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Rush and Coulter = Howe and Harrington? Really? | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

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

Rush and Coulter = Howe and Harrington? Really?

We've got a new Think Again column here and it is called "The Other Meltdown: Conservatives." And I've got a new column in Moment called "Israeli Films Boldly Go Where Few Politicians Dare," and that's here

Take a look at this video and ask yourself how stupid the Neocons could have been to think that the best thing for the Iraqis would be for the United States to tell them what to do with their country. You can't even blame the guy in it. He's doingthe job he was trained for; he just wasn't trained for this job.

Speaking of war supporters who call the rest of us stupid, on The NewYorker's blog, George Packer writes:

This clip from the weekend'sConservative Political Action Conference reminds me exactly of whatmeetings of the Democratic Socialists of America sounded like in thenineteen-eighties. Just substitute "free-market capitalism" for "biggovernment," "the New Deal" for "the era of Reagan," and everythingelse--the defensive contempt toward popular rule, the retreat into thecomfort of a purified "philosophy," the denunciations of unnamedappeasers within the ranks, the call to "stamp out" middle-wayweaklings--is the same.

I wonder if Packer might want to revisit this one. He may have traveledquite a distance from his former friends and political values,personally, but does he really wish to equate Rush Limbaugh and AnnCoulter with Michael Harrington, Irving Howe, Cornel West, Ron Dellums,Harold Meyerson, Marc Levinson, JoAnn Mort, etc. It is not an uncommontrait in political pilgrims to heap contempt on their former selves, butI think Packer might wish to rethink this one.

Alter-alert:

My old friend and Cornell American history professor, Richard Polenberg,has been devoting himself to creating these wonderful musical historyprograms on his web-based Slope Radio program. It's called "Key to theHighway" and it is on at a new time: from 8 to 9 pm on Wednesdays. Theshows are archived, though, so you can hear them whenever you wish. Allthe programs from the first and second semesters are also stillavailable.

You can log on at the following site. No username or password isnecessary: http://slopemedia.org/category/all-shows/current-shows/key-to-the-highway/

This season's first three programs are up and running:

• The first (Episode 25) is devoted to the well-known song, "Houseof the Rising Sun." First recorded in 1933, there are now nearly 400different versions by singers as diverse as Leadbelly, Nina Simone, andthe Animals.

• The second looks at the life and music of Nehemiah "Skip" James,the blues singer, guitarist, and pianist whose classic 1931 recordingsinspired covers by the likes of Buddy Guy, Ry Cooder, Rory Block, andBob Dylan.

• The third tells the true, tragic story of "Frankie and Johnny",and includes versions of the song by Charlie Poole, Anita O'Day,"Little" Stevie Wonder and Doc and Merle Watson.

• The fourth program, "Got the Cotton Mill Blues", which will be broadcast this week, discusses songs written by and about cotton mill workers, and music inspired by the 1929 strike in Gastonia, North Carolina.

Future programs will deal with "Chain Gang Blues", songs that described--and also exposed--that notoriously brutal form of imprisonment, and with such musicians as Dinah Washington, John Lee Hooker and Django Reinhardt.

Enjoy.

Alter-reviews:

Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles:

I caught a short performance by Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles theother night. I actually discovered Borges though Amazon's "If you like..." feature. I forget what the connection was exactly, but it wasdefinitely more folkish/Americana-ish than Borges turns out to be. Atleast in the bar, she was pretty much a straight-ahead rocker, but withsmart, pretty songs sixties-style singles that wouldn't sound too outof place in a Tommy James and the Shondells set, if Tommy James and theShondells sang much smarter songs than they ever did.

Amazon wasn't wrong. Borges first two albums. 2005's Silver City and2007's Diamonds in the Dark were much folk-friendlier than the newone, called The Stars Are Out. It boasts five originals plus fivecovers including a song attributed to Smokey Robinson (a radicallyreworked "Being With You"), Stiff Records act Any Trouble ("Yesterday'sLove," penned by Clive Gregson)--and one of the best bands almosteveryone's forgotten I can think of--the Magnetic Fields' "No One WillEver Love You," and Evan Dando's "Ride with Me." Smart stuff, as I said.And she's pretty sexy too, I guess I should add, though her hair makesher look more like Sarah Silverman than I'd like.

Tonight marks the opening of the Rendezvous with French Cinema, at theFilm Society at Lincoln Center, which is one more reason my city isbetter than your city, unless your city is Paris. I've seen four of thefilms--one with Gerard Depardieu, one with Gerard Depardieu's daughterand Catharine DeNeuve, playing her mom, and two with I forget who. Theywere all way more honest, stylish and emotionally complex than virtuallyanything Hollywood produces, including those movies that get AcademyAward nominations, and my advice would be to look at the schedule here and see what you can see.

