Our new Think Again column is here. It’s called “Blogosphere to MSM: Get off the Bus (and Walk a Mile in OurShoes…)” It’s about the degree to which the Maureen Dowd flap inspireda look at how much the MSM is learning from the blogosphere, rather thanvice-versa. This week’s Nation column is called “Do “Better” with Less”here and it’s about some unhappy trends in journalism. Earlier this week, I did a “welcome”piece on Bibi Netanyahu’s visit to the Oval Office for The DailyBeast here and then I published a review of an excellentnew book about AIPAC for the Forward which is here.

This week on Moyers:
Reforming healthcare. Washington’s abuzz about healthcare, but whyisn’t a single-payer plan an option on the table? Bill Moyers speakswith advocate Donna Smith about how our broken system is hurtingAmericans, and then with Public Citizen’s Dr. Sidney Wolfe andPhysicians for a National Health Program’s Dr. David Himmelstein aboutthe political and logistical feasibility of health care reform.

Alter-reviews by Sal:

Sinead O’Connor’s career has been uneven to say the least. After theone-two punch of her debut “The Lion & The Cobra” and the monsterfollow-up, “I Do Not Want What I Do Not Have”, Miss O’Connor seemed tohave hit the rum candy a bit too often. Reggae records, Celtic records,religious controversies, a very loose tribute to Peggy Lee, some randomPope abuse, “Do I like men or women?”, O’Connor’s meltdown was subtle,but she has survived, albeit retired from music. (Some would say thatretirement took place right after the second record.)

Speaking of the second record, a new remastered and expanded version hasjust been released, and while some of the music hasn’t aged well, theremastering is excellent and the material, at times, is quite strong. “I Do Not Want What I Do Not Have”, of course, boasts the hit,Prince-penned single “Nothing Compares 2 U,” but also has such greattracks as “Three Babies”, “Black Boys On Mopeds”, and the super-catchysecond single “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. The bonus disc collects justabout everything Sinead recorded right around the release of the record.While it’s great, if you’re a fan, to have all this material in oneplace, Disc 2 doesn’t offer a very smooth listen, as say, some of thoseexcellent Sony/Legacy reissues that offer a full live show. Unreleasedmaterial like covers of Gregory Isaacs’ “Night Nurse” and John Lennon’s”Mind Games” are fine, but not when a 5 minute version of “Silent Night”is smack dab in the middle. Still…a nice package.

Sal “Wants What He Doesn’t Have” Nunziato
Burning Wood

Slacker Thursday:

Charles Pierce
Newtown, MA

Hey Doc:

“For the sea refuses no river/ Remember that when the beggar buys around.”

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: “The Creator Has A Master Plan” (PharaohSanders)–Once again this week, I failed to hijack the script of 24 inorder to have Jack hold a gun on the bad guys until they admit how muchI love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: I got seriously hooked on this show. I admire the kids. I admire the program. But–and I ask this of any actual poets we may have in theAlter-hizzle–isn’t writing and reading poetry supposed to look morelike, well, fun than this? I mean, good lord, even Yeats goofed aroundsome. And that’s not even to mention the great Jem Casey, Poet Of the Pick. This seemed all about ripping out your spleen and hurling it in bloody chunks across the stage–closer to method acting lessons than writing. I’m very curious as to why I might be wrong here.

Part The Second: Young Ron Reagan seems a bit perturbed. Yoicks.

Part The Third: Is Harry Reid just going to stand there until someone on the congressional custodial staff comes by to dust him? My favorite wingnut argument in defense of the Bust A Cap In Yogi’s Dome Act of 2009 is that, now, gun owners have the same rights inside a national park as they do outside a national park. Wunderbar. Tell you what, let’s now make sure they have the same rights inside the Capitol–or the Statue Of Liberty, or the Oklahoma-Texas game–as they do outside.

Part The Fourth: I find myself generally in agreementwith this, and genuinely sorry that John Edwards–who, as we have seen, is far less of a mensch than he portrayed himself to be–got so a’skeered of an open sewer like Bill Donahue that the two bloggers had to leave the campaign. But is the author seriously arguing here…

“Of course, the concern in the case of the faux scandal involvingmyself and Melissa was that Edwards would get tagged as tolerant ofCatholic bigots, which is a ridiculous suggestion, because it startswith the idea that there is such a thing as someone who is “bigoted” againstCatholics like you would be against a non-mainstream group, as opposedto merely critical of church dogma.”…that, prima facie, there can be no such thing as anti-Catholic bigotry? If so, I would like to introduce her to thePaisleys of Ballymena, one of whom has always been welcome at American institutions regularly frequented by prominent American elected officials. I accept for the record that Ms. Marcotte is not a religious bigot but, rather, a person badly used byreligious extremists. But to call “ridiculous” the notion that one canbe bigoted against a specific religion–apparently just because thereligion in question is a big one–leads me to believe that she really needs toget out more.

Part The Last: Jeebus Christmas, Jack Shafer’s settingthe bar low these days. Not forplagiarism per se–this is not a hanging offense, and MoDo should send JoshMarshall a bottle of the good stuff for his birthday in gratitude for his havingpointed that out–but for “plausible–if a tad incomplete” bullshitalibis. A friend ate my homework? Please.

