There'll be a hot time in the town of Berlin when the Brooklyn boys begin ...

We've got a new Think Again column called “Gore in the Funhouse,” here.

This year I promised myself not to be surprised by how awful our election coverage is, no matter how awful it is. How awful is it? Well, there is the obligatory “use the weather as somehow a metaphor for the state of the campaign” story, as if a) that made any sense at all, and b) the state of the campaign was the most important thing in the world in the first place.

That is in this morning's Note, which reads: “We know still that things aren't happy in Sen. John McCain's world -- even the weather won't cooperate with his counter-programming plans. This time it's Hurricane Dolly blowing his message off-course: That visit to an offshore rig, the big Thursday event his campaign had planned to push its main domestic message, is out. (Did Mother Nature just endorse a candidate?)”

Yuck-yuck-yuck, huh, guys?

But that is actually pretty inconsequential compared to the self-evident stupidity of this WSJ op-ed, which is one of the funniest things I've read in a long time. Richard V. Allen, who was forced out of the Reagan administration for alleged incompetence and corruption, complains that Barack Obama is insufficiently experienced in foreign policy to be president. This is a stupid argument in the first place, but just out of curiosity, how does Allen deal with Bush's level of experience? Here it is: “George W. Bush, of course, had virtually no international experience, yet was able to rally the nation in response to 9/11.”

Gee, that was tough. Kermit the Frog could have rallied the nation in response to 9/11, and I'm betting he would done a hell of a better job than Bush, (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).

Shame on Stanford University's Hoover Institution for giving this joker an office.

George Zornick writes:

That President Bush appoints extreme ideologues to high-level government positions is, admittedly, a dog-bites-man type of story after the past seven years. Nevertheless, it's worth flagging the appointment of Cliff May to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a federal agency “responsible for all U.S. government international broadcasting, including Voice of America and U.S. broadcasts into countries like Iran and Cuba.”

(You may remember another recent BBG head named Kenneth Tomlinson. Think Progress recalls that Tomlinson used the agency's money to support a horse-racing operation -- what is it with Bush appointees to federal agencies and horses? -- and the State Department Inspector General found that Tomlinson abused his position and defrauded taxpayers in so doing. It also found that he “requested and received compensation that exceeded the maximum allowed by law.” )

Now, it's May that's in charge of this big diplomatic communications intitiative that represents America on airwaves from Tehran to Havana.

Frankly, it would be wise to hope that May, like Tomlinson, doesn't really take the job too seriously -- because if he does, his radical neoconservative approach could be quite damaging. May was a signatory to the Project for the New American Century; president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a committee chairman for the Committee on the Present Danger, and a member of the Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion. He has written op-eds that equate the threat of Islamic terrorism to Nazi fascism in the 1940s, saying “whereas the Nazis waged a war for German domination of Europe, [Ayatollah] Khomeini looked forward to a war that would spread Islamic rule throughout the Middle East and beyond.”

These neoconservative credentials aside, May appears to also be a fairly rabid partisan -- he insisted, during an interview on MSNBC, that Hillary Clinton be called a "Vaginal-American"; he referred, on CNN, to "some of those on the left who would like to see America defeated in Iraq," wrote of “Al Qaeda's hope[s]” that “Congress will save them by legislating America's retreat from Iraq” and “that lawmakers in Washington will vote to stop fighting al Qaeda in Iraq and to abandon those Iraqis who have been fighting with us and relying on us,” and so on.

So, here's to hoping May finds a distracting passion for racehorses over these next several months ...

Ha'aretz on Obama's visit to Israel, just sayin':

One should keep in mind that the interests of the Israel lobby in America do not always jibe with the interests of the State of Israel. Instead of talking about a “united Jerusalem,” he needs to become involved in finding a realistic solution for Israel's torn and bleeding capital.

To survive as a Jewish and democratic state, Israel needs an American leader who does not fear the reaction of American Jews and non-Jews who do not believe in dividing the land to reconcile its two peoples.


In the meantime, Israel nails yet another nail into the coffin of a peaceful two-state solution and an Israel that can somehow remain both Jewish and democratic, here.

Your author is “both revered and hated, depending on the political viewpoint of the observer.” So says this if you scroll to page 8 (PDF page 10), thank you very much.

Also, everybody click on this. Trust me. (Thanks, Petey.)

