Communication breakdown

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Here's a new review of Why We're Liberals. It's from Publisher's Weekly, and it's here.

There's been some pizza talk of late between Matt and Ezra, and like so many things, its implicit undercurrent is the superiority of New York to Washington, something that hardly requires restatement. Two caveats, however: If you were judging a city strictly on the basis of its pizza, you'd have to pick New Haven as the greatest city in the world. My recollection of the burgers there would also put it near the top, (though not with regard to much else.) One thing it pains me to report, though, is the fact that the place in Brooklyn, Di Fara's, which is supposed to have the best pizza in the world, but has been closed a great deal recently because of health code violations, is not worth the effort. It's gross on the inside -- the tables are never cleaned -- and you can wait for 40 minutes without ever seeing a slice or anyone ever even telling you anything. I've eaten the pizza quite a few times, but no pizza is that good. Yeah, yeah, the old man has been making it the same way for 60 years and he grinds his own cheese. I said it's terrific. But so what? Last time I was there, I arranged my whole evening around it and finally gave up. Sal and Carmine's is good enough...

Hey, folks, George Zornick here, as Eric is now off to Washington to promote Why We're Liberals. You can catch him today at the Take Back America conference for a book signing at 2:30, and there's also a reading tonight at 6:30 at the Borders on 18th and L streets. His full schedule is here:

Tuesday, March 18, 2:30 p.m.
Take Back America conference
Washington, DC (signing only)

Tuesday, March 18, 6:30 p.m.
Borders, 18th and L streets
Washington, DC

Wednesday, March 19, 7 p.m.
Politics and Prose
Washington, DC

Thursday, March 20, 7 p.m.
Ethical Culture Society (Sponsored by Left Bank Books)
St. Louis, MO

Monday, March 24, 7 p.m.
Barnes & Noble, 82nd and Broadway
New York, NY

Tuesday, March 25, 7:30 p.m.
First Congregational Church of Berkeley
2345 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA
Sponsored by Cody's Books

Thursday, March 27, 7:30 p.m.
Powell's Books
Portland, OR

Friday, March 28, 7:30 p.m.
Town Hall Seattle
sponsored by Elliott Bay Book Co.
Seattle, WA

Saturday, March 29
Seattle, WA
Talk/reception in a private home; email below for details if you'd like to come and I will send them to you ...

Meanwhile, I'll add that it's officially Sunshine Week, as last week's Think Again column noted, and the Bush administration has a proud contribution to the festivities: after President Bush pledged to reduce the number of unfulfilled Freedom of Information requests, an audit by the National Security Archive has revealed a 2 percent drop in the number of backlogged FOIA cases -- there are now only 212,000 requests still stuck in limbo!

In reality, this almost irrelevant reduction was probably coincidental, given how unseriously the administration took the pledge. Says the story: " 'Behind its ambitious facade, the order [to address the backlog] lacked both carrot and stick,' the audit said, because it provided no additional money to do the job and no way to force agencies to set substantial goals or step up their efforts if they fell short."

The hostility toward open government is not new, and it's not surprising that, as was also revealed this week, more than three-quarters of Americans view the federal government as secretive. And campaign managers take note: nearly nine in 10 say it's "important to know presidential and congressional candidates' positions on open government when deciding who to vote for."

Readers should feel free to send the above poll to the editors at Time. As always, Glenn Greenwald is all over a totally stupefying article in the magazine about the abuse of spying powers by the government, that claims Americans actually support what's been going on. Massimo Calabresi writes, in what appears to be a news article, that:

A quick tally of the record of civil liberties erosion in the United States since 9/11 suggests that the majority of Americans are ready to trade diminished privacy, and protection from search and seizure, in exchange for the promise of increased protection of their physical security. Polling consistently supports that conclusion ...

And:

In all the examples of diminished civil liberties, there are few, if any, where the motivating factor was something other than law and order or national security.

And:

There are no scandalous examples of the White House using the Patriot Act powers for political purposes or of individual agents using them for personal gain.

