IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Noam is an Island

The return of Pierce!  Also Stupid and many more.


Quote of the Day: “if alterman disagrees with chomsky, then alterman is a running dog lackey of the fascist state..”  --a poster to .

Seriously a number of you wrote in politely to ask why I disagree with just about everything Noam Chomsky says.  This happens every time I mention Chomsky on the site and it makes me reluctant to do so (even with the built in classic headline, which is rivaled only by “Tom Waits for No One”), as our disagreements are large and varied and complicated.  The most useful discussion I’ve been able to find on the Web of Chomsky’s strengths and weaknesses as a foreign policy analyst—I am hardly qualified to measure his worth as a linguist—can be found in the July 2003 H-Diplo discussion , though you might have to type in “Noam Chomsky.”  Ignore Horowitz and focus on the discussion by the people who devote themselves to studying this field.  You’ll see his use of evidence is hardly justifiable on grounds of pure merit.  Other useful discussions that you may be able to find on the Web are “Thus Spake Noam” by Jeffrey C. Isaac, which appeared in Dissent a while back, and also in Larissa MacFarquhar’s New Yorker piece, which inspired the discussion, which I know Chomsky did not like, but that’s hardly a useful criterion. 

Overall, the criticism I share amounts to the following:  Chomsky does pay attention to facts that others ignore; but he uses them in ways that cannot be intellectually justified.  This is truer of his diplomatic history than his media criticism, but there’s enough of it in both to make it impossible for me to take any of his claims at face value.  Chomsky also does not allow for alternative interpretations other than his own, which is the sign of a closed mind.  His research can be, and has been quite useful and he deserves credit for that and for the doggedness of his intellectual pursuits, which did the world quite a lot of good vis-a-vis East Timor.  But his analysis is fundamentally flawed, in my opinion, by ideological zeal, much like that of Andy or Horowitz.  And his judgment in matters like the Robert Faurisson case is so silly as to be hardly believable.  How can a Holocaust denier be a “relatively apolitical liberal.”  A Holocaust denier is an idiot at best and more likely, a moral and intellectual criminal.  (For the record, this “apolitical liberal” wrote, “The alleged massacre in gas chambers and the genocide of the Jews is part of one and the same lie, a gigantic political and financial racket for the benefit of Israel and international Zionism.")  I don’t have the time or space to go into all the other examples, be they Cambodia or the Sudan, to point out that it is one thing to be wrong—it happens to all of us--but another to be obstinately, obtusely wrong in the face of mountains of contrary evidence, and to be wrong always in the same ideological direction.

One might argue that Chomsky is a useful corrective in a debate dominated by his ideological opposite.  I used to agree with that view.  But now I think his persistent weaknesses lend the bad guys a sword and diverts our own from battles that can actually be won.  Don’t write me about this though.  We’ve been through this many times and I’m not going to start it over again.  And as for the abuse that’s sure to follow, Paul will delete and I’ll never see it, so save it for some other running dog lackey of the fascist state.  There, now I’m even madder at Noam for getting me to work on Slacker Friday.

My fascist, running dog analysis of media coverage of the Bin Laden October Surprise video is .  It’s going to be a long four years.

In his IPF Friday column today MJ Rosenberg takes a considerably more measured approach to Yasir Arafat than you'll see in most Jewish publications.  Yes, he was, on and off, a terrorist, but at Oslo he ended close to a century of Palestinian rejection of an independent Jewish state in Palestine.  Despite the intifada and the violent Israeli retaliations, Arafat never backed away from his support for the two-state solution.  If he had, if he had returned to rejectionism, there would be no possibility of negotiations, .

Here’s the Man

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:
OK, so I lied.

Not really, though. I would've done it.  If C-Plus Augustus had just gone back to Crawford and slaughtered a little more underbrush.  I'd have been fine with taking some time off.  But, honestly, trotting out Thumbscrews Gonzales as AG right out of the box, and then having Biden and Schumer both pronounce themselves ready to play dead?  Now is the winter of our discontent, and the spring ain't looking too promising, either.

That might not have done it, either, had not MSNBC -- BTW, does ANYBODY talk to you at the Christmas party? -- presented me with a panel discussion on moral values the other night that was moderated by Mike Barnicle, the famous literary grave-robber, that also featured Lawrence Kudlow, the famous cocaine-guzzling financier, and Joe Scarborough, the famous wife-dumping ex-congressperson.  (Carl Bernstein was also there, running with a worse crowd than he ever did when he was hanging with Don Segretti.)  Anyway, this brood of B-list vipers blathered on from Hell until breakfast, driving me to one of the Internets on which I discovered and then, .

Consider: a plagiarist moderates a discussion on "values" with one guy who chucked the frau overboard the first chance he had, and a stock-market pimp who once put half of Medellin up his nose.  The discussion is carried on further by a degenerate gambler writing on behalf of an institution that is giving its "Leadership Award" to a pill-popping creature of the strip-mall night who's currently working on Wife No. 4.  Welcome to the mystical body of suckers, y'all.

As with most things, The Founder had a good eye for the likes of Bill (Sportin' Life) Bennett and the rest of the Green Room Sanhedrin: "Alas for hypocrites!  You who are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside but inside are full of dead men's bones and every kind of corruption."  (Matthew 23: 27-28).

Then, back on the Internets, I got an e-mail from my friend Jon Jennings who, dammit all, will not be the congressperson from the 8th Indiana this time around.  This is what my friend wrote:

Democracy is not easy and it is not for the timid.  Despite this setback I promise you I will continue to fight for people who know we can do better in our part of Indiana and in our country ... I am going to stay involved in our public debate and I encourage you to do the same.  We must continue fighting for what we believe in.

What the hell, man.  Break's over.  We don't let these kind of people down.

Name Ben Scott,
Hometown, Hyattsville, MD

Walter Lippmann was right.
Or at least, I keep expecting to see a provocative column coming off your pen with that title.  Such a column probably wouldn’t end up concluding entirely that Lippmann was right, but it would certainly raise questions about the inadequacies of democracy that he pointed out in his 1922 classic, Public Opinion.  It’s hard to argue that what he said back then isn’t coming home to roost right now.

Let me summarize the Lippmann/Dewey debate that you’ve ably dissected in a couple of places, most recently in a (ED. Buy , I signed them.)

Lippmann:  The average citizen can no longer rationally assess what his best interests are in the complexity of our modern political world.  Worse than his lack of education, inattention and apathy, the media exacerbate his deficiencies.  Modern mass media shine spotlights on the big picture, blowing things out of proportion, eliding important context, and omitting key facts.  Only the widely read, professional bureaucrat can hope to be an “omni-competent” citizen, that is, a citizen who can understand the state of world and vote properly in his own and the public’s best interest.  Consequently, the only hope for democracy is to turn the system over to a cadre of benevolent technocrats who will study hard, analyze critically, and make policies that will keep the good ship America moving forward.  The electorate and the great experiment of popular self-government can be written off and allowed to wallow in distraction and inanity.

