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Eric Alterman | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

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

Daydream Believer

We've got a new "Think Again" column here called, "FCC, Meet 'Change'" and a new Nation column called "Save the News, not the Newspaper," here.

They give awards for this? And this?  Here's some advice. Next time someone offers you the Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism, given out at the National Press Foundation's annual dinner, ask for the cash instead.

Also, in case you weren't aware, I am working together with Hamas to threaten the lives of nice, quiet, polite, Jewish folk, here.

Danielle Ivory writes:

Before diving into any congressional hearing on the economic crisis, it would be a good idea to watch this interview with William Grieder. He discusses the "awkward straddle the Democrats have tried to manage" between moneyed-donors in the financial industry and working-class, labor-oriented constituents.

Keeping that (and this) in mind, I'm finding it difficult to say anything nice about yesterday's TARP hearing, featuring those eight lucky bank CEOs. I fail to see the point of inviting eight people to testify all at the same time--unless the point is to create a circus.  There wasn't enough time or focus.  A few talented cross-examiners (again, I give kudos to Alan Grayson, and also Maxine Waters) gave the panelists a run for their money, but the whole ordeal just seemed hopeless to me. I would have liked to see one or two CEOs parceled out to one hearing at a time, ala the solo act of Dick Fuld or the AIG men. I easily could have spent three or four hours listening to Vikram Pandit or Ken Lewis answer questions. But...alas, it was not to be.

 

In other hearing-related news, late last week, the leaders of three TARP oversight programs testified before the Senate Banking Committee about their progress thus far. 

It was fascinating, but I found myself thinking, Where's Ben Bernanke?

I don't have random daydreams about Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, although I guess it might seem that way right now. He's the chair of the Financial Stability Oversight Board. FSOB. Pronounced Fin (like a shark) Sob (like weep). It is a real oversight entity, created when the bailout passed. It has a membership of five, including the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal System (duh), the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Anyone could have been voted into the chairmanship position except the Treasury Secretary. Because the purpose of the group is to, at least in part, oversee the actions of the Treasury Secretary.  You see how awkward that would be?

But quite seriously, few people understand what the board's purpose is.  Beverley Lumpkin, an investigator at the Project On Government Oversight, who has turned her attention toward the bailout, laughed when I asked her about it.  "It's a joke," she said, "It's not oversight." She recently wrote on the POGO blog: "We don't include the Financial Stability Oversight Board [as part of TARP oversight] since it comprises the top federal financial officials, so therefore is just a bunch a guys overseeing themselves."

That does generally appear to be the case. I spoke with Thomas J. McCool, who not only has the best name ever (second only to Chase Boston, with whom I attended high school), but also has been helping lead the GAO effort to examine TARP accountability (i.e. the wonderful reports that will emerge every 60 days forever, unless someone changes the law). Certainly the other oversight boards do think of FSOB as part of the, shall we say, "official" TARP oversight community and they keep in touch. The GAO, for instance, teleconferences with FSOB every two weeks. But, even so, McCool admitted, "Honestly, I don't know what they do." Which is strange since FSOB, the most opaque of all of the oversight teams, posts its meeting minutes online. (They reveal almost nothing, except that there were discussions with materials from various agencies about the economic situation that took place.)

I'm still on a mission to figure out exactly what FSOB does. If you have leads, shoot me an email.

Hmm...one last thought about yesterday's parade of CEOs. Is there a collective noun for CEOs?  I've heard of a bevy of beauties and, my personal favorite, a flutter of cardiologists. But how would you address a handful of CEOs? A parachute of CEOs? Maybe a talent of gamblers would be fitting? James Lipton, if you're out there, I am in need of your expert assistance...

Watch ANP's video, "William Greider on the Democrats' Money Dilemma," here.

Danielle Ivory is a reporter and producer for the American News Project.  She is currently covering the economic crisis in Washington, DC. 

This week on Moyers:

This week on Bill Moyers Journal, former chief economist of theInternational Monetary Fund (IMF), MIT Sloan School of Managementprofessor and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for InternationalEconomics, Simon Johnson examines President Obama's plan for economicrecovery.  Johnson discusses the roots of this crisis, dissects thefailures of the finance industry and the previous Troubled Asset ReliefProgram (TARP), and offers his insight into what will and won't work inthe latest attempt to fix the economy.  And, Bill Moyers sits down withrenowned poet Nikki Giovanni, whose twenty-seven books have spanned the themes of race, politics, sex and violence.  Nikki Giovanni is DistinguishedProfessor of English at Virginia Tech. 

 

Alter-review: I saw a matinee of Becky Shaw yesterday afternoon, the new play by Gina Gionfriddo, who is a Law and & Order writer but obviously destined for much larger things. On the one hand it's a play about a bad date; on the other, it's a wonderfully pathological dissection of  the manner that altruism is often something other than what altruists like to think it is and that lying can frequently be a good idea, from both a practical and moral perspective. The cast is terrific, and struck me as quite unusual in their everyday appearances, giving their characters more room to roam, and give the audience more opportunity to think about the various points each was making. One point however Ms. Gionfriddo: Hillary Clinton did not lose the election because she forgave her husband; She became a senator because she did.  She lost the election because she voted for a stupid war and could not find a way to admit her mistake.  The cast is David Wilson Barnes (Max), Emily Bergl (Suzanna), Kelly Bishop (Susan), Annie Parisse (Becky) and Thomas Sadoski (Andrew). The play is at the intimate Second Stage Theater on West 43rd Street,

The mail:

Name:    Sam Nixon
Hometown:  Tempe, Arizona

  Dr. Alterman,

  As s a reader who's followed you since your MSNBC days, I'm surprised  by the negativity here, at The Nation.

  Anyway...

  Pierce's most recent comments about the Duggars made me wish that  PBS's This Is America with Dennis Wholey could have aired a dark,  misanthropic special about the family, hosted by, say, the late  George Carlin or a severely distempered John Malkovich. The Duggar  family's story seems like great prequel material for Cormac  McCarthy's The Road... 

Name:    Jackson Johnson
Hometown:  Studio City, CA

  Eric,

  For your information, Jackson Browne is a man and he is very  much alive.

Eric replies: "WTF?"

Name:    Mike
Hometown:  Silver Spring, MD

  Dear Dr. Alterman,

  In reference to the letter about "Late for the Sky" being about  suicide: I had no idea what you were talking about, but after  Googling it I can now report that "Late for the Sky" was the Jackson  Browne album that came out in 1974, but Mr. Browne's wife committed  suicide in 1976, and the album he released after that tragedy was  The Pretender in 1976.

Eric replies: oh, ok, that must be what the clever fellow above is addressing, somehow. Well, thanks for the correction. Apologies for the error. 

Name:    Steven Portela
Hometown:  Fresno, CA

  I don't wanna get nitpicky, but Late for the Sky came out in 1974,  and his wife died in 1976.

  And for the sake of clarification, my intended meaning was that the  album should be included on a list of those to get you through a  divorce/breakup. 

Eric replies: Ok, bub, but that's not what I meant.

Name:    Michael Bowen
Hometown:  Monroe, NY

  Eric, old buddy, you might think you know Richard Thompson, but if  you include "Shoot Out The Lights" in a divorce album list, you're  off base. There may have been some problems in the Richard & Linda  marriage beforehand, but the original version (produced by Gerry  "Baker Street" Rafferty) of SOTL was written and recorded over a year  before Thompson even met Nancy Covey, the woman he left Linda for.

 

Name:    K. Castro
Hometown:  The Left Coast

  Doc: Yes, the Boss was an embarrassment at the Super Bowl halftime  show. Way too much "ham", and too little rock and roll. I mean, Petty  showed how to do it last year--just get up there and play the music,  man. What was that with Clemons' wardrobe? Was he doing a Darth  Vader impression? Seriously, although we no longer have to sit  through such pablum as Up With People (1986), New Kids on the Block  (1991), Jessica Simpson & Kid Rock (2004), here's a tip: just play  the friggin' music. They made the Boss "disneyfied", all this glitter  and glam, when what Springsteen is known for is rock. I mean, what  was with that major league slide into the camera?? It's all over  YouTube.... I agree with Bob Thena's letter: "the fervor seemed  fake." Next year, let's just invite Phil, Bob, Mickey, Billy (and  whoever sits in for Jerry), and give it back to the music.

Slacker Friday

We've got a new Think Again column here called "William Kristol: Journalism's Indispensable Man."

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA.

Hey Doc:

"Blue winds blown my dreams away/My darling's flown and she's goneto stay."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Gimme A Pigfoot (And A Reefer)" (Bessie Smith.)

It was revealed this week that I'd failed to pay thewitholding tax on the money I paid to the 9,000 Bulgarian sopranos who stood in the middle of the Danube singing to mystified Hungarians my newly writtencantata on the topic of how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: You can sell The Politico pretty much anything these days. I swear, if this were forty years ago, there wouldn't be anything in their offices except partial sets of encyclopedias.

Part The Second: What's the over/under on the number of days beforesome Beltway invertebrate suggests that what the Obama administrationneeds to pull itself out of the ditch is a "seasoned Washington veteran, likeDavid Gergen." I'll set it at five.

Part The Third: Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's the, well,Bollocks.

Part The Last: Anyone (coughTheLandlordcough) who is critical ofthe Springsteen halftime show for being hammy has obviously forgotten thatsubstantial helpings of ham (and cheese) have always been part of thedeal with him. Remember the hokey faux-James Brown collapse that alwayshighlighted "Quarter To Three"?

As part of my ceaseless attempts to drive myself crazy, I tunedinto The Learning Channel the other night and watched that show about theDuggars, the pullulating clan down in Arkansas who are now up to twofull baseball teams of children. In the first episode, Papa Jesus Bob andMomma Duggar were marrying off their eldest in what appeared to be a vaguelyChristian ceremony conducted at the First Church Of Function Rooms. Thebride and groom shared their very first kiss at the altar. There was nodrinking and no dancing afterwords. Then the camera crew followed thehappy couple all the way to the door of their hotel room. Hot-CHA! I was moreentertained by the appearance earlier of the father of the bride, whoexplained that the object of the ceremony was to transfer the"authority" over his daughter from himself to young LochinDuggar. I was surprised he just didn't take a cow and a couple of chickens in exchange and spare himself the expense of renting the church.

Then, on the next episode of What In The Christ Was I Thinking?,the Duggars all went to volunteer at a nearby wild animal park. Papa JesusBob called the place one of the great family attractions in "mid-America."(Dude, Iowa is "mid-America." You live in Arkansas, which is the South.Deal with it, Gomer.) Anyway, this was described by the Duggars as partof the Christian duty to give witness through service. (The fact thatfeeding wild animals is a lot cooler witness to give than, say, volunteering atan AIDS clinic or a homeless shelter--and that it's unquestionably lessbased in Scripture--went largely unexamined.) Anyway, the Duggars andtheir animal buddies had a fine time of it. Eventually, they allgathered in the monkeyhouse and watched the chimps. Out of nowhere, Papa JesusBob announced that, "There's no way man is descended from apes." Then, oneof the younger Duggars explained that, "Dad told us that we didn;t evolvefrom apes, but that sometimes, the younger kids act like it." Hey-YO!

Creationist propaganda. On The Learning Channel. Wow.

Name: Seymour Friendly
Hometown: Seattle, WA

Re: Israeli film

How sweet it is that Israelis are willing to make up movies exploring fictitious cultural collisions (as if any Israeli Defense Minister would ever live next to a Palestinian, whom the Minister would view as sub- human at best) after the festival of butchery in Gaza.

How can you blithely watch films produced by a nation that engages in mass-murder as a form of electoral maneuvering?

Eric replies: Dear Smartass. The movie is not fictional. And obviously, it was made long before the invasion of Gaza. And your "question" makes about as much sense as the rest of your letter, which is to say none whatsoever.

Name: Steven Portela
Hometown: Fresno, CA

Dude, tell me you didn't purposely omit Late For The Sky from what I presume was a list of albums to get you through a divorce.

Eric replies: Late For the Sky is not a divorce album, bub. She committed suicide.

Super Bowl Shuffle

We've got a new Think Again column herecalled "William Kristol: Journalism's Indispensable Man."

Here are a few arguments I've made recently, with the categories onlyimplied, inspired by all the guessing about what Bruce would play at theSuper Bowl:

1) Born to Run for historical purposes, but Tunnel of Love toactually put on; Wild and Innocent is eliminated by virtue of theinclusion of Wild Billy.

2) When you're alone, you're alone
When you're alone, you're alone
When you're alone, you're alone
When you're alone, you ain't nuthin' but alone.

(Also most impressive violation of grammatical rules in such a shortspace ...)

3) Blood on the Tracks, but the most underrated is a tie between Street Legal and Empire Burlesque, the latter of which not even Dylan thinks is any good.

