April 06, 2004


The opening lines of Sydney Morning Herald music writer Bernard Zuel’s piece on Steve Earle:

Fear is a relative thing. For some people the Nashville highway patrol holds more terrors than the full weight of a war-driven government ready to label dissenters as traitors.

Care to list all those “traitors” and the US government representatives who've been so ready to label them, Bernard? From memory, I think there’s been only one such case. Zuel is obviously a favorite of the SMH’s ReaderLink collective.

Posted by Tim Blair at April 6, 2004 04:24 AM

The best music Steve Earle ever made was with Del McCroury, and Del and the boys are a good antidote to everything Steve has done before or since. Steve is talented and has a good heart, and I always forgive him his foolishness because of all the years he spent in a Nashville crackhouse trying to kill himself. He's a tortured artist. And generaly speaking, in western civilization we have learned (thank God) to ignore the political rantings of our tortured artists. Also, it's important for Steve to be "anti" Nashville, and as we know, Nashville is very, very, very Patriotic (yes, with a capital P), Republican, pro-Bush and so forth.

There's a hell of a lot of great music being made in Tennessee these days, but none of it will be sufficiently 'authentic' and 'heroic' (i.e. anti-Bush) enough for your Australian music journos to bother investigating it.

So, to sum it up, all that crack made Steve extra savvy. He knew the best way to have instant international cred and publicity was to make this last album. Now that's good capitalism!

Posted by: Rev Billy at April 6, 2004 at 05:34 AM

This guy just gets dumber and dumber. Speaking as a Nashvillian, if you guys like him enough down under, I say keep him.

He writes a song justifying Johnny Walkers conversion to terrorism, and then whines that he can't get a USO tour.

Stevey was never known for his intellect, this is for certain.

Seriously, you guys like him- we'll make some arrangements. It'll make more room for us lesser known musicians.....

Posted by: Tman at April 6, 2004 at 05:36 AM

Nashville is a city so it doesn't have a highway patrol. The highway patrol is a state orginazation.

And yes Steve, I *really* doubt they are going to want you to do a USO tour.

Posted by: CujoQuarrel at April 6, 2004 at 06:29 AM
Care to list all those “traitors” and the US government representatives who've been so ready to label them, Bernard? From memory, I think there’s been only one such case.

I can think of three that come very close, just off the top of my head:

Senator John Ashcroft, December, 2001:

"To those who pit Americans against immigrants and citizens against noncitizens, to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies, and pause to America's friends."

When the A-G is accusing Patriot act protestors of simply "aiding terrorists", that's only a shade shy of modern day McCarthyism.

Ari Fleischer's briefing, Sep 26 2001.

Q As Commander-In-Chief, what was the President's reaction to television's Bill Maher, in his announcement that members of our Armed Forces who deal with missiles are cowards, while the armed terrorists who killed 6,000 unarmed are not cowards, for which Maher was briefly moved off a Washington television station?


MR. FLEISCHER: I'm aware of the press reports about what he said. I have not seen the actual transcript of the show itself. But assuming the press reports are right, it's a terrible thing to say, and it unfortunate. And that's why -- there was an earlier question about has the President said anything to people in his own party -- they're reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do. This is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.

Simple admonishment or veiled threat? You decide.

The third example is Education Secretary Rod Paige's recent labelling of a teacher's union he had a dispute with as a 'terrorist organisation.' This was clearly nutty, and Paige apologised for it almost immediately, but it's clearly indicative of the tone that's come to dominate Washington politics

Posted by: Jason Stokes at April 6, 2004 at 07:32 AM

Jason, if you have to take comments out of context and distort them to make your point seem true, pop your head out of your @ass for a minute and think about getting a new point.

You want some liberal dumbass comments? How about dumbass comments like:

"I am dedicating myself to a war on poverty."
"We are declaring a war against pollution."
"This is a war against inflation."

Liberals want to go to war over just about everything except war.

