Oct. 31, 2003 | 11:50 AM ET

SPARTACUS & SLACKERS

New

“Think Again”

column, (Center for American Progress)

here.

And a new Nation column, On Krugman,

here.

And don’t miss this story: “Israel’s army chief has exposed deep divisions between the military and Ariel Sharon by branding the government’s hard-line treatment of Palestinian civilians counter-productive and saying that the policy intensifies hatred and strengthens the ‘terror organizations.’” Lieutenant-General Moshe Ya’alon also told Israeli journalists in an off-the-record briefing that the army was opposed to the route of the “security fence” through the West Bank. The government also contributed to the fall of the former Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, by offering only “stingy” support for his attempts to end the conflict, he said. “ Go ahead Andy, Call him an anti-Semite.

I got a book due today.

Onto Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
I think it’s time for a Spartacus Moment in the fleshpots and lascar’s dens along the docks here in Outer Blogistan. All together now: I AM ATRIOS!

That’s better.

Anyway, so I’m cruising through the nether pages of the Times last Saturday and I come across the story of this Holcomb character, who holds down some position in the EPA under Emperor C-Plus Augustus. Maybe he’s a doorstop. I don’t know. He’s got his hindquarters in a sling now, though, because the GAO found that he may have handed Congress some barefaced non-facts a year ago last July. Back then, Holcomb, soon to be known as “Fredo” around the water cooler, told a committee of the United States Senate that changes in the EPA’s clean-air regulations would not adversely impact a whole bouquet of federal lawsuits aimed at making the various power-plants and refineries less likely to poison the air.

(Let us all stipulate that, if they thought they could get away with it, this scurvy crew would barber the clean-air regulations until they required all members of the Sierra Club to hurl themselves into live volcanoes. Gotta leave something for that second term, though.)

Unfortunately for your man, the GAO says Holcomb attended at least one meeting at which that very consequence of the new regulations was discussed. I mean, god, they don’t even give us the respect of a decent cover-up any more. They lie. They get caught. The story gets tucked into the newspaper somewhere just east of the corset ads. And everybody moves on - in this case, choking and gasping and wheezing all the way.

Big moment the other night. Down 2-3, beat-eight, flick to the arm. Yummy.

And, in case anyone asks, LeBron James is the real damn truth. He barbecued at least three Lakers the other night, and he’s playing with seeds and stems there in Cleveland. Needs to D up on every possession, but his vision is Bird Magical, and he’s got a lightning release on the J. And, HE IS ATRIOS!

Name:
Comments:

Trick or treat! Eric, it’s Stupid to ask: What is the test of a leader? Besides results (natch), I think it’s how much you are willing to sacrifice yourself for the good of the cause. In the case of a politician it’s the willingness to lose an election based on principle. And in the case of Iraq, it means different things to the two parties. Dubya fails this test for his refusal to be honest about the costs of the war and willingness to go into deficit spending to create an election-year boomlet (let alone tell us the real reasons we fought the war - which were neither as honorable as humanitarian supporters cited or as dishonorable as detractors claimed). The Dems fail because they refuse to set aside partisan attacks to deal with the situation as-is. Most don’t even offer an alternative to Dubya’s strategy, and the only responsible suggestion that has been made - bring in the U.N. - doesn’t strike me as a realistic substitute (even before the terror attacks but especially now). What would be a realistic alternative is tying support for Iraq to a sensible long-term energy policy (what Edwards and Kerry should have said), but there are no Paul Tsongases to be found in this group.

OK, but what about the corruption and mismanagement we’re seeing in rebuilding Iraq? My response is that the Democrats need a Harry Truman. Not President Harry Truman, Senator Harry Truman, who rose to fame uncovering fraud and waste in defense contract spending during World War II. In my dreams, a presidential candidate runs on the no-brainer that no-bid contracts are evil and need to be rooted out of every level of government (save a few national defense exceptions), but in reality if a Dem tried to campaign on such a plant the local Democratic machines will turn on you and work for your GOP opponent! (That’s no exaggeration - I’ve seen it happen in Illinois several times). This is the one area where the far left is correct - there really is a one-party system, where the elephant and the donkey morph into a pig. Every time I think of Haliburton robbing us blind, I remember Hillary Clinton turning $1,000 to $100,000 in cattle futures thanks to a Tyson food connection. Then I think of David Brook’s bracing column this week shaming Republicans for costing the nation $5 billion in pure waste by kow-towing to Boeing lobbyist. It’s like a ping-pong game. I don’t think campaign finance reform is the answer, I think unity among the good faith punditry and urging the public to make these things an issue is.