Another aside: Perhaps one needs to be divorced to pick the above:

4) Blood on the Tracks
Tunnel of Love
Shoot Out the Lights

5) Tough one: I'll cheat because I can't remember which is on Revolverand which is on Rubber Soul so I pick the two of them, both of whichwould easily fit on a single cd. But Abbey Road is an inspired choiceand easily arguable.

6) Exile, Beggars Banquet, Some Girls

7) Rust Never Sleeps, Tonight's the Night, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

8) Anna Karenina; Lost Illusions; The Counterlife.

9) Casablanca, His Girl Friday, All About Eve

10) Manhattan, Diner, Groundhog Day

Good line department:

I keep pushing the Israeli film industry. I saw a bunch earlier thisyear at the Hamptons Film Festival, the Israeli Film Festival, and mostrecently, the Jewish Film Festival, which just ended at Lincoln Center.Two of my favorites--besides The Secrets--which I flogged quite a bitback when we were at Media Matters, were For My Father, which tells the story of a would-be Palestinian suicide bomber who falls in lovewith an Israeli girl who is estranged from her Orthodox family, directedby Dror Zahavi and written by Ido Dror, and The Lemon Tree, a dramabased on the true story of a Palestinian widow who decides to defend herlemontree grove when a new Israeli Defense Minister moves next to herand his security detail decides it represents a potential threat to hissafety, directed by Eran Riklis and written by Ricklis with Suha Arraf.See either one if you get a chance. I liked both at least as much asthe also excellent Waltz With Bashir, The Band's Visit and Beaufort.

But the last film I saw at the Jewish Film Festival was a 3.5 hourdocumentary on the history of French Jews. It was really well made butafter the credits came this killer line that I think should be preservedfor all time. (I paraphrase...)

"The only solution is forced conversion. All Frenchmen must be forced tobecome Jewish. That way, everyone will have a sense of humor andeverybody will have money."

Lifted, in its entirety, from Mickey Kaus:

Bully VictimPosted Wednesday, February 04, 2009 3:15 PM | By Mickey Kaus

Andrew Sullivan writes:

In 2002, we were told, and many of us rolled over, that we had no choicebut to invade Iraq. And that time was of the essence. And that inactionwas far more dangerous than action.

Funny, I remember Andrew as the one doing the rolling. .... [2002 DailyDish archives conveniently inaccessible] ... [Thks to alert kf readerBJH.] ...3:39 P.M.

The Mail:

Name: Timothy Barrett
Hometown: Louisville, Ky

I just want to address the Mandate Myth manufactured by GOP flaks who want to relive the days of Reagan. They have really lowered the bar and Democrats are happy to play that game with Obama.

But look at this:

Election Electoral College - Popular Vote

2008 Obama beat McCain - 365-173 53.6%

2004 Bush beat Kerry - 286-251 51.4%

2000 Bush beat Gore - 271-266 49.7%

1996 Cinton beat Dole - 379-159 56.7%

1992 Clinton beat Bush - 370-168 53.4%

1988 Bush beat Dukakis - 426-111 53.9%

1984 Reagan beat Mondale - 525-13 59.2%

1980 Reagan beat Carter - 489-49 55%

These percentages of the popular vote don't include any votes for other candidates. It's just who voted for these two and what the winner got of those voters. I agree that spoilers helped in some cases, but I think this is a more fair comparison.

So, Looking at the electoral vote, it is easy to see that, for example, Reagan had a mandate to go conservative after Carter and this majority movement to the right was compelling. Really? With just 55% to 59% of the popular vote? Did the voters really hate the liberal policies of Jimmy Carter that much?

The fact is, that, yes, about half the time, Reagan policies enjoyed majority support during his presidency. But look at Reagan's approval ratings from the ABCNEWS/Washington Post polls at selected notable points during his presidency:

Approve Disapprove
7/30/01 66% 27 (Retrospective)
7/31/00 64 26 (Retrospective) '81-'88 57 39 (Career average)
7/32/87 44 51 Low -- Iran-Contra
7/33/86 70 26 High -- Libya bombing
7/34/83 42 54 Low -- unemployment
7/35/81 73 19 High -- shot by Hinckley

A 57% Career Average popularity poll (actually quite good--I did like Reagan at the time, too, but when more facts came to my attention on U.S. backed wholesale civilian murder in El Salvador and Guatemala with Reagan's full knowledge, he's a mixed bag now.). Reagan is a great example, Franklin Roosevelt would have worked as well. He was equally, if not more, popular. But we didn't have as many polls in those days.

My point is: Could it be that, really, voters just didn't like Carter or Mondale enough? Just like they didn't like McCain, Bush, Kerry, Gore, Dole, Bush, and Dukakis (respectively)? Could it be that our country has always been about 30% moderates, 30% knee-jerk liberals and 30% knee-jerk conservatives all along? But knows a really good candidate when it sees one?

After all, wouldn't I have preferred someone, usually anyone, but Kerry, Gore, Dukakis and Mondale (I actually liked Carter alot). And wouldn't the GOP have preferred to put up a better candidate than McCain, Bush in 2000, Dole, and earlier: Ford, Goldwater, Dewey, Wilkie, Landon (?), Smith (?), and Hoover? Hell, yes!

But those are the candidates we had and each side, mostly, (Goldwater, Kerry and Gore are exceptions, at least, arguably) deserved the losses it got for it's lack of good leadership choices.

But isn't it just a slight movement, sometimes 10%, from one side to the other by voters who are ready for a change of direction. Although I do feel that, Fox News be damned, the center is not what they think it is, it's a lot further left.

Therefore, I think Americans agree upon a lot more than not, like a strong military and cost effective security, smart domestic programs, some help in retirement, alot of help with healthcare, a lot of fairness (American's are big on getting a "fair share") and a lot of government oversight on products (we sue relentlessly), finance and behavior (we really like to dictate behavior).

We aren't all that far apart. Which is generally why our elections are 99.9% violence free and the transfer of power is so smooth that we are the envy of the world.

The pendulum has only swung slightly left of center now. It may well swing slightly right of center again in 8 years. So, how about trying bipartisanship as rule rather than a fresh new direction.

Name: Bob Thena
Hometown: Easton, PA

When the halftime show started with that very hokey silhouette of Bruce and Clemons I was feeling like "Oh boy...is this a Don Kirshner production?" I mean I understand that it was the Super Bowl and all, but geezzz...it only got more silly.

Bruce is a Rock and Roll evangelist on stage. He stalks the stage like a preacher in a tent. I didn't get it for a long time, but I do now. Sunday he reminded more of Burt Lancaster as Elmer Gantry then the young Billy Graham I saw when I was 8 years old. The fervor seemed faked.

That being said, Bruce is the headliner at Bonnoroo this year. So I intend to drag these old bones to Tennessee, sleep in a tent and enjoy the show.

Name: Ken Severson
Hometown: Lenexa, KS

I read about the GOP's list of "wasteful spending". Most of the items I saw there would employ good sized construction crews. Having been on those crews when I was younger, I believe that money would be doing exactly what we want to do. Help ordinary folks out and get something we can see out of it. As opposed to the bank bailouts or proposed corporate tax breaks the right wing loves. A few questionable items were also in the list but I have never seen or heard of a truly clean bill.

Second, I liked Bruce's halftime show. Its a fast show with little time for truly artistic work. But it was a nice break from the dreck we have seen lately. And it looked like he was having fun. I enjoyed it and so did all the folks I watched the game with. So lighten up.

Name: Michael Rapoport
Hometown: Montclair, NJ

Eric:

You thought Bruce's Super Bowl performance was "embarrassing"? Really? I thought it was terrific, given the built-in limitations of time and setting. Sure, it was corny - but I thought the carnival- barker theatrics that have long been a part of Bruce's onstage persona fit perfectly in the context of a halftime show. He clearly made a conscious decision that he wanted to cram as much of the flavor of a full E Street Band concert as he could into 12 minutes, and I think he did a better job at that than you're giving him credit for.

Besides, this show wasn't for the longtime fans like you and I. I think he did the Super Bowl for two reasons, beyond the obvious "mercenary" reasons of promoting the new album that he cited: To get his music in front of a wider, younger audience that otherwise wouldn't dream of listening to a Bruce Springsteen album, and to do something new, something he's never done in 35- plus years of stardom. Same reasons he's headlining a festival like Bonnaroo, I'm sure.

Name: Michael Bartley
Hometown: Fort Collins

Eric,

I'm a long time reader thankful for your penetrating media analysis. Best of all, just as I'm about to buckle under the weight of another day of media induced Joe the Plumbers terrorist fist bumps, you manage to lighten the load with your reviews. Agree or disagree, I always find you interesting. So, now I'll respectfully disagree with your Springsteen Super Bowl review. Embarrassed? Seriously? Come on, what's wrong with a little ham piled high on a sandwich every once in while? More importantly, your link to Metcalf made my brain swell. Holy moly Stephen will we ever laugh again? I keep hearing about these serious times. Well, seems to me in tough times laughter and joy and a fierce desire to stand and shout is exactly what we need. Or, as Ed Abbey would say, we need to "outlive the bastards." For me, a joyful Springsteen is just the tonic I need in order to fight and live another day.

Name: Bob Fasinski
Hometown: Flemington, NJ

Dr. A,

So if you thought Bruce's performance at the Super bowl was an embarrassment , I would have to ask, what were your expectations? The man who said he was saved by rock and roll, said in the Times, his take on the Super Bowl halftime is that it is a 12 minute party. If you read that, how could his performance be an embarrassment? Not enough energy? Not enough excitement? Or too much of both? What did you want him to do? Thank goodness he did what he felt he should do. Which is take the party to a higher level.

This was no time to do anything other than stoke the fires. He was intense, professional, exciting, playful, and in tune with the moment. Ultimately, he did what he does best, he partied all night long. And I would bet a year of you income that he is in no way embarrassed by his performance.

And that article by Stephen Metcalf? The only thing smart about it was that he didn't misspell any words.

Name: Jim Peale
Hometown: Swanzey, NH

Read, and agreed with much of, the Metcalf piece. I liked the music but wondered what was with the hokey stage stuff. I thought, for instance, that Bruce wasn't a fan of the "Boss" designation. On the other hand, isn't this and the last couple of years an indication that the NFL is finally being run to some extent by people who don't consider Wayne Newton to be dangerously anarchic?

Name: Larry Cowan
Hometown: Temple, TX

Good Choice Bruce. Dr. Isenberg's work, Fallen Founder, shows the difference between a "Just the facts, Ma'am" academic history and popular history as evidenced by Chernow's hagiography, Alexander Hamilton.

Name: Bill Skeels
Hometown: Raleigh, NC

"I try to make it a practice of not writing about the cd of my musician friends, because it feels like hack work."

With appropriate notice, it shouldn't be, and I think it would be worth it. With the altogether stunning exception of you barely knowing who Richard Thompson is, your musical knowledge is deep, wide and interesting, no less because you know some of the major and minor players of the day. I'd say, go for it.

Eric replies: Dude, I know all about Richard Thompson. Comenow...

At Last...

Danielle Ivory writes:

Five minutes just breezes by. At least this is what I've gathered fromwatching the recent House Financial Services hearings on the economiccrisis. It's super hard to do any serious fact-finding aboutcatastrophic economic decisions in just five minutes. So why bother? Even if you're a powerful Congressional leader, tasked with oversightand sitting within throwing distance of one of the dudes running thebailout and the whole thing is being broadcast on national television,it's just easier to use your precious five minutes to pontificategenerically or hurl abuse generically or to embarrass the Hill-mate whomay or may not have said something mean about you to the AssociatedPress.

Which is why I was so pleasantly surprised when I saw Rep. Alan Grayson(D-FL) take the road less traveled and open a can o' whoop-ass on ViceChairman of the Federal Reserve, Donald Kohn. If time flies when you'rehaving fun, this five-minute back-and-forth must have dragged onfor-EVER for Kohn. While newbie Grayson, who used to prosecute Iraq warprofiteers and happens to look a bit like an old-timey boxer, punchedaway, Kohn admitted that the Fed's balance sheet had spent (lent, Imeant, lent!) nearly $2 trillion just since September. But he refusedto divulge who had received the money and how much. This brief rumbleappears to have prompted a full hearing on transparency at the FederalReserve, starring Chairman Ben Bernanke, to be held on February 10. When I asked Grayson about the exchange, he replied simply: "I wanted toknow what was going on with the Fed and the one guy who potentiallycould tell me what was going on was sitting right in front of me." Fairenough.

The truth is that squeezing financial information out of the FederalReserve Board against their will is a lot like trying to squeeze blood out ofa turnip (or turnip juice out of a turnip--no easy task, though thehealth benefits are apparently far-reaching). The TARP Program'sbuilt-in oversight mechanisms have been criticized, but at least it hasbuilt-in oversight mechanisms--namely, the Government AccountabilityOffice, Elizabeth Warren's Congressional Oversight Panel, theself-reflective Financial Stability Oversight Board, and now,apparently, an independent bailout board. On the other hand, the onlybody with any authority over the Federal Reserve is Congress, and theyusually try to keep their distance to avoid political poisoning.

