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Everybody Wants to Rule the World | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

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

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Big Alter-media week: We've got a new called "Think Again column called"Remember Real Journalism," and it's here.

We did a BHTV episode with our new conservative buddy Reihan, calledWhat's on a Man's Mind?" hereand we appeared on a panel at the 92nd street Y on Monday night called "Why WeNeed a Liberal Israel Lobby," and that's on video here and Phil Weiss has agreat deal to say about it here and then I gave a few quotes to MichaelCalderone of Politico for this story--note the only fellow in the cartoon scowling--which has the right wing internetzbuzzing with much enjoyable hysteria. Were one to read too much of it,one would lament the fate of western civilization, such as it is. Oursmart new conservative friend Reihan, has a good post here as does Peter Suderman hereand, oh, this one is funny too. I have nothing much to say though. I proposed it as a column for my editors. They said no. You getwhat you pay for, literally (See below). Suffice to say that if we werereally conspiring to run the world, we'd do a better job of things.

Siva found this: Merle Haggard & Johnny Cash

Quotes of the Day: Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll sock you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered."*

*See William F. Buckley Jr., "On Experiencing Gore Vidal," in Harold Hayes, edit, Smiling Through the Apocalypse, (New York: The McCall Publishing Company, 1969) pp.911-965.

Also this, to those who complain about my infrequent blogging:

"I'm very lazy about writing when I'm not getting paid"

Why does love got to be so sad? I dunno, if you're going to be in rowD, tonight, or row C tomorrow night, for the only, ever Clapton/ABB performance, do come by and say "hello."

Alter-reviews:

Well, let's see. I don't have much to say about John Cheever that hasn'tbeen said by John Updike in The New Yorker, Chip McGrath in the TimesMagazine, James Wolcott in Vanity Fair, but you know I'm a sucker forthose beautiful Library of America volumes and they've just done twoCheevers. It's a bit of a conundrum though, because while the shortstory volume is handsome and functional as ever, if you're anything likemy age, you remember those big beautiful orange "Stories" that everysuburban parent had on their shelves, and damned if when you took themdown, they weren't pretty great. My favorite one was the one about theradio. I hated the one about the swimmer that everyone seems to love somuch. I don't know if you can buy the big orange book anymore, so if youcan't, I guess everybody who doesn't have it should buy it and begrateful to LOA for being there. On the novels, it's a pretty easy call.They are wonderful books all of them; as economical as Updike isexpansive and so knowing. I've not cracked the new Blake Bailey biopublished by Knopf yet. I don't know how much self-loathing I can take.I'll probably dip in a few pages at a time and switch real quick to theshort stories.

I may have forgotten to mention, also, the most recent LOA Rothcollection, Novels and Other Narratives, 1986-1991. It contains fourbooks of which one, The Counterlife, receives my unqualified vote asRoth's best ever, and one of my half-dozen favorite novels of all time. I ran into him at a party a few months ago and a friend asked him if hehad any thoughts on Mr. Madoff. He said "Evil." That was it. TheLibrary of America website is here.

The mail:

Name: Timothy Barrett
Hometown: Louisville, Ky

After watching Jon Stewart skewer CNBC and Jim Cramer (who, by theway, was profoundly accurate in his self description--"I'm just aguy trying to do a business entertainment show"), I found myselfruminating as to why I didn't see the fall coming myself.

I remember discussing how, when Bear Sterns imploded in March 2008 towhen the first bail out bill was in Congress in September 2008, thatthe stock market was heading south. However, I kept thinking, I am inthis for the long time horizon. I buy stocks and hold them. I am 20years from retirement, after all. This is a business cycle and I amnot a market timer.

