Slacker Friday


Slacker Friday

We have a new Think Again column called "The Uses and Abuses of 'Voter Fraud,' " which is here. And I did a short post on the second debate for the Guardian, which is here. And don't forget the New York Times Book Review/Paper Cuts playlist, which is here.

This is funny, and this fellow needs both a new job and a new wardrobe.

Oh, and Rosanne for (vice) president.

This Week on Moyers:

Bill Moyers talks with one of the world's most successful investors, George Soros, about the global capital meltdown, how he saw it coming, and what can be done now. And, with the campaigns heating up, Bill Moyers checks in with Journal contributor and director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center Kathleen Hall Jamieson on how dirty politics will play out in this final stretch to the election.

From TomDispatch:

If you want to grasp just how deeply the United States is now entangled in its catastrophic Afghan War, you need to read Anand Gopal's on-the-spot reportage at today. For obvious reasons, it's rare for this site to have such reporting, so consider this an exceptional exception. Anand Gopal is a superb young journalist who writes regularly for the Christian Science Monitor. In today's report, he considers the failed U.S. surge in Afghanistan -- yes, there was one back in 2007 -- as well as the costs of that war for Afghan civilians. His report could not be more vivid or more sobering for a country readying itself, under a new president, to pour yet more troops into that country.

It is also immediate in the extreme. It begins this way: "A bit past midnight on a balmy night in late August, Hedayatullah awoke to a deafening blast. He stumbled out of bed and heard angry voices drawing closer. Suddenly, his bedroom doors banged open and dozens of silhouetted figures burst in, some shouting in a strange language..."

In the course of this piece, you meet the villager who carried his mother's head around for days after a U.S. bombing raid and then became a suicide bomber, the Afghans in Kabul who now wax nostalgic for the good old days of the former communist dictator of the 1980s, the typically corrupt police commander who tries to confiscate Gopal's new motorbike as he is riding on it, and the 11-year-old orphan who begs on the same street in the Afghan capital every day and then is beaten at night. In this way, you begin to understand just why the U.S. is losing its war in Afghanistan (as Afghan civilians lose hope of a better life) and how the Taliban has risen from the grave.

This is a remarkable account of the other surge - the 2007 one in Afghanistan that failed -- and what it will mean to surge again in 2009. Gopal ends this way: "This is a war to be won by constructing roads, creating jobs, cleaning up the government, and giving Afghans something they've had preciously little of in the last 30 years: hope. However, hope is fading fast here, and that's a fact Washington can ill afford to ignore; for once the Afghans lose all hope, the Americans will have lost this war."

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:

"Better stay away from those that carry around a fire hose/Keep a clean nose and watch the plainclothes/You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."

(Had to know that one was coming.)

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "How Long Has This Train Been Gone?" (Professor Longhair) -- When I was pallin' around with domestic terrorists, all we ever talked about was how much we loved New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: Can someone tell me who it was that put the bug up the ass of NBC icons as regards the "crisis" in Social Security? Russert used to marinate in this myth all the time.The West Wing even once went nutty on the subject. Now, the bug seems to have climbed into the Thuycidides Of The Corn Palace, too. I keep waiting for Jack McCoy to start talking about it some week on Law and Order.

Part The Second: I have a suggestion for the Commission On Presidential Debates. For the last one, can we please, for the love of god, not insist that the audience behave like patio furniture? Poor McCain keeps telling jokes -- not great ones, but some worthy of a chuckle -- and nobody's allowed to laugh, and he ends up looking like even more of a jackass.

Part The Third: Oh, boy. Smug vs. smut. Please shoot me now.

Part The Fourth: Sticky Mickey continues to forget to criticize the MSM for failing to pursue the National Enquirer's well-sourced World Exclusive about Sarah Palin's alleged adultery, complete with the name of the other stallion alleged to have been in the paddock. Instead, he gets all nervous about unions.

