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Altercation

June 4, 2004 | 11:58 AM ET

Is Bush more loyal to spies for ‘Axis of Evil’ Iran than to our own?  Let’s see: The alleged Iranian spy sits in the president’s box during the State of the Union and the American spy has her career destroyed because her husband told the truth about administration deceptions designed to take us into war—on behalf of the alleged Axis of Evil agent.

And let’s see, Tenet is forced to walk the plank immediately after Chalabi accuses him of fingering him and a group of neocons storm into Condi’s office demanding that everybody stand by their man, spy or no spy.  Could anyone imagine the explosion in the media if Clinton had done anything remotely this egregious?  Even if the guy were guilty of everything of which Newt and $8 Million Dollar Bill Bennett accused him, it would be chump change in comparison.

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Meanwhile, I’ve got a Nation column here, with some advice to the putative Democratic nominee.  And Eric B. thinks Howell Raines is a bit of a dope, here.  

And this otherwise excellent piece by friend Michael Massing on the weakness of Iraq coverage suffers from his ignoring the Wall Street Journal, which as I keep saying, is beating both the Times and the Post in many ways.  I have other differences with the piece, thoughtful and well-researched as it may be, but this glaring omission is hard to explain.

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Hey Doc --
Some days, it just pays to go back to my main man, wee Jemmy Madison, especially in the middle of what is going to be a political season about as foul as any that we've ever had. This time, from Federalist 43:

"...but as new-fangled and artificial treasons have been the great engines by which violent factions...have usually wreaked their alternate malignity on each other, the convention have with great judgment opposed a barrier to this particular danger by inserting a constitutional definition of the crime...and restraining the Congress, even in punishing it, from extending the consequences of guilt beyond the person of its author."

In other words, Crazy Annie and Crazy David, and St. Peggy Of Seaworld, you can all go jam it.

I have given a great deal of thought to of which member of the extended GE-TV media family I have become the most sick.  Lately, though, I've come to decide that the extended Russert clan of Buffalo, N.Y. takes the prize.

In case you've missed it, Little Russ is out there shilling for a book about the lessons he learned from his father.  The book is as gruesome a sea of treacle as one might imagine; it is an extended version of the old saw about how much smarter your Dad gets as you get older.  In this, it shares a kind of cheesy Weltschmerz with Brokaw's endless maundering about The Greatest Generation -- namely, that our Daddies are dying and we don't measure up.

May I just say for the record that I revere my father.  Son of an Irish cop, he was a combat Naval veteran of World War II who spent the next 30 years teaching in the public schools.  He died, too soon, of Alzheimer's Disease, and I wrote a book about that.  However, my father's politics were almost comically reactionary.  I read None Dare Call It Treason, one of the seminal volumes of modern Rightist nutballery, on the back porch of my house, at his suggestion, when I was 12.  (I have to admit, though, that I developed a sweet-tooth for that craziness that persists to this day.  I was down with the Illuminati long before Dan Brown started turning big bling on it.)  Back a few years ago, when we were cleaning out my parents' house, we found in their attic an autographed photo of Father Charles Coughlin, the famous lunatic radio priest and raving anti-Semite.  (Watch for it on eBay, y'all.)  I bless my Dad's memory without reservation.  There isn't enough peyote in Mexico to make me appreciate his politics, not even today, not even with kids of my own.

Not Little Russ, though.  There is a completely amazing passage in the book about his college days during what are usually called "the turbulent '60's."  You know, when we all went bad, and got laid a lot, and let down The Greatest Generation.  Little Russ was at John Carroll University in Cleveland when the Ohio National Guard opened the shooting gallery at Kent State.  He has a shouting match with Big Russ about it.  Then, after some students at JCU lower the flag in tribute to the four Kent students who were murdered, and some ROTC students raise it back up again -- thereby saying that the four dead students were not worthy of the tribute, by the
way, an implication that Russert studiously avoids -- with "Big Russ's words echoing in my head," our hero says,

"Why are we arguing about this flag?  It belongs to all of us.  Four students lost their lives, and I'm sure the guardsmen who shot them feel awful.  They're kids, too.  Why are we fighting about this when we should be in the chapel praying for the dead students, the guardsmen, and for our country."

