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"Fake coffee on the real news, two plastic cups permanently filled with some kind of bogus drink. The anchors aren't even supposed to acknowledge them, McDonald's reps explain ..." Why do I feel this story is as emblematic as anything of the current state and/or future direction of what is called the "news business"? I mean, look at these people. Fox News is only a pretend news station, the better to make money off of people's ignorance, prejudice, and taste for sensationalism. Fox Broadcasting is not as uniformly awful -- how could it be, with The Simpsons and all -- but its news broadcasts are, and this here is really all you need to know. Just look at that photo. Fake coffee, paid for by McDonald's!

And they call it "news." And according to this report, it's happening everywhere. And we the taxpayers give these idiots the broadcast spectrum for free. That's some racket in more ways than one can count, but the one that is perhaps most offensive is that we let them call it "news."

From Bob Bateman:

LTC Bateman here, just a few observations today because there were several interesting stories related to the military and strategy over the weekend. (And no, I am not talking about political factors.)

On Sunday, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was on Fox News being interviewed by Chris Wallace. Among his many comments were the following observations made about the situation with Iran:

WALLACE: I want to ask you two questions about Iran. How do you weigh, as a military man, as the top military man, the downside risk if either the U.S. or Israel were to militarily strike Iran in terms of blowback from Iran and its allies in the region, increased turmoil in that area, increased turmoil in the oil market?

MULLEN: I think it would be significant. I worry about it a lot. I've said, when I've been asked this before, right now I'm fighting two wars and I don't need a third one to -- I would be concerned. Not that I couldn't -- not that we don't have the reserve to do it in the United States. We do. But I worry about the instability in that part of the world and, in fact, the possible unintended consequences of a strike like that in, in fact, having an impact throughout the region that would be difficult to both predict exactly what it would be and then the actions that we would have to take to contain it.

Interpret that response as you will. While you are at it, examine this.

Command Prayer:

Then there is the issue of chaplains within the military. As this column puts it, "New legislation would assure that all military chaplains in every branch of the U.S. armed services, including military academies, would have the prerogative to recite a closing prayer outside of a religious service according to the dictates of the chaplain's own conscience."

I have commented on this topic before, of course. But this is the pull quote: "For Christian chaplains, closing their prayers in the name of Jesus Christ is a fundamental part of their beliefs, and to suppress this form of expression would violate their religious freedom. The demand for so-called 'nonsectarian' prayer is merely a euphemism declaring that prayers will be acceptable only so long as they censor Christian beliefs."

This quote came from Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-NC). Jones apparently does not understand the implications of his proposed legislation. If I, as an officer or leader, learn of or watch my chaplain invoke "his" god at a public command-presence ceremony in accord with Jones' proposed law, I will have a very simple solution. I will not have a chaplain at such an event. Ever. Period.

These events under consideration, you see, are not religious. They are secular military things, like change of command ceremonies, or a pre-deployment ceremony, or military social functions like a formal "dining in." In other words, they have nothing to do with religion, and enlisted men of all religions are required to be there. There is, however, absolutely no reason for a chaplain to be there except for a fairly recent tradition (roughly the past 50 years or so). A tradition is not a regulation or doctrine. It is just a tradition. You can dump it without consequence. So, the effect of Jones' legislation is that I, and people like me, may well likely take the simple step of just not inviting the chaplain at all. We will dump the chaplain and his "right" to invoke his own god in a public military ceremony. He can sit in his office or stand quietly in formation by himself for all I care. It is that simple. Jones probably should have thought of that first.

(Eric chimes in: I'm "reading" The Abstinence Teacher right now on my beach walks. It's about a related topic. I like everything Tom Perrotta writes, and this is no exception.)

U.S. Advisers:

Finally, there is this solid analysis article by USA Today Baghdad bureau chief Charles Levinson. (Full disclosure: I know and like Levinson. I do not always agree with him, or think that he gets every single element of every story exactly right. But I do trust him.)

The salient point here is that everyone should now begin to understand that no matter who wins the presidency, and no matter how quickly that man begins to pull out U.S. troops, there will still be Americans on the ground for a long time, because the intent espoused by both politicians is to pull out "combat" troops, but by long usage "advisers" are not the same as "combat troops." (No matter how much actual combat they do see.)