Posted by: Rick at April 6, 2004 at 07:56 AM


What part of Ashcroft's comments are not true? All I hear from liberals is whining that they're being called traitors. Please explain to me how those who:

1. Pit Americans agains immigrants
2. Pit citizens against noncitizens
3. Scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty,

Are NOT traitors? Note that JA didn't say "everyone on the left", or "all Democrats", or "all liberals". He said the people who fall into those categories above.

Sounds to me like you're having problems looking in the mirror.

TV (Harry)

Posted by: Inspector Callahan at April 6, 2004 at 08:00 AM

Jason also conveniently neglected to mention that Ari Fleischer's comment was't directed soley at Bill Maher's dumbass remark. He was also referring to some bigot(s?) who had beaten an innocent Sikh man because he supposedly looked middle-eastern.

Posted by: Sean M. at April 6, 2004 at 09:22 AM

Bill Maher wasn't removed from television. A whole bunch of the commercial sponsors removed their ads from his show. This meant a few stations needed to find an alternative program to preserve their revenue flow. Clearly not an act of government. Clearly not an act of censorship.

Posted by: Papertiger at April 6, 2004 at 09:37 AM

I heard Steve on (like fine clockwork) Jon Faine's program last week. His is a special brand of idiocy let me tell you. As usual, their ABC gave him a pulpit to spout his insanity.

I caught one of his shows the last time he came out, and his target audience greeted his (pre 9/11!) anti-Bush rants with the sound of crickets. At the time I put it down to some lame attempt to "connect" with an Australian audience (it's pretty common here). This would explain the ABC appearances - got to get that foaming-at-the-mouth lefty audience to come along to the shows this time.

Earle should sell tickets to two shows: one just for music, the other for "spoken word". He'd quickly find out what demand there is for his coke-fried, la-la opinions. I've seen artists who can do both well: Leo Kottke, Chris Isaac, Tommy Emmanuel. Steve, you're not one of them. Just play fucker.

Posted by: Craig Mc at April 6, 2004 at 10:05 AM

Some responses

From Rick, blathering ad hominem attacks and attempts to divert the debate with irrelevant accusations. Thanks for playing, Rick. Those tactics were old and discredited when the Internet was still young. I suggest you go home and learn to debate like the grown-ups.

Inspector Callahan (Harry): You actually agree that John Ashcroft called his critics traitors. You simply believes that they have it coming to them. You complain that "all I hear from liberals is whining that they're being called traitors." You want it explained how those who exercise their right of free speech to criticise Ashcroft in the way Ashcroft so disingenuously characterises as pitting one group against another, or scaring people with visions of lost liberty, are not traitors!

Harry, if you need to have it explained to you, you're beyond all help. I don't know what to call this: Neo-McCarthyism, maybe. You might think I have trouble looking in the mirror; I wonder how you avoid gagging on your own poisonous rhetoric. What has happened to the tone of political debate in this century? It's scary to contemplate.

Sean M. thinks I've taken Ari Fleischer's answer out of context. Not true. He does refer back to a previous question. But it's not necessary to understand his meaning; his answer, including the key phrase...

"...this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is."

clearly refer to Bill Maher's (purported)comment.

Back to Ashcroft. Remember that how he said that the tactics of many of his critics "aid terrorists?" This is particularly odious in the context when he said it. For on October 7 of that year, when the first missile strikes against Afghanistan were launched, President Bush had said this:

The United States of America is an enemy of those who aid terrorists and of the barbaric criminals who profane a great religion by committing murder in its name.

Although Bush was talking in the context of Afghanistan, the intimation is clear. Ashcroft accuses his critics of aiding terrorists, and Bush had already said that those who "aid terrorists" are enemies of the United States. Could the implications be any more apparent?

One more example needs to be added to our rogues gallery. Senator Trent Lott, in February 2002, said, "how dare Senator Daschle criticize President Bush while we are fighting our war on terrorism, especially when we have troops in the field? He should not be trying to divide our country while we are united."

In Lott's view, any criticism of President Bush during a time of war (a view he himself didn't respect with regard to Clinton) is inherently illegitimate, an attempt to "divide" the country. So cowed is the opposition in his view of America, they shouldn't even dare to criticise the President!