Wow.  What a centrist thing to do.  "Please, Lord, I pray for the repose of the soul of Sandy Scheuer, who got shot to death on her way to class.  Also, Lord, please bring peace to the guys who shot her, 'cause they're, like, really bumming about it."

Remember this story the next time that Little Russ starts hammering a politician about moral equivalency.  Remember it if there develops widespread public dissent over the war in Iraq, especially at the conventions next summer.  Remember that Big Russ taught Little Russ that shooting unarmed students down in cold blood and feeling "awful" about it later should draw pretty much the same amount of moral sympathy from the rest of us.  A couple of pages later, Little Russ expands on that difficult time in the life of Big Russ:

"What he couldn't tolerate were television images of protestors spitting on Vietnam veterans, carrying the Viet Cong flag, or chanting, 'Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh. The NLF is going to win!"

I'll give him the last two images, because I saw them myself and considered them both distasteful and politically idiotic, but I defy Tim Russert to find a contemporary television image of a protestor spitting on a Vietnam veteran.  However, if he'll go into the NBC archives, he'll see the Miami police in 1972 beating the hell out of Vietnam veterans who'd come to protest the renomination of Richard Nixon.  Maybe we should pray for the cops, too.

So it was no surprise to me that Little Russ hawked up a McCarthyite loogie at Nancy Pelosi last week, who was too much of a lady to slap his face.  BTW, little Russ, wee Jemmy Madison says you can jam it as well.

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to remind people of Ed Rollins (unpleasant as that may be).  In particular, of the time he boasted about getting Christie Todd Whitman elected New Jersey governor by bribing African-American clergy to suppress the black vote.  The clergy vehemently denied it and I tend to believe them (and Rollins, who later claimed he let his ego run away with him, though it still shows an evil mindset).  But the incident provides some valuable lessons. 

First, while it's vital for the Dems to excite their base, they have a rare opportunity to "de-excite" the GOP base.  Pundits and polls alike are reporting growing disenchantment with Dubya among conservatives.  And why not - he's a radical supply-sider who shies away from political fights at home on social issues as much as he embraces the war abroad.  Towards that end, remember that MoveOn T.V.-commercial depicting American child labor paying off Dubya's budget deficit?  Where did it disappear to?  At least I've never seen it on T.V. - I hope that, at a minimum, they are running it on local cabal T.V. in swing state upper-class suburbs.  The Dems should make a radio version and run it on Rush -- a pinprick of doubt can puncture a hot air balloon. 

Second, while the Dems should never stoop to Rollins' level, they need to toughen-up.  Many others have said this before but here's an example of what I mean.  A few weeks ago the NY Times editorial page had this factoid: "Over the last few years an unprecedented 80% of the deficit has been financed by foreign governments, institutions, and individuals, mainly in the Far East."  This is huge -- China is enough of an evil (if napping) empire, without letting them buy-up the USA.  But Dems have shied away from raising the issue -- even Paul Krugman (where I first learned of this) only mentions it in passing.  I think it's a fear that the debate will devolve into "yellow peril" demagoguery, but the GOP had no such reservations when it came to Chinese campaign activities. 

June 3, 2004 | 12:01 PM ET

One down, five to go.  Last week, Al Gore, whom allegedly reputable conservative commentators feel free to term "insane" (John Podhoretz) “off his lithium again" (Charles Krauthammer) and “really nuts" (Sean Hannity) called for the resignations of Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglass Feith, Steven Cambone and George Tenet.  It’s nice to know that at least one member of the administration is listening.  The question regarding Tenet is, which fall is he taking? Is it the

a)  “I screwed up on 9/11” fall?

b)  "I made up that stuff about WMD” fall?

c)  “I also made up that stuff about Iraq and Al-Qaida” fall?

d)  “And yeah, that stuff about the nukes, I made that up, too” fall?

e)  “I shoulda taken a look at that “State of the Union” thingy” fall?

f)  “Ahmad Chalabi is a bery, bery, good friend of mine” fall?

g)  “And so is Robert Novak” fall?

h)  “And what ever did happen to that bin Laden fellow?” fall?

i)  “Um, we could probably get some better info out of those prisoners if we roughed ‘em up a bit” fall?

j)  And don’t forget, the "We’re wasting billions on a useless star wars program while ignoring homeland security for our nuclear and chemical plants” fall.

