Oct. 16, 2003 | 12:15 PM ET
There’s the possibility of an enormous scandal brewing with the GOP using voter technology stealing votes. I can’t tell if they’re doing it yet or just getting ready to do it-or to be able to do it if they need to. And don’t tell me they’re above that kind of thing. If these guys cared about honest elections, I’d be whining about President Gore in this space. Anyway, read the extremely disturbing story above. Then read this one.

Why, for goodness sakes is the mass media avoiding this potentially enormous story?

Meanwhile, you probably can’t read this one-since it’s in the Chronicle of Higher Education-a publication not only requires a paid subscription but also libeled me recently-but it is rather amazing.

Here’s a summary: It seems “a graduate student at the University of California at Riverside has been sentenced to spend 28 days in jail on consecutive weekends for tampering with a campus election conducted over the Internet. The student, Shawn Bijan Nematbakhsh, 21, had been charged with unauthorized alteration of computer data, a felony under California’s criminal code. Mr. Nematbakhsh pleaded guilty to a similar misdemeanor charge and was sentenced last week in Riverside County Superior Court. In April, while he was still an undergraduate, Mr. Nematbakhsh used the campus’s Internet voting system to cast 801 votes in a student-government election for “American Ninja.”

He later described the move as a senior prank intended to expose how easily elections could be rigged because of security flaws in the system. Critics of computerized voting, especially Internet voting, defended Mr. Nematbakhsh’s actions. ‘This Riverside student may be the first person in the history of the United States to go to jail for hacking an election in an effort to show the weaknesses of computerized voting,” according to a source. Here’s the restricted link.

Hey Kids, let’s joke about nuking America’s civil servants . President Bush will promise to stay best friends with you, so long as you control the votes and cash contributions of lots of right-wing Christians.

Combined Sontag/Begala Award to U.S. troops in Iraq. How dare they criticize the president? Commies, one and all.

I watched the tonight’s first-rate Frontline special on the sleeper al-Qaida cell the other day. I promise you it won’t make you feel well-protected.

And Bernie Goldberg should go mute… Bernie looks to have a new book out in which I am a target. He is not one for understanding complex details so I will explain to you, dear reader, rather than him that:

a) I was joking about Rush. I apologized. But now that I see that he may have caused his own medical problems by what looks like illegal drug use and criminal behavior, so I’m not so sorry anymore.

b) The comments about the people who come to dinner at my house were meant as self-criticism and a concession to right-wing critics of the insularity of the New York media, you idiot.

Boy Scouts host terrorist sympathizers and fascist apologists. Good old homophobia just ain’t enough for these folks anymore.

Quote of the Day, “The story of what we’ve done in the postwar period is remarkable. It is a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day.” Rep. George Nethercutt “The story of what we’ve done in the postwar period is remarkable. It is a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day.”

Quote of the Day, Runner up: “Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he didn’t want to see any stories quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and that if he did, there would be consequences, said a senior administration official who asked that his name not be used.” Read the rest here. It’s good.

From Democrats.com: “The Center for Cooperative Research has developed an online tool that allows its visitors to submit bibliographies and article links for posting on the home page. This new project represents another step in our efforts to empower the public with the means of documenting the current historical record at the grassroots level. Please participate!

It only takes seconds to contribute articles to us. Please note that if you have a website, participation in this project will increase traffic to your own website! This effort to harness the labor and minds of thousands of thinking people has the potential to make this project an excellent source for news, as it will be updated continuously throughout the day and each news article will have a link to a bibliography consisting of related news reports, documents, and opinion pieces.” The link is here.

Hey, I’ve felt bad about that Al Weiss grounder for what, like 34 years now.

Alter-updates: I’ll be on Wolf Blitzer’s show at noon on CNN on Friday. Next week, on the 22nd, I’ll be interviewing the editors of the Onion at the New School for the Nation Institute. That’s at seven. Ticket info is on the Nation website. The following night, I’ll be talking to Lawrence Korb of the Council on Foreign Relations and Richard Betts of Columbia, also at the New School, about homeland security, in the same auditorium, on Fifth Avenue and 13th street.

In the CD player:
Television’s Marquee Moon from the most under-rated, unfairly uncelebrated band of the entire punk era. Not the Ramones, not the Talking Heads but somewhere in between. Brilliant, passionate punk, and first-rate musicianship. Trust me. (“Adventure” is almost as good.)


