that who said the Chinese had to openthe door to the US and European products. Really didn't they have theright to keep the door closed if they wanted to.
Name: Steve Thorne
Hometown: Somewhere in California
The healthcare "reform" debate will get us nowhere because we'restill thinking in insurance company language. The entire debate isabout "insurance," "payer" and "coverage." I don't want "coverage" or"insurance" when some part of me fails or some microbes go somewherethey're not invited. I want to get it fixed or for those microbes tobe slaughtered (set "slaughtered" in italics) and not risk losing myhouse in the process. Until we change the language used in the debateto something not found in the tiny print of an insurance policy,we're not going to fix the problem in this country.
Name: David K. Richie
Hometown: Birmingham, Al
Mr. Charles Pierce,
I am interested to observe that what is left of what used to be thegreat left wing in this country cannot understand what happened tothe single payer option.
While I have no doubt that 75% of us, including degenerate businessowner, tax avoiding polluters like me, support some form ofgovernment competition, it is hard to imagine the left wing attackingfops like Gingrich and Limbaugh. They are not the problem. Theproblem is all the candy ass politicians you people elected.
Attacking our (choke, gasp) President is not the answer either. Tohave a substantial public option you are going to have to convincethe doctors, nurses and administrators in a mind boggling bureaucracythat they are not worth what we are now paying them. This is a hugeobstacle not even considering the drug cartel, oops, I mean industry.
The continued carping about Obama simply does not address the realissues in the legislature, ie. THE PAYOFFS!
Until then my fellow pope Catholic, you are simply preaching tothe choir.
Name: Ray Lodato
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Do you know what we call it in Chicago when there are more votes castthan there are voters?
Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC
I am not going to pretend to understand all the intricacies of thevarying healthcare proposals. But I get upset when I see thesearticles bringing up the failure to fix health care under Clinton,and maybe with Obama's efforts we are seeing deja vu. The articlesusually act as if it was a defeat for Clinton, when in actuality, itshould be a black mark on those who stopped reform from happening.Shouldn't the Democrats have a simple response to any such criticism--we wanted to fix health care over a decade ago. The Republicansblocked it. Since then, health care costs have gone up X-amount, thenumber of uninsured has gone up Y-amount, while profits haveincreased Z-amount. Politics today is about soundbites, and what canbe played quickly on CNN or even tweeted on twitter - wouldn't asimple message of how much worse health care has become say loud andclear that we must act now, and we must do so regardless of anyRepublican scare tactics.
"There's a man in old Pawtucket/Sells steamed clams by the bucket/Sowhen I want clams in a bucket, I go to old Pawtucket/ 'Cause I'm ahungry man."
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Alright, Alright" (The New OrleansNightcrawlers): How many times do I have to tell Chuck Grassley to gethis thumb out of his ass and twitter to the world how much I love NewOrleans?
Part The First: I wish the gang at Washington Monthly well withthis rosy impossible dream. You'd have better luck teaching your dog toorder dinner.
Part The Second: Just shut up, please. For my own edification, is there any provision of the 2008 Republican platform that Tom Daschle thinks should be left out of the Democratic health-reform package, now rapidly morphing into the Preservation Of The Greedy Insurance Bastards Act of 2009? School vouchers? Missile defense?
Part The Third: I am going to lose my pundit card behind this, but Ido not know f**k-all about what we should do about the situation inIran. Not a clue. And, not being one of these many sunbathers along the shorelines of the Great Lake Of Fail, I shall not hazard a guess. What I do know is that Not Doing What Rodeo Clowns Suggest is a sound strategy on almost every conceivable question. I wouldn't go for water if Paul Wolfowitz told me to do it while my head was on fire.
Part The Fourth: Thirty-seven years ago this week, someone forgot totake the tape off the door to the stairwell. For a long while, nobody cared except for a couple of Metro grunts at the local daily. Cool stuff ensued. Of course, that was a long time ago, and said local daily has sort of lost its gift for that whole truth-to-power thing, Sad, really.