We have only time constraints to keep us from going through the entire alphabet.

Is Bush an Al Qaida Plant?  I’m not one to jump to conclusions but the circumstantial evidence is hard to ignore. Take a look:

  1. He’s destroying the military, by overstretching its resources  and cannabalizing its trainers.

  2. He’s consorting with spies for the Axis of Evil.

  3. He may be revealing the identities of CIA agents (or at least tacitly encouraging those who do).

  4. He’s coddling “terrorists” in Iraq.

  5. He’s pursuing a policy deliberately designed to stir up hatred in the Arab world.

  6. He’s helping bin Laden recruit more terrorists and Al Qaida to fully reconstitute itself.

  7. He’s setting captured terrorists free.

  8. He seems to think up a new reason to fight someone else almost every two weeks. (complete thesis)

  9. He’s sucking up to France.

  10. Oh, and he’s trying to undermine all those silly western freedoms that the Al-Qaida folks find so annoying.

Ten is a nice number, so I’ll stop there, but again, we all know I could go on indefinitely.

Meanwhile, Mickey Kaus is promoting this tasteless, disrespectful site [note: contains foul language] about the president of the United States on his Microsoft-supported Web site.  I object.

A lot of people have asked for my response to the new Pew Center survey of journalists. You can find it in today's Think Again column.  Remember the column's excellent archives are here and the Center's home page is here.

It was twenty years ago today...  (Ah well, you can't start a fire without a spark.)

WARNING FOR THE IRONY IMPAIRED: That stuff about Bush working for Al Qaida, that was a joke, mostly.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Sam
Hometown: Rockville, MD

I'd like to disagree with your comments on Judith Miller.  First, I should note, I strongly opposed the war.

Judith Miller, of course, wasn't alone in reporting this.  As in any publication, there was an editor who oversaw and approved the article, a proof-reader or fact-checker, and there was the implicit, perhaps unconscious, understanding that these stories represent the New York Times opinion.  If you're going to criticize Miller, then, you should also take the time to know who else contributed to the articles and if these articles represented the opinion of the editorial staff on invasion.

Also, because the Times hasn't publicly stated what editorial changes there are going to be doesn't imply that none have been made.  An absence of a fact doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

The Times' apology also should be regarded within the context of all of the media and their reporting prior to the invasion.  The University of Maryland report, as I'm sure you know, has empirically described what war opponents knew:  strong, chronic, and uniform bias among almost all media.  So, because there were many who were reporting similar to Miller, it's reasonable to conclude that to blame Miller only is simple-minded.  She was only one data point in a media that was terribly biased.

The questions that should be asked about the apology and Miller, I believe, is why more of the media isn't scrutinized as Miller is?  Why is the Times the only one to apologize?   

Name: Barry Ritholtz
Hometown:
The Big Picture
Hey Doc,
A pair of interesting stories were in the WSJ yesterday. The 1st was "Grass-Roots Groups Don't Want Nader to Be Raider This Time."  It discusses the 7 States where Nader is on the ballot and the legal obstacles to getting on the remaining 43.  A number of groups have been applying pressure to his supporters -- including legal fights to make sure his petitions meet the precise and exact legal requirements to get on each ballot. There's a great map of the U.S. at the link above. The money quote:

"Nader foes agree on one thing:  Vice President Gore handled the Nader challenge poorly in 2000, when he and the Democratic Party largely ignored Mr. Nader and the issues he raised.  "Everyone looks back and says if we had done a campaign [to woo Naderites], there's a very good chance George Bush would not be president," says Toby Moffett, a former Connecticut congressman."

