Slacker Friday

So I'm back, and thanks to everybody who did such great work while I was away. As George mentioned yesterday, we have a new Think Again column here, “You Don't Know Jesse,” about the media coverage of Sen. Jesse Helms' death, and I recently agreed to become a quarterly columnist for the Jewish magazine Moment on Jewish-related issues. This is my first column. Moment is mostly quite good but not always. Scroll through the previous issues and if you are interested in this sort of thing, you'll find plenty of sustenance. But since it's in the first issue in which I appear, I feel compelled to mention that this is just awful. Virtually every one of these people here is a right-wing extremist. The overall purpose of this -- unintended, I'm sure -- appears to be designed to smooth the course for a pre-emptive Israeli attack on Iran, including a pre-emptive nuclear attack. The lineup here is cast so far to the right that Commentary would likely not have run it without throwing in a token sane person. (And giving a forum to the likes of Daniel Pipes and Steven Emerson is, well, going to require so many good deeds to offset I don't even want to think about it.) Anyway, as awful as it is, it's a near-perfect mirror image of the excellent symposium on the future of Jerusalem that ran in one of the previous issues, but you'll have to search for it.

Correction of the Day: From Newsday:

Jason Simonetti is a Mets fan. A story Tuesday said he was a Yankees fan.

Also, before I left, Maureen Dowd wrote this sentence and I just thought we should take note of it for future reference, should anyone ever wish to take her seriously about anything: “Hillary's chic body woman Huma Abedin got along great with Obama's charming body man Reggie Love; the two, with their dates, shared a dinner the night before at a Georgetown hot spot.”

Slacker Friday:

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric & George --

Thanks for your Think Again column on the profound racism of Jesse Helms's career and the cowardice of the MSM to call him on it. Indeed, the refrain about him as being a fine example of conservatism simply adds more credence to your book, Why We're Liberals.

Name: Peter Samson
Hometown: Orange, VA

I've never forgotten Bill Keller's classic 2002 column on the Senate retirements of Phil Gramm, Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms. Here's what Keller says about Helms:

“Mr. Helms leaves behind at least a double legacy. He helped perfect fear-mongering as a form of fund-raising, using his own and allied political action committees to raise many millions by appealing to the crudest bigotries of voters. The technique is now pervasive across the political spectrum, but Mr. Helms helped pioneer those alarming boldface solicitations that warn: 'Your tax dollars are being used to pay for grade school classes that teach our children that CANNIBALISM, WIFE-SWAPPING and the MURDER of infants and the elderly are acceptable behavior.' (Yes, that's an actual letter that went out over his signature.)

” Mr. Helms has also diminished American stature abroad by using senatorial obstruction and intimidation to undermine our diplomatic service and pre-empt our foreign policy. As the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the past 15 years, and as the mentor of a right-wing mafia within the Republican Party, he has been an author of much of what makes the world resentful of America: our stingy foreign aid, our lordly attitude toward any multilateral organization, our disdain for treaties, our support of despotic regimes from apartheid-era South Africa to the juntas of Latin America.

“Mr. Helms will not be missed;
Unrelenting jingoist,
He sold us bullies of their realms,
Not excluding Mr. Helms.”

Name: Linda Whitener
Hometown: Charlotte, NC

Followed the link to Doc's Think Again column ( “You Don't Know Jesse” ) and promptly had a flashback to 1990 -- the first time Harvey Gantt tried to unseat Jesse. Gantt had a narrow lead in the polls going into Election Day. The Significant Other and I voted for Harvey and headed out to dinner, expecting a long night in front of the TV as the returns came in.

We got home, switched on the tube, and were gobsmacked to discover that the networks were already calling the election for Helms. WTF? What happened?

The political scientists later chalked up the discrepancy between the polling and the outcome to what's now known as “the Wilder effect.” A significant number of voters wouldn't admit to supporting Helms, lest they be viewed as racists, but voted for him anyway.

Which, BTW, makes me nervous about Obama's current lead in the polls.

Name: Dan
Hometown: Bloomsburg, PA

Another “Straight Talk” moment with John McCain:

1. John McCain in an interview with Pittsburgh's KDKA on July 9, 2008, describing how he tricked his Vietnamese captors: “When I was first interrogated and really had to give some information because of the physical pressures that were on me, I named the starting lineup -- defensive line -- of the Pittsburgh Steelers as my squadron-mates!”

2. John McCain in his autobiography “Faith of My Fathers” describing how he tricked his Vietnamese captors: “Pressed for more useful information, I gave the names of the Green Bay Packers' offensive line, and said they were members of my squadron.”

I guess when telling your personal POW story citing the Green Bay Packers works nationally, but changing it to the Pittsburgh Steelers is better for getting votes in Pennsylvania!

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

Allowing Zev Chafets to write for The New York Times Magazine, much less about Rush Limbaugh, was disgraceful. But I detect a problem here that may be greater. Namely, the right-wing mistakenly describes The Times as a liberal newspaper. It is not liberal. Its editorial page is liberal. Some of its columnists are liberal. But for the most part it is an establishment newspaper.‏ The Times may see that the establishment has tilted rightward--the notion that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is a moderate is enough to convince any person with an ounce of logic that the definitions of liberal, moderate, and conservative have changed, and for the worse. I fear that with allowing hacks like Chafets to write, and giving the even hackier Bill Kristol a weekly platform from which to issue pronunciamentos requiring constant correction, The Times is trying to show that it is open to right-wing views when it should simply report the news without fear or favor.

