Slacker Friday

We've got a new Think Again column called “Gore in the Funhouse,” here. Oh, and, um, who's in first?

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:

“Two men dressed in white collected me two days ago/They said there's only room for one and Whiskey Man can't go.”

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: “Nobody Knows The Trouble I Seen” (Snooks Eglin). -- Once again, I failed to draw a cartoon of George W. Bush personally dynamiting the levees to satirize how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: When I go a-prospectin' for pure, unadulterated mulch-for-brains analysis, my first stop is always The Politico. Seriously, this place is such an inexhaustible mother lode that, after a while, I start reading the pieces to myself in the voice of Walter Huston from The Treasure of The Sierra Madre. Sure enough, I dip my pan into the river and come up with this. Wild international acclaim is the worst possible thing for a guy. And what in hell is Begala doing contributing to this rubbish?

Part The Second: this is the coolest thing any presidential candidate ever has done. I like the two ball-fakes before the shot, too. He's got to learn to leave the hand up there until the ball goes through, though. Of course, the coolest guy at Ye Olde Bait 'N Tackle disagrees. He's awfully lucky Phil Fulmer's still coaching at Tennessee and, therefore, the Volunteer Award for Campus Fathead is retired for the duration because, wow. I didn't think you could get a stick that far up there.

Part The Third: Most of the time when sportswriters talk about how sports can change society, you should lock up your your wallet. However, this book describes brilliantly a moment when that actually happened. The video of the event in question, when Mandela puts on the Springbok jersey, is simply the greatest thing I've ever seen in a sports arena.

Part The Fourth: Here's a song from the sad cafe. But, when you're speaking to, as the article says, “the 20-something who helped steer Fred Thompson's Internet operation, and the young woman who put Mitt Romney's Web site on the map, and the 24-year-old staffer for Newt Gingrich's American Solutions for Winning the Future,” you're pretty much dived to the bottom of the big rain barrel of Fail anyway. Presumably, the former Giuliani staffers were rolling drunks out in the alley and, thus, unavailable for comment. Alas, the young Huckabees ascended bodily towards heaven only to be chopped to bloody ribbons by the ceiling fans.

Part The Fifth: Nice to see that Neil is still doing what he can for the elderly and less talent -- er, fortunate.

Part The Last: On one admission last weekend, The Green River Fest up in the Berkshires last weekend got the family: a) a solid set from the revamped Crooked Still, which continues to be led by my friend Aoife O'Donovan's singing and Dr. Greg Liszt, who also played the banjo in a band cobbled together by a certain aging New Jersey guitar whiz a couple years back; b) a come-to-Jesus set from the ageless Mavis Staples, and c) a raggedy but delightful performance from Lucinda Williams. The songs from the upcoming album sound very strong, and she even dusted off “I Envy The Wind” for a couple who'd been married at the festival the day before.

Oh, you knew it. You just knew that the Obama speech in Berlin was going to set off hilarious gibbering in the Monkey House. I think you pretty much got nothin' when you're reduced to being reminded of old Anthony Newley tunes. I think this actually means that you're on mushrooms. Nevertheless, we continue. Hilarity ensues. However, never let it be said that More Serious Haircuts failed to find reasons to be appalled. This is like watching people analyze the news they picked up, backwards, out of the newspaper by pressing their Play-Doh against the front page. And this is the freaking A-Team of the wingnut punditariat. I, of course, trust no politician who employs the same basic marketing techniques as the Milwaukee Brewers. Hell, for little more than beer and brats, I was willing to watch Pedro Garcia play second base for the better part of a summer.

Elsewhere, in response to the speech, following up their triumph in the cheese aisle on Wednesday, the babbling loons running the McCain campaign defy all the odds and find an even dopier visual. Jeebus Christmas, you'd swear that Tim Donaghy was running that campaign. Is any network going to notice this? Anyone? Bueller?

Name: LTC Bob Bateman
Hometown: Washington, DC

Altercators will recall that a few weeks ago I pointed to the blog of a young officer in Iraq, one of our better ones. Then, not too much later, “Lt. G” stepped over a line and had to pull his blog down, or more to the point was ordered to do so by his chain of command. Now, I have opinions on that, but the lieutenant (a captain now, actually) is there on the ground and right now I am not. I will not second-guess either the Lieutenant or his chain of command on this, and I ask that you not either. I will note, however, that it is really rather silly to order anyone to “take down” a site on them thar Internet pipes, what with archives and all ...