Part The Last: Ooooooooohhhhh, cooties! Watersheds just ain't what they used to be, I guess. There wasa time, and not so long ago, when a story like this would have been a game-changer in the debate over reforming the nation's healthcare system, if anything as capricious, and vicious, and utterly random as what we have can rightly be called a "system." Executives ofthe insurance companies got up in front of the Congress and said, quitecalmly, that, yes, they would continue to deny coverage to sick people in order to make themselves even wealthier. That should have resulted in sufficientpolitical pressure to infuse a spine even into the members of this Congress. But we no longer are a viable self-governing political commonwealth, and our representatives know that, and truly don't give a damn, and the people in the elite political media could care less. (Hey, Mark Halperin, go clean a bedpan, OK?) It is on health issues where the gulf separating the inside and out Beltway realities swallows up common sense and, in doing so, causes the most material damage. The Schiavo case was a garish and noisy example, but the idea that a Democratic president and a Democratic congress can't craft a health-reform package that contains a substantial public option that 75 percent of the people out there want because the Democrats are overly sensitive to intramural political imperatives is the Schiavo case writ unacceptably large. This is a political class responding only to itself, speaking its own language, operating by its own rules while real people get ground up in a system that everyone knows is a rigged game. Hell, at 75 percent, the president has enough "political cover" to put a single-payer option back "on the table." But he won't. Some corrupt old white man might yell at him.
We've got a new Think Again column called "Chiller, Socialist Theater,"about how Obama's turning us Commie, here and my new Nation column is a tribute to the 50th anniversary of William Appleman Williams' Tragedy of American Diplomacy, here.Also, I did an analysis of Bibi Netanyahu's bait-and-switch speech forthe Daily Beast here.
I was genuinely shocked by Howard Kurtz's defense of CNN in a Post chat, not only because of its incredible lameness, but also because Kurtz did not disclose the fact of his being on CNN's payroll. I wrote a short note to Romenesko's letters column, which he printed,but did not make notice of on the site, so I sent a slightly different version of it to Andy Alexander, who recently became the Washington Post's ombudsman. I have to say, I'm impressed with his response, which you can find here. What I like about it is not only that it holds Kurtz accountable, (and is generally friendly to me), but because it raises the larger issue of the Post's unwillingness to disclose its conflict-of-interest policies. This is quite important, and goes to the heart of why large news organizations are losing the trust of readers, etc. But these organizations need to keep their options open to retain their big shots who don't like to follow the rules and so they don't want to codify their policies. (See under "Friedman, Thomas.") Alexander explains that the Post policy is underreview, which is to the good, but let's see if and when they publish it. He writes:
Readers such as Alterman are entitled to know the standards to which The Post holds itself. In a column several months ago, I wrote:
The Post keeps its journalistic policies largely hidden, making it virtually impossible for readers to know the paper's ethical andjournalistic standards. The public should be able to easily access them online. It's not merely right but also smart to be transparent at a time when The Post is trying to hold on to readers.
The column also noted that The Post urgently needs to update its ethical guidelines to accommodate the new age of online journalism. Kurtz' failure to disclose his CNN ties in an online chat, while hardly a major transgression, underscores that.
New standards must be written to cover not only conflict of interestdisclosures online, but everything from how corrections should behandled on the Web, to verification of reader-generated content, toauthentication of links, to ethical rules governing the content thatPost employees may submit to social networking sites.
That task has fallen to Milton Coleman, the longtime Post deputy managing editor who is taking the most recent buyout but will remain on contract as a senior editor. He'll be in charge of a full examination of Post standards and ethics. It's a big job. And the review is long overdue.
I actually interviewed then editor Len Downie on this very question for a Nation column years ago. He said that for a media critic, the conflict was unavoidable and hence, the only issue was disclosure. I disagreed. It is there, for sure, but it can be minimized. Kurtz is compromised not only when he writes about CNN but also when he writes about its competitors and potential competitors. (Bill Wyman notes on this very topic. The issue with Howard Kurtz isn't that he didn't mention the CNN connection in his chat, but that he didn't mention CNN in his Twitter story. My piece on this is here.
How do you write a story on an operation like Twitter and notmention the biggest issue currently on it, which just happens to becritical of the place that pays you? FYI, there's a lot here about how he handled the John Edwards story.
...And more here about how he's been covering Katie Couric.
If the Post does not pay him enough to be their media critic, they should hire someone they can pay enough. But Downie's defense falls apart when Kurtz decides to simply assume that everybody knows and does not bother to disclose at all. The fact that this is an ongoing scandal does not make it any less of a scandal.