Posted by: Jason Stokes at April 6, 2004 at 11:03 AM


What Zuel proposed was that fear is a relative thing. It's a point fairly made.

Outside of the snow-dome that fave message-boards can be, there is a relativity to the notion of fear. I loved seeing the feisty Spanish lady with the Elton John shades after the discovery of another bomb Madrid-Seville saying "They don't scare me. I will keep travelling".

Outside this snow-dome, there is a broad variety of opinions on precisely what to be afraid of. Earle's "Guitar Town" is one of the sweetest country rock albums going around, he's had a patchy career since, but his output still dwarfs that of people who chip away daily on key-boards in a massive circle jerk. And those above who attempt to somehow connect Earle with your "moaning lefty ABC" fantasy demographic clearly did not go to the Copperhead Road shows - 'member? The ones when Steve played the liberals' darkest nightmare?

I love the McCoury band, but never quite felt the combination with Earle did either of 'em any favours.


Posted by: chico o'farrill at April 6, 2004 at 11:11 AM

Heres one to get your juices flowing Jason - what is so wrong with McCarthyism? People use it is as knee-jerk label, trying to conjure up images of witch hunts and blacklists, without considering that much of the publicity and history of the period has been written by those that McCarthy was after - communists and communist sympathisers.
Now that the threat of global communism has been defeated, it is tres chic to laugh at the people that helped bring about its fall, or that want people to remember what the period was actually like, without considering that at the time it posed a real and justified threat. There were communist spies and agitators at all levels of government and the entertainment industry. After McCarthy had been destroyed, history has actually shown that in many cases he was right.

Posted by: Attila at April 6, 2004 at 11:28 AM

You boys ain't from around here, is you?

Posted by: Chrees at April 6, 2004 at 11:51 AM

Chico: Outside this snow-dome, there is a broad variety of opinions on precisely what to be afraid of.

Zuel: Is he comfortable acting? "No, I'm scared shitless," laughs Earle. "Which is one of the reasons why I do it."

Someone's got a snow-dome in their head. Maybe a few people.

Posted by: ilibcc at April 6, 2004 at 11:58 AM

Hey man, I almost got dragged off to the camps for owning a Smiths album (foreigners, you know, and possibly un-American) but I got off with a warning when I showed them my National Review back issues collection. It's true! OUr Freedom Days area over, and the Black Helicopters patrol the sky! 8^O

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 6, 2004 at 11:59 AM

"...Snowdome... broad variety of opinions..."

How does Chico type while stroking his chin and looking wise, so wise? Especially from inside a snowdome? (In April, yet.)

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 6, 2004 at 12:01 PM

I kind of told my barber he was a traitor, but he sucked me into it [actually, I told him his mentality supported terrorists]: it was right after Uday and Qsay had been killed, and he had mentioned that he cut hair of the youngest after their birth [first cut], then after death when preparing corpses [last cut]. I jokingly asked him if he would prepare Uday and Qsay, and he became visibly sad as a political tactic, lamenting the fact that they were Saddam's "children". I told him that everyone was someone's child and that his attitude, in effect, supported terrorists, if he was going to cut them slack for being someone's children. He thought I was calling him a traitor/unAmerican, and I made sure he knew he was about right. He thought his talking-point sentimentality would protect him from having to acknowledge the evil of these "children". You might be a Liberal if you cry when anyone's adult child is killed regardless of the nature of the child now.

Posted by: Joe Peden at April 6, 2004 at 01:04 PM

Note that both Ashcroft's and Fleischer's remarks presuppose that the people at whom they are directed do NOT want to aid America's enemies; the (forlorn) hope of the speaker is that the people he's talking to will be persuaded that they are inadvertently helping the terrorists and chenge their approach accordingly. (Cf. this quote, from Richard Clarke's controversial book: "Bush handed that enemy precisely what it wanted and needed. . . . It was as if Usama bin Laden, hidden in some high mountain redoubt, were engaging in long-range mind control of George Bush." is this an accusation of treason?)

