We’ve got a new “Think Again” column called ” It’s Still the BushEconomy” about the proclivity of so many in the media to treat thiseconomic crisis as if it were caused by Obama, rather than Bush, hereand I did posts for the Daily Beast arguing that:

a) The release of the torture memos here and
b) It’s OK to love France (and San Francisco) again here and
c) There may be an actual political strategy behind Obama’s willingnessto overload the political system with far more legislation than he canpossibly pass here

Now Here’s Pierce

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

“I’ve seen the world with a five-piece band/lookin’ at the backsideof me/Singing my songs, one of his now and then/But I don’t think Hankdone ’em this way.”

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: “Expression Of Love” (Honey Island SwampBand)–I’m no organizer, but I’m willing to bet that, even without thehelp of Sean Hannity and his fellow primates, I could get more than100,000 people to gather nationwide to support the proposition of howmuch I love New Orleans.

Short Takes

Part The First: If there’s a central core of bad journalism at theheart of that breeder reactor for bad journalism that is Ye Olde HouseOf Mulch for brains, it’s got to be Mike Allen. Mike had a bad week. First, Mike decides to talk about real Americans, as though he’s ever met any. (Extra points to Mike for making this point to a radio-talker who was sure we’d all be praising President Mitt Romney by now.) Then, he meets in a dark garage with former officials of theAvignon Presidency who, having been granted anonymity, break the startling newsto Mike that they were great and the new guy sucks. Mike will be waiting in vain for the movie deal on this one, I’m thinking.

Part The Second: Said it before. Will say it again. When the Lordhanded out the big brass ones, Rod Blagojevich got in line twice. No judge in his right mind is going to let this happen. As soon as he hits the ground, our boy is going to be off into the jungle, never to return, until they send somebody upriver to kill him in the middle of the crooked real-estate empire he’s built among the local tribes. Good thing that this is still in effect.

Part The Third: Is there anyone on earth who knows what in the hellMr. Justice Thomas is talking about here? Every time this guy surfaces, he says something new and bizarre. (His dissent in the Arkansas term-limits case a few years back put him on the wrong side of, among other things, the Battle of Gettysburg.) But this is just sub-weird. It’s something you’d hear on a local drivetime radio station, probably by a family-values host who is banging the sales staff two at a time. Worse, it sounds like something Glenn Beck cooked up. Does “originalism” have any real meaning in constitutional law any more, or is it just the right to hock a loogie at people you don’t like? Clarence on a car phone, you’re next.

Part The Fourth: I’m as devoted to cheap laughs as the next guybut, lawsamercy, some of our cable TV news stars went completely agog overthe whole “tea-bagging” thing this week. (Yes, I’m looking at you, AndersonCooper. How dare you make David Gergen blush. That was like watching theheads on Mt. Rushmore blush.) Let this be a good lesson for the peoplewho organized these inchoate belches of ill-considered outrage. if youconfine your sales pitch to only one of the cable networks, and you make it theoneon which the television personalities are nuttierthan the people at the rallies with the tea-bags on their heads, then that’s an open invitation for the other cable operations to rediscover their backbones, at least for one day.

Part The Last: I’m not an expert on constitutional law–and Ionly occasionally play one here on this blog — but it seems to me that callsto impeach this amoral little weasel are both politically unlikely, and legally dubious. Can you impeach someone for something he did before he took office? To me, it seems asstrange as impeaching someone for something he might do after he isappointed and confirmed. All we can hope for is that, some day, he ishauled before some tribunal or another and made to answer under oath forwhat he’s done and that the resulting shame causes him to slink off thebench in shame in the dead of night. Yeah, right.