There are basic "oversight" differences between the Treasury and the Fedas well. The President can fire the Treasury Secretary at any time ifthere are policy disagreements. Meanwhile, the Fed Chairman can't befired before his term is up, except for cause--ie. he doesn't show upfor work, he's prowling after his staff, he's drunk all day long, orhe's taking money directly out of the printer and stuffing it in hiswallet. Also, the Treasury's $700 billion in TARP funds had to beappropriated by Congress, whereas the Fed can print its own money, even$2 trillion. And, according to section 13-3 of the Federal Reserve Act,in "exigent circumstances" (an economic meltdown, perhaps) the Fed canspend (lend,I meant, lend!!) to its heart's content and it doesn't have to disclose the names of individual recipients nor the amount theyreceived. The Fed says the loans are safe, but, frankly, without anytransparency, how could you possibly have any clue?

If Congress doesn't ask (and demand answers), then options for retrievalare slim. Bloomberg News unsuccessfully sued the Federal Reserve inNovember to force disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. Toobad that FOIA actually contains a built-in exemption relating to therecords of financial institutions, created by the banking lobby. Georgetown law professor and FOIA expert, David Vladeck, told theAmerican News Project that in the year before FOIA passed, "two industries came to Congress, asking for special exemptions, the oil and gas industry...and the banking industry, which got a special exemption. It was a very broad exemption. It was a last-minute add-on to the statute. It was plainly a result of intense lobbying by the financialinstitution community."

So, while journalists doggedly continue to crack their heads against thewall, Congress could save us all some time and use their five minutes abit more wisely.

Watch ANP's video coverage of this story here.

I try to make it a practice of not writing about the cd of my musicianfriends, because it feels like hack work. But I also want to do what Ican to let people know about music they might appreciate and enjoy. Sothe solution is to ask the musicians themselves to do the writing, andexplain what he or she had in mind. So here's my friend CarolineDoctorow on her new cd, Another Country:

Another Country...the songs of Mimi and Richard Farina.

Another Country is a collection of songs written and performedby the 1960 folk artists Mimi and Richard Farina. The record boastssome very special guests, Nanci Griffith, John Sebastian, Maura Kennedy,Happy Traum and Eric Weissberg. It's the first full audio retrospectiveof Farina's long neglected catalog.

The project was recorded over a period of just three weeks thispast August with multi-instrumentalist Pete Kennedy as producer. I hired Pete sight unseen, and I suppose looking back I was taking a realgamble. He and his wife singer Maura Kennedy were to stay with us formuch of August while completing the project. Pete had come highlyrecommended by the folk community and I had also heard from a DJ friendin Boston that he owned and played an electric sitar, a somewhat rareinstrument which was featured in the original 1960's Farina recordingsfor Vanguard. So I took this sitar playing as a good sign and on blindfaith and sealed the deal.

Much to my delight Pete, as it turned out, is one of those raremusical genius types who plays anything and everything with strings. Heis enormously versed in the folk tradition and already knew all aboutRichard Farina's songs. I had some concerns before we began as to thedirection to take with the material. A project like this one couldeasily be viewed as "nostalgic" and become a train wreck in less skilledhands. But when I first heard his arrangement for the track "BoldMarauder" all my worries melted away and I realized how lucky a gamble I had taken. Pete set the songs in a contemporary, almost swampy/rootsbackground that seems to really work. Maura is the best harmony singeryou will ever meet, and lent her beautiful voice to the project aswell. Together these two talented people form another prominent husbandand wife folk duo, The Kennedys and they have many recording to theircredit. Below are some words Pete helped me put down about the everillusive Richard Farina...

I hope you like their record....

Richard Farina is known and yet not known, by a small coterie whoremember or who have researched the Greenwich Village folk scene of themid-sixties. While Bob Dylan is generally regarded as the strong man ofthat scene, the chosen one with the strongest connection the Beats,there was in fact a dark counterpart and an equal adversary to Dylan. Hewas a Cuban-Irish American and a bold adventurer and song writer namedRichard Farina.

Farina will always remain an enigmatic figure in pop culture. Everytime you think you have him tucked into a neat corner of history hedisappears around the next bend. In his brief action packed life, hemanaged to record two wonderfully eclectic albums with his wife Mimi,(who was also Joan Baez's younger sister and founder of Bread andRoses) He died on a motorcycle in 1966 at the age of twenty nine,pulling off the ultimate disappearing act just days after thepublication of his first novel Been Down So Long it Looks Like Up To Me(Random House)

But there is a cache of songs, and Another Country examines thesesongs in detail. Farina's lyrics somehow remain on the cutting edge oftoday in their unflinching, even ruthless examination of relationshipsbetween lovers, nations, and cultures. As a lyricist, his three prongedattack springs from his ability to seamlessly blend hipster slang(always with a scenic of self parody) with archaic language of themysterious old Child ballads, and embossing the whole thing with ageneral patina of literacy. This trick bag of strengths sets him apartfrom the entire pack of Greenwich Village songwriters.

www.carolinedoctorow.com

Stephen Metcalf has a smart piece on Bruce's--to me--embarrassing SuperBowl performance here, but to me it wasn't the song selection that rankled, it was the hamminess. It's onething to do all those things over the course of 3.5 hours. To do it intwelve minutes felt ridiculous.

Meanwhile, here is Bruce's (studio) bookshelf and coffee table aspictured in Rolling Stone and figured out by someone with a magnifyingglass and a bit of time on his or her hands. Congratulations to all thenominees:

Roget's Thesaurus
The Holy Bible
Bob Dylan's Lyrics
Black Tickets, by Jayne Anne Phillips
White Noise, by Don DeLillo
American Pastoral, by Philip Roth
The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
Cold New World, by William Finnegan
Country: The Music and the Musicians
American Moderns, by Christine Stansell
Real Boys, by William Pollack
At the Center of the Storm, by George Tenet
When We Were Good, by Robert S. Cantwell
John Wayne's America, by Garry Wills
The Elegant Universe, by Brian Greene
The Search for God at Harvard, by Ari L. Goldman
Feel Like Going Home, by Peter Guralnick
Dark Witness, by Ralph Wiley
Go Cat Go, by Craig Morrison
New Americans, by Al Santoli
Orlando, by Virginia Woolf

Currently, Bruce appears to be reading Fallen Founder by Nancy Isenberg

Slacker Friday

First things first, we have a new Think Again column here called "Spying on Journalists? Why the Silence?" and a new Nation column called "The Defamation League," here, which addresses, among other things, smears against Bill Moyers. (Also, I worked harder than I like to on yesterday's Altercation in case you missed it.)See this? (Thanks Petey) Hear this? (Thanks Brian)

This Week on Moyers:

On the heels of the American drone attacks on suspected terroristcompounds in Pakistan, Bill Moyers Journal takes a closer look atAmerica's history of and current policy on bombing, explores the ethicsbehind these assaults when civilians become the victims and asks: doesbombing work?  Bill Moyers sits down with historian Marilyn Young,author of the forthcoming Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-Century Historyand former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey, who developed military planesand helped found the military reform movement.  And, with state budgetsstrapped, President Obama's proposed economic stimulus plan directsfunds to educational institutions. Bill Moyers talks with CarnegieCorporation President Vartan Gregorian on the future of public highereducation and its role in our democracy.

From ANP:

Paulson's $140 Billion Surprise: It's a little-known story about the financial crisis. During the frenzied events of the fall, Henry Paulson rewrote a piece of the tax code to expedite mergers. The quiet alteration amounts to an estimated $140 billion windfall for big banks. Some critics say Paulson's move was too autocratic, others argue that it was much more than that--it was downright illegal. Will Tim Geithner and the Democrats attempt to correct the wrong?

Campaign Financing: New Twist On Old Problem: Political fundraising has often been viewed as a corrupting influence in politics. Now it's increasingly being seen by politicians as a roadblock to doing their jobs well. Republican Senator George Voinovich has had enough. Will stories like his breathe new life into the reform movement?

Alter-reviews:

Graham Nash: Reflections box set

Following a matching set from David Crosby, Rhino's given us a similarly handsomely packaged and extensive collection from Graham Nash.  It traces his career from The Hollies with his childhood friend Allan Clarke way back when through all the CSN and CSNY and solo years. Reflections is  a three-CD boxed set that encompasses roughly forty years of music with 64 songs; half of which are unreleased mixes, alternate versions and unissued tracks.  What's more, there's a lovely 150-page booklet with excellent notes and tons of photos. (Nash is a well-known collector of photography, by the way.)  Tracing that voice from 1967's "On A Carousel," "Carrie Anne" and "King Midas In Reverse," through "Marrakesh Express," "Our House" and "Teach Your Children," and tons of stuff you've probably never heard before,  much of this set is great, but much of it is not. Nash is one of those people who does not know exactly where his talent is located. I love "Wasted On The Way" "Chicago" and "Military Madness," in fact, Songs for Beginners, which was re-released last year, is pretty much great throughout. But as with Crosby, there's going to be a lot of fast-forwarding; something I predict will not be the case when they get around to the more talented, and much more difficult Mr. Stills. Anyway, like the Crosby box, it's beautifully done and a nice, albeit not cheap shortcut to the part of the Crosby/Nash, Nash, CSN and CSNY catalogue up with which you may not have been keeping…

Rod Stewart - The Definitive Rod Stewart

Rod is perhaps the only artist on earth to give The Who a run for their money in the repackaging sweepstakes. Whether to recommend this package depends on just how deeply you've dipped in the past. This one is available in two versions: a standard two-CD edition and a deluxe edition that includes a bonus DVD of music videos. It's arranged chronologically, but to tell you the truth, the guy's early stuff is so great you should get those albums by themselves. It is after about 1978, which is actually quite a run, when this package comes in handier.  The second disc concentrates on music Stewart made during the '80s and '90s, including "Infatuation," "Some Guys Have All The Luck," "Love Touch," "Forever Young" and "Motown Song" from the top ten album Vagabond Heart (1991). Among the other highlights is a rare studio version of Tom Waits' "Tom Traubert's Blues," as well as a cover of Waits' "Downtown Train" that Stewart took to #1, and "Have I Told You Lately" and "Reason To Believe." Good stuff, all. I can live without the schmaltz that follows, though.  Perhaps you can't, or needn't, or need the rest. Anyway, here it is, also from Rhino, but without all the lovely trappings that Mr. Nash enjoyed.

In case you missed it: (http://www.backstreets.com/news.html) Gimme a shout-out if you need to fill a decent seat in my hood.

Springsteen and the E Street Band's official Working on a Dream Tour itinerary from the beginning of April to the beginning of August, consisting of a two-month North American leg and a two-month European leg.

The first arena leg begins on the West Coast of the US on April Fool's Day and hits a few markets bypassed by the Magic tour--howdy, Colorado!--as well as regular strongholds (two in Boston, two in Philly) before wrapping up with two shows at the Meadowlands. No Garden dates, alas, but a third NYC-area show is at Nassau Coliseum. A small stadium sneaks in there, too, with a return to Hershey, PA. The vast majority of these go on sale the morning after the Super Bowl, February 2.

The European stadium leg begins with Holland's Pinkpop festival on May 30, wrapping up with five Spanish shows in five different cities.

