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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

My new Think Again column is called “The Post Panders to Conservatives” and it’s here.
My new Nation column is called “The CIA: A Law Unto Itself” and it’s here.
My last Daily Beast column was the joyous, “Sending the Hammer to the Slammer,” and that’s here.
Oh, and I did an IHT/NYT.com piece on Wikileaks which you can find here.

You know, people say that Commentary has declined since the days it published Hannah Arendt and Lionel Trilling, and was given to the unemployable son of Norman Podhoretz to edit so he could stop getting himself fired everywhere he worked. I think that’s unfair. I think Trilling and Arendt, etc, would be thrilled to publish in a magazine edited by a guy who tweets, "Funny, I thought Eric Alterman had already been named the world's only arsenic-based life form. http://goo.gl/jTjah"

Don’t forget to tip your waiters on your way out, folks. (And thanks to Damon Linker…)

Has anyone noticed how anti-Semitic The New Yorker has become? (Which is weird, because I read on TDB yesterday that New York City is fully 9% Jewish….) Anyway, what’s my beef? Well, Patty Marx has a gift-giving guide in the issue dated December 6, 2010. That sounds like a War on Hannukah to me, since it’s pretty much over by December 6. And really, if you read the end of the piece, you’ll see a whole bunch of sentences that end with “Does anyone remember…” Hello, editors? Does anyone remember Robert Plant ruining the live version of Stairway—not that it really needed ruining—with a “Does anyone remember laughter?” in the middle. How come nobody put that in? Is anybody alive out there?

Alter-reviews: Sal on "West Coast Seattle Boy"

Another day, another Jimi Hendrix collection. There are few artists who have been anthologized as often as this great guitar hero. Thankfully, the people behind West Coast Seattle Boy had a good idea. This new 4 CD/1 DVD set is not just another collection. It is chock full of alternates, live tracks and unreleased material. Jimi Hendrix has been widely bootlegged since his death, so many diehards may have heard a lot of this material before. But having it in one set, with superb sound, is really the point.

Disc one is the most fun, covering Jimi's years as a session player, with early R&B tunes from the likes of Don Covay, The Isleys and Little Richard. I don't think this material has ever been compiled before. The rest of the set includes slightly altered versions of the songs you know, a few revelations, like an acoustic version of Dylan's Tears Of Rage and the lengthy jam with jazz organist Larry Young, some of which was found on Nine To The Universe, one of the many uneven posthumously released albums.

What I like most about this set, and it's something more labels should consider when creating these occasionally pricey sets, is that it plays well.  Jazz sets get bogged down with too many alternate takes in a row, and archivists often include tunes for historical purposes, that just don't sound very good. West Coast Seattle Boy offers enough of everything to make it worth your time.

www.burnwoodtonite.blogspot.com

Now Here’s Reed:

Reed Richardson writes:
Exceptions to American Exceptionalism

It's frustrating when a story like this appears in the Washington Post, about an increasingly common Republican criticism of Obama, which grew out of one sentence in a speech nearly two years ago, without providing much in the way of analysis about the president's critics' own viewpoints. (In a fairly representative case of this conservative cherrypicking, leading intellectual light Sarah Palin steps into the president's comments in her new book by citing almost word for word the dialogue from this noted scholarly debate.) Jonathan Chait, over at The New Republic, notes how this transparently substance-free argument is indicative of the closing of the right-wing mind, but I think there's a couple of other things at work here that are even more disturbing.

First of all, despite all this talk of American exceptionalism, it's not really clear that many in the GOP really believe in it. Indeed, everywhere you turn these days, the same conservatives who spout this self-aggrandizing rah-rah cheerleading about America's singularity turn around and—almost in the same breath—display their party bonafides by telling America what it can't do, or afford, or try anymore (some of them, like the governor of my unfortunate state, even get a sadistic kick out of doing it). I mean, imagine a liberal pundit proclaiming the United States a "helpless, pitiful giant" after the release of a bunch of mildly embarrassing, mostly banal diplomatic cables. There wouldn't be enough editorial page wood for all the metaphorical yardarms being erected in an effort to punish the offending commentator. Yet somehow the release of these inter-diplomatic communiques with a Democrat in the White House has neutered our vast, far-flung national security posture to the point of helplessness. Whereas starting and incompetently waging an unnecessary, costly and deadly war under the cover of widespread executive dissembling and thanks to the betrayal of our bedrock Constitutional principles somehow made us stronger and more likely to win over allies to our unique awesomeness? Of course, when rare opportunities do arise these days for the US to take that unique leadership role in foreign policy, our president can't seal the deal because intransigent Senate Republicans are too busy trying to give Wall Street bankers the ability to get that third home in Aspen.

But even setting these patently hypocritical contortions of logic aside, the American exceptionalism argument, as bluntly deployed by conservatives now, has an even more unseemly undercurrent. As the Brookings Institution's William Galston points out in the WaPo story, this patriotic grandstanding is merely another right-wing dogwhistle, one that politely fuels all the "otherness" talk and birther histrionics regarding Obama under the fig leaf of historical analysis. What's more, this argument has as its very core a bracingly honest assertion of elite superiority. Perhaps it's not surprising, then, to see the modern-day incarnation of the Republican Party embrace an eminently malleable critique that, when backed into an intellectual corner, offers its proponents the convenient ability to trump consistency, reasoning and a sense of fairness with the deus ex machina-like hammer of: "We're exceptional, that's why."  I find it particularly ironic that this same notion, writ small, in, say, policies that promote affirmative action, is anathema to everything conservatives say they stand for. But then again, that's really the depths to which the GOP has sunk to these days and history provides plenty of examples that this notion that people of a certain nationality, class or race are due exceptional rights is tailor made for abuse when the goal is gaining or maintaining political power at all costs.

MASS. MARKET: Quirky marketing pitches can be hit or miss - Quincy, MA - The Patriot Ledger
American exceptionalism: an old idea and a new political battle
'Don't Tread on Me' License Plates Become a Growing Trend in the U.S. - FoxNews.com
The "American Exceptionalism" Smear And Epistemic Closure | The New Republic|
WikiLeaks on the Arab Gulf States vs. Iran | The Nation
The Answer Is No
Secession Defended on Civil War Anniversary - NYTimes.com
http://www.mediaite.com/tv/coulter-on-american-power-post-wikileaks-were-a-helpless-pitiful-giant/

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