I have now lived through three major episodes in my life where thepolitical elite have told me quite plainly that neither I nor my fellowcitizens are sufficiently mature to suffer the public prosecution ofmajor crimes committed within my government. The first was when Gerry Fordtold me I wasn’t strong enough to handle the sight of Richard Nixon in thedock. (Ed. note–I would have thrown a parade.) Dick Cheney looked at this episode and determined that the only thing Nixon did wrong was getcaught. The second time was when the entire government went into spasm over thecrimes of the Iran-Contra gang and I was told that I wasn’t strongenough to see Ronald Reagan impeached or his men packed off to Danbury. DickCheney looked at this and determined that the only thing Reagan and hismen did wrong was get caught and, by then, Cheney had decided that even thatwasn’t really so very wrong and everybody should shut up. Now, Barack Obama, who won election by telling thecountry and its people that they were great because of all they’d done for him,has told me that I am not strong enough to handle the prosecution of paleand vicious bureaucrats, many of them acting at the behest of Dick Cheney,who decided that the only thing he was doing wrong was nothing at all, whohave broken the law, disgraced their oaths, and manifestly belong in aone-room suite at the Hague. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’m sick andgoddamn tired of being told that, as a citizen, I am too fragile to bearthe horrible burden of watching public criminals pay for their crimesand that, as a political entity, my fellow citizens and I are delicateflowers encased in candy-glass who must be kept away from the sight of men infine suits weeping as they are ripped from the arms of their families andsent off to penal institutions manifestly more kind than those in which theyarranged to get their rocks off vicariously while driving other men mad.

Hey, Mr. President. Put these barbarians on trial and watch me.I’ll be the guy out in front of the courtroom with a lawn chair, somesandwiches, and a cooler of fine beer. I’ll be the guy who hires thebrass band to serenade these criminal bastards on their way off to the bighouse. I’ll be the one who shows up at every one of their probation hearingswith a copy of the Constitution, the way crime victims show up at the paroleboard when their attacker comes up for release. I’ll declare a nationalholiday — Victory Over Torture Day — and lead the parade right upwhatever gated street it is that Cheney lives on these days. Trust me,Mr. President. I can take it.

Name: John O’Connell
Hometown: Lenexa, KS

Eric, I’d love to hear from you and some of your contributors on theTax Day Tea Parties being held across the country today. (They werein the Journal’s opinion section this morning:

I’ll leave the conspiracy theories to those a bit more suspiciousthan myself but …

It seems to me these are based on several false assumptions. First,the original tea party was not a protest against taxes or even spending,it was against taxation without representation. Clearly we have representatives in Congress determining (or trying not to determine)tax rates and spending priorities.

Second, that we’re overtaxed and that money is spentinefficiently. You’ve talked about U.S. tax rates and thosemisconceptions in the past, but I’m wondering about theseinefficiencies we keep hearing about.

Perhaps the notion of a bloated federal bureaucracy was more accuratein the Reagan era, but I don’t have to look much farther than theMissouri or Kansas DOTs or local school districts to know they’redoing more with less these days. In fact, we’re cutting programs anddelaying work just to keep things going.

When are people going to wake up? How can we get them to wake up?

Name: Timothy Barrett
Hometown: Louisville, Ky

In her blog, Faith, Politics, and the Rest of Us, Diana Butler Bassreviews MSNBC’s Chris Matthews Show featuring guest host MikeBarnicle and a discussion between self-described atheist ChristopherHitchens and Religious Right activist Ken Blackwell. Bass bemoans theintellectual disparity of the two participants that favored Hitchensto so great a degree that Blackwell, reportedly, failed to properlyrepresent the Christian perspective. I’ll leave that to Bass todiscuss, but she asks a question that I’d love answered. “Why doesthe media insist on believing that American religion exists [only]dualistically–consisting of religion bashers and fundamentalists?”

She then opines on President Obama’s beliefs, not that I think anyonecan truly know another’s beliefs. I have trouble defining my own andmy response will certainly depend on which day you ask. But shethinks “President Obama is shaped by a theology of doubt.” Bass alsodefends his recent pronouncement that America is not a “ChristianNation” in that “he was articulating a profound aspect of histheological worldview–a theology with deep roots in both Catholicand Protestant social ethics–a theology shared by millions of hisfellow citizens.” Check her out at blog.beliefnet.com for more.