Apr 1 - San Jose, CA - HP Pavilion at San Jose (Feb 2)
Apr 3 - Glendale, AZ - Jobing.com Center (Feb 2)
Apr 5 - Austin, TX - Frank Erwin Center (Feb 7)
Apr 7 - Tulsa, OK - BOK Center (Feb 7)
Apr 8 - Houston, TX - Toyota Center (Feb 7)
Apr 10 - Denver, CO - Pepsi Arena (Feb 2)
Apr 15 - Los Angeles, CA - LA Memorial Sports Arena (Feb 2)
Apr 21 - Boston, MA - TD Banknorth Garden (Feb 2)
Apr 22 - Boston, MA - TD Banknorth Garden (Feb 2)
Apr 24 - Hartford, CT - XL Center (Feb 2)
Apr 26 - Atlanta, GA - Philips Arena (Feb 2)
Apr 28 - Philadelphia, PA - Wachovia Spectrum (Feb 2)
Apr 29 - Philadelphia, PA - Wachovia Spectrum (Feb 2)
May 2 - Greensboro, NC - Greensboro Coliseum (Feb 6)
May 4 - Hempstead, NY - Nassau Veterans Mem. Col. (Feb 2)
May 5 - Charlottesville, VA - John Paul Jones Arena (Feb 2)
May 7 - Toronto, ONT - Air Canada Centre (Feb 6)
May 8 - University Park, PA - Bryce Jordan Center (Feb 2)
May 11 - St. Paul, MN - Xcel Energy Center (Feb 2)
May 12 - Chicago, IL - United Center (Feb 2)
May 14 - Albany, NY - Times Union Center (Feb 2)
May 15 - Hershey, PA - Hersheypark Stadium (Feb 2)
May 18 - Washington, DC - Verizon Center (Feb 2)
May 19 - Pittsburgh, PA - Mellon Arena (Feb 2)
May 21 - E. Rutherford, NJ - Izod Center (Feb 2)
May 23 - E. Rutherford, NJ - Izod Center (Feb 2)

May 30 - Landgraaf, Holland - Pink Pop Festival (March 7)
June 2 - Tampere, Finland - Ratinan Stadion (ON SALE)
June 4 - Stockholm, Sweden - Stockholm Stadium (SOLD OUT)
June 5 - Stockholm, Sweden - Stockholm Stadium (SOLD OUT)
June 7 - Stockholm, Sweden - Stockholm Stadium (SOLD OUT)
June 9 - Bergen, Norway - Koengen (SOLD OUT)
June 10 - Bergen, Norway - Koengen (SOLD OUT)
July 2 - Munich, Germany - Olympiastadion (ON SALE NOW)
July 3 - Frankfurt, Germany - Commerzbank Arena (ON SALE NOW)
July 5 - Vienna, Austria - Ernst Happel Stadion (ON SALE NOW)
July 8 - Herning, Denmark - Herning MCH (ON SALE NOW)
July 11 - Dublin, Ireland - RDS (Jan 30)
July 16 - Carhaix, France - Festival des Vielles Charrues (Jan 30)
July 19 - Rome, Italy - Stadio Olimpico (ON SALE SOON)
July 21 - Turino, Italy - Olimpico di Torino (ON SALE SOON)
July 23 - Udine, Italy - Stadio Friuli (ON SALE SOON)
July 26 - Bilbao, Spain - San Mames Stadium (ON SALE SOON)
July 28 - Benidorm, Spain - Estadio Municipal de Foietes (ON SALE SOON)
July 30 - Sevilla, Spain - La Cartuja Olympic Stadium (ON SALE SOON)
Aug 1 - Valladolid, Spain - Estadio Jose Zorrilla (ON SALE SOON)
Aug 2 - Santiago, Spain - Monte Del Gozo (ON SALE SOON)

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA.

Hey Doc:

"I remember when I met you/You said your name was Mary Jane/But whenI saw you in a lineup/You were using another name."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Incident On South Street" (The LoungeLizards)--If I must, I will go this alone, but I'm done trying to line up bipartisan support for the great wall I'm building from Boston to Biloxi on which will be written all the various reasons that I love New Orleans. 

Short Takes: 

Part The First: Anybody who watched Hardball on Wednesday night sawJoan Walsh take apart the sneering human spittoon that is Dick Armey. It isimportant to remember that, prior to becoming a member of Congress in 1984,Armey was an economics professor at North Texas State (Go Mean Green!),which is a public institution. That means that, until he retired, andbecame the lay about head of a PAC, the modern political equivalent of ano-show job your uncle got you with the county road crew,  this functionalunemployable didn't take a dime from the almighty "private sector" thatwasn't a bribe...er...a campaign contribution. And, anyway, he was such ahead of Dick on the air that even Matthews tumbled to it, and usually Chriswon't notice unless you show up in the green room wearing bearskin pantsand carrying a club.

Part The Second: I know it's futile to ask, but what is wrong withthis idiot? And, more to the point, what is wrong with the idiots who listen to him? Hey,fellow journalists, he's a charlatan and a fool and he is not one of us

Part The Third: The man who thinks "popular culture" is something yougrow in a Petri dish is back again. You may remember him from his earlier career as a rock critic, which will be discussed at somewhat greater length here. I, for one, can hardly wait to see how highly he rates McCabe And Mrs.Miller, a tale of entrepreneurial spirit in the old West.

Part The Fourth: Gingrey? Gingrich? How come Georgia elects so manycongress-critters whose names sound like gum diseases?

Part The Last: Well, this looks interesting. I note for the record that the ex-cop "brandished" a loaded handgun at the arresting officers and was neither tased for his trouble--Hey, Digby!--nor shot dead on the spot. Interesting how flexible the rules of engagementcan be.

   The best moment of the Obama presidency so far came on Thursday, whenhe put together that big goat-roping to celebrate the signing of  the LillyLedbetter Fair Pay Act.

 It wasn't just that the law is a good thing, which it is. It wasn't justthat Ms. Ledbetter herself makes a compelling witness on her own behalf,which she does. It wasn't just that the overall optics were fabulous, whichthey were, or that the president gave a terrific address, which he did. Itwas also because the recently departed C-Plus Augustus has left us with aSupreme Court that approximates the late Dr. Thompson's assessment of anearlier reactionary SCOTUS as "a piss-poor bowling team from Memphis."(That awful hack they all took unanimously--Ruthie Bader G, how couldyou?--at what's left of the Fourth Amendment this week is proof enough ofthat.) However, the Ledbetter decision was the one that gave the game away.It exposed Roberts and Alito as the dependable corporate shills that youknew they were. (And it is time here to thank, once again, Weepin' JoeLieberman for yet another gift that he gave to this great Republic.) Iexpect that President Obama's insistence that Republicans still exist whom we can safely classify as Not Insane will drive me around my personalbend on a fairly regular basis but, by making this the first majorlegislative victory and the first major political event of his presidency,he politely told those same Republicans, and the court with which they'vesaddled us in perpetuity, and the greedy thooleramawns who bankrolled allof the foregoing, to jam it. Good on him.

--Josh Silver

www.freepress.net

Here's your monthly update on what's happening in media policy.

The big news is Obama's choice of Julius Genachowski as the new chair of the Federal Communications Commission. While the appointment is not yet official, Obama's long-time college friend, campaign fundraiser and technology advisor is expected to take the reins at the FCC in the next few months. Chairman Kevin Martin stepped down last week, and Commissioner Michael Copps was named interim chair. The timing of the transition is still up in the air.... While it usually takes several months for the new chair to be confirmed, Congress may expedite the process because of problems with the February 17 digital television transition, the date when over-the-air analog TV broadcasts are supposed to stop.

In short, Genachowski is a very good choice. He anchored the drafting of Obama's excellent media and tech policy agenda, which is now posted at www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/technology/. It includes Net Neutrality, diverse media ownership, ubiquitous broadband...much like our own agenda. The challenge, of course, is turning promises into reality.

On another note, I trust you've been hearing that journalism--particularly the newspaper industry--is in a freefall. More than 12,000 newspaper jobs were lost in 2008. Titans like Tribune Co. filed for bankruptcy, and Hearst and the New York Times are on shaky ground. Radio giant Clear Channel just announced plans to cut 9 percent of its workforce.

We are circling the wagons on this issue by convening big-think meetings in NY and DC in March to identify all viable policy proposals to address the crisis: from tax breaks to ownership rules to purchasing devalued media properties and putting them into nonprofit trusts. One such nonprofit owns the St. Petersburg Times, and continues to invest in excellent reporting. Most recently is www.Politifact.com with their "Obameter": a summary of the 500 or so promises made by the new president, tracked in real time online. Very cool.

Obama's stimulus bill is expected to move through the Senate this week, and the current draft has $9 billion allocated for broadband deployment. While the funding falls short of the $44 billion we proposed, it's still a great start for 2009. The House version includes open Internet conditions (Net Neutrality), and we are hopeful that the Senate will uphold them. We also submitted a stimulus plan for public broadcasting (now called "public media"). That proposal does not appear to have made it into the stimulus, but we are seeing the public media community come together in an encouraging way.

In the "Evil Comcast" category, the FCC is investigating concerns that Comcast is "degrading" voice over Internet service from competitors like Vonage. We raised this issue last fall, and we're pleased that the FCC is remaining vigilant against any potential Internet Service Provider abuse.

Finally, the office of the Defense Department's inspector general said in a report two weeks ago that it had found no wrongdoing in a Pentagon public relations program that made use of retired officers who worked as military analysts for television and radio networks. The report performs legal backflips, like pointing to a lack of clear definitions of what constitutes propaganda. Fortunately, two more investigations are pending; one from the Gov't Accountability Office, and the other from the FCC. We can only expect that they are more reasonable.

That's it in a nutshell. Let me know if you have any questions.

Best,
Josh

Police On My Back

First things first, we have a new Think Again column herecalled "Spying on Journalists? Why the Silence?" and a new Nation column called "The Defamation League," here, whichaddresses, among other things, smears against Bill Moyers.

Second, there's my more detailed response to The New Republic's JonathanChait. It's long, but responding to slurs takes much more time thanmaking them in the first place:

I'll admit it. I spent a little while on Tuesday wondering why The NewRepublic's Jonathan Chait wants people to think he's stupid. I don'timagine Chait really is stupid. I've admired much of his work in thepast. But he is clearly willing to pretend when it suits his purpose.If you think "stupid" overly harsh, then perhaps "dishonest" would bemore appropriate.

He writes, here:

The Nation's Eric Alterman recently wrotethat in the United States, "right-wing Jewish organizations andneoconservative pundits dominate nearly all Middle East discussion."

This is a pretty radical claim, one I don't agree with--recent coverstories in both Time and Newsweek have reflected the J Street line--but one for which you could produce at least some evidence. The sumtotal of the evidence he did produce were three blog posts appearing in,respectively, The New Republic, The Weekly Standard and Commentary.

Let's begin at the beginning: In the above paragraph, Chait purposelycut the qualifier in that sentence which began, here."Within the mainstreammedia punditocracy," because, as I mentioned here, "reporting on Israel/Palestine has become much fairer to thecomplexities of the conflict during the past decades; the punditocracyremains mired in the McCarthyite-style accusations of Chait's boss,Marty Peretz and his mini-me James Kirchick." Next, Chait insists thatthe three blog items I quoted in my column provide "the sum total of theevidence [I] did produce." Now Chait knows quite well he is describinga column that was necessarily under a thousand words. He knows that thefact of conservative domination of the debate was not even the point ofthe column. I was merely giving examples of the tendency before leadingto my larger point, which was the desire of those like Peretz, JamesKirchick and Commentary's Noah Pollak, to try to avoid debate by usingschoolyard insults against those with whom they disagree for the purposeof delegitimizing their points of view. To say that the "sum total" ofmy proof is lacking is to betray a complete misunderstanding of a) whata column is, and; b) what the column in question was addressing. SinceChait writes a column himself, and presumably knows better, well, youcan draw your own conclusion.

Chait continues:

Alterman, perhaps using hyperbole to compensate forthe lack of evidence, called the authors "Thought Police." You mayrecall that the term "Thought Police" was coined by George Orwell's1984 to describe a breed of futuristic secret police that would exceedeven the draconian methods employed by Stalin and Hitler. ApparentlyAlterman believes equivalent powers are now wielded by a handful ofZionist bloggers. I'm trying to imagine what Alterman would say iffascism really does come to America. Perhaps he'll think to himself,while hanging from his thumbs in some dungeon, "Well, this is prettybad, but not as bad as when I was criticized by Commentary online."

This, too, strikes me as purposefully idiotic. I don't know Chaitpersonally, but I have a hard time he's gotten this far in life withoutever encountering the literary concept of "metaphor." When a comediancomes off stage and says "I killed," he does not mean that he literallyended a person's life. When an audience member describes a musician'sperformance that "blew me away," again, he rarely is seeking to implyaerial flight. Chait allows the weasel word "apparently" to do yeoman'sduty here, taking the concept to which I was referring for metaphoricalpurposes and stretching well beyond what he knows was intended. Purposefully stupid or just plain stupid? I really can't say.

In my most recent Nation column, see above, I begin by noting the factthat the Israeli-Palestinian conflict gives birth to more irony than ishealthy and the example above is no exception. In the first place,Chait's magazine is proud of its policing role in the Middle Eastdebate. One of its top editors crowed to me while I was writing Sound & Fury, "We're the cops." To the degree that Peretz/Kirchick/Chait's attempts are less effective than they used to be, well that's a reflection of a welcome decline of the magazine's influence under Peretz's leadership rather than any lack of effort on theirpart.

Perhaps there is something in the water supply at TNR that turns peoplemanic when writing about Israel and/or American Jews. (Am I the onlyperson to notice that Martin Peretz, sounding like a Yiddish JamesDobson or Jimmy Swaggart, recently described Hebron as "the place whereAbraham actually bought land and where the patriarchy and matriarchy ofIsrael was spawned...") "Actually bought?" Hello Marty? The Old Testament is not exactlyhistory. There's no evidence anywhere that these people even everexisted. To treat it as such is crazy, even by Peretzian standards.

