December 27, 2004 | 1:35 PM ET

Our Year-ender on journalism in 2004 is here; my reply to Peter Beinart is here.
The Nation gave me 1,600 words. I wanted 2,000 and here’s the 400 of background I was forced to cut. It appeared near the top, somewhere.

“Before I dissect its many logical, factual, and analytic shortcomings, a little history is in order. During the course of its ninety year history, The New Republic, like any so venerable an institution, has had its ups and downs. During its most recent heyday, in the 1980s under the revolving editoriships of Michael Kinsley and Hendrik Hertzberg, TNR was simultaneously the most interesting liberal and the most interesting neoconservative magazine in America. It contained some of the most effective attacks on liberals, as well as its most eloquent defenses.

Since their departure, however, the magazine has entered a steady decline. The articles that have garnered the magazine the most amount of attention during this period have been frontal attacks on liberals that mimic the tactics and logic of its enemies, while simultaneously professing to speak for liberalism. Under the editorships of the liberal haters, Andrew Sullivan and Michael Kelly, TNR championed the crackpot racist theories of Charles Murray and the dishonest destruction of the Clinton health care plan by an then-unknown apparatchik named Elizabeth McCaughey. The magazine also championed the Republicans foreign policy priorities, including offering its apologies for U.S.-supported right-wing mass murder in El Salvador and terrorist activities in Nicaragua during the Reagan/Bush years — always more elegantly argued by the magazine’s editors than by the proponents of the policies themselves and almost always with more than a hint of the McCarthyism that Sullivan, in particular, has since made his personal calling card.

Today, TNR is in the midst of one its down periods. While it continues to produce much excellent analysis, it speaks for no natural constituency and its circulation has fallen to barely 60,000 — barely a third of that of its historical competitor for the standard-bearer of liberalism, The Nation. The magazine has also lost its thunder on the right—as well as a number of its contributors—to William Kristol’s neoconservative Weekly Standard. An enthusiastic supporter of Bush’s war in Iraq as well as the liberal domestic agenda, the magazine speaks for almost no one, save its own editors. (It is not even clear that a majority of the magazine’s three-person ownership agrees with its policies.)

It is therefore perhaps not entirely coincidental that Beinart’s solution for the political problem that ails the Democratic fits in perfectly with the magazine’s own intellectual DNA structure; it calls for the expulsion from the Democratic coalition of MoveOn.org, the left’s most energetic and committed popular organization, in support of a combination of policies with almost no visible constituency in America or anywhere else. It employs McCarthyism tactics together with wishful thinking in the service of a chimerical political agenda, and in doing so, reproduces the failures of the Bush administration that have so thoroughly destroyed the sympathy and solidarity that the United States enjoyed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. “

Odds and Ends

I find this compelling though it looks a bit conspiratorial. Another emerging Democratic majority, here.
Here’s the plan: Just wait for the old folks to die; Bush’s plans will help, actually. More here.

Here’s how the Bush administration works: If you get something important right, you get fired. For instructions, see under “Politburo, The.”

Bush hated me first. A good, possibly great Jewish prophet, but that’s just my opinion.
Yet another one, here via Jerusalem. Another one, well, sort of, here. I don’t think Santa was Jewish, though.

Israel tortures Palestinian prisoners; that’s an established fact, according to Israel’s own official investigative bodies. Still, the Times finds it impossible to admit this, as this letter from Amnesty International’s Executive Director is forced to point out. To anyone who argues that mainstream media are not biased on behalf of Israel, explain that.

And while we’re on the topic of the Times, you’d think that somewhere in their Year in Pictures insert, they’d find room for the hundreds of thousands of protesters at last summer’s Republican convention. Tell me about liberal bias again, please….

I find it hard to believe that Mr. Pereles can make such a list and ignore my favorite album, William Shatner’s “Has Been”, here  And I’m happy to agree with choices one, two and three here particularly the Great Jazz Trio, which I fear I’ve neglected to mention., though Fred Kaplan didn’t.

Happy 100th issue to Wendy Loesser and the Threepenny Review, consistently excellent, on virtually no money. And I really liked Luc Sante’s essay, here -- and this too. And this. Oh yeah, this was terrific too. And did I mention this?

A short blog round-up:
Siva on Conservative Crybabies. More here.
Social Security is Simple, says Max. More on fighting faith, here.  Which led me to the most important new blog I’ve come across in years, both for its extraordinarily high level of content but for what it implies about the desire of previously self-marginalizing academics into the public discourse, here and here is a post that (just about) brought tears to my eyes (It also makes me smile at the wonder of the Internet, again.)

