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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

We've got a new "Think Again" column called "It's a Bird. It's a Plane. It's...Cable News," and it's here.

My Nation column, about Obama and Fox News and the rest of the media, is called "Just Don't Call It Journalism," and that's here.

I did another piece on J Street for the IHT. It's called "Voices From the Wilderness" and that's here and then Le Monde Diplomatique asked me to do a podcast and that's here: Living on J Street.

Philly gets everything!

A bit over ten years ago, during the reunion tour, I had tickets to Philly and we had like the biggest snowstorm ever. (That morning, I ran into the amazing sight of one Victor S. Navasky braving these amazing elements to make it to, I kid you not, a Nation editorial meeting.) The show was cancelled, which was good, because an ex-friend, who had been an incredible dick about giving me (and Eli) a ride there, drove back and forth in the storm for nothing, thereby ever–so-slightly increasing my belief in a personal God who takes an interest in justice, however capriciously. But the show was rescheduled, not only for Bruce's 50th birthday, but also for the night I had terrific tickets for Tom Waits, who almost never tours, at the Beacon, which in those days, was literally a half a block from my apartment. And I had already seen about seven of these reunion shows.

What to do?

What would you do?

I went to Philly (got lost, per usual). Got there just in time to hear Bruce play "Fever" my favorite song, and the only one that has remained on my funeral list, throughout the decades. It's the only time I've heard it since maybe 1978, so that story has a happy ending. This year's decision not to go Philly does not have as happy an ending, but it's my own fault (and David Rudd's).

Anyway, this is really great: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DytO5K0rPu8&feature=channel

Not bad either: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5H081gJWI6A&feature=channel

For moms, everywhere: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y08SB-YnQg0&feature=channel.

Now this from my friends at World Hunger Year:

A Once-In-A Lifetime Opportunity to Meet Bruce Springsteen and support charity! You can help support WHY's fight against hunger in the U.S. and meet The Boss on Saturday, November 7th @ Madison Square Garden in NYC. Take your pick of seats in the Pit or First Tier Loge section and enjoy VIP access to the E Street Lounge and best of all, personally meet and spend time one-on-one with Bruce Springsteen. All inquiries should be submitted to lcolacurcio@charityfolks.com. Minimum bids start at $10,000 and will be accepted until 6pm EST on Wednesday, October 28th. Experience is for two people. Donations are tax deductible above the face value of the tickets. Winner must be from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or Pennsylvania.

Alter-correction. The great Joe South wrote "I never Promised You a Rosegarden." But Chip Taylor wrote "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" and "I Can't Let Go," for the Hollies. Also, an anonymous friend informs me: "Chip Taylor is one talented and strange guy. If you haven't heard his 2005 disc with Carrie Rodriguez titled "Red Dog Tracks," I urge you to do so. Bluesy folky country (or some other order of those genres and maybe some others) with some mind-stopping lyrics, great tight spare arrangements, the languid country-honey voice of Ms. Rodriguez, and some duets that grab my heart. Their Hank Wms cover of "I Can't Help It" is one cut I find myself listening to over and over. They pour a lot of emotion into a simple song and harmonize exquisitely. This disc has convinced several reluctant friends that they do likecountry music after all."

I bought it.

Here's the man:

CHARLES PIERCE
NEWTON, MA.

Hey Doc:

"Now it's hail Mary full of gin and sweet boneless Jesus / Our happyhome might never be the same."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Dixie" (Mike West)--I'll go on anynetwork to talk at length about how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: As Interim Altercation Papist Correspondent, I, forone, would like to thank il Papa and the red-beanie Romanita crowd forthis latest bit of theological hooey. What a deal. We get a bunch of homophobic wingnutAnglican clerics, and out goes the rule on celibacy. Which the previouspope, dubbed "John Paul The Great" by Ms. Peggy Noonan (aka Origen WithoutThe Effort), insisted was necessary to maintain the Christ-like nature ofthe priesthood. (Yeah, yeah, I know.) However, when Holy Mother Church getsto strike a political and cultural blow against laymen who do bad thingswith their pee-pees--to say nothing of kicking back against Henry VIIIagain--the importance of "the undivided heart" and that of the "fruitful ministry" go right down the drain. Of course, His Eminence NutsyFagen here might disagree.

Postscript--There no longer can be any question. The WashingtonPost is trying to outflank The Onion as a news source. Of whom does thisloon have cheap-motel-and-a-goat pictures, anyway? If it's Parson Meacham,I don't want to see them, and if it's Sister Sally Of The BlessedSacraments Exposed, I probably already have.