One more thing: Let's see if the new Post policy applies to all Post properties. A couple of years ago, Slate's Jacob Weisberg took an AIPAC-sponsored junket and then returned home to write about what he learned on the trip. I noted, on Altercation, who had paid for his trip, and he wrote me back a nasty letter in which he called me a "moron" because he had disclosed the fact that he had been there on AIPAC's dime. Thing is, the Washington Post would never allow a reporter to accept a paid trip from AIPAC while writing about AIPAC-related issues, so why are there different rules for Post-owned news sites like Slate? Ibelieve I queried The Washington Post Company on this but have yet toreceive an answer. My guess is that Slate wants to keep it that way. (And despite Weisberg's touchiness and bad manners, the fact is I don't have a problem with what he did. I'd do it myself. It's the Post's policies that interest me.)
Recycling watch: I spent a few hours with Larry David while writing about Hollywood and politics a few years ago and we were talking about "Curb,"--possibly my favorite show of all time--and I told him that I did not find it credible that he would not sleep with the beautiful and talented Cady Huffman before his premiere of The Producers just because she was a Republican. He agreed, adding, "Hell, I'd sleep with a holocaust denier." It was a great line, and I wanted to work it into the piece. I ran into Larry and Laurie at a book party for Arianna, at the biggest g-d house I'd ever set foot in, one that felt like being in the palace at Versailles--and I told them my only concern so far was that I was having trouble working in that great line. (Laurie was happy about this.) Larry, being an incredible mensch, however, called me a few days later and asked my permission to use the line in his bio on Vanity Fair, even though it was his line. I said ok, and now he's giving it more a workouthere, but toning it down for Conan's audience.
Also in the recycling department, Stephen Colbert, seen most recentlyusing old Harvard Lampoon lines in Newsweek, had Josh Marshall on the other night and asked him if he was a blogger, why wasn't he in his bathrobe. When The Daily Show first took notice of bloggers, they did a set piece that included Jay Rosen, who was asked, "If you're a blogger, why aren't you in pajamas." Once again, I have nothing against this kind of thing. I do it myself. I just want to put them on notice...
Guest blog: 'Conflict Minerals' in Your Cell Phone Are the New Blood Diamonds
posted by John Prendergast
It's time to end the trade in "conflict minerals" from the war-tornDemocratic Republic of Congo, which are sold by rebel groups to purchase arms and serve as a direct cause of widespread sexual violence in that country. These minerals--tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold--are commonly used in the manufacture of cell phones, laptops, mp3 players, video games, and digital cameras. I'm writing this from eastern Congo, where I have seen firsthand during the past several weeks the link between our consumer appetites and immense human suffering that his undeniable.
A Fortune magazine article has described this issue as "The New Blood Diamonds," but nothing has being done to end this problem--until now. The Enough Project has documented this connection in a new report and iscalling on electronics companies to pledge that they will make theirproducts conflict free and open their supply chains to transparentaudits.
Enough doesn't claim electronics companies are themselves knowingly dealing in conflict minerals; nor is Enough calling for a total ban or boycott of Congolese minerals, which would hurt miners. However, webelieve electronics companies should audit their supply chains to keepout illegally-traded minerals from their products. If these companiesshow leadership, they can fundamentally end the trade in conflictminerals, ensuring that Congo's mineral wealth does not contribute toarmed conflict and the continuation of the worst violence against women and girls in the world. We are working with other like-minded groups to begin the conversation with the twenty-one largest electronics companies to help end the scourge of conflict minerals.
Why this issue matters: The conflict in eastern Congo, the deadliestsince World War II, is being fueled by this trade in minerals by armedgroups who control many mines, force individual miners to pay "taxes" onthe minerals they mine, and destroy communities through sexual violence.More than five million people have died as a result of the war, andhundreds of thousands of women have been raped in eastern Congo over the past decade. While individual miners earn a pittance--no more than $5 per day--the armed groups that are perpetuating the violence generated an estimated $185 million last year by trading in four main minerals, the "3 Ts" and gold. Getting the minerals out of Congo involves smuggling, bribes, and other illegal activities.
The electronics industry's corporate social responsibility association, Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition, issued a statement last yearrecognizing that they "can influence standards throughout the supplychain and within the wider industry." However, industry efforts have yetto provide the transparency necessary to make a difference for theCongolese people. A bill to encourage better practices was introduced inthe US Senate.
Visit the website of Enough's RAISE Hope for Congo campaign to learn howactivists can endorse a pledge to encourage conflict-free cell phonesand other devices and send a message to the world's 21 largestsmall-electronics manufacturers in support of ending the use of conflictminerals.
