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Fighting Words | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

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

Fighting Words

I’ve got a new Think Again column called "Foolish Loudmouths in the Military and in the Media."

And I gotta say, I think the Nation editors' response to my letter about Gaza is kind of funny. First they write, “as Alterman must surely know, three years ago in a lead editorial, we said, 'We cannot accept Hamas's ideology, and we reject the idea that "Islam is the solution" to political problems (the common formulation of Hamas and other Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated movements). But the United States and Israel must finally acknowledge that Hamas is a popular movement with deep roots in Palestinian society, and for that reason should be engaged rather than ignored.’" I’m sorry, but I’d be impressed if anyone on earth remembers three-year-old editorials in The Nation, including most of the editors. And second, my point is not to say that The Nation has never made its disagreements with Hamas explicit; my point was Hamas’s ideology as well as its practices cause real problems for Israel that need to be addressed. I think the embargo should be lifted, and I think Israel should engage Hamas in discussions as well. Great. But what exactly should Israel do about the acts of terrorism, the kidnappings and the rockets? If anyone at The Nation can find me any useful suggestions for addressing the security threat posed by Hamas—other than Kumbaya style “negotiations”—I’d be mightily impressed.

For instance, what would be the Nation editors’ reaction to this article that appeared shortly after their response be?

Alter-reviews:

Late June is a nice time in the city in part because of the weather, in part because of the subway series and in part because of what for many years was the Kool, then the JVC, and now the CareFusion festival organized by the great promoter George Wein, who is also responsible for the Newport Jazz Festival, among others. Last night was a bit balmy, but to go to a free show in Central Park by a band fronted by the great McCoy Tyner who is 71, and sure as hell still has it, joined by Ravi Coltrane—a nice sentimental touch but also a fine, intelligent musician—and the extremely exciting Esperanza Spalding on bass and Francisco Mela on drums, thousands of people, both inside and outside the ampitheater, got to experience what makes New York so great. Tyner was followed by a funkish group put together by Stanley Clarke—which was odd since it should have been the other way around, and a lot of people got there late expecting it would be, but he was fun too, and threw in some “RTF” material for the codgers in the audience.

Earlier in the week it was almost as much fun to see a complete full Carnegie Hall for a wordless but unspeakably beautiful and constantly (and quietly) impressive show  by Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette. These guys have been playing together so long they don’t even have to look at one another, though even when I knew all the songs, I wasn’t sure what they were. (Like Dylan and the Allman Brothers combined. Anyway, it’s another great thing about my city that these guys can fill a Carnegie-sized hall. And the sound, for once, was great.)

Here’s the setlist:

1. It Could Happen to You

2. My Funny Valentine

3. When Will the Blues Go Away

4. Answer Me My Love

5. Sandu

6. Someday My Prince Will Come

7. Autumn Leaves

8. All the Sad Young Men

9. Last Night When We were Young

10. Once Upon A Time

11. God Bless the Child

12. I Thought About You

Tonight Carnegie has Herbie Hancock’s 70th birthday celebration. Should be an unforgettable performance.

The mail:

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

I wasn't sure this posted to comments, so I am sending it here as well:

I love you, Brother Pierce, but you need to go a little further.

First, the main reason that the left acts like a bunch of whiny children who cry whenever they don't get what they want is that many of them are a bunch of whiny children who cry whenever they don't get what they want.  This battle has gone on since the days when LBJ was majority leader and said his greatest achievement was convincing Hubert Humphrey that half a loaf was better than none.  The real problem here is that the left, like many others, projected onto Barack Obama what they wanted to see in him.  He talked about changing the culture in DC, a spirit of bipartisanship.  He actually meant it.  Not that I think it can be changed that easily—as he said, it's hard to vote with him when his opponents question his Americanism.  But that means that he is less liberal than I would like, and it's time for people to grasp that he is not a prisoner of ideology.

Now, for my part the second, I don't disagree with a word in the Sarah Palin section of Pierce's screed, but he misses a key point.  It is not that we have to make nice with tinpot Elmer Gantry types.  But we DO need to press the point that what we advocate fits "family values" and the Judeo-Christian ethic, and the best teachings of The Bible, and force the other guys into a corner on that point.  If we don't do that, we don't win, and then we don't get to do ANYTHING that we know this country needs.  Ideological purity is wonderful, but I notice that Keith Olbermann, for one, spent months blistering Obama on the health care bill, then went on about how wonderful it was that this bill passed.  When we look and are hypocritical, we deserve what we get.

Name: Joe Coen
Hometown: Houston, Tx.

Doc,

Tangential question: Are Sunday morning news shows really “the most influential perches for opinion making in American politics” anymore as you state in your Think Again column? I stopped watching years ago, not simply because Republicans dominate, but because the alleged journalists hosting the shows rarely challenge anything said. No wonder the right wingers flock to those shows to parrot their talking points. Sunday morning news shows are gliding ever closer to Tiger Woods press conference territory.
 
Not-so-tangential comment on Pierce’s take on the Palin thing in Newsweek:  The way that man weaves phrases together to surgically eviscerate is amazing and flat-out, roll on the floor funny.  Wow. A tip of my faded black, back to the one season the Astros were World Series good baseball cap to him. My favorite thing from the linked story about the blond big foot sighting in North Carolina was when the bumpkin said he poked at the creature with a sharp stick to chase it away.  If it were only that easy to chase Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, Sarah Palin and the rest of those surfing the Year of the (White, Rich) Women back into the shallows, I’d start whittling.

Name: Clarissa Smith
Hometown: Norfolk, VA

Mr. Alterman, this part of your article I find very interesting. If only someone in the media would ask her to provide proof because she uses this pregnancy for political gain.  Thank you for writing this.

"So the idea that her spiritual life is any deeper than her political philosophy—and that includes what I, in my constitutionally protected opinion, believe is that complete fairy-tale about the dark night of the soul that Palin experienced after finding out she was pregnant, an episode that this piece finds so revealing—requires a offer of proof far beyond her simple say-so."

Name: Carl Jung
Hometown: Ether

For Mr. Pierce:

What you resist, persists.

Regards.

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