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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

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

Slacker Friday

The new “Think Again” column is called “War for the Hell of It: The Sad Decline of David Broder” and it’s here. Apparently David Broder has lost what’s left of his mind and his editors at the Post are unwilling to save the man from himself.

New Nation column, my favorite lyric of the moment, “You Are Only Coming Through in Waves,” and it’s about our badly communicating president who doesn’t really understand the atmosphere in which he’s operating, here with a short appreciation of Ted Sorensen.

And I did a “Blame Rahm” piece for The Daily Beast over the weekend.

Oh, and here's this month's Moment column, The New Religion for America's Jews: Israel.

And did you know Hitler was a Springsteen fan? Came to it rather late, though, I’d say…

Now here’s LTC Bob.

Letters from a Semi-Foreign Land

Vol. I, Issue 2

Hello Altercators, LTC Bob here again, this time writing to you from a somewhat more foreign land: Norway. I am here in Stavanger in the midst of a fairly large training event known as the “Mission Readiness Exercise.” This, quite naturally it seems, is instantly shortened into an acronym, the MRE. Which only serves to confuse me and other Americans new to this environment even more, because to us an “MRE” is something you eat, not something you do. (The American field ration is the “Meal, Ready-to-Eat”) All of which brings me to my first multi-national military observation: We American military officers are not the only ones who are absolute lunatics about the creation of acronyms. It is a pan-European problem as well.

While here at the ARRC (remember that term from last week?) I am the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff for the group within the headquarters where I work. That title becomes “DACOS.”  When I first heard soldiers outside my office talking to each other about how, “DACOS wants you to…” or, “When I was talking to DACOS yesterday he said…” I did not even realize that they were talking about me. This, apparently, is also a norm across the NATO environment. (DACOS is pronounced, apparently, “Day-Cawse.”)

Another language barrier issue came to me via our British cousins. Somewhere, somehow, the still very class-conscious British Army developed the tradition that officers above, say, lieutenant and below two-star general are referred to and even addressed personally as, “Rank, First Name.” This is not something we do in the States, at all, and to my American ears it is disconcerting. Yes, sure, you Altercators call me “Major Bob” and now “LTC Bob,” but almost all of you are civilians not brought up with my sub-culture’s social conventions, and besides, it’s in print, and so eventually I’ve gotten used to your use. But I had never, in my entire professional life, actually heard anyone say that out loud. And to hear a subordinate, say a captain, refer to “Colonel George” (or whomever) spun my brain a little. I do not know what any of this means, but if there are any cultural anthropologists or social psychologists out there with an opinion on this topic I would love to hear from you.

One final note about language, then I have to sign off and get back to work.

My wife and I (yes, she’s my wife now, the same woman who I would refer to as “my beloved” when I was in Iraq) found magnificent lodgings in the Cotswalds region of England. With a good tailwind I can even spit on a battlefield from the War of the Roses, and I actually live on the grounds of a manor house built in the 1300’s. My house was a recent addition.  Built in the 1600’s it was once the lodgings for the stable and cleaning servants. With the attached stables, I can host a horde of friends, and five horses. The manor itself, however, is still owned by the eighth or ninth generation of one family, and they are very “Old School.” (In the British, not the Will Farrell, sense of the word.) The Squire, I will call him that even though it is not one of his formal titles, seems to love calling me simply, “The Colonel.” As in, “Dear, come to the door, The Colonel is visiting.” And when he does that, and I am wearing blue jeans and a golf shirt, it immediately makes me feel underdressed, like I left my jodhpurs at home accidentally.

It might be a class thing, it might be a cultural thing, it might even be a regional thing, but whatever it is, it is confusing. Civilians at home call me Bob. This eminent seems to absolutely love using only my rank when talking about, or to, me. I guess it may in the end just be the confusion normal to an American plebian finding his way in a semi-foreign land.

As always you can write to me at R_Bateman_LTC@Hotmail.com. To those who wrote last week, sorry about not getting back to you yet. As you can see, I am a tad busy.

The Mail

Michael Green
Las Vegas, NV

Dr. A., if I may paraphrase the late Paul Harvey on Richard Nixon, I love you, but you're wrong.

Let's do a little math.  It takes 60 votes to get anything passed in the Senate.  Republicans made a conscious decision that they would oppose anything and everything Barack Obama brought to the table.  Why?  I tend toward a combination of racism, hatred for their country and a complete lack of morality and ideas, but that isn't the point. The point is, they did it.

I remember a profile in which Obama kept telling Harry Reid to negotiate with Olympia Snowe.  Reid finally told him that Snowe would negotiate everything she could get, then oppose the bill, and that they would just need to get all of the Democratic caucus.  One member of that caucus was, for example, Russ Feingold, whom I seem to recall attacking Obama for not being liberal enough in his legislative approach.  Another member of that caucus would be Joe Lieberman, whom Reid wanted to kick out on two separate occasions, and Obama stopped him, for the very logical reason that we needed 60 votes.

To attack Emanuel is easy. But it is a lot easier when you don't look at how the Senate is set up.

Now, you write that Emanuel's approach in 2006 got us a bunch of wimpy Democrats. I agree. They are in the House, which has a completely different set of rules that made it a lot easier for Nancy Pelosi to pass legislation.

Cheryl Haaker
Albuquerque

Reed Richardson is another Ambrose Bierce! I would add, to his definition of center: For liberal/progressives, a far-right position bordering on feudalism. For Republicans and Tea Baggers, a far-left position, bordering on communism. In short, the center cannot hold.

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