Slacker Friday


We've got a new Think Again column called "The Invisible Battle Over Posse Comitatus," here. My President's Lecture at Queensborough College, called "Liberty and the News," can be viewed, I think, here.

Quote of the Day: "It's kind of painful to be criticized for something when all the facts are not out there and are not reported." -- Sarah Palin.

Yet another: Guy on Life on Mars: "This is looking more and more like a hate crime."

Harvey Keitel, (in 1973) "You mean, as opposed to an 'I really, really like you' crime?"

Fun with YouTube:

Waiting, apparently in vain (Update: or not ... see below), for Pierce to show this morning and with a kid sick at home, we started having fun with YouTube. David Rudd got us started with "if I had a gun for every ace I have drawn ..." here, which led to "There's A Riot Goin' On" (after a side trip on his white horse Mescalito) and this, the movie of which is about to come out on DVD from Rhino) which led to some a capella "If you feel like giving me a lifetime of devotion, " here, which led back to an argument against taking drugs, which led to the Led Zep reunion final encore, with awful sound. And an awful lot more of that ...

So we changed channels and ended up here and here with professional quality video ...

Which led to this New York Times pundit which led to, well, how great is this despite the brief appearance of Dennis Miller's face ...

Uh oh, something has gone wrong. Now look, we're ... chickens appear to be returning from the shore. Well, This has gotta stop, so let's end with the greatest single moment of my life as a Sesame Street-watching parent, the immortal Tony Bennett performance of "Slimey to the Moon."

Alter-reviews: The Clash by The Clash

It's been 30 years since the self-titled debut album from The Clash came to America (Topper Headon, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Joe Strummer formed the band in the UK in 1976). To mark the anniversary, Grand Central Publishing is putting out a 384-page, full color book on the group, "written" by the group on the model of the The Beatles Anthology and similar books on my shelf providing oral histories of the Stones and U2. So in the most unpunky move possible, we get a coffee-table book with full access to the Clash archive, including tour posters, artwork, and photos of the band at home, on stage, in the studio and on the road, featuring lots of drugs, groupies and politics, More information is here. It does make a good gift for the Clash fan who has everything, but if you want to be more generous -- or less generous -- I'd throw in the deluxe version of the Shea Stadium show about which we recently raved. The CD is the same -- it contains the whole set -- as the original but the photos are totally excellent, and it's the last time the Clash were really the Clash and punk was even close to being punk. That's OK, by the way -- it needed to evolve itself out of existence, but here is where it reached maturity and brought us to where we ended up. Glad I wasn't in The Who that day. (October 12 & 13, 1982, if you're keeping track.)

As for the weekend, I'm seeing Southside Johnny with Labama's band play Tom Waits stuff tonight at the Nokia and Joan Osborne sing soul, country and Joan Osborne tomorrow night at the Highline. Come say hello if you're there ...

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:

"All of your brothers, over in Africa/Tell all the folks in Egypt and Israel, too/Please don't miss this train at the station/'Cause if you miss it, I feel sorry, sorry for you."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: This Bitter Earth (Irma Thomas) -- OK, I admit it. I turned in 3000 registration forms signed by people named Donald Duck, Brett Favre, Louis The Simple, and Trigger. But they all registered the depths of how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: Hey, idiot. How's about we take a nationwide poll on who is a better writer, you or David Sedaris? If Mom's not out of the country, you might avoid a shutout.

Part The Second: In my town, we have this micro-rated sewage treatment plant on which, among other things, Hillary Clinton is regularly called "a Communist," and that's by the brightest bulb in what is an admittedly dim chandelier. (Short Political History Aside: if you believe that Hillary Clinton is a Communist, then you couldn't have found one at Friedrich Engels' bachelor party. Pass it on.) Anyway, they current obsession seems to be that, should the Democratic party sweep the elections, General Order No. 1 will be to re-establish The Fairness Doctrine (dum-dum-DUMMMMM!). I think this is how talk-show hosts scare their children into eating lima beans -- "Eat you lima beans or The Fairness Doctrine will get you." Now, me? I bring it back. But outside of me, Dennis Kucinich and Bobby Kennedy, Jr., I don't think the damn thing has three votes in the entire country. I swear, there are radio hosts who are going to spend the months after the election hiding under their beds with canned goods.

Part The Third: Mommy, who is that strange man in the pith helmet hanging around the salad bar?

Part The Fourth: The competition for Biggest Knob In Knoxville might end this week. It's possible that this impending catastrophe will vault the preseason favorite into an insurmountable lead, far beyond the comeback hopes of the plucky challenger, no matter how hard he tries, and linking to a dim and paranoiac charlatan like Mark Steyn is indeed trying very hard.

Part The Last: seems to be having the same problem with security that Salon has been having of late. Namely, crazy people keep sneaking past Ralph The Drunk Security Guard and finding their way to open workstations. To nobody's surprise, bad things inevitably result. Believe me. Nobody finds this guy funnier than do actual football people, actual scientists, and people actually conversant in English.