Oct. 15, 2003 | 12:15 PM ET
Don’t forget what almost all the coverage of the presidential election wants you to forget. Elections in America are about money more than anything else.

During the 2002 election cycle, Republican candidates outspent Democrats by nearly $200 million. That’s the most important reason everything ended up breaking their way, though I’ll be amazed if a single network’s coverage even mentioned it. Bush has now collected $83.9 million. He has done so in part by aggressively selling government at the cost of zillions to you and me. The totals of his current kitty “driven in large part by just 285 men and women, who collected $38.5 million or more, which was at least 45 percent of Bush’s total take. This fund-raising elite, many of whom were beneficiaries of Bush administration policies, included 100 “Rangers,” who raised at least $200,000 apiece, and 185 “Pioneers,” who collected at least $100,000 each.”

Harold Meyerson on the new Fox slogan: “We Lie, You Support Stupid Wars.”

I like my colleague Glenn Reynolds but he should learn to take more care with his sources. A certain hysterical, frequently McCarthyistic blogger got upset (So what’s new?) because Ed Asner said he would like to play “Stalin” whom he considers to be a “misunderstood” historical figure.

Glenn is all bent out of shape over this. Well, hey bud, come and get me too, because Stalin is a misunderstood historical figure. I got a doctoral thesis and a book coming out next year that makes the same argument, among many others. The word “misunderstood” is, dare I say it, being misunderstood here. www.dictionary.com gives us the “past tense and past participle of misunderstand” which means “to understand incorrectly; misinterpret.”

Well, he is. Most historical figures are, simply because most people are not historians and lack both the knowledge and tools to reach a sophisticated understanding of what, after all are extremely complex phenomena. To say that Stalin is “misunderstood” is actually to utter a truism. It is not remotely the same thing as saying that Stalin was not history’s most callous mass murderer. He was.

It is not the same thing as saying he shamelessly manipulated history to suit his own ideological purposes, as do some bloggerz I could name, though obviously in a manner far more consequential and detrimental. But in When Presidents Lie, I will argue that Stalin’s role in the Cold War is “misunderstood,” and I’ve got literally hundreds of sources to back up my claim. I may be wrong, but no-nothing attacks serve only to shut down intelligent discourse.

Perhaps Ed Asner is genuinely confused about Stalin’s evil the way, say, Nation columnist and Stalinist apologist Alexander Cockburn is. Perhaps he sees Stalin’s lying about history that does not comport with his own goals as a model the way say, Glenn’s friend a certain blogger with the initials “AWS” does. But I see no evidence for that. Ed Asner is a great guy, he was wonderful as Lou Grant, he’s got “spunk,” and this kind of red-hunting/red-baiting serves the interests of no one, particularly in the context of discussing artistic roles. If Glenn is going to uphold the honor of the blogosphere, he ought to have higher standards.

Addition: 2:20 pm ET: It seems that Sullivan’s source for the Ed Asner quote has retracted, and therefore so have Sullivan and Glenn. I don’t see that it changes much, however. There was nothing remotely objectionable about the original statement. Stalin was “misunderstood.” There’s no stigma attached to re-imagining history on the basis of new insights or new evidence. Deal with it.

Moreover the original source appears to have been, the nutty Scaife publication, Worldnet Daily. It demonstrates how desperate Andy was to smear a liberal like Asner that he would jump so far on so pathetic a source.

Ashcroft’s assault on the Constitution, part XVIII. And the Christopher Ricks Dylan book is finally out, but in England.

Great moments in librul media dominance: USA Today says in a job posting: “Looking for a conservative who ca (sic) work to achievie (sic) consensus with a diverse editorial board.” Experience covering business and health care is helpful, too.”

Alterreview: Sal N. does not like the new Elvis. He writes:

“We’re among the most rabid Elvis Costello fans on the planet. Defending his oft-maligned dabblings in jazz and classical, we have stood by Elvis’ most adventurous, yet not always successful, achievements. But even we must draw the line somewhere.

“And that line is the U.S.-Canada border, which was the inspiration for “North,” Elvis’ latest album. It’s all well and good that he’s in love with Canadian chanteuse Diana Krall, and it could have made for interesting subject matter on this album. Lush-sounding and ballad heavy, not unlike a Diana Krall album, could have been a fine change of direction.

