Get back, honky cat ...


We've got a new Think Again column called "The Invisible Battle Over Posse Comitatus," here (something of which I was completely unaware until shortly before Naomi fell in the pool on Saturday ...).

Depression? What depression? The Cartier watch that takes up a full-page advertisement on the back of Time this week costs a mere $28,800 (plus tax) ...

And speaking of Time, there's an article in the back by Lev Grossman entitled "The Corrections," with the subhed, "John Updike, Toni Morrison and Philip Roth return to early works to rewrite what they got wrong." Well, I've not seen Morrison's book, and Updike's book The Widows of Eastwick, to which I am presently listening on audio, is at least a sequel to The Witches of Eastwick, though hardly a rewrite and certainly does not imply anything "wrong" with the former. (For the record, I am so far finding it to be a major disappointment, just as I did his last novel, though the man has earned my investment in all of his fiction, so I'm not making a big deal of it.) But to say that Roth's Indignation is a rewrite of Portnoy's Complaint, well, that's just crazy talk. Yes, there are men in both books and sex in both books. Hello? That's true of about a billion books over all as well as the balance of Roth's extensive oeuvre. In fact, Indignation and Portnoy have nothing whatever to do with one another, much less the cockamamie moralizing of this comically superficial review. This strikes me as a "We Need a Trend and Trends Come in Threes" story, in which the story is forced to match a bullshit headline gone mad. Hard to say whether Lev Grossman is the perpetrator or the victim of an editor who was trying to force three unrelated stories into the tiny space that Time now allots to books, but it is embarrassing to all concerned. My advice is that someone -- perhaps quite a few people -- at Time needs to reread Calvin Trillin's classic novel Floater to help them guard against this, ahem, Time-honored tradition in the future. (And so far, it is not online.) I do recommend Indignation, however, no matter what you've read about it -- my friend Ben Schwarz at The Atlantic has now published two foolish Hitchens-on-Roth reviews in a row. I read it on the plane from New York to Zurich, and it kept me rapt exactly until the nose of the plane hit the dropoff point. (I barely noticed I was in coach all that time ...)

Did you hear what Sarah Palin spent on her clothes? All the cable networks did, as did the AP , the Chicago Sun-Times , The New York Times , The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, etc.

By the way, we've agreed on a final draft of the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces in Iraq, which if passed could govern the extent of our military presence there for years to come. Gareth Porter, naturally, is actually examining the draft and writing stories, and finds:

The final draft of the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces agreement on the U.S. military presence represents an even more crushing defeat for the policy of the George W. Bush administration than previously thought, the final text reveals.

The final draft, dated Oct. 13, not only imposes unambiguous deadlines for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops by 2011 but makes it extremely unlikely that a U.S. non-combat presence will be allowed to remain in Iraq for training and support purposes beyond the 2011 deadline for withdrawal of all U.S. combat forces.

Read his entire piece for more details -- the structure of the bill makes passage by the Iraqi parliament doubtful. Much of the mainstream media seems to be giving the issue muted play, and Iraq is getting virtually no part of the campaign coverage newshole, so watch Porter's dispatches.

George Zornick writes: Now, this is a terrific segment. Chris Matthews -- who has had an acute ear for Sarah Palin's repeated statements that expanded the role of the vice-president beyond what's Constitutionally appropriate -- absolutely hammers McCain spokeswoman Nancy Pfotenhauer on Palin's recent remark that the vice-president is "in charge of the U.S. Senate."

Matthews methodically demolishes Pfotenhauer's defense -- she keeps insisting that Palin was talking to a young child, even though it was actually to a local television reporter. Matthews stops the interview and plays the clip -- twice -- to make his point clear. After amassing his facts and reading from the Constitution itself, Matthews says "somebody ought to go to the candidate for the Vice President and give them a copy of the Constitution to read. That's all it takes. It doesn't take a lot of penetrating thought. Read the job description." He dismisses Pfotenhauer's arguments out of hand, saying "you're doing the best you can," and even says of Palin: "By the way, I like the red leather jacket, but I'm telling you, what's underneath it is a problem here."