As part of YouTube's "video for change" campaign, Enough's Congocampaign has launched a video contest known as Come Clean 4 Congo.Activists around the country are making one-minute videos about theconflict minerals issue, and celebrity judges will determine the winner.
John Prendergast co-founded Enough, the project to end genocide andcrimes against humanity, at the Center for American Progress.
Alter-reviews: Lost seasons 1 and 2, Revolutionary Road
I've been watching the first season of Lost on BluRay. The episodes were digitally remastered for the ultimate in high definition picture and sound. I never watched it the first time, but if any TV show was made for BluRay, this is it. To be honest, I think the show's writing is pretty dumb. But if you put your brain on hold, it really does hold your interest, especially in BluRay, where the sound is actually more impressive than the visual, which, in this case, is really saying something. Bonus features for the first season include: "Welcome to Oahu: The Making of the Pilot," which explores the making of the series premiere episode; "The Genesis of Lost", in which the series' creators discuss the show's conception; "Designing A Disaster," which provides insight into how the look of Lost was achieved; "Before They Were Lost," featuring cast audition tapes, and "Lost: On Location," which spotlights the show's Hawaiian shooting locations. Additional bonus features in the set include Bloopers, Deleted Scenes. For the Season Two BluRay set, whichI've not seen yet, they throw in "The Official Lost Connections," avisual guide mapping out the shocking connections between characters; "Secrets from the Hatch," which lets viewers goexplore the mysterious "Swan"; "Mysteries, Theories and Conspiracies," which reveals the truth aboutThe Virgin Mary, Hanso and Snow Globes; "Lost: On Location," an all-access pass to the show's set; TheWorld According to Sawyer" and "Fire & Water: Anatomy of an Episode," which takes viewers on thejourney from an episode's conception to completion...
Also, over the weekend, I watched the BluRay of Revolutionary Road,which is one of my favorite novels of the past fifty years. The movie isnot the novel by a long shot--you know it's not a great sign when thepress/blurb campaign features Peter Travers up top. But again, it's apretty good argument for BluRay because it is so lovingly filmed by SamMendes and so much work went into creating the periodization. I'drecommend the film, but only if you read the novel first. That way, youdon't have to watch the sad part at the end and can jump right away tothe Richard Yates documentary included in the extras. You also get theusual director's comments and deleted scenes, etc, if you're into thatkind of thing.
Name: David Fruehling
From: Idiot America
By: Charles Pierce
"If the country took its obligations to self-government at allseriously, the presence of Sarah Palin on a national ticket wouldhave been an insult on a par with the elevation of Caligula's horse"-- p. 266
Sorry, couldn't resist.
Name: Becky Martz
Hometown: Cambridge, MA
I've just picked up my copy of Idiot America by Charles Pierce andI am enjoying it immensely. It's full of interesting facts (readit with Wikipedia and Google on hand to find out more abouthistorical tidbits.)
So many weird things have happened in the past several years thatit's hard to keep track of all of them. This book helps make sense ofhow things have gotten so odd, and reminds me that no, it's not me--it's them.
It's also really funny. I recommend it to all Altercators.
Name: Rene Tihista
Hometown: Bend, OR
I have yet to see a prominent media figure point out the cognitivedissonance of Bill O'Reilly and the other right wing loudmouthsclaiming they never actually said, "Go kill Dr. Tiller." Sotherefore they can't in any way be implicated just for exercisingtheir First Amendment rights to call him "Tiller the Baby Killer"and other violent epithets. Bill O'Reilly claimed he was morepowerful than any politician in America. Disregarding his paranoidgrandiosity, how can he claim then, if he is so important, that hedoesn't influence potential deranged fanatics like the guy whokilled Dr. Tiller. Or how about the guy who walked into thatUnitarian Church in Tennessee to kill as many liberals as he could?O'Reilly's book, along with Hannity's, was in the guy's house.O'Reilly also claimed that his call for a boycott of France for notfollowing Bush/Cheney into Iraq would, "bring down the Frencheconomy." Now that sounds like a lot of influence. A lot of power topersuade people to boycott an entire country. O'Reilly gets paidmillions to influence behavior, i.e., to get people to watch hisdiatribes. So if he is so important and influential doesn't it standto reason that he might influence unstable right-wing fanatics toact out their anger? Seems obvious to me.
Wrap-up: We've got a new Think Again column called "Sotomayor andSCOTUS, Captured on a Carousel of Time" about the punditocracyconfirmation hearings here.And I did a post for The Daily Beast on the recent metzora-making of Joe"The Volcano" Lieberman here.