Conservative nutcase (my opinion) Cal Thomas at Tribune.com raises anissue regarding Obama’s overtures to Islam and embraced by many ofThomas’ admirers: “Such a unilateral declaration may soothe many inthe West, but there is a central question that comes from Obama’sdeclaration of conscientious objection: What if Islamic extremism isat war with America, Europe and Israel and everyone who stands in theway of its attempt at supremacy in religion and politics?”

Do you see the bait and switch? It’s in the words “Islamicextremism.” While Obama is speaking to Islam as a religion, Thomas iscarving out “extremism.” I am not fooled by his careful dodge. Ibelieve that Thomas truly does fear Islam in general, as do themassively xenophobic voters who are drawn to the GOP’s embrace ofexploitative stereotyping and rabid nationalism (See Fox News’ GlennBeck for instance).

But I am curious about seemingly educated writers who hold suchintellectually shallow viewpoints. Are they purposefully exploitingethnic and religious hatred for political purposes or do they reallynot see the ignorance and illogic of their premise? I think theformer, of course. Either is immeasurably bad but intentional hatebaiting is far more troubling.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, of Art of Living and the InternationalAssociation for Human Values, addresses the need for religious andpolitical reform in India in a recent Times of India article. He is not addressing the US, of course, but his words may strike a chord. “The goal of politics is to bring good governance and increasematerial, emotional and physical comfort of people. The aim ofspirituality is to boost morality and human values. Both politics and spirituality need to go hand in hand.”

He sees a great difference between spirituality and religion. He alsoadvocates the need for religious patronage by the state in order forspirituality to thrive. He writes, “Spirituality makes people honestand committed and this is necessary to create a crime-free society.State patronage makes spirituality spread faster to all sections ofsociety…. Politics is mainly about caring for people, providing fortheir welfare. Spirituality gives you a broader vision of life,teaching all to share, care and nurture each other selflessly andwith equanimity.”

Mr. Shankar’s assertions are high-minded and hopeful. I believe thatPresident Obama is also seeking a high-minded and hopeful discourseon the difference between spirituality and religion. I think we are acountry of spiritual people whose moral fiber is the result of manydifferent spiritual, philosophical and social influences. For most,religious study and practice, of one kind or another, contributes totheir moral development. For some, religion has been rejected, butother spiritual influences develop equally mature moral standards.

So, when people “debate” religion and politics, religion in politics,or politics in religion, their words are essentially meaningless tothe real struggle for improving society. Your God, your place ofassembly, and your doctrines, observances and principles of faith areessentially irrelevant to the purposes of governance. But governmentsupport of its citizens’ spirituality is essential to good politicsand administration. I think that is what Obama is preaching about andI’m all for it.

Name: Schmuel Rabinovitz
Hometown: San Francisco, CA


Leonard Cohen is in San Francisco this week and I would really liketo see him. Since you try to schnor off of your readers all the timeI’d like to return the favor and ask if you would buy me tickets. Youmay write my email address for wiring instructions.

Thanks. I really appreciate it. I haven’t seen Mr. Cohen in closeto 25 years.

Eric replies: funny, nasty, and/or anti-Semitic. You be the judge…

Name: Fendlan Keyland
Hometown: State Center

After having somewhat a refreshing weekend of like minded bloggerssharing stories of the failures of right wing spokespeople in their attempt to get ridiculous accusations to stick on Obama, along comes Monday and everyone is at everyone else’s throat. Talk about deja vu. In the first 100 days, no all throughout his presidency, those from the right attacked everything and anything to disgrace Clinton’s legitimacy. Now the smell of agenda and self-posturing for political or capital gain has saturated the air, and it reeks. Example, most ofthe left side pane stories on Huffpo are questioning Obama on this that and the next thing. Let alone Adrianna’s posts which severely question the Obama Team’s competence or his appointment’s undertakings. Looking a lot like posturing for some kind of selfish gain from where I sit. Pierce is attacking the Daily Kos. WTF? Can’t anyone speaking for the Left of Center get along? With the tidal wave of crap attempting to be piled on Obama on everything he does, I mean everything, those who have the public ear, who want to speak for the majority at the center or to the left need to support this dynamic President, not add to the pile of suspicion and total falsehoods his name has to weather.

Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC

Mr. Alterman,

In today’s (Monday, 4/13/09) there is a front page article in theWashington Post about Rahm Emanuel. The writer quotes Republican Rep.Peter King as saying that he has been able to work with Emanuel. Thewriter then wants a contrast, and writes, “Not all Republicans are soadmiring of Emanuel’s tactics.” So for a quote to support this claim,the writer turns to Newt Gingrich. Not exactly a credible or even arelevant source. The article is about Emanuel and how things areworking since he has been Chief of Staff. What would Gingrichpossibly know about that? It is probably very true that there areRepublicans who might not admire Emanuel or how he has handled hisjob thus far. Can the Post not find a living, breathing Republican who is actually holding office?

Name: Ben Cronin
Hometown: Duxbury, MA

Greg Panfile describes our man Pierce as “snarky.”

If there’s one thing Charlie Pierce is not, it’s snarky. He’s fromBoston; he’s an Irish Catholic; both of those categories fit me aswell, so I hope he takes it as the highest measure of praise when Isay he’s an extremely erudite guy who is entirely unafraid to be anasshole to schmucks in the cause of the greater good.

Snark is the debased, self-congratulatory bullshit of the dumber and more self-congratulatory elements of my own generation (see Gawker, The. I hate those pricks.) who mistake adolescent smarminess and vapid nihilism for a species of wit. The hell with them, and the sooner that nonsense dies out in the seriousness of the times, the better. A sin more mortal is the fact that none of those dopes are funny, in the least.

I write this because I bet it pissed Pierce off to be libeled as such, and as a fellow member of the Hiberno-New England tribe, I could not let it stand.

Name: James Cornwell
Hometown: Guantánamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba

Mr. Pierce, and his most excellent host:

Greetings from the Land Obama Has Seemingly Forgot. More on that in a moment.

With apologies, Part the First: I had never heard of you, Mr. Pierce,in spite of your many years of journalistic awesomeness, until youstarted writing on The Landlord’s site. This in spite of being anavid newspaper reader before my discovery of blogs and the efficacyof Google News. I Googled you shortly after reading you the firsttime and, either due to my lack of skills or your effectiveness athiding your day job- related work, was unable to figure out what saidday job is, and still don’t know, because neither The Landlord noryourself has ever bothered to tell us, as far as I can tell. If I knew, I’d go read it all. And it pains and confuses me that you, tomy knowledge, don’t have a blog of your own.

Josh Marshall is a revelation. Want something for the political staffof the NY Times to do, should the Gray Lady turn blue? They can allgo work for him. Or start their own website. The Washington Post‘spolitical beat writers, I daresay, would be better off doing thatregardless of their paper’s financial status (from a credibilityperspective) so they wouldn’t have to share dead tree or websitespace with an editorial page run by your favorite hack and regularlyoccupied by writers who obviously think Nixon’s only error was ingetting caught.

Part the Second: My current location. I’m a specialist in the USArmy. Public affairs type. I’m currently working for Joint Task ForceGuantánamo Bay. This letter is in no way reflective of that status orsent in any official capacity.

Now that that’s out of the way, yes, the commander in chief that Ivoted for and cried as I watched accept his electoral victory signedan order to close the detention facility here as one of his firstofficial acts. As admirable as some may find that, I see it as nearlya craven P.R. stunt. Mr. President, you Missed the Point. The reasonthis place is such a blight on our country’s soul isn’t quite becauseof what’s going on here now. Now, we are treating our detainees withrespect and in accordance with the laws of our country and thetreaties we’ve signed. Y’all can contact my chain of command if youhave any questions about that. The POINT, dammit, is that thepresident hasn’t taken any concrete steps to address what happened toall the people here between 2002 and about two years ago.

