Slacker Friday

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

We've got a new "Think Again" column here called "Your Government: Access Denied." Read it and weep.

James McMurtry: "Cheney's Toy" (for free):

"Cheney's Toy" at eMusic.

James McMurtry's MySpace page.

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc --

"Feel good music, I been told/Good for your body, good for your soul/Hey pocky way."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click -- "Handa Wanda," Wild Magnolias: This week, I neglected to arrange a Mardi Gras parade through downtown Tashkent, the theme of which would be how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: Thank you, Johan, for going to the correct borough in New York. Ian Kennedy better be 24-3, 2.11, 320 next season, or Brian Cashman's noggin will be adorning a guardrail on the Major Deegan. Meanwhile, Jacoby Ellsbury stays in center field for Your Defending World Champions. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.

Part The Second: Note to Craig Crawford. You've been on MSNBC more than bad economic news recently. Here's a tip, stud. Don't laugh heartily at your own jokes, especially when they're not, you know, funny. You look like some drone at the yacht club bar.

Part The Third: As a certified old MSM dead-tree guy, I've been gratified by my reception by the kidz here in Blogistan. One of the first ones I heard from was Dave Neiwert. I'm lucky enough to have a regular gig. If you like what I do here, send Dave some money there. It's hard, expensive work removing Jonah Goldberg's spleen.

Part The Last: The meme of the week is that John McCain is Not Conservative Enough. This escaped my notice. He cleverly disguised it by saying he was going to allow a theocratic loon like Sam Brownback to help him pick his judges. Heads are exploding all over the Movement these days.

It is fortunate indeed for Willamette Romney, the former governor of the Commonwealth (God save it!), that he was in a field that also featured Rudy! Giuliani's brilliant strategy of waiting until 2010 to win the 2008 election, and Fred Thompson's extended exercise in public narcolepsy. Otherwise, more people might have caught on earlier that Romney is perhaps the single biggest maladroit who ever became a serious national candidate for anything. Ed Muskie was more likable, Gerry Ford was better spoken, and Jimmy Carter was bigger laughs. The other night, St. John sat there and lied again, barefaced, about Romney's record on Iraq, thereby giving Willamette a chance to hit hard and fast at the most prized part of the Straight Talker's public image. I moved to the edge of my chair. It was Romney's "There you go again" moment. Ronald Reagan would have parked McCain so deep in the cheap seats that you'd have had to use the Hubble to find him. (Let us pause here to remind readers who may have joined our post in progress that these two men were arguing about which of them is the most dedicated to continuing a war that 70 percent of the American people have concluded is not worth it. We now return to our regularly scheduled post. Thank you.)

What did Romney do? He failed to be able to pronounce the THIRD FREAKING WORD -- "unequivocally" -- of his answer. He fumbled and foozled and talked in something that was a good two feet off of actual English and McCain kept giggling and lying and giggling some more and lying some more until, finally, even after the reporters kept tossing him a lifeline, Willamette lost the moment entirely. I watched him in Massachusetts -- first in a senatorial campaign against Ted Kennedy and then when he ran for governor. He was polished and professional and Not Insane, which are really the only requirements for a Republican here in the Commonwealth (God save it!) As a presidential candidate, he spent a flat year -- and millions of his own dollars -- truckling to people who'd never vote for him and saying the most preposterous things. He pulled the car over and wept when the Mormons finally decided that black folks didn't bear the Mark Of Cain, or Ham, or whatever Mark it was? His sons were defending America by pitching him at every bean supper in Iowa? His dark night of the soul when he decided to oppose stem-cell research because he was agonized over cloning? And, my personal favorite, that he was frustrated back in the day because he was on his Mormon mission in France rather than humping the boonies outside of Chu Lai. You'd have to have had the brain of a ficus to believe this stuff, but Willamette kept on pitching, looking like he was running for inclusion in the Hall of Presidents at Disney World. Of all the candidates victimized by having to appeal to the vaunted Republican "base," of all the passengers on the Crazy Train, Romney was the one who was most manifestly out of place. My lord, the man's a foof.