And what does it say that conservatives are threatened by other people’s intelligence, here? Just who’s side does David Brooks thinks he’s on when he says Republicans admire "straight-talking men of faith," whereas Democrats prefer leaders who are "knowledgeable and thoughtful."

Quote of the Day: Support Our Troops" is a wonderful patriotic slogan. But the best way to support troops thrust by unwise commanders in chief into ill-advised adventures like Vietnam and Iraq is to bring them home. Sooner rather than later. That should be our New Year's resolution. — Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Donald Kraus
Hometown: Clinton Corners, NY
Comments:
Dear Dr. Alterman:
Jesus, as quoted in the Gospel of Matthew (25:35, 40): "I was hungry, and you gave me food ... just as you did it to one of the least of these ... you did it to me."  The Bush administration, as quoted in the NY Times (12/22/04, p. A3): "With the budget deficit growing and President Bush promising to reduce spending, the administration has told representatives of several charities that it was unable to honor some earlier promises and would have money to pay for food only in emergency situations."
No further comment should be necessary.

Name: Merry Bilgere
Hometown: Santa Cruz
Comments:
In July 2003, The Washington Post published a story about an Iraqi woman who pulled the wool over the eyes of Paul Bremer and Bernard Kerik, to name just a few. By stealing their sympathy, she now rests comfortably in California on our welfare rolls. The problem is, she's a phony, and Sara Solovitch exposed her story in the January issue of Esquire magazine. I wonder, what does the Washington Post have to say for itself and why isn't anyone talking about this?

Name: Timothy Adams
Hometown: Elwood, NE
Comments:
Thanks to Charles Pierce for his remarks about these people who are trying to turn Christmas into a divisive issue.  My wife and I are both Christian ministers and "Happy Holidays" just sticks in my throat.  However, those who are pushing this "Christmas besieged" dreck are simply trying to create yet another wedge issue.  Today my wife got a Christmas card from her elderly aunt, who has been completely taken in by this business.  It was so sad to read.  I recall that the person whose birth we celebrate had hard words for those who caused one of his little ones (by which he meant all his followers) to stumble and fall.  I believe this kind of cynical use of his name and the Christmas holiday is exactly what he had in mind.  Thanks to Charles Pierce for stating it so well.

Name: Ed Tracey
Hometown: Lebanon, New Hampshire
Comments:
We lost bluesman Son Seals at age 62. A sad note at this time of year.

Jeff Metzger
Coto de Caza, CA

Eric:
As it is the last week of the charitable gift season, I thought I would offer a suggestion or two of more ways to part with your money. Last year you informed us about Save the Children to which I answered your call.  I also told you about Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and the American Institute of Philanthropy's CharityWatch, a watchdog service, whose Charity Rating Guide grades charities based on the percentage of money they raises that actually goes for the program service, and how much they spend to raise those funds.
Save the Children continues to receive a grade of A- (84% of money raised goes for the program service and $23 is spent to raise $100), so I will support it again this year. But, here's a word of caution.
There is also a charity called "Save a Child Foundation" which I know nothing about except it is one of 100 "F Rated Charities" highlighted in AIP's current guide. This apparent imposter uses but 11% of the money raised on whatever is its program service, and spends $85 to raise $100. I'd prefer to think of this one as "Save Your Money."
My recommendation for this year is Parkinson's Disease Foundation, which received a solid "A" from AIP, as 81 percent of the money raised goes to the program services, and only $9 is spent to raise $100. I came to learn about this organization from the fine work being done by Bob Benjamin, a good pal of our favorite rock star, who contracted Parkinson's at an early age, and has since created his own Light of Day Foundation to raise money and awareness to fight this terrible scourge. As the cause is sufficiently worthy for Bruce to give of his time and money (playing at LOD's annual benefit concerts in Asbury Park), it certainly is good enough for me. 
My own interest in Parkinson's is particularly heightened because very recently I learned that one of my close friends contracted the disease.  While he is remarkably upbeat and accepting of his current plight, to watch someone with Parkinson's struggle through the otherwise routine act of feeding themselves is a very sobering experience. There is optimism aplenty that a cure is on the horizon, but it needs to be soon for those now afflicted. All donations are particularly precious for these folks.
Happy New Year.


Eric replies: Fans of Jack Newfield will want to know that he asked that donations in his memory be given to The Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation, P.O. Box 140998, Staten Island, NY 10314, here.