As great as this segment is, though, it's also frustrating. Where was this three months ago? A year ago? Five years ago?

In the middle of the summer, with the race tied, would Matthews have spoken his mind this directly about what he sees as the incompetence of the Republican ticket? Would he have dared throw out the red leather jacket line? Would Chuck Todd and Brian Williams go on the air and say McCain and Palin seemed "tense," perhaps were blaming each other, and "you almost wonder why they wanted the two of them sitting next to each other," as they did yesterday?

It's easy to do 13 days before Election Day, when the ticket seems headed for near-certain defeat. I'm not saying the sentiments aren't genuine - I'm sure that they are - but why wait until it's almost besides the point to say them?

The Associated Press is out with a poll declaring the presidential race even. Now recall we pointed out Sean Hannity's bizarre misunderstanding of how polls are weighted -- he said a number of polls were unreliable because they interviewed more Democrats than Republicans. Of course, every indicator is that more Democrats will vote in this election, so that's what accurate polls reflect.

One might expect that type of misunderstanding from Hannity, but not the AP's polling firm. It has a poll that's weighted oddly, in one instance predicting that 45 percent of voters are evangelical or born-again Christians. Of course, in 2004, only 23 percent of voters classified themselves as born-again. So why would any intelligent political watcher assume their numbers would double this time around?

We don't know why they've done this, but Nate Silver at has issued a challenge:

I would like to issue a challenge to those pollsters like Franklin & Marshall and GfK which in spite of all the facts above, are showing a substantial shift toward the Republicans when they apply their likely voter models. E-mail me -- my contact information is at the top of the page -- and tell me why you think what you're doing is good science.

It will be interesting to see the explanation.

Speaking of Hannity, he's really chopping wood on Fox News these days:

HANNITY: Hey, Karl, I sense a momentum shift, and I want to go over this with you if we can here. It all starts with Joe the Plumber. It all starts with Joe Biden saying it's our patriotic duty to pay more taxes followed by, you know, spread the wealth around which was the comment that Obama made to Joe the Plumber.

And then we find out, when we get to the bottom line, this mantra, 95 percent won't pay taxes, we discover that it actually is a welfare program, 40 percent of that 95 percent are actually going to get a check, a welfare check basically, from the government, under the Obama plan. Now that people are becoming more aware of it, and this -- you know, we're going to have a major, you know, crisis in six months because they're going to test this guy because he's perceived as weak.

Do you see the shift as I do?

This would make good bumper music ...

Jonah Goldberg and Mark Steyn have been mocking a short column in The Kansas City Star which argues that "socialist" is being used as a code word for black. The piece is four paragraphs long, so I guess Goldberg and Steyn were not convinced -- they would be much better off grappling with Adam Serwer's article from The American Prospect, which devotes much more research and care to that same argument. Funny how they missed that one...

Preparation is the key to any interview. This would be a good place to start on that particular challenge leveled by McCain, which he has issued several times before.

The United States is ranked 36th in the world for press freedom, according to a new report from Reporters Sans Frontieres.

The U.S. is tied with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, South Africa, Spain, and Taiwan in the 36th spot. The ranking examines "every kind of violation directly affecting journalists (such as murders, imprisonment, physical attacks and threats) and news media (censorship, confiscation of newspaper issues, searches and harassment). And it includes the degree of impunity enjoyed by those responsible for these press freedom violations."

More here.

From ANP:

At a John McCain rally this weekend, McCain's Maryland campaign chairman, Daniel Zubairi, confronted an anti-Islamic McCain supporter who was spreading rumors about Barack Obama's Muslim background. The exchange was caught on tape by the American News Project, a DC-based video news organization.

Zubairi, who is Muslim, was scheduled to appear on Rick Sanchez's show on CNN to discuss what happened, but it seems that the McCain campaign pulled him at the last minute. "Wouldn't you think they would have wanted him to come on?" Sanchez asked. "What the guy did was courageous. I called him heroic. I'm mystified why they wouldn't embrace him for his actions."