Finally if you’ve got room, may I float a conspiracy theory? The backroom Dems don’t want Howard Dean, but they can’t alienate his supporters and they aren’t in love with any of the other candidates. So they are plotting to have an open convention. Have Gephardt do well in the Midwest, Kerry and Lieberman chip away in the Northeast, Edwards make a showing in the South. Clark and Sharpton pick up delegates across the spectrum. Some of these candidates would fall-off, but as long as they can engineer at least a three-way split (with maybe Sharpton hanging around forever - kind of a mirror-image Alan Keyes) you could have legitimate calls to dump them all in favor of a unity candidate. I don’t necessarily believe this is what is going on, but I’m not ready to chuck it either.

Name: Michael Rapoport
Eric:
Edwin Moise may be onto something when he decries the lack of attention to the Vietnam atrocity uncovered by the Toledo Blade. A quick Factiva search for “Toledo and Blade and Vietnam” yields only a relative handful of mostly small and midsize papers in the U.S. that covered the story, mostly by picking up AP or Reuters copy reporting the Blade’s findings. (Among them: papers in St. Louis, Orlando, Seattle, Milwaukee and San Jose. The largest appear to be the two Chicago papers and the Miami Herald - along with the Washington Post, as Moise notes, which also ran AP copy.)

NPR also did a story, interviewing one of the Toledo reporters; among pundits, the only one I can find who’s mentioned it is Newsday’s James Pinkerton. I can’t find any sign of major TV coverage or stories in most major papers.

Granted, this search probably understates things a bit; some papers don’t put the wire copy they run into searchable databases like Factiva. Still, it certainly appears that the Tiger Force story didn’t get as much coverage as it deserved. I can only surmise that the usual institutional arrogance of big media organizations is at work: to them, it’s not a story unless they or one of their larger brethren break it. (You watch, though: In a few months, “Dateline” or “20/20” or some other newsmagazine will run a segment on the massacre - which they’ll bill as “shocking revelations” or somesuch - in which they’ll interview all the Blade’s sources but not mention the Blade.)

According to Nielsen, one ratings point equals 1,084,000 households, so the figures you give suggest that Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough are being watched by maybe 325,000 people all across the land. Heck, I bet at least that many people read Altercation.

Name: Ira Hozinsky
Hometown: New York NY
Regarding Iowa and New Hampshire: don’t make it a blanket apology. Iowa may be OK; but I’ve been to New Hampshire, and the Libertarians can have it.

As for “Tiger Force,” I believe the Beeb World News on PBS ran one piece about it a few days ago. Where is everyone else indeed?

Oct. 30, 2003 | 11:50 AM ET
AN IGNORED ATROCITY?
This letter appeared on H-Diplo from the eminent historian of Vietnam, Edwin Moise. I reprint it edited for space.

“From October 19 to 22, the Toledo Blade ran a series of articles alleging that a U.S. unit essentially went amok in Vietnam in 1967, committing numerous atrocities. They can be found through the newspaper’s web site.

“The unit was the “Tiger Force,” a reconnaissance platoon of the 1/327 Infantry, 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. The platoon committed numerous atrocities from May to November 1967, first in Quang Ngai province and later in Quang Tin province, including torture and killing of prisoners, deliberate killing of large numbers of civilians, rapes, collection of ears from corpses, etc.

“The Army launched an investigation in 1971, which went on for more than four years before finally recommending criminal charges against some of the soldiers involved. No criminal charges were actually filed.

“One always wants to wait before reaching too firm a judgment on something like this. A story that looks strong at first can have hidden weaknesses. But if there are weaknesses in this one, they are well hidden. The story appears to me to be very solid - plenty of good evidence from good sources, clearly and fairly presented.

“I have been startled by the lack of attention to the story in the major national media. Most of my students hadn’t heard a word about it, which suggests the TV networks must have been pretty much leaving it alone. The Washington Post has covered it, but so far as I am aware the New York Times has ignored it.”

Why?

Meanwhile, this is the headline from the lead story in Salon: ”Hackers on Atkins: Geeks who go low-carb see it as more than just taking off pounds - they’re reengineering the human organism, overclocking their own bodies” My reaction: Um, who cares?

On the other hand, Jim Weinstein is a hero of the American left, and wrote what is still one of the best histories of the progressives. My biggest problem with him is that he stiffed me for half of the (two) pieces I wrote for In These Times back in 1982-83, something I cannot forgive, no matter what the reason.

Is Donald J. Luskin a stalker or just a moron? You be the judge. Marx: The Interview

Hey Guys, Can I Have a Show? I could do as well as that and I’d probably be cheaper. You guys just provide the cameras, the food, the liquor and some walking-around-money. I’ll do the guests and do a really cool show, particularly compared with Mathews. (And unlike Chris, I promise not to talk about the penis size of either Bush or Clinton...)

(via Drudge):
MSNBC HARDBALL 0.3
MSNBC OLBERMANN 0.3
MSNBC SCARBOROUGH 0.3
CNBC BRIAN WILLIAMS 0.3
MSNBC ABRAMS 0.2
CNBC KUDLOW/KRAMER 0.2
CNBC BARTIROMO 0.2

The latest from Tom Paine.