And then there is young Kirchick, whose obsession with J Street and the samewriters to whom Chait refers--specifically myself, Ezra Klein and MathewYglesias--led to his being forced to admit that he was inventing factsout of thin air, something Chait is too skillful to do at least, and young Kirchick might wish to take a lesson the art of the more artful smear.

And I fear I must note also the endorsement of this very same Chaitianparagraph, by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic, who reprinted it on his blog, and titled his post, for some reason, "J Street, Walt and Mearsheimer, and Jewish Martyrdom," though it refers only to me and not to Stephen Walt, John Measheimer, J-Street or Jewish martyrdom.

Goldberg, too, I fear, has also apparently spent too much timedrinking from Marty Peretz's water cooler. He authored justly infamous review in TNR in which, as Dylan Matthews points out, compared Mearsheimer, who holds an endowed chair at the University of Chicago, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was chosen by his colleagues in the field as the fifth most influential, and thirdmost interesting, international relations scholar alive, and Wald, andextremely respected and admired Harvard International Relations scholar,to "Father Coughlin, Charles Lindbergh, Louis Farrakhan, David Duke,Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and bin Laden." More recently, he comparedMearsheimer to Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, who is terrorist, ananti-Semite and a Holocaust denier.

It's not fair to tar everyone at TNR with this brush. Many of itswriters smartly avoid the issue and do excellent work untainted by theassociation. Almost alone, John Judis has taken Peretz on in a few ofhis most outrageous assertions and has been repaid with the sameschoolyard taunts--" churlish and bumptious" most recently-- enjoyed bythe rest of us. (See hereand here)

But it is all so obviously absurd. Remember, none of the people here arequestioning Israel's right to exist. Many of us, myself included, arenice Jewish bar-mitzvah boys and proud-pro Zionists--not that thatshould matter for the purposes of debate and discussion. And believe me,ladies and germs, were you to read the abusive mail I receive at TheNation, you'd think I was under the secret pay of either AIPAC orMossad, depending on who is writing. And yet writers as well-regardedas Goldberg and Chait are apparently incapable of treating theiropponents with even a modicum of respect, humiliating themselves anddamaging their own reputations in the in the process.

Israel has much to recommend it as a society, a cultural phenomenon andhomeland for millions of Jews. But it sure has been murder on thereputations of the writers and editors of a for once-liberal,once-weekly, once-respected little magazine called The New Republic.

Alter-reviews

Rodney Crowell sings "Portraits of Women" live:I saw a really lovely show last weekend. Rodney Crowell, of whom I wasnot particularly a big fan going in, played The Allen Room with a smallacoustic group and guest appearances by our friend, Herself, (and the exMrs. Crowell) Rosanne Cash, and a remarkably charming and deadpansouthern country singer named Minton Sparks, who carried her handbag andlooked like an even sexier librarian than you-know-who. Anyway, Crowellwas the revelation to me. The song cycle was entitled "Portraits ofWomen,"--and while the songs were not really portraits of women, theywere quiet, finely honed, beautifully crafted and sensitively deliveredportraits of people in trouble. There was not an ounce of old-timeredneckery in the set. Indeed, he sang a two-song cycle of "I Wish ItWould Rain" and "Wandering Boy," both from his 2001 album, The HoustonKid--which told a story of a pair of twins, one of whom has AIDS,which is about as (mercifully) distant from Garth Brooks as one can getthese days. Anyway, I am going to have spend more time with Mr. Crowelland his catalogue in the future. Rosanne was in fine fettle, as if shehad never been away. The Times reviewed the show here, but oddly, thewriter made no mention at all of the wonderful Ms. Sparks, which is hardto believe, if, in fact, he saw her.

I would also like to second the suggestion found here at "Let the parties begin." To accompany the new music issue of OA, they've put together the greatest giveaway CD I've ever heard; an incredible collection of stuff that even if you collect this stuff, and I do, you probably don't have. There's a bunchof pieces on the site too--and hey, check out Chuck Jackson's threads,and there's also this rich collectionof essays pulled together between cloth covers, Read it in bed; read it with headphones on or keep it in the bathroom. It's the kind of thing that can be enjoyed for years and years and years. And shame on me for not making a bigger deal about this wonderful magazine when it needed more help. It's a real treasure.

The Mail:

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

I am sure that if Fred Hiatt had not already completed the destruction of any ounce of respectability that the Washington Post editorial page enjoyed, he would indeed say someday that he regretted his description of Bill Kristol--and his gratuitous shot at the New York Times. But Hiatt clearly has no clue, so why should we be surprised?

As you detailed in one of your books, William Safire had problems as the house conservative at the Times, but they were of his doing. When it hit him that he should not just sit there and talk to himself, he became a good columnist. Kristol never tried, and it showed.

Name: Joel Berger
Hometown: Montrose NY

As a lefty Jew, I admit to a whole lot of trepidation regarding the recent Gaza incursion. I agree with you that it was a disaster for the Israelis. But when I read such letters as Tim Kane's (January 27), I cringe to think that a majority of those who oppose Israel's actions seem to just not care at all whether the Jews in Israel live or die. Am I being paranoid here?

That makes it very hard to abandon knee-jerk support of Israel, even when I disagree with its actions.

Name: Charles Hinton
Hometown: Satellite Beach, FL

A lifelong Democrat here, and I fell for Obama's infrastructure rebuild pitch.

Now I see the stimulus package and it is short on infrastructure and long--really long--on tax reductions to appease Republicans.

I have a fear that Obama is selling out his principles to win favor from the Republicans. After all--as he said--he won. The Republicans will never support the stimulus bill because they have not much to lose if it succeeds and everything to gain if at some point they might be able to say "I told you so" if it is less than a success in the near term.

How can the Democrats not see that tax reductions put more money in the pockets of people still employed (of whom some will save it) while infrastructure activities give people jobs who at present have no money.

Name: Tom Hawthorn
Hometown: Victoria, B.C., Canada

Former style would have had your au pair as a "French Quebec(k)er." (It could be spelled either as Quebecer or Quebecker.) Today, she would more likely be described as a Quebecoise, which means a female from Quebec. You were fortunate to have her as a minder.

My first concert, I'm sorry to admit, was Chicago at the Montreal Forum. When my kids sneer, I tell them I was expecting to see the Black Hawks.

Cheers,
Tom

Name: Rory Downward
Hometown: Oakland, CA

I first saw Elton John of his solo tour in 1980 (kind of solo, the incredible Ray Cooper joined him for the second half of the 3 hour show). I'd always been a fan, but to see him play alone, without all the glitz, was a joy to behold. I don't know if you've seen it, but the CD release of "11/17/70" has the complete show, not just the cuts from the album release. I still finding amazing that so much sound can come out of a bass, drums & piano.

While I miss reading you on a daily basis, I'm glad you still have a voice here.

Apologies Accepted

If this were a real blog, I'd have more crowing to do regarding theTimes' decision to drop William Kristol from its op-ed page. I wrote acolumn about his hiring for the American Prospect last year which hasbeen reposted here. The point I want to reiterate is this, when the Times was overwhelmed by complaints for the insult Kristol represented to its readership,editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal, speaking to Politico, dismissedall criticism of this "serious, respected conservative intellectual" as"intolerant," "absurd," and indicative of a "weird fear of opposingviews." Despite post-Jayson Blair promises of greater transparency, theTimes itself offered no new coverage of the controversy, and none ofKristol's colleagues on the page apparently thought it wise to weigh in,either.

Now, apparently, Rosenthal has come around to the views of his critics.Kristol was a failure as a columnist and a weekly embarrassment to thepaper. Where's the apology?

Meanwhile, the Post's Fred Hiatt may or may not regret his commentsabout Kristol here but it hardly matters. It's pretty widely acceptedthat the Post's page is a conservative-driven hodgepodge that does notrival the Times for influence or respect, fairly or not. Kristol won'tdo much damage on page containing the likes of Krauthammer Tyrrell,Novak, etc...

Also, if this were a real blog, I suppose I'd have more to say inresponse to Jonathan Chait's nasty TNR columns and posts on the debateover Israel, here.

I will however point out that by pointing toTime and Newsweek as evidence to subvert my thesis, he is eluding my point, which was addressed specifically to the punditocracy debate, notto the reporting. Reporting on Israel/Palestine has become much fairerto the complexities of the conflict during the past decades; thepunditocracy remains mired in the McCarthyite-style accusations ofChait's boss, Marty Peretz and his mini-me James Kirchick. My columncontained an explicit criticism of the Nation's coverage ofGaza--indeed, I would not have published it if it did not. Where'sChait's criticism of Peretz , who, after all, does not even own themagazine anymore, having been forced to sell it off after having nearlydestroyed it during his thirty year tenure, and his vicious McCarthyiteattacks on Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias and Spencer Ackerman, all of whomare more accomplished in their young lives than Peretz. (Unless youinclude negative accomplishments, that is.) Chait knows thistoo--indeed, just about everybody knows it. John Judis has recentlystepped up to the plate to criticize Peretz's antics and been paid backwith more schoolyard taunts. Big deal. It only increases the respectJohn has earned out in the real world. So why the one-sided attacks byChait and not a word about the cancer inside his own magazine? Itdoesn't take much courage, alas, to attack Alterman or Ackerman in TNR.

In the meantime, I've not written anything about the invasion itself. Ididn't see how it could improve Israel's position or promote peace, butI waited in the hopes I would be proven wrong. It appears that onceagain, yet another war, cheered upon from the armchairs of TNR'soffices has proven a demonstrable moraland political disaster, to say nothing of the near-destruction of thesupport for Fatah and increased worldwide support for Hamas, and thewidespread hatred of Israel worldwide.

Read Mike Kazin on the inauguration here.

Scroll down on Sal's Blog for some amazing stuff including Bruce's DJing gig and the best of "Spectacle" on Youtube. You owe him one. Also Jerry...

Congrats to the folks at Big Love for the brilliant use of "Burn Downthe Mission" at the end of the show this week. I saw my first twoconcerts ever in fifth grade, with my beautiful French Quebecian aupair, Celine. The first was a bill of Sly, Ike and Tina, Rare Earthat the Garden and Gladys Knight and the Pips, but Sly came on so late, we only saw a half hour of theshow, because my parents were parked outside panicking. The second wasElton at Carnegie Hall. He wore jean overalls and played the same showyou can hear on "11/17/70." It was one of the greatest things ever,though it spoiled me for a long time.

The Mail:

Name: Tim Kane
Hometown: Mesa, Arizona

I am hoping you will comment on the 60 Minutes piece that Bob Simon did on the plight of West Bank Palestinians.

This was, I thought, decent journalism: comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comforted. However it was quite difficult to take. As Mitchell goes off to make piece in there, this piece seemed to indicate that it is not possible, at least in a conventional sense of a two state solutions.

I've commented here (or back at Media Matter's site) that the one thing I gained from reading about Churchill is that one has to acknowledge legitimate rising aspirations of ones advisaries (though not their illegitimate aspirations).

The 60 Minutes piece was obviously one sided, but from a side or a perspective we never seem to get access to. If it were a legal case both sides would be able to present their views and rebut the other sides, etc...but it seems in America we only get the Israeli view and slim view of that as it is (I know little of the internal debates going on in Israel over the questions of one or two state settlements).

The 60 Minutes piece suggest that a 'two state solution' is no longer possible. The intransigence of the Jewish settlers seems arrogant if not conceited. There's no guarantee that a one state solution could be resolved favorably for the Israeli Jews--in fact Simon seemed to suggest it means either ethnic cleansing, one man one vote, or apartheid. He went on to imply that apartheid ultimately means one mane one vote.

Simon said that in ten years the Palestinians would pose a majority in the combined territories of West Bank, Israel and Gaza. I checked the CIA's website, and that already seems the case.

What that seems to indicate to me is that the ambition of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, despite the immense power of the Israeli military and lobby, is hanging by a thread. Perhaps the settlers wouldn't mind ethnic cleansing, but that would likely make Israel the most pariahed state in History.

All in all, I find this quite difficult to grasp. I understand that nearly 99 percent of Jews back Israel and the idea of a homeland for Jews. Are they in denial about the situation? How do they see this working out?

The settlers in the West Bank are like the right wing Republican party operatives who believe that what they need to do to win elections is to be even more right wing. It seems to me that they can't realize that their very positions are destroying themselves. I thought self preservation was a natural instinct in all beings, but apparently not in extremist conservatives.

Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC

Mr. Alterman,

Back in 2000, many said Al Gore needed to concede and not fight on, despite having more votes, because he would be perceived as a sore loser. In 2004, despite numerous irregularities in Ohio, John Kerry was warned do not attempt to fight the election result because you will be perceived as a sore loser. No one likes a sore loser was the frequent claim. Both Gore and Kerry were warned about getting lawyers involved. Now I know a senate election is not the same as the presidential, but where are all the calls about Norm Coleman being a sore loser? Why isn't he being told to concede already? This is a man who after a thorough recount (which was not allowed in Florida in 2000) has lost the election. It was close, but it is still a loss. Yet, he won't back down. Shouldn't he be being called a sore loser (and many other things) for his refusal to step aside?