Part The Fifth: A respected legal mind from Atlanta wrote this week to argue that the Biggest Knob In Knoxville competition has been settled in favor of this guy. Undoubtedly, he will enter into evidence this fiasco as Exhibit Triple-Q on his behalf. I maintain that the contest is still wide-open, however, especially after the other candidate goes mucking around with what we in Massachusetts like to call the bag of hammers and makes himself look more foofish in the process.

Part The Sixth: Hey, cowardly network types, if you need "balance" as regards to stories about "pallin' around with domestic terrorists," well, I'm here to help. And MSNBC? If the morning's topic is "pallin' around with domestic terrorists," you might like to consult your Morning Zoo crew about this fine gentleman down Pensacola way. And KO, buddy, you might think about mentioning it, too, especially if, like you did on Wednesday night, you're going to attempt a complicated three-rail shot linking McCain to another clinic shooter.

Part The Last: The Wish For Penises, Chapter XVIII: Once again, against all odds, security at Salon World HQ fails utterly, and crazy people find their way to a workstation. The argument that Sarah Palin is actually a brilliant linguistic innovator should send us all into what my sainted mother would have called "high-sterics," but this part is just freaking weird: "However a lot of men, especially older men see her as hot. She's a fantasy come to life. She's the naughty librarian 'MILF' who they'd love to get with."

I never thought it would happen to me, Forum, but one night in the igloo ... " This person got there first ahead of me, and very far ahead of the elite political media, which is tut-tutting about poor John McCain and the unfortunate campaign that he has been forced to run in public this year. It is time, however, for the people at the upper levels of my business to notice that the Republican ticket is playing with fu**ing fire right now. They are ginning up authentically frightening reactions from authentically frightening crowds and, the more evidence that piles up proving that this kind of thing doesn't work, the more they pile it on. They are writing checks that they're really not going to want to cash. This is not Michael Dukakis they're teeing up as a traitor here. This is a guy who already has a number of people out there who don't want him to win for one, ah, very obvious reason. I have been watching politics on television for 40 years, and following it around in one capacity or another for 30, and I have never at any rally (either on TV or in person) heard someone yell out, "Kill him!" Ever. Not even at streetcorner rallies in Boston when folks were sockless drunk and looking for someone, anyone, to punch. And not a word from the podium, and the worst you get from the conservative intelligentsia is that this kind of thing is politically ineffective. (And isn't it really past time for Canada to take back this boob? I mean, giving us Neil Young doesn't cover you forever.) Hey, idiots, this stuff goes out on television, and on that thing the kids call The Internet. People hear it and a lot of them believe it. And they're not all meth-heads with rifles. Remember when Bill Clinton called out talk radio in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing and big, brave Rush practically wet himself on the air? This is worse. Where in the name of god is the CNN Special Report about the dangers of what the Republicans are up to here? Where are the networks? There is pretty plainly a sourcepoint, as the environmental people say, for the poison leaching into this campaign. What does that ticket have to do, move a rally to a beer hall in Munich?

p.s.: And I think I speak for the entire class when I say, "Are you high or what?"

Eric replies: And don't forget Joni ...

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

Tom Brokaw didn't really shape the debate but assumed its shape: boring and not terribly telling. More crucially, he struck some Democrats with whom I spoke as too pro-McCain. I am sourcing this about as carefully as most of the mainstream media, I know.

But The New York Times had reported that Brokaw was telling the McCain campaign to trust NBC News, that they weren't all opinionated like Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann. Now, isn't that far worse, journalistically, than Gwen Ifill's book? Why didn't the McCain campaign claim that Brokaw couldn't be trusted to moderate the debate? Ahem.

Name: Karl Witter
Hometown: Bloomfield, CT

"We braced for the worst from debate moderator Tom Brokaw last night, and got -- well, not the worst, but definitely not the best."

I'm still waiting to bestow the 2008 "Bernard Shaw Award" to the moderator who best legitimizes a Republican-created narrative with a nonsensical, non-policy question to a Democrat.

