Sept. 30, 2005 | 12:51 PM ET| Permalink

I’ve got a new Think Again column, here, called “The Buck Stops Where?”

What was Judy hiding?  I am going to be nice to Arianna no matter what.  Just look what she can do to you, if she gets the notion…  She’s got Russ Feingold’s speech too, here.

This is True: Galloway is a gift to the Hitchens/Sullivan/Rove McCarthyites.

Peter Jennings left $50 million to his family, here.  I submit to you that is one extremely big problem with American journalism today…

Quote of the Day, Jon Stewart: 

“Time magazine has been a tradition in America," Stewart said to Kelly. "(Yet) one federal prosecutor asks for some documents, everyone pulls their underwear over their heads and you turn them over.  And not only that—Newsweek breaks the story.  Jim, what the f**k?”
Here.

Someone we hardly even know, writes, here.

Alter-reviews:  Maude Maggart and “Just Say Sire”

Mom and I went back to the Oak Room at the Algonguin last night for a repeat performance by Maude Maggart, this time doing a show entirely based on Irving Berlin.  I suppose the cabaret world knows all about her, but I don’t really know anybody in the cabaret world, and so she feels like a real discovery to me.  Young, smart, sexy, sultry, and with more talent than she has yet figured out how to control, I’m at a loss to measure her potential as she continues to grow.  The show was based on early Berlin, with only a few of the best-known standards thrown in, and like those of her mentor Andrea Marcovicci—who lent her a dress this time, but not the diamonds--it was a history lesson as well as a performance, a sure way to get this reviewer to fall in love, however, briefly.  She comes from a Broadway family and her sister is, um, Fiona Apple, but I prefer just the hint of nuttiness that Maggart communicates to her sister’s larger (albeit successful) investment in it.  Check out the Berlin CD.  You’re a bad person if you don’t like it.  And go see her if you get the chance.

My friends at Rhino have put out a 3 CD/1 DVD box dedicated to Sire Records.  Most record-company-themed box sets make no sense, unless they represent a single sensibility, like Normant Grantz or Ahmet Ertegun.  To tell you the truth, I don’t know enough about Sire to tell you whether this set can claim genuine coherence.  I’m not seeing, for instance, much connection between Madonna, the Pretenders, and the English Beat.  What I am seeing however, is an extremely useful collection of hard to find songs.  One of them, "Ca Plane Pour Moi,” by Plastic Bertrand, is, like, the greatest thing in the world, and I’ve never seen it anywhere except in the good old days of Napster.  What draws most of these songs together is their off-beatness, which also helps to explain their hard-to-findness.  I don’t think you can make a historical argument for this box, just a pleasurable one.  So take a look at the song list, here, and do the calculation yourselves.

(P.S. The DVD has the Madonna "Like a Prayer" video, which is, I think, just about the highest that particular art form ever reached.  "Rock N Roll High School" doesn't suck either.

Slacker Friday

A friend writes:

I realize that defending various crooks, mountebanks, and incompetents has become something of a full time job for Good Solid Conservatives these past couple of weeks, so I'm willing to make some allowance for severe exhaustion brought on by attempts to contort yourself while continuously tap-dancing, but this is dumbassery of such Olympian proportions that it cannot pass unremarked.  I am particularly amused by the sentence, "There is something right-wing about the sort of mentality you have to adopt in order to be a great artist."  Now that is the
kind of precise aesthetic analysis unseen in intellectual circles since the Marx Brothers brilliantly undermined the liberal elitism of il Trovatore.

"Something right-wing"? About a "sort of mentality"? Gosh, Gidget, what an insight.  As a matter of fact, when I play golf, because my hands come through slowly, I fade the ball to starboard.  I guess there is "something right-wing" about the "sort of golf swing" I've adopted.  Face it, gang.  You signed on long ago with the side that thought Bob Dylan was at best a fad and, at worst, a Red.  It's too late to be cool now.  However, if you're going to flounder in the deep end of the pool, your homework assignment for tonight is to write a one-paragraph composition on the following lines:

Obscenity, who really cares?
Propaganda, all is phony.

Discuss.

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to revisit the gas tax.  Consider:

Yes, yes, yes, but Stupid, won't the Dems get creamed if they push this?  I don't know, but I'm convinced that the nation will get creamed if we don't.  Barry is right about China eating our economic seed corn.  The deficit is what lets them do it.  Oil consumption forces us to fight the war on terror with one hand tied behind our backs.  And if global warming really is
behind things like Katrina...  At some point the special interests of both parties are going to have to give way to the national interest.  If our politics won't permit no-brainer decisions that a sane dictatorship could make in an instant, we might as well stop writing and go to a movie.

Name:  Barry Ritholtz
Hometown:
The Big Picture
Hey Doc,
I spend a lot of time discussing Consumer Spending; Its not because I am a shopaholic (although I do know where you can buy alot of cool stuff at good prices, as well as find decent eats).  I track this stuff 'cause the consumer is responsible for 70% of all the economic activity in the in the United States.

Therefore, if you want to have a clue about how the economy might be doing next year, you have to understand more than a few things about the U.S. Consumer.  We most recently visited this issue in " Shopped Out?"

Here are all the details:

Consumer Spending, Personal Income, Credit Card "Issues"

In my book, there are 5 key elements to watch:

The idea is to have 5 quantifiable elements -- objective and measurable -- to guide our expectations for what is likely to happen next year.  (No, there are no guarantees -- just higher and lower probability events).

Over the past 24 months, all five of these elements are in the process of decaying.

I had said a few months ago -- long before Katrina and Rita -- that the potential for a recession was increasing.  It's not too hard to imagine the scenarios how this can occur: Interest rates tick up, home refinancing fades, and a big source of spending cash disappears. It's also not too hard to imagine the Fed cutting rates if this scenario comes to pass.  Investors should be aware that Risk levels are on the rise...

Sources:
Past Due Credit-Card Bills Reach Record in U.S.
By DEBORAH LAGOMARSINO
DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
September 29, 2005; Page D2

CREDIT CARD LOAN DELINQUENCIES REACH RECORD HIGH IN SECOND QUARTER 2005
WASHINGTON, Sept. 28

U.S. August Personal Spending Falls 0.5%; Incomes Drop 0.1%
Carlos Torres
Bloomberg, Sept. 30, 2005

Name: Dan
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
In looking at the Federal Emergency Assistance statement for Louisiana, it mentions all parishes north of US 160 but non south of US 160.  This includes every parish in the New Orleans area plus those in the Mississippi delta.  This has got to be an oversight!  It puts parishes in far western Louisiana which were barely affected by Katrina in emergency mode but the areas that Katrina hit first, the delta, is not included.  Then a second statement ( see here) released Monday, when we knew New Orleans and areas to the southeast were in trouble again fails to mention those parishes.  What's up??

Name: Larry Epke
Hometown: Richton Park, IL
Phillip Davies letter is useful, but this map, courtesy of BobHarris.com is what you want.  Here you can clearly see that the only parishes in Louisiana that were part of the disaster declaration were those that WEREN'T in the path of the hurricane.

Name: Michael Rapoport
Comments:
Eric:
The difference between Pat Moynihan and Abe Rosenthal is that when Moynihan quoted himself quoting himself, he usually had something interesting to say. 

Re Delay, Frist, Limbaugh: Careful, Eric, your irony is showing.  And going back several days, given your comments on "Borking" Roberts, you might be interested in this NY Magazine piece.

Re favorite Dylan songs:  Well, it all depends on the situation and mood you're in, doesn't it?  My default answer would be "Like a Rolling Stone," but when I'm angry at the government, I'm drawn to "Masters of War."  When I think back to seeing Dylan play this summer, in a minor-league baseball park in New Jersey, I remember the stunning version of "Just Like a Woman" he did, and that's my favorite.  When I hear Eric Clapton's incendiary, blues-drenched version of "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," that's at the top of my list.  When ... well, you get the idea.

Name: Molly Schiever
Hometown: Toledo, OH
I think the documentary, while pure bliss for Dylan fans, must have left the Dylan newbies or those who have no clue what all the fuss was about, still confused.  Scorsese, et. al., assume its viewers had a pretty solid knowledge of the period and personalities.  But if you didn't know just who Joan Baez was or what how central she was to the folk movement, you wouldn't have had a clue as to why her pairing with Dylan was so important to him.  Getting the record contract was a personal achievement but without Baez's featuring Bob in her concerts, his fame probably wouldn't have spread much beyond the New York folk circle and record sales might have remained little different than his first album's. 