Name: Barbara Swalm
Hometown: Portland, ME

I liked Obama's speech more than you--I was hoping for less "loftiness" and more hardness (which to my mind he delivered). Our place of business has a lobby TV--always tuned to FOX, so we got to listen to the dolts on that network. They could not even identify the cabinet or advisors. Sheesh.

I'm surprised some folks are thinking that the first quarter is going to be an improvement over the last (given GDP). The financial crisis is going to continue---its not a question about bank's having money, it's about the credit worthiness of the borrowers at this point. Commercial and Industrial (C&I) customers are being hit because of a lack of demand for product. Bank's need to be prudent with cash so credit tightens, because the cash flow of the customer is tight. The REIT world is going to continue to have refinancing needs, many of the buildings they have are not providing sufficient cash flow to cover refinanced P&I, so they are going to have to sell properties that do cash flow (but won't support a ton of debt) at prices that are going to continue to drive down the prices in the commercial property sector. AIG isn't able to sell off profitable segments of it's business (no takers, credit is tight and many in the financial services business don't have the balance sheet strength to take them) so Citi is going to have problems off loading some of it business segments.

I don't like the stimulus package, I think its directing cash where it doesn't need to go (financial services. Let them fail, put the money into work projects that improve the infrastructure (and creates jobs) and into new industries and let's recreate the financial services world. Its a lot more radical, but at least we take the hits now, rather than later. Yes, I work in the financial services arena and went trough the late 80s and early 90s crash.

Name: Mark Dolce
Hometown: Chicago

When the jokes write themselves...from The Politico's article, "Obama to GOP: 'I Won'":

"How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives?" Boehner asked. "How does that stimulate the economy?"

Boehner said congressional Republicans are also concerned about the "size of the package."

Not Slacking at All Slacker Friday

First off, we have a new "Think Again" column entitled "Free Ride to theFinish Line," about guess who, which is here. Second, I came across thisgenuinely lovely review--ten years after itspublication--of my Springsteen book, so thanks to Scott Parker for this.

Ok, here's an actual Inauguration post:

So let's face it. The Inauguration was pretty much a disaster.

The DC cops did not care if anyone actually saw the speech.(I was in the crowd sent into the tunnel to nowhere, where nobody knewnothing. At the gate I ended up in--the wrong one for my ticket--themetal detectors broke and everyone had to be hand-searched. Thousandsof people with tickets, who travelled thousands of miles, spent thespeech crammed together in a tiny area unable to see or hear anything. Ileft, but only after I was literally kicked in the head by a small childon his father's shoulders.

Obama gave, by my calculations, only his fifth best speech atbest; not as good as: the 2004 convention, the Martin Luther King Dayspeech in Alabama, the race speech, the Denver speech and maybe some Inever heard nor saw.

Most of the events I went to were actually catastrophes. Ienjoyed the HuffPost party but I only got in because I was with VictorNavasky, who had visited his friend Kenny Lerer, and been given apurple wristband, which allowed me to talk my way into two more purplearmbands. Otherwise, I would have been with the freezing hordes who wereeventually turned away, without having been invited. Also the drinklines were ten deep. I do not exaggerate.

Another event I went to--a big one--was so awful, at thelevel of the wrist-band I was originally given that it felt like a punchin the face to the people who had paid thousands of dollars to be there;bad food, no access to the entertainment, and believe it or not, aping-pong table as the only thing to do, besides stare at the lobbyistsand their clients who had been roped in without due diligence. I didn'tpay anything, and eventually, I was able to land a decent wristband, andso I had a good time, but it struck me as symbolic. For a few thousandbucks or so, the contempt was palpable. For twenty grand, you weretreated decently. (I'm not being more specific because I've notcommitted to burning this particular bridge yet.)

One band I went to see, paying fifty bucks in cabs,round-trip, did not come on in time for me to stay away long enough tosee them. (Jason Isabel--the guy who left the DBTs when he got divorcedfrom one of its members.) I think it was around midnight.

"The Rising" with a gospel chorus, was a great idea that justdid not work. Did we really need a Black president to have Garth Brookssing an Isley Brothers song?

Where was the jazz? Where was the real country? Where forgoodness sakes, was the great Ralph Stanley, who made the most movingObama endorsement of all?

Plus there was a bunch of screw ups that were my fault. But here's thething. It was great anyway. Lots and lots of people came to spend ahappy historical moment with their friends and were not going to letanything ruin it. I didn't either--once I finally got over my shock onthe subway. The crowds were impossible, but as Mike Tomasky put it to meover coffee, "It was an Obama inauguration, not a Rolling Stonesconcert." Everybody was really nice to everybody else. You couldn'tbelieve how many people asked me if I was ok or if I wanted some Tylenolafter I got kicked in the head. And the fact that these people didn'tget and had tickets and traveled so far, well, it was amazing how goodhumored they were, especially since it was due to the uncaringincompetence of those in whom they had no choice but to place theirfaith. But despite everything, I had a wonderful time. It's no smallthing to take your country back from the clutches of actual evil....

Oh wait, here's an actual piece of reporting; I talked to Jamie Fox onSunday night and he told me that he had kept his Obama imitation secretfrom the show's producers and everyone else. He had worked on it formonths, but sprang it on the Obamas and everybody else. I said that wasa good thing, because in addition to jazz and country and Ralph Stanley,the other glaring lack in the show was humor, and "everybody" knows,Obama and the rest of us, could use a little humor...

Alter-reviews: Cherry Orchard at BAM and the new Kind of Blue.

The night before I left for Washington, I traveled to BAM's HarveyTheater to a really wonderful production of The Cherry Orchard. I'vealways felt that Chekov located the ideal vortex between profundityabout human emotion, good humored affection for his often patheticcharacters and great dialogue, and The Cherry Orchard, which was his finalouting, has all of these characteristics is abundance, plus the addedtalents of Tom Stoppard, our greatest living playwright, and directorSam Mendes, and a cast that featured Simon Russell Beale, Sinead Cusak,Rebecca Hall (of Woody Allen's Vicky Christina Barcelona), JoshHamilton, Richard Eastman and Ethan Hawke. It's the opening salvo inBAM's new British-American "Bridge Project" launched by Mendes and hiswife, Kate Winslet, and Kevin Spacey--who is directing the Old Vic--andwho somehow managed to land $2.8 million bucks from BOA in about theworld's worst economic environment for fundraising. It's a fantasticseason for Chekov, with Seagull just finishing on Broadway and Vanyaopening up off-Broadway, both also with wonderful casts--and I'm sorry,but my city is back to being the Greatest City in the World, though I'lladmit, Washington had better music last week. Winter's Tale, alsodirected by Mendes, will begin in February and play together withOrchard through March, and there are lectures and workshops and stuffif you want to go to that. All the info is here.

Kind of Blue: Legacy Edition

What is there left to say about Kind of Blue? It's bigger than atwo-ton gorilla in the world of Jazz. I read somewhere, and I tend tobelieve, that it remains the best-selling album in jazz, even today.That means every year, not just all-together. It's great, but is itreally that great? (I was tempted to say, but "So What?" but that feltlame.) I personally have owned at least five different versions. Thisone comes with complete studio sessions on 2 CDs, including falsestarts, alternate takes and a 17-minute 1960 live version of "So What,"and a nice essay by Francin Davis, and a well-done booklet. If you don'thave it, now is obviously the time. If you do, well, it's not soexpensive for the new stuff and the cool packaging. The amazon page ishere but there's not muchthere yet.

This week on Moyers:

America saw an historic moment with the inauguration of President Obama,but was it a progressive landmark? Bill Moyers sits down with Columbialaw professor and Nation columnist Patricia Williams and Princetonpolitics and African American studies professor Melissa Harris-Lacewellabout the significance of this milestone and what it means for thefuture. Then, political columnist and blogger David Sirota and WallStreet Journal columnist Thomas Frank talk with Bill Moyers about theexpectations of this administration and what must be accomplished forObama to be considered a progressive President.

From ANP:

Bank CEO (and Bailout Recipient) Says Bailout Failing Community Banks: As another $350 billion flies out the door, ANP looks at one small bailed-out bank. Eagle Bank, a community bank headquartered inMaryland, received many millions of dollars of TARP money, but is having trouble making loans. You'd think it's CEO, Ron Paul (no, not that Ron Paul),would be thrilled, but he's not. Paul says the government has not takenfleeing depositors into account and, as a result, small banks and theirsurrounding communities will suffer.

Kingston and the Coal Lobby's Grip on the EPA: In March of 2000, during the last days of the Clinton administration,the EPA decided coal ash was a hazardous waste. Then, two months later, it flipped. If the EPA had stuck to its guns, the Kingston Coal Ash disaster in Tennessee might have been averted. Now, momentum is building tofederally regulate coal ash. Will the EPA make the same mistake twice?

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:

"After all that I've been through/It opened up my eyes/And nowI'm/one toke over the line, sweet Jesus."

One Time, One-Time-Only Daily WWOZ Pick To Click: "Sweet And Hot"(Jack Teagarden) -- Once again. I failed this week to get the defensiveline of the Arizona Cardinals to adorn themselves in pearls and feathersand sing about how much I love New Orleans.

Some short takes while I instruct The Landlord in what the word"embargo" means.

(If I were Drudge-- "MUST CREDIT! MUST CREDIT! WHOOP! WHOOP! FUNNYHAT! FUNNY HAT!" -- , he'd be a dead man. Of course, were I Drudge, I'dalready be dead from a combination of poisonous self-loathing and acuriousPolynesian malady I'd picked up from the staff of The Politico, but Idigress.)

Part The First: Oh, for the love of god, just shut up. At least they were kind enough to embed a video to demonstrate exactly how big a festival of fools they are.

Part The Second: KO had a stunning pair of segments this week with Russell Tice, the formeranalyst-turned-whistleblower at the National Security Agency. In short,the illegal surveillance over the past eight years was vast and, as nearlyas I can tell from what Tice said, almost completely limitless. I'm startingto wonder if a critical mass isn't building that will require even the mosttimorous Democrats to start considering investigations into at leastsome of White House Horrors 2.0.

Part The Third: But that's a little less likely if this happens. The whole New York Senatemishigoss has been fascinating to those of us across the border to theeast because we are getting ourselves ready for the complete bloodbaththat's going to ensue when Edward Kennedy is no longer our seniorsenator.The odd part, of course, is why all this personal material (alleged andotherwise) about Caroline Kennedy is coming out after her push for thenomination had cratered for good. It seems from afar like getting toughwith the Kennedys--and, by extension, with Michael Bloomberg -- is theopening volley in Paterson's re-election campaign. But, at this point intime, trading a surprise Democratic House pick-up--and one that's notlikely to be repeated the next time around--for a Lieberdog senator istranscendentally stupid politics.

Part The Fourth: Fr. Richard John Neuhaus passed away this week. Itis no exaggeration to rank Neuhaus as one of the nuttiest priests sinceBenedict IV, who dug up the corpse of his predecessor and excommunicatedit, thereby ensuring that all the other nutty priests forever would becompeting for second place. Here's a little something-something from a while back from Andrew, who'skinder than I would have been, or intend to be, even now that the old rascal'sdead. In 1996, you may recall, exercised as always by women and theirreproductive rights--and, for the moment, by the lubricious horrorthat was Bill Clinton -Neuhaus and his First Things magazine published asymposium entitled "The End Of Democracy?" which was as close to anexercise in outright sedition as you're likely to read in your life.Eternal rest grant unto him, o Lord, and may the Blessed John XXIII kickhis ass all over paradise for eternity.

Part The Fifth: Holy Mother of God. Was this guy always this unhinged? How'd he ever stay unconfined longenough to get elected to anything?

Part The Last: When I'm not reading The Politico to discover justhowlame the Intertubes can be, I generally go visit the folks at this new place. Some day,cyber-archaeologistsare going to dig down through the levels of suckitude that make up therightist blogosphere, and they're going to think that this place was thehome of all the gods of suckitude. Look, I liked The Dark Knight, too,butwhen did it become a cause celebre for the Flogging Jim Caviezel crowd? Of course, my aesthetic bona fides do not include being on Facebook and Twitter, sowhat do I know?

Anyway, I was stunned that the plucky little rocker from Jerseydidn't get a nomination, not stunned at all that people still lovey-loveMs. Winslet, happy for Melissa Leo, happier for Josh Brolin, who had agreat year, and overjoyed that the great Martin McDonagh's script for InBruges got selected because my favorite movie line of the year is,"What's a 50-year old lollipop man doing knowing karate? Was he fookin'Chinese?"