Paige's remarks, though obviously stupid and in bad taste, are just as obviously a bit of hyperbole aimed at the tactics of his opponents on a domestic policy, and have nothing to do with any external enemy at all.

I'd be curious to hear just when Jason thinks "the tone that's come to dominate Washington politics" first came to dominate it. My own view is that that tone first came to dominate Philadelphia politics, and moved when the capital did.

Posted by: Paul Zrimsek at April 6, 2004 at 01:23 PM

As an unwilling member of a US teacher's union, let me point out that many of us (unwilling members) don't think Paige was all that far wrong.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at April 6, 2004 at 04:59 PM

Yes another musician who was better on drugs that off. Has he done anything of worth since he cleaned up? Nope.

His best track is still Copperhead Road, off the album where he stfu about politics and just stuck to rocking.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge at April 7, 2004 at 12:22 AM

Earle's a fraud. What's sad is that this wasn't always the case. He did do incredible music up to and including his partnership with the Del McCoury Band (Del, tho, got sick of Earle's constant cussing onstage and pulled his band out of their joint tour); Steve' just-out-of detox records "Train A'Coming" and "I Feel Alright" were some the best country albums since the glory days of Cash, Haggard, and Jones.

But sometime after that, Steve -- who was always a bit of a loudmouth -- decided he wanted to be a "folk" singer, with all the lefty romantacism appurtenanced thereto, instead of a "country" singer (think Garth Brooks), even a "hard country" (think Haggard, Cash, Jones) with all the Red America, "redneck," Okie from Muskogee associations. He got closer to chardonnay liberals like Tim Robbins (he did a song for the Robbins/Penn film "Dead Man Walking"), started lionizing the likes of Abbie Hoffman, got profiled by the New Yorker -- accompanied by photos of him standing barefoot on his porch, in a t-shirt adorned by a huge red star, and saying incredibly ignorant things like "I'm to the left of Mao Tse-Tung." The thing is, no one gave a shit. And nobody gave a shit about his John Walker Lindh song (it was bad, and appeared on am album called "Jerusalem," the worst of Steve's career; even as a hardcore junkie he made better music). A few long-time fans (like me), already weary of his mindless fatuous sub-Streisand liberalism, took the opportunity to check out of the Steve-O circuit. But Steve continued on, and continues to make the same noise about how he's gonna be banned and wiretapped in the U.S. by Bush's bullies... Except it ain't going to happen because nobody gives a shit, just like nobody outside of a few depraved Democrat shils like Al Franken and that Garofalo woman and Penn/ Robbins/Sarandon/Streisand are stupid enough to belive the Patriot Act actually is an assault on their civil rights.

I used to be a bit sorry about Steve-0 -- he did write some magnificent music in the day -- but at this point, he deserves the ignonimy. F*** him. I hope he gets his balls bitten by a platypus.

Posted by: James Holloway at April 7, 2004 at 01:15 AM

PS -- Steve-O hasn't been clean for fifteen years; more like about 9 ('95 or '96, IIRC; just before "I Feel Alright" and "Train A'Cominh." And if any of those idiots (Steve-O, Sheryl Crow, Penn/Robbins/Sheen/Garolfalo et al ad nauseum) can give me one documented example of a Republican goon popping up in, say, Malibu and saying, "Now Sean, if you don't keep your mouth shut, we will make sure you don't get an Oscar for your histronics in that overrated piece of shit 'Mystic River,'" why I'll trade in my Haggard collection for the complete Billy Bragg discography. They fucking WISH somebody would bother them so they could play martyr, but no one of any importance ever will because NO REASONABLE PERSON GIVES A SHIT ABOUT YOUR OPINIONS! YOU ARE BEING IGNORED BY THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION, NOT THE G.O.P.! Dumb fuckers.

Posted by: James Holloway at April 7, 2004 at 01:29 AM

Jason Stokes, please give me one name of one person in the US who has been arrested for treason since 9/11, besides Johnny Walker Boy.

Posted by: ushie at April 7, 2004 at 04:11 AM