“The only problem is that he forgot to write a single memorable tune before going into the studio. Even his most demanding records (“The Juliet Letters,” with the Brodsky Quartet, and the Burt Bacharach collaboration “Painted From Memory”) had moments of spine-chilling beauty. “North” just leaves us cold. Getting rave reviews in most publications, let’s hope for Elvis’ sake that this is a huge success, and no one listens to us, including you, our readers.”

The History Channel debate I did with Pat Buchanan will air again this Sunday at 9:00am.

Here’s the man.

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, Mass.
Eric —

Because every day, even one on which I fly to North Carolina, is Slacker Friday, Part The XVII.

I ask this out of deep concern, mind you, and I hope dearly it is not the case, but did David Brooks choose to celebrate his elevation to Times op-ed pundit by taking peyote? What in the name of giggling god is going on with the man? First, we get the Bush-haters column, and now this bizarre entry about the Sox and Yankees in which Brooks goes deeply into his Cool Papa Pop-Cult Conservative mode to craft the following sentence:

“A few years ago, some singers from the Pacific Northwest tried to pioneer something called grunge rock.”

In the immortal words of Wayne Campbell, “Exsqueeze me? Baking powder?” TRIED TO PIONEER grunge rock? What can Brooks possibly mean by this? Was Kurt Cobain really in the insurance game? Do Dave Grohl, Eddie Vedder, and the rest of them have to give all that money back? Did Brooks spend the 1990’s in a steamer trunk in the basement of the Heritage Foundation? More proof that we must keep popular culture away from modern conservatives lest they do themselves a public injury, poor dears.

ps: To dispel this scurrilous rumor about my inability to hype myself, two of my Globe pieces — the Teddy Kennedy 30-years -in-the-Senate piece and what (I think) is a fairly prescient view of Howard Dean (From a year ago, Broder, you slacker) — now available to the Altercation family at www.charlespierce.net.

Name: Jim Cullen
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Ronald Reagan also summoned news media from the hinterlands to reach beyond the Capitol newsgroup. When I was political reporter for the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise I was invited to D.C. in 1987 for a briefing in the Old Executive Office Building with a bunch of other reporters and editors that included an appearance by the Gipper who fielded (mainly softball) questions.

Name: Phil Obbard
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Hi Eric,

Amusing Ourselves to Death also served as the basis for Roger Waters’ better-than-you’d-think solo album AMUSED TO DEATH (and that’s coming from someone with only two Pink Floyd records in his collection). Years ago, I got Postman to sign my copy of the CD, which gave him a good laugh.Transcript of lecture by Professor Chiaru Kodama

Name: Steven Hart
Hometown: Highland Park, N.J.
There’s a pretty good independent film from 1997 called “Love and Death on Long Island,” in which a fussy English author named Giles D’Eath (John Hurt, amazing as always)accidentally stumbles into a low-rent teens’n’tits movie and becomes hopelessly smitten with its cheeseball star, Ronnie Bostock (Jason Priestley, who’s much better than you’d expect). The writer’s crush expresses itself as absurdly inflated judgments on Ronnie’s untapped talents and how his halting performances are really hidden gems of subtlety and wit. Ronnie, who dreams of escaping the B-movie corral, gets caught up in Giles’ fantasy until he realizes that Giles is just an old gay guy having a crush.

That movie came to mind as I read the swooning love note to Arnold Schwarzenegger from Andrew Sullivan. Unlike Ronnie Bostock, the Governator is too smart to get caught up in Andy’s fantasy life. But whatever were they thinking at Time magazine?

Oct. 14, 2003 | 12:15 PM ET
From Limbaugh to Miles Davis
Did Rush deafen himself? Well, he’s still got Howie.

Damn that librul media! Always trying to portray our president in the worst possible light.

Here’s another brilliant plan to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis.

Don’t these people ever get tired of parodying themselves? CNN reports: “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to change its policy to permit the importation of endangered species, their parts and products from countries that promote wildlife conservation programs... “

Bush vs. Cheney Which side are you on? (Amazing that a guy could be corrected by George W. Bush on anything.)