Dewey:  He conceded many of Lippmann’s critiques of the democratic system.  But he disputed that this was any reason to call a halt to public governance and hand the keys over to plutocrats, even if they are a bunch of Cincinnati (is that the plural of Cincinnatus?).  Dewey argued that democracy’s ills could only be fixed with more democracy.  He claimed that civic virtue and fellow feeling would only come from the sustained social dialogue of community building.  If people came out from their atomized lifestyles and engaged in public life, they would find the paths toward reasoned compromise—the substance of democratic progress.  [Dewey badly underestimated the obstacles of class, race, and sexual orientation to this vision of community, and he could never have guess how badly the media’s problems would be aggravated by technology.]

So where are we now?  It seems to me you could make a good case that Lippmann was right about the cracks in the foundation of our democratic process.  He was right that the media makes them worse.  And he was right that the average citizens would, over time, become less and less engaged in the reality of political world around them.  He was even right that a small class of plutocrats would take over the government.  Only instead of benevolent social scientists, we’ve got neocons. 

Worse yet, we’ve got neocons who understand that they are in power by virtue of the ignorance of the populace, and they’ve bought up the media to perpetuate that reality.  Even worse still, it isn’t purely a brain-dead electorate that sustains them.  That would be an unfair stereotype of the much maligned Red staters.  It’s that the people, even the pragmatic ones, have abandoned the connection between reason and politics in favor of the romantic liaison between fantasy and politics.  In a world where the leaders of the free world can say any goddamn thing they want and never get challenged on its veracity, where does the buck stop?  We’ve just seen that it isn’t at the voting booth. 

Here’s my addition to Lippmann’s critique of media and democracy:  In hard times, people appear to prefer fantasy to reason, even when they know better.

So get ready for 4 more years of one damn thing after another, dressed up with a big red bow.  Unless of course, we can figure out how to re-form the masses into communities of public interest.  Unless of course, we can relocate civic virtue in truth and justice.  Unless of course, we can find a way to rethink how the media approaches fact and fiction.  Unless of course we can reshape how people view their relationship to the political world.

These are all deep challenges, and the rot began long before George W. Bush.  So for everyone on the left—no, for all believers in rational thought—who are digging holes to cry in post-November 2, I say this:  When you’re done digging down, start digging side-ways, because we’re going to need some trenches to fight from.

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago

Hey Eric, it's Stupid to leach off the brilliance of others.  But first, I have to respond to Reverend Larry Robinson.  If he's arguing that the Bible's admonitions are directed to individuals and not to governments (save the confusing reference to theocratic ancient Israel), he needs to talk to the conservative Christians he is defending.  The religious right has never made such distinctions -- historically they have tried to codify into law every commandment and teaching they could get away with (e.g., Sunday blue laws, criminalizing adultery).  Only a few years ago they were defending laws that criminalized sodomy in the bedroom.  My point was that even accepting the religious right's premise that **a nation** is judged by its legal code against a Scriptural standard, their agenda is hypocritical at best and blasphemous at worst.  Because liberals believe that religion should motivate individuals but should not be codified they haven't engaged in this debate.  But at least some should (Reverend Edmonds would make a fine recruit!). 

My favorite two post-election observations: Roger Simon (the pundit I grew up reading, not the more recently known Roger L. Simon) noted that as a rule voters elect the Presidential candidate who is more personally likeable.  Think about that: you have to go back over thirty years to find an exception.  Dubya over Kerry and Gore, Clinton over Dole and Bush, (Bush/Dukakis is a tie on likeability), Reagan over Mondale and Carter, but in 1976 Carter was more likeable than Ford.  Maybe that's more important than Northeast vs. South.  The second observation was by Andrew Leonard on, who regretted spending too much time in the comforting liberal media/blogosphere/groups and not enough in more contentious waters.  I think that's profound.  Like, people shouldn't assume that only dittoheads listen to mainstream political talk radio -- if you don't like sportstalk or modern music it's the choice by default for many.  Zeesh, my mom listens to Hannity all the time in the kitchen (and then interrupts my favorite TV shows to complain).  I realize it's painful to listen and call-in to political talk radio these days, but it's a battle that needs to be fought.  

Name: Bob
Hometown: Paoli, PA
Dear Eric,
Here is what I believe to be both what could be taken to be proof of an already existing "credibility gap" with respect to statements by the military about events in Iraq, and a prime example of reporting which refuses to confront this Administration and its spokespersons (military and otherwise).  The following are two exact quotes from a AP story reprinted on USA Today's Web site under the headline "US Launches Second Phase in Fallujah"

  • Third Paragraph

    "Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, commander of the 1st Marine Division, also said 69 American
    service members and 34 Iraqi security forces had been wounded since the assault began Monday against insurgents in the Sunni Muslim stronghold."

  • Eighth Paragraph

    "The Fallujah campaign has sent a stream of American wounded to the military's main hospital in Europe.  Planes carrying just over 100 bloodied and broken troops were arriving Thursday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. They join 125 wounded soldiers flown there already this week."

If 125 wounded soldiers had already been flown to Germany this week from the Fallujah campaign, why wasn't Maj. Gen. Natonski challenged on the numbers he was giving out?  Even more astoundingly, why isn't there even an explanation in the article itself of the rather astounding factual disconnect between material just a few inches apart?

I have to admit that the thing which most upset me about the outcome of the election is the knowledge that I am going to be living in this kind of horrible NeverNeverLand for another four years.  God help us.

Name: George Beck
Hometown: Palos Hills, Illinois

Mr. Alterman, If people doubted the chilling effect of the self-appointed morality police of the right and the Bush administration, there is no better example than the number of ABC affiliates who are afraid to show Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" on this Veterans' Day lest they be heavily fined by little Mikey Powell and the FCC for language and graphic violence. 

Name: Tim Kane
Hometown: St. Louis

I wanted to follow up upon your comments on Arafat.  I appreciated your more balanced review of Arafat compared to what's being said almost everywhere else.  Wouldn't we all be terrorists if the land and community into which we were born had some how become disenfranchised and removed from over half that territory, and that same territory became the sovereign home for an entirely different community (tribe) of people? 

Wasn't it Churchill who said "in defeat: defiance"?  One of the things I learned from reading Churchill is one must recognize the rising, legitimate expectations (i.e. hopes) of ones adversary.  No matter how much he loathed his enemy, Churchill, in his writing of them, could put himself in their position and convey their motivations.

You are most earnestly right also in saying Arafat's greatest talent was in his ability to stay alive.  I would add, not just physically, but politically as well, and as you suggest, at a huge cost to his own people and their cause.  If only he had the courage of Michael Collins, the man most responsible for the creation of modern Ireland.