December 22, 2004 | 12:35 PM ET

It’s a cliché to point it out, but it’s amazing how much faster everything moves today than it did in the past. It took nearly a decade for the foreign policy establishment to figure out that the United States had lost the Vietnam War and it was time to cut our losses. But in Iraq, it’s already happened. In the current Foreign Affiars, James Dobbins, who is Director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at Rand, and was  a U.S. Special Envoy in Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, Somalia, and Afghanistan, argues that “By losing the trust of the Iraqi people, the Bush administration has already lost the war in Iraq,” here. Also, the famed hawkish Pentagon consultant and writer, Edward N. Luttwak,  a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, argues that best strategy for the United States now in Iraq is disengagement. Now comes the key question: How long a time lag between when those in power are willing to show this kind of intellectual honesty and start saving the lives they are now so foolishly and callously placing at risk? Knows God, I’m afraid.  Ps., it would also help if we would stop torturting innocent people or even guilty ones… And one more thing: the torture cover-up that’s not such a great idea either. Tell me how we are going to save the world again Mr. Beinart?)

Speaking of which, my reply to Peter Beinart will be online at The Nation Thursday night, and my year-end review of the year in journalism in the Think Again column tomorrow. I’ll be back next week.

We join Jack Newfield's many admirers in offering our heartfelt condolences to his family and countless friends. His public achievements are well known, but when I was a college student I went to see Jack for advice and inspiration, and he was far more generous and gracious with his time than I find myself able to be today.

Alter-reviews:
I saw a Sinatra-esque lounge singer named Tony DeSare at the Café Carlyle last Monday night. (He was filling in for a few weeks for Woody Allen.) He’s an engaging singer, with a warm, clear, meliflouus voice and some real stage charisma. Still, he needs a lot more seasoning, and he’ll get it, as he’s going to be playing fine nights a week at Bemelmans Bar there, with the wonderful Madelaine drawings, beginning in January. His bassist, Mike Lee, was wonderful, but he lost Bucky Pizzarelli to Michael Feinstein. He’ll be back on the 27th before moving across the hall.

Friday night, night, those of us secular Jews who hate Christmas but like anal sex, have a choice of entertainments, in this the greatest secular Jewish/Christmas hating/anal sex loving city in the world. You can take in the fifth anniversary concert of “What I Like About Jew —actually you can do that on Thursday or Saturday too, which, according to the press release, carries this blurb -- "It's intelligent, reflective, funny, self-critical and celebratory all at once. And it sure beats the hell out of circumcision,’ sings Eric Alterman at MSNBC.com.”  It’s only $12 at The Knitting Factory. (And if you go Friday night, you can see my friend Tammy Faye.)

Or, you can take in, Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad" at the Cutting Room, 19 W. 24th St. That’ll cost $15 plus $10 food/drink I’m told it’s almost like being be a M.O.T for the night “without the guilt, nagging mother and 10-hour seders.” Finally, Saturday Night, at BB King’s is the fantasic Hasidic reggae sensation—would I kid you--Matisyahu . He’s on tour and you can read all about him here, but please, not on shabbes. Trust me.

Correspondents Corner:

Charles Pierce
Newton, MA.
Hey Doc:
Nobody fools around with Christmas where I live. My family has long since come to grips with the fact that the Da becomes a hopeless sap from Thanksgiving until the year turns again, and they've long since made their bemused peace with the fact that the CD player will be the exclusive province of Vince Guaraldi, and Cherish The Ladies, and The Chieftains, and the Roches, and the invaluable Time-Life Treasury Of Christmas for a month every year.
I will watch the Charlie Brown Special, and "It's A Wonderful Life," and, especially, the Alastair Sim "Christmas Carol," and I shall I take my stand with Scrooge's nephew, Fred, who called the season, "...the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women
seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."
   And, yes, on Christmas Eve, I will walk to Midnight Mass, not that it's anyone's damned business but my own.
So it is well within the spirit of the season when I say, how dare the smug bastards attempt to wedge the season into that cramped and miserable place in which they keep their jackal-eyed ambitions? Just when you thought there was no bottom to the barrel, the usual suspects
decide to use Christmas as another means by which to set Americans against each other. Conflict serves political goals, and it makes great cable television, and those are the only reasons why this whole "Christmas Under Siege" campaign erupted.
The political goal is to distract us from the fact that C-Plus Augustus and his party are embarking on a legislative agenda that would make Jacob Marley look like Dorothy Day, and the latter purposes serve only the likes of Bill O'Reilly, who's coming increasingly detached from his internal loofah, and Pat Buchanan, who has not lived  a day in public life where he didn't appeal to the country's basest instincts.
  So we get a blizzard of dishonest anecdote and absurd posturing in the service of a lunatic masquerade that encourages one group of Americans not to trust another group of Americans, and assures them that they are simultaneously superior in their morality and utterly in peril.
      And why? For power and for ratings, nothing more. The people pushing this notion know it's crazy. All they have to do is lok around them, for pity's sake. Yet they will coin this season for their own cheap advantage.
Remember Marley's warning: "Or would you know...the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was ful as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago...It is a ponderous chain."
    Here's a tip for you, Bill, and Pat, and Joe, and Jerry, and the Reverend Pat. You could tie up the Queen Mary with what you're making for yourselves here. Go to sleep, walk with the Ghosts, buy the Cratchits a turkey. And, for the love of god and in the spirit of the season, don't put that thing in the punchbowl.
  I'd be remiss if I didn't send wishes for a Cool Yule out generally to the folks along the docks in Blogistan, and especially to the Slacker Friday family -- to the Other Doctor Eric, and Barry, and Sal, and Major Bob. And, of course, to the Landlord, and to him and his. Open the windows, all of you, and listen to the bells.