George Zornick writes:

Yesterday, Think Progress alerted us to the fact that CNN was giving the entire 9 p.m. hour to Glenn Beck that night, who guest-hosted Larry King Live.

Beck made a completely predictable mess of the show -- tossing the usual bombs at Barack Obama for being "dead wrong on the surge" and that Beck's "never (seen) anything like it," calling him "the most liberal senator in Congress," and so on. (Also, Michael Savage is in trouble for saying this on his nationally syndicated radio show: "I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is." Beck and/or his producers deemed Savage's argument worthy of the closing spot on Larry King Live, brought Savage on the air, and actually featured two doctors to have a discussion on Savage's lunacy).

Anyhow, the whole hour was saved by this exchange, which I assume is even more hilarious on tape than on a transcript. Beck was bashing Obama as nothing but a speechifier, and this exchange with David Gergen and Ben Stein ensued:

BECK: Thomas Jefferson was a horrible public speaker. Abraham Lincoln, horrible public speaker. Could they win in America today?

GERGEN: What are you talking about? What are you talking about?

STEIN: I don't think that's true.

GERGEN: I mean, come on --

STEIN: I don't think that's true. I think he was a great public speaker. He did the Lincoln-Douglas debates --

GERGEN: He was absolutely compelling.

STEIN: He was kind of a great speaker. He was a kind of a great speaker. But I don't --

BECK: Thomas Jefferson?

STEIN: I don't know, McCain's got a -- no, but Lincoln -- I think he's got to do something quite dramatically better. And he's really got to change himself a lot.

Gold!

Quote of the day: "Who cares if you're Jewish and your breath smells of garlic and your nose is a shiny red light?" Ray Davies, "When I Turn Off the Living Room Lights." WTF, Ray?

Alter-reviews:

Dennis Wilson -- Pacific Ocean Blue (Deluxe Edition) 2008 reissue by Sal:

A long time Holy Grail for Beach Boys fans finally sees the light of day in glorious form. Dennis Wilson apparently had a little more in him than just hanging ten and beating the skins on "I Get Around," and the absolutely beautiful Pacific Ocean Blue, just released as a deluxe edition from Sony Legacy, shows that in spades.

Available years ago for a very short time on CD via the Sony imprint Caribou Records, Wilson's solo debut was a surprise to many. Along with producer Gregg Jakobson, Dennis, his soulful vocals and somewhat inadvertent genius on the piano, created what is arguably a little masterpiece. Sounding more like the orchestral pop of later Beach Boys' material found on such albums as "Sunflower" and "Holland," Wilson's "Pacific Ocean Blue" is a very personal journey with songs that will move you. The CD was deleted almost immediately and for years fetched well over $100 in collector's markets.

This new reissue is stunning, to say the least. The remastering is breathtaking and gives this beautifully haunting album new life. As an added bonus, we get the long-bootlegged, unreleased follow-up, Bambu. While not as strong as "Pacific Ocean Blue," there is still plenty to listen to and wrap your head around. And again, what most of us Beach Boys collectors have been listening to for years in muddy, third-generation sound becomes a whole new listening experience with the stellar remastering job by Vic Anesini.

One more thing -- in what at first seemed like some unfunny marketing ploy, having Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins add lyrics and vocals to an unreleased Dennis Wilson instrumental "Holy Man" as a bonus track, now seems like a bit of genius. The song works on every level.

Sal "Big Boy" Nunziato

Eric notes: Sal is reviewing the two-CD, 33-track limited edition, with first-run collector's packaging. The collection contains the original "Pacific Ocean Blue," plus tracks from an album that never came to be - "Bambu." It also has a lovely 50-page booklet with essays, photos, and memorabilia. More information is here.

Billy Joel -- The Stranger: 30th Anniversary Edition (Deluxe Boxed Set)

Billy Joel went into the history books last week as the only boy to sell out Yankee, Shea and Giants' stadium, though of course, Bruce could have done it had he wanted to play Yankee Stadium and if I'm not mistaken, Billy needed Elton John to help with Giants Stadium, but still, I like the guy. What's not to like after all these years? And I love this 30th anniversary edition of The Stranger. I was too cool to admit to liking it in 1978, but like most of Joel's work, it has improved with age. The anniversary edition has the original album, remastered by the great Phil Ramone, who did the original comes with a CD of Live at Carnegie Hall 1977, recorded one month before Billy Joel cut The Stranger, and a bonus DVD of a March 1, 1978, performance on the Old Grey Whistle Test, plus a documentary I don't think I'll watch. Packaging-wise, it comes with a reproduction of Joel's lyric notebook, a poster for the Carnegie Hall shows and 48 pages of liner notes and photos and the like. Thanks to Sony Legacy again, for the standup job for this standup fellow. More here.