Sal on Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm
Tribute records more times than not, end up being ill-advised failures,like the musical equivalent of a Cannonball Run movie; lots of easy tohire people phoning in uninspired performances. The worst, in myopinion, being This Bird Has Flown: The 40th Anniversary Tribute ToRubber Soul. Here were 14 mostly unrelated artists, who by the sound of their performances, seemas if they never heard a note of The Beatles, let alone Rubber Soul.No need to name names. The damage is done.
Occasionally though, a tribute record makes some sense. There have beensome winners; 1994's A Tribute To Curtis Mayfield and 2003's We're A Happy Family: A Tribute To The Ramones both come to mind. These records had artists who were clearly inspired by theguests of honor and featured some truly winning performances. Anothersuch winner is the just released Keep Your Soul: A Tribute To DougSahm.
The late Doug Sahm was a giant of all things Texan and his records bothsolo and with the seminal Sir Douglas Quintet, encompassed every genreof music from rock to country to mariachi and blues so naturally, it'sas if those sounds never existed prior to his work. On Keep Your Soul, almost every participant has a connection to Sahm, either has a co-conspirator or messenger. Los Lobos, Alejandro Escovedo, Little Willie G., Flaco Jimenez, Dave Alvin, and Marcia Ball with a reuntitledFreda & The Firedogs all turn in truly killer performances. Thehighlight for me is Charlie Sexton's version of "You're Doin It TooHard." It is 4 minutes of relentless rock and roll. Keep Your Soulplays less like a packaged tribute and more like a fully realizedmusical document of Sahm's work thanks to the love of his friends andfamily. Buy this one.
"I'd rather eat my chili beans/At Jim's or Jack's or John's orGene's/Then take my chances eating down at Smokey Joe's Cafe."
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Free Yo Mind" (The Flow Tribe) -- Onceagain, it declined to fashion a public option whereby I get paid to goto everybody's house and tell them about how much I love New Orleans.
Part The First: For the life of me, I don't know why we keepscheduling these guys,if they're not going to put up more of a fight. I mean, really, ifGeorge were still alive, this would kill him. Please cooperate this weekend,Mets, and we'll see what we can do about those awful Phillies.
Part The Second: Dear John Boehner. You have been warned. Sincerely, The Metaphor Police.
Part The Third: If there's a reason why Dave Neiwert hasn't been on my TV screen in heavy rotation over the past month, I'd like to know what it is, particularly since the scrambling andass-covering on the right seems to have at its center a certain large and worthless pile of papier-maché erudition. And, in the light of the events of the past few weeks, I think it's helpful to remind us all about what the Great Compiler Of Footnotes once said when Dave called him for not seeing the fascists for the trees:
"Here's my grand theory about this guy (Neiwert). He's made hiscareer hyping the terrible threat from the Posse Comitatus, AryanNations and American Nazi Party and so like the bureaucrats in Office Space whothink TPS reports are the most important thing in the world, he can'tseem to grasp that they're pretty trivial. In other words, he came to hisunderstanding of fascism by following bands of racist white losers inthe Idaho woods while using some Marxist tract or other as a field guide toidentify the various species he encountered. In other words, he'sinternalized every cliche and propagandandistic talking point I set outto demolish in my book. Moreover, his career depends on maintaining hisversion of the fascist peril. So, he's banging his spoon on hishighchair a lot because my book undercuts his whole reason for being."
I swear, if he were more of a tool, you could use him to spreadmulch.
Part The Fourth: I just spent a couple of days in Chicago and thecity is awash in Olympic fever; Chicago's the US finalist for the 2016Games. I would not wish the Olympics on a city full of my worst enemies but, if Chicago insists on throwing thecivic treasury into the lake, I sincerely hope that Rod Blagojevich is out ofthe slam in time to get in on the deal. F**king golden, I tell you.
Part The Last: Oh, for Gawd's sake. And the Bills still suck.
So I get up early to fly home from Chicago, and I flip on MSNBC.(Why, you ask. Shut up, I reply.) And there's Willie Geist talking abouthow "both sides" are politicizing the shooter from the Holocaust Museumand, in addition to wondering whether or not it's too late to filecharges at The Hague against whoever it was that invented Morning Joe, I also wonder quite seriously what purpose this kind of transparent nonsense issupposed to serve. The shooter was a critter of the modern Americanrightist fringe. It does nobody any good to try to construct a"centrist" narrative by which he belongs nowhere on the political spectrum. (Chris Cilizza tried this on Hardball and Chris Matthews, who seems to have the bit in his teeth over this, shut him down.) This is bipartisan fetishism taken to its lunatic extreme.
