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Slacker Friday | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

Well-chosen words on music, movies and politics, with the occasional special guest.

Slacker Friday

All, I’ve got is a new “Think Again:” The World as It "Ought to Be," which is here.

Perhaps, however, this is a good week to go back and take a look at some of Marty Peretz’s greatest hits here.

Also, next week I’m doing a panel, which Katrina is moderating, called “Which Way for the Working Class? Elections 2010 and Beyond"

When:
Friday, September 24, 2010
3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Where:
The Great Hall at Cooper Union
51 Astor Place
New York, NY 10003

Moderated by Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor & Publisher, The Nation

Confirmed panelists:
Eric Alterman, Journalist and Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
Bob Herbert, the New York Times
Richard Trumka, President, AFL-CIO
Karen Nussbaum, Executive Director, Working America

Now here's Charles

CHARLES PIERCE
NEWTON, MA.
Hey Doc:
"You're the color of the sky in every storefront windowpane/You're the whispering and the sighing of my tires in the rain."   

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click—"Bat's Blues" (Alvin Batiste)—I don't care what anyone says, my love of New Orleans will be consummated any time I damn well please.

Part The First: OK, I've read this damn thing four times, and all I can see is a functioning definition of being too clever by half. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't they essentially hiring Elizabeth Warren to help them pick out someone else to fill a job she essentially invented, and which she should have been doing for three months already? Two questions—as a presidential "advisor," doesn't this put Warren at the mercy of the White House political apparatus (Hi, Rahm!) and, thus, already on the fast track to Christina Romerland? And, also, exactly how is she empowered in this job to do very much of anything?    

Part The Second: Glenn Greenwald is right here, except when he is being wrong. He's right to call out the laughable specter of Karl Rove as the arbiter of political "character." (The only thing Rove should be the arbiter of at the moment is what movie they're showing tonight in the rec-hall at Allenwood, but I digress.) He is also right that Christine (Wank On, Wank Off) O'Donnell isn't that far out compared to a great number of longtime established Republican politicians. (Yo, Jim Imhofe! Whut, whut!) However, please to be giving me a break on her being in any way representative of the people in the country in dire economic peril. By all accounts, including that of her former campaign-manager, O'Donnell is a career deadbeat, and not averse to living off the campaign donations sent to her by suckers with time—and likely, little else—on their hands.

Part The Third: Holy mother of god, how did this man ever get elected to anything? When he was boxing, exactly how many times did he hit himself in the head?    

Part The Fourth: A new gig.You should bookmark the blog anyway.    

Part The Penultimate: OK, Alter-music drones, here's my question, which came to mind in the middle of the Great IPod Reload Of 2010. In Van Morrison's "Street Choir"—the final cut on his most underrated album—is the first line in every chorus to be read, "Why did you leave America?" or "Why did you leave, America?" The comma makes the line much more interesting, I think.    

Part The Ultimate: In 1994, I had to fly to Mississippi the day after the Republicans took over the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since God was a boy.  Jeebus, were people there happy. There was barely enough bourbon at Hal and Mal's to make life marginally tolerable. This upheaval was led by Newt Gingrich, a former backbench bomb-tosser who, only four years earlier, in an election almost nobody watched and even fewer people remember, came within 978 votes of losing his seat to a Democrat named David Worley who got submarined by his national party, a decision that should have some people still hanging by their thumbs in Washington. Two years later, he almost lost a giftwrapped primary to someone named Herman Clark. On that day in 1994, when everybody—and I mean everybody, read some of the tripe that was written back then, I mean, seriously, there were folks at Time who were picking out silver patterns—was calling Newt a visionary intellectual leader for the new century or some such rot, I was wondering how the new Churchill could be someone who was life-and-death with David Worley and Herman Clark back home in consecutive elections. And that was before we all knew about his mad wife-dumping skillz.    

Well, it seems that the momentum of conservative bullshit has caught up with Newt, and maybe gone past him. The Right has constructed an entire self-contained political BioSphere. It has its own science; every single GOP senatorial candidate in New Mexico, New Hampshire, and New York is a climate-change denier. It also has its own history. This is what's driving the intellectual side of the coming election. This history has its Ur-texts; Charles Murray's The Bell Curve is one of them. But things have really been heating up over the past decade, as rightwing designer history from rightwing design shops found its mass audience. The weird signs accusing the president of being a fascist and a socialist simultaneously can't be understood without reading Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg's hawk-a-loogie doorstop from a few years back. Along with gold swindlers and glycerined tears, Glenn Beck's bunco schemes include the construction of his own personal animatronic Founding Fathers, all of whom speak in the voices Glenn hears in his head.    

This is not really about creating a counterhistory, though. This is about creating a simulacrum of history, just as Gingrich is a simulacrum of a historian. It's about creating a salable narrative that can put a faint intellectual gloss on what you are prone to believe anyway. Narratives are more malleable than actual history is, and more easily dispensed once you achieve the political power for which you created the narrative—and, ultimately, this self-contained political universe—in the first place. So, when Newt recently summoned up his professor's voice and accused Barack Obama of acting out of "a Kenyan anti-colonial worldview" that the president imbibed from his late father, he borrowed the trope from a piece in Forbes by the noted charlatan and Mark Warren-fearing coward Dinesh D'Souza, which is rather like getting your drinking water from one of those pig lagoons in North Carolina, but never mind.The important thing to watch was how a rather, ahem, unique view of history went so smoothly from a reputed conservative thinker to an allegedly intellectual Republican politician and thence to a public so credulous that it may be well on its way to electing an entire Congress full of walking, talking produce.    

Twenty years ago, 978 votes would have meant the end of Newt Gingrich's political career. People should remember that. P.S—And, to my friend, Greg, a limited rebuttal, aimed specifically at his final paragraph, and this conclusion: "We have to put processes in place to prevent it happening again in the future, to be sure, and be vigilant about that." There has been no indication that the current administration is prepared to do either the former, or the latter, and especially not the former. In fact, it recently won a famous victory in federal court in which it argued that it has been right to do precisely the opposite. Which, alas, disgusts me.

Daphne Chyprious
Springfield, Ill.

Not until coming across the well-known "I don't know what you're getting at (here)" in the context of Mr. Richardson's piece did I realize that the phrase usually translates as "I know exactly what you're saying but I'm gonna play dumb in order to avoid having to defend myself."

Frank Lynch
Really Not Worth Archiving
Hi Eric,
Mostly emailing about a link correction in your Thursday post. My comment about the New Yorker piece on KSM still pertains, but today's re-run of it sends people to a completely different place than me. I'm not complaining about the lack of traffic—it was wonderful, I had a 9/11 blossom like you wouldn't believe thanks to the original as well as this picture.

But as we both love great history books, I also want to do a call out to a really well done book on the 1927 Mississippi flood by John Barry called Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America. It's not new. It's as good as Robert Caro, and the vividness of his descriptions of the impact of the floods and their devastation... As well as the cold-blooded calculations about sabotaging levees to protect an area, all the while knowing the havoc it would wreak on others...

An interesting aspect I know is relevant to you is the conspiracy of silence which the New Orleans newspapers engaged in, ignoring the crests and problems which were occurring up river.  They all—independently or gathered in rooms—deliberately shut down the warnings, in order to protect New Orleans's port reputation, for financial reasons. It was an interesting cabal, as Barry describes it. And when levee workers, mostly black, died, it was ignored.

It's really a phenomenal book. Can't recommend it highly enough. Give me Pierce's snail mail addy, and I'll send him a copy. And then he can lead off his next weekly post with a line from Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927."

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