The ANP video from the McCain rally is here.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania voters and the NAACP filed a complaint in Philadelphia federal court, citing an interview between the American News Project and Philadelphia Deputy City Commissioner Fred Voigt detailing how Pennsylvania voters could face substantial delays at the polls. ANP has the update and more from their interview with Fred Voight here.

Last week, ANP reported on the foreclosure of Jocelyn Voltaire in Queens Village, NY, and the impending auction of her house. Since the report aired, a national grassroots effort to save her home has been launched. In this piece, ANP reports on the outcome of said initiative and delve deeper into a connection between Jocelyn's mortgage company and Goldman Sachs.

This week on Moyers:

With the election just days away, Bill Moyers Journal stays on the news cycle with the aim of providing fresh alternative insights into the personalities and issues shaping our choice, and the deeper, more institutional challenges facing the country now and in the future.


The Keepnews Collection - Part Six, on Concord

Concord records released the latest installment, the sixth, of the Keepnews collection this fall -- albums that were produced by Orrin Keepnews, who founded Riverside Records in 1953. The latest batch features Thelonious Monk's Thelonious Himself and Bill Evans' Sunday at the Village Vanguard, which are available in digital format and on CD. Also included are Abbey Lincoln's That's Him!, Wynton Kelly's Kelly Blue, and Mark Murphy's Rah, are available digitally. These were all albums cut between 1957 and 1962 at Riverside, and the reissues have bonus tracks and new liner note commentaries by Mr. Keepnews. The Monk and Evans albums are classics but if you know Abbey only from the past fifteen years in which her relaunched career has led to entirely apt comparisons to the best work of Billie Holliday, take a listen to her old stuff, which sounds as if it is an entirely different artist, but one whose work shows flashes of the same intelligence and eroticism. For more information, please go here and you can listen to clips of songs produced by Orrin Keepnews back in his heyday. Among them:

  • From The Complete 1957 Riverside Recordings: "Ruby, My Dear" by John Coltrane & Thelonious Monk
  • From Keepnews Collection: Cannonball Adderley Quintet In San Francisco: You Got It!" by The Cannonball Adderley Quintet (1959)
  • From the album Riverside Profiles: Bill Evans: "My Man's Gone Now" by The Bill Evans Trio (1961)
  • From the album Live At the Jazz Workshop: "Straight, No Chaser (Live)" by Thelonious Monk (1964)

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Ken Bilderback
Hometown: Gaston, OR

The new Associated Press survey shows Obama at 44 percent and McCain at 43 percent.

The results, while wildly different from most polls, could be entirely valid.

The same cannot be said for AP's analysis. For example: "McCain's strong showing is partly attributable to his strong debate performance. ... During their final debate, a feisty McCain repeatedly forced Obama to defend his record, comments and associations."

Every survey I have seen suggested Obama won the debate handily, yet AP offers as a statement of fact that his debate performance was strong, and suggests he was the victor.

Further, the somewhat tortured AP writer contends that McCain is gaining ground, then notes later in the story that McCain's high point was the first night of polling, with Obama gaining after that.

Name: Cindi Brody
Hometown: Detroit

Seems to me the figure of speech "measuring the drapes" being used is not really accurate. Obama would not be measuring the EXISTING drapes. He'd be measuring the windows so that they can order new drapes. So it should be "measuring FOR drapes." Which I hope someone else is doing because Barack will be too busy as President to worry about interior decorating.

Name: Kathleen Cunningham
Hometown: Berkley, MI

Thanks for the praise and information on the reissue of Graham Nash's "Songs For Beginners." I just pulled out my copy and it's such a great album (yes, the term album works for all formats -- pass it on) and unfairly neglected.

It was great to see CSN on The Colbert Report this summer (although part 2 of of that program with them singing with Colbert is omitted from Comedy Central for some reason).

The documentary, CSNY Deja Vu, about CSNY's Freedom Tour is worth seeking out. These fine artists who've created so much memorable music also are still working to make our democracy better. The documentary also shows some of the dark side of the U.S. Some of the concert

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