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Comments: Hey Eric, it's Stupid to make a 2005 prediction: we're going to cut-and-run in Iraq.  Let's start with Spencer Ackerman's reporting in the New Republic.  He writes that the heavy favorite to win the January election (the Sistani-backed United Iraqi Alliance) is running on an "eject-the-U.S.-forces" platform. Ackerman also quotes Colin Powell's back when the interim government was appointed: "Were this interim government to say to us, 'we really think we can handle this on our own; it would be better if you were to leave,' we would leave."
The prevailing wisdom is that nothing like that will happen soon, else all hell would break loose. Accordingly, the thinking goes, even if the UIA wins a majority in the legislature, somehow the more-pro-US Allawi (or someone like him) would be reappointed in a compromise between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. 

But look at this from the point of view of a Rove-driven Bush Administration. The CIA has told them that Iraq is going to be bad even in a best-case scenario. All of the "don't-be-so-glum-about-Iraq" exhortations in the conservative press and blogosphere won't trump that.  How long can tours of duty be re-extended before a real PR disaster erupts?
And it's hard to see a way for the administration to cut the budget deficit in half (which would be a chimera, but anyway...) and privatize Social Security, big items for GOP corporate contributors, without reducing military spending.

So if the Iraq elections provide an opportunity to get out while shedding some of the responsibility for what may come in the future, it'd be hard to pass up. "Well, we were prepared to give them whatever they needed, but we honor democracy and America is true to its word."  I remember they tried floating a blame-the-victim trial balloon last year ("we gave them this opportunity"). Also, what would the U.S. media's response be if we left Iraq? Would bombings of Iraqis still be the lead story on the news? Leaving might be a humanitarian disaster, but a decent political salvage job.

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL
Eric: Truthout has just posted the ACLU release that implicates a presidential order in the torture scandal.  Documents posted here. And in case Matt Shirley's wondering, the FBI memos don't go for the minced words "tantamount to torture" that he criticized the Red Cross for using--they simply call what they observed plain old unvarnished "torture." 

And from Barry R:

Basic Facts on Social Security and Proposed Benefit Cuts/Privatization
Dean Baker and David Rosnick
November 16, 2004
1) Social Security is Financially Sound
According to the Social Security trustees report, the standard basis for analyzing Social Security, the program can pay all benefits through the year 2042, with no changes whatsoever. Even after 2042 the program would always be able to pay retirees a higher benefit (in today's dollars) than what current retirees receive. The assessment of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office is that Social Security is even stronger. It projects that Social Security can pay all benefits through the year 2052 with no changes whatsoever. By either measure, Social Security is more financially sound today than it has been throughout most of its 69-year history.
Source: SSA, CBO, and authors’ calculations.

2) President Bush's Social Security Cuts Would Be Large
The proposal that President Bush is using as the basis for his plan phases in cuts over time. A worker who is 45 today can expect to see a cut in guaranteed benefits of around 15 percent. A worker who is age 35 can expect to see a cut in the guaranteed benefit of approximately 25
percent. A 15-year-old who is just entering the work force can expect a benefit cut of close to 40 percent. For a 15 year old, this cut would mean a loss of close to $160,000 in Social Security benefits over the course of their retirement.

Private accounts will allow workers to earn back only a small fraction of this amount. For example, a 15-year-old can expect to make back approximately $50,000 from the $160,000 cut with the earnings on a private account. If this worker retires when the market is in a slump, then it could make their loss even bigger.
Source: SSA and authors’ calculations.