The second piece, "Midwest Express: A Campaign Rooted In the Heartland," is focusing on the 5 battleground Midwest swing states where the economy, and not the Iraq war, seems to be having the most resonance with voters.  The national employment rolls are at 5.6% (this is a misleading data point -- but that's a discussion for another time) -- with Michigan and Ohio above the national average, and Missouri, Wisconsin and Iowa unemployment below average.
Here's the WSJ's take:

"In Michigan and Ohio, the unemployment rate surpasses the national average; a recent business survey in Michigan showed some employers preparing to drop health coverage for their employees, which would further strain the state's health system. The region's populations tend to be older, putting further strains on state programs and making Medicare and Medicaid, traditional Democratic issues, especially important. For all those reasons, "the economy is more important than war in the Midwest," Mr. Sarpolus says. That raises Democratic hopes.

On the Bush side of the ledger, though, unemployment has ticked downward last month in the region, notably in Michigan and Minnesota. The patriotic themes of the war on terrorism tend to play well in these heartland states. Both Ohio and Wisconsin have large bands of cultural conservatives who lean Republican rather than Democratic on values issues. Michigan has a big gun-owners' contingent that figures to trust Mr. Bush more than Mr. Kerry.

It all mixes up into a volatile brew.  Predictions at this point are hazardous -- as illustrated by the fact that Mr. Zogby, surveying for WSJ.com last month, found Mr. Kerry up by 4.6% percentage points in Ohio, while a new survey by the Cleveland Plain Dealer in the same state shows Mr. Bush up by six percentage points."

(NOTE: The WSJ should know better than to compare different data series, varying polling methodologies, or matching a pollster versus a newspaper).

"Expect more turbulent weather, and a race as likely to be decided in Ohio as anywhere."

Fascinating stuff . . .

Name: Jeff Lichtman
Hometown: El Cerrito, CA

Enron had a lot to do not only with the rise of George W. Bush, but also the fall of Gray Davis. The sequence of events leading up to the recall has always seemed suspicious to me:

  1. Executives from Enron meet with Dick Cheney to help him form his energy policy.

  2. Enron manipulates the markets to steal money from Californians.

  3. Gray Davis begs the Bush administration for price caps, but Bush refuses.

  4. The California state government has a budget crisis, partly as a result of Enron's manipulations.
  5. Davis is blamed for the budget crisis and is recalled, making the governorship the only statewide elected office to be held by a Republican.

Both Enron and the Republican party got big benefits from the California energy crisis.  This doesn't prove there was an agreement between Enron and the Bush administration, but things did work out pretty well for them, didn't they?  Remember, it wasn't the California power crisis that brought about the downfall of Enron - the company crashed because they cheated their stockholders, not because they cheated California.

Name:  S. Hamm
Hometown:  San Francisco, CA

As long as you're tidying up the Tashlin filmography, it should be noted that, although he did direct a couple of late Doris Day vehicles ("Caprice" and "The Glass Bottom Boat"), Tashlin never worked with Rock Hudson.  Rock and Doris only made three pictures together: "Pillow Talk," "Lover Come Back," and "Send Me No Flowers."

Name:  Edward Furey
Hometown:  New York

Of the Cary Grant -- Randolph Scott affair rumors discussed in the TCM Grant bio, a friend of mine once observed: "Too bad they couldn't have children."

June 2, 2004 | 11:35 AM ET

Judy, Judy, Judy  Judith Miller has a story co-bylined in today’s Times entitled “Former Oil-for-Food Director Criticizes Security Council,” but really, why should anyone believe anything in it? Even though it did finally break down and publish an editor’s note dealing with the myriad fabrications to which the paper lent itself via Miller’s propagandizing for war, it never really came clean as to how and why the paper allowed her to bend so many ostensible journalistic rules in order to make them happen.  No less significantly, given its refusal to come clean on the magnitude of its failure, the paper has not explained what safeguards it has put into place to ensure that Miller and those reporters who emulate her methods do not continue to employ the unequaled power of the paper’s news columns to do the same in the future.