Name: John Loehr
Hometown: Free Union, Virginia

I believe Tom Friedman's musing on Sarah Palin's lack of acumen, while relevant, is not as pertinent as this point, made in the same column:

"I only wish she had been asked: 'Governor Palin, if paying taxes is not considered patriotic in your neighborhood, who is going to pay for the body armor that will protect your son in Iraq? Who is going to pay for the bailout you endorsed? ... I can understand someone saying that the government has no business bailing out the financial system, but I can't understand someone arguing that we should do that but not pay for it with taxes. I can understand someone saying we have no business in Iraq, but I can't understand someone who advocates staying in Iraq until "victory" declaring that paying taxes to fund that is not patriotic.No one said it better than Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: 'I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization.' "

I'm still astounded that in all the hand-wringing over the oversight that should be included in the bailout bill, there was never any suggestion that it should be funded at least in part by an increase in the capital gains tax. The right wing propaganda machine has done its work well.

Name: Reg Prewitt
Hometown: Franklin, TN


The stories of the McCain campaign retaliating against reporters who write things the campaign doesn't like, hides a candidate, and sheep dogs those sent to cover their events is more than troubling. I'm no journalist but the real answer is far simpler than using good journalistic practices, in this case by waiting until the rally breaks up. If a candidate indicates how strongly he/she objects to coverage of a campaign event by retaliation and refusing access, the simple act of refusing to cover that candidate's events would solve the problem within a couple of news cycles. No campaign could long survive if news outlets would refuse to go where they are apparently not wanted. Yeah, I know, I'm way too simple-minded. But a guy has to dream that present day "journalists" and "news organizations" might grow a pair.

Name: Bob
Hometown: Kansas City, MO

Really, George Will? Comparing George Bush's terseness to that of Ernest Hemingway and John Wesley?

I'll give you Irwin Mainway and John Wesley Harding, but that's about as far as I'm prepared to go.

Name: Candace Fowler
Hometown: Atlanta


Sorry to disappoint you, but I don't want to fight about your playlist. As for those placeholders, I had the privilege of seeing Rosanne sing "Ode to Billy Joe" in a small theater in Decatur, Alabama, and it was transcendent. The cover of "A Change Is Gonna Come" I am waiting for, though, is Tracy Chapman's. She sang it at the Vote for Change show in Orlando in 2004, and my goosebumps get goosebumps when I think about it to this day.

I leave you with two additions to consider:

David Byrne's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and Shawn Colvin's "Naive Meoldy (Home)."

Love your work, your books and, most of all, Charlie Pierce.

Name: M. George Stevenson
Hometown: Bronx, NY

Dear Dr. A:

Rex Reed, however much addicted to self-referencing, wouldn't give "Lola Montes" the time of day -- after all, he had "Myra Breckinridge" to worry about. The IIIIIIIIeee nominee in question is Andrew Sarris (greetings from your former TA), whose history with the divine "Lola" does indeed go back and, to my mind, justifies all the self-justification. Like so many of his cinematic judgments, his championing of Max Ophul's masterpiece has risen above its seeming eccentricity and become a part of the wisdom of the ages.

Besides, can you seriously imagine Rex Reed expressing a desire to be like a character played by Peter Ustinov?

Name: Atoning Dude
Hometown: I Was Born In Brooklyn!

Dude, try these 3 covers:

Watson Twins covering the Cure's "Just Like Heaven"
Jimmy Webb covering, uh, Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman"
Mick Ronson covering "Like A Rolling Stone" -- w/Bowie.

Name: Rich Gallagher
Hometown: Fishkill, NY

Dear Eric,

I have no quibbles with your list. However, regarding the cover of "The Air That I Breathe" by The Mavericks, it's worth noting that the original recording of the song was by Phil Everly, not by The Hollies. Everly recorded it in June, 1973 and it is one of the tracks on his solo album, "Star Spangled Springer." The album was produced by Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer Duane Eddy and the arrangement is by Warren Zevon. You can hear Everly's version here.

