I’ve got a new Think Again called “The Conspiracy Nuts Take Over,” whichcompares media coverage of “truthers” vs. “birthers” and you can find ithere.

Also, my old friend and history professor, Dick Polenberg is continuingto host his web-based Slope Radio program on the blues and folk music.Called “Key to the Highway,” it’s back at its old time slot: from 7 to8 pm on Wednesdays. The shows are archived, though, so you can hearthem whenever you wish. All of the past programs – more than thirty ofthem–are also still available and I think they are our kind of thing.

You can log on at the following site. No username or password isnecessary.


He writes: “Last spring I concluded with programs about the music ofJohn Lee Hooker and Django Reinhardt. This season’s first program –Episode 32 — is devoted to Dinah Washington, who began her recordingcareer in 1943 at the age of 19. She later released an album calledDinah Sings Bessie Smith, and one of her last albums, which appearedin 1963, was fittingly entitled, Back to the Blues. Future programswill deal with the famous Anthology of American Folk Music compiled byHarry Smith in 1952, with songs written about the sinking of the Titanicin 1912, and with musicians such as Cassandra Wilson.”

Now Shana Tova, and here’s Pierce:


Hey Doc:

“White House said, put the thing in the pool room/Vatican said, no,it belongs to Rome/Jody said it’s mine, but you can have it for $17million.”

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: “Rocks In My Bed” (Ivy Anderson)–Iam perfectly willing to stand in the well of the House and apologize toeveryone there for how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: Sometimes, you just have to admire theirlateral quickness. I mean, honestly, this makes the old Soviet approach to history look positively scholarly. Don’t go to the opera, W.

Part The Second: Holy hell. It turns out that Waldo The DrunkSecurity Guard, who may be familiar to the readers of these dispatchesfor being constantly derelict in his duties at Salon, has a drunken brotherwho seems to have landed a job guarding the studios at NPR, with predictable results.

Part The Third: Oh, Michele, don’t worry. As I have said repeatedly since you first burst on the national stage, you can just eat me, OK?

Part The Fourth: Not to harsh Andrew’s mellow beyond how badly it’salready been harshed, but what in the hell is he on about here? Does he honestly think that the “small-government, balanced-budget” element of last weekend’s Orc Cotillion is any less nutty than the Christianists are? That people who believe that hollering “socialism” every time Olde Country Buffet runs out of tapioca are the route back to political legitimacy? That supply-side economics is really less detachedfrom empirical reality than the Birthers are? Andrew, laddybucks, thewhole conservative movement always has been about fifty bulbs short of being achandelier. You ran with the pack once. Deal with it.

Part The Fifth: This was nice comic interlude. Howie The Hackmarvels at how crazy conservatives have become. David Brody demonstrates what he’s talking about. Sam Tanenhaus plugs a book and pretends this all started last weekend, andCeci Connolly is brought in to see how fast they all can kill poor BobSomerby.

Part The Sixth: I’d like to say, for the record, that it is trulyan honor to be called a “clod” by this sweaty third-string unemployable. The above essay, of course, will be included in the upcoming anthology, Cahiers du Pantloade.

Part The Seventh: Bookmark this sucker.Yeah, they said nice things about the book. Whatsit to ya? But Texasliberals are always worthy of support. And what can you say about a sitethat helped me find this whichabsolutely, 100-percent, solid-gold made my week?

Part The Eighth: Thanks to Glennzilla for pointing this out. I have no doubt that The Atlantic‘s method for compiling these rankings is at least as credible as that used by, say, the BCS. More’s the pity. Look at this incredible parade of omadhauns. Numbers 2, 7, and 11 are complete radiorodeo clowns. Number 10 is indictable. Number 13 believes in MagicDolphins and listens to the tiny little Reagan in her head. Number 26 is atoe-sucking charlatan. Your mileage on most of the others may vary. Weare so screwed. I swear, someone should write a book.

Part The Penultimate: Yeah, I was happy to see THIS, too, but at the risk of going all Howler on everyone, this line right here–“–noDemocrat ever shouted “liar” at W. when he was hawking a fake case forwar in Iraq–” is meaningless unless followed by the phrase, “Not that youdid either, sweetie.” It’s moments like this when it’s useful to rememberHarvey Keitel’s advice from Pulp Fiction as to what it is not yet time todo to each other yet.