Part The Second: Neither the Edwards, nor the Palin stuff shouldsurprise anyone. But I am intrigued by the rest of the list of historic Gallup plunges. What, for example, did Pope John Paul II do in a single month in 1998 that caused his numbers to tank 17 points? And, a decade ago, did I miss the moment in which Lamar Alexander knocked over an orphanage?

Part The Third: This is just not good. On the other hand, this is immeasurably worse. Get the blood off your hands, Ace, before you start lecturing your betters. (You did your damnedest to enable the"disaster" through the aftermath of which you now say Obama is governingthe nation. Foof.) And, even if this mess hadn't emanated from one of"liberal" America's most inexcusable chickenhawks , this line--"As forjournalists, you can hardly blame them for trying to inject some volatilityinto the Obama storyline."--would be proof enough that he should findanother line of work. I can blame them. It's not their job to "inject"anything into a "storyline." Jesus, this stuff used to be obvious.

Part The Fourth: Little Lord pissant has a lot of goddamn gall going near this at all. And Slightly Larger Lord Pissant here should know that thosecutesy-poo quote marks around the word caregivers are prima facie evidencethat you're pretty much a dick. One day in a chemo chair, Ace, and you'd be weeping and screaming for a spiff the size of a Louisville Slugger.

Part The Penultimate: I'm sorry, but I don't think believing thesepeople are dangerous, gun-toting fantasts "depends on (my) perspective" at all. I mean, get a load of this stuff. Detention camps? Foreign troops on American soil? "I refuse to cooperate with any order from the government that I must cooperate with giant metal lizards from space." And that's before you get to the end, which seems tobe a discreet incitement to mutiny. But, of course, they do have a fan who regularly plays the role of the Avuncular Old Fart Neighbor on Mr. Squinty'sneighborhood, the morning kiddie show on liberal cable network MSNBC. In a related story, alas for Pat, this old bastard is still dead.

Part The Ultimate: I have studiously avoided commenting at length onthe ongoing social, political, and cultural ball of snakes that is theIsraeli-Palestinian situation. This is largely because everything I read makes it seem increasingly intractable--Belfast with sand and several more millenia worth of tribal savagery and archaic religious enmity. Mechanized warfare against suicide bombers. The redoubtable Padraig O'Malley--who did so much good work prying various fingers off various throats in the north of Ireland--has waded into it, and good luck to him. But this latest development is sofrustratingly, damnably stupid that it is enough to make anyone throw up their hands. Demanding to be handed, and to be recognized as, a modern nation-state while simultaneouslyallowing barbaric monotheists to run amuck? How in the name of Odin (toemploy here, for rhetorical purposes, a relatively neutral Deity) does thisadvance any legitimate interest of a people currently living under thecircumstances of occupation? And, yes, I know what the effect ofconservative religion in Israel has been, thanks. What this place needs isfor every damned cleric living there to get on a boat and sail over the farhorizon for about 200 years.

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

Our parable on Balloon Boy is that 32 years ago, on August 16, 1977,the lead story on the CBS Evening News (with Roger Mudd substitutingfor Walter Cronkite) was the Panama Canal treaty. The lead was notthat Elvis Presley had died that day.

I am inclined to think that was not good news judgment, becausePresley was an important part of our cultural history. And that isthe question the CBS News producers should have asked themselves thatday. Instead, they asked themselves what was most important to theAmerican people--not what mattered to them.

Whatever we say of the lunatics and slanderers on Fox News, theiropinion shows do focus on what they actually consider important. Thattheir viewers think what they are saying has even a modicum of truthto it is because the rest of broadcast news--not just Fox--has nosense of history, ethics, or journalism. In fact, I should deletepart of the previous sentence. The rest of broadcast news has nosense. Period.

Name: Merrill R. Frank
Hometown: Jackson Heights, NYC

Dr. Apparently the wretched spawn of the Nixon, Atwater and Rove"Southern Strategy" rears its ugly head again.

This brings to mind the 1978 South Carolina Gubernatorial racebetween Carroll Campbell and Max Heller. You summed it up welltwenty years ago.

