I’ve got a new "Think Again" column called "A Climate of Conspiracy," which deals with the tendency of contemporary conservatives to treat everything they don’t like as a conspiracy and it’s here

My Nation column is called "Saving Journalism (It’s Not Academic)," and it’s about the various conflicts I’ve noticed over my career injournalism and academia, and the reasons this will make it difficult for academics to step in where journalism disappears, and it’s here.

Alter-reviews: John Fogerty and David Johansen, live and the big Miles Davis Columbia box:

Fogerty: I caught two shows last week. First was John Fogerty at the Beacon. I hate to call an artist a "brand" but a John Fogerty concert is about as dependable a brand as you are going to find in the business of concert-going. (Well, Ok, the Allman Brothers Band…) But with forty years of great material, enthusiastically and expertly played, well there’s not much to say that hasn’t been said. This was a slightly more country-fied Fogerty band owing to the release, thirty years later, of the second volume of Blue Ridge Ranger songs, and these were fun, of course, but the extremely excited boomer crowd was out of their seats mostly for the big Credence hits, and the really big hits like "Center Field" from Fogerty’s solo career. I’m sort of at a loss for words here, but I guess the most eloquent thing I can say would be to suggest you pick up a copy of Fogerty’s new DVD–what no blu-ray?–which marks his return to Royal Albert Hall, sight of a famous, albeit at first mislabeled Credence concert album–and just enjoy the damn thing.

David Jo: The second show I saw last week was an extremely rare cruise through history by David Johansen, who, despite extremely limited singing range, has proven to be an incredibly versatile inhabiter of quite different musical persona over the past three and half decades, beginning with the New York Dolls–featuring some of the worst professional musician sever committed to vinyl; a brilliant and too short solo career as "David Johansen," Buster Poindexter and a latter day Harry Smith revivalist.The last time I saw Johansen he played the role of, I kid you not, Howlin’ Wolf in a wonderful Hubert Sumlin band. It was weird how this skinny white guy could sound so much like a 300 lb black guy. Clearly the guy has just about the entire history of rock n roll coursing through his veins and Saturday night’s show at the Highline felt like avery special occasion of mutual appreciation between all of these persona and a small but loyal and dedicated audience that could not have imagined being anywhere else. The songs are great, and if anyone deserves a nice three cd box with great liner notes staking his important, albeit perhaps purposely marginal place in the history of rock n roll, David Jo sure does. (Also, Scrooged is one of my favorite movies of all time, and he’s great in it and it plays all the time, around now.)

Miles Davis: The Complete Miles Davis Columbia Album Collection, 52 cds, 70 discs cds and one DVD

So I shelled out for the big box, which last time I checked, was selling for under $300 on Amazon. I did it even though I had every single Miles Davis Columbia cd I wanted, also in beautiful box sets, with great notes and photos, etc, because I’m a historian and something of a completist and I wanted the original reproductions, and the sense of development, and I thought I would later Miles another try, even though I pretty much hate it. (The decision was enabled by my ability to sell my entire Miles collection to friendly Altercator, thanks be to providence.) I’m glad I did this because:

a) Turns out there was a bunch of Miles I didn’t knew I wanted
b) The thing I hated about those old box sets was the way that they would play alternate takes of every song over and over, thereby not only losing the original album as it was released, but also driving you crazy if you don’t fast forward. The box set is so superior in that regard, because it places them at the end, I’m sad I did this because
a) While it does have the original liner notes on the back of each cd, the writing is so small, you have to be eleven years old to be able to read it. And they are not reproduced in the book.
b) Ok, I knew this going in, but I had to give up six of the eight cds from live at the Plugged Nickel. I was willing to do that, but still, I’m sad.

Overall, I’m glad not sad. But that inability to read the liner notes, which really add to the experience, is a kind of tease that I can’t quite shake, particularly since I think Columbia could have solved it with paper inserts or by putting them in the book. But anyone you know who gets this for the holidays will really love you for it. The DVD is pretty great too. You can read more about it here before you invest.

This Week on Moyers:

Veteran Oliver Stone came back from Vietnam a changed man. Now, with four films on the Vietnam War under his belt–Platoon (1986), Born onthe Fourth of July (1989), Heaven & Earth (1993), and Pinkville (2007)–Oliver Stone talks with Bill Moyers about how his experiences of war has affected his life, his work and his vision of the world today. Also on the program, Bill Moyers comments on President Obama’s decision to escalate troops in Afghanistan.