Fox, from inside the belly of the beast. Fox Sues Self: Apparently Did Not Get Joke, from The Guardian.

“Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel threatened to sue the makers of the Simpsons over a spoof news ticker, the show’s creator Matt Groening has claimed. ... The episode of the Simpsons in question showed a rolling news ticker at the bottom of the screen, which read: “Pointless news crawls up 37 percent... Do Democrats cause cancer? Find out at foxnews.com... Rupert Murdoch: Terrific dancer... Dow down 5,000 points... Study: 92 per cent of Democrats are gay... JFK posthumously joins Republican Party... Oil slicks found to keep seals young, supple...” Posted by Siva Vaidhyanathan to sivacracy.net at Siva Vaidhyanathan' Weblog.

Mickey Kaus' many obsessions generally do not bother me; obsessions are good for bloggerz. But he looks like a nut with a constant swipes at The American Prospect. Today he is writing about Josh Marshall and throws in this silly dig: "Marshalls' a good guy, and with his obsessive reporting he's done more to help the Democrats from his Dupont Circle apartment than the entire, bloated Moyers-fed bureaucracy of The American Prospect."

Well, in the first place, the foundation of which my friend and sometimes funder, Bill Moyers, is president, The Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, not Bill Moyers personally, stopped funding the Prospect long ago. Second, I've been in their Washington offices recently, as Mickey has not, and there was no bureaucracy-at least compared to other magazines of similar size and frequency. (You should have seen the offices at TALK, for instance.)

And second, so Mickey disagrees with Bob Kuttner on welfare policy. Get over it, son. The losses at the Prospect do not come close to matching those of The New Republic, which has lost nearly a third of its circulation in the past few years but continues to wreak havoc on the Democratic party by virtue of its silly reputation as a "liberal" publication, (that just happens to be owned by three neoconservatives). I have my own problems with Kuttner, and I think the magazine would be welcome Josh Marshall back into its proverbial bosom, but Mickey on the Prospect is teetering on Andy-on-Krugman territory. (Didn't Moyers and Ken Lay both live in Texas once?)

Correspondents' Corner:
I owe Iowa and New Hampshire an apology:

Name: Michael Patton
Hometown: Feingold Country
Eric: I greatly enjoy the body of your work, but I must take issue with your assessment of David Broder's October 29 column. While I cannot speak for the New Hampshirites, I did spend most of the first 25 years of my life in Iowa, and participated in two presidential caucus processes ('88 & '92). I will concede that Iowans are unrepresentative of the nation as a whole. They are better educated. They participate in elections more regularly. Their voting patterns cannot be pigeon-holed as either liberal or conservative. A major population center, Iowa City, has one of the largest gay communities per capita in the US (even larger than San Francisco's).

While Iowa may not face the same racial, ethnic, or "urban blight" challenges as New York City, Los Angeles, or even Minneapolis, Iowans experiences do not detract from their understanding of the issues that face the country. There is not an Iowan who doesn't understand that New York City needs exponentially more "Homeland Security" funding than Des Moines. Iowans are just as qualified to understand the nuances of international diplomacy, the challenges of national defense, the complexity of the economy, and the rationale (or lack thereof) for war and its aftermath as any urbanite. The office is the President of the United States, not President of the Largest Population Centers.

I love cities! I have lived in the Chicago, Washington, and Liege (Belgium) metropoli. My brother lives in Manhattan and teaches art in a public technical high school in the Bronx. It is the provincial attitude that the Times, and frankly your comments, reflected with which Broder was taking issue. Nowhere did Broder even infer that only "people who wouldn't know a real city if one mugged, raped or killed them. (ellipses mine) should be choosing Democratic nominees" as you assert, nor did he call the Times "arrogant" (your quotes); he called them "snobbish." So take issue (or better yet, divine a realistic, affordable alternative) with the pandering to ethanol if you like. But until you've spent as much time in Des Moines and Concord (the capitals of Iowa and New Hampshire respectively for the woman from Baltimore who at a conference in Washington, DC insisted to my mother, a life-long Iowan, that the correct pronunciation of Iowa was "O-hi-o") as their residents have spent in "real cities," admit your ignorance of them is as great as you claim theirs is of you and do not deny them their places in the Democratic process.

Name: William H. Roemerman
Hometown: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
With regard to your comments on the Broder column: I was surprised to see a writer I generally agree with show such a narrow-minded and parochial attitude. Iowa is not all "white people." It has substantial populations of Asians, African Americans and Hispanics.

Politically, it is in the middle of the state rankings on population, tax rates, size and income level. Its ratio of urban population (yes, there is urban population outside of New York City) to rural population is also about in the middle of the pack. Also politically, it is almost always swing state in presidential elections.

Is Iowa perfectly representative of the nation as a whole? Clearly not. (For example it is considerably better educated than the average state.) Is it more representative of the nation as a whole than New York City. Clearly it is.

