Dec. 12, 2003 | 2:56 PM ET
SINCE ELVIS LEFT THE BUILDING
A few weeks ago, the good folks at MSN were kind enough to ask me to come up with a list of the ten most influential pop albums since Elvis. Knowing the arguments that such a list can cause, I agonized privately and consulted widely. The result, saved for this in absentia week, is here.  (There are lots more lists, including one by Pierce, here) But because we are not an autocracy here—at least not always—I’ve asked a bunch of friends to compile their own lists, to give everybody even more to argue about. Remember the category is “influential” not “great.” It does not even really imply merit, much like Time’s Person of the Year category, or any number of issues relating to fame and celebrity in this amazing country of ours. So get off my case already about stuff I had to leave out. Hell, I left out my own favorite albums. Also before you yell at me, the woman I asked said yes but didn’t come through. Anyway, I’m still at sea but will be back on Monday.
Best,
ERA

Sal, Altercation music critic and NYCD Guy:
In no order-INFLUENTIAL

  • SGT. PEPPER
  • PET SOUNDS
  • A LOVE SUPREME
  • EXILE ON MAIN STREET
  • BITCHES BREW
  • FRAMPTON COMES ALIVE
  • THE RAMONES DEBUT
  • BLONDE ON BLONDE
  • INNERVISIONS
  • ZIGGY STARDUST

Pierce:

  1. Revolver
  2. Highway 61 Revisited
  3. Pet Sounds
  4. Blue
  5. Anthology of American Folk Music
  6. SNF Soundtrack
  7. Nevermind
  8. King of the Delta Blues Singers (Robert Johnson)
  9. Music From Big Pink
  10. Sly and the Family Stone, Stand.

Eli Lehrer, VH! Guy, young person:

  1. NWA's Straight Outta
  2. Velvet Underground and Nico
  3. Anthology of American Folk Music
  4. Ramones - Ramones
  5. Michael Jackson - Thriller
  6. Revolver
  7. Highway 61
  8. James Brown - Live at the Apollo
  9. Bob Marley and the Wailers - Catch a Fire
  10. Nirvana - Nevermind

Stupid, whoever he is:

  1. The Byrds Mr. Tambourine Man
  2. The Kinks
  3. Beatles: Sgt. Pepper
  4. Laura Nyro: Eli and the 13th Confession
  5. The Buzzcocks: Singles Going Steady
  6. Prince - Controversy
  7. The Velvet Underground and Nico
  8. Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack
  9. Run-DMC
  10. The Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood, sugar, Sex, Magick. 

David Rudd, Southern Man, Washington insider:

  • Velvet Underground —Everyone who heard them started a band and they get lots of credit with bigger stars for this.
  • Sex Pistols —Never Mind the Bollocks --Blew up the world as we knew it and started DIY movement.
  • Led Zeppelin—Led Zeppelin II —No band has had a more lasting impact on several generations of listeners and musicians.  They created heavy metal and it is still big today.
  • Sly and the Family Sone—Stand --Fused black and white music like nobody else.  Funky, but rocked.  Brought the concept of a “revue” to white audiences.  The bridge between Stax and Hendrix.  No Parliament/Funkadelic, no Prince without him.
  • Jimi Hendrix—Electric Ladyland --The idea of a guitar god starts here and it is every rock musicians dream.  Plus the music is experimental but melodic and not dated even today.
  • The Beach Boys--Pet Sounds —Precursor to Sgt. Pepper’s, but brilliant symphonic pop that rewarded at lots of levels.  How he got those textures to come out of an AM radio speaker, I don’t know.
  • Byrds—Mr. Tambourine Man --Invented folk rock, country rock and did it without becoming wimp rock.
  • Bob Dylan--Highway 61 Revisited —As Bruce said, Elvis freed our bodies, Bob freed our minds.
  • Public Enemy—It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back —The sonic blast of this record invented the rap producer as guru and made rap music that mattered.
  • James Brown—Live and Lowdown at the Apollo —Funk, chicken scratch guitar, all rhythm all the time and showmanship that everybody stole from.  This influenced everybody.
  • The Beatles--Sgt. Pepper’s —This was the intersection of genius, fearlessness and the technology to make it all work.