Part The Last: It’s finally on this Sunday at Pairc an Chrocaigh. And, not for nothing, but mygrandparents came from the place represented in Dail Eireann by the Up The Kingdom!

p.s. — I’d just like to thank the redoubtable Amanda Marcotte for the kindones, and tell her that, the next time I’m in Austin, the first plate of ribs atStubbs is on me.

Last week, through serendipitous circumstance, I found myselfstaring down the very nasty gun-barrel of the despicable way we do “healthcare”in this country. The details are unimportant, but I can say that it hadsomething very much to do with this Kaiser Foundation study that EzraKlein limns here. This concentrated my mind wonderfully on the current dilemma. I came to the not unreasonable conclusion that most of the politicians involved in this business–up to and including the lemon in the White House–don’t care about the simple fact that this country is going to allow people to sicken and die because they can’t afford to do anything else. Period. Everything else is dumbshow, a WWE card covered by people engaged in a really bad form of sportswriting–people, I might add, who could careless themselves that this country is going to allow people to sicken anddie because they can’t afford to do anything else.

Does anyone honestly believe that this White House has acted ingood faith? With its allies in Congress? With its constituents? Hell, withits own campaign promises? Does anyone honestly believe that, say, ChuckTodd gives a rat’s ass how many people out in the country slowly sicken anddie as long as Chuck can tell us who’s up and who’s down, and what’spolitically feasible and what’s not, and that he can still get a goodtable at the Palm? Never in my long career as a professional cynic have I seenan spasm of Beltway bubblehood so far removed from the actual concerns ofpeople’s lives–so far removed that, last weekend, we had a gatheringof the politically halt, lame, blind, and crippled in Washington, gatheredfor the sole purpose of petitioning various oligarchs to keep screwing themwith their pants on. Never in my long career as a professional cynichave I seen a spasm of Beltway bubblehood so far beyond even the limits ofIrish Smartass to describe it. The political class in this country–politicianand journalist, lobbyist and legislator, Republican and Democratic,Executive and Legislative — has made a collective decision to protectthe profits of one of the least popular industries in the history of theRepublic, to preserve the iron grip of corporate bureaucrats over thepractice of medicine in America, and to refuse vitrually without seriousdiscussion to adopt measures favored by 77 percent of the voting public.It is to be in awe, is what it is.

And I hate to personalize this, but one of the prime Democraticwaffle salesmen throughout this whole unholy mess has been Senator MarkUdall (D-Colorado) Now, as it happens, I spent half of 1975 and almostall of 1976 working to get Mark’s pappy–Mo, of sainted memory–electedpresident. In the course of my duties, I handed out–or arranged tohave handed out–about eleventy bajillion of these handbills. I handed them out at diners in New Hampshire, and hung them on people’s doors in Massachusetts. I sent people out at 5:30 in the morning to distributethem at factory gates in Wisconsin in the middle of February. I even broughtthem (briefly) to the land of the Amish, where nobody votes and fewpeople own telephones. Looking at the old flyer now, I am struck by thispassage right here:

Why in America, with our immense wealth, should the poor getsicker and the sick get poorer? We have been promising ourselves a systemofnational health insurance for a quarter of a century. I am tired ofapologizing year after year as we fail to achieve it. We have put apremium on conversation instead of coverage. America is the only industrializednation in the world which does not provide basic health service as auniversal right. As President, I will make sure that we do.

I didn’t freeze my cojones off in front of the Allis-Chalmers plantso Senator Udall one day could calculate a half-dozen good politicalreasons why some people simply have to die. I didn’t nearly get killed on a darkroad outside Manchester in the snow so Mark Udall could come along thirty-threeyears later and quibble about which insurance company gobbler can suck up thebiggest bonus this year. Jesus, Mark, if you won’t listen to the peopleout there, at least listen to the spirit of the great man who was yourfather.

Name: Steve Thorne
Hometown: Somewhere in California

I’m guessing that the reasons we’re using contractors to guardembassies in dangerous places instead of Marines is that: a) We’re alittle short of Marines right now with all the deployments they’reon and b) Marines would be such tempting targets for any knuckleheadwalking or driving past the embassy that we’d lose them for no goodreason and c) Marines receive medical and VA benefits and havemilitary honors rendered to them if they’re killed whilecontractors’ families get insurance checks and no press coverage atDover AFB or Arlington and d) losing a Marine pisses off more peoplethan losing a “contractor” and might lead to losing more Marines inthe attempt to get even.