Broder's position was not that Iowa is representative, but that the "winnowing out" process is properly done in lower population venues where retail (one might say Jeffersonian) politics are required. It would not be difficult to construct a reasoned counter-argument to that position. However the assumption implicit in the NY Times' editorial (and your column) is that the only real Americans live in "The Apple." That's not a reasoned argument - and it is not one that is likely to sell anywhere west of the Hudson River.

Eric replies: People of the great states of Iowa and New Hampshire, I have nothing against you or your most excellent states. (Note to self: Have I ever actually set foot in Iowa? I don't actually remember.) Seriously, I was not being my typical, admittedly parochial Upper-West-Side snobby self. I just think it's unhealthy for the country for these two small and atypical states to carry such weight in who gets to be president of the United States. Why is ethanol such a big deal, for instance, when mass transportation consistently gets the shaft? The prominence of these two primary/caucuses has something to do with it, and I agin' it.

Name: Tom Andersen
Hometown: Pound Ridge, NY

Comments: I haven't found many blogs that pay much attention to the environmental record of the administration, but on the day after the new EPA administrator was confirmed, it's worth noting that EPA has apparently accepted a developer-financed report that asserts that wetlands pollute -- no doubt an update of the Reagan-era belief that trees pollute. Here's the link.

In that context, it's also worth mentioning that the Bush administration is working to relax wetlands restrictions in the Clean Water Act. Riverkeeper, an advocacy group based in suburban New York, has been on top of the issue and sent a brief on the wetlands changes to the new administrator's predecessor. It and other information is available here.

Gutting the wetlands protections in the Clean Water Act deserves to take its place amid all the other bad policies.

Oct. 29, 2003 | 11:50 AM ET
BRODER, LIBRARIANS & THE CONSTITUTION
Another way of saying this is that David Broder Likes White People and people who wouldn’t know a real city if one mugged, raped or killed them, and thinks that only they should be choosing Democratic nominees. Otherwise, how can you attack the Times’ point that such unrepresentative localities like Iowa and New Hampshire should be choosing the Democratic nominee-or at least winnowing out the process? He calls the Times’ position “arrogant.” I call it sensible. Hey Dean, heal thyself.

Librarians defend the ConstitutionAgainst Bush And Ashcroft. (WSJ) Thank goodness one group in America sees it as their professional responsibility to defend our constitutional liberties.

In the CD player: The New Cassandra Wilson: “Glamoured.” Wilson can take music in any genre and make it her own, and this is a typically wide-ranging collection, featuring songs by Sting, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Abbey Lincoln and more, alongside Cassandra originals that more than hold their own.

Correspondents’ Corner
Name: Bryan
Hometown: Texas
Dear Eric,
I am an Army Reservist still on active duty and thanks to Rummy, I'll still will be 'til April of '04. So I need to tell you that my name needs to be confidential for UMCJ reasons.

First, I would like to comment on the Homeland Security Threat Level. I talked to a Psy-Ops Officer a few months ago and he indirectly pointed me in this direction. Basically he summed it up this way. President Bush crying "wolf" about Saddam would not have been believed by the American public if they (we) were feeling secure about our safety. That caused me to think about what happened before the war in regards to the threat level. Remember how many times it was raised and lowered before the war and the reasons for it? Nothing specific was given, just increased "chatter" and "intelligence" reports suggesting a probable attack. Remember when Homeland Security suggested that Americans should purchase tape and plastic to cover the windows of their homes (which would do no good in reality). This was part of the "plan" to go to war. Get the American public wanting to go to war with Saddam. It wasn't just hyped intelligence the administration used.

After the war, I read in an article that a memo was sent by the Administration that the threat level will not be moved higher so as to not cause alarm and create insecurity. It tends to be bad for the economy. ... It makes sense, so why was it so liberally used before the war?

Greenspan even said the war with Iraq stalled the economy. I'm surprised none of the Democratic presidential candidates attacked the Bush administration for lengthening the economic slowdown because of having a war that was not needed and caused more, and longer, economic hardship for the American workers. Cause and effect. Show the people that they were harmed by the war and they will respond accordingly. Now they see that the war caused them no direct hardships.

As for the leak on Joseph Wilson's wife. It had two very meaningful purposes. First, it was an attack on Joseph himself, to say, "You attack us, we will attack you." Second, and even more importantly, it was a message to all CIA analysts who will be questioned (hopefully) by the Senate committee investigating the intelligence break down to clam up on why they reviewed and rewritten old intel and overstated the intelligence in their analysis. The CIA will be blamed for the pre-war intelligence mess so the Administration can say we were just going off of what was given to us. (Regardless of the fact it was exactly what the Administration wanted).

It looks like the Senate is about done with its report and will be out soon. It was leaked that the blame of faulty intel will be placed directly on the CIA. The Democrats need to hit this hard by asking why. Why did CIA analysts all of a sudden review 13 years of Iraqi intelligence and rewrite the meaning of it and why did all of the intelligence get overstated? Another revisionist history program by the Administration, I'm sure would be the outcome.