Elizabeth Stanton, on Bloomberg (09/01/08), wasn't alone inreporting: "Investors should sell stocks following the rally aseconomies in the US and Europe remain weak....The rebound isunlikely to last because the US housing decline will continue,while Europe and the U.K. are 'close to recession'," Credit Suisse'sLondon-based analysts, including Andrew Garthwaite, said in a reportdated yesterday.[S&P 1282]

Then Jim Cramer (09/26/08): "The lack of confidence inspired byLehman's demise, the general poor health of many banks, this is goingto turn this into an intractable moment, if someone in the governmentdoesn't start pushing for more deposit insurance." [S&P 1213]

On All Things Considered from NPR on October 28, 2008: John Makin,chief economist for the hedge fund Caxton Associates, "What we'reseeing here is what I'd call a rolling and accelerating adversefeedback loop...The world is heading for a very sharp recession. Thattends to feed back again on hurting credit markets more, which inturn can feed back and hurt the real economy more." Makin thinks theUS recession will be deeper and longer than normal. He's expectingunemployment of around 8 percent and a shrinking economy through2009. [S&P 940]

Then, "Congratulations, It's A Recession" by Joshua Zumbrun forForbes, 12/01/08: NBER says, it's been a recession since December of2007.... Why is it good news? We've already gotten through one year,and now the question is not "are we in a recession?" but the slightlymore optimistic "are we in a recovery?"...The fifth largest investmentbank, Bear Stearns, collapsed in March. The fourth largest, LehmanBrothers, filed for bankruptcy in September. A few weeks later, thestock market crashed. Consumer confidence plummeted.

News for the history books, but not for policy makers. "I've known wewere in an economy that's slowed down significantly. The Americanpeople know that," said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, "I don'tthink this is going to be big news." ...This is the 11th recessionsince World War II, and at twelve months, already among the worst. Theprevious 10 recessions lasted an average of ten months. Only recessions in 1973-75 and 1981-82 were longer, each lasting for 16 months....So when is the recovery likely to begin? ...Typically, the stock market bottoms out a little after halfway through a recession and then starts its climb back up. If the indicator holds, and the market's lowest day proves to be Nov. 20 [2008], when the Dow closed at 7,550 and the S&P 500 at 750, then the recession would endsometime next year.

Unemployment, on the other hand, is a lagging indicator. The economytends to be well on the road to recovery before unemployment startsto fall. In 1990-91, it was 15 months after the bottom of therecession that unemployment peaked. After the bursting of the dot-combubble in 2001, unemployment peaked nineteen months later. That means theunemployment rate of 6.5 percent is likely to get worse for some monthsbefore it gets better....it's nice to be talking about "recovery"instead of tip-toeing around "recession".[S&P 816]

So, some people did warn us to sell. But, really, should the media,like Cramer or CNBC, really warn people when to go to cash? Whatwould happen to the market if even a third of retirement investors,who pay no taxes for trading in their qualified retirement accountsand IRAs, jumped in and out of the market to ride the crests andavoid the valleys every business cycle? Could these people actuallybeat the market? Or would they, ultimately wreck it? Is Jon Stewartright, in other words, that we long term investors "capitalize"market traders' "adventures"? Must the backbone and legs, trudgingonward, bear all the weight, in order for the beast to live?[Today: S&P 751] Isn't that really the sort of thing the rest of usalways just do?

Name: John Moore
Hometown: San Francisco

Dear Dr. A,

First of all, congrats on your new(ish) digs. I do hope, though, thatyou'll go back to posting daily as you did at MediaMatters.org. Someof us need our fix every single work day.

Second, let me commend you on your Nation piece "It Can Happen Here."It never ceases to amaze me how little shock and outrage has beenexpressed over the Bush administration's all too successful effortsto scrap key provisions of the Constitution. The MSM are capable ofdevoting endless hours to pretty young white girls who've gonemissing and to Republican complaints about earmarks, but for them,deliberate subversion of the nation's founding document just doesn'tmake the cut. In the world of Beltway journalism, things truly areupside-down.

Finally, kudos to the great Charles Pierce for calling out HowardFineman for his ridiculous Newsweek piece on the "establishment's" concerns about Obama. Fineman defines thisestablishment as "a three-sided force, churning from inside theBeltway, from Manhattan-based media and from what remains ofcorporate America." Presumably he's alluding to DC politicians andpundits, the MSM, and big business. In my view, it was theineptitude, malfeasance, and plain stupidity of this establishmentthat got us into the mess we're in now. Perhaps Fineman shouldconsider the track record of his beloved establishment and askhimself whether its opinions retain any credibility. It's certainlyunclear to me why, as Fineman puts it, "the rest of us" should beconcerned with what these folks think. In any rational world, peoplethat had demonstrated such disastrous incompetence would not belistened to at all.

