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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

Wrapup: I've got a new "Think Again" column on healthcare reportingcalled "Why Not the Best?" here.

On the Beast, I did this post on the Democrats and their fear of 1994,here.

Alter-reviews: Paul McCartney at Citi Field:

I was among the fortunate many to see Paul McCartney open up Citi Fieldfor concerts last Friday. It was largely pleasurable, though notintensely so. Here's the thing about Paul. His live shows add nothingto the studio recordings; they are note-for note recreations of thestudio versions of both his Beatle songs and his solo work. He evensings the nonsense at the end of "Hey Jude" exactly the same way he didthirty years ago on the record. It's fun to hear Beatles songs inconcert but it's almost as much fun to hear them at home. And Paul'slater work, well, forgive me, but I don't get it. I am a (rare) fan ofthe early solo work, at least McCartney, Band on the Run and Venus and Mars, with bits and pieces of some of the rest. For me the nicest surprise of the show were the five songs from Band on the Run. (Aside: It's amazing how good the Beatles all were solo, in the very beginning.They broke up quite near their respective peaks.) But one has to endureso much schlock to see McCartney. I've never met the man, but he playssuch a doofus on stage, that I can only bear it once every ten or soyears. As I said, I was glad I did it. Are there any better songs than"Drive My Car"--the opener, or "Day Tripper," etc.? Is there a bettersingalong song than "Sergeant Pepper?" And Billy Joel came out for "ISaw Her Standing There" which (together with "Do Wah Diddy Diddy," "DoYa Love Me," and "Double Shot of My Baby's Love,") gets my vote for themost perfect two minutes of rock 'n' roll ever recorded. So it was worththe time and effort; but just once a decade.

If I had more time, I'd go on and on about what a great guy FrankMcCourt was. He was certainly the greatest storyteller I've ever met andfun and decent, and generous, etc, but everybody else has already saidthat about him and most of them knew him far better than I. I dorecommend downloading Terri Gross's podcast interview with him fromFresh Air. I never met Walter Cronkite, so I've nothing to add beyondthe general lamentation of how far we've fallen from the example hetried to set. Here's Pierce.

Charles Pierce
Newton, MA

Hey Doc:

"Somebody's out to get your lady/A few of your buddies they surelook shady."

WWOZ "Crescent City Morning" (Swanson And The Wiseowl)--OK, youin the front row. I think I've made it clear how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: Call me inattentive--"Hey, you're inattentive!"Thank you--but I think that a whole bunch of somebodies in the nationalnews portions of my electric television set should have made a biggerdeal out of the fact that one of our most important states pretty muchdemonstrated this week that it has rendered itself ungovernable. I could argue that these somebodies also should have pointed out that this happened as a perfect demonstration of the governing philosophy driving the conservative movement for forty years, and because everybody thought it would be cute to have a juiced-up clown elected governor, but I expect no miracles.

Part The Second: Imagine the bidding war that must have broken outover the rights to this upcoming classic of intellectual exploration. The full might of the Regnery empire against all the voices in Mary Matalin's head. Strong men wept, I'm sure.

Part The Third: The people who are defending the way we do healthcare in this country--which I decline to call a "system," since it clearly isn't, any more than a soccer riot is--should be aware thatthis is what they're defending. And Lawrence O'Donnell? I know Max Baucus is your old pal from your days on the Finance Committee, but he's bought and paid for in this fight and you know it. And, not for nothing, it hasn't been that hard for a Democrat to get elected in Montana for a while now.

Part The Fourth: Yeah, yeah. Go get him, Chris. And some of us may have forgotten how you fell for every Roswelliantale about the Clintons, and even added your own little embellishment where necessary. Yeah, go, Chris. You fake.

Part The Fifth: Remember that, even though Everybody knows thecountry has some racial problems, we've come so very far, we, whitepeople, and when something happens to remind us that, maybe, we haven't, thatIt's Never About Race.

Back in the day, when I was a full-time professional sportswriter,and I saw a really bad team, I could call them a really bad team. I couldsay that the team had no chance of winning a championship any time soonbecause their players were manifestly incompetent, their manager a half-brightdrunk, and their front-office staff a collection of blockheads thatshouldn't be entrusted with a two-car funeral. Nobody would come up tome later and point out that I was required to present another side to thisquestion, or that I should take the team in question seriously simplybecause it was a major-league team. Which leads me to this question:

Why does the elite political media take the Republican Party, as itis currently constituted, seriously as a national political party?

I mean, honest to god, here's the chairman--allying himself and his party with a know-nothing who's already been dismissed by Meghan McCain (!) as a dumbass. Here's a perfectly ordinaryand banal congresscritter encountering the base in his homestate. Here's the party's idea of sensible talk on the federal budget. Here's the party's congressional leadership on the most pressing domestic issue of the day. You can't hardly find a Republican leader these days who isn't a hypocrite, a crackpot, or deeply in thrall to its bizarre broadcast auxiliary. And down at the grassroots, of course, things get even loonier. Less than 30 percent in most polls even identify with the party any more. The president's numbers may be on the slide, and the congressional majority may be feckless, but nobody'slooking for leadership to a talk-radio freakshow that seems to be composedentirely these days of a series of circulated e-mails. This party is certainly no nuttier than the libertarians are, and far less fun than the Hemp peopleare. If I'd written about, say, the Cleveland (61-101) Indians in Augustof 1987 as though the team were a serious pennant contender, I'd have beenfired before I got back to the hotel. And yet, there they were onCharlie Rose: serious political pundits, talking seriously about what a powerSarah Palin is in the Republican party without any of them pointing out thatthe very fact that she is a power is prima facie evidence that the party isa festival for fruitcakes. Strange. Why the Democratic party is so afraidof these people is even stranger.

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

I am one of many who grew up watching the only daily television newsI could get, and I got it from Walter Cronkite. Watching him, andtrying to understand Eric Sevareid--I was 12 when Sevareid retired,so while he could be obtuse at times, in my case it was also being achild--made me a news junkie. Thus, I mourn Cronkite's death, but Irealize that what he was doing died a long time ago.

Proof of which is a Time online poll asking who is now the mosttrusted anchor in America. The totals the three network anchorsreceived, combined, matched the winner ... Jon Stewart. And that gotme to thinking.

Stewart is more trustworthy than Williams, Gibson and Couric puttogether. When they deliver the news, what do they tell us about thebackground and the reality? They simply put on Dick Cheney sayingBarack Obama is endangering the country. Stewart puts on clips ofCheney and his allies attacking Democrats for daring to question thepresident in time of war. Yes, Stewart also puts on "fake news." Butit comes out more real than the real news.

It also takes me back to David Halberstam's wonderful account in ThePowers That Be of how Murrey Marder of The Washington Post insistedin his reports on telling the truth about Joe McCarthy's lies, ratherthan just serving as a stenographer. The mainstream media consistentirely too much of stenographers, which helps explain why aMcCarthyistic vice-president gained so much power in the past eightyears (and the occasional email to Mark Sanford), and why theirsimplistic publication of Republican lies does so much damage to thiscountry today.

Eric adds: Powers That Be, Halberstam's last really good book in myopinion, has just been reissued in this nice edition by the University of Illinois Press

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