3) Imaginary Stock Returns Don't Offset Real Benefit Cuts
Proponents of private accounts have often used highly exaggerated assumptions on stock returns to argue for the benefits of private accounts. For example, even at the height of the stock bubble in 2000, when the price to earnings ratio in the market exceeded 30 to 1, many
proponents of private accounts assumed that stocks would generate 7.0 percent real returns annually. This assumption was absurd on its face - it implied that price to earnings ratios would rise to levels of more than 100 to 1. Unfortunately, even the Social Security Administration
has used these unfounded assumptions in assessing privatization plans.
Given current price to earnings ratios and the Social Security trustees' profit growth projections, real stock returns will average less than 5.0 percent annually. Some proponents of private accounts are still using exaggerated stock return assumptions to advance their case.
Source: SSA and authors’ calculations.
4) Social Security is Extremely Efficient, Private Accounts Are Wasteful
On average, less than 0.6 cents of every dollar paid out in Social Security benefits goes to pay administrative costs. By comparison, systems with individual accounts, like the ones in England or Chile, waste 15 cents of every dollar paid out in benefits on administrative fees. President Bush's Social Security commission estimated that under their system of individual accounts 5 cents of every dollar would go to pay administrative costs.
In addition, under Social Security workers automatically get an annuity (a life-long monthly payment) when they retire. By contrast, financial firms typically take 10 to 20 percent of workers' savings to provide an annuity when they reach retirement.
Source: SSA and authors’ calculations.
5) Social Security Pays the Most to Those Who Need it Most
Social Security benefits are highly progressive, so that low-wage workers get a much higher share of their wages in benefits than do high wage workers. A worker who earned $10,000 a year during their working lifetime can expect to see a benefit that is equal to approximately 75
percent of their average wage. A worker who earned $33,000 a year will get a benefit that is equal to approximately 45 percent of their wage, while a worker who earned $50,000 on average will get a benefit that is equal to 39 percent of their wage.
While poorer workers do not live as long as higher paid workers, the progressive benefit structure largely offsets differences in life expectancy (as do disability and survivors benefits for those who do not live to normal retirement age). Furthermore, since plans are being
made for the distant future, the United States could reduce the gaps in life expectancy by income and race, as other countries have done.
Source: SSA and authors’ calculations.

6) The Projected Shortfall is No Larger Than What We Have Seen In Past Decades
It has been necessary to raise Social Security taxes in the past, primarily because people are living longer than they used to. The tax increase that would be needed to make the program fully funded over its 75-year planning period is actually smaller than tax increases we have seen in prior decades. In other words - it would have made more sense to talk of a Social Security "crisis" in 1965 than in 2005. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office estimates, Social Security can be made solvent throughout its 75-year planning period with a tax increase that is less than one quarter as large as the one in the '80s.
While tax increases are never popular, the fact is that prior tax increases did not prevent decades like the fifties or sixties from being periods of great prosperity. Of course, if the economy maintains anywhere near its recent pace of growth, any tax increases can be put
off for many decades into the future, and possibly forever.
Source: SSA and authors’ calculations.
7) Young Workers Will Still See Much Higher Wages If Taxes Are Increased
If it proves necessary to raise more money for Social Security through taxes, workers will still see large increases in their after-tax wages.
This is true even if they end up paying a larger share of their wages in Social Security taxes. According to the Social Security trustees' projections, the average after-Social Security tax wage for a worker in 2050, will still be more than 70 percent higher than it is today, even
if taxes are raised to keep the program solvent. The CBO projections imply an even larger increase in after-tax wages.

Raising payroll taxes is not the only way to increase the revenue for Social Security. An alternative is to raise the ceiling on taxable wages. Currently, no Social Security taxes are paid on income earned above $87,900 in any given year. If the ceiling were raised to $110,000
to cover 90 percent of the country's income from wages (the level set by the Greenspan commission in 1983), it would eliminate approximately 40 percent of the projected funding shortfall. Using the CBO projections, this change alone would be almost enough to make the
program solvent through the 75-year planning period.
Source: SSA, CBO, and authors’ calculations.

8) The Bush Proposal Phases Out Social Security as We Know It
President Bush's proposal gradually shrinks the traditional guaranteed Social Security so that it will eventually become irrelevant for middle income workers. For today's 20-year-old average wage earners, the guaranteed benefit will be equal to just 15 percent of their annual earnings when they reach retirement age. The guaranteed benefit will be equal to just 7 percent of annual earnings for a child born 10 years from now.
As the traditional Social Security benefit becomes less important for middle-income workers, Social Security will increasingly become a poor people's program. This may be a clever strategy if the purpose is to undermine political support for Social Security; it is not a good way to structure the program if we expect it to be there for our children and grandchildren.
Source: President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security and Author’s Calculations.
Footnotes:
1. Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy research. David Rosnick, provided research assistance and or comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


December 21, 2004 | 12:14 PM ET

Our man Boehlert takes his history seriously and notes that George W. Bush stands poised to be inaugurated as the most unpopular incumbent in eighty years.  Unfortunately, I don’t see how this is going to matter, since the media will ignore it and the Democratic leadership does not know how to take advantage of it.