Many of those interviewed kept referring to the huge "cultural shift" but there was no explanation of what that really meant.  Vietnam hardly existed although the Civil Rights movement was more clearly presented.  But again, if you didn't know much of the period, you wouldn't know why the songs resonated (or who Medgar Evers was).  And the long-term importance of the cultural shift was left unexplored.  Just having Ginsberg say it happened doesn't provide anything concrete for viewers to understand.  We're still fighting over the importance and meaning of the 60s but you wouldn't know how central Dylan was to that battle, which went on long after 1966, from the film.  In contrast, one of those interviewed on Wednesday's PBS show on protest songs succinctly said that Dylan pulled the ideas and passions that folk songs so successfully presented, into the rock world, thus forcing that world and the U.S. to confront those very passions any time they turned on the radio.  What's the connection between what happened to him in 1960-66 and 1966-2005?  That he returned to touring 8 years later was briefly noted, but it was as if the next 39 years were/are blank.  If all you knew about Dylan before was "Like a Rolling Stone," that's about all you probably know today.  But the film did go a long way to dispel the canard that he can't sing.  For me, the most incredible moment came in the brief scene where Bob sees two signs on a building, reads the words and then starts dancing to an ecstatic, unbelievable riff on the words.  That's the pure genius of the man.  Scorsese made a beautiful film that was long on loving details and very short on important information that might have opened up the entire world of Dylan, which continued to develop way beyond 1966, to those who had no idea of what's actually in there.

Name: Bill Strachan
Hometown: Enfield, CT
Scorsese's documentary did only one thing for me - brought me back to Freabody Park in Newport, RI in 1963.  I remember seeing Dylan there then and his duet with Baez.  Magic!  I was a busboy at the Viking Hotel back then, my first job, and served Dylan/Baez & company their water, rolls & butter - shaking all the time!  When Dylan performed "Chimes of Freedom" you could have heard the proverbial pin drop.  I don't think anyone in the crowd was even breathing for fear of missing a chord or word!  The rest of it, I agree, I could have done without.  Some noted figures from that time were famously missing.  Maybe there just wasn't enough footage available.  I just wish someone would do one of these for a man and voice I dearly miss - Phil Ochs!

Name: M. George Stevenson
Hometown: Bronx, NY
Dr., Dude!
The Kieslowski Collection is going to be eye-opening for you if you haven't seen the four films beside the "Short Films About..."  "Blind Chance" is the main precursor to "Double Life of Veronique," K's international breakout, and features the incredible Boguslaw Linda; "Camera Buff" -- though the better Polish title is "Amator" is his Wajda-ish comedy drama with the great Jerzy Stuhr (familiar as the older brother figure in "Dekalog 10" and "White"); and "The Scar" features Malgorzata TKoming, the object of desire in "A Short Film About Love." The other great treat you're in for (or have already had) is comparing the "Love" with "Dekalog 6" -- as in "Blind Chance," Kieslowski has too fecund a sense of possibility to let a single situation turn on only one way.  Enjoy, and perhaps pick up the Faber volumes on "Dekalog" and "K on K" -- they are invaluable glosses on the creative soul of the most Renoir-like filmmaker of the second half of the 20th century.

Scenes from a Mixed Marriage By Siva Vaidhyanathan

Our friends watched in horror as Melissa and I leapt from our chairs and barked at each other.  “What does he think he’s doing?  He charged into Pedro!” she cried.  “You can’t throw an old man to the ground,” I responded.  Our voices screeched and cracked as we volleyed our respective incommensurate interpretations of what we had just witnessed.  We didn’t look at each other the rest of the game.

During a brawl between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees in the 2003 American League playoff series the human bowling ball we know as Yankee Bench Coach Don Zimmer, then 72 years-old, charged like a bull, his head (metal plate inside) down, directly at Red Sox ace right-hander Pedro Martinez.  Martinez reached out and shifted Zimmer’s weight just enough to force him to tumble.  Pedro walked away unscathed.  Zimmer climbed back up dazed.

I can look back on the event now and conclude that Zimmer was the aggressor.  But in the heat of that pennant race, which the Yankees naturally won, I was not willing to concede anything.  The Red Sox were cheap and dirty.  Pedro was and remains a headhunter.  In fact, he precipitated the larger melee when he beaned Yankee batter Karim Garcia the previous inning.  While I am willing now to concede Zimmer’s culpability, my wife Melissa has never faced the awful truth that the Red Sox were at fault at large.  They pushed the Yankees to the point where they had to respond.

This week we are revisiting the most trying times in our two-year marriage.  Our lives together have involved heroic last-inning home runs by the likes of Aaron Boone and David Ortiz.  The 2005 season has come down to three games in Boston.  We will watch them together, sitting on opposite ends of the room.  We will try not to carry our frustrations and joys beyond the game itself.  But it won’t be easy.  On this issue, we have incompatible world views and furious passions.

Melissa and I have a wonderful mixed marriage.  We only fight over baseball.  She is a Red Sox fan from birth, raised just outside of Boston.  I am a Yankee fan by conversion.  I happened to move to Manhattan six years ago, having been a free-agent American League baseball fan my whole life.  New York was my first major league town, so I comfortably fit into the confident (she says arrogant) mindset of the Yankee faithful.  After years of suffering too many almost-wins by my childhood allegiances, the Buffalo Bills and Sabres, I deserve to claim for myself the glory of the Yankees.  I’ve earned the glory.  I’ve served my penance.

Melissa can’t understand any of this.  She sees the Yankees as unalloyed evil.  She hates all Yankee fans, except for those of her close acquaintance, which fortunately includes me.  She might allow for some Yankee support among those who were born here and raised by other Yankee fans (although the mere presence of the Mets option undermines much of this allowance).  But it’s beyond her to imagine why someone would choose the Yankees.  It’s a testament to how much she loves me that she is willing to rise above this conundrum.

The part of my conversion that irks Melissa the most is my claim of suffering.  She and all Red Sox fans – until last year, that is – think of themselves as the ultimate martyrs.  Anyone else’s martyrdom threatens their status.  That’s why Red Sox fans deeply wished the Cubs would get it done.  They hate the competition.  Now they also have to listen to Astros, Rangers, Indians, Padres, Brewers, White Sox, and Giants fans complain about their multi-decade championship droughts.  Even this year, unsure how to react to success, Red Sox fans have posed themselves as victims, upstarts, insurgents, vagabonds, and lovable losers.

Buffalo fans, of course, have it far worse than anyone.  We haven’t had major league baseball since the Federal League folded in 1915.  Our Bills won two AFL championships in the 1960s and lost four consecutive Superbowls in the 1990s.  The Sabres made it twice to the NHL finals, only to lose (although the last one, in 1999, was stolen from us by a cheating Dallas Stars team and league officials who would not permit another Rust Belt team to hoist the Stanley Cup).  Our NBA team, the Braves, left in 1978 for San Diego.  Even as the (now Los Angeles) Clippers, the team is the very paradigm of futility.

Melissa and her family have been able to maintain the cognitive dissonance required to brag about their football team’s three Superbowl rings while wallowing in self-pity over their baseball frustration.  Whenever I bring up the remarkable successes of the Bruins or Celtics, I get puzzled looks as if those sports hardly matter.

I love Yankee Stadium.  I consider it a romantic temple because I proposed to Melissa in the upper deck during a Red Sox-Yankee game back in September 2002.  Of course, the Yankees won that game.  Don’t worry.  I choose to whisper the question in her ear during the seventh-inning stretch rather than post it on the Diamond Vision screen.  In contrast, Melissa merely tolerates the House that Ruth Built.  She will only join me there when the Red Sox are in town. She rolls her eyes when we drive by it on the Deegan Expressway and I remind her of my proposal.  When the Sox play there we walk through the stadium clad in matching-yet-contrasting t-shirts and caps, people always remark about the improbability of our union.  When I leave her alone to retrieve concessions, she reports, Yankee fans harass her mercilessly.

Lately her mother has been coming down for those weekends to take my seat.  So I don’t get to experience the rage and ecstasy that most Yankee fans enjoy when they beat the Red Sox.  I always have to play it cool for the sake of the family.  Fortunately, Melissa is neither a sore winner nor loser.  So we both go easy on each other most of the time.  Only at those times when the teams bean and brawls do we let our true natures out.

Last year, I left for Europe when the Yankees went up 3-0 in the American League Championship Series.  I breathed a sigh of relief as I waited for my flight in JFK Airport.  I would miss the fourth and final game and yet another moment of humiliation for the Red Sox.  But at least Melissa would not reflect her frustration on me and I could gloat without guilt out of her sight.  It did not turn out that way, of course.  Every day that next week I would log on to read the story of the previous night’s collapse.  By the time I returned, the Yankees were done and the Red Sox stunned by their own success.  I very discreetly cheered for the Cardinals to win the World Series.  But I knew that the Sox had quenched any deep sense of institutional inferiority. They had quashed the curse.

Last fall, I hugged her as she cried for joy, unable to believe the triumphal feeling she had hoped for her whole life but never really expected. I was sincerely happy that she could be that happy. But this year, with the race for the American League East knotted up and the loser likely to miss the playoffs entirely, it could not be more tense around here. I am certain that the Red Sox will have to endure another 86-year exile from the Promised Land.

Oh, and we have decided to raise the children as Red Sox fans. We figure they will have every other advantage in life. We don’t want them to be too happy.