Name: Roberta Kelm
Hometown: Sunnyvale CA

Hey Siva -- I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, Siva -- but for many years I thought the dude on the Alaska Airlines tail was Johnny Cash, not Will Rogers ... my husband still gives me occasional grief over that faux pas ...

Name: Greg Wortman
Hometown: Studio City, CA

Siva- I always thought the guy on the tail of Alaska Airlines looked like Johnny Cash. Go Yankees!

Eric adds: That's OK. Rosanne says she always thought it looked like her dad.

Name: Blue-y
Hometown: Scottsdale, AZ


I would make a great Director of FEMA. I live adjacent to the Arabian showhorse arena here in Scottsdale, AZ; and am a decent golfer and can help with fundraising.

Name: James McClure
Hometown: Orlando, FL

I hereby submit my name for Secretary of the Treasury, mainly because it will mean my signature will be proudly displayed on every Federal Reserve Note printed during the Bateman Administration. Everyone in the world will know my name. They will have no idea what I do, but they will know my name.

Should Treasury Secretary become unavailable, I will take Treasurer of the United States. It's just as good.

Name: Don
Hometown: Riverdale, NY


Some comments on Oklahoma:

Oklahoma has not one, but two airports named after dead Okies, Will Rogers International and Wiley Post (KPWA on your ICAO identifiers, folks). They both died when the Alaska airplane Post was flying crashed.

Every weekday at 5:00 p.m., an Oklahoma City radio station plays, yes, “Oklahoma.”

Oklahoma is happy that Mississippi exists as it keeps Oklahoma from the statistical bottom of many quality of life indicators.

The four food groups of Oklahoma: Brown, Beige, Tan, Beer.

Some folks consider Oklahoma to be a dry, arid wasteland. My Okie Wife prohibits me from engaging in such thoughts.

When I married Okie Wife almost two years ago, we had to decide where to take up residence. I said that except for the cuisine, the politics and the weather, Oklahoma was a fine place to live. She moved to NY.

Okie wife now lives in a building in Riverdale, NY, that has a greater population and more dwelling units than her hometown of Geronimo, Oklahoma.

The bison in Oklahoma were extinct, killed by hunters during the 1800s. In the early 1900s they shipped in a small herd from the Bronx Zoo to repopulate their wildlife refuge. Okies claim the bison “talk with a funny accent.”

Obviously, you have never attended the Rush Springs Watermelon festival.

If you do find yourself in Oklahoma, head to Meers for the greatest beef -- grass fed, hormone-free Longhorn.

Many great people came out of Oklahoma. They had to! (Such as Okie Wife, who was recently admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States).

To quote Don Rickles, “I kid because I love!”

Name: Richard Fannan
Hometown: Los Angeles

Brad is completely right that Robert Johnson had no influence on the rise of rock and roll (since his records were out of print and unheard in the 40s and 50s) unless you count the influence he had on the Chicago bluesmen (and even that wasn't that great) who influenced rock and roll. Of course, Johnson had a great influence on Dylan and all post-1960 blues players, especially the white ones, but that's another subject.

And the early Geils Band was tremendous. Unfortunately, their successful attempts to create pop hits (the annoying “Centerfold” ) diluted their strengths and they had a dispiriting end (firing their great lead singer and showman Peter Wolf). By the way, one of the great under the radar albums of all time is Wolf's Sleepless.

Eric replies: “Centerfold” is not early Geils, but it's still pretty great. Open up a little, bub. The world is large; it contains multitudes. And yes, Peter Wolf's solo albums are all pretty good.

Name: Daniel Tortora
Hometown: Rochester, NY

Your Oklahoma list absolutely must include the great American singer/songwriter, J.J. Cale. If you're not familiar, give him a listen. You'll fall in love.

Name: David Dennie
Hometown: Norfolk, Virginia

Greetings, Siva!

Listen, I love ya man, but -- oy! -- are you ever wrong about J. Geils and the Allmans!

Clearly you've never seen or heard the J. Geils Band live, because if you had, and then went on to call them “forgettable,” your head would have exploded from the cognitive dissonance thus generated. Suffice it to say: go get their first live album (the one called "'Live' Full House") and then watch it proceed to melt whatever playback device you happen to be using at the time.

As for your touting of R.E.M.'s impact over that of the Allmans, well, I'll just attribute that to your relative youth, as you suggest. Let's put it this way -- and I'm not saying it's necessarily a wholly good thing - but: no Allman Brothers Band, no jam bands, or long, long, jazzy instrumental solos in rock. (Yes, the Dead got there a little ahead of the Allmans, but, to any right-thinking individual, the ABB did it much, MUCH better.)

Eric replies: Wait a cotton-pickin' minute right there, fella. Did Siva dis the Allmans on Altercation? WTF? George? You let this happen? Everyone's fired. I love R.E.M., but rhilly. If we stand for anything at all at Altercation, we stand for the Allman Brothers Band. I'm giving everyone one last warning ...

Name: Carl E Haug
Hometown: Fife, WA

Siva and Pierce,

You might want to get a good Remains collection as well as the second Earth Opera LP (oops...revealed my age). J. Geils always seemed like a frat band although I did like one of their albums in the valley of their career. As for R.E.M. and the Allmans, having seen both original bands early in their careers, I rate it as a tie. Seems like both were influential and launched an equal amount of emulators.

P.S. Is the job of Ambassador to New Orleans still available?

Eric replies: A tie? Forget it, bub. Stick with that job you have now. We can get an ambassador who appreciates the Allmans, I'm sure. Maybe Bill Walton? He was at the last show I saw ...