Slacker Friday


We've got a new "Think Again" column called "Poor Coverage on Poverty," here.

What liberal media?

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:

"I can still recall the wheat fields of St. Paul/And the time we got caught robbin' from an old hen."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Let the Church Roll On" (Mahalia Jackson) -- Once again, I forgot to properly inflate the tires on the 18-wheeler that's pulling the electric billboard spelling out in Creole how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: Credit where it's due -- good on you, KO.

Part The Second: As interim Altercation Sports Editor, I consider it my job to mention always that this knob is on the Fox News Morning Zoo Crew because he couldn't hack it as a sportscaster.

Part The Third: Oh, Lord. Somebody got into the sacramental Ripple again. Yes, if you look down from an airplane, it is very hard to detect a shift in the Gallup poll. It's also hard to order a pizza, watch a movie at a drive-in, or keep score at a minor-league baseball game over which you've just flown. Bonus Incoherence:

"Does he have real greatness in him? Or is he, say, a product of the self-esteem campaign, that movement within the schools and homes of our country the past 25 years that says the way to get a winner is to tell the kid he's a winner every day?"

Twenty-five years ago, Barack Obama was graduating from Columbia, a fatherless kid who'd worked his way up. I think whatever hallucinatory secondary-educational reforms have wafted into la Noonan's sodden brain, they happened after he was pretty much formed. Whadaya say, Knocko? Howsabout we call yez a cab?

Part The Fourth: On the other hand, we have the view from the cold-sober, sick-wife-dumping, lycanthrope caucus. This is some serious shyte here, coming from a man who once defined himself as the "teacher of the rules of civilization" and ended up with nothing more than getting his apples polished by Sean Hannity. Isn't it time for him to go back to Sam Drucker's University And Live Bait Store for freshman orientation?

Part The Last: Well, the set list from last Saturday in Foxboro is here, so you obsessives can tell me how good a show I saw. It didn't help that a legitimate gale blew through at about 8:15, pushing the start time back well past 9. For me, it seemed that the man had left a lot on the field at Giants Stadium the previous three nights. It was a show well worth seeing, without question, but if you can call what was nearly a three-hour performance perfunctory, that's what it felt like. It had been 20 years since I'd seen him, and since then, some Bruce traditions have arisen with which I was unfamiliar. The request signs, for one. That got us a great "Little Latin Lupe Lu," a magnificent "Jungleland," and a completely unnecessary "I'm Goin' Down." (Bruce himself called the song "rarely played and even more rarely requested" by way of introducing it.) "Mary's Place" just isn't a strong enough number to carry the performance piece it's become. If I never hear "Glory Days" again, it will be too soon, and he shorted the new record just a little. (We get "Lonesome Day" but no "Girls in Their Summer Clothes"? Damn, Boss.) "Speedball" is not a baseball term of art, dammit. Speedball -- as you, me, Bruce, and Pete Seeger all know -- was a racehorse.

That said, he and the band sounded great -- rich, full, and the three-guitar attack was the best part of the show, especially on "Murder Incorporated," which I didn't recognize at first. I believe there was some consternation hereabouts when I referred to Bruce as a "hot guitar player." At his best on Saturday, he sounded like the only legitimate heir to Duane Eddy, and Steve Van Zandt is playing very, very well, and there are times when I think Garry Tallent is the best player of them all. I like "Summertime Blues" as a set opener, even though anyone who ever covers that song has been playing for second place for almost 40 years. I was very happy to hear "Spirit in the Night" and "Rosalita." However, one thing has remained constant since I saw him in 1979. Take it all and all -- music, lyrics, as a studio cut and as a performance piece -- "Badlands" is the best song he ever wrote. I hear there are book titles buried in the lyrics there somewhere, but I'm damned if I can find them.