Everybody seems exhausted now. The candidates are tired. Their staffs are tired. The pundits are tired. The entire media apparatus surrounding Campaign/Decision/AmericaVotes/Wahoo! '08 is groaning with the effort it takes to still make a game out of what clearly appears to be garbage time. Everybody's exhausted, except Chris Matthews, who seems to have found a heretofore untapped reservoir of pure giddiness in himself. Given his previous problems with female politicians -- and with females generally -- that Dr. Maddow called him on last winter, one approaches his disdain for the presence of Sarah Palin on a national ticket with more than a little caution. His relentless bullyragging of Nancy Pfotenhauer the other night didn't do much to dispel the suspicions, either, although the whole exchange was enlivened by the presence of Obama spoke Bill Burton, who sat there on the split screen, utterly ignored, while Matthews tore into Pfotenhauer and Burton tried to keep everyone from noticing the canary feathers around his mouth. How that guy kept his teeth from exploding is anybody's guess. While I'm happy that Matthews is outraged about something besides what Bill Clinton's nether parts are up to these days, his current performance is compelling evidence that he's planning to run for something very soon and, if he does, if he isn't primaried by a woman candidate, I'll be the most surprised person this side of the guy who runs the women's clothing department at the Wal-Mart in Wasilla.

p.s. -- I don't want to play into the Media & Barack, Sittin' In A Tree theme, but, were I someone who'd been covering this interminable exercise for 22 months and, one day, two weeks before the election, my candidate were to drag me off to hang around the beach in Hawai'i for a couple of days, I might turn out to like the guy more than I would someone who's been hauling me for a month to every strip mall and Senior Special breakfast joint in the Florida panhandle.

p.p.s. -- OK, can I just say that, at this point, it would not surprise me at all if Ronald Reagan rose from the dead, dusted himself off, grinned and said, "Well, yes, we can."

Name: Ralph
Hometown: North Carolina

Dr. A,

Your article on the bill regarding changes to the Posse Comitatus was spot on. As a retired soldier, I first learned of the history and relevance of Posse Comitatus while conducting a joint operation with the then Border Patrol (now some other federal entity under the guise of Department of Homeland Security). The inherent danger of our current president having the power to use Federal Troops in a law enforcement capacity is kind of scary, though if a President Obama could use the troops to enact martial law on Wall Street and reign in the real criminals, maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Name: Tom Till
Hometown: McLean, Virginia

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

Where was Matthews TEN years ago, when he could have stood against the insane nightly rantings of the lunatic GOP Right and Broderist Center as they sought to impeach a president for having consensual oral sex (and, even more importantly, because "it's not his place")? Wait a minute, Matthews was one of the leading lunatics. For me, he gets a "Thanks, Chris" the way Nader gets the old "Thanks, Ralph."

Name: Jim Hassinger
Hometown: Glendale

The term "front-running" is what explains so much of corporate news behavior. NOW, Matthews is the courageous defender of Obama. Before, he was the Hillary-trasher and the McCain idolator. NOW, Joe Klein is sucking up to the progressives in Swampland who used to clash with him (wittily) while he was repeating his previous 8 years of front-running. The majority of our pundits just want to end up fawning over the winner. Truth is beside the question.

Name: Bill Miller
Hometown: Mill Valley CA

"The United States is ranked 36th in the world for press freedom," which is obviously one of the many freedoms that "they" hate us for.

Name: Merrill R. Frank
Hometown: Jackson Heights, NYC


Howard Wolfson was sad to say probably being overly cautious, concerned about playing into a session of fake outrage within the 24/7 news cycle (Ooh, the KT Tunstall song had the word "Hell" in it. How will that play with swing voters?) and worried about, as Frank Zappa used to call them, "The Mothers of Prevention" when it came to selecting campaign music. Just go back to Hillary's 2000 Senate campaign kick-off when the playing of Billy Joel's "Captain Jack" over the PA system caused a Drudge-led imbroglio with Rudy Giuliani playing the role of Anthony Comstock.

Name: Ken Hughes
Hometown: Presidential Recordings Program, Miller Center, University of Virginia

Hi, Eric,

The title of the latest installment of Fatal Politics: The Nixon Tapes, Vietnam & the Biggest Republican Presidential Landslide, "Poll-Tested Bombing," refers to a secret poll the Republican National Committee commissioned in 1969, Richard Nixon's first year in office, on alternative Vietnam exit strategies. The poll is interesting for two reasons:

1. The most popular exit strategy was to bomb and blockade North Vietnam for six months to get a compromise settlement.

2. Nixon announced that he was bombing the North and mining its harbors on May 8, 1972 -- i.e., six months, minus one day, before the 1972 election.

Nixon held onto this poll. It was in his "hideaway" office desk when he resigned. And he came up with the May 8, 1972, date at least a month in advance, according to Deputy National Security Adviser Al Haig on page 282 of his memoirs, Inner Circles:

"On April 6, acting on instructions from Nixon and Kissinger, I prepared a contingency plan calling for the bombing of all military targets in North Vietnam and for the mining of enemy ports. The President ruled that this plan would go into effect on May 8 if ARVN showed signs of breaking under the enemy invasion."

The episode also features a President (and presidential candidate) who:

  • Claims political courage for deciding against immediate withdrawal from an unpopular war ... although private polls show that immediate withdrawal is the least popular exit strategy.

  • Argues that "precipitate withdrawal" will lead to a massacre ... while his own secretly negotiated "decent interval" exit strategy will merely postpone, not prevent, a bloodbath until after he's withdrawn US troops.

  • Claims to put "country first, politics second" ... but decides to keep the war going until shortly before or after his re-election to conceal his inability to win it.

Finally, we have a new general with new tactics that bring greatly improved security conditions ... but that's not enough to win the war.

Part One

Part Two

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