San Francisco, CA
Quit complaining about how much things cost. You're giving a bad nameto other Jews unlike you who aren't cheap.
I am closing on a new house today. I'm told that in my area, the homemarket for houses over $400,000 is dead. It's not that people can'tget credit, it's that they already carry significant mortgages andare scared to death that after borrowing thousands more to buy thenew house, they won't be able to sell the current one.
Professionals, medical students, business owners and well-salariedworkers who want to live close to downtown in this quite lovely parkdistrict, populate my neighborhood. The houses date back to the1920's with pockets of postwar subdivision of elder estates and nolonger needed pastureland. One realtor told me that St. Matthews is"still gold". But today I see many more "for rent" signs than "forsale" signs.
Unemployment here is still under 9% and although growing, the pacehas slowed. My unemployed friends have passed the nine-month markand are fast upon the dreaded one-year anniversary. You can fudge aresume by listing jobs from year to year, i.e., worked from 2000 to2008. But a year long blank can cost you even that preliminaryphone call.
They have also dumbed down the resume as much as they can. Lastyear's resume listed all the management positions, graduate degreesand publications. This year's resume stops at the liberal artsschool and employment at Target or Morton's Steakhouse. A recentAssociation of College and Employers survey says that just 19.7% ofcollege graduates have jobs this year as compared to 26% last yearand 51% in 2007.
That's a lot of newbies to compete with for the remainingopportunities. Employers who are adding people are certainlyjustified in hiring pliable young single people with low salaryexpectations and much smaller, and less bruised, egos. Maybe, if I'mlucky, one of these kids will want to buy a house. After all,mortgage interest rates are at an all time low.
If you are me, and live in Pittsburgh, the most livable city inAmerica, and 29th most livable in the world, (see this week's issueof The Economist) then last night you had the opportunity to seeBooker T at the annual Three Rivers Arts Festival for FREE. Granted, Elvis wasn't in town and the Clapton/Winwood tour is not stoppinghere. That being said, residing in the most livable city (home of the Super Bowl Champions and soon-to-be Stanley Cup Champions) and having the opportunity to see a towering figure such as Booker T for free, is awesome.
Keep up the great work Doc!
We've got a new Think Again column called "Sotomayor and SCOTUS,Captured on a Carousel of Time" about the punditocracy confirmationhearings here.
And I did a post for The Daily Beast on the recent metzora-making of Joe"The Volcano" Lieberman here.
An Open Letter from "Altercation" to Stephen Colbert:
Dear Mr. Colbert,
I hope you and your staff are having a nice time yukking it up inBaghdad. I really enjoyed tiny portions of your Newsweek issue.Actually, it was all downhill from the letters page. Actually, it wasall downhill from the first letter on the letters page. After that funny one, I came acrossthis one:
Dear NEWSWEEK, I never thought this kind of thing would happen to me. Iwas at the library making last-minute edits to The Dartmouth Review whenMiss Shimock, the young librarian, walked up to my table wearing nothingbut a copy of Atlas Shrugged. She made a strong case that it was in myrational self-interest to take off my pants...Wait, I think I'mwriting this letter to the wrong magazine.
Stephen Colbert, Hanover, N.H.
Sept. 18, 1984
Hey, buddy, you know I love you, but you (and whoever wrote this letter)also know that this is a total ripoff of a letter that appeared in theHarvard Lampoon parody of Newsweek in approximately 1982, if mymarijuana-addled memory serves. Back then, in a letter entitled"Newsweek Forum," the junior at the small Midwestern university wasstudying alone in his room, when hearing a knock on the door, and whoshould appear but UN Permanent Representative Jeanne J. Kirkpatrick. Itwent something like this: "After briefly discussing totalitarian vs.authoritarian regimes and agreeing that the former were so much morehorrible than the latter, Jeanne said she'd be more comfortable sittingon my lap."
I will refrain from making the obvious aesthetic comparison, but if youwere plagiarizing yourself, twenty seven years after the fact, wellthen, buddy I salute you. If someone on your staff did it, well, I havea nephew graduating college who needs a job...