I opted for the beach over Netroots Nation and so I read a lot about it on the Internets. Kathy G had an interesting post here, but what I really want to call your attention to is the comment below, which I thought fascinating and important. I reprint it in full here:

The lack of minority participants isn't directly about cost, but about culture. It never ceases to amaze me, how folks like you just don't get how alien your values are to those of black culture. You think that because you support a few social programs or a progressive tax structure or what have you, you are on the same page as minorities. In reality, you aren't even in the same book. Were it not for those social programs, and the knowledge that modern Republicanism serves in part as a cover for racism, blacks would be some of the biggest wingnuts around. They are conservative on many social issues, distrust the do-good mentality, suspicious and resentful of patronizing elites -- I could go on and on and on.

How ignorant of minority culture are you? You are apparently unable to understand the real economic barrier to minorities participating in something like NN is that, because of the cost of technology, minorities are not online in nearly the numbers white people are, and so the pool to draw from is much, much smaller. Blacks are 9% of the population, and probably about 3% of the internet users, if memory serves. Asians traditionally have the lowest percentage of voting participation in the country. And so on.

NN was a white affair because politically active online people are white and middle class; period. You aren't going to increase minority participation by holding this thing at a University, or at Disneyland, or even making it free and at Disneyland, because people aren't going to go to something they don't know or care about.

There's a lesson in all this ranting: you folks are way, way out of touch with large parts of this country, even the parts whose interests you say you care about -- which is why it's so easy for the conservatives to paint you as elitist snobs and so on. It's one of those cases where there's some fire among all that smoke.

Posted by:MG | July 22, 2008 at 08:00 PM

This week on Moyers:

Bill Moyers Journal goes inside last week's hearings on torture in Congress and gets perspective from journalist Jane Mayer on the debate over whether the U.S. sanctioned torture to prosecute the war on terror. Mayer's recent book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, documents the war on terror and the struggle over whether the president should have limitless power to wage it. Also on the program, former Democratic Senator Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings gives his views on the stranglehold of money on Washington. “You've got to untie the money knot,” he tells Moyers. “Then ... the government will begin to work.”


CSNY/Deja Vu Live

Longtime readers may remember a surprisingly enthusiastic review of the CSNY old-codger tour back into 2006, but those guys really cooked, despite moments of near-embarrassment and a bit too much sanctimony for my taste about how wonderful everyone was in the '60s and how rock concerts can stop wars. Anyway, Neil's made a movie about the tour and the soundtrack is out. And it's a decent souvenir, though I would have liked a few more jams on an extended edition or something. Stephen Stills is a much better guitarist than he is credited to be, and he and Neil speak their own language. Also here is the great Spooner Oldham. Check it out here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Steve Zeoli
Hometown: Hubbardton, Vermont

How will the AP deal with the clear violation of impartiality displayed by Ron Fournier? If they were consistent and nonpartisan themselves, they would have already fired him, as they did their long-time Vermont bureau chief Christopher Graff in 2006. Graff, a 27-year veteran of the news agency, was unceremoniously fired because he posted to the wire a column critical of George Bush by Patrick Leahy.

Unfortunately, I don't think Fournier has to worry about his job. So much for the liberal media.

Name: Beth Harrison
Hometown: Arlington, VA

Maybe Robert Novak was really, really cheesed off at the McCain campaign for using him for floating a rumor and that's why he was involved in a hit and run this morning with his black Corvette.

And even though the 66-year-old victim went flying across the hood (according to the witness), Novak claims he didn't see anything.

Name: Charles Perez
Hometown: Marion, NY

To LTC Bob: During all the changes of command I attended or was a part of (including two of my own) during my 10 years of active duty, I cannot ever remember there being a chaplain in attendance other than in formation. But then during my years at West Point I never remember a prayer being said at meals -- a moment of silence, I believe -- but never a prayer. And never pressure to attend chapel.

Every one of these stories ticks me off -- both as a former officer and as an atheist.

I can't imagine what the answer to this undue influence of the religious right on our military is, but I wish the current crop of young officers and soldiers well in reclaiming it. And were I still on active duty, I would join you in “dis-inviting” the chaplain to any event I could.