Santana -- Multi-Dimensional Warrior

Sony Legacy has also released yet another Santana collection: This one is called Multi-Dimensional Warrior, it is two CDs, and is divided into two distinct halves -- the first disc, 14 tracks, is more powerful songs featuring a lot of vocals, while the second disc, also 14 tracks, is more mellow instrumental tracks. I think the gimmick is that Carlos picked them all out. I like it because I really like Santana -- when they're not trying too hard commercially, but can't keep up with them. So this is really useful if you feel the same way. More here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Rajesh
Hometown: Cherry Hill, NJ

The last line in this Bloomberg article says it all: "The country is facing a crisis in capitalism."

Here are highlights of the Bush legacy:

  • In June, employers cut jobs for a sixth straight month and the unemployment rate stood at 5.5 percent, a four-year high. Home prices in 20 cities dropped 15.3 percent in April from a year earlier, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index.
  • Oil prices have set records due to global demand and tensions in the Middle East.
  • Consumer confidence has fallen to its lowest level since 1992.
  • ... some $2 trillion in tax cuts and military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, the government has produced only deficits since 2002. Bush's budgets have added $1.7 trillion to the national debt. The CBO, which estimates this year's shortfall will reach $396 billion, projects the red ink will flow through at least 2011.
  • Today, 82 percent of Americans say the economy is doing badly, and voters consider it the most important issue, followed by the Iraq War, health care, terrorism and illegal immigration. Education ranks sixth.
  • Come January, the new president will face the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran's efforts to obtain nuclear power, and the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear program.

It's hard to remember what it was like in 2000:

In 2000, the last time no incumbent was running, consumer confidence was at record levels and the economy had created 1.3 million jobs in the year's first six months. In August 2000, 89 percent of Americans said the economy was doing well, according to a Los Angeles Times poll ...The Times survey showed that, after education, the issues that concerned Americans most were Social Security and health care, as the nation debated how to use a $5.6 trillion surplus the Congressional Budget Office projected the government would generate over the next decade.

Thanks, Ralph.

Name: T. O'Dell
Hometown: Port Angeles, WA

A new poll shows that half of Americans believe the press to favor Obama while only 12 percent believe that it favors McCain. But rather than linking to any substantive debate (say, here) on the merits of these beliefs, Politico merely quotes Rasmussen (the poll's source): "There's been a netroots push to say the media's biased in the other direction."

Too bad the press spend more time on Obama, but ironically, if they really focused on McCain's remarks (Social Security is a disgrace, bomb bomb Iran) they would probably be seen as even more biased against him.

Name: Tim Dean
Hometown: Medford, NJ

Eric,

After reading this, notice the fleeting reference to the fact that "the Democrats accused [McCain] of hypocrisy" in appearing with the President who went out of his way to ruin him personally and politically, quickly followed by the explanation that he "was still a frequent impediment to the White House." First, it's not really true. Second, if it were true, it would only serve to highlight the political expediency of his appearances with the President. Hardly worthy of a "maverick."

Conveniently, there is no reference to the fact that he has since changed his mind (flip-flopped?) on his stance of waterboarding as torture. Unfortunately, this kind of thing gets a guy elected.

Name: Michael Bowen
Hometown: Hudson Valley, NY

Like Lt. Col. Astore, I've found the current self-labeling of our military as "warriors" and "warfighters" troubling. My father-in-law was a combat engineer who fought on D-Day on through the Battle of the Bulge and on to the German surrender. I've met survivors of the Bataan Death March and men who landed at Inchon, soldiers who contained the Russians during the Cold War and men who fought in Vietnam. None of them would have considered themselves "warriors"; they were all just Americans.

Name: Russell Belding
Hometown: Barre, Vermont

I've quite frankly never understood why it's considered important for everybody to know what the top-grossing movie was on any given weekend. Not only that, there seems to be this irrational need to be informed as to exactly how much money the top-grossing film pulled in.

I mean, like, who cares? Unless, of course, your paycheck depends on it.

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