Alter-review: Booker T at Joe's Pub last night by Eric
If you were me, and lived in the Greatest City in the World, then lastnight you had a choice between getting your sorry self out to Jersey foran expensive opportunity to see Eric Clapton and Stevie Winwood inJersey--even though you saw pretty much the same show at the Garden lastyear, also expensive, and recently saw Clapton with the Allman Brothersfrom like, the second row, two nights in a row at the Beacon, or ElvisCostello also at said Beacon, which is lovely, beautifully redone, andwalkable to boot, or, the dark horse third choice, take a couple ofsubways downtown to see Booker T and his band at Joe's Pub which is alsolovely and tiny and has wonderful soft couches.
I picked the latter, as you may have guessed, based on the fact thatClapton/Winwood would be a rerun, cost a fortune, and has been capturedon Blu-Ray, which is fantastic, and I've seen Elvis more times than I cancount, but I've never seen Booker T. Like Sal, I love the new albumPotato Hole, and I also loved the lengthy interview he did recently withTerry Gross, (whom I have also come to love of late).
It was a great choice. He did not have Neil Young and the DBTs as hisband, but the music was wonderful, and the dignity and bearing andeloquence of the man who founded Booker T and the MGs when he wasseventeen was downright inspiring. I loved the way he gave us thehistorical, psychological and musical backgrounds of the songs theyplayed and loved, loved, loved the lengthy version they did of "Time isTight" which kicks "Green Onions's" proverbial posterior any day of theweek. As a historian, I felt I had a more complete understanding of thedevelopment of the Memphis Stax/Volt sound and of the man who as much asanyone, was responsible for creating it. Plus it was just a lot of fun.Get the album. Trust me. Listen here.
Name: Michael Bartley
Hometown: Fort Collins, CO
I would add Mattie Ross to Pierce's list of great child narrators.True Grit, the novel not the movie, by Charles Portis remainscriminally under-appreciated due, I suppose, to the dukification ofthe film. John Wayne's Rooster simply overwhelms every character.Give your head a couple of hard shakes to remove his big blusteryimage from you brain pan and dig into a novel that is a subtlewonder. Mattie Ross is one of the great characters of Americanliterature. This is a book that belongs in our schools alongside Tomand Huck and Scout.
Name: Jeff Stivers
Hometown: Richmond, CA
Not to step into the whole California budget/bond mess, but...
Our problem stems from the infamous Prop 13, which did two things*,one of which was to require a 2/3 legislative majority to raise (orinitiate) any tax at both the state and local levels. This waspassed in 1978.
You can just imagine how far out of sync our revenues are with ourcurrent fiscal needs by now. Thirty years of normal inflation withoutrevenue increases would be sufficient to put a serious hurt onthings. Add to that the $9 billion that went to Enron when they gamedCA (still floating around as unpaid bonds), and the current demandsfrom the "Bush boom," and that puts us $20+ billion in the hole (someclaim $40b).
Now we're held captive by Jurassic supply-siders and proto-Reaganites, who will not allow any taxes to be raised--no matter what. I imagine they're smiling inwardly as their dream of destroying government comes to pass.
(* The other thing it did was decouple property taxes from educationfinancing. This drove public education in CA from the top 20 inthe country to the bottom 20.)
Name: Bob Rothman
Hometown: Providence, RI
So nice of Charlie Pierce to recognize T.R. Pearson's A Short Historyof a Small Place. I've always thought of it as an unsung masterpiece,so I'm glad someone is singing of it.
I once heard him at a reading say that Mark Twain was a majorinfluence (he complained that people "keep throwing Faulkner" athim), so I'm sure he'd be pleased that Pierce put him in the samesentence as Mr. Clemens.
Name: David K. Richie
Hometown: Birmingham, AL
Just because I haven't weighed in with my right wing, neo-fascist,business owner, morally degenerate, polluter opinions recently, do notfor a minute console yourself with notion that I may not be readingevery word. I know you will lose a lot of sleep thinking about that!
I am getting nauseous with the Sotomajor thing. This able andobviously qualified person will be confirmed no matter what theloopier element of the conservative wing of the republican party--lower case intended--tries. Yes, yes there will be some obligatorygrilling at the hearings. After which she will be easily confirmed.
The only thing the looney left is getting out of this is morepunching bag time with wing nuts already thoroughly discredited.
A pleasure to be able to talk with you again.
From the Red States,
P.S. to Pierce: Ray Nagin wrote a very nice thank you letter to thepeople of Birmingham for our support during the recent unpleasantness. 'Twas a little looney in the Nagin tradition but a very nice gesture from the city you and I love.