Danny Goldberg’s Alternative to Alterman List (Record Company guy):
This list excludes any of the excellent choices on Eric Alterman’s list (thus no Dylan no Beatles, no Nirvana etc) and is my list of the other most influential alums on rock and roll post-Elvis. To further narrow the pool, I have assumed that “influence” requires at least a decade to register and thus do no include anything released after 1990.

  • The Rolling Stones, “Out of Our Heads”
    runner-up Kiss, “Alive!”
  • Gil Scott Heron “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”
    runner up Phil Ochs “I Ain’t A Marchin’ Anymore”
  • Sonic Youth “Sister,”
    runner up The Dead Kennedys “Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables”
  • Joan Baez “Volume 2”
    runner up Bonnie Raitt “Give It Up”
  • David Bowie “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars”
    runner up The New York Dolls, “The New York Dolls”
  • Bob Marley “Legend”
    runner up Smokey Robinson and the Miracles “Going To A Go-Go”
  • Stevie Nicks “Bella Donna”
    runner up Joan Jett and the Blackhearts  “I Love Rock and Roll”
  • John Lennon “Imagine”
    runner up Pink Floyd “The Wall”
  • NWA “Straight Outta Compton”
    runner up The Fugs “First Album”
  • Townes Van Zandt “”Townes Van Zandt
    runner up Flying Burrito Brothers “The Gilded Palace Of Sin”

Dec. 11, 2003 | 1:11 PM ET

PIERCE: PIGS ON SKATES

Oh, there’s land in sight, and the giant Henry Wallace ice-sculpture in the Festival Ballroom has about melted down to, oh, Harry Truman size, and the Good Ship Southpaw is coming into port. Nevertheless, The Landlord is still at sea — No jokes, please. We’re liberals. — but you can get your fix here— so Charles Pierce here again, Altercating alternately until I find out what presents The Landlord is bringing us all back from the Misty Isles.

In case you’ve missed it, my man The Howler has been having a time of it illustrating the creative use of the ellipsis by one of our more prominent Serious Pundits — particularly as the ellipsis functions as a tool for long-distance psychoanalysis. Unfortunately for TDH, I beat him to the patent office and have registered The Krauthammer — a tool for fashioning almost anything in the English language into exactly the rhetorical device you need at the moment. I mean, it’s late, the column’s coming slowly, and the Fox people need you in makeup? No prob’, dude. Take out your trusty Krauthammer and bang away.

For example, let’s take a few whacks at, say, the Declaration of Independence. On its face, it’s a fairly important statement of political philosophy. Ah, but apply the Krauthammer and you can get:

A recommendation for cannibalism!
(“When in the course...it becomes necessary...to dissolve ... men.”)

An NFL injury report!
(“We hold these...injuries...manly.”)

An Amtrak brochure!
(“A long train...for the Accommodation of...people.”)

An 18th Century Diary!
(“Prudence indeed will...be...the most wholesome.”)

And, even some naughty bits!
(“The patient sufferance of...Bodies at places unusual...with manly firmness.”)

Buy one of your own! Amaze your friends. And I haven’t even started on The Bible yet. Whoo-hoo!

Anyway...

THE DEAN ON DEAN
Mr. Broder is baffled at the perfidy of Al Gore, but he’s not as upset as his colleague, who is playing the violin for Weepin’ Joe Lieberman. And, of course, there’s the inevitable hackery here.  To me, all debts were off between the 2003 ticket when Weepin’ Joe got himself rolled by Dick Cheney in the VP debate (Remember Dick’s barefaced non-fact about how Halliburton didn’t profit from government work, and how Weepin’ Joe sat there like a big old pile of mulch?), and certainly after he cut and ran on Meet The Press during the Florida brigandage.

I don’t know what to make of the Supreme Court’s decision in the McCain-Feingold case, other than to rejoice that Ken Starr took one in the teeth, and to be amused that this bunch can talk about corruption in the electoral system without their tongues turning to fire. (And don’t you get the feeling that Bush v. Gore is floating around the chambers like Banquo’s ghost every time these folks gather to debate?) However, as to its effect on how our national bribes get parceled out, I’m afraid I’m mainly in agreement with this analysis. Bilge finds its own level, alas.

Sometimes, I love the New York Times’s marvelous talent for understatement. An “awkward position”? Yes, rather. Look, Chauncey, a pig is trying to ice-skate.