Name: J DAlessandro
Hometown: Crestwood, NY

Conservatives are different from liberals, and not just in basic beliefs. There's the authoritarianism, of course, but there's something else scampering around their attics. Listen this week, for example, to Rush Limbaugh or one of his progeny, twenty minutes is more than adequate. Listen to the torrents of hatred and vitriol directed at McCain. Now, I'm no fan of the guy, but in what sense is he offensive to conservatives in respect to the war in Iraq and abortion? If anything, he's more conservative on these issues than he has to be. On other issues, he's brazenly flip-flopped, just like Romney, to be where he thinks he has to be. However, he has crossed the true believers just too many times, and they don't trust him. They demand and will accept only 100% of what they want. By contrast, I don't see that many Obama, Clinton, or Edwards backers who will stay home if their favorite loses and let McCain get elected and extend the war for 100 years, appoint more John Roberts to the Court, and expand domestic spying. Sure, some will, but in the end, even a majority of the McGovern supporters in 1968 held their noses and voted for Humphrey. Its part of living in the reality-based world.

But conservatives are different. They are black and white people, and they cannot be negotiated with. They have been and always will be with us, and a candidate who thinks you can reach out to them through inspirational rhetoric and arrive at a mutually-satisfactory outcome for the good of all is not being realistic.

Name: BoogerP
Hometown: Brighton, MI

Eric, Re: Hillary and Obama. No matter which one becomes the Democratic nominee for President, I would be very happy if the winner chooses John Edwards as their running mate. I concur with the journalists' position that Edwards presented himself with both grace and dignity, the platforms shared were well thought out and in step with the times we live in. Clinton\Edwards or Obama\Edwards, either would be a winning combination over whatever the Right Wing element comes up with. John Edwards presiding over a distinctly Democratic Senate, this would help lay the groundwork America needs so badly to put the Bush\Cheney years behind us and take us into these early years of the 21st century. This would imply that Bush\Cheney will allow the elected President to actually take office ... For more on the platforms and vision of John Edwards, see here.

Name: Larry Epke
Hometown: Richton Park, IL

Kurt Weldon wrote, "I really don't want to see the highest office in the land see-saw between the same two families for 24 to 28 years. It makes me think of Lancaster and York. It smacks of aristocracy. And I think we've done enough lately that smacks of aristocracy to last us for quite awhile, thank you."

He's not the first to make this argument, but what he's really saying is -- Hillary Clinton is not to be judged on her merits. She must be punished for the fact that George Bush was elected twice. The nation, it seems to me, has been punished for that fact already. Shall we now claim that a candidate's qualifications don't matter and add further insult to the injury?

Name: Karl W.
Hometown: Bloomfield, CT

"How can you care about poor people when you're so rich?"

It bears repeating that our political vocabulary about the poor has become almost more base and nasty than imaginable over the last quarter century. If the NYT were holding up its end of the bargain, someone there would have noticed this.

Ronald Reagan felt compelled to mouth words separating the shiftless, lazy welfare queens from the honest, hardworking poor. Whether this was grounded in reality (being on the dole during the Great Depression), or was part of a political calculation, it matters not: The image of caring for the worthy poor had to be maintained.

What's the post-millennial reality? It'd be hard to bring up a President who is more offhandedly cruel to so many people who can't do anything to him than GWB. But I don't have to. Even a couple years ago, during a long economic expansion, the attitude expressed towards the poor was clear: Poverty is your own damn fault. Only those who don't actually need government assistance are worthy of it.

John Edwards is to be congratulated for exerting force in the other direction.

Name: Bill Skeels
Hometown: Raleigh

"I've been to a hundred rock concerts, and while most were enjoyable, they mostly blend together and all I can recall are the awful concerts."

I get that Mr. Werner is trying to extol the virtues of classical music, and more power to him. This, however, is beyond absurd. He clearly either needs to start picking better concerts, or just stick to classical.

I went last week to see a band fronted by Don Dixon, who rose to regional fame as a performer, then became an acclaimed producer (REM, Marshall Crenshaw, many others). Along with 300 other lucky attendees in a middle sized club here in Raleigh, I saw a show of the highest quality, full of outstanding and passionate performances of tunes mostly taken from Dixon's excellent, critically acclaimed solo career. It was completely exhilarating, and I won't be forgetting that one, as I won't forget small venue performances from Fred Eaglesmith, Billy Joe Shaver, Stacey Earle or Chris Knight, and that's all recently out here in the hinterlands. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to forget seeing Solomon Burke and the Dixie Hummingbirds in Durham this weekend, either.

Mr. Werner needs to get out of the arenas and catch the real excellence and passion in music available in the best middle sized and small venues all over America. I'm sorry, but comparing that experience to arena rock or whatever other 'rock' experience he's describing is like putting a Bud Lite next to a fine microbrew.

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