Name: Roger H. Werner
Hometown: Stockton, CA
I read your ThinkAgain column and while I agreed with virtuallyeverything you say, there is one very important point I think youignored. The right-wing windbags who pontificate with sickeningregularity don't have much of an audience beyond that 28% who stillcling to a dead GOP agenda. Whether Gingrich-Limbaugh-etc. like it ornot, I am not aware of very many people who pay the slightestattention to what these people have to say. I do understand that the "Inside the Beltway Mentality" people remain breathlessat every word the punditocracy says, but in the real world few peopleare paying any attention. Inasmuch as Sotomayor has already beenapproved by the Senate twice, she is very likely to pass muster onceagain and if she does not, those blocking her nomination are going tobe viewed with disdain since there's no justification for such anaction beyond politics and ideology. From where I sit, the citizensand voters of this country are sick to death of both. In any event, Ienjoyed your thoughts on this important matter.
Name: Ann Donahue
Hometown: Shelburne, VT
While I agree with everything Charlie Pierce says about Obama'sresponse to Dr. Tiller's murder, the author of Idiot America (terrific, by the way) should know the so-called dialogue on abortionput forward by the media and our legislative bodies has alreadycreated an equivalence between the violence perpetrated by the anti-choicers and the legal right of women to decide whether or not tohave a child. Abortion itself is regularly described by the anti-choicers as violent and murder and the media and legislators havenot been slow to promote the reasonableness of this absurd position.When legislators vote to interfere with a decision that properlybelongs to a woman and her doctor--whether by restricting late-termabortions, requiring doctors to describe graphically every detail ofthe medical procedure and show a woman pictures of aborted fetuses,or allowing pharmacists to refuse dispensing legal drugs (are vegansallowed to get jobs in delis and then refuse to make thesandwiches?)--they are promoting the argument that abortion is a formof violence and creating a moral equivalency between physicians whoperform a legal medical procedure and those who break the law toprevent it. Obama's attempt to condemn Tiller's murder in the contextof "our [profound] differences as Americans over difficult issuessuch as abortion" unfortunately furthers this meme.
Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL
Charlie Pierce may be right about the child narrators he mentions,except in one instance: Twain's child was Huck and only Huck. TomSawyer never narrated anything.
Name: Richard Sattler
Hometown: Missoula, MT
I have to disagree in part with Pierce (always an intimidatingprospect). It is not merely enough to "tell one side of the debate toknock it the hell off." It is long past time to minimally chargegroups like Operation Rescue with aiding and abetting terrorist, justas we have done with a number of Muslim groups. Even better would beto directly classify them as known terrorist organizations. Dr.Tiller's assassin is quite simply a domestic terrorist andorganizations like these are at minimum giving them aid and comfort.Indeed they are directly inciting these terrorists to action, if notgiving them direct support and assistance. We can no longer pretendthat this is an "honest difference of opinion" when one sideroutinely resorts to acts of intimidation and violence.
Name: Stephen Carver
Hometown: Los Angeles
Overall, I am truly amazed by the political insight and execution ofthis particular trip overseas.
1. He visits Saudia Arabia, spiritual home of Islam and meets withthe King, protector of the two most holy Islamic sites (Mecca andMedina). They meet at the King's ranch... shades of Bush bringingstate leaders to his ranch?
2. Visits Cairo, hotbed of radical Islam, home to the proverbial Islamic "street" and one of the oldest continual civilizations onearth, and gives a major speech at a university known for its secularviews, in which he asks the three major parties to peace (Muslims,Jews and Christians) to get over themselves and find common ground.The speech is met with both positive and negative reviews (asexpected), because he knew he wouldn't make everyone happy.
3. The next day he visits Buchenwald with Elie Weisel and the GermanChancellor, reminding everyone that the Jews (who don't like beingblamed for anything going on in the Middle East) are victims in allof this, too. He also confirms his statement of a day before that notonly does Israel have the right to exist, but that the Israelipoliticians, understanding and having lived through holocaust, needto bring real compassion to the table with the Palestinians, not justtheir overbearing arms superiority.
Political masterstroke, and a very Christian thing to do. Blessed bethe peacemakers for they are the sons of God.
I get the feeling watching Obama that he's at least two steps aheadof everyone else. The world is seeing the political skill of the manwho beat the Clinton machine; and Hillary is now at his side.