The Israel/Palestine deal: Everybody knows what it is, but no one has the courage to insist on it. That’s the saddest part. The Israelis and Palestinians are both to blame for the current crisis, but Israel as the stronger party, has more of a responsibility to break out of the cycle of nihilism. Bush, of course, is a lost cause. Beholden to the Christian fundamentalists, he lets Sharon get away with murder, winking and blinking when he should be showing a little backbone and/or political smarts. A brave U.S. or Israel leadership would simply implement the above plan and give the Palestinians a chance to prove, once and for all, whether they are really ready for statehood. Fat chance.

“The Senate stopped the FCC in its tracks. There are enough votes to do the same in the House. But then, General Electric, owner of NBC; News Corp, owner of Fox; Viacom, owner of CBS; and Walt Disney, owner of ABC, brought on the hired guns — the lobbyists — to wage a Trojan War on Congress.

“A passel of former insiders moved through the revolving door, Rolodex in tow, trading their influence for cash — top aides of the Senate majority leader, the House majority whip and of John Ashcroft himself. Now the most powerful Republican in Congress, Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, won’t let a vote happen. The effort to reverse the FCC is dead in the water, sinking the democratic process with it.” Moyers on the FCC (from Salon.)

Precedented: Most good newspapers bar the use of the word “unprecedented” because who really knows. Dana Milbank shows why here. He writes:” Yesterday, Bush granted exclusive interviews to five regional broadcasting companies - an unprecedented effort to reach news organizations that do not regularly cover the White House.” In fact, Sidney Blumenthal wrote this exact story about the Clinton White House efforts to do much the same thing back in 1993, in The New Yorker, if recollection serves.

Jay Rosen remembers his mentor, Neal Postman, whose great (short) book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” is one of the founding works of the study of the modern National Entertainment State.

I won’t see “Kill Bill” and I even skipped “Reservoir Dogs“ because I just can’t stand to witness excessive violence in movies, but Greg Easterbrook is just out of his mind in saying, “All of Tarantino’s work is pure junk,” when it comes to “Pulp Fiction.” But that is not what is even interesting about this post, which - given the fact that this is in The New Republic, and he’s warning Jews to behave - is “interesting” to say the least. Check it out and see what you think.

Bruce news: The Barcelona DVD (scroll) is now scheduled for Nov. 18, and the Essential 3-CD set planned for Nov. 11.

P.S. Bruce is very rich. The tour grossed $172.7 million in 2003, playing North American and Australian arenas in the spring and European and U.S. stadiums during the summer. With last year’s barnstorming arena tour, the gross comes to $221.5 million from 121 shows. The Giants Stadium gigs alone grossed $38.8 million and drew 566,560 fans, a world record for one engagement.

P.P.S. For people who call me a fanatic, I was actually in Madrid the night of the Barcelona show, and in Barcelona two days later. I coulda made it, but you know, I had ‘other priorities.’

I saw Radiohead last week at Madison Square Garden. Here’s what I thought.

Alter-reviews “Miles Davis: The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions” by Sal Nunziato.

New York drum-legend Bobby Previte and everyone’s favorite musical target, Sting, have something in common. They both hate labels. Mr. Previte was once asked early in his career, “What do you play? He replied, “Music.” Recently, Mr. Sting was asked about the sound of his new CD.

“Is it jazzy?” Mr. Sting replied, “Maybe to you.” It is a no-brainer labeling Miles Davis a jazz musician. The same could be said for Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland, John Mclaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Jack DeJohnette and Wayne Shorter. But after listening to the recently released “Complete Jack Johnson Sessions,” I find it difficult to call this “Jazz.” Or “Rock.” Or “Funk.”

Quite simply, this is music!

Hot off the heels of the ground-breaking “Bitches Brew,” Miles went back into the studio in February of 1970. This resulted in the single lp release, ‘A Tribute To Jack Johnson,’ two very long songs, not unlike the electrified fusion of “Bitches Brew.’ What most didn’t realize, was that those two songs were the creation of producer Teo Macero, patching together pieces of music recorded over a four-month period, by a revolving group of musicians. This box set gives us EVERYTHING! Every take. Complete. Hallelujah!

