I've got a new "Think Again" column here Called "Bad Rates Risin'," about the scandalous rise in postal rates for small magazines.
The Joe Klein/"Democrats are Jerks" saga, continued, here.
Amid the "good news" now coming out of Iraq, in an otherwise unremarkable video-conference press briefing for reporters in Washington, set up by the Pentagon and conducted with Col. Jeffrey Bannister, an American front-line officer garrisoning Baghdad neighborhoods, Michael Schwartz noticed a telling piece of overlooked news. The colonel, discussing the arming (and paying) of volunteer citizens to patrol their neighborhoods, kept referring to an unexplained "five-year plan" for the American presence there that, he indicated, was guiding his actions.
With this in mind, Schwartz surveys the new Iraqi landscape and, in his latest sharp TomDispatch analysis of the situation, considers just why, whether things are going badly or, as he puts it, "less badly," the Bush administration is planning to go nowhere in the foreseeable future in Iraq. He explores just why as well, despite the recent spate of good news, it's reasonable to say that things are still not going well. ("You can tell things can't be going well if your best-case plan is for an armed occupation force to remain in a major Baghdad community for the next five years. It means that the underlying causes of disorder are not being addressed. You can tell things are not going well if five more years are needed to train and activate a local police force, when police training takes about six months.")
In addition, he considers just what's at stake for the Bush administration -- why, in fact, George Bush won't leave Iraq and, of the Iraqi Catch-22, he concludes, "As long as [the Bush administration] is determined to install a friendly, anti-Iranian regime in Baghdad, one that is hostile to 'foreigners,' including all jihadists, but welcomes an ongoing American military presence as well as multinational development of Iraqi oil, the American armed forces aren't going anywhere, not for a long, long time; and no relative lull in the fighting -- temporary or not -- will change that reality. This is the Catch-22 of Bush administration policy in Iraq. The worse things go, the more our military is needed; the better they go, the more our military is needed."
The Eagles, "Long Road Out Of Eden" by Sal
I have a love/hate relationship with The Eagles.
Why I love them:
"Hotel California," "I Can't Tell You Why," "Desperado," and "Lyin' Eyes." Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit. Those amazing harmonies, especially on the bridge in "The Sad Cafe." Links to the James Gang and Poco and Jackson Browne.
Why I hate them:
"Life In The Fast Lane," "The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks," "Those Shoes," and "Already Gone." They fired Don Felder. Don Henley. Glenn Frey (mostly because he wrote "Smuggler's Blues.") Wal-Mart. And of course, Don Henley. There's so much I can say about the depth of my loathing of Henley, but I think it is mostly for writing "Dirty Laundry," and that rancid refrain "KICK'EM WHEN THEY'RE UP!/KICK'EM WHEN THEY'RE DOWN/KICK'EM WHEN THEY'RE UP/KICK'EM ALL AROUND!"
"Long Road Out Of Eden," the first new Eagles record in 28 years, only available at Wal-Mart (yay!) and actually lots of other places if you take 12 seconds and search the web, is two CDs with plenty to love and hate.
Twenty songs in 90 minutes could have easily been trimmed to 11 songs in 50 minutes, giving us one solid release. Henley's politics are all over the place. And there's nothing wrong with that, per se, it's just that lyrically he is about as clumsy as a newborn calf. Check out "Business As Usual" with his references to "El Jefe" and the Bible Belt. It just doesn't work. Not all of Henley's contributions are bad. The opening track, "No More Walks In The Woods," is a short, but absolutely satisfying piece of music with those amazing Eagles vocals I mentioned before. "Busy Being Fabulous" is a mid-tempo pop tune that is pure Eagles circa 1976, and "Waiting In The Weeds," is a nearly 8 minute ballad, with hook after hook, and again, superb harmonies from Timothy B.
The rest of the guys have their say, as well. But it's very uneven. Everyone seems as if they are trying to recreate the sound of their last hit 28 years ago. (Schmit's songs all sound like "I Can't Tell You Why.") And Joe Walsh gets one song, "Last Good Time in Town," and it's...well...it's fine. It's Joe.
So much bothers me about the band. The deal with Wal-Mart, the controversy surrounding the million dollars spent to record "Heartache Tonight," Miami Vice, and the one incident that sealed my dislike in blood -- they were the first band to charge $100 for a ticket at Giants Stadium in 1994. I can't even get beyond little things, like the title of Glenn Frey's song on disc 2, "I Love To Watch A Woman Dance." If that was written by Bruce Springsteen or Jackson Browne I would think to myself, "Aaah. Me too." But Glenn Frey telling me he loves to watch a woman dance, makes me think, "Oh ... you DO, do you?"
Long Road Out Of Eden. It is what it is. If you're a fan of The Eagles, much of it will not disappoint. It sounds like The Eagles.