I think that Bill Keller is taking the lesson of Howell Raines here.  Raines has recently mused that he made a terrible PR mistake in slewing entire forests to dissect the Jayson Blair mess and therefore blew up the story way out of proportion.  (And he is right by the way.  A nexis search of Jayson Blair will turn up far more hits than one taken up around the same time regarding the untruths put forth by the Bush administration to take the country into war.)  Raines probably could have weathered the storm if he had done his dirty work with greater discretion.  With Miller, the problem got so large Keller couldn’t ignore it but he still tried to sweep large portions of it under the rug.  Unfortunately, the lump it left was too large to disregard.  The New York Magazine profile of her demonstrated that the problems with her reporting and the manner in which she did her job were, if anything, a far greater scandal than Blair, whose reporting, after all, didn’t have many implications beyond those people mentioned in his stories.  Miller’s “reporting” helped legitimize a war that threatens to spin out of control.  Dan Okrent also deserves kudos for a column that went far further than any of the top brass could have appreciated in his public editor’s column.

Because Miller is white, and hence, does not give ignorant loudmouths on cable TV an opportunity to opine about the dangers of affirmative action—something from which USA Today also benefited with Jack Kelley—and because so many journalists also suspended disbelief when it came to Bush administration deceptions about the war, it’s unlikely that the Miller scandal will spin out of control and depose the paper’s present leadership as Blair’s did.  But unless the Times returns to cover its own mistakes re: Miller as it did with Blair, we, as readers, have little reason to believe it will get the story right in the future.  Right now, the paper has returned to its pre-Blair, “We’re the Times, so we don’t have to explain ourselves” batten-down the hatches mode.  (Miller’s own complete lack of contrition is also not helping matters, either.)  For instance this story does not contain the ID, “Chalabi, upon whom this paper relied for many of its front-page scoops, later proven to be fictional…”  We’ll see.  Next stop, part two of Michael Massing’s tough-minded New York Review dissections.

How’s this for capitalism?  Remember we’re talking about the company that played the single largest role in the rise of George W. Bush.

Items:

  • Per usual, Bill Moyers said all this better than I can, here
  • And there’s a nice piece by Terry Jones, here.
  • In case you missed:  Nick Hornby.

And speaking of Archie Leach...

Quote of the Day: “For goodness sakes, why would I believe that Cary Grant was homosexual when we were busy fu**ing?  Well maybe he was bisexual.”
--Betsy Drake, Grant’s wife from 1949-1962 in TCM’s terrific documentary, "Cary Grant:  A Class Apart” 

Here’s a nice Andrew Sarris appreciation piece in an awful newspaper.  And hey, let’s hear it for Ted Turner and TCM; one of the things that makes like worth living in America today.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Jim Warchol
Hometown: Milwaukee

Eric-
Oh happy day, indeed.  SCTV on DVD is long overdue.  If the tracklisting on the Web site is correct, Volume 1 features great music such as the Johnny LaRue (John Candy) classic "Polynesia Town" with Dr. John, the "Fishin' Musician" featuring The Tubes, "Mel's Rock Pile" with Roy Orbison, and "Southside Fracas" with Southside Johnny, of course.  There are some classic sketches and repeat characters as well.  "The Man Who Would Be King Of The Popes," Johnny LaRue's "Street Beef," and the ever present "Sammy Maudlin Show."

One of my favorites was Rick Moranis' under appreciated "Gerry Todd Show," where he portrayed a techno-savvy video DJ in a time when there really was no such thing yet - this was back in 1981 remember.  His "clips" included Tom Monroe (Moranis) doing hysterical easy listening versions of "Turning Japanese" and "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da", and Moranis again as Michael McDonald singing backup on Christopher Cross' "Ride Like The Wind."  The latter always brought me to laughter tears, though I'm still not sure if it is because of the sheer goofiness of the concept - Moranis/McDonald racing to the recording studio in a convertible arriving just in time to hit the chorus, or if it stems from my severe dislike of that song.

An essential guide for any SCTV fan is Dave Thomas' book "SCTV: Behind The Scenes."  It features a complete season list and great anecdotes from the cast.  I refer to it any time I need help remembering bits from this great series.