Collins too was a terrorist and for similar reasons, perhaps the first terrorist in the modern sense, and perhaps one of the most successful.  In a similar set of conditions, Collins did, indeed, negotiate with Churchill, head of England's colonial office in the early 1920s, for the creation of the Irish Free State, the precursor to modern Ireland.

Like Arafat and the Palestinians, Collins was never offered a deal that all of his compatriots could agree to.  But, fortunately he was bargaining with Churchill, who though reluctantly, was able to identify the legitimate rising expectations of the Irish.

Churchill offered Collins a half a loaf:  Ireland minus the six northern counties and Dominion status, not outright independence. Collins took it. Churchill suggested that the agreement would bring about his political death; Collins countered by suggested that the agreement would bring about his actual death. The IRA wanted the whole loaf.

Sure enough Collins was killed shortly afterwards by his nationalist adversaries in the IRA.  Eventually, some of his IRA adversaries came around; one in particular, Eamon De Velara, eventually became the leader of the Irish Free State and in time, led the Free State to outright independence from England in the form of the modern Republic of Ireland.

The Free State, then the Republic, languished for decades until it found successful means to economic development beginning in the 1980s. Today it is a thriving model state of social democracy and prosperity.  The potential for violence is still a problem in Ireland, but mostly in the north, the Republic of Ireland is nearly a paradise of peace, prosperity and stunning beauty.

Arafat lacked Collin's kind of courage. I am not sure we can blame him, few are made of such stuff - in fact, in the Irish case, De Valera - the IRAs leader and an extremist - had sent Collins to negotiate with Churchill precisely because he knew that a half loaf was all that would be forth coming and it meant death to whomever accepted it. So Arafat lacked Collins courage, and probably his vision, but also, Arafat was never offered so much as half a loaf, more like one quarter. And the closest he came to a Churchill as a negotiating partner was Rabin, and Rabin was assassinated preemptively by a Jewish extremist. Collins, Churchill, Arafat, Rabin, these men all trotted upon dangerous grounds.

So, unlike Collins, Arafat lived to a ripe old age, but his people languished and languish still.  Other than for Arafat personally, it has been unfortunate all the way around: Palestinians suffer in poverty and disenfranchisement and Israeli's live in a state of perpetual instability and a political reality far removed from their noble ideals. There is little to mourn at the death of Arafat himself, but in a larger sense there is much to pity, and that itself renders a mourning of sorts, does it not?  It is, indeed, amazing that he somehow survived all these years, both politically and physically:  Mores the pity and therein lies the mourning.  As for tomorrow, perhaps therein lies a true morning - for both the Israelis and the Palestinians, and perhaps a chance at peace, prosperity and a stunning beauty of their own kind. Or so I ponder.      

Name: Ken
Hometown: Bay Area

Despite my many disagreements with Andrew Sullivan on a whole range of issues, I have always been willing to give him much more of the benefit of the doubt than others (including you).  I believed that he was not in fact a deeply self-hating gay man, but a decent human being motivated by a core set of principles and convictions about the world - ones I may not share, but nevertheless could respect.

You may have read by now that Sullivan was peripherally involved in a John Stossel piece soon to air on 20/20 "debunking" the notion that Matthew Shephard's brutal murder was in any way related to his homosexuality.  The piece is apparently based almost entirely on claims by the killers themselves - more than half a decade after at least one of the two attempted to use a "gay panic" defense at his trial.

Sullivan is right to suggest that gay organizations and individuals exploited this crime for their own ends, but his participation in this grotesque, homophobic spectacle makes me almost violently nauseous.

He is truly a wretched human being. I think you've been too nice to him all this time.


Admittedly, there was not much to like about .  Like some of Israel’s founding fathers, including Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, though to a far greater extent, he condoned terrorism as a means of reaching his goal of an independent state for his people.  And like those same revanchist leaders, he preferred, in the end, to continue to stick to outlandish demands rather than undertake the necessary compromises to achieve a half loaf and build from there. (Israel was blessed at the time of its founding with more far-sighted leadership in the Labor camp, who wisely adopted the compromises offered and laid the groundwork for what is now a kind of mini-superpower.)  Clinton and Barak screwed him at Camp David but he screwed himself too.  Arafat did nothing to prepare his people to give up their dreams of achieving justice at the expense of inflaming the Israelis’ security fears and he did nothing to convince the Israelis that he meant business when it came time to for both sides to face up to the hard decisions.  He also did nothing to prepare the way for a future leader.  I do not mourn him as a leader; I do not mourn him as a human being and I certainly do not mourn him as a force for peace—which he wasn’t.  He excelled at one thing; staying alive.

But he was a force for order and we are about to enter a period of instability that could make matters even worse.  Ariel Sharon will likely use it to continue his master plan to turn Israel into a mini-version of South Africa of the bad old days, with weak and untenable Bantustans on its borders.  Bush will invite him to do just this and whatever else he wants.  No one will soon emerge within the Palestinian camp to control the predictable terrorist reaction to this and everything, for a while, will get worse. 

But then it may get better.  Newer, more pragmatic leadership may emerge within the Palestinians.  The Israelis may see the potential of this and replace Sharon with someone who wants a fairer, more sustainable peace and the Israeli wall/fence may succeed in reducing opportunities for terrorism to a degree that the problem recedes in importance—particularly if, in the admittedly unlikely prospect that, the Bush administration convinces it to return it to the borders of the Green Line.

Still, even though I thought Arafat a corrupt, visionless leader who exploited rather than served his people, I also found (and continue to find) distasteful much of the easy criticism he receives in this country for his unwillingness to take personal risks for peace.  Arafat would have risked certain assassination attempts in the event of agreeing to the necessary compromises for peace.  His family and friends would have been at risk too.  When was the last time George Will or Martin Peretz or Charles Krauthammer risked their own lives for peace?  When was the last time they risked their housing values, or their front lawn ornaments or their second, third or fourth homes?  It’s easy to talk tough when you’ve got nothing personal at stake and it would behoove us all to be a bit more humble in giving out advice that is likely to get people killed, no matter what the circumstance.  It’s not as easy as all that.

The last time I was in Jerusalem I had a long talk with about the future of the Palestinians.  It is a tribute to the lack of vision on all sides that any such talk would be even more depressing today.