There is no more important story currently being ignored by the national press than the on-going litigation regarding how Tom Delay and his merry band of bagmen knuckled various state legislatures in the redistricting process. The Colorado scheme got whacked in court, and there’s another case pending in Pennsylvania. And, of course, Texas has been Ground Zero in the whole affair.

Here is the latest bit of news, which includes some interesting memos from the Tiny Little Hammer and his aides.

NO DOLPHINS THIS WEEK DUE TO A DEATH IN THE FAMILY

America’s most thoughtful crackpot, Peggy Noonan, waxes poignant here on the late Bob Bartley. My favorite line: “I think he thought that in his head was where the action was.” And, of course, that action included cackling witches, mythical beasts, and Jude Wanniski in a loincloth, but we digress. However, it is clear that Ms. Noonan has a third career if Jefferson Airplane ever makes a comeback.

DOES THIS MEAN ROCKING HORSE PEOPLE REALLY SHOULDN’T EAT MARSHMALLOW PIES?

Look, it is beyond depressing that people keep using that ghastly piece of treacle, “Imagine,” to memorialize John Lennon. (My nomination would be his blistering cover of Barrett Strong’s “Money” from The Beatles Second.) But, even given that, there is no excuse for this literalist tripe to be published anywhere outside of one of those Scaife-funded student papers. They keep trying, Lord knows they do. But that side of the debate — and particularly Mr. Murdoch’s startlingly advertising-free little fanzine — should be kept away from popular culture for the same reasons you keep your toddlers away from hand grenades.

Of course, elsewhere, the Standard-breds have bigger problems than me.

Josh is fastened to their leg again.

Since we’ve just spent a month dealing with public outbursts from the kind of people who see Ronald Reagan’s face on their wallpaper, this should set off Popsicle headaches all around. Richard Nixon thought Reagan’s personality was strange? The mind, she boggles.

Dec. 10, 2003 | 3:21 PM ET

GAME, SET, MATCH FOR DEAN?

Talk about the gift that keeps on giving. And did I mention in less than three years Salon already has more paying subscribers than the New Republic and the Weekly Standard?

Hey all, it’s Eric Boehlert filling in for Alterman, who’s far away on The Nation’s floating think-a-thon.

I’d say that’s game, set, match for Dr. Dean. So much for the Democratic Establishment being terrified of a Dean nomination.

Who knows if a once obscure former New England governor can beat Bush? And is Karl Rove clicking his heels? Maybe. But I say thank God for Dean, because the rest of the Democratic field has shown itself utterly incapable of moving the needle an inch. Even I’d have trouble voting for them.

But I guess I’m most surprised bout the huffing and puffing about how Gore’s endorsement hurt his old running mate Sen. Joe Liberman and his White House chances. I didn’t realize people still took his campaign seriously.

And if you’re wondering what the boys, and girls, on the bus are going to write about in the absence of a competitive primary campaign, I’m afraid one option is, themselves.

Personally, I wish Al Gore were running again for president. I think he’s the brightest of the Democratic batch and would make a great president. But honestly, I don’t think I could endure the media-inflicted torture his campaign would unleash. On Tuesday morning, CNN gave Gore’s endorsement of Dean lots of play. I caught, at most, 2:34 seconds of CNN’s coverage. But that was just enough time to hear Jeff Greenfield make this inane observation: “Al Gore is remaking himself.” (See, 12 years ago Gore voted for Gulf War I, and now opposes Gulf War II, so he’s “remaking” himself from hawk to dove. Got that?)

Hmm, Gore as a phony who re-invents himself. Where have we heard that before?

Old CW: Iraq is Vietnam. New CW: Iraq is the Gaza Strip.

That’s now 15 dead Afghan kids in the last week.

I hope Richard Perle has a good lawyer.

When in doubt, form a trade association. It’s already been a busy Dec. for e-voting machine maker Diebold. The state of Ohio announced that due to security concerns its plans for touch-screen voting machines would not be ready for the 2004 election, while presidential hopeful Sen. John Edwards called on Bush to give back campaign bucks from Diebold’s GOP chief. Meanwhile, Diebold blinked, and promised not to sue its scrappy online critics.