I hope you get to read this. I know you get a lot of feedback, and I'm sure there is not enough time in a year to read it all. I hope this makes a difference.

Oct. 28, 2003 | 11:50 AM ET
PRESS FREEDOM, FDR & LUCY
From Reporters Without Borders on the relative freedom of the world media.

“As in 2002, the ranking shows that a country's respect for press freedom is not solely linked to its economic development. The top 50 include countries that are among the poorest in the world, such as Benin (29th position), Timor-Leste (30th) and Madagascar (46th)... The ranking distinguishes behaviour at home and abroad in the cases of the United States and Israel. They are ranked in 31st and 44th positions respectively as regards respect for freedom of expression on their own territory, but they fall to the 135th and 146th positions as regards behaviour beyond their borders. The Israeli army's repeated abuses against journalists in the occupied territories and the U.S. army's responsibility in the death of several reporters during the war in Iraq constitute unacceptable behaviour by two nations that never stop stressing their commitment to freedom of expression…"

The New York Post loses $40 million a year. The New York Sun loses who knows how much. No wonder right-wing journalists love “free-markets” so much. They’ve never seen one.

As I understand the logic of “Bushworld,” the more people they kill, the better we’re doing. In that case, this occupation thing is Really Going Great! I can’t wait until we clean up Iran and Syria.

Quote of the Day "This is the first time that I have seen a parallel to Vietnam, in terms of information that the administration is putting out versus the actual situation on the ground," John McCain, Commie.

Hey Josh, Does Michael Ledeen figure in your story? This is sounding more like a sequel to Iran/Contra every day-when it’s not a rerun of Vietnam. And congrats to Josh for raising all that money so quickly. We look forward to your New Hampshire coverate. And to Atrios too, on The New Laptop. And these guys are doing it without editors, something I argue should not be possible. Is there a model here? We’ll see. In the meantime, God bless Mr. Gates….

Chris “man, I Love This Kool-aid" Wallace, Please Roger, may I have another?

See Spinsanity on the myth of the $38 billion deficit in California, which was actually closed in a July budget deal. Tell that to the media, which consistently got it wrong, especially Chris Matthews, CNN and the network morning shows.

Mamas, don’t let your gossip columnists grow up to be historians: In his Daily News column this morning Lloyd Grove writes “It turns out that Franklin Roosevelt's romance with Lucy Mercer was longer and stronger than previously thought. FDR was thought to have curtailed his dalliance with his onetime secretary at wife Eleanor's insistence, but Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, author of "Franklin and Winston," has discovered in the Roosevelt archives an intimate 1941 letter that indicates that Mercer and Roosevelt, her "poor darling," remained deeply in love to the end.”

But something got lost in the sauce here. We all knew that FDR and Lucy were together practically until the moment he died in April 1945. A 1941 letter therefore proves they “remained deeply in love to the end” of four years before we already knew they remained deeply in love. What am I missing here? I tried to quiz Lloyd about it (privately) this morning but he had other proverbial fish to fry and so Altercation is left to correct this crucial historical record, via an email from its author, the esteemed editor of Newsweek:

Jon Meechan writes:

“Lloyd's item is correct in saying that the letter does prove the romance was "longer and stronger" than most people have thought, though a strict reading of it might prompt students of the period to ask the kind of question you did. (In the telescoping of his item, he - like all of us who write in tight spaces - did not wallow in the detail that I wallowed in in my book.) The nuance is this: My letter suggests that their contact was far more intimate and ongoing than we had previously known - and is the best evidence ever that they probably never fell out of intimate contact. The broadly accepted version had them out of touch after 1918, except for passing social notes and, possibly, Lucy attending FDR's inaugurals at a distance and alleged occasional visits in Washington. We, of course, knew that they came back together during the war years, especially after Winthrop Rutherfurd's death in 1944, and that they were together at Warm Springs (which is when ER discovered the ongoing connection).

But there has been no evidence until now of the nature and extent of their contact between 1918 and 1944 - and certainly not so much detail. The really important and interesting thing is the letter itself, which is fascinating, touching and revealing, and is on pages 220-222 of Franklin And Winston. I (obviously, as the author) recommend it to anyone interested in the period.

Quick, someone send Barbara Bush a copy of What Liberal Media? And while you’re at it, pre-order her a copy of The Book On Bush.

The Buzzflash Interview: Bill Moyers. Susan Sontag, Literature Is Freedom. Zadie Smith on Franz Kafka.

Terry Eagleton on Mimesis and Sandy Starr on Terry Eagleton. From Fengi’s Mouth to God’s ears...(a little late, alas.)

Here's our man Sal, a catholic fellow if ever there was one, on the new ZZ Top Box,"Chrome, Smoke, & BBQ." You can also buy it From Sal.

