Quantcast

Not Just Another Day (At War) | The Nation

  •  
Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

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

Not Just Another Day (At War)

My new “Think Again” column is called “CNN: America’s Easiest 'Ref?' (Just Ask the Tea Party)” and it’s here.

My Nation column is called “The Problem of Media Stupidity” and it’s here.

And in The Daily Beast, I address the arguments that the Jews are going Republican, yet again, and it’s called “Don’t Sweat the Jewish Vote,” here.

Pierce News: A great many people have inquired about what has happened to the great Charles Pierce and why he no longer hangs around in our neighborhood. I have felt badly about the fact that the great man asked me to keep quiet about all this. I probably still should. But I am thrilled to pass along this: The great man has parted ways with The Boston Globe. He informs us that “Starting at the end of this month I will be a) the lead writer of the Politics Blog at esquire.com and b) a columnist at Grantland, Bill Simmons's new sports site... Left, loud and snarky awaits!”

Alter-reviews:

I went to see “Sleep No More,” last week. It is an incredibly elaborate and imaginative production. As Ben Brantley wrote in the Times, these “three abandoned warehouses on West 27th Street to enact the sorry sights of the murderous Macbeths’ career in a movable orgy titled “Sleep No More.” And the resulting adventure in décor — a 1930s pleasure palace called the McKittrick — suggests what might have happened had Stanley Kubrick (of “Eyes Wide Shut” and “The Shining”) been asked to design the Haunted Mansion at Disney World, with that little old box maker Joseph Cornell as a consultant.”

Thing is, I didn’t like it. First off, I’ve never been asked by a theater to stand on line for an hour (in the pouring rain) before when I already had tickets. I’m not a club kid. Second, I know MacBeth reasonably well and gave myself a refresher course, but I still couldn’t make any sense of the thing. I was never fully sure of who I was following or why. (There are no words.) I like seeing naked and half naked beautiful women dancing around but no so much when they are in pain or covered with blood. It is shocking and surprising and like nothing else I’ve ever seen, but nothing I really wanted to see either. Saving grace, however, was a terrific jazz band playing in a bar, all night, inside the production somewhere. I had a couple of drinks that came with the tickets and listened to some wonderful old jazz—one of the more interesting interpretations of “Over the Rainbow” I’ve ever heard, and managed to leave in a good mood. It may be that I’m just too old, however, since I appeared to have a few decades on most of the audience.

I had a bunch of reviews planned, (Steve Earle at Town Hall Monday night, Steely Dan at the Beacon on Tuesday, the Polish Film Festival at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the new Wynton Marsalis/Eric Clapton cd/dvd, the new Nick Lowe, new old Dead, Hendrix, Elvis and Miles, and especially the amazing new Pink Floyd re-releases—those will come, but for the next week or so I have some really demanding book deadlines, so they will come slowly.

Now here’s Reed:
Not Just Another Day (at War)

For most of the members of our military, next Tuesday will likely pass by without much fanfare. Ever focused on the next deployment, next operation, next mission, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines often experience one day blurring into the next, especially when so many of those days are spent training for, returning from, or directly engaging in combat.

But even as our nation prepares to pass yet another sobering anniversary next month—one that will mark our entry into a second consecutive decade at war—the welcome milestone that arrives next Tuesday shouldn’t be overlooked. It will be a day that one can feel particularly proud to be an American and yet harbor no small dose of regret over how long it took us as a country to feel it. Next Tuesday, our country officially repeals its ban on homosexuals openly serving in the armed forces.

In some quarters, there will no doubt be celebrations and rightfully so. (A few others, like these sanctimonious fools, will no doubt bray and howl, but let’s hope they wake up next Wednesday and finally realize they need to go do something productive with their lives.) But what’s most telling is that the official repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, though no doubt historic, is expected to generate very few ripples among those who are supposed to be impacted the most.

Gen. Carter Ham said he expects civilians who strongly oppose the move—and some gay rights advocates—will voice their views when the repeal takes Tuesday. But inside the military the prevailing attitude likely will be business-as-usual, with no call for further debate about the merits of repeal, he said.

"My hope, my expectation, my belief is that it will be pretty inconsequential," he told The Associated Press in a brief interview. His comments echoed the prevailing view among senior U.S. military and civilian officials at the Pentagon, who think repeal will largely be taken in stride.