Sept. 29, 2005 | 11:27 AM ET| Permalink

Altercation Abe Rosenthal* Special

Talking about myself talking about myself talking about Arianna not talking with Nora Ephron and e-mailing with Arianna about Nora Ephron blogging about blogging…

Plus: The Altercation book club

Dear Diary:  The other night at a book party at the Council on Foreign Relations, Nora Ephron asked me if I was planning to go to Ken Auletta’s New Yorker breakfast on Wednesday morning about blogging, and I’m like, “Duh, no, the morning is the only time I can write, and I’m like supposed to see Arianna, who was the only person I remember being on the panel besides Ken, that night.”  So Nora is like, “Well, she’s not coming,” she has to stay in Brentwood, and I’m like, “Oh, that’s too bad,” 'cause I had organized the dinner she now wasn’t going to make, also, and she’s like famous and smart, and is the life of any party she attends… But then I wonder, like, “How is it possible that I can be too busy to go this breakfast, with really nothing to do that morning except drop the kid off at school, which means I’m already out of the house, but Ms-Famous-and-Fabulously-Rich-Hollywood Director is going to wake up to schlep there?”  But I’m also, like, too polite to ask, and I have to leave the party to go see the Forward’s J.J. Goldberg interview Rick Hertzberg at the 92 street Y about whether he is now or has ever been a Jew.  (Way to go by the way, dude, telling a room full of adoring alter kackers—the future name of this blog, by the way--that you hate the Passover Seder and that “slavery in Egypt wasn’t so bad.”)  Well, anyhow, last night after this Arianna-less dinner, I get home to this e-mail from her telling me to check out Nora’s, like, totally excellent blog item about the breakfast, and I’m like, Omigod, Arianna got Nora to get up in the morning and schlep to this breakfast to report on it for her and, like, Arianna’s not even there, and so I am really like, whoa, I’m not getting this at all, except the blog item, here, is, like, really funny and smart as if the woman who wrote and directed all those wonderful movies had written a blog item, or something….

Oh wait.  Anyhow, if anyone wants this blogger to write and direct a movie, or even live in Arianna’s house in Brentwood and just blog from there, we could like, trade places.  I kinda think the MSNBC guys would go for it too, but of course, I won’t quote them or anything, cuz um, that would be a phone call and this is a blog…

* Abe Rosenthal, for you younguns, was the Times’ former Executive Editor, who, after being put out to pasture as a pundit, achieved the hitherto unimagined pundit feat of quoting himself, quoting himself.  (I could also have paid tribute to Pat Moynihan on this score, but I think it’s probably not that uncommon among politicians…)

Quote of the Day, Bill Bennett:

I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.  That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.  So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.
Here

Here is Joe Galloway on the torture investigation or lack thereof.  Read it. 

And for you Republicans who can’t get dates, here.

Altercation Book Club

The End of Neoliberalism?
By David Harvey, from A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford University Press.
(Harvey is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York)

The internal economic and political contradictions of neoliberalization are impossible to contain except through financial crises.  So far these have proven locally damaging but globally manageable.  The manageability depends, of course, upon departing substantially from neoliberal theory.  The mere fact that the two main powerhouses of the global economy—the US and China—are deficit financing up to the hilt is, surely, a compelling sign that neoliberalism is in trouble if not actually dead as a viable theoretical guide to ensuring the future of capital accumulation. This will not prevent it from continuing to be deployed as a rhetoric to sustain the restoration/creation of elite class power.  But when income and wealth inequalities reach a point—as they have today—close to that which preceded the crash of 1929, then the economic imbalances become so chronic as to be in danger of generating a structural crisis.  Unfortunately, regimes of accumulation rarely if ever dissolve peacefully.  Embedded liberalism arose out of the ashes of the Second World War and the Great Depression.  Neoliberalization was born in the midst of the 1970s crisis of accumulation, emerging from the womb of a played-out embedded liberalism with enough violence to support Karl Marx's observation that violence is invariably the midwife of history.  The authoritarian option of neoconservatism is now emerging in the US.  The violent assault upon Iraq abroad and incarceration policies at home signal a new-found determination on the part of the US ruling elite to redefine the global and domestic order to its own advantage.  It therefore behooves us to consider very carefully whether and how a crisis of neoliberal regime might unfold.

The financial crises that have so frequently preceded the predatory raiding of whole state economics by superior financial powers have usually been characterized by chronic economic imbalances.  The typical signs are soaring and uncontrollable internal budgetary deficits, a balance of payments crisis, rapid currency  depreciation, unstable valuations of internal assets (for example in property and financial markets), rising inflation, rising unemployment with falling wages, and capital flight.  Of these seven main indicators the US now has the distinction of scoring high on the first three and there are serious concerns with respect to the fourth.  The current 'jobless recovery' and stagnant wages suggest incipient problems with the sixth.  Such a mix of indicators elsewhere would almost certainly have necessitated IMF intervention (and IMF economists are on record, as are both former and current Federal Reserve chairs Volcker and Greenspan, complaining that the economic imbalances within the US are threatening global stability).  But since the US dominates the IMF this means nothing more than that the US should discipline itself, and that appears unlikely.  The big questions are: will global markets do the disciplining (as according to neoliberal theory they should), and if so how and with what effects?

It is unthinkable but not impossible that the US will become like Argentina in 2001 overnight.  The consequences would, however, be catastrophic not only internally but also for global capitalism.  Since almost everyone who constitutes the capitalist class and its global managers everywhere is well aware of this fact, the rest of the world is currently willing (in some cases reluctantly) to continue to support the US economy with sufficient credits to sustain its profligate ways.  Private capital flows into the US have, however, seriously diminished (except to buy up relatively cheap assets given the fall in value of the dollar) and so it is the world's central bankers—particularly in Japan and China—that now increasingly own America Inc.  For them to withdraw support from the US would be devastating for their own economies since the US is still a major market for their exports.  But there is a limit to which  this system can progress.  Already nearly one-third of stock assets on Wall Street and nearly half of US Treasury bonds are owned by foreigners, and the dividends and interest flowing out to foreign owners are now roughly equivalent to, if not more than, the tribute that US corporations and financial operations are extracting from abroad.  This balance of benefits will turn more strongly negative the more the US borrows, and it is now borrowing abroad at a rate approaching $2 billion per day.  Furthermore, if US interest rates rise (as at some point they must) then what happened to Mexico after the Volcker interest rate increase in 1979 starts to loom as a real problem.  The US will soon be paying out far more to service its debt to the rest of the world than it brings in.  This extraction of wealth from the US will not be welcome domestically.  The perpetual increases in debt-financed consumerism that have been the foundation of social peace in the US since 1945 would have to stop.

The imbalances seem not to trouble the Bush administration, judging by the cavalier statements to the effect that the current account deficit, if it is a problem, can easily be dealt with by people buying US-made goods (as if such goods are readily available and cheap enough and as if nominally US-made goods do not have a high foreign-input component).  If this really happened then Wal-Mart would be put out of business.  The budget deficit, Bush says, can easily be dealt with without raising taxes by curbing domestic programmes (as if there are any large discretionary programmes left to dismantle).  Vice-President Cheney's remark that 'Reagan taught us that budget deficits do not matter' is alarming, because what Reagan also taught is that running up deficits is a way to force retrenchment in public expenditures and that attacking the standard of living of the mass of the population while feathering the turmoil and crisis.  If, furthermore, we ask the general question, 'Who has actually benefited from the numerous financial crises that have cascaded from one country to another in wave after wave of catastrophic deflations, inflations, capital flights and structural adjustments since the late 1970s?', the commitment of the current US administration to fending off a fiscal crisis in spite of all the warning signs becomes more readily understandable.  In the wake of a financial crash, the ruling elite may hope to emerge even more empowered than before.

It may be that the US economy can finesse the current imbalances (much as it did after 1945) and grow its own way out of its self-inflicted problems.  There are some weak signs that point in that direction.  Current policy, however, seems to be based at best on the Micawber principle that something good is bound to turn up.  Leaders of many US corporations, after all, managed to live in their own fantasy world before seemingly invulnerable entities like Enron came crashing down.  This could also be the fate of America Inc., and the fantasy-like statements from the current leadership ought to trouble everyone who has the interests of the country at heart.  It could also be that the US ruling elite calculates it can survive a global fiscal crisis in good shape and use it to complete its agenda of total domestic domination.  But such a calculation could turn out to be a monumental error.  The result may be to hasten the transfer of hegemony to some other regional economy (most probably based in Asia) while undercutting the ruling elite's capacity to dominate both internally and externally.

The most immediate question concerns what sort of crisis might serve the US best in resolving its own situation, for  that choice is indeed within the realm of policy options.  In presenting these options it is important to recall that the US has not been immune to financial difficulties over the last twenty years.  The stock market crash of 1987 deleted nearly 30 per cent of asset values, and at the trough of the crash that followed the bursting of the new economy bubble in the late 1990s more that $8 trillion in paper assets was lost, before the recovery to former levels...

For More go here.