So today I very much enjoyed getting to the inside of my Washington Post and finding this article.

Oh, and if you are in a rush (or never did get to read the musings before they were shelved), here is a link to an archived copy of the original. I hope there is a book agent and/or a magazine editor out there prepared to hand this fellow a job the day he gets out of the Army. Then again, I myself hope that he does not. We obviously need officers like Captain Matt Gallagher.

You can write to LTC Bob at

Name: Siva Vaidhyanathan
Hometown: The House That Jefferson Built

I am so tired of people claiming that the Surge is not working. Look at the numbers. Look at the turnaround. Look at the standings. Look at Mike Mussina's last four performances on the mound, for heaven's sake.

The surge is working, my friends. And it's coming to Fenway Park this weekend. How sorry I feel for the Red Sox, having to face the mighty Yankees at the peak of their revival.

Oh, I have a real reason to write today. As many Altercation readers know, I am writing a book called The Googlization of Everything. Toward that purpose, I would love to get a sense of how and why people started using Google.

Do you remember the first time you used Google? When was it? How did you hear about Google? What was you first impression?

Please use the comments here on my book blog, The Googlization of Everything, to tell me stories.

As Mudbone (Richard Pryor's character) used to say, “you only remember two times, your first and your last.”

Name: Tim Kane
Hometown: Mesa, Arizona


I not sure this is noteworthy or not. I've yet to here anyone comment on this directly. I was stunned by the tone of CBS's piece on Obama in Jerusalem on Wednesday's evening news.

Textually it probably comes off more balanced, but if you listen to it, the tone of it seemed incredibly negative from the Obama perspective. And I don't mean that by a little.

The piece ends with:

" will take more than this trip to alter the very deeply held perception of some [pause] that on Israel, [voice lowered] the senator (Obama) is not to be trusted. [pause] Sheila MacVicar, CBS News, Jerusalem."

What is “some” ? Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol? You can throw anything out there and say it is a deeply held view of “some.”

This came only the day after CBS purposely dubbed out a major gaffe by McCain on an issue central to his campaign. You can check it out here.

In the scheme of things, maybe this isn't important, but I found it shockingly offensive. I know little about journalism so I leave it to folks like yourself to determine if this sort of journalism is worth drawing people's attention. As for me, I'm still shocked.

As for CBS, it is apparent that they definitely want 4 more years of the same.

Name: Karl Witter
Hometown: Bloomfield, CT

The Note also said “There's Dolly, and ” worse than that, an oil spill closed 29 miles of the Mississippi River," ABC's David Wright reported Thursday on “Good Morning America.” “Not exactly the best visual for McCain to make the case that America needs to drill more oil wells.”

For The Note to obsess on the visual is one thing. I haven't determined if it's real journimalism or just happenstance, but that visual was connected to a real policy idea, and despite themselves, the MSM may have been responsible for informing the electorate about the effect a candidate's plans may have on their lives.

Makes up for the weather metaphor, in my book.

Name: Reed Richardson
Hometown: Ridgewood, NJ

Dr. A & LTC Bateman:

The new proposed legislation -- previously pointed out by LTC Bateman -- allowing military chaplains to exercise their “conscience” during non-religious military events is really rooted in a deeper, demographic change with the chaplain corps. Over the past few decades, a sea change in the numbers and denominations populating the chaplaincy ranks (particularly the Army's) has occurred. In fact, as far back as 20 years ago, the U.S. military was struggling to recruit sufficient Catholic priests to keep up with the needs of the armed forces, see here.

And today, chaplains in general, and priests and rabbis in particular, are in short supply. Who has taken their place? Overwhelmingly, it has been Southern Baptists, who are now vastly overrepresented in the chaplaincy ranks when compared to the U.S. population in general (see graphic here), and who generally have more of a theological predilection toward proselytizing.

Incidentally, I have some anecdotal evidence of this change since my father happens to be a retired U.S. Army chaplain. He still tells me stories about coming to New York City in the early '60s for the Chaplain's Officer Basic Course (then out at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island) and making lots of friends with the all the priests in rabbis in attendance. But by the time he completed Command and General Staff college more than two decades later, he notes that few of those priests and rabbis were still around, and even fewer from those faiths had joined to replace them. By the time my father retired in the mid-'90s, even chaplains like him, from more mainline Protestant denominations (Methodist), were thinning from the ranks. This change in the chaplaincy first becomes evident in exactly those little secular moments like Dining-Ins and Change-of-Command ceremonies.