Post-Sept. 11, can’t the government once, and I literally mean just once, arrest an American Muslim for terrorism-related charges, try the case in open court, and have it stick? The latest unfolding charade involves Capt. Jame Yee, a Muslim Army chaplain arrested in Sept. on suspicion of espionage. Prosecutors warned Yee he could face execution for transporting classified documents from the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Turns out prosecutors haven’t determined whether the documents in question were actually classified. That could take nine months. So why did they charge him in Sept.? For now they’re going after charges Yee committed adultery and stored porn on his computer. The key pull-quote here comes from the Army’s member of the defense team, Maj. Stephen Sikes, who questioned the government’s conduct in the case: “This is the most incredible case I’ve ever been involved with, and that’s an understatement.”

Speaking of witch hunts, an intramural GOP one has broken out, pitting neocon Frank Gaffney, who’s hunting anti-tax guru Grover Norquist for his side outreach project to win over Muslims voters for Republicans. Read the piece and a play a drinking game; take a shot for every time Gaffney constructs a guilt-by-association charge, where so-and-so is tainted because he’s on the board of such-and-such a school that once invited a lecturer who’s suspected, but never charged, with having terrorist ties. You know, a troubling alliance.

Let’s just put it this way, if Gaffney’s as good at uprooting dangerous Islamists inside America as he was at pinpointing Saddam’s WMD (and boy, pre-invasion, Gaffney was mighty confident), than Norquist doesn’t have much to worry about.

TAPS
Why does the U.S. military often treat its soldiers so poorly? Here’s one small example of the deep, lasting pain it can cause.

It’s the story of Army reservist Rachael Lacy who died suddenly in April after taking her mandatory anthrax vaccination, and the questions that swirl around that program. Last week I spoke with her father on the phone for a couple hours late at night. We talked about the vaccine, and her illness, doctors and hospitals. But we also talked about his despair and his loneliness. About how he was afraid his family was unraveling in the wake of Rachel’s death, and how some days he didn’t like living. About how Rachael was his special girl and how he used to dream at night about her future.

He quoted scriptures occasionally and broke down and cried several times, nine months after her passing. I didn’t sleep much that night thinking about Moses and his heartsick family, and I cringed trying to imagine what the holiday season would be like in their Lynwood, Il., home, south of Chicago. In a house where Rachael’s room remains untouched from the day she shipped off to boot camp, and where Moses avoids looking at the pictures of her hanging on the walls throughout the house, but is powerless to take them down. “I’m just a wreck,” he told me.

I think one of the reasons the conversation stuck with me is grief this year is not in vogue. As a nation we swam in it following 9/11, and justifiably so. But this year we’ve put the pain inflicted from Iraq behind closed doors and locked it away. Newspaper and TV outlets tick off the number of dead and injured, but seem to take very little interest in the lasting consequences back home.

Of course the White House prefers not to acknowledge the U.S. dead. When a helicopter crash in Iraq killed more than a dozen GI’s Bush wouldn’t even release a statement. But when Italians in Iraq were targeting by attackers, Bush pledged his public sympathy.

But I also think it’s too easy to blame Bush or the media. I don’t think we really want to know about the suffering that’s going on in (mostly poor/middle class, small town) military homes across the country. And it’s not just being felt among friends and family members who’ve lost loved ones serving in Iraq this year, but among the thousands and thousands more whose lives will never be the same due to debilitating injury or illness.

PAZZ AND JOP THIS
Songs and singles in 2003 that sounded sweet to these semi-aging ears.

-Lyle Lovett, “In My Own Mind.”
-The Strokes, “12:51”
-The Mavericks, “I Want to Know’
-Josh Rouse, “Love Vibration”
-Jack Johnson, “Wasting Time”
-R. Kelly, “Ignition (Remix)”
-Coldplay, “Clocks”
-White Stripes, “Seven Nation Army”
-Pat Green, ‘Wave on Wave”
-Toby Keith, “I Love this Bar.”
-Fountains of Wayne, “Stacy’s Mom”
-Outkast, “Hey Ya!”
-John Mellencamp, “Letter to Washington”
-Black Eyed Peas, “Where is the Love”
-Cheryl Crow, “The First Cut is the Deepest”

And from the Most Disappointing Album of the Year category: Ryan Adams’ “Rock and Roll.” How can someone that talented— like touched-from-God gifted—put out a CD that damp, and boring?