Playing One on TV
Speaking of people offering a lot of free advice, I suppose Andy Sullivan is not really a slobbering, muttering idiot in real life but he sure does play one on TV.  I’ve never seen Bill Maher’s show before—and thankfully, the Time Warner DVR stopped taping before he started , but I was embarrassed for Andy, if that can be believed, when he started screaming nonsensical insults at an absent Noam Chomsky, (with whom I strongly disagree on almost everything, for the record).  I didn’t take notes but I recall Andy whining about Chomsky’s speaking fees—hey it’s just the free market that makes them so much higher than Andy’s—and mine, for that matter.  And his screaming that there can be no debate over the meaning of words like “freedom” and “democracy” was so silly it refutes itself.  Also unfortunate for Andy was his insistence that, and again, I paraphrase, “no one in the world accepts the figure of 100,000 Iraqis dead,” which Chomsky used in his interview with Maher. Well, actually, if you look at today, you’ll see that the only peer reviewed study of the issue—given the fact that the U.S. government refuses even to attempt this count—gives just that figure.  Today, Andy is a bit more circumspect in his language and calls the figure “a little fishy.”  is also critical.  To tell you the truth, I think it’s high too.  But the “no one in the world” quote is simple idiocy and cedes the argument to Chomsky, since he actually has a source and Andy only has his insults.

Oh yeah, this is what might be called the “money quote.”  Right after Maher interviewed Chomsky, Andy turned to Maher and said, “That’s why you lost the election.”  Maybe it’s me but I didn’t realize that the Democrats had nominated Noam Chomsky as their candidate.  In fact, I didn’t even know he was one of their advisers, or played any role in the campaign, or that any one who did even spoke to him or had a good word to say about anything related to his abilities as a foreign policy analyst.  I also thought Andy actually voted for the guy who did run; you know, the one who didn’t have the platform that not only endorsed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage but also insisted on banning all civil unions.  Some people seem to think that the Democrats' refusal to condemn people like Andy was the reason they lost the election in that heartland with which he professes to be in such close contact.  I suppose I don’t blame him for blaming MIT Linguistic professors instead.

On precinct-fixing in Ohio, .

  Trust me. (Thanks MJ)

Can anyone be a worse attorney general than John Ashcroft?  Meet who never met a provision of the Geneva Convention he couldn’t find a way to ignore.  Congratulations Mr. President.  I promise to stop misunderestmating you, right now.

Alter-review: Our man Sal reviews the new editions of the Wailers’ “Burnin’” and Cream’s “Disraeli Gears.”

Universal's "Chronicles" series has been hit and miss since its first release.  The idea of expanding classic albums by adding demos, b-sides, and previously unreleased material is wonderful, but charging twice the price for music you already own is quite annoying.  Two of the most recent reissues are perfect examples.

On The Wailers' "Burnin," you get brilliant remastering of what is arguably their best record, along with previously unreleased alternate takes and b-sides.  The bonus CD is worth the price of admission alone -a live recording in Leeds from 1973.  Here, the Wailers are at the peak.

In the "miss" department is the expansion of rock classic "Disraeli Gears," from Cream.  What we get here for its $29.99 list price is the same record twice -a stereo mix and a mono mix.  To audiophiles, this may be a big deal, but to the ever-dwindling CD shopper, this is unnecessary.  As for bonus material we get some BBC recordings and a few outtakes.  Sounds OK, right?  Well, not really.  Almost all of this has been previously released on the Cream "BBC Recordings" or on "Those Were The Days," the Cream box set.

I am huge fan of this series, and they can't all be great.  But then again, if they can't, then release something else instead.  Or better yet, just release the unreleased.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Michael Mason
Hometown: Columbus, OH

There was a very disturbing story in yesterdays Wall Street Journal about companies suing retirees to either increase their medical costs or drop their health care benefits altogether.

Most of these people were elderly, and could not afford a lawyer.  Some were WWII vets and faced the awful choice of having paying double their current health care costs or waiting in line at VA hospital.

Is this the future we face in this country?  That not only the social security system be privatized and controlled by banks and insurance companies, but we will also have no healthcare?

In the future it seems only the very rich will be able to retire.  The rest of us will be literally working until death.


Stop the presses: Republican consultant tells truth

Well this is funny, Arthur Finkelstein, New York Governor Pataki's top political adviser is quoted in an Israeli newspaper accusing Bush of trying to "dictate to America how to live and what to believe in."  Other quotes include, “Bush's victory not only establishes the power of the American Christian right in this candidacy, but in fact established its power to elect the next Republican president.”  And, “The Republican Party became the Christian right, the most radical in modern history ever."

I like this story for a few reasons.  In the first place, it’s hard to imagine a worse governor than Pataki.  He considers himself a national figure and potential presidential timber but his record here is just horrific.  One of the great victories of the right-wing to intimidate the SCLM was the New York Times’ willingness to endorse him despite his incompetence, hatred for New York City and contempt for its public school system.  (It’s kind of an obsession of mine.  I once stopped Gail Collins on the street, years after the fact, to hassle  her about this.)  Moreover, Finkelstein, is, how should we say this, a creep, who is gay but advises Republican candidates about how to exploit fear and hatred of gays by painting liberals as just this side of Satan’s spawn.  He ran campaigns in South Carolina that make Lee Atwater and Karl Rove look like Amnesty International.  I thought we were done with him when he presided over Al D’Amato’s defeat six years ago, but apparently his coffin needed another nail.  It’s all .

Was the election stolen?  We’ll never know, and I’m sorry, I just can’t bring myself to get involved in the idea, though that doesn’t mean I think it impossible.  I will, however, post credible complaints and examinations.  .  .  And cool electoral maps.  And Barry R sent these in:

  • So much for self-reliance

  • Land doesn't vote, people do -- and that's what this map depicts

  • Most of the Red States are actually empty spaces (now compare this with the next map)
  • Showing the more heavily populated counties in 3D display
  • The world couldn't vote -- but if they did  (this map reflects population preference, not governments)
  • How did the young'uns vote, and where?
  • More purple than red or blue
  • States are actually fairly evenly divided (duh, 51-48)
  • When you finally tire of maps, here's the Demographic breakdown

Since the election, D.C. media lap dogs have run amok.  Salon has the .

Quote of the Day: "'The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved,' Ashcroft wrote in a five-page, handwritten letter to Bush."
--John Ashcroft, .  Oh good.  I feel so much safer now

We still do not appear to be on the CSPAN Book TV schedule. I’m sure they would appreciate your polite, respectful comments about that odd omission .


Sal on the new New Orleans box from Shout Factory

I guess for those who know me, this is a no-brainer pick of the week, but nonetheless, the "" really is a delight.  It would have been easy to pick a few Professor Longhair songs, "Iko Iko," and "Big Chief," and sandwich them in between a bunch of easy-to-license tracks that have "fee-na-nay" in the lyrics.  But the good folks at Shout Factory are obviously fans of the city and the music, because this box set is a worthy purchase even for people like me who already own a lot of the music here.  Sequenced not chronologically, but almost as a week's stay in the Crescent City set to music, it opens up with "Welcome To New Orleans" by Galactic, segueing into "I'm Walkin'" by Fats Domino, and closes with Satchmo's "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans," with 80 tracks in the middle covering everything from rare Cajun gems to crossover pop hits.  Earl King, Kermit Ruffins, Henry Butler, James Booker, Balfa Toujours, Pete Fountain, Tim Laughlin, George Lewis, Irma Thomas, Jon Cleary, and Dr. John are all represented here, as well as some long-lost rarities as the very rare single "My Darling New Orleans" by Lil Queenie and the Percolators.  The accompanying booklet is not your standard history lesson of the city, but an imaginative and humorous look at the great city, featuring beautiful photos and fun maps of places NOT to go to, as well as some well-known tourist traps that are a must to visit.  After all is said and done, you will fall in love with "The Big Ol' Box Of New Orleans" as quickly as you fell in love with the city it represents.