The Mail:

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

Brother Pierce, it is time to invoke that old snake oil salesman Paul Harvey’s line to Richard Nixon: I love you, but you’re wrong. I fearthat you are suffering from OLD–Obama Liberalism Delusion. You see, you argue that President Obama–I will use the honorific, though I didn’t use it all that much for Bill Clinton, much less the moron who was not elected to succeed him–was not elected to change the tone in Washington.

Problem one: that was what he campaigned on and promised to do. Now, I happen to think he is as wrong as wrong can be. The tone cannot be changed when the other side is, to put it simply, bat shit crazy. AsMichael Tomasky showed so well in The New York Review of Books, in an argument so obvious that it should be obvious to everyone but isn’t, the Democratic party has become more diverse ideologically while the Republican party has become one-note because Democrats have spread into what used to be Republican territory while Republicans have hunkered down. But the president wants to change the tone, and in his mind, that apparently means not making all of the changes that Pierce wants–and, frankly, that I want. But I knew what I was getting when I voted for him.

Problem two: The Speech has yet to be delivered on Afghanistan as I write this. But the early reports were that President Obama rejected every original plan because none of the military geniuses had an exit strategy and he wants to have one. That puts him many millions of miles ahead of every one of his predecessors since…uh…Lincoln?

Name: Tom from Seattle
Hometown: Seattle by way of Seoul, Korea

Hey Doc, On the topic of American Exceptionalism, OK, we weren’t necessarily talking specifically about it but maybe it’s time to make this a national discourse?

I’m living in Seoul, South Korea and it doesn’t take very long to understand how far the US has fallen in terms of, well, every perceived element of stature I can think of.

People in the east Asia – China, Japan, Korea, etc. already view usas an economic peer at best, and potentially irrelevant at worst. If you read the papers here, you learn these countries have pride in their own cultures and aren’t interested in just adopting and mimicking US and western society. They’re educated, engaged, and thinking clearly. They move fast because that’s what you do when you see the path that needs to be cleared and you decide to "just do it". Maybe most importantly, they seem hell bent on leapfrogging the US technologically speaking by developing "green" technologies–government supported, of course!

Nobody fears the bloated, self-important, warmongering guys who can’t seem to get their swagger back, nor get their head in the game. We’re playing by rules they think are antiquated and they have no particular desire to worry about what we think anymore.

Any other expats feeling this around the globe? I don’t think I’m overstating things. God knows I see it manifested here everyday.

Pierce’s notions on the fall of the empire are tangible here. Which begs the obvious question…how do we stop it?

My fear now is that we’ll double-down on the notion of mistaking military might for true leadership. When the only tool left in the bag is an F-22, everything looks like a target.

What’s the boundary line between 1st and 2nd world again?

Name: Ann Donahue
Hometown: Shelburne, VT

Like Pierce, I’ve had my doubts about Obama from the start. But his statement that, at the moment, there’s no way he would vote to reelect Barak Obama begs the question, "what’s the alternative?" I’ll be thrilled if a smart progressive steps up to the plate in 2012, and even more stoked if said progressive turns out to be remotely electable. Alas, I’m not holding my breath. It’s enough to turn a person into a nihilist. I can’t seem to resist the impulse to vote, but at age 54, I’m not looking forward to a few more rounds of "anyone but the undereducated paranoid lunatic" nominated by the other side. On the other hand, at this atmittedly early point in the administration, Pierce’s statement reminds me a bit of the teacher who announces in September that the kid is doomed. Is there really any point in attending the parent-teacher conferences?

Name: Don Hynes
Hometown: Portland OR

Hi Eric,

You did the right thing supporting Barack Obama as presidential candidate. As Pierce suggests the options were beyond an x-file plot. But the achievment tally has to begin. There are only a few categories so why not stay simple.

Economy: winner – Wall Street & The Big 5 Banks. Loser – everyone else.

Health Care: winner – Big Pharma, Big Insurance. Loser – everyone else.

Foreign Policy: winner – drugs, oil and whoever profits from putting more men into a senseless meatgrinder. Loser – too sad to describe.

Environment: winner – I’d like to be more upbeat but "an agreement by Missouri-based Peabody Energy to invest participate in GreenGen, a project of several major Chinese energy companies to develop a near-zero emissions coal-fired power plant." Peabody Energy is it, as in Peabody Coal, who gets a public green wash, a "near zero" (as in almost pregnant) coal plant, while continuing to strip mine the few remaining Allegheny Mountains. Loser – everyone.

Am I missing something important?

Name: Samg
Hometown: Rockville, MD

Re: pierce’s rant about Obama. if pierce expected that the first black president of a white country, and a man with a total of two years of real governmental experience, could change everything about this country, especially punishing the other political party, the party of the white majority, and grinding them into the dust (which i agree they richly deserve), then i don’t think much about mr. pierce’s attachment to reality. he’s making his own reality, about as effectively as did the senior bush official who assured ron suskind years ago that the bushies were making theirs, with no help from knowledge, science or truth.

