My new Nation column is “A Wake-Up Call for US Liberals” with the subhead “The state of conservative intellectual debate demonstrates the power of movement crazies.”

I also published this interview with Steve Earle last week which you might have missed because it appeared as a blog post rather than a web article as intended. As with the interview Katrina and I did with Jackson Browne, and the one I did alone with Graham Nash, it runs over 6,000 words and goes back and forth between music and politics. Steve strongly opposes BDS, by the way, which you’ll see if you read to the end.

Inequality and One City: Bill de Blasio and the New York Experiment, Year One

My new ebook and paperback on demand—the first original work to be published by Ebook Nation—has so far received three reviews: one neutral in The New York Times, and two relatively critical: one from my right in Capital New York and one from my left in Jacobin.

I’m OK with the Times notice. I’ve not seen an ebook get noticed by the Times before and so I’m glad to see everything spelled correctly.

The Capital New York review was a disappointment because its author does not appear to understand the relationship between an author and his publisher (and a columnist and his magazine) and so the entire thrust of his review is fundamentally misguided. Suffice it to say, I have nothing whatever to The Nation’s editorials and no one at The Nation had anything to say about the content of the book. Hence, the fellow’s entire argument makes no sense. There are other errors in the piece but one looks petty if one corrects all the errors about one’s book that appears in a review and so you will have to take my word for it that this one ginormous error stands in for many more. (I made this comment at greater length at the bottom of the review, should you click on it.)

The Jacobin review is by someone with greater expertise but a significant ideological axe to grind. One again, it would be a mug’s game to detail all my differences with it except to point out its most fundamental distortion of my argument. The reviewer, for instance, writes:Alterman takes at face value the notion that hard-line ‘broken windows’-style policing is an effective way to reduce urban violence, despite copious evidence to the contrary.”

This is face value? From Inequality and One City:

Of the fact that the NYPD have tended to enforce the city’s laws, regulations and codes with far greater enthusiasm in poor and minority neighborhoods than they do in the wealthier—and whiter—ones is undeniable as a matter of statistical evidence. Whether this disparity is unavoidable, given patterns of crime commission to keep the city safe and secure is question upon which debate must necessarily rest. Bratton was, and remained, an energetic defender of the NYPD’s “Broken windows” policing—the argument that tolerating small “quality of life” infractions leads to more serious criminal activity—suddenly seemed less obvious than it had been previously. But writing in Gotham Gazette, social worker and independent journalist Nick Malinowski, surveyed the available data and found a dearth of “empirical evidence to support the idea that aggressively enforcing so-called ‘quality of life offenses’ through police actions has had a positive impact on public safety.” He cited, among others, a 2009 study by Associate Professor at the CUNY School of Law, Babe Howell, that found that the human costs of these enforcements, which might result in job loss, housing eviction, or loss of parental rights among many others for those ensnared in these often confusing rules and regulations, far outweigh the benefits to society as a whole.

Owing to the institution of a series of Broken Windows-inspired laws, rule changes, and enforcement decisions in the early 1990s, NYPD summonses rose from 150,000 in 1993, to nearly 500,000 just five years later. Between 2001 and 2013, the department issued nearly 7 million summonses, along with another 5 million ‘stop-and-frisks.’” This was possible because, as Malinowski explained, New York City has “nearly 10,000 laws, violations, rules, and codes that a person might break, and the NYPD initiates approximately 1 million punitive interactions with residents every year. Almost none of these interactions have anything to do with serious crime. About half result in summonses. Of arrests, just 25 percent are related to felonies.” As Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi observed in an article entitled “The NYPD’s ‘Work Stoppage’ Is Surreal,” “In an alternate universe, the New York Police might have just solved the national community-policing controversy.” He mused, “It would be amazing if this NYPD protest somehow brought parties on all sides to a place where we could all agree that policing should just go back to a policy of officers arresting people [in the words of the Post’s editors] “when they have to.”

I see yet another factual error, by the way—if it has not been fixed by the time you read this—where the reviewer writes that Atlantic Yards was “in the heart” of de Blasio’s district. In fact, it’s not in the heart or even the foot. It’s not in his district at all. There’s more, no doubt, but that’s enough for today. (And sad to say, that on the day that this sloppy review appeared in the radical Left Jacobin, I actually saw my views accurately represented by the usually goofy far-right outfit, NewsBusters. I will resist the urge to draw any conclusions from that, alas.)


Phil Lesh and Friends at the Capitol in Port Chester and assorted Dead re-releases.

I headed up to Port Chester to see Phil Lesh and Friends celebrate his 75th birthday with one of a four-night stand at the gorgeous Capitol Theatre, where much of my youth was misspent. I only caught the first set owing to the train schedule, though. Still it was really nice. The band was Warren Haynes, Rob Barraco, and John Molo. The Jerry vocals were inoffensive to one’s memory and the playing was first rate, which is a good thing, because they were almost all Jerry songs. (Also true in the second set apparently, here. It was painful to leave just as “Crazy Fingers” was beginning and the band was cohering even further, but it certainly helped me gear up for three nights in Chicago this July. Also of help in this regard is Rhino’s new two cd 32-song “The Best of the Grateful Dead,” which, of course, is no such thing, but it is two discs of studio material that a lot of people won’t have, especially a few of the songs from the earliest and latest studio albums. My friends at Real Gone Music continue re-releasing Dick’s Picks and this month they’ve got a famous show: Dick’s Picks Vol. 8—Harpur College, Binghamton, NY May 2, 1970 . The show at tiny Harpur college in upstate New York was apparently one of Jerry’s favorites and it is complete save for one song, on this 3-CD set. The highlight is the the 40-minute medley that opens the second set together with the third set’s “Viola Lee Blues” plus, incredibly the Dead’s version of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s World.” (Note: Real Gone is also repressing Dick’s Picks Vol. 33—Oakland Coliseum Stadium, Oakland, CA 10/9 & 10/10/76, featuring Bill Graham’s historic “Day on the Green” concerts).

Dave and Phil Alvin and the Guilty Ones at City Winery

You may have heard that after years of frostiness, and then Phil’s near demise, the brothers returned last year with “Common Ground: Dave Alvin + Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy” It was nominated for a Grammy and maybe should have won. It’s a bit too reverent though for my taste, which is why I’m happier when they play Blasters’ classics. They did both at City Winery this week along with Dave’s near great “What’s Up With Your Brother.” The whole show was a lot of fun. Phil’s incredibly daring vocal on “Please, Please, Please” was another astonishment. And the band, as always with Dave, was first rate. I don’t understand why they don’t play “American Music,” which I thought everybody loved, but “Border Radio” will stand the test of time, I think with any of Big Bill’s best.

Debbie Harry at the Café Carlyle

I’ve never the seen the Carlyle more crowded than for Debbie’s opening night show the other night; and I’ve rarely seen such a sartorial split between the high life and low life, or uptown and downtown, with downtown clearly winning. The evening was devoted to un-Blondie songs. Debbie, who was supported only by her keyboard/computer guy Matt Katz-Bohen, sang songs that you would have to be a Debbie Harry expert, which I’m not. I like a few of those songs, and Debbie’s work with the Jazz Passengers, but I was unfamiliar with most of the material, much of which reminded me of the Blondie Song “Fade Away and Radiate.” It was all pretty interesting, and per usual at the Carlyle, extremely informal, which is the only thing about the show that was per usual. After about an hour, Debbie said, “Have we fulfilled our obligation?” and ended the show. I should say I also liked the Sesame Street song a lot. And I’m glad to see the Café both branching out (or down) and doing so well with it. Debbie will be there through April 4 and ticket prices are not as high as usual.