Sal Nunziato

Correspondents’ Corner

Name: Bill Trout
Hi Eric,
I'm guessing you've seen this:

In last Tuesday's election, 29 precincts in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, reported votes cast IN EXCESS of the number of registered voters - at least 93,136 extra votes total. And the numbers are on the official Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Web site:

Check out the numbers for the following precincts:

Bay Village - 13,710 registered voters / 18,663 ballots cast
Beachwood - 9,943 registered voters / 13,939 ballots cast
Bedford - 9,942 registered voters / 14,465 ballots cast
Bedford Heights - 8,142 registered voters / 13,512 ballots cast
Brooklyn - 8,016 registered voters / 12,303 ballots cast
Brooklyn Heights - 1,144 registered voters / 1,869 ballots cast
Chagrin Falls Village - 3,557 registered voters / 4,860 ballots cast
Cuyahoga Heights - 570 registered voters / 1,382 ballots cast
Fairview Park - 13,342 registered voters / 18,472 ballots cast
Highland Hills Village - 760 registered voters / 8,822 ballots cast
Independence - 5,735 registered voters / 6,226 ballots cast
Mayfield Village - 2,764 registered voters / 3,145 ballots cast
Middleburg Heights - 12,173 registered voters / 14,854 ballots cast
Moreland Hills Village - 2,990 registered voters / 4,616 ballots cast
North Olmstead - 25,794 registered voters / 25,887 ballots cast
Olmstead Falls - 6,538 registered voters / 7,328 ballots cast
Pepper Pike - 5,131 registered voters / 6,479 ballots cast
Rocky River - 16,600 registered voters / 20,070 ballots cast
Solon (WD6) - 2,292 registered voters / 4,300 ballots cast
South Euclid - 16,902 registered voters / 16,917 ballots cast
Strongsville (WD3) - 7,806 registered voters / 12,108 ballots cast
University Heights - 10,072 registered voters / 11,982 ballots cast
Valley View Village - 1,787 registered voters / 3,409 ballots cast
Warrensville Heights - 10,562 registered voters / 15,039 ballots cast
Woodmere Village - 558 registered voters / 8,854 ballots cast
Bedford (CSD) - 22,777 registered voters / 27,856 ballots cast
Independence (LSD) - 5,735 registered voters / 6,226 ballots cast
Orange (CSD) - 11,640 registered voters / 22,931 ballots cast
Warrensville (CSD) - 12,218 registered voters / 15,822 ballots cast

Fraud or massive incompetence?  You decide.


Name: Joe Pauley
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Hey Dr. Eric,
Thanks for publishing the letter from Compassionate Conservative Calvin Smith.  I'm glad that he has the insight into the human condition to infer that my 6-year relationship with my same-sex partner is the simple result of "strong urges."  Apparently only heterosexual relationships are built upon love, trust and mutual admiration.  Pity us poor homosexuals who only have our "strong urges" to fall back upon to support our relationships.

I do, however, have a question for Mr. Smith.  If the day comes that I decide to resist these urges, I wonder if he has a daughter or sister I could settle down with?  I'm sure that being a gay man married to a woman is a much more moral living arrangement than being honest about who and what I am.

Thanks, and keep the faith!

Name: Nicholas Holshouser
Hometown: Brevard, NC

Thanks for the bluegrass review!
Here in the WNC mountains we are SO LUCKY to have one of the finest public radio stations anywhere.  If you ever need a fix of bluegrass and old-time check out on Saturdays from 11AM-7PM for a truly eclectic mix old and new.  The station goes anywhere, anytime with music during the day - but it's all good.  For a hoot, tune in daily at 4:15 for Uncle Dave's Tour Memories, where he picks a song from a memorable Dead set, gives a good intro on the song and the scene and then kicks off the song at precisely 4:20.

Just thought you might be interested in listening some time....


Of “Northern Strategies” and “conspiracy” theories

From: Eric:
I am the last of your regular contributors to weigh in.  It's a week past.  I am still unable to glance at the cover of Newsweek or the Economist without flinching in pain.  I find myself running through all the hints that made me believe that Kerry was going to win big: energy, 
turnout, money, message, facts, polls.  We all gave everything we had.  We left it all on the field.  Still, the kick sailed .  Yeah.  It feels that bad.  Again.

I can't get my mind around it.  I can't get my heart to accept it.  I can only conclude that someone else's "passions" are stronger then mine.  The Evangelical electoral machine has finally matured after more than 30 years in gestation.  I saw it growing in Texas.  Tom Frank saw it take over Kansas.  Now we all get to see it in its power and glory.  Many voters were unswayable.  They got theirs to the polls.

Among the swayable, Kerry did a pretty good job of swaying.  I can count a few (very few) missed opportunities through which the Dems could have defined Bush rather than the other way around (what's the frequency, Dan Rather?).  Still, I would have liked to see Kerry get meaner and tougher, and hear him call Bush on his lies and cowardly mistakes more than he did.

Looking back over the past six months, one thing continues to amaze me:  Bush ran as if he were the challenger and Kerry were the incumbent.  It was Kerry's Vietnam record that got twisted so tight that my doctor could not tell what was true and what was not.  It was Kerry's "liberal" Senate record that became questionable, troublesome.  It was Kerry's statements about the war that generated angst on the talk shows, not Bush's (even though he clearly said he could not win the War on Terror, the statement quickly lost its currency as attacks on Kerry mounted).  No one seemed too interested in the fact that Bush had a horrible record in every area of policy.  No one seemed to care that Bush failed to live up to the promises that got him appointed in the first place.  Bush's acceptance speech at the convention did not seem to acknowledge that he had in fact been president for four years and had not really moved on major (i.e. "compassionate") elements of his agenda in all that time.  Kerry tried but failed to turn the focus around to Bush's record.  Bush's failures were old news.  So they were no news.

I really hope that the long-term legacy of this campaign does not include a maxim that candidates should under no circumstances admit mistakes or qualify their policies.  That would be horrible for all concerned.  Why is admitting being a fallible human being such a problem?  Why is being humble about one's judgments such a sign of concern?

As for what's next:  How about a Northern Strategy?  Let's do to the few moderate Republicans what Republicans have been doing to conservative Democrats for a generation.  Hey, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Lincoln Chafee, Norm Coleman, Richard Lugar, Mike Castle, Christopher Shays, Jim Leach, and the rest of y'all:  switch or die.  [He doesn't mean, die, literally, folks. -Ed.]