This just in.  My prediction’s already come true.  Look how CNN buried its lede.  All the way down in graph no. 7, we read,

As for Bush, 49 percent of respondents said they approved of the job the president is doing. That number is down from his November approval rating of 55 percent. Bush is the first incumbent president to have an approval rating below 50 percent one month after winning re-election.

Ditto: The war (and this was before the insurgents accomplished this horific mission ).

The Incredible:  You know, we never figured out just when Ronald Reagan’s mind started to go and whether he happened to be president at the time.  It therefore does not tax my imagination to believe that William Safire is in similar state to that which afflicted Reagan.  Sad, really; like when Muhammed Ali fought that kick-boxer…

It’s more than past time for a shout out to the Texas Observer, doing good work down in the trenches since before you were born.

Already Missing Moyers: Can you believe this man used to be the sole CBS Evening News commentator?  Don’t it always go to show, you don’t know what you got ‘till it’s gone…

We are (not) the world

It must be fun to be Henry Kissinger (more fun than for Pinochet’s victims, alas).

Alter-reviews: Sal on the Live Aid DVD box

It's hard to believe that on July 13th, 1985, I spent an entire day manning my remote control with a fresh box of TDK Super Avilyn video cassettes, recording bands like the Thompson Twins, Bryan Adams, Spandau Ballet, Nik Kershaw, and Ultravox.  But these were monsters of rock back then, and they were headlining the biggest live concert television event in history.  Organized by Bob Geldof, "LIVE AID" presented two stadium size concerts, simultaneously on two continents, all to help "feed the world."

OK, there were some legitimate monsters as well.  Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Mick & Keith, U2, Elton John, a reunited Black Sabbath, Queen, Elvis Costello. Basically...EVERYONE!

[ed: Um, except Bruce, dude.]

Now, Warner Music has released a 4 DVD set that is as close to complete as one music fan could wish.  Missing from the set is the reunited Led Zeppelin portion.  Jimmy Page & Robert Plant felt that the performance wasn't up to snuff.  And they are right.  If anyone remembers, their set was an out-of-tune mess.  But some true highlights include David Bowie's inspired performance backed by Thomas Dolby and members of the underrated Brit band Prefab Sprout, U2's 20 minute performance of "Bad" with Bono opting to "Hug The World" instead of "Feeding The World," and Mick Jagger & Tina Turner prancing around during "State Of Shock," the current hit by Mick & Michael Jackson, to name a few.

This is a great set.  It'll bring back some memories.  Not all of them good.  My only complaint- by not including the Zep set, we also miss out on Bonehead VJ Mark Goodman's "genius" introduction of the band:  "I don't want to give anything away but...that's rock n roll, and they're doing 'Stairway...'"  The band went on to do Rock N Roll and Stairway To Heaven.  20 years later and I still can't get over it.

Sal
NYCD

Eric Replies:  And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?  (But hey Yoko, bubela, war is not really over, even if you want it, so how about giving that $70k to someone who can use it?  Maybe we could all start with these guys.)

Correspondents’ corner:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc --
Because Every Day, even Festivus Eve, is Slacker Friday, Part The XXXVIX.

It's pointless, I know, to start banging the tin drum again about Tucker Carlson's new show.  I have some friends whom I really respect who actually like the guy, and we write for the same editor, and, what the hell, hiring people like him is what cable television executives do. (PBS, of course, is a whole 'nother vat o' cod.)  However, it is very hard to accept the spin that the lad took the job because he was tired of playing the role on CNN of the smug, indecent scourge of horribly mutilated children -- that his PBS show was the real Tucker, and that we will see the latter on MSNBC and not the former, which was a role he only did for the money, like Nic Cage in Con Air.  Wonkette seemed convinced yesterday.

So, apparently, his argument against being a smug, indecent scourge of horribly mutilated children is that he was a MERCENARY AND INSINCERE smug, indecent scourge of mutilated children. Clears it right up.

Name: Dave Elley
Hometown: Seattle

Eric,
To follow up on Judge Nino's chilling rewrite of Holocaust history:

The most likely next Chief Justice Nino Scalia says:
"Did it turn out that," Scalia said, "by reason of the separation of church and state, the Jews were safer in Europe than they were in the United States of America?  I don't think so."  ( Here, here and here.)