This week on Moyers:

He's played heroes, villains, saints, sinners, a ballet-dancingelephant, and a space alien, now actor and children's author JohnLithgow--best known as Dick Solomon from NBC's hit show 3rd Rock fromthe Sun--reveals a new side of himself... poetry lover. Theaward-winning stage and screen star Lithgow shares his favorite poems,insights into acting, and thoughts on the enduring power of art.Lithgow currently stars in the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's AllMy Sons. He has penned several children's books, as well as compiledpoems for Poets' Corner: The One-And-Only Poetry Book for the WholeFamily. Then, Bill Moyers celebrates poetry at the Geraldine R. DodgePoetry Festival, which included renowned poets Coleman Barks, W.S.Merwin, Stanley Kunitz, Kurtis Lamkin, among many others.

The Mail:

Name: Timothy Barrett
Hometown: Louisville, KY

Obama's proposed budget will raise the top tiers of the marginalincome tax rates to 36 percent and 39.6 percent while leaving those who earn under the $250,000 MAGI at today's rates. To get a clear perspective, a salaried person filing married joint and earning $100,000 a year compensation (with attendant deductions but not itemizing) will pay about $13,600 in federal taxes. That is, of course, less than a 14 percent actual tax rate. If this taxpayers has some kids, a mortgage, and gives to charity, his actual tax rate will be more like 11 percent.

Now, if you do make a lot more than the average joe, say $250,000 and up, the average joe makes about $30,000, you will pay a lot more intaxes. No doubt about it, you are the tax target and you will paymore for your success. This is what a progressive tax plan does, it progresses. But you must make over $250,000 to get targeted.

But even if your $300,000 salary puts you into the 36 percent margin (you currently have to make more than $373,000 to reach the 39.6 percent margin)your actual tax rate is a little under 25 percent. If you earn a whopping $500,000 a year, you will pay an actual 31 percent in federal income tax.

Now let's assume Obama gets his whole package, unlimited SocialSecurity/Medicare tax and a the return to the top marginal rates of2001, and you live in a state that pays 10 percent state and local taxes. Then you are not a happy camper. At $500,000 a year MAGI, you will pay, OMG, 43 percent in taxes ($216,778!).

Oh well, would it make you feel any better to know that if we appliedthe 1965-1980 tax charts, when the highest marginal federal incometax rate was 70 percent, you would have paid about 70 percent in actual total taxes, counting FICA, state and local ($352,460!).

And if we went back to 1964 and prior, there was a 79 percent top rate. So if you think the tax rate increases will be at an unprecedented level, you are very, very wrong! You're getting off easy, Bub!

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric--

I thought of Charlie Pierce when I read this blurb on DailyKos aboutMichael Steele's email to RNC faithful asking for support of NormColeman's seemingly futile effort to hold onto his Senate seat. Itwasn't Steele's pitch that got me (it's his job after all to supporthis candidate) but that his opening paragraph describes hisresponsibilities as RNC chair in language that channels the oldBaltimore catechism no.3 that Sister Mary de Sade used to drill meon. Steele writes:

As you know, my mission as the new Chairman of the RepublicanNational Committee is to...remind voters that our party is the *oneand only true party of the people.*

Political ideology and religion share many similarities for some, butI can remember when JFK had to attest that he wouldn't be takingorders from Rome. Now Steele, a Roman Catholic, frames his jobdescription co-extensive with the Baltimore Catechism creed.

Oy!

Name: Spyder

Anybody happen to see this story on the front page of the Wall Street Journal over the weekend? "Can He Save Rock 'n' Roll? Irving Azoff Wants to Concentrate Power in the Music World Like Never Before; Bruce Springsteen Objects."

On the original accompanying photo that is identified in the captionas a young Eagles with Azoff circled in red (one of the majorcorrections that was made after the physical paper was published andcirculated). Those of us from that era would clearly recognize theblatant attempt to denigrate and negate reality as the one personthat mattered in the photo was refused identity by Rupert's WSJ. Itested this by showing the picture to several people and asked themto see the problem. Only those who knew Bill Graham, or cared forwhat he did, or worked for him, would know the insult. None of thoseyounger than 50 had any clue whatsoever. Yes, Bill Graham is thecentral figure, with the band and manager standing around himbackstage at a CA venue (for some reason they all wear stickers allaccess passes except the guy in the center). Bill Graham, thegodfather of the concert business that has manifested today, isnegated by nary an identity. The correction is typically silly andneeds an apology!!!

Name: Beth Harrison
Hometown: Arlington, VA

Eric (and all other Altercators), are you enjoying the Republicancircular firing squad as much as I am? Sure, Michael Steele may beChairman of the RNC, but the leader of the conservobots is Rush "I wantObama to fail" Limbaugh. And I'd have a lot of respect for the firstRepublican who tells Rush to shut the hell up, that he is hurting theirchances of picking up seats in two years, yadda yadda yadda. Theirkowtowing to El Rushbo is sickening (but in an entertaining kind ofway). And Rush, I'll tell you what women find attractive in a man: a soul.

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