What if Herbie Hancock was referred to as "that guy who did that video with the electronic music and the mechanical legs?" Quite an injustice, doncha' think? Well, aside from ruining music long before downloading and Ashanti, MTV ruined ZZ Top for the real ZZ Top fans. Now, they will forever be known as, "those guys with the beards who walk funny with the girls and the cars." (or something like that)

"Chrome, Smoke, & BBQ" is the new 4-CD set from Warner, celebrating 35 years of Texas boogie, played to perfection by Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard, known to the world as ZZ Top. The box is essential! 80 tracks (only 15 from that over-produced, but admit it, very catchy MTV period) of pure Southern grease!

Hill & Beard's rhythm section rivals the best of'em - Sly & Robbie, Tina & Chris, Jonesy & Bonzo. And Billy Gibbons' guitar tone will never be duplicated. (One of the most underrated players in music.)

The box starts out with three "Moving Sidewalks" tracks, the pre-ZZ psych band of the '60's and covers such classics as "La Grange," "Tush," "Cheap Sunglasses," and "Tubesnake Boogie." Not to mention 60 other tracks that unfortunately slid under the radar of so many.

My one complaint about the box is that is does not represent any of their recent RCA material, specifically "Rhythmeen," which I think is their best record. But, that's understood. This box covers only the WEA material.

Forget "Legs" and "Sharp Dressed Man." It made the boys some well-deserved moolah, as well as making long, Rip Van Winkle beards sexy for about six minutes. That's no reason to ignore some of the best blues ever recorded.
Sal Nunziato
October 2003

Pierce's Corner:
Charles Pierce
Newton, Mass.
Eric --

Because every day, even the day before the NBA tips off, is Slacker Friday, Part The XVIII.

So, I'm sailing through the channels last night, during a break in the Kurt Cobain plotline on a Law and Order rerun, and I happen to land on Hannity And Comatose, the domain of the young Irish princeling, Sean Hannity. (We will pass over mercifully Sean's partner, who is now a published turnip.) They were chatting over the Wal-Mart story, and Sean was joined in the send-them-back-in-chains argument by Michelle Malkin, my Winter Book favorite for Viperish Pundette Rookie Of The Year. Anyway, after Sean and Michelle get through sending back to wherever all the people who clean their hotel rooms and scrape their plates, it occurs to Sean that somewhere, some liberal -- although, God knows, not his partner, who once again apparently had climbed into a steamer trunk -- might point out that, maybe, ahem, you know, the people who run Wal-Mart might have some obligation not to hire people who BREAK OUR LAWS. (I capitalize only to give you the flavor of young Michelle, who does not speak otherwise on this topic.). And this is what Sean said:

"They say they didn't know and I, ah, think we, ah, should take them at their word. I mean, they (meaning the illegals, I assume) have very clever fake ID's and so forth."

Those crafty illegals -- you know, the people who cleverly hide themselves in tank trucks and cleverly ride through the desert -- some of them cleverly perishing of thirst on the way -- and cleverly take jobs at 19 cents every five weeks mowing Sean Hannity's yard or stacking a length of garden hose for him to buy -- are far too sharp for the people who run the most successful entrepreneurial retail enterprise of the past 50 years. Wow.

Everybody Else's Corner: Dear Eric,
Sorry to bring up Dylan again, but thought you might enjoy this song parody:

Georgie Dubya
To the tune of "Maggie's Farm" by Bob Dylan

I ain't gonna vote for Georgie Dubya no more.
No, I ain't gonna vote for Georgie Dubya no more.

Well, I wake up in the morning,
Fold my hands and pray for peace,
But there's three more dead in Baghdad
And still no WMDs. It's a shame the way he lied us into war.
I ain't gonna vote for Georgie Dubya no more.
I ain't gonna vote for Georgie's brother no more
No, I aint gonna vote for Georgie's brother no more
Well, he crowds kids into classrooms
And cuts their teachers' pay,
Then claims he's all for schooling,
Says marriage ain't for gays.
And he steals your vote, especially if you're poor.
I ain't gonna vote for Georgie's brother no more.
I ain't gonna vote for Georgie's pa no more
No, I ain't gonna vote for Georgie's pa no more Well, he said, "Appoint Colin."
He said, "Select Dick."
But he didn't tell Dubya
Whose policy to pick.Nobody knows who's supposed to run the store.
Ah, I ain't gonna vote for Georgie's pa no more.
I ain't gonna buy books by Georgie's ma no more
No, I ain't gonna buy books by Georgie's ma no moreWell, she preaches to all us servants
About man and God and law.
Everybody says
She's the brains behind pa.Her "beautiful mind" can't be bothered by the horrors of war.
I ain't gonna buy books by Georgie's ma no more.
I ain't gonna vote for Georgie Dubya no more
I aint gonna vote for Georgie Dubya no moreWell, I try my best
To be just like I am
But Ashcroft wants to force you
To be just like him
They say sing while you slave but I just get bored
I ain't gonna vote for Georgie Dubya no more.There's a permanent link here.