Name: Dave
Hometown: Vallejo, CA

In your well-deserved laudible review of SCTV today, you mentioned "The first episode has a wonderful extended skit of the ghost of Bing telling Woody Allen how to charm Bob Hope.  I don’t recall anything that complex ever appearing on SNL..."  I remember something very similiar appearing on SNL: an hilarious sketch where Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra tried to recruit Woody Allen into the ranks of the Republican Party.  Of course, since Hope and Allen were played by guest-stars Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis (with Joe Piscopo as the Chairman, natch), and the sketch was no doubt written by the two, you might disqualify it on a technicality.  BTW, am I the only one who thinks Thomas was the most underrated of the SCTV team, as well as the practitioner of the absolutely best (if not the only) Bob Hope impression around?

Name: K. Whelan
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

How did D. Strauss bring up Frank Tashlin and not mention "The Girl Can't Help It," which features some killer rock and Jayne Mansfield.  Jayne Mansfield in a padded dress, mind you, because Tashlin's vision required even more curves.  The title song is one of Little Richard's best songs.  The plot of the movie is Jayne Mansfield walks across the screen, men's eyeglasses fog up and their ice melts, then Little Richard or Gene Vincent or Fats Domino sing.  It's a perfect construction, the gags are funny and music is excellent.  In Marshall Crenshaw's book, Hollywood Rock, all movies that had rock and roll in them were reviewed.  They were judged in three categories: Movie, Music and Fun.  Only two movies got five stars in each, "The Girl Can't Help It" and "Rock N Roll High School."  The review for Girl Can't Help It reads: "THIS IS HOLLYWOOD ROCK."

Name: Richard Fannan
Hometown: Los Angeles

Mr. Lambert, in his post about Howard Tate, seems to be confusing Tate  with Robert "Barefootin" Parker.  Barefootin was Parker's only hit and I'm pretty confident that Howard Tate would not have been covering Parker's song (much less doing a dance routine to it).

Name: Stephen Alexander Loeb
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Re:  D. Strauss:

I suppose the Berlin residence might excuse the blowing of the title of "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter".

Eric replies:  I thought he was being clever.

June 1, 2004 | 1:24 PM ET

I love torture ... in context:  Pill-popping moralist Rush Limbaugh is whining that he was quoted “out of context" when he defended the vicious torture and sexual humiliation of innocent Iraqis as just so much fraternity hijinx and not unlike your average Madonna or Brittney Spears act.  I wonder if Rush’s audience is beginning to tire of his combination of hypocrisy and buffoonery, now that it’s laced with sadism.  In New York at least, Al Franken is creaming rush in the Arbitron ratings, and that’s being done, as everybody keeps pointing out, with a semipro operation surrounding him.  Imagine what Al and Air America will do to Rush once they know what they are doing?

Quote of the Day: "I wake up thinking about the astonishing amount of harm these people have done to our national interest on every level, and it takes a tremendous act of will not to write about it every day."
-Gary Trudeau

Alter-review:  EJ Dionne has a first rate analysis of the president’s precipitous fall in popularity here.   I’m just about finished with his new book, "Stand Up Fight Back."  I have long been a fan of EJ’s and I find myself constantly amazed at his ability to retain his calm demeanor and rational good sense in the middle of a political discourse that is designed to drive someone of his insights and ability mad with fury—or at least to an argument-oriented Weblog every morning.

I take that back.  I’ve always wanted to start an argument, while EJ, believing much of what I believe philosophically, has always wished to have a polite, respectful, inclusive and erudite dialogue.  Since he wrote the book himself, he has to represent the other side himself and he does this with typical eloquence and considerable, perhaps, excessive, generosity.  Anyway, much like his classic, “Why Americans Hate Politics,” it’s a book that both sides in the political debate need to read if we are to have any hope of addressing our genuine problems in this country through our political system.

As I’m reading EJ, I’m also making my way through Robert Reich’s "Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America."  I wish I could be as optimistic as my friend Bob.  Liberals will certainly win if everybody in America reads this book.  Like EJ, Reich has a talent for doing justice to the other side’s argument before crushing it with good sense.  The great contribution of this book is Reich’s ability to demonstrate that liberals often do not respond to the arguments that conservatives make because they do not understand the locus of most of these arguments' appeal to Americans.  Morality and patriotism are not conservative or liberal values, but conservatives have, of late, managed to annex them in part because liberals did not know that the argument was taking place at all.  Reich offers a compelling portrait of the subterranean debate underway on the chat shows and talk radio programs that helps make sense of the thing in ways I had never considered.  My guess is he’ll do the same for you.