If you think there is a future for you in the Republican Party of George Bush, you are sadly mistaken.  If you think that we up here in Baja Canada are going to tolerate you much longer, you are wrong.  We can and must run strong liberal Democrats for these seats in the next two or four years.  Party loyalty only matters in Congress these days.  Without any brakes on this administration, those of us who believe that a woman should have control of her own body are going to have to fight harder than ever.  Moderate Republicans are too weak to make any difference in this war.  The conservatives drew the line in the Republican sand.  It's time to make those who fail to step over it sorry they ever volunteered.

I hereby declare the chief target for 2006:  .  Let's take him down, people.  Pennsylvania is too great a state for such foolish representation.

Over at I have been posting some pieces and links that should generate some important questions -- if not frightening conclusions -- about how the votes were taken, counted, and reported in an array of states and counties last week.  I know it sounds like I am taking a quick tour of conspiracyland in my post-election despair.  But I think there is something more important going on than who won last week.  I fear that our electoral system is fraying.

Let's look at it this way:  This election was close, but not that close.  Bush appears to have won by almost four million votes nationwide.  If we assume that most of these were legitimately counted, and that fewer than four million votes are questionable, then Bush is the legitimate winner of this election and we must all suffer the consequences legitimately.

But if it appears (as some have surmised) that more than two million votes for Bush are questionable or two million votes for Kerry were lost, uncounted, miscounted, or misreported, then we have a monumental problem here.  I suspect this is not the case.  It will take several weeks to figure out just how many problem votes were cast or counted or uncounted.  So let's assume that fewer than four million votes (or two million on either side) are questionable.  Does it still matter?

That depends on whether you care about the candidates or the voters; the certainty of the results or the integrity of the process.

I, for one, care about the integrity of the process.  I care about the will of each voter.  And I will continue to examine questions and accusations about computer problems, chad issues, and vote-counting irregularities until this country figures out that the current patchwork system of partisan control is simply unacceptable by any reasonable standard.

Oh, did I mention that my next book will be about how we vote (and count votes)?  Any help from Altercation readers would be greatly appreciated.

(Back to Eric)

Damn.  I forgot to mention that last night, 826NYC's Seminars for Aspiring Writers hosted an evening on writing and publishing the novel with Jonathan Franzen, David Gates, and many others.  Look into them and consider supporting anyway.  Start .  Also on a similarly related topic, Dave Eggers just published, literally, .  I really like the parts I’ve read despite my undeniable envy of his talent, drive, and nerve.

Quote of the Day: 
“I dropped by a party thrown by some 'Simpsons' writers, and bumped into old Harvard pals. On to a quick gay fix at the Abbey where I got hit on by a beefy anti-Chomsky homo.”

But did the homo go to Harvard, Andy?

Not Depressed Enough Yet?  How about the End of the E Street Band?
This post is lifted from “” but is by a poster who had the early details on the VFC dates.

… the VFC Tour raised a lot of questions concerning the future of the band.  Two members particularly have issues that were points of discussion.  The first is Clarence whose health, specifically his mobility, were at an all-time low.  His hips, knees, etc. were so bad that his difficulty in moving about and entering and exiting the stage, were very noticeable.  Although experiencing these health problems, he has advised that he can possibly participate as a full band member in one last tour. Also, although Conan will be replacing Leno by 2009, look for this move to happen a lot sooner. With this move, Max will be moving to California and head up the band for the tonight show. It looks like this will take place at the latest by 2007. Additionally, unlike the freedom that Max has had with the 99 and 02 tours, the producers of the Tonight Show will not allow him to miss the number of shows he has been allowed to while involved with the Conan show. These facts were large points of discussion by the most important of people during the VFC Tour. Although Bruce wants to do at least one more album with the ESB and corresponding world tour, these realities have entered into discussions regarding the planning of each. Realizing that any tour would last about 18 months, efforts to chart out the future of the ESB have begun.At this point, it looks like there will be one last world tour, probably beginning in 2005, most likely beginning in late spring or summer.  Additionally, efforts to finalize an album by that time will be made.  However, Bruce would rather tour without an album than force one to be released before its time.  As always, Bruce has a lot more songs and themes that he has been writing around than actual finished products.  Look for this pace and frequent travel to Atlanta to increase.Bottom line is that the future and quite possibly the end of the ESB as we have known it are well underway…

Meanwhile,   (And scroll down to see the behavior of the Bush Bores at a Parkinson’s benefit, of all places.)

Alter-reviews:  Sal Reviews the new bluegrass box on Legacy
“Can't You Hear Me Callin' - Bluegrass: 80 Years Of American Music”
"Can't You Hear Me Callin' Bluegrass: 80 Years Of American Music" is an exhaustive 4 CD set celebrating the banjo-pickin', grandpa yodelin' sound of America.  At well over 100 songs, this box set leaves no stone unturned.  Now I am no expert on this genre, and I have heard the complaints of a few cynical customers claiming there was "not enough Carter Family," but to them I say "Shaddup!"  This is an incredible collection featuring just enough Carter Family, not to mention The Stanley Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs, ("Foggy Mountain Breakdown" and "The Ballad Of Jed Clampett") Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, The Louvin Brothers, as well as some artists not necessarily known for bluegrass but who pulled it off nicely, including The Byrds.

My favorite thing about this set is hearing songs that I have been familiar with for so many years by such artists as Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, the Grateful Dead and Elvis Costello in their original form.  It is a musical history lesson, not just for that reason, but also for opening your eyes and ears to such wonderful musicians who never seem to get mentioned when those year end lists pop up.  This package should be taken in slowly to appreciate every nuance and should appeal to all who want to know why their favorite artists exist today.  It all came from this.  More .


Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Jerome Clark
Hometown: Canby, Minnesota

"A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles.  It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt.... If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake." -- Thomas Jefferson, June 4, 1798, in a letter to John Taylor of Philadelphia, after passage of the Alien and Sedition Act

Name: Calvin Smith
Hometown: Roanoke, VA

Let me expose my bias up front and say that I am an evangelical Christian first, and a conservative Republican second.  While I agree with much of the agenda of the Christian Right, I am concerned anytime churches become too wrapped up in social issues rather than in proclaiming the message that there is hope for sinners, such as myself, because of the work of Christ.  While Christians should be concerned with social issues (and I acknowledge the right does not have a monopoly on social issues), the church has too often made social issues its focus.  I am concerned when Christians put their hope in government to affect change where a change of heart is required.  

While America was founded by people who were Christians or who had respect for Christian values, America is not a Christian nation, and it is not nor can it be a theocracy.  However, I believe all authority is instituted by God, and government should strive to base its laws on his principles while being tolerant of other views. 