FREE NEWS TIP
For staffers at the WSJ’s “Marketplace” section and the NYT’s entertainment reporters. I’ll let you in on a little secret that reporters have been ignoring for two straight months: The music business is going gangbuster. It’s true. The besieged, out-of-touch, technology-frightened, consumer-unfriendly music business is on fire right now. Yar-to-date weekly CD sales have been up something like 12 of the last 13 weeks. Call me old fashion, but when I worked at Billboard and Rolling Stone, that qualified as a solid trend sales piece.

There’s a chance I missed the big Times and Journal stories on this CD sales rebound. But I read the Daily Chord. My hunch is mainstream business reporters have spent so much time over the last 12-24 months documenting how screwed up and hopelessly out of touch the music business is that they’re reluctant to do an about-face and highlight how business is now booming.

If anyone did bother to unpack the story they’d find two key elements driving sales. First and foremost was Universal Music’s decision to slash CD prices. The second reason-surprise!-is the RIAA’s much ridiculed lawsuits against people who downloaded music illegally probably worked, and scared lots of consumers back into the stores. Got that? Now, please now place your calls to Billboard chart guru Geoff Mayfield for appropriate quotes.

Okay, I’m felling generous; here’s another freebie. “American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken’s album recently debuted big at No. 1 on the Billboard album charts and has sold nearly two million copies in less than two months. And his latest video for “Invisible” has been in heavy rotation at MTV. So why has he been virtually banned from U.S. top 40 radio? Another victim of call-out research, or is there some more at play? Talk amongst yourselves, serious daily entertainment reporters.

Dec. 9, 2003 | 2:21 PM ET

HEDGEHOG TIME

It’s the end of the calendar year, the end of the academic term, and time to set aside petty concerns so we can concentrate our attention on the one big thing — time to think like a hedgehog rather than a fox.

Let us imaginarily sit like Edward Gibbon on the Capitoline Hill and assess the empire:

Our national debt last year was about $6 trillion, which was around 60% of our GDP. This year’s figures won’t show a markedly smaller debt, either absolute or proportionate (to understate the case). We’re using the debt to finance our operating deficit, which runs about $400 billion dollars a year. At some point this has to stop. Who will make it stop? If it’s the IMF or our creditors, it will go hard for us. If we act like a real country and face up to our obligations, it will go less hard for us.

This is the one big thing.

Imagine (kenahora) you get a letter in the mail saying you now have anthrax and need only go to the doctor and get a prescription for antibiotics to survive. But you don’t go, because you’re afraid of getting run over by a bus on the way. You die of anthrax because you are afraid of the bus. This is us, as a country, if we let national security become the eclipsing issue for next year’s election — because, you know, you can’t afford national security if you’re broke.

Okay, well, cheer up, it’s almost Chanukah, which is as close as I go to an obligatory (if seasonally adjusted) Altercation Springsteen reference. And for the record this is Eric Rauchway subbing for regular Eric while he hustles shuffleboard greenhorns aboard SS The Nation.

And, because bloggery is spiritually antipathetic to hedgehoggery, here also is a list of many small things for the holiday season. I am not Superman (now that the lawsuit is off him I am not even Atrios, but try to prove it) but I know what’s happening:

TRUTH
No, not piddling little items like “Saddam has WMD and links to al-Qaeda,” but Truth with a capital T, Truth that isn’t faith-based but that actually works; also known as Science. Suppose we do win wars because our God is

bigger

than their God: still, it helps that our physicists and engineers are better than their physicists and engineers. And why do our physicists and engineers rule the global roost? Because while the communists had Comrade Lysenko, here in the Free World we have something called peer review. And the administration is apparently trying to scuttle it.

Peer review is to science as check-clearing is to the economy: it goes on all the time and few lay-people care about its nuts and bolts but without it the whole enterprise falls apart. Basically, it means asking other scientists to evaluate a proposed project to see whether it’s worth doing or funding.

The White House now appears ready to ban from this evaluation process anyone already funded by the government. Big science is expensive, and lots of it is defense-related. There aren’t a lot of independent researchers in particle physics or climatology. So who will serve as the reviewers if not government-funded scientists?