Alter-review II:  Oh happy day.  The Shout Factory has done the demanding legwork of securing all the necessary permission from every musician that ever appeared on SCTV and released the first complete season on five DVDs.  Ok, so Saturday Night Live came first.  It also died rather quickly.  SCTV was always more sophisticated and daring and less dependent on the television equivalent of fart-jokes. The first episode has a wonderful extended skit of the ghost of Bing telling Woody Allen how to charm Bob Hope.  I don’t recall anything that complex ever appearing on SNL, which, being made for network TV, had to imagine that it was writing for people with no knowledge of anything.  The music is also far more offbeat, and well, Canadian.  If you somehow missed SCTV when it was on the air, well, trust me.

From: Eric Rauchway
Hometown: Davis, CA
In re Archibald Cox, RIP.  If you knew nothing of him save the manner of his going when at long and bloody last they made him go, still you know enough.  Cox had a day job as a teacher, and like a good teacher he asked the right question:  do the Congress and the American people want a government of laws or of men?  His old pupil, Elliott Richardson, knew the right answer and put law above the man he served though it cost him his own plans for higher office.  Robert Bork gave the wrong answer and (as if the Great Playwright were making a point) it cost him higher office too.  Because in a true crisis of the republic there is no right answer to give if you can only ask the question, what's in it for me and my team.  That is not the right question; Cox's question was the right question for small-r republicans.

And because this summer it is thirty years since the end of that lesson and from certain quarters we shall surely hear that partisan sandbagging and liberal media run amok caused the Last Insincere Cheery Wave of the Nixon Era, let us remember that though there was some demagoguing -- there is always some demagoguing -- that the force driving events was big-R Republicans giving the right answer to Cox's question when the president gave the wrong one.  And so, even if we do it swiftly, let us recall that "Maximum John" Sirica (Republican) started things going by demanding that the law be obeyed in his courtroom; that Attorney General Richardson (Republican) brought it to a crisis by insisting that the law applied to the president; that Tom Railsback (R-IL), Hamilton Fish (R-NY), and four other Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee who started the curtain on its way down by voting to recommend impeachment.  Indeed insofar as the liberal media go (and they were never so near center stage as Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman), I have heard it said that Bob Woodward was and remains a Republican.

Watergate did not prove that the system works.  By the time you've reached a constitutional crisis the system has stopped working, and the question is Cox's question:  do you want it to start going again, or do you want to resort to cruder methods -- to personal loyalty, say; perhaps to force.  But it proved that enough Republicans knew the right answer to Cox's question to get the system working once more.  Some Republicans gave the wrong answer, of course; the then-chairman of the RNC phoned Cox twice to ask when his Watergate prosecutions would target some Democrats; apparently to him it was partisan point-scoring and no more.  But enough Republicans were republicans to save the republic, and for Cox asking the right question at the right time so those men could give the right answer we may be truly grateful.

Name: Bill Hirschi
Hometown: Ocala

Hey Doc:
I just read the entry on Florida's latest effort to purge our voter rolls.

There is one small silver lining to this dark cloud.  Many local supervisors of election here in the Sunshine State are in open semi-revolt.  Most are holding off notifying those on the list -- and refusing to purge anyone -- until they conduct their own review, cross-checking the list against their own law enforcement records, as well as those of the Fla. Dept. of Law Enforcement and other agencies.

Gov. Jeb may want a repeat of the 2000 election, but the local supes don't.  I'm cautiously optimistic, but let's be real, Kerry's folks had better be on top of what's going on in this state, and have sharper lawyers than Gore's were on hand to keep Gov. Jeb in line.

BTW, there's a peachy little photo-op for Mr. Kerry here in Ocala, which is about dead-center in the state, almost exactly 90 miles in the appropriate directions from Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa.