Sooner or later, I'm going to parse through all the "platforms" on which NBC/Universal/The Borg is bringing me the Olympic Games. (I have to go to Oxygen to watch pingpong.) But watching America's corporate media tiptoe carefully around the delicate sensitivities of the butchers of Tiananmen Square is going to be wholly depressing. In fact, one of the most obvious pieces of damage done by the Avignon Presidency is that, even if they wanted to do so, American journalists would have to have work up an awful lot of gall to lecture even these mopes on human rights these days. Yes, it's too bad that Joey Cheek isn't allowed to bring his noble anti-Darfur work into China, but after seven years of the likes of this, it's hard to find the moral high ground above China, and that's not just because of the smog. That said, if I see one more American television package that uses Tiananmen for a prop, I may Elvis my TV with whatever's handy. Jeebus Christmas, guys. That place is a grave.

P.S. If we can keep nuclear waste out of the Rockies, this should be no problem.

Name: TF Smith
Hometown: Apathy, Tedium (side trips to Monotony and Ennui).

I respect Col. Bateman a lot, but it seems very odd, given the U.S. experience with the ARVN, ROK , New Philippine Scouts/Philippine Army, and rearming the French (1942-45), that the AUS should have had so much trouble standing up effective Iraqi forces between 2003-2008.

Especially given that Iraq had a modern army prior to 2003 and was one of the most militarized countries in the world, with universal conscription and decades of experience, including combat against the Iranians and the Israelis.

And with all due respect, Kasserine (or, for that matter, Bull Run) were "first battles" between conventional armed forces, green troops against veterans in Tunisia and green on green in Virginia -- neither were guerilla wars.

Organizing local militias at the company- and battalion-level for defense against guerillas in a country like Iraq should not be that difficult for the AUS -- the Macabebe Scouts, Indian Home Guard, and Vietnamese RF/PFs all come to mind.

The U.S. and Iraqi government have failed to create an effective local army in Iraq for many reasons; lack of time certainly has not been among them.

LTC Bob Responds: "TF Smith" (for those not familiar, the real Task Force Smith was the first American unit engaged in the Korean War ... it was ill-equipped, poorly trained, and overrun in that engagement) raises some salient points, but space precludes a full response. Suffice it to say that I would note that despite our training of the ROK forces (and supplying and equipping) for several years prior to 1950, they were still overrun at the outset of that war. Our "success" with the ARVN (that is the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam, folks) was also extremely limited and is well illustrated by the Battle of Ap Bac, let alone others later in the war, though of course there were also some successes. Those interested might read my friend Dave Toczek's wonderful book, The Battle of Ap Bac, Vietnam: They Did Everything But Learn From It. Similarly, our experiences with the Philippine Scouts were not uniformly positive for the first several years. See several of the chapters in Edward Coffman's The Regulars: The American Army, 1898-1941 on that point. But each situation is, of course, unique.

But in Iraq it is, I contend, cultural issues that matter. Moreover, I submit to you that Saddam's Army was not competent, and could not even really be considered modern. (Nor had they fought the Israelis anywhere but inside Syria, and that just at the gates of Damascus, and even then only on a very limited basis ... more than 35 years ago!) In 2003 they were wracked by the same limitations as was the larger society, which also contributed to their problems. Recall that the UN pegged the literacy rate at a mere 50 percent in 2003 in Iraq. It is damned tough to have a "modern" Army with a 50 percent literacy rate. (That's just one example.) "TF Smith" is welcome to drop me a line though and we can debate this elsewhere and in proper historical depth.

Name: David Simon
Hometown: New Haven, CT

I feel compelled to make one small correction regarding LTC Bateman's backstory on the French and Rwanda: The Tutsi are not, as a group, Anglophones. Almost all Tutsi who were living in the country in 1994 (including the 80% or so of that group who were killed in the genocide) were, like their Hutu countrymen, speakers of Kinyarwanda first and French second. The Rwandan Patriotic Front, an insurgent army that ended the genocide by running the (predominantly Hutu) genocidal government out of the country (something no other country, Western nor African, deigned to assist them in doing), was comprised mostly of Rwandan Tutsi exiles who had grown up in Uganda -- and thus spoke English. The RPF has held onto power ever since, and has pushed for warmer relations with Anglophonia: pressing for entry into the East African Union (the original core of which is three former Britich colonies), as well as the Commonwealth. The Tutsi that were in Rwanda in 1994 and survived the genocide are still more likely to speak French than English, but are more likely still to eschew both for Kinyarwanda.