Having been both an active duty U.S. Army officer for four years and the son of an Army chaplain, believe me, I've been present at lots of these moments, and it is in these moments that a good chaplain will offer up a prayer that is spiritually reflective, operationally appropriate, and mercifully brief -- understanding that soldiers standing at attention on the parade field or politely waiting to eat chow are not there to have their souls saved or faiths questioned.

(And if it was my father, the prayer invariably included a call for peace and, if there were Jewish soldiers present, a line of two in Hebrew.) In my brief tenure in the Army, I saw the results of this changeover, where chaplains seemingly spent more time preaching rather than ministering to the troops, using three syllables to say the name of the son of God (JEE-sus-uh!) and giving what my father used to jokingly call “wejuss” prayers ( “Lord, wejuss wanna thank you and wejuss wanna praise you” ) But let this type of behavior go on long enough and it is any wonder that our military ends up with something like this or this on its hands?

Name: J DAlessandro
Hometown: Crestwood, NY

[Altercation, 7-24-08, commenting on Bush's performance after 9-11]: “who, by the way, evidence indicates, appears to have experienced a kind of emotional breakdown in the wake of the attack and had to be kept hidden from public view.”

Now Doc, where did that come from? I am not denying that it's true, because it seems plausible to me, but where is the “evidence” that “indicates” ? How long was he hidden? Is this a reference to his fluttering all around the country before finally returning to the capital?

Now, any person of common decency would be thoroughly depressed and ashamed by the memory of that summer day when he had responded to George Tenet's warning with the obscenely reckless remark, “Okay, you covered your ass,” but, uh, this is George W. Bush we're talking about. He is of the stuff of those British WWI generals who demanded and accepted knighthoods after feeding hundreds of thousands of young men into the meat grinder of pointless offensives. He sleeps fine at night, I'm sure. Cheney too.

Eric replies: Thanks. I detail what might be evidence for this point of view in The Book on Bush.

Name: J Why
Hometown: Inwood, NYC

Hello Dr. A.

Clay Landon's generously provided stats underscore my point about ballpark-effect fairly nicely. The two best ERAs belong to teams that call Shea and Dodgers stadiums home. The worst ERA, of course, resides with the squad that plays at above 5,000 feet in Coors Field. Even though the Red Sox have had one of the more successful teams of the last 40 years, Fenway Park pushes their staff ERA to the bottom half of the league. Incidentally, you can count on this: For this season, as their bullpen goes, so go the NY Metropolitans.

Name: Mike
Hometown: San Francisco

Dr. Alterman,

ERA+ (which is a scaled park and league-adjusted number where 100 is average and anything over 100 is better than average) is a better way to measure the Mets' pitching prowess. ERA+ is especially handy when comparing the NL and AL due to the DH. Rating the teams this way the Mets' are 7th, which is 1 spot behind the Yankees (sorry); the Dodgers remain in first but are suprisingly tied w/ the D-Backs (Chase Field is quite the launching pad). The Mets still come out looking pretty good but not as good as just glancing at ERA. The complete totals are below.


ARI 4.28 108
LAD 3.49 108
BOS 4.10 107
ATL 3.83 107
TOR 4.24 105
NYY 3.92 104
NYM 3.69 103
KCR 4.19 103
STL 3.82 103
WSN 3.87 102
LAA 4.03 102
BAL 4.07 102
MIN 4.24 102
CHW 4.16 102
HOU 3.74 101
OAK 3.99 101

PIT 3.92 101
CHC 4.09 100
CIN 4.01 99
COL 5.20 99
CLE 4.27 99
TEX 4.32 98
SEA 4.43 98
PHI 4.04 98
SFG 3.90 98
MIL 4.21 97
DET 4.33 97
FLA 4.38 96
SDP 3.94 95
TBD 5.01 92

Eric replies: Thanks for ruining the weekend, bub.

Name: Rich Gallagher
Hometown: Fishkill, N.Y.

Dear Eric,

All of this talk about Maverick compels me to alert you and all Altercators that the original series, which has been shamefully neglected on home video, is now being aired in its entirety on Encore's Westerns channel. The episodes are being shown uncut and in chronological order (currently they are halfway through Season One).

It's also worth noting that James Garner, a staunch liberal, is recovering from surgery following a stroke in May.