Name: Brian Donohue
Contact: http://dailyrevolution.net

This ex-AIG worker has a tantalizing idea for the AIG Bonus Boys: dosomething to make yourself a guest ofthe next (and first) SOTU. All you have to do is give back enoughof those mega-bonuses to get me and others hired back, and I bet youguys will be sitting in the hallowed halls of a joint session besidethose glorious bare arms of the First Lady, hearing yourselvespraised to the skies by the Prez. Then, once you've been made famous,Oprah and Katie and the girls at The View will want you. All forhanding back a fractional piece of a 7-figure bonus. Or is insurancethat exciting by itself?

Name: Charles H. Thornton
Hometown: Reisterstown, MD

I tell you Eric, I saw that Fleischer-Matthews confrontation, and forme it exemplified all that's been wrong with public discourse for thepast fifteen years: Strict adherence to one's own preconceptions commentsslanted to promote those preconceptions, intolerance for anotherview, total lack of gained information, since both engaged in so muchsimultaneous blather that neither could have possibly learnedanything from the other.

Keith Olbermann, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Ariana Huffington, DavidHorowitz, David Corn. These people, and those like them, representThe Problem.

And, oh yes, Ari and Chris too.

The sooner the public is rid of their one eyed view of the world thebetter off we will all be.

Name: Dr, Morton Zuckerman
Hometown: Brentwood, CA

Eric,

I am tired of laymen, including Charles Pierce, calling others"Sociopaths" when I would wager large sums of money that the namecaller has absolutely no idea what a true sociopath is. I have beenin the business of diagnosing mental patients for over threedecades and believe me when I tell you that novices can't make adiagnosis from watching someone in a television interview. It takesyears of practice and many times a battery of tests. Even then,seasoned professionals like I can still get it wrong. So let's stoppromoting the armchair psychiatrists and leave the art of diagnosisto the experts.

Name: Ann Donahue
Hometown: Shelburne, VT

Ah, Pierce. Would that everyday were Slacker Friday. Still, Isuppose, to paraphrase the great man himself weighing in onOlbermann's special comments, that would make Slacker Friday lessslackerish. I sure don't want that!

And since Georgetown has been out of it since January 1, GoMarquette!

Name: Carl Kolbet
Hometown: New York, NY

Please help a local bookstore!

Dear Eric,

You have periodically let your readers know about local bookstoresthat need their help, and I am hoping you will do so again. I justlearned over the weekend that a great little bookstore near me isfacing some hard times.

Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books at 34 Carmine Street (btw.Bleecker and Bedford) is a little bookstore that carries a wideselection of overstock books at amazing prices. The selection isalways changing, and the prices are very low (new hardcovers areoften under $10). Several months ago, they had to reduce their spaceby half (their motto used to be "0.18 miles of books" in a play offof The Strand), and they have had to let staff go as well. It isreally an institution worth saving, so I hope you can help.

Their website is here: http://unoppressivebooks.blogspot.com/

And more information is here:http://www.indiebound.org/stores/unoppressive-non-imperialist-bargain-books

And here: http://nymag.com/listings/stores/unoppressive-non-imperia/

I hope you can help. Thanks.

Name: Terry
Hometown: Cheyenne

I'm always attuned to your musical sensibilities. The Chris Isaac'sshow is the kind of performance and music talk I dream of. I hadfound some four-disc compilation of Glen Campbell last year, and itwas stunning to listen to his body of work on it chronologically.I wish he'd talked about the song Gentle on My Mind. My favorite songof all is called I've Got You, though it might be obscure to some.The Stevie Nicks episode was a real treat. From an Altercator forwhom, music, too, is another best friend.

Name: Michael Bartley
Hometown: Fort Collins, Colorado

Eric, I am writing this while listening to the new Buddy and JulieMiller record Written in Chalk. It is simply wonderful. I just wantedto give 'em a plug. Also, I'm looking forward to Pierce's book thisspring. He is a dam fine writer whose willingness to speak truth topower gives me hope that journalism is not yet dead here in the landof bread and water. Speaking of Pierce's new book, yesterdaySilverman from Des Moines called you Jerry. I don't know why exactly,I'll leave it to the mystery of funny, but I have not laughed thathard in a long time. Your simple response put me on the floor.

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