Seems one of our county sheriff's deputies, 1st Sgt. Fred Chisholm, commands a unit of the 351st Military Police Company in Iraq.  Their Humvees aren't armored, so he wrote to his boss, Marion County Sheriff Ed Dean, and said the department's obsolete Kevlar body armor would be perfect for lining the floors and sides of their vehicles to protect them from bullets and bombs.

Sheriff Dean contacted about 40 other law enforcement agencies throughout the state and got them to send their old body armor, too.  Altogether, he collected 1,200 pieces for our boys in Baghdad.

Enter the U.S. Army, which was apparently embarrassed that the fact they still had our guys over there riding around in unarmored Hummers was getting lots of local media publicity, refused to accept the body armor (despite pleas from the local commander of the 351st, who wanted it), and publicly censured 1st Sgt, Chisholm for asking for it.

Our local red, white and blue congressman, Cliff Stearns, also joined in criticizing Sheriff Dean for butting in where he wasn't welcome.

The body armor is still sitting in a warehouse at the 351st's HQ in Ocala, and our guys in Iraq are still riding around in thin-skinned Humvees.

Support our troops indeed!

Name: Glen Worthington
Hometown: Irvine

I found this Web site on my Class of '71 webpage from West Point.  Do you think that you could publish it, or any site like it that you can find, to give your readers an opportunity to help school children in Iraq?

Thank you for your consideration.

Name: Glenn Lambert
Hometown: 125th & Lenox

Eric,
"Ever hear of Howard Tate?" you asked.  I actually saw Howard Tate perform once, at the Apollo circa 1968.  He sang "Barefootin'," which I guess was his single at the time. Unfortunately, the choreography consisted of him alternately kicking his feet up backwards, while slapping his sole with his palm, and simultaneously tossing the mike to his free hand. After about a minute of this he was out of breath.  After a couple of minutes, he was toast, and the audience was booing lustily in classic Apollo style.  The comic (who may have been Pigmeat Markham, of "Here Come The Judge" fame) spent the rest of the night imitating and ridiculing the poor guy.

But dancing aside, he did make some fine records.

Name: D. Strauss
Hometown: Berlin, Germany

More on "Love Happy":  Essentially a showcase for Harpo, it's an under-rated film, though the bland-young-couple-in-love subplot drags it down, as it did all their post-Zeppo films (and the male romantic lead is quite effeminate and unbelievable..).  After the very funny "A Night in Casablanca" (produced for United Artists, which was a real maverick studio at the time), the Marx Brothers were through as an act, but Chico had rung up more gambling debts, despite a successful second career as a bandleader --- Chico gave Mel Torme his first gig.  The film was developed for/by Harpo to help is brother out, but they couldn't get financing unless it was a Marx Brothers film, so Groucho put in ten minutes as narrator and shows up at the climax.

Director David Miller was a buddy of Harpo's and a relative hack, but he did direct some interesting hippie-ish things near the end of his career, including "Hail, Hero!," Michael Douglas' first film as a Vietnam vet who Sticks It To The Pigs.  But what makes "Love Happy" really work (besides Harpo's genius) is that Frank Tashlin was the gag man.  Tashlin was a Warner Brothers animator who went on to direct several Doris Day/Rock Hudson and Jerry Lewis films (including the perverse Cinderfella), and also a couple of absolutely lunatic classics -- "Son of Paleface" with Bob Hope and Tony Randall's greatest role in "Will Success Spoil Rock Hudson" (which Groucho shows up in for a cameo). Years before Altman's Popeye, Tashlin was making real live cartoons with outrageous Bugs Bunny-ish sightgags and the pairing with Harpo is absolutely inspired, especially during the rooftop climax in which Tashlin takes the Harpo persona to the next level, and space and time are semi-transcended.  I recently watched the film again on a big screen (in Paris, natch, where you can watch Welles and Renoir films all the live long day) and was surprised how well it held up -- I'm sure Jacque Tati was watching.

"Room Service" is pretty good too -- Lucille Ball and a well written, if slight, play.  I'll also vouch several of the set-pieces in "Go West," though it kind-of slides into Three Stooges territory.


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