The Marines have worked very hard to make their uniform a symbol ofthe might and power of the United States and that has someunfortunate side effects in hostile nations.

Protecting Americans from their foreign policy mistakes is a “teamsport.” Here in “Somewhere” there’s a lot of Marines about. And whileit is my duty as a Soldier to give them as much shit as possible, Ido respect that they’re too important to the “team” to lose just forlooking sharp outside a building located someplace we probablyshouldn’t be in the first place.

Name: Steve Nelson
Hometown: Ket, WA

While much of this story is anecdotal I totally agree. My mother-in-law livesby herself and watches TV a lot. Between Mariners games and soapoperas she used to watch a lot of news (mostly FOX). Over time wenoticed a huge difference in her outlook. She was becomingincreasingly depressed and paranoid to the point we were worried thatshe was on her last legs. With a stroke of brilliance my wifeconvinced her to stop watching so much news and the few times she didthen she should try other news stations than FOX. Voila, within amonth she was back to her old self.

Name: Chuckie Fitzhugh
Hometown: Chandler, AZ

Regarding Tim Kane’s email about Fox and right-wingnut radio preyingon the elderly, I never previously thought about the possibility, butat first blush it would seem to make a lot of sense. I have neverbeen able to comprehend how they get the HUGE mid-day radio ratingsthat they do, but if you think about it, it makes some sense. Who islistening to radio during the middle of the day (beyond thebackground noise of an isolated office-cube or two)??

Their message is always simple, and repeated ad nauseum… Who doesthis vitriol and animosity appeal to? I would imagine that evenconservative “thinkers” like to break-down a topic and discuss inmore detail than you’ll ever hear on Hannity or Beck, or any of thoseloons. Simple, repeated messages, and the occasional reference to”back in the day when America was great”; all joking aside, I alwaysthought it required some diminished mental capability to find theirdrivel entertaining; sadly, maybe the elderly actually are their intended target-audience.

Name: Frank Lynch
Hometown: Really Not Worth Archiving –http://www.samueljohnson.com/blog/

Hi Eric, with Friday the 18th being Samuel Johnson’s Tricentennial, I don’t mind weighing in with some thoughts on the great man. And beingan amateur Johnsonian with a highly recommended Johnson web site (andwho wishes to be in England right now but is not), perhaps some ofthe following might be interesting to slip in to the mix…

1. Conservatives love to claim Samuel Johnson as one of theirs,thanks to his love of country and his respect for the established forms of government and religion. But they also love to claim Edmund Burke as one of their own, and while Johnson had the utmost respect for Burke’s intellect, he detested his politics. In fact, it would appear that Johnson’s famous line “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” was provoked by a discussion of Burke and others in the 18th c patriot movement. (In Boswell’s journals, the sequence is a discussion of Burke followed by the quip; in Boswell’s Life of Johnson Boswell switches the order and puts them in differentparagraphs, presumably to spare Burke.) Johnson’s essay “The Patriot”is full of disparaging comments about the practices of Burke’s party.

2. Johnson was a great example of how someone could love his country without blindly loving everything the country does. In an explanation of the events leading up the Seven Years’ War, Johnson compared the way the British colonists treated our Native Americans to how the French did, and found the British dishonest and opportunistic. “No people can be great who have ceased to bevirtuous,” he wrote.

3. Although Johnson adhered to the established order, he did notbelieve that mere tradition and history were significant. He wrote anessay arguing for leniency in punishment (forgery and robbery werecapital crimes in those days). He also took the side of women,writing on the need to provide them with better education, as well associal forces which can drive a woman to prostitution.

Johnson also understood the plight of the poor, and would load hispockets with change before he went out, in order to give it to thebeggars he encountered. At a dinner party, when some said it waswasteful to give money to the poor (they would only spend it ontobacco or gin), he upbraided them for wanting to deny them eventhat: “Life is a pill which none of us can bear to swallow withoutgilding; yet for the poor we delight in stripping it still barer, andare not ashamed to shew even visible displeasure, if ever the bittertaste is taken from their mouths.”

I have nothing but the highest admiration for Johnson, and wish hewere better known.

Best always, Frank