Our country committedtorture and continues to obfuscate .

People who still go to work on Capitol Hill every day (and Foggy Bottom, Madame Secretary) helped put us on the same plane as Augusto Pinochet’s Chile, and ALL the people who are responsible for it are still walking free. Address that, Mr. President, and I’ll no longer look at the flag I wear to work every day on my right shoulder with a bit of anger. And then maybe our secretary of state won’t get laughed out of the room when she attempts to address human rights issues.

P.S. Digby, Glenn and others are the only reason I know about allthis torture stuff, guys, and they’ve never worked for aprofessional news organization a day in their lives. I know youboth decry that as a flaw, but if they wonder why their papersare taking an epic dump, maybe they should start there.

Name: Greg Panfile
Hometown: Tuckahoe NY

Is Charles BACK or WHAT? Any extras for sale on whatever medicationyou’re taking? The defense of people having real jobs writing news isas good as could be. Problem is, I think, that management crateredthe whole operation a while back by going too corporate andconglomerate and selling out to ad revenue and political access. Irecall how at some point in the 80s the Boston Globe became 90% ads and at most 10 percent news-related content, a meager dinghy covered with an aircraft carrier’s worth of barnacles and requiring ten minutes of separation into a tiny pile of readability and a large mountain of recyclability otherwise suitable for fireplacing. This got followed by miscoverage and uncoverage of the real fault of 9-11, aiding and abetting the Iraq misadventure, ignoring the torture and the executive coups by Bush/Cheney, and filling their pages, not so long ago, with ads for… real estate and mortgage-backed securities and hedge funds. Hmmm… could that be why the dinosaur has thatteetering look, and tiny mammals seem about to take over? Methinks itis, and brave new world and all that.

And CP caught what I forgot to mention last time, that escaped mentalpatient breaking into Salon yet again… in what should be theillustration for the word ‘irony’ in every dictionary for the rest oftime, the ‘article’ in question actually contains these literal wordsas copied and pasted from there to here:

‘preposterous and repellent’

‘there are some real fruitcakes out there, and some of them arewriting for major magazines’

Ya think? And there’s that wondrous cartoon ‘portrait’ that accompanies each pathological sample, looking just like the Father Tim with whom one should never stay after at choir practice…

Name: Michael Bowen
Hometown: Hudson Valley, NY

Thanks to the the ever-eloquent Charles Pierce for calling out MarkosMoulitsas (Kos) for his smug dismissal of the newspaper industry.He’s echoing the classic net-head sentiment that journalists shouldwork for free, just like they want musicians to do.

Name: Richard Dee Erlich
Hometown: Port Hueneme, CA (currently; grew up in Chicago)

Good for Lt. Colonel (Lt. Commander?) Bob!

But: (1) Fabian as in Fabius “Cunctator” and the subset of war byattrition by suckering ’em in? Yeah, that could work, against us.

Hometown: Phoenix

Nostalgia check: We flew in two college friends for Bruce’s secondstop on his tour. Marilyn figured out that she and Larry had lastseen him on April 12, 1976, at the Johnstown War Memorial. They tookin two cases of beer — *those* were the days! — under blankets andused them as seats near the stage. Cost 10 bucks apiece. The currentshow started with “Badlands” and was almost all hard-rocking tunes,with very few slower ballads. Somehow, we were not disappointed. Theset list: Set list:

“Outlaw Pete”
“My Lucky Day”
“The Night”
“Out In The Street”
“Working On A Dream”
“Johnny 99”
“The Ghost of Tom Joad”
“Working On The Highway”
“Downbound Train”
“Because The Night”
“Waiting On A Sunny Day”
“The Promised Land”
“The Wrestler”
“Kingdom of Days”
“Radio Nowhere”
“Lonesome Day”
“The Rising”
“Born To Run”


“Hard Times”
“Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”
“Land Of Hope And Dreams”
“American Land”
“Dancing In The Dark”