Allen

Oct. 27, 2003 | 1:50 PM ET
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED
These attacks are not really happening. Or if they are they are the fault of liberals in the media. Iraq is a democracy. The invasion was a success. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

Yet another DEVASTATING REPORT on Bush administration incompetence in Iraq, if you can stand it….

And there’s this from the Communist Financial Times:

"In a rare hearing called by Senate Democratic leaders... Vince Cannistraro, former CIA operations chief, [testified that Valerie Plame]: 'was outed as a vindictive act because the agency was not providing support for policy statements that Saddam Hussein was reviving his nuclear programme.' The leak was a way to 'demonstrate an underlying contempt for the intelligence community, the CIA in particular'. He said that in the run-up to the Iraq war, the White House had exerted unprecedented pressure on the CIA and other intelligence agencies to find evidence that Iraq had links to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda and that Baghdad was trying to build a nuclear bomb....”

David Frum has attempted to eat his words regarding myself, Mickey Kaus and Josh Marshall but I fear he has spit them out all over his plate, insufficiently masticated. Dave, the word “censor” does not correlate with the word “adjudicate” in any dictionary known to humankind. Try again, boychick, this time chew slowly and carefully, lest you choke (again).

The problem in the Middle East, as we keep saying, is not the deal itself. The problem is Arafat, Sharon and the do-nothing, know-nothing, Mr. Bush.

From ORCINUS:

"Bush apologist Howard Kurtz -- who never met a GOP talking point he didn't mind repeating -- opines on 'Bush hatred' in his latest WaPo column... As I've pointed out previously, there is simply no truth to the claim that 'the press was filled with stories about Clinton-haters.' The only serious appearance of the subject in major mainstream media was the 1994 Time story on 'Clintonophobia.' As Sadly No discovered in a Lexis/Nexis search (I posted about it here), there were a total of 18 stories in American newspapers between 1992 and 2000 that mentioned 'Clinton hatred.' In contrast, a veritable cottage industry has sprung up around writing about 'Bush hatred.' A quick Google search reveals 1,980 hits - the vast majority of them from conservative pundits and bloggers holding forth on the depredations of irrational liberals."

Here Howie does not seem to know the difference between the “fair and balanced” Fox News Channel and the broadcast station, which has almost no news, save the Sunday show, but invented “The Simpsons,” one of televisions highest achievements. Perhaps he’d be clearer if he got a paycheck from them as well.

DISOBEDIENCE AT SWARTHMORE
The Nation is planning an enormous take out on this issue, by Ronnie Dugger, but it can’t come soon enough.

Jeffrey Sachs on ONE MORE BUSH FOREIGN POLICY FAILURE

Jay Rosen, a very energetic guy, is tired of discussions about MEDIA BIAS, just in time for the paperback of WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA?

Hmmm, DUDE, WHERE’S MY RECOVERY?

Good, nuts-and-bolts non-ideological analysis of what’s wrong with the elite media coverage of politics by STEPHAN RICHTER

As suggested in this space: BRUCE SAVES THE BOTTOM LINE.

And I’m sorry to see that JOHN HART ELY died so young. He figured in the famous Gideon v. Wainwright case as a young law clerk and went on to become an important legal scholar. I particularly admired his “War and Responsibility” and made considerable use of it in the forthcoming “When Presidents Lie.”

STEINBRENNER’S SONG.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Rebecca
Hometown: Washington, D.C.

I nearly died in the US Embassy in Beirut in 1983 and lost many dear friends.

I woke up to the sounds of French Marines being blown up -- many people don't remember that hundreds of French Multinational Troops died that day also. Then a minute later, American Marines were blown up that Sunday morning in 1983. I was privileged to have been able to offer comfort to several wounded Marines at the University of Beirut Hospital after the blast. Poor babies, they were so young and green.

Yes, it was President Reagan who pulled out of the Middle East after screwing things up so badly and letting Sharon radicalize Southern Lebanon -- and Reagan who allowed Iran-Contra to happen. It made me sick when, so soon after 9/11, so many conservatives immediately started the "Blame Clinton" refrain...

The 1980's were a terrible time of terrorism for Americans but few really cared; certainly not the "Patriotic" Republicans in office (but I do have a soft spot for George Schultz and Robert Oakley who both hated Iran-Contra).

Americans are funny because they really don't think things happen unless they happen to them IN the United States. And then all hell breaks loose and too many mistakes can be made because of fear and emotion.

I pray that by the time next year's presidential election is held, the country will have come back to some sense of balance.

This is our final day of discussion of the DYLAN REMASTERS. Don’t send me any more e-mail on the topic, please.