Alter-reviews:

Really, these DVD box sets are a terrific invention.  I have long been fan, for many decades of the films of both Lina Wertmuller and Krzysztof Kieslowksi, but you know, even living the cool places where I’ve lived, it hasn’t been easy to see some of them, and what’s more, I want to see them over and over, as art evokes different effects on you as you grow older.  Anna Karenina was the best book I ever read in my twenties, but I imagine it will be even  better in my fifties.  Anyway Koch Lober has released six discs of films of the best of Wertmuller and Kino Video follows up its terrific Claude Chabrol box with a box set of early Kieslowksi, not Red, White, Blue or the Decalogue, but “A Short Film about Killing” and “A Short Film About Love,” and four others with which I’m not familiar.  (The link is here.)  The Wertmuller box is here and includes the classic “Seven Beauties,” “Swept Away,” and a bunch of other ones to which I am looking forward.  Both packages are quite handsome too.

Also on a (relatively) high-brow note, I did not follow the Tom Hanks/HBO thing, “From the Earth to the Moon” when it was on, but everything I’ve heard about it tells me it’s worth the investment of time to do the new Signature Edition.  It’s also really nicely done, here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Phillip Davies
Hometown: Lafayette Hill, PA
Dear Doc,
As the father of a Tulane student whose family got out of New Orleans the day before Katrina hit, I watched and read everything about Hurricane Katrina.  However, I missed this one until today and it's a whopper.  When President Bush declared a state of emergency for the state of Louisiana, he did not include Orleans parish, which basically means he did not include New Orleans.  You read that right, Bush did NOT include Orleans parish, even though the hurricane was coming that way.  This by itself is a reason to impeach Bush.  See this link.  When Mike Brown was brought back as a consultant for FEMA, I wondered why Bush would take this risk.  Now it is obvious that it was even more of a risk to have Brown speaking out against the White House.  We definitely need an independent investigation on the government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

Name: Robert Earle
Hometown: Torrance, CA
Some discussion the last few days of 'favorite Dylan songs': This past summer, using the facilities of Rhasody, Kazaa, and my own CDs, I put together a couple CDs of cover versions of Dylan songs. So my version of the question is "what is your favorite cover of a Dylan song?"  I'm not sure what my answer is, but you simply can't have the discussion without giving a big nod to Kenny Wayne Sheppard's "Everything Is Broken."  What's yours?

Eric replies:  I am the only one invited to play here, but my favorite I think is Lucinda Williams’ version of “Positively 4th Street,” which you can only find on the Vin Scelsa collection, In Their Own Write.  There’s also a band from England that did a wonderful job on “Like a Rolling Stone,” on an acoustic album called “Stripped.”  I forget their name, but I think they’re going places, if that lead singer, Mick Something, could just sit still and sing…

Name: Barb Goldstein
Hometown: Albany, NY
Maybe I'm the only one, but I thought Scorsese did a really awful job with the Dylan bio.  Not enough music.  Too many talking heads.  And where was the rest of the folk world, really?  And the music world?  Not enough connection to the greater society, and basically a disjointed pile of stuff.  A great 'period piece' that resonates with people who remember the days should make the viewer feel like they were back there then.  This piece of pap did none of those things.  I felt like I had stepped outside and was watching a bio of someone I didn't remember.  Bring back Ken Burns.

Sept. 28, 2005 | 2:54 PM ET| Permalink

I think everyone who reads this blog can join me in expressing sadness over the course events that may rob the nation of the moral leadership and visionary intelligence of a leader of the caliber of Tom Delay .  Without the Tominator at the helm of the Republican Party, who will use the Department of Homeland Security to hunt down Texas Democrats?  Or Bill Frist?  Without the moral leadership and visionary intelligence of a leader of the caliber of Dr./Mr./Leader Frist, who will do all the necessary diagnoses of brain-dead women by videophone... and the people who’ve contracted AIDS from kissing… to say nothing of all the cats needing killing?  And what if we lose Rush Limbaugh?  Who will prowl the nation’s parking lots looking for fix, while at the same time terming Jerry Garcia to be “nothing more than a dead doper?”  Sad, sad, sad.

Media Matters has more here.

I participated in a liberal blogger conference call with Harry Reid yesterday, and the issue of why are the Democrats being so nice to Frist anyway.  (We didn’t know about Delay yet.)  Reid granted the fact that he is being a lot nicer to Frist than would be likely were their roles reversed but that’s just the way it is.  I’ll let that speak for itself, at least for now.  A big part of the reason for the conference call was to launch this new Web site as well as to improve, um, messaging.  I was a little nervous about participating because there are some bloggers who see themselves as liberal/Democratic activists and others, like moi, who feel no responsibility whatever to anything but what they see to be the truth.  Much of the time, in a presidency like this corrupt, dishonest, incompetent and ideologically obsessed one, those are not in conflict, but it matters anyway.  That said, I started it off and I was kinda tough on the guy.  I began with a (respectfully stated) criticism of the way Reid framed his decision to vote against John Roberts as a response to the civil rights and women’s groups’ objections to him, as if it were a conservative Republican idea of the way liberal Democrats do things. Reid denied having done so, and spoke critically of the press coverage of the party and its leadership.  He then went on to frame his objection to Roberts in terms of the White House’s refusal to provide the Democrats with the documentation on Roberts they demanded.  I continued to press the point, however, because I think the party needs to frame its big issues in terms of the ideological extremism of the Republicans, rather than inside-the-beltway stuff like document provisions.  Reid spoke of efforts to craft a simple, punchy message for 2006 and beyond, noting that the Contract for America was not “written on the back of a napkin,” but was crafted and tested over a long period of time.  He also noted that the Republicans were providing them with more than enough material for a negative campaign, and promised to work an outside game for an independent commission on the Katrina catastrophe and the Bush administration whitewashing of it, similar to what took place for the 9/11 commission.  He also spoke of his admiration for Russ Feingold and the brave and forthright position he had taken on the war.  He promised a “stronger” Democratic position on the war, but did not elaborate and was not asked to.

Maybe I am being suckered but I am totally down with this guy and see his potential as limitless.

The 30th Anniversary edition of “Born to Run” is, like, Omigod, here.  And yeah, there’s that Nation thing again here.

Too hot for CNN, here.

"Boston Legal” would have been great even without my old high school friend Ron Ostrow in it but it sure was great.

Yes, I do think you people are stupid…  Quote of the Day, Fred Barnes: “Finally, there's the media, more aptly called the Republican-hating media.  We've already seen what they are willing to do to protect Hillary Clinton.  They trashed a perfectly respectable, though highly critical, biography of Hillary by veteran newsman Ed Klein.  It got so bad that conservatives, too, began attacking his book.  If this is happening in 2005, imagine what lengths the press will be willing to go to in 2008 on Hillary's, or another Democrat's, behalf.”

Alter-reviews:

“No Direction Home,” by Eli Lehrer

Perhaps the most anti-climactic movie viewing experience I've ever had was watching a bootleg copy of Eat the Document, Bob Dylan's film of his 1966 tour of England.  What could have been an even better sequel to Don't Look Back, with Dylan ever closer to the ledge and playing majestic rock and roll with The Hawks, was a disjointed, aggressively unwatchable mess.  Dylan took footage from what is likely the greatest series of performances in rock in roll history and, in a fairly impressive achievement, managed to edit it into a 40 minute movie that is almost impossible to get through - songs are broken up, verite scenes are either staged or pointless and nothing holds together.  The whole production is painful to watch.

Which is why the DVD of Martin Scorsese's recent documentary about Bob Dylan's early years, No Direction Home, is such a godsend.

Although it has some interesting footage from and insights into Dylan's folk years, the movie really takes off when Dylan leaves behind topical songwriting and, soon after, plugs in.  The heart of the film is the footage that was shot for Eat the Document on that 1966 tour and then either butchered or completely ignored by Dylan when he went in to "edit" the film.  Now, it finally sees the light of day, and it manages to be even greater than imagined.  From the performance of Like a Rolling Stone that opens the film to the infamous "Judas" performance of the same song that closes it, virtually everything Scorsese uses from the tour is gold.  This is the Dylan (alongside his 22 year-old self singing Blowin in the Wind) that is locked in the popular consciousness, and it's refreshing to be reminded that he really was as revolutionary and remarkable as the hype.  It also a reminder of how contrarian he can be - his own in 1967 took footage that was almost perfect and purposely destroyed it.

Beyond the documentary, which you hopefully already watched on PBS, the DVD offers 8 uncut performances, three of which are from that 1966 tour (Like a Rolling Stone, One Too Many Mornings, a rehearsal of the unreleased I Can't Leave Her Behind).  It also has a complete performance of Love Minus Zero/No Limit from 1965, which is clearly the companion piece to Dylan's disemboweling of Donovan in Don’t Look Back.  It's all footage that most Dylan fans had given up ever seeing, at least in good shape, and the simple pleasure of seeing Dylan and The Hawks blast-off in surround sound cannot be over-stated.  These are some of the greatest performances of some of the greatest songs in popular music, and to hear them in pristine sound, synced to stunning visuals, is more than enough to forgive the $25 I wasted on that bootleg a few years ago.  If you don't like the 1966 Bob Dylan that is at the center of this film, then you probably don't like rock and roll.