Unfortunately, Judge Nino "Quack, Quack" Scalia is betraying appalling judgment on the subject of Germany and Italy of the 1930s.  In fact, the relationship between fascist Germany and the Church was quite cosy and Christianity was invoked as the moral compass which got things rolling for Europe's Jews, as anyone who has read " Hitler's Pope" will already know.

With Pius XII's direct assistance, Hitler had done exactly what Scalia is now recommending - he merged church and state.

In Italy, the Lateran Concordat cemented Pius XII's anti-semitic Vatican with Mussolini's Fascist state.

Is Nino better informed?  Perhaps these photos are faked?

Take a look at that last picture which is a front page from Der Stuermer: The caption under the cartoon reads, "We youth step happily forward facing the sun... With our faith we drive the devil from the land." Oh, and the meaning of the phrase on the same page: "Die Juden sind unser Ungluck"  It means the "Jews are our misfortune".

"One nation under God" or "Gott mit uns"?

Name: Sal Nunziato
Hometown: NYC

Jeff Weed's assertion that Percy Sledge is not "Hall Of Fame calibre" while all on his list are, is interesting.  When A Man Loves A Woman, It Tears Me Up, Warm And Tender Love, Dark End Of The Street, Take Time To Know Her, and True Love Travels On A Gravel Road are not only amazing Percy Sledge performances, but are songs that have had a major influence on Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and Lucinda Williams to name a few.  With the exception of Connie Francis, whose string of hits in the 50's and 60's, not to mention her teen idol status, were pretty solid, I think the list is quite weak.  The Crystals and Darlene Love are two faves of mine, but they are both really Phil Spector's creation.  Gary U.S. Bonds?  Two novelty hits in the 60's and a Bruce Springsteen endorsement should not make you H.Of F. calibre.  Cliff Richard was a monster in the UK who never really found a U.S. audience.  I am a fan of most everyone on the list, I just can't understand what makes them more worthy than Percy Sledge.

Eric replies: Cliff Richards?

December 20, 2004 | 12:20 PM ET

Ain’t no ideologies here…

It’s part of the ideology of the mainstream media to refuse to admit that it has its own ideology.  So when Dana Milbank, the toughest of White House reporters, tells Howard Kurtz, that it’s perfectly alright for George W. Bush to lie to the nation about Saddam Hussein’s willingness to allow inspections, thereby setting the tone for other reporters to invite the White House to mislead the nation on just about everything, don’t call it “ideology,” OK?

Here’s Milbank on his new assignment: “It will have plenty of attitude and judgment,” he says, “but it will not have ideological opinions.”   Quite a racket…

From The Book on Bush:

In response to the Niger allegations, Bush made the patently false claim that he did not decide to go to war until after he gave Saddam Hussein “a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in.”  Of course, the inspectors were inside Iraq at the very moment Bush announced his decision to go to war, rather than let them complete their work as virtually the entire world was requesting.  The media decided to give the president a pass on this, however, because, as the usually tough-minded Dana Milbank of the Washington Post explained, "[P]eople basically decided this is just the president being the president.  Occasionally he plays the wrong track and something comes out quite wrong.  He is under a great deal of pressure."

Another admittedly confusing liberal media plot:
Tabloid chaser, Deborah Norville, out, right-winger Tucker Carlson, in.  Carlson, despite being de-cajoned by Jon Stewart, apparently will be joining a line-up featuring Joe Scarborough, who stood on the platform with George W. Bush, and whose replacement, Pat Buchanan, recently hosted a happily anti-Semitic conversation attacking Hollywood’s “secular Jews” who “hate Christianity” but like “anal sex.”  Yes, when will someone do something about this horrid liberal media, screwing up everything for real Americans like you and me?

Does Drudge think Bush is Stalin?  Get your award ready, Roy....

In Defense of bad academic writing, here.  Here is Judith Butler's winning sentence:

The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.

This and other winners can be found at here.

Alter-reviews:
Holliday buying advice from The Times and Sal, (who sells them by the way):

Sunday's boxed set round-up in the Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times covered just about all of the noteworthy releases of 2004, as well as some that should have been left in the vaults.  Two of my faves that were not mentioned, are both part of the recently launched "boutique" wings of two major labels and are only available, unfortunately, online.

Rhino Handmade and Hip-O Select, the mail order departments of Rhino Records and Universal Music Group, have each created an outlet to release in very limited quantities, complete works of major artists, as well some obscure records that are strictly for fans only.