LTC Bob Responds: David is entirely correct. I should have been more precise in my descriptions. Thank you for the pick-up.

Name: Rich Gallagher
Hometown: Fishkill, NY

Dear Eric,

The breathless excitement with which The Note and others in the media have hyped the "effectiveness" of McCain's recent attack ads is not only silly, it is contradicted by the polls.

All one has to do is take a look at the numbers.

CNN 6/26-6/29: Obama 50%, McCain 45%
CNN 7/27-7/29: Obama 51%, McCain 44%

CBS 7/7/-7/14: Obama 45%, McCain 39%
CBS 7/31-8/5: Obama 45%, McCain 39%

Ipsos 6/5-6/11: Obama 50%, McCain 43%
Ipsos 7/31-8/4: Obama 48%, McCain 42%

Time 6/19-6/25: Obama 47%, McCain 43%
Time 7/31-8/4: Obama 46%, McCain 41%

Pew 6/18-6/29: Obama 48%, McCain 40%
Pew 7/23-7/27: Obama 47%, McCain 42%

NBC/Wall Street Journal 6/6-6/9: Obama 47%, McCain 41%
NBC/Wall Street Journal 7/18-7/21: Obama 47%, McCain 41%

The only national poll in recent weeks which has shown any statistically significant movement toward McCain is the USA Today/Gallup Poll done between 7/25 and 7/27. It also happened to be based on the smallest sample (791 "likely voters") taken by any national pollster since early May, and there are serious questions about how Gallup defines "likely voters." The same poll showed Obama with a lead among registered voters.

In addition, state-by-state polls continue to show that Obama has a significant lead on the electoral map. See here .

Name: Ian
Hometown: Los Angeles

I've been thinking about the stories that have gone around about McCain's inability to deal with the Internet and how some say we don't need a president who can set up his own blog. I beg to differ. Any person of reasonable intelligence can set up a blog in about 2 minutes. Any person of reasonable intelligence can send and receive email. McCain graduated at the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy and the Internet flummoxes him. We've had 7 years of a president who is as dim as they come and we've seen how well that worked out. Do we need another man of limited ability in charge of the place? How about electing the smart guy -- for a change?

Name: Frank Wandryk
Hometown: Buffalo

So let me see if I've got this right. Oil companies sell every drop of product they can produce, are making record profits, and we're supposed to believe they think their product is too expensive and therefore we should allow them to drill offshore so the price can be lowered? I'm sorry, but if I'm selling my product as fast as i can make it, at $140 a barrel, the last thing I'm going to try to do is advocate something that would drop the price -- even a penny. Unless, of course, I'm somehow going to be the main beneficiary of that new something.

Name: Mark Benoit
Hometown: Sarasota

More shameless McCartney bashing! Perhaps you should ask a certain BS if he thinks PM's early 1980s-to-present catalog contains anything he deems worthy. Don't ask Lou Reed, though. Didn't he pronounce the Sgt. Pepper's album "gooey pap?"

Name: Jim Rollner
Hometown: Littleton, CO

Eric -- I read your blog every day, and followed you to Media Matters from MSNBC, so it probably goes without saying that I agree with you on most of the issues. However, I cannot continue to allow you to criticize Paul McCartney without comment.

First of all, I'm not sure exactly when you were in junior high school, but, assuming that was some time in the mid to late '70s, you've missed a lot of great work by the Cute Beatle. For starters, how about his tribute to John Lennon, "Here Today," off of Tug of War (1982)?

Or what about "Keep Under Cover" off of his otherwise forgettable Pipes of Peace (1983)?

Or "No More Lonely Nights," featuring a blistering Dave Gilmour guitar solo from his Give My Regards to Broad Street?'