From Sal:  Just a reminder to come on down for NYCD's biggest in-store performance yet!  THE POSIES will be playing here THIS THURSDAY (SEPT. 29) AT 7 PM -- songs from their latest album, "EVERY KIND OF LIGHT," old favorites, sea chanteys... you name it, they'll play it.  It's FREE and it's after work, so check out one of our favorite bands of the last 20 years!

For those of you who already love the Posies, we'll see you here!  (173 WEST 81 ST., BETWEEN AMSTERDAM & COLUMBUS AVES.)

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Jay Kolb
Hometown: Seattle, WA
Dear Eric,
Long time reader, first time writer.  Maybe it's because the rain has started here in Seattle, but Ray Wetmore's comments from across the Sound irritated the hell out of me.  I'll let you respond, if you care to, to his complaints about the semantics of your Cindy Sheehan comments.  What irked me is his attitude about those in uniform deserving just as much, if not more respect.  What's it gonna take before people like Ray feel they aren't being dissed?  Do we all need to bow down before them and kiss their feet?  I can respect you and the service you are giving, but you aren't better than the rest of us because of it and don't automatically deserve anymore respect than any other living human being.  And as for fighting for Cindy's right to protest the war in Iraq - huh?!?  Who exactly is the military currently fighting that has even remotely threatened American's right to free speech?  Our basic rights such as free speech are mostly threatened from within, often by people claiming to be fighting for them.  And by that measure I would argue that people like Cindy Sheehan and any ACLU lawyer are also fighting for the right to free speech.  Don't they also deserve our respect?  Have we become such a militaristic society that the greatest way to serve your nation is to "fight"?  There are so many other things one can do as well that never even get discussed, let alone respected.

Name: Jim Mohoney
Hometown: New Providence, NJ
Ray Wetmore wrote to you about Cindy Sheehan: "Just as I am fighting for her right to protest the war in Iraq, I am also fighting for my right to tell her she's had her 15 minutes and it's time to get off the soapbox."  I think Mr. Wetmore misunderstands the concept of free speech rights.  He has the right to voice his disagreement with Mrs. Sheehan.  But he has no right to tell her she can't continue to exercise her right to speak out.  The point is that no one controls who gets to be on the "soapbox."  Unfortunately, this is a point that's often lost on people who believe fervently in their right to spout off but who adopt the Bill O'Reilly philosophy of debate when faced with opposing views: "Shut up."  Nor have I heard Mrs. Sheehan claim to speak for Mr. Wetmore or anyone else for that matter.  And, while I agree with much of what she says, she doesn't "speak for" me.  But I sure am glad she's speaking for herself.

Name: R.T.Tihista
Hometown: Sisters, OR
In disparaging Cindy Sheehan, Mr. Wetmore makes the observation that he is fighting in Iraq to "protect Ms. Sheehan's right to protest."  If he truly believes Iraq posed a "threat" to our freedoms, then I suppose this misbegotten belief system helps sustain him in his mission.  It is however, pure nonsense.  Or perhaps BS is a better term since so many war supporters use this faulty rationalization to justify an unjust, unnecessary, pointless, futile and disgraceful war.

Name: Ginny
Hometown: Mentor, Ohio
In response to Ray Wetmore of Kingston, WA, I first want to sincerely say "thank you" from the bottom of my heart to ALL those brave men and women in uniform who are serving with honor, as their country has asked them to do.  However, you would be surprised by how many of your "comrades in uniform" and their supportive parents thank Cindy Sheehan for bringing attention to the lies the Bush administration told to get support for the invasion of Iraq.  Just because we do not agree with or can ever support Mr. Bush, we can still wholeheartedly support the troops.  I am so tired of being told that I cannot do one without the other.  Mr. Bush must be held accountable for manipulating the facts as well as Americans' emotions in the aftermath of 9/11 to advance the war in Iraq.  I am not some sort of peacenik - I supported Afghanistan - but I cannot support Mr. Bush and the way he went about going to Iraq.  I don't know what the answer is with regard to getting our troops home from Iraq, but that doesn't minimize the fact that our president lied to us about the rationale for being there in the first place.  Again, this in no way diminishes the support and respect I have for the troops - my son (National Guard) served almost three years active duty, and I'm very proud of him for it.  But I reiterate that Mr. Bush must be held accountable.

Name: Mark Sherry
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Ah, Visions of Johanna.  Steven, you've got some good ears.  One of the thoughts I couldn't escape as I watched "No Direction Home" last night on PBS was how much I wished Jerry Garcia could have been interviewed.  One of the best things that ever happened to Dylan was his kinship with the Dead.  Dylan had a huge influence on, well everybody who ever thought about writing something, but the Dead, much like the Beatles, were transformed in 1965.  Jerry helped pull Bob out of his notorious late '80s funk, reminding him of his importance.  And his relevance.  One of my great memories is Jerry singing Visions of Johanna at the Oakland Coliseum during one of those legendary (and ridiculously fun) Mardi Gras runs.  There was such a love for Jerry, as you might know, so when he paid homage to the Master, there was an audible hush in the audience.  It was a beautiful place to be.  I'm reading Chronicles right now (finally - Eric, thanks for the shove a few weeks ago!) and it's surely one of the best autobiographies I've ever read.  Kind of like the awe I felt when I read Woodie Guthrie's "Bound for Glory."  "Chronicles" is so lyrical; I can hear that voice speaking the words.  It makes me miss my beloved NYC in a subtle, not sentimental, way.  And you are correct sir...Blonde on Blonde is incomparable.  My favorite Dylan tune?  I would have to drink about it.

Eric replies: Rhino is about to release a “Jerry does Dylan” best of, which looks wonderful, by the way…

Name: Bruce Kuznicki
Hometown: Alta Loma, CA
Is it really right to call the characterization of the people in New Orleans as criminal hordes the "media's plan?"  I remember hearing a lot of those reports from the people who were there, and it's a little hard to understand how the media was supposed to confirm or disprove them.  Besides, the media also reported on lots of people who supposedly died because of heat, lack of medication, or proper care, and it seems reports like those were also exaggerated-- and exaggerated to hurt whoever it was the public was going to decide was at fault for not bringing care quickly enough.  I'll tell you something I remember-- I remember looking at the TV rather dumbfounded when on the first or second day of the hurricane I already saw people looting.  Out here in California, relief rallies had already begun, and the image of people having started looting so quickly really took me aback.  I imagine that others had the same reaction, and maybe after that, it got easy to believe the more dramatic stories being reported, too.

Name: Barry Ritholtz
Hometown:  The Big Picture

How to Destroy the US Economy in 1 Easy Step

Hey Doc,
The fastest way to economic destruction is the debasement of the engine of growth.  In this country, that's Science and Technology.

The godless central planning communists in China must be laughing their arses off at the attempts here in the U.S. to introduce non-science into the scientific curricula in the United States.  This is a sure path to economic ruin.

In the marketplace of ideas, the strongest arguments should (theoretically) triumph.  Therefore, to help dispel the self destructive campaign of dumbing down our scientific future, here is the Index to Creationist Claims.

It's an incredibly detailed point by point refutation of all the failings, false statements and inaccuracies of the personal religious belief system of Creationism and Intelligent Design.

Sept. 27, 2005 | 11:50 AM ET| Permalink

Name: Major Bob Bateman
Dateline: Baghdad, Iraq

Moral Courage Above and Beyond

My connection to life at home is tenuous.  It flows from here, on this base in the middle of Baghdad, over wires and through the ether, beyond the stratosphere and then back down to the Earth more than 6,000 miles away.  For all that, my connection with my fiancée is constantly reinforced.  Sure, we write the mushy stuff and the mundane, but we are who we are, and so some of our discussions, even now, wrestle with somewhat larger issues.

Right now she is worried about me.  On Sunday I forwarded an article to her and some of my friends.  I included the commentary below.  The title of the article was, “Officer's Road Led Him Outside Army,” and it is the story of how one young West Point trained Captain decided that the system was not working, and eventually went outside of official Army channels to bring attention to new allegations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners which took place in 2003 and into the beginning of 2004.  (The article is here.)

This is what I wrote:

Articles such as this one are, obviously, very painful.  It hurts when I read something like this, because I love my nation, my Army.  I believe in both, and this [both the actions, and the reporting of the actions] quite obviously hurts them in an immediate, albeit shallow, way.

But on another level, a more fundamental level, this is a story that demonstrates how good, true, and honorable are my nation and my Army, at the core.

War is an abomination. I happen to fall into the camp which believes that it is sometimes a necessary abomination, but that does not remove the first element. Because, however,  I have no blinders about war, because I have some understanding of what is unleashed when men go to war, reports of bad things, such as that below do not surprise me. But how they are revealed in the American Army is almost unique in history.

This story is as much about the success of my Army, in creating good men and true, as it is about the abominations that occur in war.  That we, as an institution, contain elements that led to the first event (the abuse), is not just not unique, it is more like the norm in the history of warfare.  That we, as an institution, contain elements that do whatever it takes to make the institution adhere to its own stated values, well that is unique.