Well, the only other scientists out there are those wholly funded by private enterprise. You know, like when Liggett Group was “funding projects where research recipients would publish articles containing industry favorable findings and/or disputing the findings of scientists and physicians whose publicized findings showed a causal nexus between tobacco and disease,” as the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York had it (Sackman v. Liggett Group, Inc., 173 F.R.D. 358, 363-64). As David Michaels writes, you get “hired guns working for dirty companies — they have the same relationship to epidemiology and toxicology as the Arthur Anderson Company has to accounting.” (pdf of Michaels’s comments here, the White House’s actual proposal in html here)

This proposal stands actually to degrade the quality of American science. Data remain unavailable on whether it will shrink the size of our God.More detail and opinion here, here(whence I cribbed Kevin Drum’s Lysenko reference), and here.

JUSTICE
As the economist Brad DeLong likes to say, the ranks of the shrill are growing. Here’s studiously unshrill David Warsh on the Richard Perle/Boeing episode. Perle, Warsh says, has gone “haywire,” the Wall Street Journal editorial page has suffered a “painful . . . embarrassment” and “a fundamental respect for truth has gone by the board.” And this is probably putting it mildly. This is starting to look like the Grant administration. (Thanks to Bill Summerhill for the tip.)

Will the terrible swift sword of justice now descend on the offenders? Yep, just a sec. Right after justice gets the dastardly villains who tried to bribe Nick Smith. And the ones who broke into the Senate Democrats’ computer. And also, gotta prosecute Zacarias Moussaoui. And bring the terrorists at Guantanamo to book. And . . . . okay, so justice has a lot on her plate. Your call is very important to her, and she’ll get back to you as soon as she can.

THE AMERICAN WAY

We are a two-party nation, at least at the federal level. The Electoral College makes states into giant single-member districts. The smart thing to do if you care as much about your country as you do about your conscience, is to pick a major-party candidate based on best available data and back him down the line. I know this is one of regular Eric’s hobbyhorses, so I’m not going to comment on Nader. I mention it only because Al Gore, erstwhile J. Lieberman running-mate, endorsed his temperamental opposite Howard ‘Howdy’ Dean today. I’m betting this is not because Gore personally likes Dr. Dean or shares his opinions, but because Dean’s close-enough to Gore on the issues — he’s “even less of a liberal than Bill Clinton was” — and maybe can win.

BONUS LINK
Altercation readers who want to play ‘hedgehog time’ at home should try the Statistical Abstract of the United States, a service of your federal government.

Dec. 8, 2003 | 11:47 PM ET

PIERCE: KERRY & OBSCENITY

Hope The Landlord is enjoying himself, cruising the Misty Isles with his fellow Commies while the rest of us are stuck beaverishly Altercating our way through Baja Siberia here on the East Coast. (However, this might have the Landlord swimming back in outrage.)

Bet they’re all having a good laugh there on the Lido Deck at our expense. (Do you suppose former Iowa Republican Congressperson Fred Grandy is back at his old Yeoman Purser’s job? All together now, “Left, Exciting And New!/Come Aboard/We’re Expecting You!” (All cyberteens should go here and enter Fred’s name to get that joke.) Hope the nekkid statue of Vic Navasky that spews rum from its nether regions is working properly. Hope everybody brought enough sunscreen to protect the natural, well, PINK of their skins.

My god, releasing one’s Inner Coulter is fun!

Anyway, Charles Pierce here, sitting in and Not Being At All Bitter.

From the Pecked To Death By Ducks Department, we present John Kerry, the only junior senator we have here in the Commonwealth, who spent the weekend explaining why he dropped a completely accurate F-bomb in Rolling Stone. The redoubtable Atrios has a list of quotes that ought to be relevant to this discussion, but probably won’t be. (Note to Al Hunt — You, at least, ought to summon the onions to mention your own encounter with political profanity, coming as it did from a political obscenity.)

If Kerry goes down, as it increasingly appears he will, it should be noted that he will go down for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with his fitness to hold the office. He will lose because his hair is too perfect (RIP, Warren), and because his wife has too much money, and because he isn’t really good on television, and, now, because he said that Emperor C-Plus Augustus f***ed up on Iraq — to which we can only reply, “No s**t, Sherlock.”

In other words, he will not be president because he’s lousy at the fundamentals of the ongoing quadrennial design competition. I guarantee you that he knows more about every important issue than any other candidate running — and that includes the incumbent. But that will not matter a damn. How in G*d’s name is any of that other stuff an issue for a serious democracy? J***s C**ist, why should any of the rest of that m*******cking b******t matter?