Name: Ken Houghton
Hometown: Maplewood, NJ

Put me down as another defender of SHOT OF LOVE, which points directly to the resurgence of _Infidels_ and _Empire Burlesque_ (the latter a weaker album, but with more interesting songs--and Dylan's "other" dance track, "When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky"). No, it doesn't cohere, but the highs ("Lenny Bruce," "Every Grain of Sand") are so high that the lows shouldn't matter.

Still trying to figure out if Columbia bought the Masters for _Planet Waves_ and _Before the Flood_, and why PW and Love and Theft(!) were priorities on remastering. Can _Renaldo and Clara_ on DVD be long?

Eric replies: I did a little research on this. It appears that the reason for the omissions is that Bob wanted it that way. That’s the reason for everything re: Dylan, though, of course, it begs the question of why. I spoke to the editor of his memoirs at a party last week by the way, they should be out next year and I am assured they represent a “coherent narrative.”

Name: Steven Hart
Hometown: Highland Park, N.J.

Considering that "New Morning" sounds like it was recorded with goose-down comforters wrapped around the microphones, it may have simply been too formidable a task to remaster. Any technology that can bring that album up to snuff will be on the order of a reliably functioning fusion reactor, or a voting machine immune to Republican tampering.

Columbia can significantly improve "The Basement Tapes" simply be removing the phony-mono sound imposed on the 1975 issue. Contrary to notions that those sessions were taped on crappy equipment, Garth Hudson used above-average stero recording technology for that time. Along with the processed mono, Columbia larded the song list with some Band outtakes recorded at Big Pink but separate from the Basement sessions, which were Dylan's show all the way. (The songs are fine, but they squeezed out worthy Dylan tunes, as few as some of the flakier numbers that would have conveyed the genial mood of the sessions.) As is so often the case, one must resort to the bootleg vaults to get the real story: there's a terrific all-Dylan two-disc boot from a Japanese source, the five-disc Scorpio set Greil Marcus referred to in "Invisible Republic" and a lushly packaged upgrade called "A Tree With Roots." Strictly for fanatics, of course, but if you weren't a fanatic we wouldn't even be having this little chat.

Eric replies: I’ve got a two-disc “Best of the Basement Tapes” which is, I think all one needs. The five-cd version is a bit hard-going in my view. On the other hand, when, for goodness sakes are we going to get an official version of the original “Blood on the Tracks,” which is among the most incredible records I own? (I think it’s called “New York Sessions” but my cds are mostly still in boxes.)

Name: Pat Healy
Hometown: Vallejo, CA

Re: Dylan remasters

The box set isn't a bad deal at all, especially if, like me, you pick it up for $150 at Costco.

Fortunately for me, I had never upgraded from LP to CDs, so only "Oh Mercy" and "Love and Theft" were CD repeats.

I know you said "No SACD", but the only reason I sprung for the box was that I'd heard the SACD versions of the sample tracks on the bonus disc that came with the "Masked and Anonymous" sountrack. (By the way, the SACD coding exists on a different layer of the disc, since it's entirely incompatible with CD coding, and therefore should not reduce the amount of room for the CD version on the disc.)

While the two-channel SACD mixes will make little difference to those of us without true high-end audio systems, it's the albums with the surround sound mixes that really kill. Even the acoustic-only stuff gets a nice ambience. ("Bringing It All Back Home" is particularly nice.) And the surround version of "Blood on the Tracks" is, frankly, stunning. A thing of beauty, and a joy forever.

Name: John Shaw
Hometown: Seattle

Eric,

Since we're talking Dylan, I've always wondered why no lit-savvy critic picked up on this reference to that big long song from Time Out of Mind.

My heart is in the highlands, my heart is not here
My heart is in the highlands a-chasing the deer
A-chasing the wild deer and following the roe
My heart is in the highlands wherever I go.
-- Robert Burns

My guess is that Bob's Highlands is Death. Robbie's was a very physical place that he very physically knew.

Name: Steve Anderson
Hometown: Grenada Hills.

Steven Hart's comments about Dylan, he was in my studio for one day last summer, re-recording a song for, I believe, the dismal "Gods & Generals." Band, of course, was superb (Charlie Sexton, what a player!). His engineer had mics on all the usual stuff, all the drums, guitars, bass, etc. But we had to have an extra assistant engineer out in the studio, ready to move a spare vocal mic wherever Bob went. He would be running a song down on guitar, then suddenly walk over to the piano and start playing. And when he says "record," if the microphone ain't in place, it isn't his concern. The band, of course, was used to this. The engineer, however, who did the last album, was sweating quite a bit. But was still pretty cool to have him in the studio.

Eric replies: Fred Kaplan clears up the two-disc Blonde on Blonde mystery for us: “At 72 minutes, "Blonde on Blonde" was just on the edge of what can fit on a single disc--even a multichannel mix. But "BoB" is a very dense multichannel mix, so rather than compress the hell out of it to cram it all in, they decided to stretch it out over 2 discs. Smart move, as I think it sounds very good. They charged only $1 more than they're charging for the single discs.”

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