I received the following e-mail from my Love this morning:

…I am troubled by the extent to which you seem to express American exceptionalism.  Now don't get me wrong - I am not an America-basher (maybe I was, naively, at one time).  But you hold up an example of "us" bringing to light these abuses, in which so much of the burden rests humiliatingly (for America) on the shoulders of one courageous soul.  One seeker of truth, who is helped by various people outside your Army's hierarchical chain of command (and precious few within it), and yet your e-mail seems to crown the entire institution with a garland, as if the entire institution were at the core, a seeker of truth, courageous, speaking truth to power, etc.

Forgive me if I am being too cynical, but I believe the Army is only as good as the individuals that make it up.  As with any institution - indeed any group of human beings.  I think you'd agree.  I know you believe the men and woman of our Army are the finest to have ever walked the earth as soldiers (I do not say that with sarcasm)...  yet this belief brings us to the question:

Is it the individual natures of those men and women that make them the most humane (might we say?) Armed Force ever?  Or is it the laws, guidelines, institutional infrastructure and ways of enforcing ethics that make them what they are?

[In other words] Are these men and women more advanced human beings than those that committed the atrocities [our mutual friend] speaks of in the Civil War?  Or is the institution better at containing the baser qualities of human nature that show themselves in war?”

I am not sure what the answer is; Which is part of why I am in love with this woman.

BAGHDAD WITHIN EARSHOT:

My daughter Ryann had her first two games.  I await anxiously her report.  My daughter Morgan seems excited about High School, in this, her freshman year.  Connor, the youngest writes to me the most often of late, tying my heart ‘round her finger with her perpetual kindness.

My love is busy with school herself, studying Hindi of late, which is something for which I haven’t the courage.

And I am here, listening to the drumbeat.  But January is on the horizon now.  I cannot see it well, but I can see its outline.

In other news, a few minutes ago and twenty miles south of here:

BAGHDAD, Sept 26 (Agence France Presse) - Masked gunmen dressed as police executed five Iraqi teachers and a driver at a school south of Baghdad Monday, police said.

The 10 gunmen dragged the teachers -- all of them Shiites -- from their classrooms at the primary school in Muwalha, near Iskandariyah, 60 kilometres (37 miles) south of the capital, took them to an empty classroom and shot them, police in nearby Hilla said.

The region surrounding Muwalha is known as the "triangle of death" because of the large number of kidnappings and murders there.

Al-Qaeda's frontman in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has declared all-out war on the country's majority Shiite population and there are fears of a surge in violence in the run-up to the October 15 referendum on the new constitution.

You can write to Major Bob at Bateman_Maj@hotmail.com.

The Rovian strategy in a nutshell; let the poor and sick folk drown and die; If they make it, screw them with new bankruptcy laws, here.  And here’s the media plan: Make the poor people look like raging criminals, here and here.

“Halpern and her husband, Fred, have for years been financial supporters of Republican candidates, including President Bush and Republican Sens. Trent Lott (Miss.), Sam Brownback (Kan.), Conrad Burns (Mont.) and Christopher Bond (Mo.).  Mother Jones magazine ranked the Halperns among the nation's top 100 "hard" money donors (contributions made directly to candidates, not party organizations) during the 2004 election cycle, estimating their contributions at $81,800.” I expect politicians to behave hypocritically, but ruhhly, these people are too much.

We’re the Times, and we don't apologize.  (The problem, once again, is not bias; it's arrogance.)

Just imagine Peggy Noonan in a wet-suit with a spear, here.

Quotes of the Day:

On their day off people would show up all the time.  Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your frustration you show up at the PUC tent.1  In a way it was sport.  The cooks were all U.S. soldiers.  One day [a sergeant] shows up and tells a PUC to grab a pole.  He told him to bend over and broke the guy’s leg with a mini Louisville Slugger, a metal bat.  He was the fu**ing cook.  He shouldn’t be in with no PUCs. 
— 82nd Airborne sergeant, describing events at FOB Mercury, Iraq

"We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs and stomach, and pull them down, kick dirt on them," one sergeant told Human Rights Watch researchers during one of four interviews in July and August.  "This happened every day."

More here.

Alter reviews:

Concord records is all excited about signing John Fogerty, here, which they should be, because he’s just about the greatest there ever was.  (No letters please, and no whiney, self-pitying blogosphere language cops; that “just about” covers a great deal of ground.)  I’ll get more excited about it, however, when Fogerty commits himself to some really serious new material.

In the meantime, I’m excited about al the classic jazz they are cleaning up and re-releasing in 20 bit remastering series based on the old Riverside catalogue.  Mainly produced by Orrin Keepnews.  The highlight for serious students is probably Bill Evans, The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961 with Scott LaFaro, and Paul Motian, in three beautifully packaged CDs.  If that’s too rich for your proverbial blood, they’ve also released the bill Evans Trio at Shelly’s Mann-Hole, with Chick Israels and Larry Bunker from 1963.  Other highlights of their old/new re-release catalogue is a beautiful new “Abbey Is Blue,” from Abbey Lincoln in one of her many primes (1959), Thelonious Monk, Alone in San Francisco, featuring the extremely wonderful and obscure, “There’s Danger in Your Eyes, Cherie,” (1959) and Kenny Drew, with Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Joens (1956) playing classics like “Caravan” and “Ruby My Dear.”  (And don’t forget the wonderful  (and quite moving) Sonny Rollins 9/11 concert, either, here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Ray Wetmore
Hometown: Kingston, WA
Eric,
Though I generally enjoy reading your blogs and agree with you on more than one issue, I have to disagree with your comment that Cindy Sheehan "sacrificed the most precious thing in her entire world" comment.  With all due respect for Ms. Sheehan, it was not her sacrifice - it was her son's.  Yes, she's lost the most precious thing in her world, and for that she deserves respect.  But those of us in uniform deserve just as much respect, if not more.  Just as I am fighting for her right to protest the war in Iraq, I am also fighting for my right to tell her she's had her 15 minutes and it's time to get off the soapbox.  She doesn't speak for me, and I'll bet she doesn't speak for the majority of my comrades in uniform or their supportive parents.

Name:  Jonathan Cohn
Hometown:  R.S. Nation, Michigan
Eric, your “friend” is exactly right.  The Sox would have made more deals for pitching, but the pitching alternatives out there weren't that great -- A.J. Burnett is now winless in five starts, I believe -- and certainly not worth mortgaging the future.

If you want to look at missed opportunities, I suppose you could question the wisdom of letting Pedro and Derek Lowe go in the off season.  But given the Mets' determination to get Pedro, I really think it would have taken a ridiculous amount of money to keep him, on a long-term basis.  And as much as I've missed him, keep in mind the AL East had pretty much figured him out and that his injury potential remains high.  i.e., four-years-for-some-ungodly-sum-of-money probably didn't make sense in the long term.

As for Lowe, he was downright awful last year until he transformed into Cy Young during the post season.  Yet that performance also jacked up his free agency price well beyond his worth.

At the very least, both decisions made sense at the time, as did the team's relative lack of activity at the trading deadline.  After all, those young arms really do look special, Hansen in particular (although Papelbon will probably contribute more this year).  I'm glad they didn't give up too much, even if it means slightly reducing this year's chances.

In any event, this week -- and this coming weekend -- should make for some great baseball.

Name: Chalkie Davies
Hometown: New York, NY
It seems everybody in the Rock World is writing books...Pete Townshend seems to be finally making progress on his autobiography, entitled 'Pete Townshend, Who He!' a project he started nearly a decade ago...but, like Clapton and Jagger he has a problem with his memory, and has been enlisting help from his friends to fill in the blanks...he has released a couple of pages here.  More interestingly he is releasing a novella called 'The Boy Who Heard Music' in weekly installments on his blog site...  The first chapter was released last Saturday and it will be serialized thru Feb 2006... he also comments here about the Internet and its uses and abuses which is a subject that, like ambient music and television, is something he has been championing since the early eighties...

Name: Steven Hart
Hometown: The Opinion Mill
One of the Brit papers played off this week's broadcast debut of No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (the DVD has been out for about a week) by asking various celebrities to name their favorite Dylan songs.  Some of the replies were unsurprising (Patti Smith loves "Like a Rolling Stone"); one was a cheat, albeit a fun one (Tom Waits names all of The Basement Tapes); one was unexpected (Respect MP George Galloway is keen on "Tangled Up in Blue").  I guess that's one of the defining misfortunes of being famous: people think nothing of calling you out of the blue and asking you questions like, "What's your favorite Bob Dylan song?"  But if some reporter comes knocking on my door one of these days, I'll have my answer locked and loaded: depending on my mood, either "Visions of Johanna" (off the incomparable Blonde on Blonde) or "Every Grain of Sand" (from the underrated Shot of Love).