Anyway, the best movie I saw this year was Man On Wire anyway.

Name: Maureen Holland
Hometown: South Venice Beach FL

Well Eric, Following you guys around the innertubes is no burden, but really--a jump page?--you ask a bit much with this 'READ MORE' business. Addles my mind. But I'll adapt. Just don't go away. You remain my moral anchor. And yeah, very nice job on Matthews and good on you for appearing on a day when he opted for sanity and clarity. He's good when he's not crazy.

Eric replies: Agree on both counts, but they tell me that if you clickon the link for today, it's ok, but if you click on "Altercation" youget a jump. I don't really understand the hows and whys...

Name: Daniel Hermsen
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wi

Regarding your Think Again column, "Scarborough Fare," I was amused by his assessment of Obama's "dainty" bowling style as a sign that he is not manly enough to be Commander-in-Chief. It reminded me of a ridiculous statement Scarborough made during the 2004 presidential campaign. He likened Americans to people living in a cabin in the woods, who know that a ferocious bear (terrorists) is coming to attack. "Who do you want to be sitting at the front door with a gun to protect you?" he asked. The choice being the strong, tough George W. Bush or the weak, metrosexual, John Kerry. What a laughable question, I figured I'd take the war hero, who had been in battle and killed people, vs the draft evader, who spent the Vietnam war years golfing. But to Scarborough, Bush was the obvious choice. As for bowling being the measure of strength, I would note that my 89 year old father still bowls every week, but is much too frail to consider playing basketball. So maybe basketball is a better barometer. However we don't really know if McCain is good at bowling or basketball, so we were forced to make an uninformed choice when we went to the polls.

Name: Greg Panfile
Hometown: Tuckahoe NY

Charles, the line in Omaha by Moby Grape is "Now my friends, the storms are behind, no more rain, from where we came..." in order for the rain to stop you need to have it raining first, songwriting 101;-).

One can spend one's time in many worse ways that with watching not only all of The Prisoner but all of Secret Agent aka Danger Man. It's incredibly tightly written and acted spy noir that captures things about 1000 times more accurately than anything Bond, but unfortunately lacks any vocals from Shirley Bassey. There's also this episode about a village...

Takedown on Meacham and Thomas, feckless talentless brainless Villagers both, thank you... also you failed to note that over at Salon it appears a victim of a very unfortunate traumatic brain injury got access to one of their computers and committed what has to be called verborrhea, yet again.

And a pleasure to have LTC Bob carry over. Citizen, soldier, scholar, gentleman, and damn good writer and thinker.

Name: M. George Stevenson
Hometown: Bronx, NY

Dear Dr. A:

Congratulations on your new home, I'm afraid I must tweak you on the footnote to your "Gaza Agonistes" piece, with which I am otherwise in full agreement: Please don't turn into another Midlantic "taker" of decisions. Americans have always made decisions and, in my recollection as a newspaper editor for the last twnety years, didn't start reverting to the less confident, weaselier British verb in any great numbers until George Will & Co. began trying to justify Bush v. Gore and, perhaps subconsciously, adopted the usage as a way to suggest there were limited options and that it was the best we could hope for. (Look for my scholarly article on this theory once I'ver crafted the appropriate Nexis search.)

Best wishes for your continuing good works,

Name: John N Cox
Hometown: Charlotte, NC

Dear Dr. Alterman:

As we appear to share a similar opinion on Ralph Nader, I thought you might appreciate following quote: "The Aviation Consumer Action Project, a Ralph Nader group, says that in an attempted water landing, a wide body jet would 'shatter like a raw egg dropped on pavement, killing most if not all passengers on impact, even in calm seas with well-trained pilots and good landing trajectories.'" Link: http://www.slate.com/id/1003275/

Name: Ken Daniels
Hometown: Florence, KY

Welcome back LTC Bateman. I'm a big fan and an avid reader of your columns, so yours is a welcome return.

I do have one minor quibble though, and I hope I've just misread your assertion that "To that end I figured it just made sense to write for the audience least likely to have a whole lot of experience with or personal direct connections to the military in general and the Army in particular". If I interpret that correctly, I think you're buying into a false stereotype peddled and perpetuated by the conservative rightwing in this country. We're not all anti-military liberals who've never served our country. I'm about as opposed to the current Iraq fiasco and its neocon champions as a guy could be, and yet I enlisted in the US Army at age 18 during the mid-1980s. Though I despise the very thought of him now, Ronald Reagan was my CiC. I'm a proud veteran of the 101st--joined the Army to "see the world" and got stationed in my home state--go figure.

Again, if I misinterpreted, then my apologies, but I think you might want to avoid careless assumptions in the future.

Thanks for the otherwise splendid work, KD

Name: Mark Woldin
Hometown: Elizondo, Navarra, Spain

Hi, Eric. I was amused to see Pierce's remarks on the concert. I thought them loose and unthoughtful, but correct in many ways. It wasdismaying how vulgar and mindless the concert was. There is a pomposity in presenting the inauguration as a global event, which it is not in any real sense. In fact is quite specifically our national event. To that end only American artists should perform. We should show the world who we are, what we do. Does anyone need to hear U2 -- surely the most presumptuous and self- aggrandizing band ever -- yet again. (Not to mention that Bono offended by bringing up himself, the campaign, and Middle East politics.) Why not chuck the whole crew and start again, as a parlor game: The history of American music: Stephen Foster, J.P. Sousa, Civil War songs, Dixieland, Ragtime, Big Band, Bee Bop, Porter, Berlin, Gershwin, Folk, Country (I don't much like it but half the country does) -- Willie Nelson, Roseanne Cash or clemency for Hank Williams, Jr.? Zydeco, Mariachi, show music, Bernstein, Copeland, Carter, Glass, etc. Instead we get a run down, irritating compendium of record-smashers and honeys in leather pants, the usual thing for a worldwide benefit, instead of the august moment of the transfer of power from the worst to the best.

Name: John Athridge
Hometown: Washington, DC

Hey Doc, I'm guessing you probably know this already, but just in caseyou didn't hear: the woman who fell on to the subway tracks before theinaugural was saved by a police officer. He dove down and rolled themboth underneath the platform and away from the train. She had adisclocated shoulder, but that's it. Saw it on the local news when Igot home. Was very surprised that bit of heroism got so littleattention.

Eric replies: Thanks, this is truly amazing. When I left the station, Iwas sure, whoever it was, was dead and from the hands I saw, I hadassumed it was a little girl.

Name: Brian Dixon
Hometown: Alexandria, VA

Eric,

Witnessing the woman fall onto the subway tracks must have been horrible. Just hearing the news on the radio that morning was quite painful. You'll be pleased to know that the woman who fell onto the Subway track on Inauguration Day wasn't run over by the train and wasn't seriously injured. An out of town transit police officer pushed her under the platform where there is space to avoid the wheels. Even many DCers don't know that safety trick. Kudos to that officer who I think was from Houston. Sending on guy back to Crawford in exchange for this one from Houston was a big trade up, I'd say

Name: Kathleen Berger
Hometown: Madrid, Spain

Uh - did Pierce really refer to Renee Fleming as "that woman?" For heaven's sake, she's America's sweetheart opera star. She's been on major network talk shows, won a Grammy, been the face of Rolex, been in an Annie Leibovitz book and had a dessert named after her by Daniel Boulud. How 'bout we pay a bit better attention, what say?.

Name: Paul Kingman
Hometown: New Bern, NC

I don't know Mr. Pierce, I read your words today and then watched the show on DVR. On your inference, I fast forwarded through the speeches and listened just to the music. Yeah, I rolled through the ones you suggested except I thought the duo of Will.I.Am, Sheryl Crow were good and the trio with Herbie Hancock stunning (Jon Bon Jovi did fine, despite your warning), Stevie Wonder smoking. I would argue Dr. John more than the Neville Brothers though, because you are right: New Orleans was sorely missing. I did listen to Obama, then Pete Seeger, (explaining to my 17-year-old son that Pete Seeger wrote "Abiyoyo," his favorite book every night for 3 years when cute). I found it to be a great celebration, a celebration of a President (yes I capitalize it,) a President; the first one to share my cultural values, my music, my dreams, my generation. I told my son, that I hope there is another President in his day who excites him and his son as much as this one does the two of us. So Mr. Pierce, I don't know, based on your editing suggestions, it worked for me as an exceptional piece of Americana, that I hope (but I doubt) we'll see again in our lifetime.

Name: Jim Wiseman
Hometown: Downingtown, PA

Hi Eric, I'm repeating a couple of questions I posed in one of your emails "lost in cyberspace" in your first week at The Nation. Why have you changed your wonderful list of links? You dropped Paul Krugman, Digby, effectively Matt Yglesias(click on the link and you'll see what I mean), and others. Much as I enjoy reading Altercation, being able to noodle through all the best blogs on the net was one of its attractions. I hope you'll restore them in time.

Eric replies: I don't know, actually. I made the last list. I did notmake this one for my own use, actually, and figured it would proveuseful for others. I don't know who made this one, but we are gettingit back. Thanks for caring.

Special Slacker Thursday Edition

First off, we have a new "Think Again" column entitled "Free Ride to theFinish Line," about guess who, which is here.

Second off, I have nothing much to say about the inauguration, in partbecause I just do, and in part because on my way there, I witnessed,from about ten feet away, the person run over by the subway car, and Iwas too upset afterward to actually find my way to the Capitol, thoughwith the way things were, that might not have helped. I listened to thespeech from a chair in a Mexican restaurant, but I did not see it. Still, it was pretty good, I thought.

Here's Pierce a day early. I'll have the rest of the mail tomorrow.Thanks for saying hello.

CHARLES PIERCE

NEWTON, MA.

Hey Doc:

"And here I sit so patiently/Waiting to find out what price/Youhave to pay to get out of/Going through all these things twice."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "How Can You Leave Me Now? (The NewOrleans Jazz Band)--I solemnly swear that I will execute my lovefor New Orleans faithfully.

Short Takes:

Part The First: How about we all get together and agree as a nationto take a six-month moratorium on anything that has to do with AbrahamLincoln? Let's give the poor old soul a rest.

Part The Second: OK, now the bad stuff. That fiasco on Sunday onthe steps of the Lincoln Memorial was so utterly, toweringly, transcendentlylame that you'd have thought Chuck Berry had died as a child. I'm surethe fellow-feeling on the mall was fabulous, but, goddamn, was that aterrible concert. If it weren't for U2 and the closing hootenanny -- Thank Godthat Pete and Bruce decided to sing even the pinko verses, but they at leastshould have invited Arlo up there to sing his pappy's song with them--it could have been easily confused with my daughter's seventh-grademusicale.

We couldn't get ALL of Marian Anderson, instead of Josh (Will Emote For Food) Groban and whoever that woman was? And Bettie Levette doesnot need Jon Bon F**king Jovi to help out on "Change Is Gonna Come,"much less take the last two choruses. James Taylor? We can't do better thanJames Taylor, who proceeded to sing a song that makes "Sweet Baby James"sound like "I Fought The Law"? A rock-and-roll medley that begins withthe pustulating swill of "American Pie," and in any case is sung by GarthBrooks? Not a single solitary act from New Orleans? Not one of theMarsalises was free? How about instead of Will I.Am and Sheryl Crowdoing "One Love," we invite the damn Neville Brothers?

And that's not even getting to the preposterous spoken wordsegments in which everybody had trouble with the prompters and the echoes. HasTom Hanks shut up yet? It's a celebration honoring the inauguration of aDemocratic progressive, and yet there's room for some platitudinousbull**it from Ronald Reagan, but none for, say, the "We shall overcome"section of LBJ's voting-rights speech? Joe Biden's Daltrey-esquebellowing was the closest thing the show had to a true rock-and-roll moment. Igotta tell you, post-partisanship sure makes for one lousy show.

Part The Third: I spent some time on Monday and Tuesday monitoringthe superstars of wingnut radio and, my god, are those folks the livingdefinition of "We got nothin'" these days. Laura Ingraham was reduced tosneering at -- and I am not making this up, Dr. Freud--the size of thebrush that Obama was using to paint that school on Monday. (Also, everyother call during the time I was listening came from Mississippi orSouth Carolina.) On Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh amused himself by bleeping outObama's middle name while replaying Obama's taking of the oath. All the while,of course, a couple of million people danced joyously all around them. Somegarden parties are so big, you don't even notice the skunks.

Part The Fourth: Things I did not know before Tuesday: that JohnQuincy Adams took the oath with his hand on a volume of constitutionallaw, and not on a Bible. This immediately made him my favorite presidentnamed Adams.

Part The Last: My friend, Bob Ryan, the quintessential Americansportswriter, pointed out that Aretha's remarkable headgear on Tuesdaywas unquestionably a tribute to the late Bessie Smith. Surprised that never occurred to Gibson or Stephanopolous.