Many find boxsets featuring multiple takes on the same songs, off-putting. But listening to these guys work through grooves that would make James Brown jump back and kiss himself, I only wish there were 10 takes of “Go Ahead John,” instead of five. Miles’ playing is crisp and inspired, but the real stars of the show are the bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette. Youngsters into the funk/metal sounds of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, or baby-boomers who think they’re hip because they saw Phish “jamming at Red Rocks” should invest in this landmark recording.

Aside from the melancholy, ‘Yesternow,” which is presented in three takes ranging from 10-25 minutes each, none of the music in the set is reminiscent of Miles’ most famous recordings. (save the aforementioned ‘Bitches Brew.”) These are songs that would not be out of place on a mixtape featuring Sly & the Family Stone, Led Zeppelin, The Ohio Players, Funkadelic and- DARE I SAY IT, The Grateful Dead. Knowing that these guys created some the greatest jazz records in the history of music and now, convincingly run through five hours of...well ...I ain’t gonna label it!

Do yourself a favor and buy “The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions.” It’s the right thing to do.

Eric replies: Wow. An argument for consecutive multiple takes. Who’d a thunk it? Not me.

Correspondents’ Corner:
Name: Jason Cianciotto
Hometown: New York, NY
Eric, I thought this AP article on CNN might be of interest to you:

Apparently, education funding in Junction City, OR., has been cut so much, that the farmers there have decided to sell a nude calendar of themselves to raise money to fund their local schools. While AP chose to frame this article as something funny and “offbeat,” I found it very disturbing in light of recent debate over federal education funding levels. How sad is it that citizens of a world superpower that can spend $81 billion in Iraq have to resort to selling nude calendars of themselves in order to ensure that their children receive a constitutionally guaranteed public education?

Name: Billy Ralph Bierbaum
Hometown: New Braunfels, Texas

I drove 1,200 miles roundtrip this weekend to see Rosanne Cash perform in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, the homeland of her father. It was one of the first concerts she’s done since Johnny Cash died and it was so beautiful and true and emotional that I just don’t have the words to describe it. Rosanne was overcome while performing “September When It Comes,” the duet she wrote for her father, but she regained her composure, and became absolutely transcendental and mystical in that creaky, sweaty old Auditorium deep in Ozarks. The people adored Rosanne, and she gave it back in spades. A local reporter tried to capture the scene, which you can read here.

Eric replies: Thanks BRB, Rosanne saw that loverly review for the first time. Irony bonus points: She accused me of too much kibitzing when I requested “I Still Miss Someone” at Joe’s Pub and she was asking for requests! Artists, sheesh.

Oct. 13, 2003 | 12:15 PM ET
Columbus Day Slacker & Mr. Sullivan’s daydream
I was planning on slacking today, but Pierce is always working, and this Andy thing was too funny to pass up. It came in a press release for Time Magazine. ‘That kind of complicated but real candidate has been my dream for most of my adult life,’ Sullivan writes.” Arnold Schwarzenegger, an Austrian-born Mr. Universe married to a Kennedy, a multimillionaire movie star who gropes unsuspecting women at will and apparently admires Hitler, is the kind of politician that has been Andy’s “dream for most of his adult life.” And Time prints this, proudly. Reels the mind at the many obvious one-liners, both tasteful and not, that such confessions inspire, though one suspects, few of these would be suitable for a “family” website. Take it away, Frank Rich.

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Because every day, even Lost Venetian Navigator Day, is Slacker Friday. Part XVI.

In case you didn’t hear the train whistle as the Democratic candidates debated in Arizona the other night, the Great Free Ride Of ’04 has begun.

“How We Got Into This Iraq Mess” is now beside the point, at least as far as the cool kids are concerned, replaced with “What Would You Guys Do Now?” “We know you are going to use this as an opportunity to be critical of the president,” sniffed Judy Woodruff, deep into character as Miss Broooodie, before asking for some “daylight” between the positions of the various contenders.

Well, what, in a functioning democracy, is wrong with all nine of them just whacking C-Plus Augustus around on this issue for the laughing hell of it? God knows he and his Big Ship Of Fools deserve it. (“Gee, Judy. I can’t tell you today what my position would be a year from now, but I guarantee I’ll run things better than these idiots.”) But, no, kindly Miz Woodruff is going to make sure they all behave. Watch it happen. The “uncivil Bush haters” theme already has sunk its hooks into this campaign and it’s going to dominate the coverage.


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