While you are certainly entitled to your view in this great nation of ours, the following comment in your response to the Rev. Robinson gave me pause:

"But I do think that those to whom you refer as 'liberals and non-Christians' are deserving of the same respect for their values, their morality, indeed, their gods as are you and yours."

I agree that most other views should be tolerated.  I cannot force you to agree with me, nor would I try.  That said, I should be entitled to make judgments about the relative correctness of conflicting values.  The moral relativism you express is based on no more than the lowest common denominator of the public.  What results is a system in which murder, rape, stealing and other common offenses are only wrong because the vast majority of people oppose them.  This is reflective of the consciences with which God has endowed us, but, as those consciences are far from perfect guides, we resort to majority morality, and we run into problems where there is no clear majority on such difficult moral issues as abortion and homosexuality.  Further, we ultimately have a system with no philosophical or intellectual base.

Despite the common plea that the government should not legislate morality, all laws express a moral view.  Even building regulations reflect a respect for human life.  The only question is what moral values will be reflected in our laws.

As such, while I support and fight for laws that reflect a morality I see modeled in Scripture, I put no faith in such legislation to change hearts, which only God can do.  Laws merely restrain evil.

As to the specific issue of homosexuality that so dominated this election, I fear there is no resolution.  I have no problem believing that homosexuals are born with an inclination towards homosexuality, though I don't believe we have sufficient evidence to say for sure.  That doesn't make homosexuality morally neutral, however.  We all are born with inclinations toward particular sins.  Though it is not my intent to compare homosexuals to alcoholics or pedophiles, both could also claim they were born with an almost uncontrollable inclination towards drinking to excess or molesting children.  The fact that people have strong urges does not make the acting out on such urges good or even neutral.  Doing what we feel is right is ultimately a poor moral guide.

Also, while you accuse the Christian Right of trying to force its agenda down the rest of the county's throats, the left is guilty of the same thing.  I am increasingly troubled by calls to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions, to teach our children that homosexuality is a good thing, or remove a discussion of God from the public discourse.  The left's rabid and aggressive agenda is frightening both to those on the right and those in the middle, which is, I believe, part of the reason for the election of President Bush.

I apologize for the somewhat rambling and shotgun approach to this letter.  Apart from a change in hearts, I suspect the increasing polarization of this country will only grow worse.

Name: Rev. Hart Edmonds
Hometown: Omaha, NE

Count me as a confirmed Christian and as one who falls in the progressive/Democratic side of American politics.  Growing up in the South, my grandfather explained he was a Democrat because of Franklin Roosevelt's administration.  My grandfather was a small tobacco subsistence farmer who never made much money, but he benefited from Social Security.  He also sang the praises of Roosevelt for rural electrification and the highway system.  In short, my grandparents knew the power of government for the common good.  From my grandfather, a veteran of WWI, I learned of courageous service of country, but I also learned that a nation has to be measured by its commitment to the greater common good.  We are not a nation of disconnected individuals bound together by a selfish pursuit of economic goods.  At best we are bound together by the common welfare.

The Civil Rights movement, which I witnessed first hand, in my home state of North Carolina was at heart a religiously based movement that brought dignity to Black Americans, who I saw suffer the demeaning side of separate, but unequal treatment.

I am a Presbyterian minister with a strong sense of biblical values, that teaches me that the responsibility of society and church is to the "least of these" as Jesus taught.  Read the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.  In fact, just read the Gospel of Luke (also called the gospel to the poor) and you will have no doubt that justice and values call for action to lift the poor, and the dangers of great wealth.

No one party in American politics has exclusive right to values, nor to character.  Prophetic faith admits of no separation between personal and social morality.  Read Micah 6:8 for a stiff jolt of prophetic faith.

November 8, 2004 |

Tell me, brave Captain, why are the wicked so strong?

Correspondents’ Corner I: (Some) Christians

Name: Rev. Larry Robinson
Hometown: Moreno Valley, CA
I am one of those "right-wing" evangelical pastors and Christians so vilified in your column by you and your readers.  Frankly, while I expect non-Christians to have less than a full understanding of us, I do expect more out of those who proclaim themselves to be Christians.

I want to concentrate primarily on some misconceptions held by responders like "Stupid," Tammy and Donald who spoke correctly about the requirement for Christians to care for the needy and even a correct pronouncement of Matthew 25 as evidence that we Christians are truly living in God's Kingdom doing what Christ did and would do.  Their great mistake (and one I encounter often from liberal Christians) is the failure to understand that this was never intended as the requirement of the government (except as in historic Israel when you had a Theocratic government).  It is the responsibility of individuals and the Church as a body.  This is borne out in the Book of Acts and Paul's letters to the various churches.

I would add to this point that in fact many of us in the body of Christ are doing exactly that.  Sadly, I will confess that not nearly enough do so to the danger of their own soul.  I make it a point throughout my ministry to hammer this point home as well as the powerful exhortation in Isaiah 58 that this extending oneself to the needy is the "fast" that is pleasing to God.

But please Eric and readers, just as conservative Christians should not paint liberals and non-Christians with the same broad brush, let us all seek to find where the good is in word and deed and promote it throughout our nation and the world.

Eric replies:

Dear Rev. Robinson,
I appreciate your taking the trouble to write in to Altercation to explain your concerns to our little community here.  But I must take violent exception to your contentions that Christians have been “vilified” in this space, either by “non-Christians” like myself, or by those Christians who chose to interpret scripture differently than you and your fellow religious conservatives.  (Even if, for some unthinkable reason, I were interested in vilifying Christians in this space, would refuse to print it and probably fire me for trying.)  I think it significant, however, that you interpret our disagreement with the definitions you attach to words like “morality,” “values” and even “God,” as somehow akin to vilification.  Just because many of us believe that gays should have equal rights and responsibilities in society as non-gays; just because we believe with out nation’s founders, in the separation of church and state; and just because we believe that the state has no business interfering in the most intimate decisions of a woman and her body, does not mean we are attacking your right to think differently.

The same does not seem to be the case, however, for those who demand that the Republicans use their electoral victory to impose their definition of scripture on the rest of us.  I note the following quotations from an article in yesterday’s :

"The voters have delivered a moral mandate," D. James Kennedy, president of Coral Ridge Ministries in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., declared.  "Now that values voters have delivered for George Bush, he must deliver for their values.  The defense of innocent unborn human life, the protection of marriage and the nomination and confirmation of federal judges who will interpret the Constitution, not make law from the bench, must be first priorities, come January.”… "Now comes the revolution," Richard Viguerie, the conservative direct-mail fundraising pioneer, said Wednesday.  More ominously, Viguerie wrote in a letter to other conservatives:  "Make no mistake — conservative Christians and 'values voters' won this election for George W. Bush and Republicans in Congress.  It's crucial that the Republican leadership not forget this — as much as some will try.  Liberals, many in the media and inside the Republican Party, are urging the president to 'unite' the country by discarding the allies that earned him another four years.  They're urging him to discard us conservative Catholics and Protestants, people for whom moral values are the most important issue."

