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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 now a new "Think Again" column called "Official Evidence vs. 'Gut Hatred'" here.

It's about the derision those people who were right about Bush and Iraq continue to experience from those who were wrong, inspired by Tom Ridge and Marc Ambinder. (And P.S., we recall that Ted Kennedy, we are reminded by our friends at Thinkprogress.org, called his vote against authorizing the invasion "the best vote I've made in my 44 years in the US Senate." We could not agree more.)

My Nation column, here, is called "Novak Without Tears." You can guess what that's about.

Regarding yesterday's A (Very) Short Story About a Photograph , if you missed the one with the actual photo, it's up now, here.

Here's Pierce.

Charles Pierce
Newton, MA

Hey Doc:

"Times right now ain't nothin' like they used to be/Well times rightnow ain't nothin' like they used to be/ You know I'll tell you all thetruth, won't you take my word from me."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Color Me True" (Sly And The Family Stone)--The work goes on, the cause endures, the dream shall never die, and Istill love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: 'FI were king of the forest, I would read Oklahomaout of the Union until the people there elect themselves one senator whoisn't a complete dickhead.

Part The Second: It goes without saying--"So don't say it!" Sorry.--but there are people asking for spare change on the steam grates outsidethe Boston Public Library who have far more essential dignity, and who arefar more worthy of my respect and my financial report, than thissuppurating mound of blubber.

Part The Third:--Oh, look! A Facebook page.

Part The Fourth: Oh, Lord, Joe, Was this ever not a piece for you to write. Even if we declare the whole Anonymous things out of bounds--which nobody ever should, but no matter--you are still theguy that got this fiasco into print, and I say this as one who had a rare old time laughing at it. Why do editors print rubbish? Because famous writers write rubbish.

Part The Fifth: The lads 'n lassies at Da Cornah had a time with thepassing of The Senior Senator. There was Pantloadian flummery--Yeah, Reagan's name hasn't been used for a single political purpose since he died--and Pantloadian keyboard-flexing. Don't make him get tough on you. Ohhhhh, no. And of course, from a woman who'd earlier posted that Edward Kennedy had done things contrary to the Catholic faith, there was this out-and-out lie. Ego te absolvo, you silly hack. And, for pity's sake, Ye Olde House Of Mulch For Brains, try not be be such tools.

I swear, modern conservatism is the only political movement in historymade up entirely of people with little birdies flying out of their ears.

Part The Penultimate: Unless he is talking about a Massachusetts ofwhich I am unaware, Peter Roff pretty much has eaten a bug here.

Part The Last: Anyone who's covered golf at any point is familiarwith the post-round press conference, in which PGA star Billy Ray Amanahattakes us through the round, shot by shot. ("Par-4. Driver. Three-iron. Twoputts.") Those of us lucky enough to be on the e-mail list for the WhiteHouse Pool Report were treated this week to a shot-by-shot description ofPresident Obama's time at the links on the Vineyard. Which brought nothingback more clearly than the response of the great Dan Jenkins to someone whowas boring him with golf talk: "Stud, if I'm going the whole 18 here, I'mgonna need caddy fees." And, not for nothing, but great cheers to RyanMoore, who won at Greensboro last week, and was the first golfer in recentmemory to win a Tour event without carrying a single corporate logoanywhere on his person. This, of course, will not last.

It is almost beside the point now to mention that The Senior Senatorleaves behind a pair of shoes that most of his Senate contemporaries coulduse for swimming pools. (Harry Reid, come on down!) His maiden speech wasabout the poll tax and one of the last issues he took up was that ofgenetic privacy, which pretty much covers the waterfront as regards thesecond half of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st. Startclicking them off--Webster-Clay-Calhoun, bing-bang, all at the same time,and then LaFollette, Lodge, Vandenberg, Taft, Lyndon. Maybe Robert Wagnerand/or Hubert Humphrey. And the Senior Senator. That's the ballgame rightthere, and there's nobody still in the Senate who comes close.

I pretty much emptied the bucket on what I had to say about him sixyears ago.

But, if Martin was right, and the arc of history really does bend towardjustice, the Senior Senator didn't miss many chances to give it a littlepush along the way. For example, if it weren't for the Senior Senator, anauthoritarian extremist named Robert Bork would now be in his 22nd year onthe United States Supreme Court. Conservatives are still weeping aboutthis. Tough. A country with a Robert Bork deciding on the issues of itsliberties would be a smaller, more vicious place. The Senior Senatorstopped that from happening. What'd your senator do today?

P.S. My wife and I waited about three and a half hours at the JFK library last night to pay our respects. The line snaked out through the parking lots for about a mile and a half. There were older women who looked like they'd been mad for Jack back in '46. There were dozens of extraordinarily well-behaved children. There were two guys with guitars. It was an altogether remarkable gathering. I am glad that I did it. There was a lot of low talking, but there also were not a few good old Dorchester wisecracks. Two of the Kennedy daughters came out and worked the line, doing the double-handed handshake thing and thanking people for coming. The TV stands were long gone quiet by the time we made it in through the doors. That long, extended, respectful peace beside the dark harbor is going to be a good bulwark of memory to have when the smugness and the vicious ignorance and the nearly bottomless banality that usually encrusts our politics reasserts itself, probably by Sunday. Amen.

The Mail:

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

One of the ironies of Ted Kennedy's ironic life is the current healthcare debate.

Kennedy once said that the perfect should not be allowed to becomethe enemy of the good. That is worth remembering right now as mybrothers and sisters of the left assault some Democrats for notordering others to vote a certain way.

But then some Republicans--and, to be fair, Democrats--have lamentedthat his presence would have ameliorated the partisan rancor. ThoseRepublicans include John McCain, whose presidential campaign did agreat deal to fan the flames that are now billowing upward from right-wingers at town hall meetings, like the meeting he had the othernight. Can a party in thrall to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, for whomWanda Sykes's words are hardly good enough, actually claim with anyseriousness that Kennedy could have reduced the partisanship?

So, we are left to ponder what Kennedy might have been able toaccomplish on this bill, and to cherish what he did accomplish forhis country. And we are left to ponder what might have been after anevent that Murray Kempton described so aptly--and so much betterthan I will--when he said that Kennedy would always be excoriatedfor doing something that many other men might have done and handledjust as badly.

Name: Daphne Chyprious
Hometown: Springfield, Ill.

Terry from Cheyenne's story reminds me of my own experience. Yearsago, I came upon a pickup truck in a parking lot with a huge printedsign in its back window: " Burn my flag, I'll burn your ass."Scrounging up a sheet of scratch paper from my glove compartment, Iscribbled: "If I burn my own flag, will you burn your own ass?" andstuck it into his dashboard. No word yet on the truck owner'sreaction, but my local paper did oblige me by printing my letterabout the incident.

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