In the universe of great songs Dylan has created, those are the two stars that shine the brightest for me.  "Visions of Johanna" is, among other things, a treasury of great lines, starting right from the opening: "Ain't it just like the night to play tricks when you're trying to be so quiet?" Intriguing, puzzling and inviting, it makes the listener hold his breath and listen as the song sketches in a finely observed, somewhat rundown apartment in a closely-packed building ("Lights flicker from the opposite loft/ In this room the heat pipes just cough"). If I were writing a novel and hit upon that kind of opening line, I'd be torn between knocking off for rest of the night, or crashing forward for another few hours in the hopes of capturing its mate. A seemingly tossed-off phrase ("Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial") generates a stream of lines that creates, in the viewer's mind, a veritable museum of absurdist imagery ("When the jelly-faced women all sneeze . . . Jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule"). But it always comes back to a vision of someone who isn't there -- someone the singer longs to see. It could be romantic longing, but the writing doesn't support that. Indeed, the song's most famous line -- "The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face" -- is hardly warm praise. I think Johanna is a muse, a reminder of what the singer should be working toward, instead of wasting his time at a dull party. "Every Grain of Sand," the startlingly gentle coda to the loud and angry Shot of Love album, is the song I want played at my funeral. The two hard-nosed gospel albums that preceded it (Slow Train Coming and Saved) were all about the harshness of certainty. "Gotta Serve Somebody" is the evangelical version of "Like a Rolling Stone" -- where the earlier song aimed its knowing scorn at an anonymous Miss Lonely, its born-again successor targets the listener and anyone else who doesn't share the singer's hard-shelled faith. That the song is expertly played and well produced -- qualities not always found in the Dylan canon -- hardly makes it more inviting: the singer is eyeballing you through a slot in the church door, and odds are you haven't got the right password. What an unexpected pleasure, then, to find this evangelical cycle come to an end with "Every Grain of Sand," a song about the beauty of doubt. The comfort of faith is there, but the singer is no longer convinced that salvation is his. Sometimes he even seems to doubt salvation itself: I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea/ Sometimes I turn, there's someone there, other times it's only me. The song includes two of the longest harmonica solos Dylan has ever played on record. I think Dylan's harp playing is underrated, but I realize part of the reason for that is he usually goes for the hardest, sharpest sound possible. The playing on "Every Grain of Sand" is still a little rough, but also gentle and, in the most surprising way, reassuring. It carries the song and the listener into the very center of what the singer is striving for, and doesn't quite realize he has within his grasp.

Sept. 26, 2005 | 1:36 PM ET| Permalink

Do my eyes deceive or did George W. Bush blame Ronald Reagan for 9/11?  Here.  (What will the Magic Dolphin Lady do when she sees this?  (I know, I know, blow some steam….)

A Wolfe in Sheep’s Clothing...

Judith Miller is Exhibit A when people make the false argument that the New York Times’ bias skews liberal.  Elisabeth Bumiller is Exhibit B.  It was actually kinda brave, in a funny way, when Bumiller admitted that she was afraid to ask Bush any tough questions after 9/11, despite the fact of that supposedly being her job.  (Note to whiney, self-pitying young blogosphere literalist language cops; there was some irony somewhere in that statement.)  Admittedly it is a complicated matter to cover an administration that routinely lies to you, that is simultaneously dishonest, incompetent, and ideologically fixated for an Establishment bulwark like the Times, but Bumiller’s solution to roll over and play dead is perhaps the worst of the available solutions.

In today’s paper, here Bumiller writes up a silly “he said, she said,” dust-up between Tom Wolfe and my dear friend Ed Doctorow — that’s a disclosure, though I know it sounds like bragging—and completely misunderstands its context and therefore its meaning.  Bumiller is not as ignorant as the Weekly Standard’s Charlotte Allen, who, when she wrote about Doctorow, apparently did not know what a novel was, and was unfamiliar with his entire oeuvre.  (We wrote about that then .)  But she does this silly thing where she quotes Edgar on his choice to participate in the National Book Festival saying,

The way I've dealt with this is just to fly down and do the reading, and fly out," said E. L. Doctorow, the author of "Ragtime" and more recently "The March," who was heckled when he made anti-Bush remarks in a commencement address at Hofstra University last year.  "I don't see any point in making a big fuss about it.  I just said, 'No, thank you.'"

(Like Allen, Bumiller seems to think a bunch of louts at Hofstra deserve respectful mention and attention in Doctorow’s ID.)  Then she quotes Tom Wolfe, saying that Mr. Doctorow, his Hamptons compatriot, was wrong. 

"Ed Doctorow is a great guy, a wonderful writer, great company - he's just being fashionable, that's all," Mr. Wolfe said in a brief conversation at the Library of Congress dinner on Friday night.  "In this country, there's nothing daring about going against the government."

Excuse me Tom and Elisabeth, did Doctorow claim he was doing anything daring?  Did he claim he was doing anything at all, save appearing at a reading?  He specifically refused to make the “big fuss” with which author and subject apparently want to credit him.  If he had wanted to make a fuss, he would have done what Robert Lowell did with Lyndon Johnson at the June 14, 1965 "White House Festival of the Arts"--something that goes unmentioned in this piece though it is a direct and nearly perfect precedent, and you can read Dwight MacDonald’s famous account of it here ($)--and what Sharon Olds did this time around and described in the current Nation here.  Doctorow has made no secret of his feelings about Bush.  Read this if you are feeling any confusion on this point.  And while Tom Wolfe is entitled to his views on this president, he has no basis whatever—save his Hamptons home according to Bumiller—to attribute “fashionable” motives to Doctorow.

And while we are on the topic of Wolfe and Edgar, again, I never speculate on people’s motives, but I can’t help noticing that Wolfe is saying these things just as Doctorow’s masterful “The March” is coming out, together with the publishing of the paperback of the presidentially promoted “Charlotte Simmons.”  (Yes, Bush, his advisers would have us think, doesn’t only read books about goats.  He reads books about frat boys too.)  I actually enjoyed “Charlotte” as I’ve enjoyed few books in years.  I thought it was compulsively readable.  But I also marveled at the waste of Wolfe’s prodigious talent on so silly a subject.  It was the deepest novel about a shallow subject I’ve ever read.  Doctorow, on the other hand, aimed much higher and hit a home run with two men on.  Don’t take my word for it, take John Updike's in the New Yorker or Walter Kirn's on the front page of the Times Book Review.  You can read the first chapter here.

In any case, Wolfe’s ad hominem attack on Edgar makes him look small and Bumiller’s credulity in passing it along makes the Times look clueless—and biased, once again, on behalf of the dishonest, incompetent ideologue in the White House.

Speaking of which, in this article, which invites administration officials to exonerate themselves for the charge of cronyism, the Times identifies the Center for American Progress as “a research institute for out-of-office Democratic policy experts.”  I have never had any association with the Democratic Party.  My colleague, Larry Korb, was Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan.  There are a lot of people at the Center with no such associations, and so this is a biased slur, again, serving the interests of the dishonest, incompetent ideologue in the White House.

And while I am piling on the Times, I wrote a letter to the Times in re the op-ed it published in which a writer praised William Weld for attributing to Mick Jagger, an admiration for Friedrich Hayak.  (Got that?)  I noted that the only place I’d ever seen Jagger say that was on Wayne’s World.  Here’s a sample:

Garth: You went to the London School of Economics, right?"

Jagger: Yeah.

Garth: Do you think it's a good idea to stimulate fiscal growth through a sharp increase in government outputs for infrastructure?

Jagger: Well, actually, as a disciple of Friederich Hayek, I've always been skeptical about the larger government involvement in economic stimulus, and I've preferred a market-oriented approach to government spending and increasing deficits.

Garth: Really. I surely didn't figure you to be a Keynesian.

(LAUGHTER)

Wayne: Who knew?

Garth: That is such a shock!

I got no response, and so I sent a copy to the Public Editor.  His assistant wrote me back and said he would follow up on it, but I still got no response.  One additional irony of this story—note to whiney, self-pitying literalist language cops, look that up—is that because the refs worked the Times “liberalism” so effectively, in my opinion, they won themselves a completely baseless and self-defeating endorsement of the awful and incompetent George Pataki in his last election.  I would not be surprised if they endorse Weld over Eliot Spitzer this time, and op-eds like the one they published about his general wonderfulness could help form the basis of this considered position.  It’d be nice therefore, if they were better informed than Wayne and Garth.

And finally on this point, I highly recommend Chris Caldwell’s Times Magazine piece on Turkey here (after you’re done reading Joan Didion here).  I am a fan of most of Caldwell’s work.  His attack on the mourners at Paul Wellstone’s funeral was unforgivable but his study on the implications of the growth of Islam in Europe as been brilliant in places and eye-opening always.  Since the failure of David Brooks to find his voice on the op-ed page, Caldwell has become the only conservative I recommend reading without reservation.  So I’m fine with him having a Times mag contract and with this Weekly Standard editor appearing in the Book Review and Magazine on the same day.  Good choice.  But ask yourself, in this bastion of liberal media conspiracy, where are the liberals who get this kind of treatment?  Frank Rich, OK, but he’s a veteran and a superstar, and anyway, was promoted to write about culture before anybody knew his politics.  Rich Lowry is everywhere in the media, including the Times Book Review—in part because of his relentless promotion by Howie “Conflict of Interest” Kurtz, whose wife sometimes contributes to Lowry’s magazine, but no liberals anywhere are similarly treated.  This is, you will recall, in addition to the right-wing domination of Talk Radio, Cable TV, Sunday morning pundit chat shows, etc.  All at the same time that right-wingers whine about their prosecution.  Reels the mind….  Atrios has another point here.