"But of all the things of which he has been accused, he says, the onethat makes him the maddest concerns the charge of anti-Semitism inthe 1978 Congressional victory by the current Governor of SouthCarolina, Carroll A. Campbell Jr., over Max Heller, the former Mayorof Greenville and a Jewish refugee from Austria who had fled theNazis. Atwater's accusers claim that as an informal adviser toCampbell, he passed secret polling information to Don Sprouse, a third-party candidate, who then used the information to undermine Heller'scampaign. Political analyst Alan Baron has revealed that Campbell'spollster in 1978, Arthur J. Finkelstein, of Irvington, N.Y., told himthat his data showed South Carolina voters would reject ''a foreign-born Jew who did not believe in Jesus Christ as the savior.'' MarvinChernoff, a Democratic consultant in Columbia, claims that Atwaterspecifically told him of passing Finkelstein's secret poll toSprouse. Atwater denies all of it. Finkelstein and all of theCampbell campaign staffers contacted also deny the accusations. ButCampbell's campaign manager has since admitted to a late-nightmeeting with Sprouse representatives in a Greenville parking lotbefore the election, and the Finkelstein poll released by Campbelldid ask voters to compare how they would feel about a race between a"Jewish immigrant" and a "native South Carolinian."

You figure the younger generation in South Carolina politics wouldget over this idiocy but I guess they just get a pass by statingtheir "Unequivocal support for Israel", how funny Seinfeld is and howmuch they donated to Hadassah.

BTW: Limbaugh buying a share in a NFL franchise is akin toFather Coughlin wanting to buy a share of the Brooklyn Dodgersin the 1940's.

Name: Hulka
Hometown: San Francisco, CA

(1) Chip Taylor didn't write "I Never Promised You A Rose Garden";Joe South did.

(2) James Ellroy has historically gone out of his way to describehimself as a conservative authoritarian, but one wonders whetherthe events of the last few years haven't pulled him a bitleftward. The new novel certainly points in that direction.

Name: Ed Tracey
Hometown: Lebanon, New Hampshire

Professor, I cannot locate a photo of this on-line...but theOctober 12 issue of Sports Illustrated recounted how thepreviously-integrated NFL became an all-white league in the 1930'suntil after WWII (with Kenny Washington playing the role as thefirst re-integrator).

The one holdout was the Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall who kept his team all-white until the early 1960s (when the Kennedy administration told him he could not play in a publicly-supported stadium and discriminate).

Author Alexander Wolff included a photo with the caption "AmericanNazi Party members, with no evident sense of irony, demonstrated inDC with placards reading KEEP REDSKINS WHITE".

Name: Bill Miller
Hometown" Mill Valley, Calif.

All right, if there's to be no debate on who did the best Nobelstory, then we'll just say this was a pretty good one, too.

Name: Dave Richie
Hometown: Birmingham, AL

Dr. A,

This is for Pierce if you so choose-a few comments only a popecatholic could love.

Pierce,

re: Penultimate: Very much in agreement. Ever since they gave this"thing" to 3 of the most notorious terrorists of the twentiethcentury my interest has been very low. I believe there was a handshaking ceremony only accomplished because they simply could not takeany more of carter's platitudes.

But the comments posted below the linked post are, alone, worth theprice of admission.

As for Yeats, I am old enough to remember the list. It was not readto us but referred to often by Sister Mary Discipline, lest we strayinto a heathen movie house, followed by an admonishment to pray forthe Irish (catholic kid growing up in Indiana) and that sweet TerryBrennan for next weekend's game.

Ultimate:

In giving up on the death penalty several years back, I remarked tosome of my full moon conservative drinking buddies that it won't belong until the releases of innocent men in Illinois will pale incomparison to the list of executed innocent men and women. I cannotbelieve it has taken this long to prove/find the first. Still, theprosecutors and the the guv insist they were right. I guess you wouldhave to find a way to get to sleep at night. God knows the jurorscannot. The good sisters were right all along. "Boys and girls thedays of an eye for an eye need to end."

Pax Vobiscum,
Dave Richie

Name: JP
Hometown: SC

From the good Mr. Pierce, re: the death penalty.

"It's about killing people to make yourself feel strong, or safe, andabout bravely hiring people to do the killing for you."

Replace the phrase "hiring people" with "sending others" and thissentence very adeptly describes war as well.

Name: Stephen Carver
Hometown: Los Angeles

Loved the Think Again and Nation pieces which brought a question tomind: is there enough news in America to actually support a 24 hour"news" network? So much of what we are given as "news," asevidenced in the Michael Jackson and Balloon Boy stories, is dreck.Then we get several hours of talking heads spouting about politics;no news there.

Even in local news, I find that most of it is either about guns (andthe death they bring), gangs (and the violence they bring), new waysfor women to lose weight and what's gotten to me lately:advertisements for a network's prime time line up thinly disguised as"news stories."

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