See Glenn for all the beautiful refutation of this silliness. (Two-thirds of Americans actually say "they are not willing to sacrifice civil liberties to prevent terrorism.") The bottom line is that the Bush administration has not opened up it's spying policies to scrutiny -- neither judicial nor legislative. It's really amazing, then, to see one of the country's leading news magazines state that "there are no scandalous examples" of abuse of the Patriot Act. If that was even true, it would be because they're not telling us anything. But, as Glenn notes, the contention is false anyway: currently, for example, the White House is using the Patriot Act to shield members of the executive branch from complying with subpoenas related to the U.S. attorney's scandal.

McCain Suck-Up Watch -- a real doozy: "The Politico's Jonathan Martin wrote that Sen. John McCain's 'comprehensive approach to immigration reform could play well with Hispanics at all income levels,' and that 'his passion for addressing climate change and zeal for political reform could appeal to the sort of affluent, well-educated voters who have largely abandoned the GOP in the Bush years.' But Martin did not note that McCain has shifted his position on comprehensive immigration reform and that he has a lifetime rating of 24 percent from the League of Conservation Voters."

From TomDispatch:

On the fifth anniversary of the launching of the invasion of Iraq, Greg Mitchell, the editor of Editor & Publisher magazine and author of the just-published So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq, takes us on a rare positive stroll down media memory lane.

Here's how he begins: "We can all name our favorite not-famous reporters or online scribes who have covered the war in Iraq in ways that should have been far more common, or offered biting commentary here at home. A full list would be long indeed, but here, on the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, is my modest tip of the hat to just a few of my own favorites, based on what, to some, might seem an idiosyncratic definition of 'journalist.' "

His tips of the hat are striking and always surprising, ranging from former New York Times correspondent Chris Hedges, now with the Nation Institute, to Neil Young (yes, that's right, an aging rock 'n' roller) to Mark Benjamin (once at UPI, now writing for Salon.com) and Lee Pitts of the Chattanooga Times -- and don't forget about Stephen Colbert!

Finally, there are the "Baghdad Bloggers" of McClatchy's news bureau in the Iraqi capital, the brave Iraqi reporters who have taken over many of McClatchy's assignments in that dangerous land and blog it daily like it is.

Alter-reviews by Eric:

Van Morrison, Shelby Lynne, and Willie Nelson

I caught a relaxed, funky-but-casual set by Van Morrison and his 11-piece band Saturday night at the magnificent United Palace Theater, home to "Reverend Ike" in Washington Heights. Most of the set was taken up by songs from Van's new album, called Keep It Simple on Lost Highway. I've not yet heard it, but when I see on the album site that it combines all of Van's influences -- jazz, folk, blues, Celtic, country, soul, and gospel -- I think, well, that sounds like the show I saw. And a lovely show it was, if you don't mind the fact that Van played virtually none of the songs with which most of us associate him and that the top ticket price was -- are you ready -- $304. Ben Ratliff is a great deal more thoughtful and informative than I've just been in his review here.

Shelby Lynne -- Just A Little Lovin'

Shelby Lynne's homage to Dusty Springfield, one of her favorite singers, is out on Lost Highway Records and it's terrific. It includes 10 tracks, nine of which are associated with Springfield, and one is an original song that Lynne says was inspired by Dusty. Lynne recorded the album on a 2-inch tape machine after becoming disenchanted with digital recording. The album is produced with a nice clean sound by Phil Ramone. More information is available at her site, here.

Willie Nelson -- Moment of Forever

Willie Nelson's Moment of Forever is a lovely surprise. It doesn't feel the slightest bit tired and includes some really lovely and inspired takes on songs that have been around for quite a while, but sound brand new. The record pairs him with country singer Kenny Chesney, and includes a version of Kris Kristofferson's title track and closes with Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody." There are also a bunch of Willie originals and a song I don't know by Dave Matthews. More information is available here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Paul Stetler
Hometown: Columbus, NJ

Just got the book delivered from Barnes & Noble Saturday via UPS -- looking forward to reading it!