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

Bravo to Peter Dreier and Kelly Candaele. A few points to be added:

1. After the last travesty of a vote, Marvin Miller said he doesn't want to be considered. While Miller is one of the most honest people I have ever seen in the world of sports, I think he was trying to salve his own hurt. But he also said that he doesn't think it was a conspiracy to keep him out so much as a conspiracy to get certain people in. Bowie Kuhn's election proves it. He was such a disaster as baseball commissioner that it is ridiculous that he was considered.

2. Red Smith once said that while others might have shaded the truth now and then, Marvin Miller never lied -- he might say he couldn't discuss something, but he never lied. No wonder Miller can't get in on the executive side. That would make him unique.

3. I do object to Dreier and Candaele saying the executives on the committee “surely” have a grudge. Either they do or they don't. Why not ask them? If they refuse to answer or deny it, say so.

4. The same committee chose not to induct Doug Harvey, the best umpire of his time and perhaps of any other time. The attitude that Reggie Jackson expressed and claims to have recanted, opposing having anyone without a uniform in the Hall of Fame, may have hurt Harvey.

Which brings me to a related point: how about great umpires? Bill Klem, Tom Connolly, Billy Evans, Cal Hubbard, Jocko Conlan, Al Barlick, and Bill McGowan are in. That's it? Those were the only great, Hall of Fame-worthy umpires? And note that Conlan and McGowan were the only two not to serve as supervisors or in some executive capacity.

Name: Clay Landon
Hometown: Los Angeles

Dr. A.,

Somebody else did the work but per your request, here they are:

Team ERAs, 1969-yesterday (team ID is followed by the ERA):

LAD 3.49

NYM 3.69

HOU 3.75

SLN 3.82

ATL 3.83

WAS 3.88

SFN 3.91

PIT 3.91

NYA 3.94

SDN 3.94

OAK 3.99

CIN 4.02

LAA 4.03

PHI 4.05

BAL 4.08

CHN 4.10

BOS 4.10

CHA 4.16

KCA 4.21

MIL 4.22

TOR 4.23

MIN 4.24

CLE 4.28

ARI 4.29

TEX 4.34

DET 4.34

FLO 4.38

SEA 4.44

TBA 4.95

COL 5.21

The Mets have a record that matches up with anyone, including my beloved Dodgers.

Name: J Why
Hometown: Inwood, NYC

Hi Eric,

There is, in fact, a fairly obvious explanation for the Mets' consistently good pitching. It's the same reason they rarely have one of the highest scoring hitting attacks. Shea Stadium is a pitcher's park. (You may recall seeing in Bobby Murcer's recent obits that he hit 20-30 HRs a year for a few years running in Yankee Stadium, then saw his HR total dip to 9 when the Yankees played in Shea in '74.) We'll see how the vaunted Mets pitching holds up after Shea closes following this season.

Eric replies: Fair point, and thanks to Clay.

Name: Richard Fannan
Hometown: Los Angeles

There was a third and fourth Maverick -- Roger Moore and Robert Colbert. (Plus, as Eric pointed out, the great Raul Malo led band)

Name: Martin E. Cobern
Hometown: Cheshire, CT

Denton Randall has forgotten Roger Moore as Beau (short for Beauregard) Maverick, the English cousin.

He has also blocked out, as I have, all memory of the vile Mel Gibson impersonation of a cowboy.

And don't forget Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell from Top Gun.

Name: zeke
Hometown: Seattle

From the liner notes of The Kinks BBC Sessions:

“In late 1968 Ned Sherrin offered Ray an acting part in his (film) production of Leslie Thomas' best selling novel ” The Virgin Soldiers."

Ray turned this down in favour of providing the title music ( “The Virgin Soldier March” ). This association led to Ray providing the music to the Ned Sherrin produced BBC television satire programme “Where Was Spring.” Ray wrote 5 songs for the 6 shows aired (Jan-Feb 1969), one of which was When I Turn Out The Living Room Light. The Kinks did record these for broadcast though only the music was aired.

They did not appear on the show, but rather the music played beneath cartoon featurettes by Klaus Voorman."

Eric replies: Thanks for that. I was actually listening to the BBC Sessions when I heard it, but the liner notes were too small for me to read. I'm that old.

Name: Ali Afifi Hamdan
Hometown: Mosul, Iraq

Subject: ALTERCATION COMMENT: 3 Correction to You Mistakes

Correspondence text

Eric replies: Gee, I hope this is not one of those terrorist messages ... and even more, I hope it does not represent a comment on any political candidate that is not strictly related to media criticism...