I share your hope that all of us shall seek to find where the good is in word and deed and promote it throughout our nation and the world.  But I do think that those to whom you refer as “liberals and non-Christians” are deserving of the same respect for their values, their morality, indeed, their gods as are you and yours.

Eric Alterman

Correspondents Corner II: (Some) Gays

Name: Timothy Adams
Hometown: Elwood, NE

Apparently the conservative pundits held their annual meeting or sent out a memo or something.  Last night Andrew Sullivan was on Bill Maher ranting and raving about how the left shows only contempt and disdain for middle America and this is why Bush won.  This morning I read Kathleen Parker’s latest in which she says, gasp, Bush won because of the contempt liberals and their Hollywood left friends show for, you guessed it, ordinary Americans.  Let the healing begin!

I have news for Sullivan and Parker and the rest.  I live in the reddest of red states and somehow have missed all this contempt that Hollywood and the left have for me.  The only contempt I've felt at all comes from those on the right who seem to think I'm so stupid I'm stupid enough to believe this nonsense.

What's really interesting is how they are all saying the same thing, in this season of "healing" (Bill O'Reilly took a break from the falafal/loofah to make some of the same "points" last night.).  Do they really think we don't notice these things?

I was especially struck by Sullivan's arrogance and aggression on the Maher show last night.  It strikes me as demeaning for someone who probably can't even find Nebraska on a map to presume to speak for all us poor benighted souls out here in the red states. 

Eric replies:  You know, the last time we voted against Bush—and were in the majority by the way—Little Roy called us “decadent coastal elites” poised to play Fifth Column for terrorist murderers.  Now that he’s done the same thing—and we’ve apparently lost the election in part because we were too closely associated with our attachment to the right of peoplelikehim to live in dignity as human beings with the same rights and responsibilities as the rest of us—he seems, shall we say, conflicted.  Either way, I say we throw him back into the pond.  I’m sure Bush and the NRO crowd will be glad to have him back too.  All he needs to do is denounce himself as a creature of Satan and maybe name a few names in the bargain.  Try starting with this (It worked for John Diulio):  "My criticisms were groundless and baseless due to poorly chosen words and examples.  I sincerely apologize and I am deeply remorseful…. I regret any and all misimpressions. In this season of fellowship and forgiveness, I pray the same."

I have it on the highest authority that that kinda thing goes over big with Karl and Karen.

John Lennon was my favorite Beatle, but his solo career was spotty at best. Even his two most highly acclaimed solo works "Plastic Ono Band" and "Imagine" had their share of dreck.  Now, Yoko Ono has scoured the vaults and upgraded one of Lennon's more curious albums, as well as compiling a "new" record as well.

1974's "Rock N Roll" was Lennon's tribute to his rock 'n' roll heroes and influences.  Consisting of covers ranging from Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me" and Gene Vincent's "Be Bop A Lula" to Lloyd Price's "Just Because" and Ben E. King's "Stand By Me," (the latter becoming a rather successful single,)  "R'n'R" sounds like a great idea.  Well, it's fun alright, but I have always found the collection very frustrating.  The production, which admittedly sounds much better on the new remaster, was a reverberating mess.  I had chalked that up to producer Phil Spector, until I found out just recently that he was only responsible for three tracks.  Hearing Lennon, who has one of the greatest R 'n' R voices in music, rip through these classic songs would have been a great return to the days of the early Beatles.  Instead, we get 40 minutes of music that sounds like it was recorded in a coal mine.  Still, with the inclusion of 4 bonus tracks, it is worth having.  He WAS a Beatle, for Pete's sake.

"Acoustic" is the gem of the two.  For many Beatle diehards, the material on this CD will not come as much of a surprise.  There have been countless bootlegs featuring every recorded hiccup and grunt by all four moptops.  But that doesn't change the fact that this CD is an amazing collection for many reasons, first and foremost- the sound quality.  Yoko Ono has chosen 18 "guitar" demos for this release, as opposed to the many songs John had recorded on that famous white piano.  If anyone has heard some of the unreleased material on the Beatles "Anthology" series, you will recall John's piano almost always drowning out his vocals.  Not here.  "Acoustic" sounds as if it was recorded yesterday, with Lennon's vocals eerily in your face.  And that's not a bad thing.  It features songs from as early as 1968 right through demos recorded for Lennon's last record "Double Fantasy," including 7 songs that have never been heard before.  It plays like the "unplugged" record John never made.  It's wonderful and an absolute must.


Correspondents Corner III:  (Pierce, et al.)

Name: Meg
Hometown: St. Louis

Don't go Charlie!!  OK, go if you have to; you've gone way above and beyond the call in articulating the views that the rest of us are too lazy or too unimaginative to put into compelling language.  This was the first election that inspired me to get off my butt and go to work for a victory, and I really thought we had it.  So I spent Tuesday night and most of Wednesday either in tears or on the verge of tears and suffering no fools lightly (meaning my students had a rough go of it too, but I've come to the conclusion that unreflective comments should be met quickly and harshly, no matter the source; we have to reclaim fact-based argumentation in this country).

But now that I've got 48 hours of perspective on the whole damned mess, I can identify a couple of things that give me hope.  When I was volunteering at the polls Tuesday morning in the cold misty wind of St. Louis, I was humbled (truly, not in that George Bush sort of way) by the people coming out to vote.  People with walkers, with canes, in wheelchairs.  They chose to come to the polls and not to vote absentee because being a part of the ritual, participating with everyone else, and being reminded of democracy as community was important to them.  (OK, they didn't say that, but why else go out in that weather?)  "I've voted in every election since '52, and I won't miss one 'til I'm gone!"  "Nobody had to call me to remind me to vote; I've never missed an election!"  And then the young people.  One young woman came to me shyly asking for advice.  "I've never voted before.  Will it be clear what I'm supposed to do, where I'm supposed to go?"  I tried to reassure her that she wouldn't be humiliated, even if she ended up having to ask for help once inside, but I did worry that I might be setting her up.  Despite her fears, she forged ahead and came out with a big smile on her face.  First vote accomplished!

Yes, the outcome is devastating, and I fear for our country in ways that I still can't completely acknowledge, lest I become overwhelmed and sink into despair.  But there's hope too.  If we can survive until 2008 (maybe even 2006), we can take this nation back.  The energy that's gone into exposing the Bush presidency for all of its lies and missteps won't just disappear overnight.  Too many people have too much invested, and have too much information simply to step back and let this administration destroy what it took centuries to construct.

But we will continue to need you, Charlie and Eric, to help put into words every day the thoughts the rest of us are just beginning to formulate.  I'm inspired by your dedication, and even considering a career change that might help me make a difference.