Interestingly, years later Eddy played guitar on The Mavericks/Carl Perkins recording of "Matchbox." It can be heard here, and there is a live version here.

Name: Eric Alterman
Hometown: New York, New York.

Before I hit on the theme of cool covers, I started to make a list of songs that put me in a good mood when they show up in the shuffle. I stopped pretty quickly because it was too big, but if you're interested:

"Bird Alone," Abbey Lincoln
"Wings for Wheels," Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
"Kiss and Say Goodbye," The Manhattans
"Double Shot of My Baby's Love," The Swinging Medallions
"Soak Up the Sun," Sheryl Crow
"Staci's Mom," Fountains of Wayne
"Big Joe and Phantom 309," Tom Waits
"Your Husband is Cheatin' On Us," Denise LaSalle
"I Don't Want to Go Home," Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes
"Private Number," Dusty Springfield
"Shake Hands with Your Uncle Max," Allan Sherman
"Come and Get Your Love," Redbone
"Dallas," The Flatlanders
"You've Done Nothing Wrong," Iris DeMent
"Don't Get Around Much Anymore," Duke Ellington
"Radio V-I-E-T-N-A-M," Bell and Shore
"IDTYWLM," Loudon Wainwright III
"Marcella," The Beach Boys
"All Right Now," Free
"Border Song," Elton John
"Dry Your Eyes," Neil Diamond and the Band
"Overnight Sensation," The Raspberries
"You'll Have Times," William Shatner
"Heart of the Matter," Don Henley
"Honey Hush," Big Joe Turner
"Soulshine," The Allman Brothers Band
"R-O-C-K," Garland Jeffreys
"18 Wheels of Love," The Drive-By Truckers
"People Gotta Be Free," The Rascals
"Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?" Derek and the Dominoes

Name: George Zornick
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

We hear that Sarah Palin is dropping the ceremonial first puck at the Flyers-Rangers game in Philadelphia on Saturday night.

I have to say that, politics aside, what really boils me about the staunchly conservative Palin is her attempt to co-opt what I think is a solidly liberal sport. I mean, it started in freaking Canada. Most of the players are either Canadian, or northern European, or American - but from hockey areas like Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Michigan, etc. The league is internationalist enough to play two different anthems, Canadian (first) and American before each game. When polled on whether they would accept a gay teammate, an astonishing 80 percent of NHL players said they would, compared to 60 percent or less for the other three major sports leagues. (During the recent players union strike (see?), Brett Hull, one of the sport's biggest stars*, was asked about gay marriage in Canada, and said: "Well, that's what happens in Canada when there's no hockey. Guys have more time to hang out, talk about their feelings, next thing you know they're in love with each other. I've got nothing against it, but I'd rather be playing hockey.")

The sport, I suspect, has a more liberal fans than other sports because the base is centered in places like Toronto, Stockholm, Boston, New York, Detroit, etc. -- although it's probably true, as Atrios notes, that "the political slant of hockey fans is, on average, a bit more Republican than the city itself." Nevertheless, I do think the more tolerant roots of the players radiate out to the hockey world. I remember going to a Sabres game when Bill Clinton attended -- the crowd went totally nuts, and the coaches and players practically threw him a party in the locker room. There was also this funny exchange with the media afterwards:

[Sabres] Coach Lindy Ruff was asked if he'd accept any coaching tips from Clinton. "Let's see what he has to offer," quipped Ruff. When reminded that President Nixon often called Washington Redskins coach George Allen to impart advice, a member of the media shouted from the back of the room, "Who the hell would want advice from Nixon!"

Now that's not to say there's no conservatism in the sport -- as fans of the iconic Don Cherry know, there is a xenophobic strand running against European players, largely among some Canadian fans. But overall, I think Palin is playing with fire here as she officially enters the hockey world in Philly on Saturday. Let's see how the fans react - I know what I'd be doing.

* As a citizen of Buffalo, I am obligated to mention this whenever discussing Brett Hull.

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