Name: Steve Engber
Hometown: Onalaska, WI

Like Mr. Pierce, I, too, live for the moment that President Obama becomes the avenging hero and morphs into the Incredible Hulk and starts throwing idiots and bankers around. Unfortunately, I fully believe that the not-so-hidden agenda of the wingnuts is to provoke him into becoming The Angry Black Man. The weird episode that was Ms.Williams and the line judge was piss ant next to past tantrums and we’re still hearing about it. Obama spends three seconds acting like Dick Cheney and it’s over for him.

Name: Debra Beller
Hometown Chapel Hill, NC

Geez, Pierce, take a chill pill. Wouldn’t vote for Obama? Just who would you vote for? Not a lot of alternatives out there.

Now, I’m not happy at the glacial pace of change and the outreach to a bunch of clearly lunatic righties–but really, he’s done a lot and a lot more will be done. It is a mighty huge ocean liner that Bush-Cheney (and all the way back to Reagan and Nixon) left him that he’s trying to turn around. Its gonna take small steps and more time than any of us would like to get our country back.

Anyway, here’s a list of good stuff so far — with more to come if we can all just stay on board.

Name: Megan Williams
Hometown: Seattle

So Pierce? You don’t want anybody to change the ‘tone’…just the country. OK that’s fair. BUT…if we whine and snivel and demean to get our way then we aren’t any different than the GOP really. We just get our way. And that’s better, right?

Name: Dennis Stipe
Hometown: Fernandina Beach, FL

Another Old Navy Guy:

Doc. A,

I’ve been a loyal fan since the earliest days of MSNBC. I’ve never commented before.

I too, miss Stupid, but mostly I miss Nicolas Pisano. I’d like to hear that he’s okay.

I’m an old diesel boat and FBM (Polaris missile nuclear submarine )sailor from the 60’s who spent collectively over two years of my life underwater in the Mediterranean and Arctic oceans jointly with our fingers on the trigger to annihilate the Russians with nuclearholocaust. I now consider that to be a wasted two plus year hole in my life. This is now not the America that I grew up in nor served in.

My comment is in response to Charles Pierce of last Friday’s post. I am a big and long time fan of Mr. Pierce. I had some doubts about President Obama’s electability early on, but soon supported him enthusiastically and with money early on. Mr. Pierce’s post didn’t influence me; I had the same trepidations regarding the Afghanistan rumors as Pierce did. Nonetheless, I couldn’t agree more with everything Mr. Pierce said.

I find it interesting that with his poll numbers around 51%, my take on the new surge is a Faustian deal to placate the Rove and Cheney camps, which will last about 5 minutes as they hate him. So for five minutes of salutes from the Roves, he’s lost half or more of his support, including mine.

Name: Ed Tracey
Hometown Lebanon, New Hampshire

Professor, forty years ago this week was one of college football’s "Games of the Century" that lived up to its advance billing. Like Notre Dame-at-Michigan State in 1966, Nebraska-at-Oklahoma in 1971and more recently the 2006 Texas-USC Rose Bowl game, the [Texas-at-Arkansas] match of 1969 featured the #1 and #2-ranked undefeated teams. Texas prevailed 15-14, having gambled on a fourth-and-three play (from their own 43) with a 44-yard pass that set-up the winning touchdown with four minutes to play.

But several aspects of the game transcended mere sports:

(a) This game was marked by President Nixon’s decision not only to attend (along with then-congressman George H.W. Bush) but also to present a plaque (signifying a national title) to the winning squad–despite the fact that Penn State was also undefeated and the bowl games were several weeks away. Texas did go on (later) to be formally awarded the national title after a Cotton Bowl victory.

(b) This game was the last major American football game played between two all-white teams, as the southern regional conferences began integrating the following year.

(c) With Nixon present, anti-Vietnam War protesters attended and one climbed a tree overlooking the stadium holding up an anti-war sign. Rumor had it that this was Arkansas native (and future President) Bill Clinton–but Clinton was then in England as a Rhodes scholar (although he did listen to the game on a shortwave radio).

(d) And finally, this wasn’t the only time a Joe Paterno-led Penn State team finished undefeated yet unable to play for the national title; which is why he’s long argued for a playoff system. Five years later in 1974, Nixon’s involvement led Paterno (a conservative Republican) to ask during a [commencement] speech: "How could Nixon know so much about college football in 1969–and so little about Watergate in 1973?"