Name: Jim Hassinger
Hometown: Glendale, CA

I agree that the Florida and Michigan results are tainted, and that they shouldn't be counted in their present form. I'll even further specify that Hillary, in part, wants to include those two big states because she thinks they might be advantageous to her. But at the same time, I cannot believe the short-sightedness of those people who are arguing that justice can only be served by denying the vote that millions of Floridians or Michiganders have cast, and want to cast in a recount. If Obama is a new kind of politics, go ahead, be a new kind of politics. Let the people vote.

Name: Dan
Hometown: Greer, SC

As a supporter of Hillary Clinton, I must confess that after having the Clintons, and by inference, those who support them, branded as racist in their opposition to Senator Obama, it is exceedingly coincidental that now the Obama campaign finds itself knee deep in racial muck, compliments of the Reverend Wright.

I am not happy about this turn of events, but it brings back into focus the words of Bill Clinton: indeed an Obama nomination would be a roll of the dice. It is only opportune in one manner -- best that Obama and his folks have to confront this now rather than in October of this year, if he has the nomination.

I firmly believe that the Obama haters and the right wing swift boaters have now been given enough ammunition to sink a large vessel. There is but one way to stave off the election of McCain, and his four more years of hell, and that is for Obama to drop out of the race. The polls will soon demonstrate the disaster, there is a cancer on the candidacy, and it needs attention not nomination.

Name: Michael
Hometown: Denver, CO

Dr. A,

I have been thinking a lot about health care in this country. I was already angry about the cost for just my wife and I and could not imagine what it would cost if we had kids. Then about a month ago my father was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer. I never thought I would hear those words "our (insert family member) has cancer." It was not long after his diagnosis that the world found out that Patrick Swayze also has pancreatic cancer. My heart and best wishes go out the Swayze Family and their loved ones, but it hard not to think that he will have better chance at survival than my father. Mostly, since he has the means to pay for the best treatment money can buy. My father is lucky to have decent health insurance as a retired postal worker. He will have a better chance than most. Then I think about those who will die without treatment because their health insurance will not cover treatment or those who do not have health insurance. And I think about the drug companies and their agenda. Do they want to cure cancers or do they want to just treat them? There is more money to be made with treating than curing. I also think about the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and billions wasted that could have gone to persuade drug companies to find a cure and provide health care for those who do not have it. I know I am not the only one to see how these things could be connected.

I really want to get the word out about pancreatic cancer since it is an extremely deadly form of cancer. It is difficult to detect and treat. In all cases it is a death sentence since most do not survive beyond the first 12-18 months. Only 1 in 5 or 20% make to 5 years and those are the lucky ones to have surgery. I ask you and all your readers to wear purple in support of my father Jose, Patrick Swayze and all those who have this deadly disease. Pancreatic cancer is still under funded and not as well publicized as other forms of cancer. I urge you to support the PanCan Network by donating and/or calling your members of Congress and demand increase funding for research.

At this point, I really don't care who wins the presidency also long as they stop the occupations, increase funding for medical research and help all Americans get health care. There should not be another tear shed from families who have suffered from war or disease. Doc A, I know I am babbling, but you have a great forum for those of us who do not know where they can turn to get their voices heard. I feel helpless right now and writing is a little therapy for me. So, thank you and your readers for allowing me to share my feelings.

Name: Steve Stein
Hometown: Acton, MA

"What are 'mere Muggles' anyway?"

How can a contemporary writer be ignorant of the best-selling author of the decade? May your bookselling hosts forgive you!

And hey, we're liberals up here in New England, too! Get on up here and sell your book! :-)

Name: Jim
Hometown: Darien

Hi Eric,

Muggles are from the world of Harry Potter: mere mortals that do not have wizardly powers. I'm a bit shocked: it's as if a dad of 1968 was puzzled by a reference to the Beatles!

Eric adds: That's the last time I volunteer my own ignorance in this crowd. (And comparing Potter to the Beatles? Surely you jest ...)

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