For several years now, I have advocated marching the entireWashington press corps off to a Journalism re-education camp in theSmokies. The bright young cats 'n kittens at Ye Old House Of Mulch ForBrains, of course, would be at the head of the column. They've alreadyproduced what is likely going to remain the most singularly dumbassedanalysis of the entire Obama Era.

This is the distilled essence of what you get when political journalismbecomes only about politics--worse, when it becomes only aboutWashington politics. (And it doesn't even really succeed at that. Is there an ounce of data proving that President Obama would be advantaged by taking any ofthese idiotic suggestions?) It is also the distilled essence of whathappens to political journalism when so many people who practice itcan't really write any more. (Which is why we should all give thanks for thelikes of Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker.) Is there any indication in this piece that either author -- most notably, the egregious Harris, who debasedhimself forever by trolling for support from that greasy little grifterMatt Drudge--ever have reported anything in their lives, beyond pollingdata and campaign gossip?

What possible resonance does any of thisnonsense have in the life of anyone who lives anywhere else in the country? Anout-of-work factory worker's going to get better healthcare becauseObama slaps around the AFL-CIO? Do you think any of these people knowsanything about how Social Security actually works in the world? They know it asa political marker, nothing more. They assess its value in terms ofpolitical advantage; they sure as hell don't assess its value as a social program, since they clearly don't have the rumor of a clue about that.

Say what you will about the smug, arrogant bright-kid syndrome afflicting The NewRepublic. At the very least, they have people who occasionally get on anairplane for reasons beyond covering a campaign. The Politico is thework of clowns and mountebanks, not journalists. People in this businessshould be laughing at it.

Sort of Slacker Friday

We've got a new Think Again column called "Scarborough's Fare" here andmy new Nation column, "Gaza Agonistes" is here.

You will not find many people with less sympathy for Sumner Redstone,the insanely egomaniacal, right-wing head of Viacom. That's why it's ashame that in order to "get" him, Portfolio published such an amateurishhatchet job on the guy by ex-gossip writer, Lloyd Grove, here. I tell my students there's a simple rule for how toidentify a crappy hatchet-job from a more skillful one; does it containblind negative quotes that do not contain any facts that were obtainableon the record. Look what Grove lets his sources get away with,shamelessly, and quite early in the piece: "A prominent talent agenttrashes Redstone as "the most disliked man in Hollywood." A formerViacom executive calls him "a scumbag," while another claims he's "themost egocentric human being you could ever run across."

The rest of it is what you would expect from a gossipeuse: heavy ontitillation about Redstone's marriage and the decorations in his house;nothing at all about the questions should a piece might raise about themanner in which the most powerful titans of media business go aboutdoing their business. Compare to Michael Wolff's reporting on RupertMurdoch in Vanity Fair--which is no less gossipy--well, compared toalmost anything, it stinks. But it's also too bad, because Redstonecooperated with the reporter and now the chance to explore these issueswith him in a smart, hard-headed fashion will forever be lost. ...

Name: Pete Axelrod
Hometown: Brisbane, Qld Australia

My late father George Axelrod wrote the screenplay for Breakfast at Tiffany's and was reasonably happy with the result except for the casting of Mickey Rooney which he found appalling. That and Manchurian Candidate, in my view were his two best films.

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

"Now my friends/What's gone down behind/No more rain/From where wecame." Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click--"Lover Come Back To Me" (CassandraWilson)--I refuse to negotiate a ceasefire with anyone who doubtshow much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: Remember how everybody said Ted Kennedy had to bequiet during the Clarence Thomas hearings because of his penchant forchasing skirts around the Hill? OK, so those were the good old days.

Here, then, is the face of Republican opposition during the most important fiscal crisis inhalf-a-century. Yeah, that guy. I'm afraid he's going to take all $350 million of the remaining bailout money, leave it on the dresser, and then walk out of the room.

Part The Second: RIP to Number Six. And, of course, to John Drake, who's the guy they're singing about.

Part The Third: I can't say I'll miss George Voinovich one way orthe other, but the fact that he made John Bolton's life miserable for even asecond makes me wave at least a little fondly in his direction. IfJeebus is truly my amigo, Marcy Kaptur runs for this seat and wins, but I can'tsee it.

Part The Fourth: Unexpected conservative cooperation with theoverall marketing plan continues apace. Thanks, guys.

Part The Last: Please explain to me why Harry Reid broke so much rocktrying to avoid the inevitable with Roland Burris and yet barely broke anail in defense of the Senate's right to have its subpoenas honored.And, after you do that, please explain to me why there's a federal grand juryempaneled to examine whether Roger Clemens lied to Congress about whathe shot into his caboose and when, and yet nobody's going to prosecute this knob for lying to Congress about the destruction of the United States Department Of Justice. Sorry, Rog. We know what's really important.

As it happens, I have come to know a great many magazine editors inmy time. I've worked with one of the best of them for nearly twenty years. It is now my considered opinion that Jon Meacham of Newsweek is the worst editor of a major magazine that I have ever seen. This began to dawn on me when Jesus and/or His Pappy started popping up on the cover of Newsweek so often that I began to wonder if the magazine was considering changingits name to Galilean Woodworking Illustrated. Then along came thisparticularly weepy abcess, which proved that Jon Meacham is such a bad editor that he couldn;t even see what a hack Jon Meacham is as a writer. If Jon Meacham were an actual editor, he wouldcall in Jon Meacham, the hack writer, and read him this passage:

In this light, Obama has more in common with Reagan thanappearances might suggest. Reagan's loyalists believed in his issues, or at least one of his issues, and they believed in him. They were anxious for a change from the incumbent administration at a time of shattered confidence andeconomic turmoil. The comparison is revealing, for it may foreshadow thenature of the next four or eight years. Like Reagan, Obama is an astuteperformer, a maker of myths and a teller of stories.

He would then ask Meacham the writer if the parallel seems exact enough, since Reagan was not a "teller of tales." He was a monumental liar. He did not liberate the death camps. There was no "welfare queen with 80 names." There was a Russian word for "freedom." Contrary to his own statements, he was up to his eyeballs in Iran-Contra, too, but those are the kind of lies that both Meacham The Editor and Meacham The Writer believe are the exclusive province of the Great Men in their Rolodex, as we shall see in a moment. If he were a real editor, Meacham would tell Meacham The Writer that there is a profound difference between being a "teller of stories" and what we like to call a "maker-up of sh*t." He would then send Meacham The Writer back to cover cops and zoning boards for a while until he learned his craft properly.

However, all of that was prelude to this remarkably rancid pustulation that Meacham and hismagazine loosed on the country this week. (The good Reverend evenvisited the largely deserted Wrinkle Farm to defend it. Two things on which official Washington seems to be unanimous: one, that Israel is always right, and b) that Don Imus is still cool. Taylor was one of the most prominent sheet-sniffing yahoos during the Clinton days--PaulaJones' lawsuit apparently was more important to American values than areeither The Bill of Rights or the Nuremberg Principles--and Thomas isone of those Washington types who wonder nightly where the next John McCloyis coming from. This piece tells you all that you need to know about thewhole sorry lot of them.

America requires courage because living the idea of it is such adamned risk. It was a risk at the start and it remains a risk today.Soldiers understand that more than anyone else. It's why the JAG Corpslawyers were such heroes. It's why the Army put together the fieldmanual on interrogations in the wake of WWII. Because they know more thananyone else does what happens if we shirk from the risk of America. To read howglibly these two tremulous little careerists toss aside that manual infavor of "puzzling" over the "dilemmas" raised by the actions of acriminal poltroon like Richard Cheney is to see an attack on the US military farbeyond anything any liberal ever allegedly concocted. The soldiers knowabout the country because they take an oath to its fundamental law. Andthey know that, without the risk inherent in that law, then thecountry's just Great Britain with better beachfront property.

Stuart Taylor and Evan Thomas are cowards. Jon Meacham is a cowardwho put a great brand-name of American journalism at the service ofcowardice. Cowards as journalists, which is bad. Cowards as citizens, which isimmeasurably worse.

From: Ronald Radosh

Eric,

I am furious and insulted you left me off of your list along with mycomrades Peretz and Kirchick. Please revise and include me among thoseyou left off. I wrote my attack on J St before either of them. I toodespise J Street. But I wouldn't expect you to do anything but have aposition of moral equivalence, akin to what you held during the ColdWar. I would re-read your piece on Israel that you wrote when sanitysuddenly took hold and you did actual reporting. Maybe you should goback to one of the areas Hamas is bombing and stay there a few weeks. Ron

Name: Kevin Philips Bong
Hometown: Luten, England

Dear Eric,

I completely agree with your list today except that I would have had Breakfast at Tiffany and Funny Face DVD above "Robert Gordon, andthe Fab Faux, live" instead of the other way around. Besides this glaring error, your list and commentary are perfect.

Name: Seymour Friendly
Postal: Re: "Gaza Agonistes"

Mr. Alterman, your writing contained this gem:

" ... The middle, meanwhile, is a muddle because it's not so easy to figure out how a small, powerful but beleaguered nation ought to address a threat from an implacable ideological foe who lives on your doorstep, is sworn to your destruction, lobs missiles into your cities and hides behind its civilian population ..."

Even Israeli media has placed the death and destruction we are all witnessing in Gaza, with shocked consciences, as closely linked to Israel's election on February 10. Israeli polls, according to Israeli media, have shown a miraculous turnaround in the electoral approval ratings for the incumbent regime leaders in Israel.

In between pondering the "implacable ideological foe" and the "hiding behind its civilian population" (which in your reasoning apparently apologizes for Germany's bombing of London into ruins in World War II, as Churchill and the British military had stationed themselves throughout London, hiding amongst its civilians.

Name: Jeff Weed
Hometown: Little Elm, TX

Dr. A,

The 2009 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees have been announced:

The performer inductees are: Jeff Beck, Little Anthony & the Imperials Metallica, Run-D.M.C., Bobby Womack

Early Influence Category Inductee: Wanda Jackson

Sidemen Category Inductees: Bill Black, DJ Fontana, Spooner Oldham

I really have no major problems with these, I guess. Finalists passed over include Chic, War and The Stooges. I don't dislike The Stooges as much as you, Doc, but like the MC5, they're a band that I wanted to like but could never really get into. Metallica's induction is probably not thrilling you either given your antipathy towards most heavy metal, but they are a historically significant band. Here's a few more artists the Hall might look at in the coming years:

The Clovers--The major omission by the Hall and would have been a more appropriate "Early Influence" inductee than Wanda Jackson.

Norman Whitfield--Legendary Motown producer and songwriter whose omission is puzzling (as is Tom Dowd's).

Todd Rundgren--Great producer, performer and songwriter needs to be given a look by the Hall.

Hall & Oates--The most commercially successful duo of the rock era and well-deserving of recognition.

Rush--Yeah, lots of people hate them, but they've been enormously influential and their albums still make the top 10. I am admittedly a geeky Rush fan and proud of it!

The Moody Blues--OK, so I have a soft spot for prog-rock. They should still be voted in, although it's very unlikely to happen.

Others at least deserving a look by the Rock Hall include: Genesis, Peter Gabriel, The Cars, Kool and the Gang, Jesse Belvin, The Hollies, Def Leppard, Heart and Deep Purple. Feel free to add your own suggestions, fellow Altercators.

Name: Cindy Morgan
Hometown Irvine CA

LTC Bateman,

I was a little afraid when Altercation moved you would not go with him. I am very relieved to see you are still with this blog.

I wanted to thank you for the video of the crew from the battleship that did the Black Eyed Peas song. It reminded me that these are young, fun loving kids that are doing their duty to their country and not killing machines, which unfortunately is how I personally look at the soldiers when I see the pictures in magazines. I am against any war, which is always about one man showing he has power. I believe the armed services are nessesary to defend our country but not to invade and occupy a foreign country. I have all the respect for the armed services but I got a little distracted by Bush's War and wasn't showing my children that the services deserve respect and our support. I would actually be proud if my son joined the army but not until Bush's War is over.

Thank you for reminding me.

Name: John Loehr
Hometown: Free Union, Virginia

LTC Bob- If you really want "to write for the audience least likely to have a whole lot of experience with or personal direct connections to the military" you should probably go to Powerline, LGF or maybe the NRO. In contrast to the right wing chicken hawks, on most liberal blogs, there are usually a few posters who have actually served in the military. Seriously, I have been reading you for several years now and I was a disappointed that you would repeat the insinuation that liberals are unfamiliar with and don't understand the military.

Name: Colin Lynch
Hometown: Newark, NJ

I'm glad to see the LTC is still in the mix at the new altercation. Iwas somewhat concerned over the change in venue, but am glad I can lookforward to both his, as well as Pierce's and, of course Eric's, gems ofwisdom. Note: Good job on Matthews last night!

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