Back when I was a young reporter for an alternative weekly, Massachusetts passed a referendum by which property taxes in a specific municipality could not exceed 2.5 percent of the assessed value of the property therein. Prop 2 1/2, as it was called, and is still called today, was the east coast franchisee of the California “tax revolt” that began there with Proposition 13 in 1978. The basic attitude behind Prop 2 1/2 was summed up best for me by one of its authors who, when asked what would happen when the law forced local libraries to close, replied that it didn’t matter because paperback books never had been cheaper. Well, we’re nuts here but not that nuts. We stopped with this little bit of initiative distemper. California, it seems, has rendered itself utterlyungovernable by taking every ounce of the philosophy behind the campaign forProposition 13–government by initiative, anti-tax phobia etc. etc.–and turningit into the very structure of government itself. It threw out Gray Davisand installed a comical buffoon in his place who seems to be unstrung by theactual job of being a governor. And, now, the voters of California havegathered themselves together again and produced something best describedby an observer of Andrew Johnson’s impeachment–“a towering act ofabandoned wrath.” I thought about the libraries when this happened this week andcame to the realization that the basic philosophy behind this is that thereis simply no such thing as a political commonwealth, that we, as a people,own nothing in common, nothing for which we have to be responsible to ourfellow citizens, rich or poor, but especially the latter. This is whatlibraries were–common spaces, where people could gather and read–andsurf the ‘net, too–and places that we could be confident belonged tous all. They were examples of a lost idea in American life. California hasdetermined, in a hundred different ways, that it will be ruled by theessential political dynamic of the drivetime talk-radio program. This isin no way a good thing.

Name: Jim Celer
Hometown: Omaha

Is the issue the morality of torture, or is the issue who knew theUS was using torture? This should help, on MSNBC.com this morning,from Dan Balz of the Washington Post:

“But in attempting to defend herself, Pelosi took the remarkable stepof trying to shift the focus of blame to the CIA and the Bushadministration . . .”

Shifting blame for Bush administration policy executed by the CIA tothe Bush administration and the CIA is a “remarkable step”. The GOP–and evidently, some of the MSM — hope that Pelosi becomes theissue. But we showed in November that we won’t fall for theirdiversions any more. Didn’t we?

Name: Barbara Swalm
Hometown: Portland, ME

Just One question. Where were the Republicans when it became apparentthat Bush had been Misled by the intelligence community re Iraq andnukes and 9/11? They were tsk tsking about what else could Bush do–since they were confirming the beliefs? But Nancy Pelosi couldn’tpossibly have been misled by the CIA, that’s just stupid? Hmmmmm. Idon’t care what Nancy knew, it wouldn’t have made a bit ofdifference, but why doesn’t the press ask the republicans why theyweren’t so uppity about Bush?

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

Love ya, Charlie Pierce, but you’re wrong, way wrong on Obama.Here’s the deal: he doesn’t have 60 votes in the Senate. And evenwhen Al Franken is seated, he won’t be guaranteed 60 votes in theSenate. Not just because Darlin’ Arlen will be spinning like aweathervane to keep Pennsylvania Democrats happy, but because everysenator is, believe it or not, an individual with individual views.I have tried several times to use a Spockian mind-meld to make themall vote together, but it doesn’t work (although I’ll add as a LasVegan that proof of how good Harry Reid is as majority leader is howoften they do all stick together, and how surprised so many are whenthey don’t).

So, that forces Obama to pay attention to Republicans, even when theyare as undeserving as Lindsey Graham (or insert 39 other names) is ofthe respect of anyone in the civilized world.

But since the Lincoln comparisons were so big for so long, I’lltell you as someone who’s studied the even taller guy from Illinoisthat Obama is almost exactly like him, maneuvering between what wewould describe today as the liberals and conservatives, seekingconsensus, and even moving on his own toward a consensus on oneside or the other.

Name: Don Solomon
Hometown: Boston, MA

“I think the source of the president’s timorousness lies in the factthat, for all his new-politics bombast, he’s pretty much decided thathe’s a critter of the respectable Beltway center. We should have seenthat coming…”

We did see it coming. We saw all those things, the FISA voteperhapsbeing the worst of the bunch. And we held our noses because we alsothought we saw (a) an FDR-like figure who would say “Make me do theright thing”–as Obama has done–and (b) a Kennedy-like figurewho, despite caving to the Right on national security issues, wouldinspire so many good people to get into government that we might atleast inject some honor into the bureaucracy.

I think we were right and that Obama still can be moved by publicopinion from the left. It’s worth noting that when Lyndon Johnsonstuffed civil rights down the throat of the South, he also killedoff the Democratic coalition for 40 years. When we win, we make thesame mistakes the Gingrich crowd makes when they win. Obama seemsto be trying a different approach. On policy issues, let’s see ifhe makes it.

On justice issues like torture, he has to be reversed — perhaps bythe courts, every president’s convenient scapegoat, or perhaps by hisown US Attorneys, who as far as I know don’t need his permission toindict war criminals.