Only 141 More Days 'til Jazz Fest
The Chipmunks: Greatest Hits: Still Squeaky After All These Years and Christmas With The Chipmunks
Just in time for the holidays (and the release of a big-screen Chipmunks movie on December 14 ...) are two albums collecting their, um, best work. Still Squeaky features 26 tracks, including versions of the Beatles' "She Loves You" and "Can't Buy Me Love." The Christmas CD includes all the regular hits, from "Frosty the Snowman" to "Jingle Bells." More information is available here.
Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Hey Doc --
"Worked all the summer/Worked all the fall/Had to take Chris'mas/In my overalls."
Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click -- "Neon Monkey" (Jeff Albert) - Once again, I have neglected to hijack the Navy's ELF system to broadcast to all of America's nuclear submarines how much I love New Orleans.
Joe Klein's taken a lot of heat this week but, in the wide world of America's newsweeklies, is there a bigger out-and-out foof than The Rev. Jon Meacham over at Newsweek? If you don't read this pile of tripe regularly, please begin to do so, if only for a laugh or five. (It was to put paid to this kind of nonsense that the great Flann O'Brien composed the underwater dialogue with St. Augustine in The Dalkey Archive.) You will note that the Rev. Meacham's colleague in his wanderings through appletini metaphysics is none other than that noted theologian, Sally Quinn, author of both the Summa Homewreckica and the semi-autobiographical God Is My Valet Parking Attendant. Not content with giving unto a sinful world the theological musings of a superannuated trophy wife with apparently enough fish poison in her forehead to stun Seattle, the Rev. Meacham, who maunders endlessly on about how we're yelling at each other too much and not praying together nearly enough, went out of his way to give a column to Karl Rove. (Jon Alter? To the white courtesy phone, please. Your conscience is calling.) So I feel comfortable in saying to the good reverend, in all Christian love and fellowship, that he should take his faith and jam it somewhere sideways. I have faith in my craft, too, and it deserves better than the likes of the Reverend Meacham, who pollutes it by empowering a vicious public liar and heedless political vandal and then wallows in his own public sanctimony like a hog in a vat of syrup. Next time you two chat, Rev, tell your personal Lord and savior that you've been behaving like a jackass, OK?
As part of the day job, I had occasion to talk for a while last week with Michael Dukakis, whose energy I continue to envy. We talked about trains. My lord, does this man like to talk about trains. Anyway, he mentioned that, somewhere in a dusty file cabinet, there is a plan for a 10-state high-speed passenger rail system that would connect all the major -- and some of the not-so-major -- cities in the Midwest. As it happens, I spend an awful lot of time in O'Hare Airport -- aka Gehenna With Bookstores. Some ungodly large percentage of the flights in and out of that sclerotic nightmare cover 350 miles or less, according to Dukakis. If you could get from Chicago to St. Louis -- city center to city center -- in four hours, why would you not do that? Or Indianapolis to Madison -- again, city center to city center. This whole thing was a revelation to me. More to the immediate point, Iowa is included in the plan and, as Dukakis fumed, have you heard any of the Democratic contenders even mention this thing in the past two years? (The GOP field is, of course, hopeless, unless the plan can be made to include windowless cattle-cars for the transportation of undocumented lawn-service men, or a luxury rolling seraglio for Mrs. Giuliani du jour, or both. However, it should be noted that one of the original drivers of the plan was Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor who's already dropped out.) Part of the whole reason for giving slices of Velveeta like Iowa and New Hampshire pride of place in the nominating process is to make the national bigfeet respond to local concerns. This is why we have to talk about freaking ethanol every four years. This is a real plan -- and, note well, Dean Broder, a bipartisan plan -- that will ease congestion, reduce greenhouse gases, and make lives easier for hundreds of thousands of people across an important region of the country -- to say nothing of the fact that it will help get this country on the same track -- Yeah, I know, but there was no way around it -- with the rest of the industrialized world on something. (Today passenger rail; tomorrow, universal health care!) Speak up, lady and gentlemen.
Jeebus Christmas, now Dukakis has me talking about trains. How in hell did this guy ever lose?
As I watched the Republican debate on Wednesday night, I really couldn't believe the questions that were being asked. The debate lasted just a bit over two hours, yet CNN went a full hour and a half without asking a question about Iraq! The first Iraq-related question was asked at about 9:30 (I confirmed by this reading the Huffington Post's live-blog later on here), and that question was pretty much asking the candidates to pledge a "long-term commitment" to stay in Iraq.
I actually saw Robert Plant at Sound Emporium in Nashville when he and Allison were recording their record. Then this week I listened to their efforts. I found the former rather more rewarding and more exciting than the latter.
"Fucking" is also an infix (or interfix), as in 'un-fucking-believable'.
Happy to help keep things classy.