I could name at least two or three songs from each of his admittedly weak '80s-era albums, but how many other '60s and '70s artists were still recording even one or two good tracks per album in the '80s?

Plus, once Paul settled into maturity in the '90s -- once he realized that he wasn't going to top the charts anymore -- he really made some terrific work. Off the Ground (1993) features at least five or six terrific songs and Flaming Pie (1997) is perhaps his strongest solo album of any era. Every song from that album is at least very good.

Chaos and Creation in the Backyard also ranks very highly -- I recall waiting in vain for a comment from you at the time of its release in 2005, but, I guess you allowed your prejudices to cloud your judgment. This one is great from start to finish, and now knowing what we do about his marriage to Heather Mills, ranks amongst his most personal of works.

Perhaps you should give at least some of it a try -- I'm not sure how somebody so bright could offer such a blanket dismissal of such an important artist, even if said artist is in the twilight of his career.

Keep up the good fight!

Name: Ron Curtiss
Hometown: Studio City, CA

Eric: I had forgotten that you are one of few who states that Paul McCartney hasn't written a decent song since you were in junior high school. I couldn't agree more. I worshiped McCartney in the Beatles while growing up and was easy on him for the first solo album because of "Maybe I'm Amazed." Would you agree that this is the best solo tune of his, period? Virtually everything I have heard from him since has either been trite or sounded forced and totally uninspired. He ran out of gas when the Beatles did and we've lived in that shadow for almost 40 years, and so, sadly has he.

Eric replies: The problem with McCartney, post-me in Junior High, is that he just doesn't try very hard. He thinks he's a genius and so he doesn't work at it. But that's not how genius works. "Maybe I'm Amazed" holds up with some of the best work of the Beatles and "McCartney" is actually a really good album. "Band on the Run" would even be a good Beatles album and "Venus and Mars" an OK one. Each one of those much-maligned early records has a gem or three on it. And some of it is at least adventurous and experimental. He thought he had something to prove and he was still trying. The last really, really good song I remember is "Beware My Love." Matt Duss points out that "Veronica" is not bad but we can credit Elvis. "No More Lonely Nights," ok, but the rest of it is boring and undistinguished. And have you heard the guy's stage patter? No wonder Billy Joel suggested they go to the movies. Who could sit through dinner with the guy, sober?

Name: Larry Rasnick
Hometown: Clawson, MI

Colonel, or may I call you "Mr. President," I ask for your consideration for the position of SecState. While I probably do not read as much foreign news as you and the VP, I feel I am still qualified. I don't read the Guardian daily but I do speak with a friend in Switzerland on a weekly basis. I manage to maintain civil relations between our countries by caring for my friend's elderly beagle 'Dee'. Dee is 17, incontinent and mean enough to rip the arm off a Kodiak bear if approached during a meal!

I must point out that the above description is of Dee when she came to live with my wife, me and our two beagles over two years ago. In all modesty, I submit that I and my wife have been able to establish true détente between two male beagles and a furrin female beagle newcomer!!! Is that statecraft or what??? I can now pick this lady beagle up, pet her whilst she dines, send her to her crate and peace reigns in our estate.

I would also suggest that a wonderful way to re-establish good will with Europe would be by a visit of the three of us, I would, in the capacity of SecState, precede the official visit by conducting a walking tour through Switzerland, Germany, France, and Belgium where I would personally contact as many local brewhaus .... Er ... business people as possible and arrange conference dates.

This is only one of the many thoughts I and my staff have for bettering relations, I also feel that Scotland has been sorely neglected in the past years.

I thank you, sir.

LTC Bob Responds: There were several very imaginative people who submitted for the position of SecState. Most were disqualified on the basis of morals. (They had some, and this violated the VEEPs retirement plan requirements.) Mr. Rasnik, soon to be "Mr. Secretary" should our ticket win, demonstrated both a lack thereof, a magnificently shocking degree of cross-species confusion, and the proper attitude towards negotiation locales. Just the feller we're lookin' for. Hired.

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