First up from Universal is Black Uhuru's "Anthem," one of the best reggae LPs of all time.  Originally released in 1983, "Anthem" was the first LP to win a Grammy for Best Reggae Album.  With one of the most celebrated rhythm sections in all of music- drummer Sly Dunbar & bassist Robbie Shakespeare- Black Uhuru had already made a name for themselves with their prior releases "Red" and "Sinsemilla."  But it was this record that reached fans all over the world.  What we get on this beautifully packaged 4 CD set is the original mix of the LP, which to this day has never been released.  This contained full-length versions of all the songs that had parts shaved off due to vinyl's space limitations.  You also get the U.K. and U.S. versions- the heavy "dub" U.K. mix for its "dub" infatuated audience and the more radio friendly U.S. mix, for the less patient U.S. audience.  Plus, all 12" remixes and single remixes.  Unlike so many jazz boxed sets that include many alternate takes with subtle differences that even the keenest ear would have trouble detecting, the radical changes over 4 CDs make "Anthem" more than just one record.

From Rhino Handmade comes "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress: Jimmy Webb In The Seventies." One of the greatest songwriters of all time, Webb's pen was behind such songs as "Galveston," "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," "Macarthur Park," "Didn't We," and "Wichita Lineman."  This set features his entire 70's output, a full CD of previously unissued demos and out takes, and the gem of the box, a previously unreleased live performance from the Royal Albert Hall.  85 tracks featuring help from Lowell George, Ringo Starr, Joni Mitchell, Dee Murray & Davey Johnstone from Elton's classic band, Larry Knechtel and Jim Gordon and production by George Martin and Webb himself.

I can only hope that next year, I will be able to review boxes from The Chambers Brothers, Todd Rundgren, Ry Cooder and Rickie Lee Jones whose catalogues desperately need an overhaul and whose vaults need to be opened, as well as the long overdue Cameo-Parkway label collection.

Finally, I'd like to add that the Don Pullen Collection mentioned in the NYT contains two brilliant, and long out of print records "Random Thoughts" and "New Beginnings" that are worth the price of admission alone.  And that "Doctors, Professors, Kings, and Queens: The Big Ol' Box Of New Orleans" is a helluva lot better than Jon Pareles lets on.  Calling the set "an unacademic, noncategorized album that suits the city's time-warped party spirit" makes it sound as if it was shabbily thrown together under the influence of one too many Hurricanes.  It is much more than that.  It is wonderful collection, purposely sequenced without categorization, to give the listener an aural tour of a city whose music is timeless and incredibly influential.  Highly recommended.

Sal Nunziato
NYCD

Eric adds: I’d have paid more attention to the Tony Bennett Improv set on Concord, the new Al Green box, the George Harrison box, the new Chet Baker collection, and the Broadway Box.  And a few I’m no doubt forgetting.  I do second Sanneh’s emotion on “This is Reggae Music,” which profoundly enriches one’s appreciation of one’s Marley, Toots and “Harder they Come” collections.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Jeff Weed
Hometown: Denton, TX
Dr A,
A few comments on the 2005 Rock and Roll Hall of inductees:
U2, The Pretenders, The O'Jays and Buddy Guy are all very deserving candidates.  Nonperformers (super-agent Frank Barcelona & Sire Record co-founder Seymour Stein) aside (hey--still no Tom Dowd or Gamble & Huff?), the sore thumb here is Percy Sledge.  Yes, "When A Man Loves A Woman" and "Take Time to Know Her" are great records, but two classics does not a Hall-of-Famer make (case-in-point - Roger Maris won 2 MVP awards).  I'm not saying that Sledge was not a fine performer in his heyday--he's just not a Hall of Fame calibre artist.  If the RnR HoF wants to induct older (pre-1970) artists who have been overlooked, the list of worthy candidates in front of Percy Sledge is quite a lengthy one.  Here's a partial list of pre-1970 candidates MORE qualified for the Rock Hall than Percy Sledge:

The Clovers
Jesse Belvin
Chuck Willis
The "5" Royales
Dick Dale
Billy Ward & the Dominoes
Brook Benton
Paul Revere & the Raiders
The Crystals
Darlene Love
Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels
Connie Francis
Link Wray
Leslie Gore
Cliff Richard
Gary "U.S." Bonds
and...
The Moody Blues--who are never getting in because Jon Landau and Seymour Stein HATE them.

Lynyrd Skynyrd was passed over again--the constant touring with a shadow of the once-great band probably hurts them.  Waving around the Confederate battle flag in 2004 (come on, guys!) probably does, too.  Musically, the group (pre-plane crash) is more than worthy.

The Sex Pistols won't be inducted until John Lydon dies or is at least comatose (last time saw him on TV he seemed perfectly healthy).  It's the Frank Zappa principle--the Hall won't risk inducting someone who will show up and ridicule their entire existence.

Finally started reading "When Presidents Lie"--so far, it's compelling.  I will send more comments after I finish.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive

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