Speaking of minds reeling, take a look at Little Roy, taking a swipe at the “credibility” of Cindy Sheehan.  Look, Ms. Sheehan’s personal politics are irrelevant.  Her credibility derives from one thing and one thing only.  She sacrificed the most precious thing in her entire world—her son—for this dishonest, counterproductive and possibly illegal war.  Andy supported that war—even took credit for it on his Web site—without sacrificing even a weekend in P’Town.  Certain pundits have confused the pathos of Ms. Sheehan’s situation with her “moral authority.”  Maureen Dowd wrote a particularly crazy sentence on that point which I criticized here before any of the right-wingers did.  But the campaign of a woman who lost her son and is trying to attach some meaning to that by preventing other mothers from suffering her horrible fate is nothing but admirable, no matter how misguided may be some of her views and those of her admirers.  And until you big talkers put your own comfortable asses on the line, you really should have the decency to shut up about her.  Here’s Little Roy and here is Ms. Sheehan.

And while we’re chez Ms. Huffington, Arianna does CBS' job for them, here.  Why isn’t the network making a bigger deal about this?  Why isn’t the MSM?  Why is it up to the liberal blogosphere to defend journalists from the onslaught of this administration?

I don’t link to Time anymore since my press-subscription stopped arriving right around the time they thought to go to bat for Ann Coulter’s credibility, but it’s my impression that this week there’s a good story on the costs of Bush’s cronyist philosophy of government and yet another column by their most liberal columnist—yes it really is Joe Klein—attacking the Democrats again.  That’s another liberal media conspiracy thing I can’t understand (like the Coulter cover).  Read Newsweek instead.  I still get that and they have a couple of genuine liberals, like Jon Alter and Anna Quindlen in the magazine…

Lloyd Grove says this new documentary will kill Kerry’s hopes for 2008, here.  Let’s hope so.  Don’t go away mad, Mr. “I’m for-the-war-no-I’m-against-it-no-for-no-against-it.”  Just go away.  (And hey, congrats to the new Mrs. Brian Lamb.  I don’t usually congratulate the bride, but I love the guy…)

Speaking of the above, I’m happy to be hearing the new chatter that Al Gore wants to run.  I think he’s the strongest candidate of the heavies, and also the bravest, of late anyway, and would make the best president.  (That doesn’t mean I’ll support him, though.  I care about one thing and one thing only this time around, winning.  If George H.W. Bush would consider the nomination against this bunch of dishonest, incompetent ideologues, I’d strongly consider…  Not Babs, though.  A guy’s gotta draw the line somewhere.)  Seriously, I like Mrs. Clinton, and Russ Feingold both for obviously quite different reasons, but I don’t think either one can win.  The jury’s still out on Edwards.  I hear great things about Mark Warner, but know nothing at all about him.  He’s the insider choice now, though.  And a big fat “no” on Biden.

Tastes like Pork...

A moment on the Red Sox and the Yankees:

An Altercation correspondent wrote in recently saying I owed the Evil Empire an apology.  We’ll see, next weekend.  In the meantime, I asked a well-informed and extremely eloquent friend if this Sox pitching problem was not entirely predictable, since I predicted it, and if I knew it, why didn’t those geniuses in Boston.  In response, a friend writes:

Doc --Actually, I agree with what Young Theo and the group has done -- which is, basically, to cross their fingers and believe that this bunch had enough to get into the playoffs  which they do, but, if they don't, it's because nobody bargained on the Indians, while hanging onto the most promising groups of young arms -- Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen, and monster closer Craig Hansen -- that the club has raised since the Clemens-Boyd-Hurst crew in the 1980's.  They didn't panic and throw one of the youngsters into a trading deadline deal, especially since there really wasn't much available.  A risk, certainly.  But surviving '05 while preserving 08-12 is fine by me.

Hang on this weekend.  Saturday -- Johnson-Schilling, and it's never happened before.

Alter-reviews:

Part I of the Scorsese Dylan documentary airs on PBS tonight.  Our review has been delayed by a certain young man’s bachelor party in Vegas this weekend but we eagerly anticipate it.  Anyway watch it.  It’s good.

Last week, I did get a chance to catch Jazz at Lincoln Center's official opening night show “K.C. and the Count," at the Rose Theater.  Wynton Marsalis and company played through eighteen songs associated either with Basie, his players, or with Harlan Leonard, a contemporary and rival of the Count’s.  The atmosphere was heightened by the dollar ribs and free KC beer available in the lobby.  The guests were Frank Wess, a Basie alumnus who almost approached Ben Webster-Heaven with the exquisite beauty of his tone, and an ailing-but-spirited Clark Terry, playing for the first I’ve seen him this way—in a wheelchair.  Paired with a new, 23-year-old pianist Dan Nimmer—who is a white guy, for the record—who showed flawless command and sensitivity, well you get the point.  Jazz is unkillable and forever being reborn as it mines its infinitely re-inventable past.  You shouldda been there and I’m sure glad I was.  The only thing that bums me out are the prices, which make it hard for anyone who’s not pretty wealthy to enjoy it.  Anyway, check out the season here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Robert H. Fredian
Hometown: Arlington Hts., IL
Eric,
I just read your Think Again column and wish to comment on Lisa Daniels' babble that the "lower than expected death toll" is a "win" for Bush.  Recall that it was the Bush spinners who first came out with the estimate that 10,000 people may have died in the wake of Katrina.  Recall that the spinners made this statement over and over as it became apparent that the federal response to Katrina was criminally inadequate.  Has it occurred to anyone that Bush/Cheney/Rove intentionally exaggerated the predicted death toll in New Orleans, knowing that when the true figures came out, people would be relieved that the number of deaths weren't as high as "predicted," in turn giving the illusion that their pathetic response to Katrina was better than it really was, and that some moronic talking head would say exactly what Daniels said?

Name: E. Scott
Hometown: Superior, Wisconsin
Dear Eric:
I enjoyed Barry's analysis on strategic planning being a lost art or a forgotten tool in the national politic.  Outwardly, it does appear that the government is asleep and/or flagellating in the breeze.  My contention, however, is that possible catastrophic events ARE planned for (9/11, USS Cole, natural disasters in the South, War in Iraq when Bin Laden is the supposed target, and so on) and that the results of that planning has been and is being experienced in real time.  One must apply the most basic reasoning principles first when exposing the most complex of apparent circumstances.  Two problem solving tenets tend to hold true over time.  The first is: truth is always more inconceivable than lies or make believe until those lies are rooted in what is perceived as true.  To the vast majority of people, it is inconceivable to think that our political leaders and institutions (any and all flavors) would ever deliberately, with premeditation, choose the responses and results we have witnessed to the natural tragedies, to the horrors of war, and to the apparent attacks experienced in recent years.  Yet we witness these "apparent" incompetencies or "missteps" with a simple vision based on misfortune or chance, natural selection processes, or divine providence.  Very few dare to consider possible Determinism (based on trend analysis and the little known and closely guarded principles of comparative psychology).  No one story teller could conceive of what is happening after Katrina or what is transpiring in the Iraqi pretend war.  A large number of diversified planners, however, with similar end agendas, could easily anticipate circumstances and coordinate specific responses that support the unfolding events as they happen which benefit the planners most.  Is this not possible? 

The second principle of problem solving suggests that "behavior is purposeful" and that the results we see from any action, practice, or decision, are based on directed effort and the specific intentions behind said effort.  Credible brain research suggests that even the most involuntary responses are decisions in the moment.  A response to a slap in the face can have many potential outcomes, but at the root of a response in the initial decision.  The war in Iraq and the Katrina response are prime examples of effort and intentions leading to very specific, intended results.  Just ask what has changed significantly in the world, at home, and in the economy, that seemed stable or less worrisome before decisions about and visible responses to world events occurred.  Who was hurt and who seemed to gain from the results?  Could efforts have been better planned to meet the needs of the most highly aggrieved?  Where does the path of responsibility and upward power/decision making end, and who is ultimately in charge of that end?  What do you really see, and is what you see just naturally that way?  Look at the world around you.  What are the decisions and responses that shape the results we witness?  If you believe that the results are just misfortune or "acts of God", then reindeer truly can fly, a single rabbit can lay and deliver colored eggs and chocolate around the world, King G.W. does not have untraceable off-shore accounts stuffed with gas profits, Halliburton legitimately received hurricane restoration contracts long before hurricane Katrina landed without White House connections, and world peace is achieved through unjust make-believe wars.  Just look outside.  Do you really think anyone could write fiction to top what you see?

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