That DADT’s repeal will turn out to be a rather anti-climactic moment for our military was always the point—our military’s readiness, cohesion, and morale have never been dependent upon a built-in policy of discrimination as the source of their strength. Just as we were no less safe after the U.S. military desegregated in the early 1950s or after we began allowing women to serve in a greater capacity 30 years ago, come next Tuesday our nation will not be any less safe than it was the day before. But it will be that much more fair, just, and honorable to all those who voluntarily choose to risk their lives defending it. What’s more, if a substantial number of the estimated 14,500 gay service members involuntarily discharged over the past 17 years actually re-enlist, our nation stands a good chance of becoming even safer as well.

However, the most significant and long-lasting consequences of DADT’s repeal won’t be seen inside a barracks, onboard an aircraft carrier or within a fire team. Gay men and women long ago captured these objectives through their years of dedicated and selfless service; next Tuesday simply allows them to—finally—break the silence on their demonstrated success. Instead, the repercussions of this new policy will likely have its greatest impact in areas far beyond military post boundaries and combat zones.

As openly gay and lesbian service members and veterans begin to visit family in their hometowns while on leave, build new lives after their service commitment is up, or, having paid the ultimate sacrifice, earn full military honors during burials at local cemeteries, the many remaining redoubts of inequality and injustice in this country will start to weaken and crumble. The discriminatory policies routinely found in the red states on this map and the hateful language commonly heard in school districts like this will ring increasingly hollow in the face of the ordinary Americanness of the gay veteran next door or the lesbian pilot who died serving her country. And it becomes that much more difficult to justify why all these men and women who honorably fought for their country can’t then decide to marry whomever they want after they return home to it from battle.

But that fear of familiarity and recognition of the other, of course, is the poisonous seed out of which grows all prejudicial policies, whether they be race segregation, religious oppression, gender bans, or DADT. After all, it’s always easier to hate someone if they’ve been legally disenfranchised, politically delegitimized, and socially distanced from you. And that, perhaps more than anything, is why next Tuesday represents more than just another day for our country. It will be a long overdue victory in a larger campaign for equality that is, in many ways, just beginning. Now if only we, as a nation, could also recognize that we’re asking all those who serve—male or female, black or white, gay or straight—to fight in larger wars that are long overdue to be ended.

By Reed Richardson.

The mail:
Steve Maxey
Maxey Mediaworks
Mr Alterman:

I just read your column "Rupert, We Hardly Knew Ye," and it's re-evaluation of Timothy Groseclose. I was curious, after his recent boo-hooing about you over on Ricochet.

The primary reason I write is to point you to his recent guest-blogging at The Volokh Conspiracy blog, in case you have occasion to revisit the issue of his book. It did not go well for him. His week of blogging lasted only four days. Even many of those who agreed with his premise that there is a liberal bias in the media and took the time to read his paper with Milyo thought his study was flawed and didn't prove what he said it did.

But a commenter named jukeboxgrad pinpointed the major flaw. It's worth reading his comments across the thread, but he summarizes here and here.


Key quotes:

Here’s what this all means: his list is packed with junk. It sounds impressive to hear that his study took into account “200 of the most prominent think tanks and policy groups in the United States.” Trouble is, it didn’t. And it’s not just that some of his items fail to meet a fair definition of “most prominent.” It’s that a majority of his items fail to meet a fair definition of “most prominent.” And of course what he left out is a bigger problem than what he included, because he left out most of the top business lobbying groups.

[...]

The problem seems to be precisely that the groups were not “chosen because … they were the most frequently quoted or cited groups in a population of articles.” What I have demonstrated is that his list would look quite different if he had actually picked “the most frequently quoted or cited groups.” And “removing arbitrary elements” is exactly what seems to have been done, and that did indeed “lead to less valid results.”

[...]

This is just to emphasize that it’s not just that he has a hole in his study: he has a hole in his study that’s enormous. These 20 major business groups that he excluded have almost as much weight as his entire list of 200 (aggregate prominence of the former is 18,762, and aggregate prominence of the latter is 24,902). If he added these 20 groups, the number of citations he studied would have jumped by 75%. It goes without saying that this would have a dramatic effect on his results. Since removing just one group (NTU) is enough to shift the results to neutral, it’s reasonable to surmise that including these 20 major business groups would cause the study to show strong bias, except in the opposite direction.

Garbage in, garbage out.

I just think what jukeboxgrad did here deserves more attention than it might get buried at the bottom of the comments section of one of Groseclose's last blog posts at a blog aimed at libertarian lawyers.

Editor’s Note: To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.

Like this blog post? Read it on The Nation’s free iPhone App, NationNow.

Before commenting, please read our Community Guidelines.