If you want to find out why, you could do worse than going here, where my man Somerby is red hot again. He still needs to start selling hats, though.

Hey, check this out. It’s America’s new fun couple! It should be noted that Hillary Clinton was neither a “congenital” nor a “habitual” anything back in the day, either. Hey, Big Bill, when is that Whitewater indictment coming down again?

However, Senator Clinton is a “skank,” a “crook,” and a “Jane Fonda quising,” if you listen to the Imus In The Morning droolfest with which many staggeringly uncool people — Howard Fineman? Margaret Carlson? Yikes.— associate themselves in the vain attempt to prove themselves otherwise.

One of those folks is my favorite rockin’ Mofo, Weepin’ Joe Lieberman. It would be nice to hear The Moral Center explain his regular spelunking through this particular sewer. (It would be even more fun to watch him explain it to his colleague from New York.) Or, perhaps he could mention it the next time he goes hunting for big fish in small barrels as he does here. And no, Joe, you do not need to comment on this. Of course, we should note that my gal Annie Coulter — who is not much blonder or heavier than Em, and doesn’t write nearly as well — once wrote roughly the same thing about Bill Clinton and she, as we know, are still a konstitooshinul skolar. With footnotes, don’t forget.

MORE SWILL FROM THE SHILL
Can’t he at least try?
On his TV show, Howard Kurtz leads Lucianne Goldberg’s old buddy Spikey Isikoff and others through a giddy discussion (“Oh, you reporters.” Ick.) about Howard Dean’s refusal to open the records up in Vermont, and nobody mentions the fact The Incumbent has buried his own gubernatorial papers so deep in Texas that they’re going to pop up in Shanghai one morning after a hard rain, or all those nasty energy committee meetings that Dick Cheney still has wedged between his teeth, or the redacted Saudi section of the 9/11 report, or the stonewalling of the 9/11 commission, or all the presidential papers from Poppy and Uncle Ronnie that Junior has locked away until our great-grandchildren have lost interest.

Elsewhere, he praises new Foxhound Chris (“Crippled Children Are Stealing YOUR Tax Money!”) Wallace for being tough on that same particular outburst of triviality, again without mentioning the other stuff. Spikey’s outraged, though. We’ll be seeing him in Brattleboro soon, I’ll wager.

The issue of Northern Ireland has fallen off the back burner and down behind the stove. So, when both Sinn Fein and the party allied with Ian Paisley were the big winners in the elections last month, the immediate reaction was shock both at the success of what had been perceived to be the extremes, and the failure of the moderate leadership on both sides. However, the great Kevin Cullen, who’s pretty much owned this story stateside for the past 15 years, sees it differently here. For day-to-day coverage of what’s up in the motherland, and for some, ah, spirited debate, you should also try these folks.

And, of course, today is Death To Medicare Day.
Let’s all break open a can of cat food and celebrate. As usual, Bob Herbert is gnawing on the correct ankles here. This is the moment where, if Rod Serling were still alive and writing, Tom Daschle would see a strange glow around his face every time he looked in a mirror.

Did you notice that TNT went very heavy on the Can Americans Commit War Crimes? programming over the weekend? First, there was the new Don Johnson TV-movie, and there was a Law And Order episode on the topic. On Sunday night, they re-ran Aaron Sorkin’s moral spongecake A Few Good Men. (The answer in all three cases seems to be, “Yes, but.”) Which probably means that this guy had a full in-box when he got to work this morning.

THE SPORTS PAGE
My opinion
on the BCS system for determining a national champion in college semipro football remains unchanged. Dump it, and go back to the old way, which was to allow always for the possibility of two, five, many national champions. Let 1000 Boosters Bloom! Anyway, the game I want to see is USC-LSU, which I won’t get to see. My good friend Mr. Tony partly disagrees and I am grieved.

Also, whenever you read a baseball article that mentions how “the market” for free agents has changed, you’re being lied to. Baseball is a self-regulating, government-sanctioned monopoly, and when its owners start babbling about “market adjustments,” it means they’re fixing prices again.

Who do you want in the Limbo contest this afternoon on the Promenade Deck? My money’s on Cockburn.

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